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.



Judge Rejects Request for New Vote in Virginia House Race
Areas of Focus | 2018/01/02 10:41
A federal judge on Friday rejected a request for a new election that might have forced a 50-50 split in Virginia's House of Delegates, calling ballot mistakes cited by Democrats a "garden-variety" problem that doesn't merit federal intervention.

Democrats had hoped a new election in the 28th District would provide an opportunity for an even split in the chamber, which is now on track to be controlled by a 51-49 GOP majority.

Democrats cited state election officials who said 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes.

It is the second defeat in as many days for Democrats. On Thursday, election officials broke a tie vote in another House district by drawing names from a bowl, and picking the Republican.

It is the second time Ellis has rejected a request to intervene in the race. Last month he rejected a request to issue a temporary restraining order that would have barred state elections officials from certifying Thomas as the winner. In both rulings, Ellis said he was leery of interjecting federal courts into a state elections process.


Updated travel ban is headed back to a federal appeals court
Areas of Focus | 2017/12/08 01:11
Thirteen judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to decide if the ban violates the constitution by discriminating against Muslims, as opponents say, or is necessary to protect national security, as the Trump administration says.

The hearing scheduled Friday comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can fully enforce the ban even as the separate challenges continue before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appeals courts.

The 4th Circuit is being asked to reverse the decision of a Maryland judge whose injunction in October barred the administration from enforcing the ban against travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people or organizations in the U.S. The ban also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits didn't challenge those restrictions.

Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them. The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.

Opponents say the latest version of the ban is another attempt by Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the U.S. The administration, however, says the ban is based on legitimate national security concerns.

The 4th Circuit rejected an earlier version in May, finding that it "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination" toward Muslims. The judges cited Trump's campaign pledge on Muslim travelers, as well as tweets and remarks he has made since taking office.


Trappers ask court to throw out lawsuit over US fur exports
Areas of Focus | 2017/11/22 05:56
Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.

Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.

The plaintiffs in the case allege the government's export program doesn't protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.

More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.

Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.

The advocates' lawsuit would "do away with the CITES export program," according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.

"They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted," attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.

Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are "look-alikes" for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.



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