State high court won't hear Mateen Cleaves sex assault case
Legal Business | 2017/12/28 10:43
The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to review a judge's decision to reinstate sexual assault charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves.

The state's high court on Wednesday joined three Michigan Court of Appeals judges, who in August denied Cleaves' request. Earlier, Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman reinstated the case against Cleaves, who faces charges including unlawful imprisonment and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The case is expected to return to county court for trial. Cleaves is accused of assaulting a woman after a charity golf event and a visit to a Flint-area bar in 2015.

Defense attorney Frank Manley says he remains "confident" Cleaves will be "vindicated."

Cleaves, a Flint native, led Michigan State to the NCAA basketball championship in 2000 and played for four NBA teams.



Ohio court to hear big online school's funding case Feb. 13
Legal Business | 2017/12/22 10:43
The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in February over the state's efforts to recoup $60 million from one of the nation's largest online charter schools.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is challenging how officials tallied student logins to determine that the virtual school was overpaid for the 2015-16 school year.

The state says that ECOT didn't sufficiently document student participation to justify its funding and could owe millions more from 2016-17.

The court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for Feb. 13.

The e-school has said it could be forced to close in early 2018, in the middle of the school year, if the court doesn't intervene. ECOT said such a closure would affect almost 12,000 students and eliminate more than 800 jobs.


Ohio court indefinitely suspends law license of ex-judge
Legal Business | 2017/12/21 10:45
The Ohio Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended the law license of a former judge sentenced to two years in prison for assaulting his estranged wife inside a vehicle while their two young daughters sat in the back seat.

The court ruled unanimously Thursday that Lance Mason can only apply for reinstatement after meeting conditions including undergoing a mental health evaluation.

The court removed Mason from the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH’-guh) County Common Pleas bench in 2015 after he pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and domestic violence.

Authorities say Mason struck and bit his wife, Aisha, while driving with her and their daughters in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights in 2014.

Northern Indiana man 3rd generation caring for court clock

Out of habit, as the Elkhart County Courthouse clock struck 11 on a recent morning, Blake Eckelbarger took out his cellphone and compared the time.

The century-and-a-half-old mechanism in the middle of Goshen trailed the timekeeping of his GPS satellite-aided phone by a minute. Thankfully it's an easy fix, he explained as he tinkered with the brass-colored gears and pins of the green-painted machine his grandfather and great-grandfather once cared for - a minute fast would mean advancing the hands through 11 hours and 59 minutes to set it right.

It's not the time it takes that's the hassle, since that's only 20 minutes, but the fact that he has to stop and wait for the bell to ring as an hour goes by every 10 seconds. It's the same story when he has to advance it one hour along with everyone else's clocks one

"Now it should be OK for another couple months," he remarked, before going into the usual weekly routine of oiling and inspecting the mechanism. It's a job he's had since 2000, when he happily took the offer to bring it back into the Eckelbarger family.

Eckelbarger's great-grandfather, Zena Eckelbarger, took care of the clock from 1923 until his death in 1941. Eckelbarger's grandfather, Dan Eckelbarger Sr., then held the duty for the next 50 years, into his 80s.

He remembers going up there with his grandfather on occasion, but didn't really learn how the clock works until he trained for a couple years under Hosea Jump, who held the contract since 1991 and who asked if he wanted the job. He still had to rely on Jump's expertise for another four or five years whenever an issue needed troubleshooting.

His duties, in addition to the weekly checks, include periodically making sure the clock faces are free of things like leaves or dead birds and that the bell and hammer are in good shape. Once a year, he spends a whole day disassembling the clockworks so he can lubricate the shafts and polish the gears.


Russian court keeps theater director under house arrest
Legal Business | 2017/12/04 22:18
A Moscow court on Monday ruled that a prominent theater and film director who is being investigated for fraud must remain under house arrest.

Kirill Serebrennikov, arguably Russia's best known director, was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship.

Serebrennikov's plays have often been targeted by conservative circles, which dismiss his work as decadent and unpatriotic.

The court ruled Monday Serebrennikov should stay under house arrest at least until late January, rejecting a plea for bail.

Investigators have accused him of scheming to embezzle about $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he directed between 2011 and 2014.

Serebrennikov has dismissed the accusations as absurd.

Serebrennikov's lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, told Russian news agencies on Monday that his client had petitioned the investigators to allow him to attend the premiere of the ballet "Nureyev" at the Bolshoi that he had directed. But the chances that Serebrennikov will be allowed to go to the Bolshoi are "negligible," Kharitonov said.

Tickets for "Nureyev," which premiers later this month, went on sale last month and were sold out in a matter of hours.



Asbestos Court to resolve hundreds of claims
Legal Business | 2017/12/04 06:19
The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order creating an asbestos claims court to resolve hundreds of Libby asbestos-related cases pending in the state’s trial courts.

The cases have languished for years because W.R. Grace & Co. — the owner of the defunct vermiculite mine near Libby that is blamed for widespread asbestos disease and death in that community — filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after the Montana Legislature passed the Asbestos Claims Court Act in 2001. Now those cases can proceed in the state court system.

The high court’s order places all pending asbestos cases into a specialty court. Flathead District Judge Amy Eddy, who has an extensive background in complex civil litigation, will preside over the court initially, handling pre-trial proceedings.

“It’s an enormous responsibility, but resolution needs to be brought to these cases,” Eddy said. “It would be devastating to the judicial resources, which are severely underfunded, if they were to be litigated on an individual basis.”

Eddy said her work with the District Court is and will remain a priority, and stressed that no local resources will be used for the asbestos claims court. The venue will be in the Montana Supreme Court, “as a specialty court, using their resources,” she said.


Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Legal Business | 2017/11/16 19:03
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.


Court gives go-ahead for minimum alcohol price in Scotland
Legal Business | 2017/11/16 03:08
Britain's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland — a watershed moment for public health advocates alarmed at the level of abuse.

The court on Wednesday rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the policy of setting a floor price per unit of alcohol. Health advocates argue that the increasing affordability of alcohol is leading to an increase in consumption.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that she was "absolutely delighted" by the decision that she says will prove to be a "bold and necessary move to improve public health."

During the 1980s alcohol deaths in Scotland had been relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, but in 2006 drink-related deaths peaked at 1,546.


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