Court: Neighbors can sue pot grower for stinky smells
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/08 02:55
A pot farm's neighbor can sue them for smells and other nuisances that could harm their property values, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revives a lawsuit between a Colorado horse farm and a neighboring marijuana-growing warehouse.

The horse farm's owners, the Reillys, sued in 2015, claiming that the pot-growing warehouse would diminish their land's value by emitting "noxious odors" and attracting unsavory visitors. A federal district court dismissed the Reillys' claim, and the pot warehouse opened in 2016.

The horse farm owners appealed, and a three-judge appeals panel agreed Wednesday that their claims should be heard. But the judges said the Reillys can't sue Colorado to force the state to enforce federal drug law and not allow the pot warehouse in the first place.

The southern Colorado horse-vs-pot case is interesting because the horse farm owners are trying to use a 1970 federal law crafted to fight organized crime. The Reillys say that federal racketeering laws entitle them to collect damages from the pot farm, even though the pot farm is legal under state law.

"The landowners have plausibly alleged at least one (racketeering) claim," the judges wrote.

Pot opponents say the racketeering strategy gives them a possible tool to break an industry they oppose. It could give private citizens who oppose pot legalization a way to sue the industry out of business, even as federal officials have so far declined to shut down most pot businesses operating in violation of federal drug law.

"This is a tremendous victory for opponents of the marijuana industry," said Brian Barnes, a Washington-based lawyer who represents the Reillys on behalf of the anti-crime nonprofit group Safe Streets Alliance.

Owners of the pot warehouse, owned by a company called Alternative Holistic Healing, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday. An attorney representing them in the case could not be reached, either.

The case now goes to back to a federal district court that had earlier dismissed it.

The appeals panel handed pot opponents a defeat on another case Wednesday, however. The judges ruled that a lower court was right to dismiss a claim from a group of sheriffs in Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma, who had asked the federal court to block Colorado's pot law.

Bangladesh Supreme Court removes Lady Justice statue
Headline Legal News | 2017/05/27 16:54
A statue depicting the Greek goddess of justice was removed from the front side of Bangladesh's Supreme Court building early on Friday following pressure from religious groups that termed it “un-Islamic,” according to local media and the attorney general.

The controversy over the Lady Justice statue had been brewing for several months, with many religious groups staunchly opposed to its installation.

Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stepped into the controversy, who to the surprise of all, had backed the move to remove the statue.

Only policemen were allowed to enter the court premises when it was being moved.

Attorney General Mahbube Alam told Anadolu Agency the statue had been moved to another place within the court premises. “I heard the decision came from the full court to remove it from the present place and to replace it somewhere else in the court premise,” he said.

Hefazat-e-Islam and Bangladesh Olama League were among the Islamic groups who had been demanding the statue’s removal since it was installed in December 2016.

Hefazat-e-Islam leaders met Hasina on April 11 demanding the removal of the statue of Greek goddess Themis, who is depicted blindfolded with a sword in one hand and the balanced scales of justice on the other.

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman returns to court in drug case
Headline Legal News | 2017/05/05 22:55
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is returning to a Brooklyn courtroom Friday, a day after a judge rejected his request to be allowed in the general inmate population.

The 59-year-old defendant famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico lost his bid Thursday to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.

Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell. But Cogan relaxed the restrictions known as Special Administrative Measures enough for Guzman to communicate with his wife through written questions and answers.

His lawyers said in a statement that it was "devastating" for Guzman and his wife that they will not be allowed jail visits.

Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.

Court document: Hawaii mother’s body parts found in freezer
Headline Legal News | 2017/04/15 20:58
A Hawaii man accused of killing his mother months ago stuffed her dismembered body parts in seven plastic bags in the kitchen freezer of the Waikiki apartment they shared, according to court documents made public Monday.

Yu Wei Gong has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Liu Yun Gong.

He called 911 on April 11 and said: “’I killed my Mom,’” according to a detective’s affidavit supporting an arrest warrant. When officers arrived and could not find the woman, Gong told them she was “in the fridge,” the complaint said.  

An officer found what appeared to be body parts.

“Another covered object in the freezer felt to a different officer like a human leg and foot,” the complaint said.

Yu Wei Gong didn’t speak or enter a plea during a brief court appearance Monday. Deputy Public Defender Diamond Grace requested a Mandarin interpreter for his preliminary hearing, scheduled for Wednesday. He remained in custody with bail set at $2 million.

Grace didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment after the hearing.

Authorities say Yu Wei Gong told officers that he accidentally killed his mother in September after she became angry when the 26-year-old said he wanted to work instead of going to school.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Rachel Lange determined Liu Yun Gong had suffered blunt force injuries to the head, the complaint said. Her identity was confirmed by comparing fingerprints to those on file under her Hawaii driver’s license.

