Women taking their right to go topless to state's high court
Attorney News | 2018/01/12 20:44
In a case that pits freedom of expression and equality against public decency, three women are challenging a New Hampshire city ordinance prohibiting public nudity and taking it to the state's highest court.

Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro were ticketed in 2016 in Laconia after they went topless at Weirs Beach over Memorial Day weekend. Pierro was doing yoga, while the other two were sunbathing.

Some beachgoers complained and a police officer asked them to cover up. When they refused, they were arrested. A legal motion to dismiss a case against the women was denied so they have appealed it to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case Feb. 1. The women want to the court to dismiss their conviction by invalidating the city's ordinance.

The three women argue there's no state law forbidding female toplessness and that the ordinance is discriminatory since men are allowed to go shirtless. They also contend their constitutional rights to freedom of expression were violated.

"The law in the state of New Hampshire is that it is legal for a woman to go topless so we're trying to get the town of Laconia to recognize and to stay with the state," Lilley said. "The town ordinance, in our opinion, is not constitutional. We're hoping the Supreme Court will see that."

The women are part of the Free the Nipple movement, a global campaign that argues it should be acceptable for women to bare their nipples in public, since men can. Supporters of the campaign also are taking their causes to courts with mixed success.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in October that a public indecency ordinance in Missouri didn't violate the state constitution by allowing men, but not women, to show their nipples. But in February, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, from enforcing a law against women going topless, arguing it was based on gender discrimination. The city is appealing.''



Supreme Court takes the wheel in 2 cases of vehicle searches
Attorney News | 2018/01/12 02:39
The Supreme Court's justices put themselves in the driver's seat Tuesday, hearing arguments in two cases involving vehicle searches, but it was unclear what routes the justices will take to resolve the cases.

One case involved Pennsylvania state troopers' stop of a rental car driven by a man who wasn't on the rental agreement. The second involved a policeman's search for a stolen motorcycle in Virginia.

"One of the things that I think is very important in these types of cases is the ability to give clear guidance not only to the courts but to the police," Chief Justice Roberts said. Justice Stephen Breyer, when trying to describe a resolution to the case, said he was "looking for something simple."

The first case involves Terrence Byrd, who was driving his fiancee's rental car on a Pennsylvania highway when a state trooper pulled him over for an alleged minor traffic violation. He acted nervous during the stop and told troopers he had a marijuana cigarette in the car, and officers decided to search the car.

Because the rental agreement didn't authorize Byrd to drive the gray Ford Fusion, troopers told him they didn't need his consent for the search. And when troopers opened the trunk, they found body armor and about 2,500 little bags of heroin. Byrd later acknowledged he planned to sell the drugs for roughly $7,000, and a court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Byrd's attorneys argue his case has potential consequences for the 115 million car rentals that take place annually in the United States. They say that if the government wins, police will have an incentive to pull over a rental car driver who commits a traffic violation because police will know they can search the car if the driver isn't on the rental agreement.



Democratic judge announces bid for Ohio Supreme Court seat
Attorney News | 2018/01/10 10:42
A Democratic judge has announced his candidacy for a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. Michael Donnelly currently serves on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland. He said Thursday he's running for the high court this year.

There are two November races for seats on the seven-person court. One is for an open seat being vacated by the retirement of Republican Justice Terrence O'Donnell. The second is for a seat being vacated this month by Democratic Justice William O'Neill, who is running for governor.

Gov. John Kasich is expected to appoint a fellow Republican to fill O'Neill's seat, and that person will then choose whether to run for the full six-year term.




North Carolina's altered legislative districts back in court
Attorney News | 2018/01/07 10:41
North Carolina legislative districts are back in court again as federal judges must decide whether to accept proposed alterations by their appointed third-party expert.

A three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired redrew boundaries the way he did. House and Senate districts drawn by Republican legislators have been in courts since 2011.

The same judicial panel previously struck down 28 districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, ultimately leading GOP legislators last summer to retool their maps. But the judges said there seemed to be lingering problems with race and constitutional violations and brought in a special master.

