Sydney court postpones extradition hearing of former US military pilot
Legal Business | 2023/10/24 18:59
A Sydney court on Monday postponed an extradition hearing for a former U.S. military pilot accused of illegally training Chinese aviators until May as his lawyers attempt to further build their case.

Boston-born Dan Duggan, 55, was scheduled to fight his extradition to the United States at a Nov. 23 hearing in the downtown Downing Center Local Court.

But a magistrate decided to use that date to rule on what additional information that the Australian defense department and security agencies should provide defense lawyers.

U.S. lawyer Trent Glover told the court the United States was ready to proceed with the extradition, but had agreed with defense lawyers the hearing should take place after November.

Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis, told reporters outside court that the stakes were high for his client, who faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted.

“This is existential, which means that every right that Dan has under the Australian legal system on the basis that he’s presumed innocent ... needs to properly and carefully be considered,” Miralis said.

Duggan’s wife, Saffrine, has said she asked Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to advocate against the extradition when he meets President Joe Biden in Washington this week.

But in a news conference on Sunday before departing for the United States, Albanese said Duggan, who became an Australian citizen in 2012, was not on the agenda of his meetings with U.S. officials.

“I don’t discuss things that are legal matters on the run, nor should I,” Albanese told reporters.

Duggan has been in custody since Oct. 21 last year when he was arrested near his home in Orange, New South Wales.



Trump lawyers seek dismissal of DC federal election subversion case
Legal Business | 2023/10/06 07:35
Lawyers for Donald Trump asked a judge Thursday to dismiss the Washington federal election subversion case against him, arguing the Republican is immune from prosecution for actions they say were taken in his official role as president.

The motion amounts to the most pointed attack yet by defense lawyers on the federal case charging Trump with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. It tees up a fight over the scope of presidential power, forcing courts to wrestle with whether the actions Trump took in his failed bid to remain in office fell within his duties as commander-in-chief or whether they strayed far outside his White House responsibilities and are subject to prosecution.

“Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie not just within the ‘outer perimeter,’ but at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,” the defense motion states. “In doing so, the prosecution does not, and cannot, argue that President Trump’s efforts to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same, were outside the scope of his duties.”

The presidential immunity argument had been foreshadowed for weeks by defense lawyers as one of multiple challenges they intended to bring against the indictment.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team is expected to vigorously contest the motion. It is not clear when U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan might rule, but potentially protracted arguments over the motion — including an expected appeal if she denies the request — could delay the case as courts step into what defense lawyers described an unsettled question.

The Supreme Court has held that presidents are immune from civil liability for actions related to their official duties. But Trump’s lawyers noted in their motion that no court has addressed the question of whether that immunity shields a president from criminal prosecution, hinting that the defense will likely fight the issue all the way to the nation’s highest court.




Judge rules Trump committed fraud while building real estate empire
Legal Business | 2023/09/25 22:29
A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House, and he ordered some of the former president’s companies removed from his control and dissolved.

Judge Arthur Engoron, ruling in a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Trump and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.

If not successfully appealed, the order would strip Trump of his authority to make strategic and financial decisions over some of his key properties in the state.

Trump, in a series of statements, railed against the decision, calling it “un-American” and part of an ongoing plot to damage his campaign to return to the White House.

“My Civil rights have been violated, and some Appellate Court, whether federal or state, must reverse this horrible, un-American decision,” he wrote on his Truth Social site. He insisted his company had “done a magnificent job for New York State” and “done business perfectly,” calling it “A very sad Day for the New York State System of Justice!”

Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, said they would appeal, calling the decision “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law.”

Engoron’s ruling, days before the start of a non-jury trial in James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse.



A Supreme Court redistricting ruling gave hope to Black voters
Legal Business | 2023/09/17 19:10
The Supreme Court’s decision siding with Black voters in an Alabama redistricting case gave Democrats and voting rights activists a surprising opportunity before the 2024 elections.

New congressional maps would have to include more districts in Alabama and potentially other states where Black voters would have a better chance of electing someone of their choice, a decision widely seen as benefiting Democrats.

It’s been more than three months since the justice’s 5-4 ruling, and maps that could produce more districts represented by Black lawmakers still do not exist.

Alabama Republicans are hoping to get a fresh hearing on the issue before the Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers in Louisiana never even bothered to draw a new map.

Khadidah Stone, a plaintiff in the Alabama case, said the continuing opposition was “appalling” but “not surprising.” She noted that Alabama is where then-Gov. George Wallace blocked Black students from integrating the University of Alabama in 1963.

“There is a long history there of disobeying court orders to deny Black people our rights,” she said.

A similar dynamic is playing out in Florida, where Republicans are appealing a ruling favorable to Black voters to the Republican-majority state Supreme Court.

