Court: FAA must reconsider regulating airline seat size
Attorney News | 2017/07/31 03:41
An appeals court panel said Friday that federal officials must reconsider their decision not to regulate the size of airline seats as a safety issue.

One of the judges called it “the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat.”

The Flyers Rights passenger group challenged the Federal Aviation Administration in court after the agency rejected its request to write rules governing seat size and the distance between rows of seats.

On Friday, a three-judge panel for the federal appeals court in Washington said the FAA had relied on outdated or irrelevant tests and studies before deciding that seat spacing was a matter of comfort, not safety.

The judges sent the issue back to the FAA. They said the agency must come up with a better-reasoned response to the group’s safety concerns.

“We applaud the court’s decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider,” said Kendall Creighton, a spokeswoman for Flyers Rights.

The passenger group says small seats that are bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations and raise the danger of travelers developing vein clots.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency was considering the ruling and its next steps. He said the FAA considers the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure that airliners can be evacuated safely.

The airline industry has long opposed the regulation of seat size. Its main U.S. trade group, Airlines for America, declined to comment on the ruling.


Top Vatican official to face Australian court on sex charges
Attorney News | 2017/07/25 22:52
The most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis is expected to make his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday, as he vows to clear his name in a scandal that has rattled Rome.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis' top financial adviser, was charged last month with sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical" sexual assault offenses - meaning crimes that occurred years ago.

Pell is to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a hearing that will likely last just minutes and deal largely with administrative matters, such as setting future court dates. Despite the routine nature of the hearing, it is expected to draw hordes of journalists, abuse survivors and spectators.

Pell took a leave of absence from his duties in Rome to return to Australia to fight the charges. He has vehemently denied the allegations, saying last month, "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

The pope has said he will wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment of Pell himself.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he served as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year.



North Carolina Court to Rule on Law on Gov's Elections Role
Attorney News | 2017/07/20 15:24
North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.


Pakistan's opposition calls on court to oust prime minister
Attorney News | 2017/07/18 21:26
Opposition parties in Pakistan on Monday called on the Supreme Court to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after an investigation found that he and his family possess wealth exceeding their known sources of income.

The investigation is linked to the mass leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm in 2016, which revealed that Sharif and his family have offshore accounts.

Naeem Bukhari, a lawyer for opposition leader Imran Khan, submitted the request to the court. The court has the constitutional power to disqualify someone from serving as prime minister, and is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

The Sharifs have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorney, Khawaja Haris, argued Monday that the probe was flawed. The court will resume hearing the case Tuesday.



Parents of sick UK infant storm out of new court hearing
Attorney News | 2017/07/16 04:22
The parents of a baby with a rare disease stormed out of a London court hearing in an emotional outburst Thursday, as the couple tried to convince a judge to let them take their critically-ill child to the United States for medical treatment.

Charlie Gard’s parents are challenging the view of Britain’s most famous children’s hospital, arguing that treatment abroad is in the best interest of the 11-month-old suffering from a rare genetic condition.

A succession of judges has backed specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who argue experimental treatment in America won’t help and may cause suffering for Charlie. The parents hoped to present fresh evidence to alter that view.

Two hours into the High Court hearing, questions from Judge Nicholas Francis prompted tensions to boil over. Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, accused Francis of misquoting her earlier statements about Charlie’s quality of life.

“We said he’s not suffering and not in pain,” Yates yelled. “If he was we wouldn’t be up here fighting.” Chris Gard then slammed his water cup down and the couple left the courtroom.

Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease that has left him brain damaged and unable to breathe unaided. The hospital says there is no known cure and believes his life support systems should be turned off.


Court: Detained immigrant children entitled to court hearing
Attorney News | 2017/07/08 22:50
Immigrant children who cross the border without their parents have the right to a court hearing to challenge any decision to detain them instead of turning them over to family in the U.S., a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said two laws passed by Congress did not end the right to a bond hearing for unaccompanied immigrant children who are detained by federal authorities.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing gang and drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have entered the U.S. in recent years.

Federal officials place the vast majority of them with family in the U.S., who care for the minors while they attend school and while their cases go through the immigration court system.

But the Department of Human Services has the authority to hold children in secure facilities if they pose a danger to themselves or others or have committed a crime. Some have spent months in detention.

Immigration advocates estimate the size of the group in secure custody at several hundred children and say bond hearings allow them to understand why they are being held and challenge their detention.

"If you don't give kids transparency and a clear finite date when their detention will end you see all kinds of psychological effects," said Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis.

Cooper represented plaintiffs in the legal fight over the bond hearings. The 9th Circuit ruling cited a declaration from one teenager who was held for 16 months, mostly at a juvenile detention center in Northern California. The teen, referred to only by his first name, Hector, said federal officials provided no explanation for his continued detention, and he received no hearing before an immigration judge. He was eventually released to his mother.

The Obama administration argued that two laws — one approved in 2002 and the other in 2008 — did away with the bond hearing requirement in a 1997 court settlement by giving the human services department all authority over custody and placement decisions for unaccompanied children.

The Department of Justice said in a 2016 court filing that immigration judges "are not experts in child-welfare issues and possess significantly less expertise in determining what is in the best interest of the child" than human services officials.


Supreme Court limits ability to strip citizenship
Attorney News | 2017/06/22 15:54
The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the government's ability to strip U.S. citizenship from immigrants for lying during the naturalization process.

The justices ruled unanimously in favor of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who lied about her husband's military service.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that false statements can lead to the revocation of citizenship only if they "played some role in her naturalization."

The court rejected the position taken by the Trump administration that even minor lies can lead to loss of citizenship.

The woman, Divna Maslenjak, and her family were granted refugee status in 1999 and settled near Akron, Ohio, in 2000. She became a citizen in 2007.

She initially told immigration officials her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb military. That was a lie, she later conceded, and lower courts upheld a criminal conviction against her. The conviction automatically revoked her citizenship, and she and her husband were deported in October.


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