Court case to tackle jails' medication-assisted treatment
Legal Business | 2019/02/13 19:40
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine started making its case in federal court on Monday against the ban on medication-assisted treatment in county jail amid the opioid crisis.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills recently lifted the Maine Department of Corrections' ban on medication-assisted treatment. The ACLU's lawsuit filed in September argued that it's unconstitutional and harmful for Maine jails to prohibit such treatment.

Madawaska resident Brenda Smith sued, asking to continue using medication-assisted treatment to keep her opioid use disorder in remission. Smith, who is expected to report to Aroostook County Jail this year, testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland during a court case that is expected to last all week.

Smith wept on the stand while describing how access to the medicine is critical to stabilizing her life. ACLU lawyers said they will spend the week making the case that such access is a constitutional issue, as well as a protected right under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It makes me feel normal, like I'm a normal human being," Smith said.

Smith's lawsuit against the jail comes at a time when jails and prisons across the country are starting to provide addiction medications to inmates, as resistance from long-skeptical corrections officials appears to be loosening amid the national drug epidemic.

Attorneys for the jail have pushed back at the idea that a ban on medically assisted treatment is a violation of a prisoner's rights. Attorney Peter Marchesi, an attorney representing the jail Monday, has previously said medical staff members at the jail have the ability to manage prisoners' withdrawal symptoms.

Monday's court action also included an expert witness, Dr. Ross MacDonald, who has overseen medical care for New York City's jail system. The medical literature supports medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and it's important to have that option available to prisoners, he said.



Court extends detention for Nissan ex-chair Ghosn by 10 days
Legal Business | 2019/01/01 05:55
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn will be detained at least through Jan. 11, the Tokyo District Court said Monday, as the once revered auto industry figure faces allegations that have marked a stunning downfall.

Ghosn, who led Nissan Motor Co. for two decades and helped save the Japanese automaker from near bankruptcy, was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicion of falsifying financial reports. He also faces a breach of trust allegation, for which his detention had been approved previously through Jan. 1.

The Tokyo District Court said in a statement that it had approved prosecutors' request for a 10-day extension.

Ghosn has been charged in the first set of allegations, about under-reporting Ghosn's pay by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) in 2011-2015.

Those close to Ghosn and his family say he is asserting his innocence as the alleged underreported amount of money was never really decided or paid, and Nissan never suffered any monetary losses from the alleged breach of trust.

It is unclear when Ghosn may be released on bail. Tokyo prosecutors consider Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese ancestry, a flight risk.

In Japan, formal charges can mean a suspect will get detained for months, sometimes until the trial starts, because of fears of tampered evidence.

Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Ghosn on the under-reporting of income and was freed Dec. 25 on 70 million yen ($635,600) bail after more than a month of detention.

Kelly said in a statement released through his lawyers he had suffered while in detention because of his neck ailment and hoped to get medical treatment. He also said he was innocent and hoped to regain his reputation.

"I expect that the trial will start soon. I have not been involved in alleged false entry. I believe my innocence will be revealed in the trial," Kelly said.

Falsifying financial reporting is a serious crime in Japan, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both. But some experts are puzzled that the allegations against Kelly and Ghosn are about underreporting income from Nissan. Nissan is in charge of filing such financial reports, not individual executives.

Past cases of companies and officials getting charged in Japan with falsifying such reports tend to be about misrepresenting company profits or other numbers that relate to the overall operations of the business, not executive compensation.


NC court: Counties not responsible for school underfunding
Legal Business | 2018/12/22 19:23
North Carolina's top court says the state is responsible, not the counties, when schools are so underfunded that some children don't get the constitutionally required sound basic education.

In a decision issued Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against parents and children in Halifax County, who contended county commissioners haven't fairly distributed tax money, hurting some students.

The Supreme Court decision says only the state has "the power to create and maintain a system of public education." The case was the first to address whether local governments have a duty to provide every child an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. In a landmark 1997 case known as Leandro, the court determined the state has that duty.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision by the state Court of Appeals.



