Ohio Supreme Court justice backs legalizing marijuana
Court Watch | 2017/05/21 13:23
An Ohio Supreme Court justice who’s mulling a run for governor thinks it’s time for the state to decriminalize marijuana.

Justice William O’Neill, the lone Democrat holding an Ohio statewide office, said making marijuana legal is working in Colorado and doing it in Ohio would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes.

O’Neill announced earlier this year that he’s considering stepping down and making a run for governor, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until the end of the year.

In a speech mixed with his analysis of last year’s presidential election and thoughts about problems facing the state, O’Neill said he not only wants to legalize marijuana but also release all non-violent marijuana offenders from prison.

Doing those two things would generate an estimated $350 million to both combat drug addiction and create a mental health network run by the state, he told members of the Wayne County Democratic Party on Friday night.

“The time has come for new thinking,” O’Neill said in his prepared remarks. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”

He said the Democratic Party needs new ideas in 2018 if it wants to knock off Republicans who control all branches of Ohio government.

O’Neill wants to see the Ohio Department of Mental Health re-open the network of state hospitals that were closed decades ago and change how the state deals with addiction.

“Treat addiction like the disease it is in the name of compassion,” he said.

There’s already a crowded field lining up on both sides of the governor’s race.

For the Democrats, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni are making runs.

The field on the Republican side includes U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Secretary of State Jon Husted while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General Mike DeWine are widely expected to seek the GOP nomination.


Effort to block Confederate statue's removal goes to court
Court Watch | 2017/05/11 05:06
A last-ditch effort to block the removal of a monument to a Confederate general in New Orleans has landed in court.

At issue before state Judge Kern Reese on Wednesday was whether the city owns the monument honoring Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. The statue is located at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who don't want it removed are arguing that it belongs to a park board, and therefore the city has no authority to remove it.

The statue is one of three monuments to Confederate leaders slated for removal in New Orleans. A fourth, the Liberty Place monument, was removed in the dead of night without advance notice last month due to threats of violence.

That monument honored a rebellion by whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction-era government in New Orleans.


Austrian court: ex-Croatian general guilty of embezzlement
Court Watch | 2017/04/19 06:57
An Austrian court has found a former Croatian general guilty of embezzling millions of euros and sentenced him and an associate to two years in prison.

The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt determined Wednesday that the ex-general, Vladimir Zagorec, and Guenter Striedinger were involved in diverting loans from the now-defunct Hypo Alpe Adria Bank. Striedinger was a bank board member.

Judge Michaele Sanin said the damages caused by the two amounted to over 17 million euros ( $18 million.)

The bank was nationalized to prevent bankruptcy in 2009 and its assets are being sold to pay off creditors.

Lawyers for both men say they are appealing the verdict and sentence.

A third man whom the court did not name also was found guilty and given a suspended prison term.


Newest justice joins high court amid competing caricatures
Court Watch | 2017/04/13 15:37
Somewhere between the Republican caricature of the next justice of the Supreme Court as a folksy family guy and the Democrats' demonization of him as a cold-hearted automaton, stands Neil Gorsuch.

Largely unknown six months ago, Gorsuch has seen his life story, personality and professional career explored in excruciating detail since he was nominated by President Donald Trump 10 weeks ago.

The portrait that emerges is more nuanced than the extremes drawn by his supporters and critics.

Gorsuch is widely regarded as a warm and collegial family man, boss and jurist, loyal to his employees and kind to those of differing viewpoints. He also has been shown to be a judge who takes such a "rigidly neutral" approach to the law that it can lead to dispassionate rulings with sometimes brutal results.

Four times during his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch invoked a "breakfast table" analogy, telling senators that good judges set aside what they have to eat — and their personal views — before they leave the house in the morning to apply the law and nothing else to the facts of the cases at hand. It was all part of Gorsuch's artful effort to reveal as little as possible of his own opinions.


Court bars release of videos made by anti-abortion group
Court Watch | 2017/03/27 01:03
A federal appeals court on Wednesday barred the release of videos made by an anti-abortion group whose leaders are facing felony charges in California accusing them of recording people without permission in violation of state law.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling blocking the recordings made by the Center for Medical Progress at meetings of the National Abortion Federation, an association of abortion providers.

The Center for Medical Progress previously released several secretly recorded videos that it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood said the videos were deceptively edited to support false claims.

The videos stoked the American abortion debate when they were released in 2015 and increased Congressional heat against Planned Parenthood that has yet to subside.

It's not clear what's on the bulk of the recordings the group made at National Abortion Federation meetings.

A leader of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, said in a statement that the 9th Circuit was preventing the release of footage of Planned Parenthood leadership discussing criminal conduct at the meetings and its ruling was an attack on the First Amendment.


Polish court issues arrest warrant for US man in Nazi case
Court Watch | 2017/03/15 23:00
A court in eastern Poland has issued an arrest warrant for a Minnesota man sought in a Nazi massacre, opening the way for Poland to seek his extradition from the United States.

The Associated Press had previously identified the man as 98-year-old Michael Karkoc, an ex-commander in an SS-led unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians in World War II.

Earlier this week, prosecutors said evidence shows that American citizen Michael K. was a commander of a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion that raided Polish villages. They sought an arrest warrant from a court in eastern Poland.

Judge Dariusz Abamowicz said Wednesday the court has issued a warrant after concluding that there is "high probability" the suspect committed war crimes listed by the prosecutors.



Lawmakers want Supreme Court review of voting law continued
Court Watch | 2017/02/26 08:50
North Carolina Republican legislative leaders want the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the new Democratic state attorney general's bid to dismiss their appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a voting law based on racial bias.

Lawyers the General Assembly hired to defend the 2013 law approved by the GOP objected Monday to Attorney General Josh Stein's petition last week and want the justices to continue considering their previously filed appeal.

They say Stein lacks authority to step in because previous Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped defending the law last summer after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found the law targeted minority voters. The legislature's private lawyers continued the appeal.


The measure required photo identification to vote in person, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during the early-voting period. Republicans said the changes were designed to improve public confidence in elections and weren't racially discriminatory.

Another state law allows legislative leaders to hire their own attorneys to defend challenged laws, the lawyers wrote in their formal objection filed with the justices.

The legislators' lawyers also said Stein has a conflict of interest that should disqualify him from representing the state because he testified against the law at trial while a state senator. Stein was elected attorney general in November and took office Jan. 1.

Stein's "motion is nothing less than a politically-motivated attempt to hijack a ... petition in a major Voting Rights Act case, in violation of the plain terms of North Carolina law and the canons of professional ethics," said the objection, signed by Washington-based attorney Kyle Duncan.

Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for Stein's Department of Justice, said in an email Stein "disagrees with the arguments and believes they are without merit. We will wait for further direction from the Supreme Court."



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