GOP lawyers already have said they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the judicial panel approves the professor's proposal.



Florida and Georgia taking water fight to Supreme Court
Attorney News | 2018/01/06 10:41
Reminders of the oyster's pre-eminence in this slice of northwestern Florida are everywhere, from the shells that line the edges of downtown buildings to the paintings of oysters that dot the walls of Apalachicola's art and history museum.

It's the oysters themselves that are harder to find these days, and Florida is hoping the Supreme Court can help fix that. The high court hears arguments Monday in the long-running dispute between Florida and neighboring Georgia over the flow of water in the Apalachicola River, which runs from the state line to Apalachicola Bay and the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

Florida sued Georgia in the Supreme Court in 2013, blaming farmers and booming metro Atlanta for low river flows that harmed the environment and fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Florida portrays the case as its last chance to "stem Georgia's inequitable consumption" of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia, leaving too little by the time the rivers come together and pass into Florida.

"It is effectively strangling the Apalachicola Region and killing or threatening its animal and plant life," Florida said in its Supreme Court brief. Although the justices usually hear appeals, lawsuits between states start in the Supreme Court.

Georgia said Florida has failed to show that it would benefit from any cuts imposed on Georgia, pointing to the conclusion of a court-appointed special master who recommended that the justices side with Georgia. Georgia also said Florida is asking for unreasonable reductions that would "threaten the water supply of 5 million people in metropolitan Atlanta and risk crippling a multibillion-dollar agricultural sector in southwest Georgia."

Complicating the issue is the absence from the lawsuit of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages dams on the Chattahoochee River.


Schimel asks Supreme Court to block Evers' request
Attorney News | 2017/12/12 17:04
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is asking the state Supreme Court to block state Superintendent Tony Evers from getting his own attorney in a lawsuit challenging his office's powers.

Schimel late Monday asked the court to reject Evers' request to disqualify Schimel from representing him.

Evers doesn't want Schimel representing him because the Republican attorney general agrees with the position taken by a conservative law firm in a lawsuit against Evers. The lawsuit alleges that Evers is in violation of a recently passed state law giving the governor oversight powers in the agency rule-making process.

Schimel says in his court filing that he has a duty to represent Evers and the Department of Public Instruction in the case, but Evers could hire his own personal attorney if he wishes.



UK banker back in Hong Kong court for murder appeal
Attorney News | 2017/12/12 01:04
A British banker sentenced to life in prison for the gruesome slayings of two Indonesian women appeared in a Hong Kong court on Tuesday to appeal his conviction.

Lawyers for Rurik Jutting made their case in the semiautonomous Chinese city's Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial judge gave incorrect instructions to the jury on deciding their verdict.

The nine-person jury last year convicted Cambridge University-educated Jutting of the 2014 killings of Seneng Mujiasih, 26, and Sumarti Ningsih, 23.

The case shocked residents of Hong Kong, while also highlighting wide inequality and seedy aspects usually hidden below the surface.

Jutting, 32, watched the proceedings from the dock Tuesday, wearing a blue dress shirt and often leafing through a bundle of court documents as he followed along. During a break he chatted with the three uniformed court officers sitting alongside him.

Jutting worked for Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, while Seneng and Sumarti arrived in Hong Kong as foreign maids but ended up as sex workers. During the trial, jurors were shown graphic iPhone videos shot by Jutting of him torturing Sumarti and snorting cocaine.

Jutting attempted at the trial to plead guilty to manslaughter, which the court rejected. His defense argued that he was under diminished responsibility.

On Tuesday, lawyer Gerard McCoy told the three-judge appeal panel that the trial judge made a "fatal error" in his directions to the jurors on how to assess Jutting's psychiatric disorders and whether they constituted a mental abnormality.

Under Hong Kong law, an "abnormality of mind" that substantially impairs mental responsibility can be used as a defense against a murder conviction.


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