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.


Appeals court affirms that cheering is not a sport
Legal Business | 2012/08/08 19:47
A federal appeals court has ruled that colleges cannot count competitive cheerleading as a sport when trying to comply with gender-equity requirements, upholding a U.S. District Court decision against Quinnipiac University.

In a decision released Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that competitive cheerleading does not yet meet the standards of a varsity sport under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that mandates equal opportunities for men and women in education and athletics.

The ruling comes on an appeal filed by Quinnipiac, a school with about 8,000 students in Hamden, which had been successfully sued by its volleyball coach after it tried to eliminate the women's volleyball program in favor of competitive cheering.

"Like the district court, we acknowledge record evidence showing that competitive cheerleading can be physically challenging, requiring competitors to possess 'strength, agility, and grace,' the court wrote. "Similarly, we do not foreclose the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, might someday warrant recognition as a varsity sport. But, like the district court, we conclude that the record evidence shows that 'that time has not yet arrived.'"

The appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill, who found in 2010 that competitive cheerleading did not have the organization, post-season structure or standardized rules required to be considered a varsity sport.


Court spurns religious claim to name change
Legal Business | 2012/08/03 00:00
An appeals court has rejected a Kansas man's claim that the federal justice system's refusal to recognize his new Muslim name violates his constitutional religious rights.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Michael White failed to show it was unreasonable to deny his request to amend all records in his criminal case.

A lower court held that replacing the name Michael White with Abdul Hakeem Kareem Mujahid in all federal court records would create confusion.

Mujahid is serving 10 years at a prison in Colorado for killing another inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. A Kansas court granted his petition to change his name in December 2010.


Goldman agrees to settle mortgage debt class action
Legal Business | 2012/07/20 18:26
Goldman Sachs Group Inc has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit with investors who claimed losses on $698 million of securities backed by risky mortgage loans issued by defunct subprime lender New Century Financial Corp.

Lawyers for the investors said in a letter filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday that a proposed settlement had been reached. Terms were not immediately disclosed, though they are expected to be included in court papers filed by July 31.

Goldman is one of many banks accused by U.S. legislators and regulators of fueling the nation's housing and financial crisis by misleading investors about the quality of mortgage debt they sold.

A federal judge in February ordered Goldman to face the class-action lawsuit that accuses it of defrauding investors in GSAMP Trust 2006-S2, a $698 million offering of certificates backed by second-lien home loans.

The loans were made by New Century, a subprime mortgage specialist that went bankrupt in 2007.

The investors, led by the Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi, contend the offering documents contained materially untrue statements about the underwriting and appraisal standards used by California-based New Century, the mortgage originator. Goldman securitized and issued the certificates.


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