Supreme Court wrestles with case on detention of immigrants
Legal Business | 2018/10/11 16:19
The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a case about the government’s ability to detain certain immigrants after they’ve served sentences for committing crimes in the United States. Several justices expressed concerns with the government’s reading of immigration law.

Justice Stephen Breyer seemed perhaps the most sympathetic to the arguments of immigrants in the case. The immigrants, mostly green-card holders, say they should get hearings where they can argue for their release while deportation proceedings against them are ongoing. Breyer noted that the United States “gives every triple ax murderer a bail hearing.”

While members of the court’s conservative majority seemed more inclined than its liberal members to back the government, both of President Donald Trump’s appointees asked questions that made it less clear how they might ultimately rule.

The issue in the case before the justices has to do with the detention of noncitizens who have committed a broad range of crimes that make them deportable. Immigration law tells the government to pick those people up when they are released from federal or state prisons and jails and then hold them without bond hearings while an immigration court decides whether they should be deported.

But those affected by the law aren’t always picked up immediately and are sometimes not detained until years later. They argue that unless they’re picked up essentially within a day of being released, they’re entitled to a hearing where they can argue that they aren’t a danger to the community and are not likely to flee. If a judge agrees, they can stay out of custody while their deportation case goes forward. That’s the same hearing rule that applies to other noncitizens the government is trying to deport.

The Trump administration argues, as the Obama administration did, against hearings for those convicted of crimes and affected by the law. The government reads immigration law to say that detention is mandatory for those people regardless of when they are picked up.

Sounding sympathetic to the immigrants’ arguments, Breyer asked a lawyer arguing for the government whether he thought “a person 50 years later, who is on his death bed, after stealing some bus transfers” is still subject to mandatory detention without a hearing. But Breyer also seemed to suggest that the government might be able to hold noncitizens without bond hearings if they were picked up more than a day after leaving custody, maybe up to six months.


Top French court to rule on faulty breast implant scandal
Legal Topics | 2018/10/10 23:38
France's top court is ruling Wednesday in a case that may require some 1,700 women around the world to pay back compensation they received over rupture-prone breast implants.

The decision is the latest in a years-long legal drama that has potential implications for tens of thousands of women from Europe to South America who received the faulty implants, which were made with industrial-grade silicone instead of medical silicone. The scandal helped lead to tougher European medical device regulations.

France's Court of Cassation is ruling Wednesday in one of multiple legal cases stemming from the affair. The case concerns German products-testing company TUV Rheinland, which was initially ordered to pay 5.7 million euros (currently $6.5 million) damages to the women.

The manufacturer of the implants, French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP, was convicted of fraud. But the bankrupt manufacturer couldn't pay damages to the women, who suffered from often painful, leaky implants — so they sought compensation from TUV Rheinland instead, arguing it should have never certified the product in the first place.

An appeals court in Aix-en-Provence later found the Germany company was not liable for the faulty implants, and ordered women to pay back the damages in 2015. TUV Rheinland lawyer Cecile Derycke says the company has paid 5.7 million euros ($6.5 million) overall to the women involved in this case, many in Colombia but also around Europe and elsewhere.

The case is now at the Court of Cassation, which will decide whether to uphold the appeals ruling or send it back for new legal proceedings. Lawyer Derycke argues that TUV Rheinland is being unfairly held responsible for PIP's wrongdoing.

Lawyer Olivier Aumaitre, representing thousands of women with the implants, argues that if no one is held responsible, then Europe's consumer product certification system is meaningless.

While 1,700 women will be directly affected by Wednesday's ruling, it could have fallout for thousands of others who joined other lawsuits seeking damages from TUV Rheinland.


Polish leader appoints top court judges, against ruling
Headline Legal News | 2018/10/10 23:35
Poland's president swore in 27 new Supreme Court judges Wednesday, stepping up the conflict over control of the judiciary and ignoring another top court that said the appointments should be suspended pending an opinion by European Union judges.

Andrzej Duda appointed judges to the civil and penal chambers of the court as well as to its new chamber of extraordinary control, according to his top aide, Pawel Mucha. Reporters were not allowed to witness the ceremony.

"We are implementing another stage of the reform of the justice system that is so important to us," Mucha said, adding: "We are acting in the public interest."

The new judges are part of the sweeping changes that the ruling conservative Law and Justice party has been applying to the justice system since winning power in 2015. It says that judges active during the communist era, before 1989, must be replaced. Many of the court's judges have been forced to retire early under a new law that put their retirement age at 65, from the previous 70.

But critics say the changes violate the constitution and are putting Poland's courts under the party's political control. They also say Duda is acting against the supreme charter and warn he may be brought to account before a special tribunal.

The former head of the Constitutional Tribunal, designed to try actions by politicians, Andrzej Zoll, said Duda must be "brought to account in the future," saying his actions are against the rule of law and could lead to anarchy.


Kavanaugh to hear his 1st arguments as Supreme Court justice
Court Watch | 2018/10/09 10:38
A Supreme Court with a new conservative majority takes the bench as Brett Kavanaugh, narrowly confirmed after a bitter Senate battle, joins his new colleagues to hear his first arguments as a justice.

Kavanaugh will emerge Tuesday morning from behind the courtroom's red velvet curtains and take his seat alongside his eight colleagues. It will be a moment that conservatives have dreamed of for decades, with five solidly conservative justices on the bench.