Lawsuits over racially gerrymandered congressional maps in several other states, including Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, quickly followed the Supreme Court’s landmark Voting Rights Act decision in June. But the continued pushback from Republican legislatures in control of redistricting means there is great uncertainty about whether –- or how soon -– new maps offering equal representation for Black voters will be drawn.


Hunter Biden is indicted on federal firearm-purchasing charges after plea deal fails
Legal Business | 2023/09/15 02:10
Hunter Biden was indicted Thursday on federal firearms charges, the latest step in a long-running investigation into the president’s son that puts the case on track toward a possible high-stakes trial as the 2024 election looms.

Biden is accused of lying about his drug use when he bought a firearm in October 2018, a period when he has acknowledged struggling with addiction to crack cocaine, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Delaware by a special counsel overseeing the case.

The indictment comes weeks after the collapse of a plea deal that would have averted a criminal trial and distracting headlines for President Joe Biden.

The court fight doesn’t seem likely to end soon. Hunter Biden’s defense attorney argues he didn’t violate the law and remains protected by an immunity provision that was part of the plea deal. The charges, meanwhile, are rarely filed as stand-alone counts and a federal appeals court recently found the measure he was charged under unconstitutional.

He’s also been under investigation for his business dealings, and the special counsel has indicated that tax charges could be filed at some point in Washington or in California, where he lives.

The legal arguing comes as a political fight also plays out. The House has formally opened an impeachment inquiry into the Democratic president, seeking to tie the elder Biden to his son’s businesses and divert attention away from former President Donald Trump’s own legal woes. Trump’s include federal indictments over the handling of classified documents and efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.

Republicans have unearthed no significant evidence so far of wrongdoing by the elder Biden, who as vice president spoke often to his son and stopped by a business dinner with his son’s associates. The White House maintains Joe Biden was not involved in his son’s business affairs.

Republicans had slammed the plea agreement that spared Hunter Biden jail time as a “sweetheart deal.” Rep. James Comer, the lead Republican pursing the impeachment inquiry, called the gun charges “a very small start” and pushed for investigation of whether the president was involved in his son’s business dealings. Trump also pointed to the lack of connection to Joe Biden in the gun charge plea agreement.


Lawyers claim cable TV and phone companies also responsible in Maui fires
Legal Business | 2023/09/06 15:40
After a visit to a warehouse where Hawaiian Electric Company is housing power poles and electrical equipment that may be key to the investigation of last month’s devastating fires on Maui, lawyers for Lahaina residents and business owners told a court Tuesday that cable TV and telephone companies share responsibility for the disaster because they allegedly overloaded and destabilized some of the poles.

The lawyers said the cables were attached in a way that put too much tension on the poles, causing them to lean and break in the winds on Aug. 8 when flames burned down much of Lahaina, killing at least 115 people and destroying more than 2,000 structures.

LippSmith LLP has filed a proposed class action against Hawaii’s electric utility and Maui County in state court in Hawaii. Attorney Graham LippSmith is now asking the court to add multiple telecommunications companies and public and private landowners to the original suit.

“In a disaster of this magnitude, it takes some time for all the potentially responsible parties to come into focus and be brought into court. Our investigation thus far shows a constellation of many serious failures that together led to this horrible tragedy,” MaryBeth LippSmith, co-founder of the Hawaii- and California-based firm, said in an interview Tuesday.

Pacific Gas & Electric in California filed for bankruptcy in 2019 due to a succession of harrowing wildfires ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid in Northern California.

But LippSmith rejected the suggestion the firm is seeking extra defendants in the event that Hawaiian Electric declares bankruptcy. Rather it’s trying to get at the root of multiple failures in order to prevent this kind of tragedy in the future, she said. The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief, including a court order to force the defendants to address fire risk.


After Roe v. Wade, the fight over abortion access moves to New Mexico
Legal Business | 2023/08/23 22:38
The sanctuary in Grace Covenant Reformed Church was packed.

People stood shoulder to shoulder wherever they could — near the stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, behind the neatly lined rows of chairs that serve as pews, against a wall covered in crosses made from painted wood, wire, glass and ceramic red chiles.

Bibles and hymnals rested under every seat, but they weren’t used that Monday night last September. There was no sermon, because this wasn’t a church service.

Residents of Clovis, a town of some 40,000 people a mere 20-minute drive to the Texas state line, crammed into this little brick building that night to discuss a plan of action to ban abortion.

Just three months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had legalized abortion in the U.S. for almost 50 years.

As trigger laws banning the procedure began going into effect across the nation — in places including neighboring Texas — abortion providers took up residence in New Mexico, which has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the U.S.

“As the laws in this country change before our very eyes,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on the day Roe was reversed, “I will continue to fight for the right to a safe, legal abortion in New Mexico and stand as a brick wall against those who seek to punish women and their doctors just because they seek the care they need and deserve.”

In the year since Dobbs, New Mexico has been a brick wall and a safe haven — for those who provide abortions and those who desire or need them.


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