The manager of the apartment building where they lived told police he had not seen the man’s mother since before Christmas, the complaint said.

It said Liu Yun Gong did not show up for work on Aug. 21, 2016. When a supervisor called her phone, it went unanswered. Yu Wei Gong called the supervisor the next day, saying his mother was on another Hawaiian island and had left her phone at home.

Three women watched the hearing and said outside court they wanted to support Gong spiritually because he had attended their church.

Official: Man accused in store attack misses court hearing
Headline Legal News | 2017/04/11 22:37
Authorities say a jailed North Carolina man facing accused of an arson attack on an immigrant-owned store didn't appear in court as planned because he's being disciplined.

An appearance scheduled Tuesday for 32-year-old Curtis Flournoy has been reset for April 21, when the suspect will have a bond hearing.

Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Alana Byrnes said he didn't know what led to Flournoy's being placed on disciplinary detention.

Flournoy remains jailed on a $35,000 bond on charges, including ethnic intimidation and burning a commercial building. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Authorities say a fire was set Thursday but burned itself out at a market selling goods from the Indian subcontinent. No one was hurt, and authorities said a threatening note was left on the scene.

Baldwin's Supreme Court nominee fight is early flashpoint
Headline Legal News | 2017/04/05 12:11
Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin's support for a filibuster to block President Donald Trump's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court has become an early flashpoint as she faces re-election next year.

While Baldwin and Republicans, including her Wisconsin colleague Sen. Ron Johnson, trade barbs over the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, voters back home in a state that went for Trump in November worry about the continued erosion of bipartisanship and increasing polarization in Washington.

"Nobody is making any concessions and I think this is going to be the downfall of both parties," said Anna Street, a 56-year-old nurse from West Allis, on Tuesday.

Baldwin voted Thursday to support a Democratic filibuster in an attempt to stop Gorsuch's nomination to the nation's highest court, while Johnson voted to end debate. Baldwin argues that Trump should put forward someone who could get enough bipartisan support to garner 60 votes and overcome any filibuster.

But Republicans, on a party-line vote with Johnson in support and Baldwin opposed, changed Senate rules on Thursday to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, a move labeled the "nuclear option" because it would unravel Senate traditions that have led to reaching bipartisan consensus.

"Republicans and Democrats ought to get to a point where they're talking to each other and not go on with this," said Roger Sunby, a retired public education administrator from Mount Horeb. He said Gorsuch would be confirmed no matter what action Democrats take.

Republicans see Baldwin's opposition to Gorsuch as a vulnerability. Johnson, Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans have been attacking Baldwin as being out of the "mainstream" because of her opposition to Gorsuch.

Baldwin argues that it's not her, but Gorsuch, who is out of the mainstream, citing his rulings "against disabled students, against workers, and against women's reproductive health care."

Baldwin said in a statement after her votes Thursday that she has "deep concerns" about Gorsuch's record and that she wants a justice who will serve as a check on the executive branch.

"Based on his record and the many questions he has chosen to leave unanswered, I don't have confidence Judge Gorsuch would be that justice and I oppose his confirmation to our highest court," she said.

Baldwin backers argue that her support for a filibuster will only further bolster her bona fides among liberals as someone willing to stand up to Trump.

Trump travel ban in new court setback near nation's capital
Headline Legal News | 2017/03/16 22:59
President Donald Trump's revised travel ban has suffered another federal court setback after a judge in Maryland rejected a revised measure that bans travel targeting six predominantly Muslim countries.

Judge Theodore Chuang ruled Thursday in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a case brought near the nation's capital by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups representing immigrants, refugees and their families. The groups argued that the underlying rationale of the ban was to discriminate against Muslims, making it unconstitutional.

Chuang granted a preliminary injunction on a nationwide basis. He declined to issue an injunction blocking the entire executive order, saying that the plaintiffs didn't sufficiently develop their argument that the temporary ban on refugees offends the establishment clause and didn't provide sufficient basis to establish the invalidity of the rest of the order.

He called Trump's own statements about intentions to impose a Muslim ban "highly relevant." Trump's second executive order does include changes from the first order, Chuang noted, such as the removal of a preference for religious minorities in the refugee process.

"Despite these changes, the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban," he said.

Details of the implementation of the orders also indicate that national security isn't the primary purpose of the ban, Chuang said.

"The fact that the White House took the highly irregular step of first introducing the travel ban without receiving the input and judgment of the relevant national security agencies strongly suggests that the religious purpose was primary and the national security purpose, even if legitimate, is a secondary, post hoc rationale," he said.

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