Delay in Nevada gun buyer law draws protests at court debate
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/24 06:24
A lawyer seeking a court order to enforce a Nevada gun buyer screening law that has not been enacted despite voter approval in November 2016 blamed the state's Republican governor and attorney general on Friday for stalling the law.

"For either personal or political reasons," attorney Mark Ferrario told a state court judge in Las Vegas, Gov. Brian Sandoval and GOP state Attorney General Adam Laxalt "chose to stand back and really do nothing."

Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence Van Dyke countered that the law was fatally flawed as written because it requires Nevada to have the FBI expend federal resources to enforce a state law.

"State officials here have not tried to avoid implementing the law," Van Dyke said. "They have negotiated (and) talked with the FBI, and the FBI said no, four times."

Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy Jr. made no immediate ruling after more than 90 minutes of arguments on an issue that drew about 25 sign-toting advocates outside the courthouse calling for enactment of the measure.

"The people have spoken," said protest speaker Peter Guzman, president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. "To deny that voice is to deny democracy."

Some speakers, including Democratic state Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, cited the slayings of 58 people by a gunman firing assault-style weapons from a high-rise casino shot into an concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip last Oct. 1. Jauregui was at the concert.

Others pointed to gun-control measures being debated nationally following a shooting that killed 17 people last week at a school in Parkland, Florida.

In the courtroom, Ferrario referred to what he called a "movement toward increasing gun checks," while the Nevada law has stalled.

"This loophole that the citizens wanted to close remains open because the governor has failed to take appropriate action," the plaintiffs' attorney said.

Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin dismissed the accusations as "political posturing." She said the initiative specifically prohibits the state Department of Public Safety from handling background checks, leaving "no clear path forward" to enactment.


Courts: Bail reform working, but sustainable funding needed
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/18 14:07
The number of defendants being held before trial since New Jersey overhauled its bail system last year dropped by 20 percent, but the judge overseeing the program says it faces financial difficulties.

A report submitted last week by Judge Glenn Grant, who runs the state's court system, also shows the program faces financial difficulties because it relies on court fees instead of a "stable sustainable funding stream."

Proponents say the reforms championed by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie keep violent offenders detained until trial while providing poor, low-level defendants the opportunity to be freed.

But critics — including some lawmakers, law enforcement officials and the bail bond industry — say it has led to the quick release of some who weren't deemed a threat but were soon re-arrested on new charges.

The data shows 44,319 people were issued complaint warrants in New Jersey last year. Prosecutors sought to have 19,366 defendants detained until trial, but only 8,043 of those people were ordered held.

That means the state's pretrial jail population dropped by 20 percent from January 2017 to January 2018, and by 35 percent from January 2015 to January 2018.

At least two lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the changes, including one from a group backed by reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter.


Inmate in landmark Supreme Court case denied parole
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/14 14:07
A 71-year-old Louisiana inmate whose case led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on juvenile-offender sentences was denied parole Monday, more than a half-century after he killed a sheriff's deputy at age 17.

A three-member panel from the state parole board voted 2 to 1 to keep Henry Montgomery imprisoned. The hearing was his first chance at freedom since his conviction decades ago and a vote to free him would have had to be unanimous. Montgomery now must wait another two years before he can request another parole hearing.

The Supreme Court's January 2016 decision in Montgomery's case opened the door for roughly 2,000 other juvenile offenders to argue for their release after receiving mandatory life-without-parole sentences.

Montgomery has served 54 years in prison for shooting East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy Charles Hurt in 1963, less than two weeks after Montgomery's 17th birthday. Last June, a state judge who resentenced Montgomery to life with the possibility of parole called him a "model prisoner" who seemed to be rehabilitated.

Montgomery's lawyers said he has sought to be a positive role model for other prisoners, serving as a coach and trainer for a boxing team he helped form at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

But the two parole board members who voted against Montgomery questioned why he hadn't accessed more prison programs and services that could have benefited him. One of the panelists, Kenneth Loftin, also said he was disappointed in some of Montgomery's statements during the hearing but didn't elaborate.

James Kuhn, the other board member who voted against Montgomery, noted that the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association submitted a statement opposing his release.

"One of the things that society demands, and police officers certainly demand, is that everyone abide by the rule of law. One of the rules of law is you don't kill somebody, and when you do there's consequences," Kuhn said.


UN court lays down Costa Rica, Nicaragua maritime borders
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/03 07:48
The International Court of Justice laid down definitive maritime boundaries Friday between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and a small land boundary in a remote, disputed wetland.

