Court upholds creation of national monument in Atlantic
Court Watch | 2019/12/28 03:57
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former President Barack Obama's designation of a federally protected conservation area in the Atlantic Ocean, a move that commercial fishermen oppose.

Fishing groups sued over the creation of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 5,000-square-mile (8,000-square-kilometer) area that contains fragile deep sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life. The monument was established in 2016.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision Friday.

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former President Barack Obama's designation of a federally protected conservation area in the Atlantic Ocean, a move that commercial fishermen oppose.

Fishing groups sued over the creation of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 5,000-square-mile (8,000-square-kilometer) area that contains fragile deep sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life. The monument was established in 2016.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision Friday.



Activists cheer victory in landmark Dutch climate case
Court Watch | 2019/12/22 02:52
In a ruling hailed as an “immense victory for climate justice,” the Netherlands’ top court ruled Friday in favor of activists who have for years been seeking legal orders to force the Dutch government into cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Activists in a packed chamber of the Supreme Court in The Hague erupted into applause and cheers as Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk rejected the government’s appeal against earlier rulings ordering the government to cut emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.

The Supreme Court upheld lower courts’ rulings that protection from the potentially devastating effects of climate change was a human right and that the government has a duty to protect its citizens.

Urgenda, the Dutch climate and sustainability organization that filed the original case, hailed the ruling as “a groundbreaking decision that confirms that individual governments must do their fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“I am extremely happy that the highest court in the Netherlands has confirmed that climate change is a real, severe problem and that government should do what they themselves have declared for more than 10 years is necessary, namely between 25% and 40% reduction of CO2,” Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma told The Associated Press outside the court.

Faiza Oulahsen of Greenpeace in the Netherlands called the ruling “an immense victory for climate justice.”

Reacting to the decision at his weekly press conference, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “I can guarantee we will do everything we can to achieve the goal.”


Saudis sentence 5 people to death for Khashoggi’s killing
Court Watch | 2019/12/22 02:52
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly slaying in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Three other people were found guilty by Riyadh’s criminal court of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.

In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government. Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.

A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.

While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger outside Riyadh about the crown prince’s culpability in the slaying.

“The decision is too unlawful to be acceptable,” Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said in a text message to The Associated Press. “It is unacceptable.”

Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations, tweeted that the verdicts are a “mockery” and that the masterminds behind the crime “have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial.” Amnesty International called the outcome “a whitewash which brings neither justice nor truth.”

Khashoggi, who was a resident of the U.S., had walked into his country’s consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, for a appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee. He never walked out, and his body has not been found.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate. They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to Callamard’s independent investigation. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw.


US heads to court to build Trump border wall in Texas
Court Watch | 2019/12/20 02:52
Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. government is ramping up its efforts to seize private land in Texas to build a border wall.

Trump’s signature campaign promise has consistently faced political, legal, and environmental obstacles in Texas, which has the largest section of the U.S.-Mexico border, most of it without fencing. And much of the land along the Rio Grande, the river that forms the border in Texas, is privately held and environmentally sensitive.

Almost no land has been taken so far. But Department of Justice lawyers have filed three lawsuits this month seeking to take property from landowners. On Tuesday, lawyers moved to seize land in one case immediately before a scheduled court hearing in February.

The agency says it’s ready to file many more petitions to take private land in the coming weeks. While progress has lagged, the process of taking land under eminent domain is weighted heavily in the government’s favor.


Court Will Hear Trump's Pleas to Keep Financial Records Private
Court Watch | 2019/12/15 13:30
The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear President Donald Trump's pleas to keep his tax, bank and financial records private, a major confrontation between the president and Congress that also could affect the 2020 presidential campaign.

Arguments will take place in late March, and the justices are poised to issue decisions in June as Trump is campaigning for a second term. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private. The court also will decide whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain eight years of Trump's tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week. Indeed, it's almost certain the court won't hear the cases until after a Senate trial over whether to remove Trump has ended.

Trump sued to prevent banks and accounting firms from complying with subpoenas for his records from three committees of the House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.



Trump Has Successfully Gamed the Courts
Court Watch | 2019/12/13 03:38
At its simplest level, the impeachment of President Donald Trump looks like a collision between the legislative and executive branches of government. In that fight, each side is trying to defend its prerogatives as it sees them: For Congress (or at least the Democratic-led House), this includes the power to appropriate foreign aid, and the power to conduct oversight; for the executive branch, this means the power to make foreign policy as it sees fit, and to protect its internal deliberations.

What is missing from this portrait is the crucial role of the third branch of government, the judiciary, which has powerfully shaped the impeachment process by declining to exercise its prerogatives, rather than defending them. By choosing to treat the current moment as business as usual, federal courts have effectively removed themselves from the process. In effect, that has dictated what arguments can be mounted in the impeachment fight and what witnesses Congress, and the public, can hear?narrowing and obscuring the case against Trump.

None of this absolves Democrats of the decisions they’ve made. The House majority could have chosen to fight in court to compel testimony from current and former administration officials, especially former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Those fights would not have been resolved in time to hold an impeachment vote before Christmas, but that deadline is self-imposed and politically motivated. Democrats could have waited, or they could have pursued the court battle while also charging ahead.



Challenger accuses Supreme Court’s Kelly of corruption
Court Watch | 2019/11/17 11:30
Wisconsin Supreme Court challenger Jill Karofsky suggested Tuesday that Justice Daniel Kelly is corrupt because he repeatedly rules in favor of conservative groups, saying it makes no sense that the law could be on their side all the time.

Karofsky made the remarks at the candidates’ first debate. Karofsky and Kelly used the opportunity to paint each other as partisan and the third candidate, Ed Fallone, struggling to get a word in during their exchanges.

Kelly is part of the high court’s five-justice conservative majority. Karofsky went right at him as soon as the debate began, saying it’s “amazing” that a justice is being supported by right-wing special interest groups. Twice she implied that Kelly is corrupt, questioning why he repeatedly rules in conservative groups’ favor.

“What voters see is that you get support from special interests. You ignore the rule of law and you find in favor of those special interests over and over and over again, and that feels like corruption to people in the state of Wisconsin,” Karofsky said.

Kelly shot back that Karofsky scores the outcome of cases through a political lens. He said he applies the law fairly and uses hard logic to reach his decisions.


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