Constitutionality of murder conviction upheld by high court
Attorney News | 2018/04/20 18:52
The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a man's conviction for killing his 4-year-old son.

Forty-four-year-old Chris Miller was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his son, Jacob Miller, and an additional 50 years for aggravated assault in January 2013.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says the Supreme Court found Miller failed to show his attorney was ineffective and that the jury selection process was flawed.

Court sides with sanctuary cities in fight over grants

A federal appeals court in Chicago has ruled that President Donald Trump's administration cannot withhold public safety grants from cities that don't cooperate with its immigration enforcement policies, agreeing with a temporary injunction imposed earlier this year by a lower court judge.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday says the administration exceeded its authority in establishing new conditions for cities to qualify for the grants.

The administration in July imposed a condition that cities receiving public safety grants must agree to inform federal agents when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from police detention.

All three judges agreed to the injunction Thursday, but one judge said it should be for Chicago only and not nationwide.


Court: Man can't be retried for murder after mistrial ruling
Attorney News | 2018/04/15 19:17
Georgia's highest court says a man can't be retried for murder after the judge in his case declared a mistrial after about three hours of jury deliberations.

Jedarrius Treonta Meadows was on trial in September 2015 for the February 2014 shooting death of Damion Bernard Clayton in Macon.

The judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they weren't making progress and a bailiff said things had become contentious in the jury room. The defense objected, arguing that three hours of deliberation wasn't unreasonable.

The following month, the defense argued a retrial would violate Meadows' constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The judge rejected that in June.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday that the mistrial ruling was made "without sufficient factual support and without considering less drastic alternatives to terminating the trial."



Supreme Court rejects appeal from Middle East attack victims
Attorney News | 2018/04/02 15:52
The Supreme Court is rejecting an appeal from American victims of terrorist attacks in the Middle East more than a decade ago.

The justices are not commenting Monday in ending a lawsuit against the PLO and Palestinian Authority in connection with attacks in Israel in 2002 and 2004 that killed 33 people. A lower court tossed out a $654 million verdict against the Palestinians.

The Trump administration sided with the Palestinians in calling on the high court to leave the lower court ruling in place. The federal appeals court in New York said U.S. courts can't consider lawsuits against foreign-based groups over random attacks that were not aimed at the United States.

The victims sued under the Anti-Terrorism Act, passed to open U.S. courts to American victims of international terrorism.




Lohan fails to convince court her image is in video game
Attorney News | 2018/03/30 19:31
It looks like "Game Over" for actress Lindsay Lohan in her state court fight against a software company for using what she claims is a likeness of her in a video game.

Lohan's lawyer argued before New York's top court that Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. violated her right to privacy by incorporating "look-a-like" images of her in the game "Grand Theft Auto V."

But the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the satirical representations of "a modern, beach-going" young woman are not identifiable as Lohan. The court affirmed a ruling from a lower state appeals court dismissing her lawsuit.

Similar claims against Take-Two by "Mob Wives" television star Karen Gravano also were dismissed in a separate ruling.

A message left with Lohan's lawyer wasn't immediately returned.


Arkansas wants court to dissolve stay for death row prisoner
Attorney News | 2018/03/17 02:33
Lawyers for the state of Arkansas argued Friday that the state prison director has long had the power to determine a death row inmate's sanity and that now isn't the time to change the way it moves the prisoners closer to their executions.

The arguments came in the case of Jack Greene, whose November execution was halted by the Arkansas Supreme Court so it could review his attorneys' arguments that the state correction director, Wendy Kelley, should not be deciding whether he is competent enough to be executed.

Greene's lawyers say doctors have found Greene delusional but Kelley has chosen to rely on outdated assessments of Greene's mental health in determining whether he's eligible to be executed. Greene's lawyers also have argued that Kelley shouldn't be making the determination because her boss, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sets execution dates.

In papers filed at the state Supreme Court on Friday, assistant attorney general Kathryn Henry wrote that states are entitled to set the guidelines for review, as long as there is a "basic fairness." She also claims that, under the Arkansas Constitution, Greene cannot sue Kelley.

While previous court decisions didn't define "basic fairness," the presumption is that an inmate who is sane at his trial is sane until his execution, Henry wrote. "Only after 'a substantial threshold showing of insanity'" can an inmate win a review — and that review can be "far less formal than a trial," she wrote.

Against his lawyers' advice, Greene has insisted in a number of venues that he is not insane. State lawyers say that is reason enough for justices to dissolve the stay that was issued shortly before Greene's scheduled execution last Nov. 9.

A week before the execution date, a circuit judge said she couldn't hold a hearing on Greene's competence because, under state law, Kelley had the "exclusive authority" to determine whether the inmate was sane enough to be executed. The Arkansas Supreme Court later voted 5-2 to issue a stay and take Greene's case for review, rejecting state arguments.



TransCanada doesn't have to pay landowner attorneys
Attorney News | 2018/03/11 02:37
The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't have to reimburse attorneys who defended Nebraska landowners against the company's efforts to gain access to their land, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court's ruling resolves a dispute that was triggered when TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain lawsuits against 71 Nebraska landowners in 2015, only to drop them later amid uncertainty over whether the process it used was constitutional.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina argued that TransCanada owes his clients about $350,000 to cover their attorney fees. Domina said the landowners clearly asked for representation in the eminent domain cases, and TransCanada should pay their attorney fees because the company effectively lost those cases.

A TransCanada attorney, James Powers, argued that the landowners failed to prove that they actually paid or were legally indebted to Domina or his law partner, Brian Jorde.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday. Domina said he respected the decision but was disappointed for his clients.



SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Kagan recalls clerking for Marshall
Attorney News | 2018/03/07 18:45
Justice Elena Kagan recalled the moment 30 years ago when her boss looked at her "as though I must have lost my mind."

The boss was Justice Thurgood Marshall and the setting was his Supreme Court office, where Kagan was spending a year as a law clerk after graduating from Harvard Law School.

Kagan had just delivered what she deemed a clear and simple explanation for why Marshall should side against a North Dakota girl who lived 16 miles from her school and whose family could not afford the bus service to get her there. The school district wouldn't waive the fee.

The legal giant who argued for the end of segregated schools and the first African-American on the court was not going to cast a vote against a poor school girl.

The story, recounted Tuesday evening in the courtroom where Marshall worked for 24 years, was part of a warm recollection by three judges and a Harvard law professor of their time spent as Supreme Court law clerks for Marshall, whose first term on the court was 50 years ago. Marshall's widow, Cecilia, and sons Thurgood and John were in the audience.

Sarita Kadrmas, the girl who sued, was white, but that was of no consequence in Marshall's thinking, Kagan said. "His basic idea of what he was there to do was ... to ensure that people like Sarita Kadrmas got to school every morning," Kagan said.

Kagan's initial view of the case turned out to be the majority's view in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Kagan drafted Marshall's dissent and it took several versions "until he felt like I got the right level of passion and disgust," she said.

Marshall was a master storyteller and Judge Douglas Ginsburg, who sits on the federal appeals court in Washington, remembered Marshall's habit of wandering into his clerks' workspace after lunch and spinning tales for 30 to 45 minutes about his days representing black defendants in the Jim Crow South. The stories could be horrific accounts of racial injustice and also quite funny, often at the same time.

Kagan recalled how Marshall judged the fairness of death penalty trials. "I remember once he said to us that when a jury brought back a sentence of life imprisonment, that's when he absolutely knew that the guy was innocent."

All these years later, Kagan said, Marshall continues to influence her. "His voice in my head never went away in terms of trying to figure out what I was doing and why," she said.



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