Kavanaugh's predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in June, was a more moderate conservative and sometimes sided with the court's four liberal justices. Kavanaugh, in contrast, is expected to be a more decidedly conservative vote, tilting the court right for decades and leaving Chief Justice John Roberts as the justice closest to the ideological middle.

With justices seated by seniority, President Donald Trump's two appointees will flank the Supreme Court bench, Justice Neil Gorsuch at one end and Kavanaugh at the other. Court watchers will be looking to see whether the new justice asks questions at arguments and, if so, what he asks. There will also be those looking for any lingering signs of Kavanaugh's heated, partisan confirmation fight. But the justices, who often highlight their efforts to work together as a collegial body, are likely to focus on the cases before them.

Republicans had hoped to confirm Kavanaugh in time for him to join the court on Oct. 1, the start of the new term. Instead, the former D.C. Circuit judge missed the first week of arguments as the Senate considered an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a woman in high school, an allegation he adamantly denied.

Kavanaugh was confirmed 50-48 Saturday, the closest vote to confirm a justice since 1881, and has had a busy three days since then. On Saturday evening, Kavanaugh took his oaths of office in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court while protesters chanted outside the court building.


Texas Supreme Court to hear sex offender law challenge
Court Watch | 2018/10/08 13:38
The Texas Supreme Court will consider a challenge to the state's retroactive sex offender laws that some say unfairly stack new punishments on those convicted in plea deals.

More than 2,800 sex offenders remain on the Texas registry despite being no longer required to register under terms of their probation, according to an Austin-American Statesman analysis of the list.

Every qualifying sex offender was ordered onto the registry in 2005 after Texas expanded its sex offense laws. But that included some defendants who were promised in deals with prosecutors that they wouldn't have to be on the list after a certain amount of time.

Donnie Miller struck a deal with Travis County prosecutors after he was charged with sexual assault against a woman outside an Austin gentleman's club in 1993. A jury couldn't agree on a verdict at his trial, forcing Miller to face a second trial and more than $20,000 in legal fees.

He made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty and in exchange, his record would be cleaned if he stayed out of trouble for 10 years. But Miller received a call a year after successfully completing his probation telling him that Texas had changed the rules and that he'd be on the sex offender registry for life, contrary to the terms of his plea deal.

"If I'd known, why would I have taken a plea deal?" said Miller, 48. "I would have borrowed the money for the retrial."

In a lawsuit before the Texas Supreme Court regarding another similar case, San Antonio attorney Angela Moore argues that undoing plea bargains makes the agreements worthless. About 94 percent of criminal convictions are disposed of with pleas, she said.

Texas Department of Public Safety attorneys warn that the lawsuit could relieve many "other sex offenders of their duty to register."

Texas was among several states to expand state law to include offenders from old cases. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 2003 that Alaska's law retroactively requiring old sex offenders with completed sentences to register was legal because the registry wasn't intended to be punitive.

But recent studies show that public lists can have severe consequences, such as public shaming and limiting job opportunities. Since the Alaska decision, new research has emerged that disproves what policymakers previously thought to be true about sex offenders and the effectiveness of such laws.

The updated findings are appearing in court cases across the country. Rulings in Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Alaska eliminated their retroactive sex offender clauses.


Kavanaugh to attend White House event, as elections loom
Areas of Focus | 2018/10/07 10:39
New Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is returning to the White House for a televised appearance Monday with President Donald Trump less

than a month before pivotal congressional elections.

Kavanaugh will take part in an entirely ceremonial swearing-in two days after he officially became a member of the high court and following a bitter

partisan fight over his nomination. The event is unusual for new justices. Only Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer participated in a White House event

after they had been sworn-in and begun work as a justice, according to the court's records on oath-taking by the current crop of justices.

Kavanaugh, along with his law clerks, already has been at the Supreme Court preparing for his first day on the bench Tuesday when the justices will

hear arguments in two cases about longer prison terms for repeat offenders. The new justice's four clerks all are women, the first time that has

happened.

The clerks are Kim Jackson, who previously worked for Kavanaugh on the federal appeals court in Washington, Shannon Grammel, Megan Lacy and

Sara Nommensen. The latter three all worked for other Republican-nominated judges. Lacy had been working at the White House in support of

Kavanaugh's nomination.

In his Senate testimony last month in which he denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in high school, accusing Democrats of

orchestrating a partisan campaign against him, Kavanaugh had promised that, if he was confirmed, the four clerks working for him would be women.

"I'll be the first justice in the history of the Supreme Court to have a group of all-women law clerks. That is who I am."

On Monday, Trump kept up attacks on Democrats for opposing Kavanaugh, pressing on an issue that Republicans have used to energize their voters.


Massachusetts high court to weigh teen texting suicide case
Legal Topics | 2018/10/05 05:17
Massachusetts' highest court is set to consider whether to throw out the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman who as a teenager encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages.

Lawyers for 22-year-old Michelle Carter will urge the Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday to reject a judge's finding that she caused Conrad Roy III's death when she told him to get back in a truck filled with toxic gas.

Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail last year but has remained free while she pursues her appeal. Prosecutors say Carter could have stopped Roy, who was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.

Her lawyers say her conviction criminalizes free speech and that Carter's words didn't cause Roy's death.


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