Utah judge suspended for making anti-Trump comments
Court News | 2019/05/26 08:26
A longtime Utah judge has been suspended without pay for six months after making critical comments online and in court about President Donald Trump, including a post bashing his “inability to govern and political incompetence.”

Judge Michael Kwan’s posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in 2016-2017 violated the judicial code of conduct and diminished “the reputation of our entire judiciary,” wrote Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce in an opinion posted Wednesday.

Kwan’s Facebook account was private but could have been shared by friends, Pearce wrote.

“Judge Kwan’s behavior denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified, and courteous jurist who takes no advantage of the office in which he serves,” Pearce said.


Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime
Court News | 2019/05/24 04:41
A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday.


Students in Colorado shooting face murder, other charges
Court News | 2019/05/11 22:45
Two students suspected of opening fire at their school are charged with over a dozen counts of murder and attempted murder as well as theft and arson, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The charges came on the same day a memorial service was being held for the one student who was killed in the May 7 shooting at the STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7. Wight students were injured.

The accused gunmen, 18-year-old Devon Erickson and 16-year-old Alec McKinney, were arrested at the school and investigators say they opened fire inside using handguns.

The charges were listed in electronic court records. It wasn't clear if McKinney was being charged as an adult.

The celebration of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo's life will be held at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch. The senior was just days from graduating when he was fatally wounded.

Castillo along with classmates Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones are credited with helping minimize the bloodshed by charging at one of the suspects in a classroom.

According to Bialy, Castillo sprang into action against the shooter "and immediately was on top of him with complete disregard for his own safety." Jones said he was shot twice in the leg during the ordeal. Bialy said he was able to take the attacker's weapon.

All the injured students have been released from hospitals.


Georgia high court to hear appeal in election challenge
Court News | 2019/05/07 00:06
Georgia's outdated voting machines are in the spotlight as election integrity advocates try to convince the state's highest court that a judge shouldn't have dismissed a lawsuit challenging the outcome of November's race for lieutenant governor.

The lawsuit says tens of thousands of votes were never recorded in the race and the contest was "so defective and marred by material irregularities" as to place the result in doubt. It contends an unexplained undervote in the race was likely caused by problems with the state's paperless touchscreen voting machines.

Republican Geoff Duncan beat Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico by 123,172 votes to become lieutenant governor. Amico is not a party to the lawsuit, which was filed in November by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy organization; Smythe Duval, who ran for secretary of state as a Libertarian; and two Georgia voters. It was filed against Duncan and election officials.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit in January. In an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, lawyer Bruce Brown argues the judge erred by not allowing discovery prior to trial. But even without evidence that might have turned up in discovery, it's clear that the election was flawed enough to "place in doubt the result," he wrote.


Supreme Court to take up LGBT job discrimination cases
Court News | 2019/04/21 22:42
The Supreme Court is taking on a major test of LGBT rights in cases that look at whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The justices said Monday they will hear cases involving people who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation and another that involves a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.

The cases will be argued in the fall, with decisions likely by June 2020 in the middle of the presidential election campaign. The issue is whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects LGBT people from job discrimination. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status, but federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York have ruled recently that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has extended similar protections for transgender people.

The big question is whether the Supreme Court, with a strengthened conservative majority, will do the same. The cases are the court's first on LGBT rights since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the court's major gay rights opinions. President Donald Trump has appointed two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The justices had been weighing whether to take on the cases since December, an unusually long time, before deciding to hear them. It's unclear what caused the delay.


Accuracy at core of Supreme Court case over census question
Court News | 2019/04/19 22:42
Justice Elena Kagan’s father was 3 years old when the census taker came to the family’s apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, on April 10, 1930.

Robert Kagan was initially wrongly listed as an “alien,” though he was a native-born New Yorker. The entry about his citizenship status appears to have been crossed out on the census form.

Vast changes in America and technology have dramatically altered the way the census is conducted. But the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count is at the heart of the Supreme Court case over the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The justices are hearing arguments in the case on Tuesday, with a decision due by late June that will allow for printing forms in time for the count in April 2020.

The fight over the census question is the latest over immigration-related issues between Democratic-led states and advocates for immigrants, on one side, and the administration, on the other. The Supreme Court last year upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on visitors to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries. The court also has temporarily blocked administration plans to make it harder for people to claim asylum and is considering an administration appeal that would allow Trump to end protections for immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

The citizenship question has not been asked on the census form sent to every American household since 1950, and the administration’s desire to add it is now rife with political implications and partisan division.


Nissan ex-chair Ghosn appeal on extended detention rejected
Court News | 2019/04/17 00:32
Japan's top court said Thursday it has rejected an appeal by former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn's lawyers against his extended detention after his fourth arrest on allegations of financial misconduct.

The decision upholds the extension of his detention through April 22 that was approved Monday by the Tokyo District Court.

The Supreme Court ruling was made Wednesday and conveyed to foreign media on Thursday.

Ghosn was first arrested in November and charged with under-reporting his retirement compensation and with breach of trust. He was released March 6 on bail, but was arrested again on April 4 on fresh allegations and sent back to detention.

Rearresting a suspect released on bail, which is allowed only after indictment, is rare and has triggered criticism of Japan's criminal justice system, in which long detentions during investigations are routine.

Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades and is credited with turning around the company from near-bankruptcy, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a separate legal maneuver, the Tokyo District Court has rejected an appeal by Ghosn's lawyers questioning prosecutors' confiscation of video of security camera installed at Ghosn's apartment, Kyodo News reported Thursday. The court did not respond to calls after office hours.

Last week, Nissan's shareholders voted to remove Ghosn from the company's board.

In his video statement filmed before his arrest and released by his lawyers April 9, Ghosn accused some Nissan executives of plotting against him over unfounded fears about losing their autonomy to their French alliance partner Renault SA.


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