Gamers in court for first time after Kansas 'swatting' death
Court News | 2018/06/12 23:10
Two online gamers whose alleged dispute over a $1.50 Call of Duty WWII video game bet ultimately led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man not involved in the argument will make their first appearances in court Wednesday in a case of "swatting" that has drawn national attention.

Casey Viner, 18, of North College Hill, Ohio, and Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts.

Viner allegedly became upset at Gaskill while playing the popular online game. Authorities say he then asked 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles to "swat" Gaskill, a form of retaliation sometimes used by gamers, who call police and make a false report to send first responders to an online opponent's address.

Barriss is accused of calling Wichita police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita address. Authorities say Gaskill had provided the address to Viner and later to Barriss in a direct electronic message. But the location Gaskill gave was his old address and a police officer responding to the call fatally shot the new resident Andrew Finch, 28, after he opened the door.

Viner's defense attorney, Jim Pratt, declined comment. The attorneys for Gaskill and Barriss did not immediately respond to an email.

Viner and Gaskill have not been arrested and both were instead issued a summons to appear at Wednesday's hearing where a judge will decide whether they can remain free on bond. Both men are also likely to enter pleas, although at this stage of the proceedings the only plea a federal magistrate can accept is not guilty.

Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy to make false reports. Barriss also is charged with making false reports and hoaxes, cyberstalking, making interstate threats, making interstate threats to harm by fire and wire fraud. He will not be in court Wednesday.

A first court appearance on the federal charges has not been set for Barriss because the Sedgwick County district attorney is going forward first with his case on the state charges, said Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas.


Detroit-area couple in court over control of frozen embryos
Court News | 2018/06/04 23:00
A Detroit-area woman seeking custody of as many as 10 frozen embryos is asking a judge to appoint a guardian over them while she clashes with her former partner for control.

Gloria Karungi and Ronaldlee Ejalu have a daughter who has sickle cell disease. Karungi believes if she can bear another child with one of the embryos, bone marrow cells from that sibling could potentially cure the girl's blood illness.

But Ejalu must give his consent, according to a contract with an in vitro fertilization clinic, and he's not interested. Karungi and Ejalu never married and are no longer together.

Oakland County Judge Lisa Langton last year said she didn't have the authority to wade into the embryo dispute; she was simply determining financial support and parenting time for the couple's daughter. But the Michigan appeals court sent the case back to Langton for more work, including an evidentiary hearing if necessary.

Karungi "wants to cure her daughter and is seeking the embryos to that end. ... Without the embryos coming to term, that child has no ability to be cured," the woman's attorney, Dan Marsh, said in a court filing.

Ejalu's lawyer, Dan Weberman, said he'll argue again that a Family Division judge has no role in what's basically a contract quarrel. He also said it's misleading for Karungi to claim that cells from a sibling are the only cure for the 7-year-old girl.

"They want to paint a picture like she's on her death bed," Weberman told The Associated Press. "She's in school. She's a happy girl. She gets treatment once a month."

Ejalu no longer believes that using frozen embryos is a good idea.

"He doesn't feel ethically that a life should be created for human tissue harvesting. That's somewhat mind-boggling," Weberman said.

Under orders from the appeals court, Langton on June 20 again will hear arguments on whether she has jurisdiction over contested property held by unmarried parties. But in the meantime, the judge has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on Karungi's request to have a lawyer appointed as guardian over the embryos.



Court rules Italy's Berlusconi can run for office again
Court News | 2018/05/13 19:34
A court in Italy has ruled that former three-time Premier Silvio Berlusconi is eligible to run for office again, nearly five years after a tax fraud conviction forced him to surrender his Senate seat and prevented him from being a candidate in national elections.

Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Saturday that Milan's Surveillance Tribunal made the decision after reviewing a request from lawyers for the 81-year-old Berlusconi, a media mogul who founded a center-right political party a quarter-century ago.

The ban on his seeking or holding public office was due to expire in 2019. But Corriere della Sera said the tribunal ruled Friday that Berlusconi already had been "rehabilitated."

"Silvio Berlusconi can finally return to the playing field," Mara Carfagna, a leader of the ex-premier's Forza Italia party. "The 'rehabilitation' by the Milan Surveillance Court puts an end to a judicial persecution and a cavalry that didn't chip away at the strength of great leadership, that, in a profoundly changed political scenario, is today still fundamental and central."

