EU court rejects Hungary, Slovakia appeal in refugee case
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/06 15:46
The European Union's top court on Wednesday rejected legal action by Hungary and Slovakia to avoid accepting refugees under an EU scheme, a decision seen as a victory for countries bearing the greatest burden of Europe's migrant wave.

In a long-awaited ruling, the European Court of Justice said that it had "dismissed in its entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary."

EU countries agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over two years, but only around 27,700 people have been moved so far. Hungary and Slovakia were seeking to have the legally binding move annulled.

Hungary and Poland have refused to take part in the scheme, while so far Slovakia has accepted only a handful of refugees from Greece.

The refugee scheme was adopted by the EU's "qualified majority" vote — around two thirds — and the ECJ held that this was appropriate, saying the EU "was not required to act unanimously" on this decision.

The court also noted that the small number of relocations so far is due to a series of factors that the EU could not really have foreseen, including "the lack of cooperation on the part of certain member states."

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he respected the court decision, but that his government still does not like the relocation scheme, which some see as a system of quotas imposed on countries by unelected EU bureaucrats in Brussels.

"We fully respect the verdict of the European Court of Justice," Fico told reporters, adding that his country's negative stance on the relocation plan "has not changed at all."

Fico said the scheme was a temporary solution. He says he believes his country doesn't face any sanctions from the EU over its stance. EU officials say the relocation of eligible asylum-seekers in Greece and Italy will continue even after the scheme ends.


Military parts dealer guilty in plot to steal Army equipment
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/03 09:00
A military equipment dealer was convicted Thursday of scheming with soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to steal sensitive material for sale to buyers in Russia, China and Mexico.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal and sell government property, two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and 10 counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors said he faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy and up to 20 years for each count of arms export violations and wire fraud.

More than $1 million in weapons parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights and other equipment was stolen and sold in a vast black market, prosecutors said. Six soldiers and another civilian pleaded guilty. One testified that Roberts was given a tour of the base to see items to be stolen. Eventually, they brought equipment back from Afghanistan and sold it by the truckload.


Supreme Court Overturns Billings Police Back-Pay Ruling
Headline Legal News | 2017/08/27 06:06
The Montana Supreme Court has overturned a judge's ruling that the City of Billings owes 27 current and former police officers $2.7 million in back pay, costs and penalties in a dispute over how longevity pay should be calculated.

District Judge Nels Swandal ruled in 2011 that the contract awarded longevity pay from the beginning of an officer's employment. The city and union officials said longevity pay was earned based on completed years of service.

The Billings Gazette reports that because the contracts could be interpreted both ways, the Supreme Court sent the case back to District Court for a trial to determine the parties' intent in the longevity pay portion of the contract.


Australian court debates release of Queen's secret letters
Headline Legal News | 2017/07/30 03:42
A legal battle over secret letters revealing what Queen Elizabeth II knew of her Australian representative's stunning plan to dismiss Australia's government in 1975 opened in federal court Monday, in a case that could finally solve a mystery behind the country's most dramatic political crisis.

Historian Jenny Hocking is asking the Federal Court to force the National Archives of Australia to release the letters between the British monarch, who is also Australia's constitutional head of state, and her former Australian representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr. The Archives have classified the letters as "personal," meaning they might never be made public.

The letters would reveal what, if anything, the queen knew about Kerr's plan to dismiss Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's government in 1975 to resolve a deadlock in Parliament. It is the only time in Australian history that a democratically elected federal government was dismissed on the British monarch's authority. The dismissal stunned Australians and bolstered calls for the country to sever its colonial ties to Britain and become a republic.

Whitlam's own son, lawyer Antony Whitlam, is arguing the case on behalf of Hocking, and took on the case free of charge.

Hocking, a Whitlam biographer, argues that Australians have a right to know the details of their history, and that the letters written in the months leading up to the unprecedented dismissal are key to unraveling the truth.


EU closer to sanctions on Poland over changes in judiciary
Headline Legal News | 2017/07/19 22:24
The European Union is coming closer to imposing sanctions on Poland for the government's attempt to take control over the judiciary, a senior official warned Wednesday, but he said the bloc was still open to dialogue.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke Wednesday in Brussels, shortly after Poland's lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to send a contentious draft law that would reorganize the nation's top Supreme Court for more work by a special parliamentary commission.

Timmermans said that the EU was closer to triggering Article 7 against Poland because its recent steps toward the judiciary "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law" and threaten putting the judiciary "under full political control of the government." But he said that dialogue between the EU and Poland should continue while the legislation is being worked on.

The EU's Article 7 allows the bloc to strip a nation of its voting rights. Article 7 was envisioned to ensure democratic standards in EU members. It requires unanimity among all other member states.

The vote in Poland's parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party, was preceded by a heated debate and street protests. It was the latest in a string of conflicts over the policies of the conservative party, which won power in a 2015 election. The government is also under strong criticism from other EU leaders.

Lawmakers voted 434-6 with one abstention for the commission for justice and human rights to review and issue its opinion on the draft law, which gives politicians, not lawyers, the power over appointments to the Supreme Court and reorganizes its structure.

The head of the commission, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, said it wasn't clear when the commission would convene and when its opinion would be known. He said the number of amendments proposed by the opposition was aimed at obstructing its work.

In a heated debate Tuesday, the opposition proposed more than 1,000 amendments to the draft, which, it says, kills judicial independence and destroys the democratic principle of the separation of the judiciary from the executive power.



Indiana high court to rule on Lake Michigan beach ownership
Headline Legal News | 2017/07/01 10:15
The Indiana Supreme Court will decide who owns the land immediately adjacent to Lake Michigan.

Don and Bobbie Gunderson claim their land on Lake Michigan extends to the water’s edge, meaning no one can access the beach by their house without permission, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The state said it owns the land in a trust for all residents up to the “ordinary high-water mark.” The line is generally defined as the mark on the shore where the presence of water is continuous enough to distinguish it from land through erosion, vegetation changes or other characteristics.

The state was granted the land at statehood in 1816, said Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher. He said the state must control beach erosion, which it can’t do effectively if nearby homeowners are allowed to claim the beach as their own.

The high court’s order granting transfer of the case vacates a 2016 state Court of Appeals ruling that established an unprecedented property-sharing arrangement between the state and lakefront landowners. All parties involved with the case agreed the appellate court’s decision was unsatisfactory and asked the state Supreme Court to rule on the matter independently.

Justices will receive written briefs and likely hear oral arguments later this year before issuing a decision, likely in 2018.

The decision will determine if visitors can walk, sunbathe and play on Lake Michigan beaches located between the water and privately owned properties next to the lake.


McCarthy found guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Bella Bond
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/27 23:14
Michael McCarthy has been convicted of 2nd-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl dubbed Baby Doe after her remains washed up on Boston Harbor island.

The verdict was announced in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.

Michael McCarthy is charged with first-degree murder in the 2015 death of the girl who was later identified as Bella Bond.

Man facing life in prison after being found guilty of murder. A North Carolina man has been found guilty in the death of his fiancée and will serve the rest of his life in prison.

Local media outlets report an Onslow County jury found 59-year-old Timothy Noble guilty on Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2014 death of 58-year-old Debra Holden.

Deputies responding to the scene on Oct. 31, 2014, said Holden was found at a residence with a gunshot wound to her temple. Her death was originally ruled a suicide, but Noble was arrested eight months later after the medical examiner ruled the case a homicide. Noble will get credit for time spent in prison while awaiting trial.



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