Supreme Court views not 'liberal or conservative'
Legal Business | 2012/10/19 22:01
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday that
people shouldn't think the high court's justices make decisions in
terms of a liberal or conservative agenda.

Roberts told a crowd of nearly 4,800 people at Rice University in
Houston that many of the court's close votes have had nothing to do
with politics.

"We look at these cases and resolve them ... not in terms of a
particular liberal or conservative agenda," he said. "It's just easier
for reporters to say that justice is liberal and that justice is
conservative."

From reading some of the court's opinions, Roberts added, people may
think that justices are "at each other's throats." But he said all the
justices are "extremely close."

Roberts, taking a break from the high court's current term in
Washington, talked in general about his work leading the nation's
highest court. But he didn't discuss some of the court's more recent
high-profile cases — including voting to uphold much of President
Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, made headlines
when he voted with the liberal justices in that 5-4 landmark decision.
After that ruling, Roberts became the focus of criticism from some of
the nation's leading conservatives while liberals applauded his
statesmanship.


Ex-NFL WR Hurd pleads not guilty to new charges
Legal Business | 2012/10/08 22:07
Former NFL receiver Sam Hurd pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a new indictment accusing him of trying to obtain cocaine and marijuana while he was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of trying to start a drug ring in the Chicago area.

The indictment filed last month is based on allegations that Hurd asked a cousin, Jesse Tyrone Chavful, to buy drugs. Chavful signed a guilty plea agreement Monday to one count of conspiracy to possess five or more kilograms of cocaine — documents in which Chavful said Hurd contacted him at his T-shirt shop in San Antonio and asked to "get him cocaine and marijuana."

According to the documents, Chavful said he set up a deal to purchase the drugs but was arrested.

Hurd's attorney, Jay Ethington, has said Chavful is lying, but Chavful's attorney, Laura Harper, said her client simply wanted to come clean.

Hurd entered his plea in federal court in Dallas, appearing in an orange jail uniform and standing next to Ethington. He's been in custody since August after failing two drug tests and the Chavful allegations surfaced.


Federal court upholds Texas open meetings law
Legal Business | 2012/09/29 22:49
A federal appeals court has upheld Texas' open meetings law as constitutional, rejecting a lawsuit that argued it stifled free speech for government officials.

The 1967 Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits a quorum of members of a governmental body from deliberating in secret. Violations are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Officials from a group of 15 Texas cities, including Alpine, Arlington and Houston suburb Sugar Land, challenged the law in 2009. A U.S. district judge ruled against them, prompting an appeal the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the law promotes disclosure of speech and does not restrict it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the decision a victory for open government.


MacDonald goes to court in 'Fatal Vision' case
Legal Business | 2012/09/20 23:10
Jeffrey MacDonald, a clean-cut Green Beret and doctor convicted of killing of his pregnant wife and their two daughters, is getting another chance to try proving his innocence — more than four decades after the nation was gripped by his tales of Charles Manson-like hippies doped up on acid slaughtering his family.

The case now hinges on something that wasn't available when he was first put on trial: DNA evidence. A federal judge planned to hold a hearing Monday to consider new DNA evidence and witness testimony that MacDonald and his supporters say will finally clear him of a crime that became the basis of Joe McGinniss' best-selling book "Fatal Vision" and a made-for-TV drama.

It's the latest twist in a case that has been the subject of military and civilian courts, intense legal wrangling and shifting alliances.


W.Va. court hears 'rescue' funding arguments
Legal Business | 2012/09/05 22:58
Whether West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry receives additional public funds for his campaign hinges on whether the U.S. Supreme Court sees a difference between elections for the judiciary and races for other political posts, the state court was told during a hearing Tuesday.

Adam Skaggs, lawyer for the Republican hopeful, argued that legislative and executive branch officeholders are expected to favor agendas and interest groups that helped them win. But judges are supposed to harbor no bias, and West Virginia created the public financing pilot program amid concerns about campaign cash influencing the judiciary, said Skaggs, an official with the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school.

"The state has compelling interests in the context of judicial elections that are absent from any other type of election," Skaggs told the court.

The point is crucial to Loughry's pursuit of "rescue" funds, normally triggered by spending by a traditionally financed candidate or outside group. With two, 12-year terms up on the court this year, Loughry alone among the four Supreme Court candidates has sought and received funding through the pilot program. Provided $350,000 for the general election, Loughry is seeking another $144,500 or so in matching funds.


Ohio man pleads not guilty to Pitt threat charges
Legal Business | 2012/08/29 18:28
An Ohio man charged with conspiracy for allegedly claiming to be part of the computer hacking group "Anonymous" and posting a YouTube threat to release confidential computer information belonging to the University of Pittsburgh pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Alexander Waterland, 24, of Loveland, Ohio, and his attorney declined comment after his 15-minute arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly.

A federal grand jury earlier this month indicted Waterland and Brett Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, on charges they posted the threats in April and May. Online court records don't list an attorney for Hudson, who is scheduled to be arraigned in Pittsburgh on Sept. 6. Hudson has previously told The Associated Press he won't comment on the charges.

Although Pitt officials later determined their computer information was never hacked, the threats claimed it was and the FBI determined that Waterland and/or Hudson had downloaded some personal information from students and faculty and emailed some of it to Pitt officials to "prove" the hacking had occurred.


Appeals court affirms oil company polar bear rules
Legal Business | 2012/08/22 21:54
Oil companies operating in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast will have a negligible effect on polar bears and walrus, according to a federal Appeals Court ruling Tuesday that backed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules on harassment of the animals.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the agency correctly issued rules that provide legal protection to oil companies if small numbers of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed.

"We're glad that the court has reaffirmed the appropriateness of our conservation measures," agency spokesman Bruce Woods said.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued over the rules, claiming both individual animals and entire populations must be analyzed for protection. Center attorney Rebecca Noblin said the Appeals Court agreed but concluded the Fish and Wildlife Service had done sufficient separate analyses. Noblin called the decision disappointing.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act generally prohibits the "take" of marine mammals. Take is defined to include harassment or annoyance that has the potential to injure or that could disrupt behavior patterns such as migration, nursing, breeding and feeding.


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