Milan Prosecutor General Roberto Alfonso said prosecutors have 15 days to decide if they will appeal the tribunal's decision.


Law firm hired to investigate economic development agency
Court News | 2018/05/01 19:11
The Oregon Department of Justice has hired a law firm to investigate allegations of discrimination and mismanagement at the state's economic development agency, Business Oregon.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that in an anonymous letter to Gov. Kate Brown earlier this month, a group of employees described hostile working conditions and accused leadership of gender bias and misusing taxpayer funds. The letter asked the governor to undertake an investigation and said the employees had retained Portland labor attorney Dana Sullivan "to help ensure employment rights are protected as a result of this complaint."

The Justice Department will be supervising the probe. Its agreement with the Portland office of Perkins Coie provides for a maximum cost of $50,000. The budget could go quickly, as the firm's partners command $525 to $630 an hour, and paralegals and associates bill out at $150 to $445 an hour.

The agreement specifically directs Perkins Coie to undertake "an attorney-client privileged investigation," meaning the Justice Department or Business Oregon could try to exempt the findings from disclosure under public records law. It also says the law firm could be called on to provide legal advice to the DOJ, the governor's office or the "benefitting agency" - Business Oregon.

The Justice department did not respond to questions about the agreement, whether it would make the findings public or whether that decision would be made by Business Oregon.


Arkansas officials ask court to keep voter ID law in place
Court News | 2018/05/01 19:10
Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.


Judge fights for job after admitting to courthouse affair
Court News | 2018/04/22 09:45
Massachusetts' highest court will decide the fate of a judge who admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker that included sexual encounters at the courthouse.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is asking for Judge Thomas Estes to be suspended indefinitely without pay to give lawmakers time to decide whether to remove him from the bench for his relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where Estes sat before she was reassigned last year.

If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees, it will be the first time in three decades it has taken such action against a judge for misconduct. The case comes amid the #MeToo movement that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in the workplace.

"This case couldn't come at a worse time for Judge Estes," said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The Supreme Judicial Court will consider Estes' case Tuesday. Cagle has accused Estes, who's married and has two teenage sons, of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him in his chambers and her home. Then after she tried to end the relationship, she asserts he treated her coldly and pushed her out of the drug court.



SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Diabetes, decisions and justice math
Court News | 2018/04/05 12:03
Visitors attending Supreme Court arguments surrender their electronics on entering the courtroom. So if something rings, chimes or buzzes, it's likely the device's owner is dressed in a black robe.

Last year, a justice's cellphone went off. But last month, when four electronic pings sounded during an argument, the device was different. It belonged to Justice Sonia Sotomayor and was alerting the justice, who is diabetic, that her blood sugar was urgently low.

The 63-year-old justice has had diabetes since childhood, but the sound was the first public notice that she was using a continuous glucose monitor.

Sotomayor's use of the device doesn't indicate a change in her health, experts told The Associated Press, but it does show her embracing a technology that has become more popular with Type 1 diabetics.

In 2013, when Sotomayor did an interview with the American Diabetes Association's "Diabetes Forecast," the magazine reported she was not using one. But in recent years the devices, which use sensors inserted under the skin, have become more accurate, said Cleveland Clinic endocrinologist Kevin Pantalone.

Monitors give users continuous information about glucose levels, rather than the snapshot they get from testing their blood with a finger prick. Information from the sensor gets sent every few minutes to a device where a user can see it charted. Most devices sound alarms at low and high glucose levels. Some monitors work with an insulin pump, which continuously delivers insulin.

It's not clear when Sotomayor began using the technology. She declined comment through a court spokeswoman. But the dinging during arguments on March 21 followed an incident in January where emergency medical personnel treated her at home for symptoms of low blood sugar.

Aaron Kowalski, an expert in diabetes technologies, said an event like that can prompt a person to try a monitor, but even people using the devices can experience low blood sugar that might result in an emergency call. Kowalski, who leads the research and advocacy efforts of JDRF, the Type 1 diabetes research organization, said about 15 percent to 20 percent of Type 1 diabetics now use such a device.



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