Human rights court rules against Greece in Sharia law case
Legal Business | 2018/12/19 18:06
Greece violated a prohibition on discrimination by applying Islamic religious law to an inheritance dispute among members of the country's Muslim minority, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ruled Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights by applying Sharia law in the case, under which a Muslim Greek man's will bequeathing all he owned to his wife was deemed invalid after it was challenged by his sisters.

The man's widow, Chatitze Molla Sali, appealed to the European court in 2014, having lost three quarters of her inheritance. She argued she had been discriminated against on religious grounds as, had her husband not been Muslim, she would have inherited his entire estate under Greek law.

The European court agreed. It has not yet issued a decision on what, if any, penalty it will apply to Greece.

"Greece was the only country in Europe which, up until the material time, had applied Sharia law to a section of its citizens against their wishes," the court said in its ruling.

"That was particularly problematic in the present case because the application of Sharia law had led to a situation that was detrimental to the individual rights of a widow who had inherited her husband's estate in accordance with the rules of civil law but who had then found herself in a legal situation which neither she nor her husband had intended."

Molla Sali's husband had drawn up his will according to Greek law, and both a first instance and an appeals court initially ruled in her favor in the dispute with her sisters-in-law. But further court decisions ruled that inheritance issues within the Muslim minority had to be dealt with under Islamic religious law, and the will was deemed invalid.


EU court adviser: Britain could change its mind on Brexit
Legal Business | 2018/12/04 17:01
A top official at the European Union's highest court advised Tuesday that Britain can unilaterally change its mind about leaving the European Union, boosting hopes among to pro-EU campaigners in the U.K. that Brexit can be stopped.

Prime Minister Theresa May's government insists it will never reverse the decision to leave, but May faces a tough battle to win backing in Parliament before lawmakers vote next week on whether to accept or reject the divorce agreement negotiated with the bloc. Defeat would leave the U.K. facing a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit and could topple the prime minister, her government, or both.

Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona told the European Court of Justice that a decision by the British government to change its mind about invoking the countdown to departure would be legally valid. The advice of the advocate general is often, but not always, followed by the full court.

The court is assessing the issue under an accelerated procedure, since Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29. The final verdict is expected within weeks.

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process. Article 50 is scant on details — largely because the idea of any country leaving the bloc was considered unlikely — so a group of Scottish legislators asked the courts to rule on whether the U.K. can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.

The EU's governing Commission and Council oppose unilateral revocation, arguing it requires unanimous agreement of the 27 remaining members of the bloc.



Government asks high court to hear transgender military case
Legal Business | 2018/11/24 19:47
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to issue an unusually quick ruling on the Pentagon's policy of restricting military service by transgender people. It's the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, with a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue.

Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration's decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases. Trump's recent salvo against the "Obama judge" who ruled against his asylum policy — not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court — prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary.

Joshua Matz, publisher of the liberal Take Care blog, said the timing of the administration's effort to get the Supreme Court involved in the issues at an early stage could hardly be worse for Roberts and other justices who have sought to dispel perceptions that the court is merely a political institution, especially since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At an especially sensitive moment for the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is "forcing it into a minefield that many justices would almost surely prefer to avoid," Matz said.

The Supreme Court almost always waits to get involved in a case until both a trial and appeals court have ruled in it. Often, the justices wait until courts in different areas of the country have weighed in and come to different conclusions about the same legal question.

So it's rare for the justices to intervene early as the Trump administration has been pressing them to do. One famous past example is when the Nixon administration went to court to try to prohibit the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.


Manhattan DA drops part of Weinstein case
Legal Business | 2018/10/12 07:21
Manhattan’s district attorney dropped part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence emerged that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers provided to the grand jury.

The development was announced in court Thursday with Weinstein looking on.

The tossed charge involves allegations made by one of the three accusers in the case, Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

In an expose published in The New Yorker one year ago Wednesday, Evans accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex when they met alone in his office in 2004 to discuss her fledgling acting career. At the time, Evans was a 21-year-old college student.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge that prosecutors wouldn’t oppose dismissal of the count in the case involving Evans. She insisted the rest of the case, involving two other accusers, was strong.

“In short, your honor, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein. He also said he believed a police detective had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.


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