Romania: Court tells president to fire anti-graft prosecutor
Legal Business | 2018/06/02 23:01
Romania's top court on Wednesday told the country's president to fire the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, widely praised for her efforts to root out high-level graft, but a thorn in the side of some politicians.

The move angered some Romanians. More than 1,500 people gathered in protest in Bucharest, the capital, and hundreds rallied in the western cities of Timisoara and Sibiu calling the court "a slave" of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

The constitutional court ruled in a 6-3 vote that there had been an institutional conflict after President Klaus Iohannis disagreed with the justice minister's assessment that National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi should be dismissed on grounds of failing to do her job properly.

In his February report calling for her dismissal, the minister, Tudorel Toader, said she was authoritarian, claimed that prosecutors falsified evidence and asserted that the number of acquittals was too high. He also said she had harmed Romania's image in interviews with foreign journalists. Kovesi later refuted his accusations.

Under her leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery, fraud, abuse of power and other corruption-related offenses.

Kovesi's departure would be a blow to the agency, respected by ordinary Romanians, the European Union and the U.S. The court will explain its ruling later.



The Latest: Colorado governor announces Supreme Court pick
Legal Business | 2018/05/27 23:02
Gov. John Hickenlooper has named Carlos Samour to the Colorado Supreme Court, filling a vacancy left by Chief Justice Nancy Rice's imminent retirement.

Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County, is best known for presiding over the Aurora theater shooting trial in 2015.

Samour was raised in El Salvador, where his father was also a judge. Hickenlooper said his family fled the country when Samour was 13 because his father feared retaliation for finding a military official guilty.

"His father was ousted from his judicial position and his home was riddled by bullets because his father chose to faithfully apply the laws of that country," said Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Samour was chosen from three nominees after Rice in March announced her plans to retire at the end of June. She will have served more than four years as chief justice, nearly 20 years on the court and about 31 years total as a judge in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday plans to announce his choice to fill a vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, a judicial nominating commission gave the governor three judges to choose from, after Chief Justice Nancy Rice announced her retirement.

The nominees are Maria Berkenkotter, the former chief judge of the 20th Judicial District in Boulder County; Karen Brody, a judge in the 2nd Judicial District in Denver County; and Carlos Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County.


Court: Montana minimizes impact of mining near Yellowstone
Legal Business | 2018/05/25 23:02
A gold exploration proposal near Yellowstone National Park faced a significant setback as a judge blamed Montana officials for understating the potential for mining to harm land, water and wildlife.

The ruling released Friday means the Montana Department of Environmental Quality would have to conduct a lengthy environmental review before Lucky Minerals can proceed.

The Vancouver, Canada, company received approval last year to begin searching for gold, copper and other minerals at 23 locations in Emigrant Gulch, a picturesque area of steep mountains and dense forest in south-central Montana's Paradise Valley. It has a long history of small-scale mining.

The results of the exploration work would guide the company's future plans for commercial-scale mining.

Environmental groups sued over the project last year on behalf of local residents, who are concerned mining could reduce tourism and pollute the nearby Yellowstone River.

State Judge Brenda R. Gilbert agreed with the environmentalists that state officials gave too much deference to the company in considering the project and ignored evidence that water supplies could be damaged.

The agency also should have looked more closely at the project's impacts on grizzly bears and wolverines and considered the broader implications if Lucky Minerals expands onto federal lands, Gilbert said.


Court asked to toss more cases tied to drug lab scandal
Legal Business | 2018/05/07 01:57
Massachusetts' highest court is set to hear arguments in a case sparked by the misconduct of a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at a state drug lab for eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the state's public defender agency will ask the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to order the dismissal of all convictions that relied on evidence from the drug lab during Sonja Farak's tenure.

Prosecutors already have agreed to dismiss thousands of cases tainted by Farak, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

The ACLU and Committee for Public Counsel Services also are asking the court to establish protocols for instances of misconduct.


Bakery appeals to UK Supreme Court in gay-rights cake case
Legal Business | 2018/04/29 09:11
A bakery owned by a Christian family asked Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a gay customer for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused in 2014 to make a cake iced with the "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."

The owners argued they were happy to bake goods for anyone, but could not put messages on their products at odds with their Christian beliefs.

After the customer filed a lawsuit that received backing from Northern Ireland's Equalities Commission, lower courts ruled that the bakery's refusal was discriminatory.

Judges from the London-based Supreme Court heard the bakery's appeal at a special sitting in Belfast that is due to continue Wednesday.

David Scoffield, lawyer for the bakery's owners, argued Tuesday that the family should not be compelled to create a product "to which they have a genuine objection in conscience."


Court won't reconsider making public family slain autopsies
Legal Business | 2018/04/25 00:11
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday once again rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 5-2 without comment against reconsidering its December decision that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016. No arrests have been made or suspects identified.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released in 2016 showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

In the 4-3 December ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.


Lake County courts to switch to online filing system in May
Legal Business | 2018/04/23 02:45
Court officials in northwestern Indiana's Lake County plan to switch next month to an online filing system that's already used by nearly three-quarters of Indiana's counties.

Lake County's circuit and superior courts will switch May 21 to the Odyssey case management system that's supported by the Indiana Supreme Court. Courts in 65 of Indiana's 92 counties currently use that state-funded system.

Mark Pearman is executive director of Lake County's Data Processing Department. He tells The (Northwest Indiana) Times the state is providing the county with the Odyssey software at no cost.

Pearman says that in August, new cases filed with the Lake County Clerk's Office will be scanned into the Odyssey system. The county's court system is scheduled to switch to a completely paperless record system in January.



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