High court seems to lean against West Virginia in tax case
Legal Topics | 2018/12/03 01:01
The Supreme Court seemed inclined Monday to side with a retired U.S. marshal who argues West Virginia is discriminating against former federal law enforcement officers like him by giving a more generous tax break to former state law enforcement officers.

James Dawson says West Virginia currently exempts the vast majority of state law enforcement retirees — including police and firefighters — from paying income tax on their retirement benefits. But retired U.S. Marshals Service employees like him don't get that perk. Dawson has to pay income tax on his retirement benefits except for the first $2,000 annually, which is tax free.

Dawson says federal law prohibits West Virginia from taxing his retirement income more heavily than it taxes the retirement income of those who did a similar job working for the state.

During arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday, both conservative and liberal justices seemed more willing to side with Dawson. Justice Neil Gorsuch asked West Virginia's attorney Lindsay See why looking at the text of the federal law wasn't "game over," ending the case in Dawson's favor. And Justice Stephen Breyer listed a number of those getting better tax treatment than Dawson.

"It's not just the state police. It's also the local police. It's everybody in law enforcement almost. And they can get into it and the feds can't. Why isn't that just the end of it?" Breyer said.



Sri Lanka court orders prime minister to refrain from duties
Court News | 2018/12/02 01:01
A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers to refrain from carrying out their duties as it hears an appeal against them.

While the ruling by the Court of Appeal is an interim order, it is yet another setback for Rajapaksa, who has held on to the position of prime minister with President Maithripala Sirisena's backing despite losing two no-confidence votes.

The parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa's government was dissolved after the passage of the no-confidence motions. Parliament has also passed resolutions to cut off funds to the offices of Rajapaksa and his ministers.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to function as prime minister, with Sirisena dismissing the no-confidence votes, saying proper procedures were not followed.

Rajapaksa said in a statement later Monday that he did not accept the interim order and would file an appeal early Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the country's highest court.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since Oct. 26, when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.


Dutch court rejects man’s request to be 20 years younger
Legal Interview | 2018/12/01 19:01
Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation which are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.

“This is great!” he said. “The rejection of (the) court is great ... because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go in appeal.”



Indicted US lawmaker to return to court after re-election
Court News | 2018/11/30 19:02
Indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Will is set to return to court Monday for the first time since being re-elected to a sixth term in California amid corruption charges.

The congressman and his wife have pleaded not guilty to a 60-count indictment alleging they spent more than $250,000 in campaign finance funds on family trips, tequila shots and other items. A judge could set a trial date at the hearing in San Diego.

Hunter, a 41-year-old Marine veteran, has said he is looking forward to the trial to defend his name.

Prosecutors say the couple used campaign money to go on $11,000 shopping sprees at Costco and to buy more than $400 in tequila shots. They also went to Italy and Hawaii with their children on the campaign's dime, according to the indictment.

The couple tried to cover their tracks by lying on their campaign reports to the Federal Election Commission, prosecutors say.


Supreme Court sends bar fees case back for further look
Legal Topics | 2018/11/29 01:02
The Supreme Court is telling a lower court to take another look at a case challenging mandatory fees lawyers pay to a state bar association.

The case the justices sent back for further consideration Monday involves North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck, who sued after learning that bar fees were being used to oppose a ballot measure he supported. Fleck says he should have to affirmatively consent to paying for the bar association's political activities instead of being able to opt out.

North Dakota's fees range from $325 to $380. Lawyers who don't want to support the bar's political activities can deduct about $10.

The justices say the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling about fees paid to unions.



Court could deal blow to porn star, award Trump legal fees
Court News | 2018/11/28 01:03
Lawyers for President Trump want porn actress Stormy Daniels to pay them $340,000 in legal bills they claim they earned successfully defending Trump against her frivolous defamation claim.

The attorneys are due in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Monday to make their case that they rang up big bills because of gamesmanship and aggressive tactics by attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges she had a one-night affair with Trump in 2006. She sued him earlier this year seeking to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 election about the tryst as part $130,000 hush money settlement. Trump has denied the affair.

Despite the deal to stay quiet, Daniels spoke out publicly and alleged that five years after the affair she was threatened to keep quiet by a man she did not recognize in a Las Vegas parking lot. She also released a composite sketch of the mystery man.

She sued Trump for defamation after he responded to the allegation by tweeting: "A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!"

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled in October that Trump's statement was "rhetorical hyperbole" against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment. Trump is entitled to legal fees, Otero said.

Trump's team of lawyers have accounted for more than 500 hours of work — at rates as high as $840 an hour.


China court reduces sentence of American Wendell Brown
Attorney News | 2018/11/27 01:03
A Chinese court has reduced the prison sentence for former college football player and American citizen Wendell Brown from four years to three for his involvement in a bar fight, a rights monitoring group said Wednesday.

Brown, a native of Detroit who played for Ball State University in Indiana, had been teaching English and American football in southwest China when he was arrested in September 2016 and charged with intentional assault. He denied hitting a man at a bar and said he was defending himself after being attacked.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation said Brown will be transferred from a detention center to a prison in the southwestern city of Chongqing, from where he can then apply for early release. He is now due to be set free on Sept. 24, 2019.

The court issued no official statement and an assistant judge in the case, reached by phone, directed inquiries to the court's management office, which did not immediately respond to faxed questions seeking comment.

Brown, 31, was convicted on June 28 and his reduction in sentence is one of an estimated 15 percent of appeals that are successful in China, Dui Hua said. Friends, family and supporters had hoped he would be immediately deported, as is allowed under Chinese law.

"While this is not the result we hoped for it is nevertheless the best that could be achieved," the group's executive director, John Kamm, said in an emailed statement.



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