SC Supreme Court to decide if elected sheriff is qualified
Attorney News | 2018/08/04 23:49
Clarke Stearns has been working as sheriff for more than 18 months in McCormick County, but it's still up in the air whether he is qualified to be the county's top lawman.

Stearns' Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, J.R. Jones, sued him within a month after his victory, saying Stearns never served as a law officer in South Carolina and therefore didn't meet the requirement of being a certified officer in the state.

Stearns' lawyers have successfully argued so far that his 30 years certified as a law enforcement officer in Virginia are more than enough to cover the qualification to be sheriff and he also got his certification in South Carolina after the election.

After a lower court judge ruled against Jones, the lawsuit is now going before the state Supreme Court. Jones' lawyer Charles Grose, told The Index-Journal of Greenwood the Supreme Court has expedited the case.

Stearns, a Republican, received 57 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.

Both sides said they have sent their briefs to the South Carolina Supreme Court and are ready for the justices either to rule or set a time for arguments.

Under South Carolina law , sheriffs must be at least 21 years old, a citizen of the United States, a registered voter and have a year of experience as a certified officer if they have a four-year college degree.


Court: Release surveillance video in Florida school shooting
Attorney News | 2018/07/25 16:52
An appeals court says news organizations are entitled to obtain surveillance video showing the law enforcement response to the Valentine's Day mass shooting at a Florida high school.

The 4th District Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld a lower court's ruling that the video is public record that must be disclosed. News organizations including The Associated Press are seeking the video to better understand the actions of law enforcement and first responders during the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Authorities say the school had 70 operating video cameras that day. The media organizations are not seeking any footage depicting the massacre or any victims.

Broward County prosecutors and its school board opposed the video release. Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz faces murder charges in the shooting.



Georgia officer charged in fatal shooting to appear in court
Attorney News | 2018/07/17 16:20
A Georgia police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in a fatal shooting is scheduled to appear in court.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning for Zechariah Presley in Camden County Magistrate Court. Presley worked as a police officer in the small city of Kingsland when he was charged in the June 20 shooting of 33-year-old Tony Green.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said Green was fleeing when Presley shot him following a brief altercation. The bureau said Presley had been following Green's vehicle when Green got out and ran on foot, but it has not said what prompted the pursuit.

Kingsland city officials fired 27-year-old Presley from his police job following his arrest a week after the shooting. The city is located near the Georgia-Florida state line.



Court says convicted serial rapist should be released
Attorney News | 2018/07/17 16:20
A convicted serial rapist should be allowed to be released into the community under supervision, the Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruled Monday, saying the state did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Thomas Duvall should remain in treatment.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said Monday that she will appeal the provisional discharge of Duvall, in a case that once set off a political firestorm as lawmakers were considering changes to the state's treatment program for sex offenders.

"I have grave concerns about this decision," Piper said in a statement. "Three experts have previously testified that Thomas Duvall is not ready for life in the community and that he presents far too great a risk to public safety. I share that view and will exhaust every possible avenue of appeal."

Duvall, 62, has spent the last 30 years locked up for the violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, he bound a Brooklyn Park girl with an electrical cord and raped her repeatedly over several hours while hitting her with a hammer. He was civilly committed as a psychopathic personality in 1991 and sent to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Duvall has been in treatment since 2001 and was diagnosed as a sexual sadist. He has been in the final stages of the program since 2010, living outside the security perimeter at the facility in St. Peter, going on regular supervised community outings, volunteering at a thrift store, attending community support groups and preparing for transition into the community.


Demonstrators force Fox crew from Supreme Court broadcast
Attorney News | 2018/07/13 16:33
Fox News' Shannon Bream said the network had to move a planned live broadcast indoors after she and her crew felt threatened by demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday following President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

People shouted obscenities at Bream and her crew, crowded around and touched crew members as they prepared to air Fox's 11 p.m. Eastern hour from the location two hours after the nomination, she said.

"I've been in the middle of many protesters and signs and chanting and we all do our jobs," Bream said Tuesday. "But last night had a different feel to it."

Bream said Fox felt specifically targeted, although she said other reporters had a difficult time with the crowd. Disturbed by the scene, Fox executives made the decision to move to a nearby studio. Bream had been at the court for several hours, doing live reports during several programs.

The incident on an emotional political night exposed Fox News to a threatening atmosphere frequently faced by reporters at other news organizations at Trump rallies. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta recently described how an elderly woman swore at him and tried to get him to leave one of Trump's recent rallies.

Bream, who has covered the Supreme Court for 11 years, said that often during demonstrations security separates demonstrators from the press with barricades, but they weren't on duty Monday night. She recalled only one other similar situation, but that happened during daylight hours.


German court: Catalan politician can legally be extradited
Attorney News | 2018/07/11 23:32
Rebel Wilson has applied to Australia's highest court to increase the comic actress's payout from a defamation case against a magazine publisher.

The 38-year-old, best known for parts in the "Pitch Perfect" and "Bridesmaids" movies, was awarded in September an Australian record 4.6 million Australian dollars ($3.5 million) in damages.

A Victoria state Supreme Court jury found that that German publisher Bauer Media defamed her in a series of articles in 2015 claiming she lied about her age, the origin of her first name and her upbringing in Sydney.

But three judges on the Court of Appeal last month upheld an appeal by Bauer and slashed Wilson's payout to AU$600,000 ($454,000).

The appeal court ruled that the trial Judge John Dixon should not have compensated Wilson for film roles, including "Trolls" and "Kung Fu Panda 3," which she testified she had lost due to the damage the articles had done to her reputation.

She was also ordered to pay 80 percent of Bauer's legal costs in mounting its appeal.

Wilson lodged an application to the High Court late Wednesday to restore Dixon's ruling. The High Court registry made the court documents public on Thursday.

The Court of Appeal overturned Dixon's finding that Wilson's career had been on an "upward trajectory" before the articles, instead saying the judge had given "a picture of the plaintiff's career trajectory that significantly overstated its success and ignored its hiccups."

According to court documents, Wilson's lawyers will argue Dixon was correct, and that he was also correct in finding the articles caused a "huge international media firestorm" affecting Wilson's career and reputation.

The lawyer will also argue the Court of Appeal was wrong in concluding Wilson needed to prove economic loss by showing a project had been canceled.


Audit: 'Pervasive lack of accountability' in Kentucky courts
Attorney News | 2018/07/11 23:32
In 2016, Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts was looking for office space for newly-elected Supreme Court Justice Sam Wright. They got two offers: One would cost more than $59,000 a year and require extensive renovations. The other space was larger, had 15 parking spaces and would cost $21,000 a year.

State officials chose the first option, even though it cost three times as much. They did not document why they chose it, and they did not visit the site before signing the lease, as state policy requires. The selection memo, which is the sole document relied on to make the decision, also left out one key detail: The company that owned the more expensive property was owned by the justice's two sons.

That's just one finding of many in a scathing audit released Thursday of the administrative arm of Kentucky's judicial system. The audit, believed to be the first ever independent examination of judicial system's finances and policies, found a "pervasive lack of accountability" and resistance to transparency. The Supreme Court sets administrative policy for the judicial branch, but they meet in secret and won't allow the public to monitor their actions. When Auditor Mike Harmon recommended they conduct administrative business in public, they refused.

"Their dismissive attitude towards key recommendations regarding ethics and accountability quite frankly saddens me," Harmon said in a news release announcing the audit's findings. "No matter what branch of government, we owe it to the taxpayers of Kentucky to strive toward openness and transparency."



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