As part of the complex ruling, the United Nations' highest judicial organ ruled that a Nicaraguan military base on part of the disputed coastline close to the mouth of the San Juan River is on Costa Rican territory and must be removed.

Ruling in two cases filed by Costa Rica, the 16-judge U.N. panel took into account the two countries' coastlines and some islands in drawing what it called "equitable" maritime borders that carved up the continental shelf underneath the Caribbean and Pacific.


Such rulings can affect issues including fishing rights and exploration for resources like oil.

Earlier, the court ordered Nicaragua to compensate Costa Rica for damage Nicaragua caused with unlawful construction work near the mouth of the San Juan River, the court's first foray into assessing costs for environmental damage.

The order by the United Nations' principal judicial organ followed a December 2015 ruling that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica's sovereignty by establishing a military camp and digging channels near the river, part of a long-running border dispute in the remote region on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

In total, Nicaragua was ordered to pay just over $378,890 for environmental damage and other costs incurred by Costa Rica— a small fraction of the $6.7 million sought by San Jose.





Warrant dropped for professor who spoke Hawaiian in court
Areas of Focus | 2018/01/19 07:43
A judge dropped an arrest warrant Thursday for a University of Hawaii professor who refused to respond in court to English and spoke Hawaiian instead.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo was in court Wednesday facing a trial for charges connected to his participation in a 2017 protest against the construction of a solar telescope on top of Haleakala, a volcano on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported .

When Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked Kaeo to confirm his identity, he repeatedly responded in Hawaiian instead of English.

Kobayashi said he couldn't understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for Kaeo's arrest, saying "the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo."

Kaeo, an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, said he has appeared before the judge before and complained that "it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn't like."

Kobayashi recalled the bench warrant Thursday, the state Judiciary said in a statement. Judiciary spokesman Andrew Laurence declined to answer questions about the recall, including what prompted it.

Kaeo faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. Kaeo, who also speaks English, requested a Hawaiian interpreter in the courtroom but prosecutors had objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense that would have caused delays.



Greece to limit Sharia law after European Court challenge
Areas of Focus | 2018/01/09 10:40
Lawmakers in Greece are set to limit the powers of Islamic courts operating in a border region that is home to a 100,000-strong Muslim minority.

Backed by parliament's largest political parties, the draft law is set to be voted on later Tuesday. The proposal aims to scrap rules dating back more than 90 years ago and which refer many civil cases involving members of the Muslim community to Sharia law courts. The new legislation will give Greek courts priority in all cases.

The changes — considered long overdue by many Greek legal experts — follow a complaint to the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights over an inheritance dispute by a Muslim woman who lives in the northeastern Greek city of Komotini.

Legislation concerning minority rights was based on international treaties following wars in the aftermath of the Ottoman empire's collapse. The Muslim minority in Greece is largely Turkish speaking. Minority areas were visited last month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Greek governments in the past have been reluctant to amend minority rights, as many disputes between Greece and Turkey remain unresolved.

Currently, Islamic court hearings are presided over by a single official, a state-appointed Muslim cleric.

In parliament Tuesday, Constantine Gavroglou, minister of education and religious affairs, praised opposition party support for the bill.



Court calls on jailer to resign; cites poor conditions
Areas of Focus | 2018/01/05 10:42
A court in Kentucky has called for a county jailer to resign, citing several recent incidents at the jail that include what the court viewed as substandard living conditions, along with multiple escapes and overdoses.

Judge-Executive Steve Towler and county commissioners approved a resolution requesting that Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett step down, the Independent reported Wednesday. Burchett was not present at the meeting. He is an elected official, so he can't be fired.

"The jailer shall have the custody, rule and charge of the jail in his county and must keep the jail comfortably warm, clean and free from nauseous odors," the resolution states. "There have been numerous incidents over the past several months evidencing the current Boyd County jailer's failure to adhere" to those requirements.

The incidents have created a threat to personal safety and security for county residents, Towler said.

Commissioner John Greer said he hoped that Burchett would "see the light and retire," but he noted that it is "totally his decision."

Four maximum-security prisoners escaped from the jail on Dec. 28. Two of the four inmates have been captured.

Last month, Boyd Commonwealth's Attorney Rhonda Copley announced the existence of an investigation into possible malfeasance by Burchett. Malfeasance is a misdemeanor charge. Under state law, if any elected county official is convicted of the charge, that person's office would be declared vacant.



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