Philippine gov't asks Supreme Court to expel chief justice
Legal Business | 2018/03/05 02:46
The Philippine government's legal counsel asked the Supreme Court on Monday to expel the chief justice for allegedly not declaring her assets, in a new attempt to remove the nation's judicial leader.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who President Rodrigo Duterte has long wanted to be removed, went on leave from the 15-member court last week. That move came after 13 of her colleagues, including some who have publicly criticized her, forged a consensus that she should take an indefinite leave amid an impeachment attempt against her in the House of Representatives.

The House, which is dominated by Duterte's allies, is expected to impeach her this month based on several allegations filed by a lawyer, including her failure to file her annual statements of assets and liabilities as required by law. If she's impeached, the Senate will turn itself into an impeachment court for her trial.

Sereno and her lawyers have said she could be removed only if convicted in the impeachment trial.

"They are horribly wrong," Solicitor General Jose Calida said at a news conference.

Calida filed a petition before the Supreme Court justices questioning Sereno's eligibility for her position after she allegedly failed to file the required annual statement of assets and liabilities 10 times.

"The constitution insists that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence," Calida told reporters. "Unfortunately, for respondent Sereno, she flunked the test of integrity when she failed to file more or less 10 SALNs."

In the petition, Calida said the Judicial Bar Council, which recommends candidates for chief justice to the president, recommended Sereno for the office despite her failure to submit her asset declarations between 1986 and 2006, when she served as a professor in the College of Law at the state-run University of the Philippines.

A report to the Judicial Bar Council mistakenly reported Sereno has complete requirements, and that misled the council into including her in the final list of candidates for chief justice, the petition said.

Sereno has declared all her income and paid the corresponding taxes, her spokesman said.


Pennsylvania congressional map battle lands in Supreme Court
Legal Business | 2018/02/23 14:23
A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.

More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.

The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority.

House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours.

The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election."

It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating.

Alito handles emergency applications from Pennsylvania and the other states covered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justices have the authority to deal with these applications on their own, or they can refer the matter to the entire court.

In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.


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Legal Business | 2018/02/11 21:07
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Malaysia's top court annuls unilateral conversions of minors
Legal Business | 2018/01/29 17:34
Malaysia's top court in a landmark decision says both parents must consent to the religious conversion of a minor, ruling in favor of a Hindu woman whose ex-husband converted their three children to Islam.

M.Indira Gandhi became caught in a high-profile dispute after her former husband became a Muslim and converted their three children without telling her in 2009. He also snatched their daughter, then 11 months old, from the family home.

Malaysia has a dual court system, secular and religious. Gandhi challenged her children's conversions through the civil courts.

The Court of Appeal ruled that civil courts had no jurisdiction over Islamic conversions, but that decision was appealed to the nation's highest court.

The Federal Court on Monday annulled the children's conversions as they were done without Gandhi's consent.


Top Pakistani court orders arrest of escaped police officer
Legal Business | 2018/01/28 23:42
Pakistan's Supreme Court gave police three days to arrest an absconding officer who is involved in killing an aspiring model in a 'fake shootout', a lawyer said Saturday.

Attorney Nazeer Mehsud says suspended police officer Rao Anwar did not appear at a hearing Saturday. Chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered his arrest and asked the Sindh police chief to summon him before him.

Anwar is accused killing of an aspiring social media model, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a controversial shootout earlier this month. Anwar had maintained that Mehsud was a militant belonging to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan group, without providing evidence to support the claim. He went into hiding when an investigation found Mehsud to be innocent and said the shootout was staged.

Sanaullah Abbasi, a senior police officer, earlier told The Associated Press that Naqeebullah Mehsud was not linked to militants as claimed by Anwar.

Anwar gained prominence in recent years for several shootouts with alleged terrorists in which neither him nor any of his team members were hurt. Mehsud, from Waziristan and a father of three, was the latest victim of Anwar's last shootout.

Mehsud's death triggered violent protests in his eastern Karachi and a protest sit-in by Mehsud tribe's is still ongoing. "My son Naqeeb was innocent, he was righteous. Rao Anwar is a tyrant who killed my son," said Muhammad Ahmed Mehsud, Mehsud's father, adding that he was overwhelmed by the support he received for his son.



Court rules Puigdemont must return to Spain for re-election
Legal Business | 2018/01/24 07:42
Spain's top court said Saturday that Catalonia's fugitive ex-president must return to the country and be present in the regional parliament to receive the authority to form a new government.

The Constitutional Court ruled that a session of Catalonia's parliament scheduled for Tuesday would be suspended if former leader Carles Puigdemont tries to be re-elected without being physically present in the chamber.

The court also said that Puigdemont must seek judicial authorization to attend the session.

Catalonia's separatist lawmakers have been considering voting Puigdemont back in as regional chief without him returning from Belgium, weighing options that included another parliament member standing in for him or him addressing the lawmakers via video.

The separatist leader fled Spain after the regional parliament made an unsuccessful declaration of independence on Oct. 27 in violation of Spain's Constitution. He is wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges and is likely to be arrested if he returns.

The court, in a unanimous decision of the 11 magistrates present, said that the investiture of Puigdemont would be suspended without the previous authorization of a judge, "even if he is physically in the chamber."

That specification comes amid speculation that Puigdemont could try to slip back into Spain and sneak past police into the Barcelona-based parliament to be re-elected. Spain's Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said this week that police were increasing surveillance to ensure that doesn't happen.

The court also ruled that neither Puigdemont nor the four other former members of his Cabinet who also fled to Belgium to avoid a judicial summons three months ago could delegate their vote for Tuesday's session in another candidate.


Court halts execution of Alabama inmate with dementia
Legal Business | 2018/01/18 07:43
The U.S. Supreme Court has halted the execution of an Alabama inmate whose attorneys argue that dementia has left the 67-year-old unable to remember killing a police officer three decades ago.

Justices issued a stay Thursday night, the same evening that Vernon Madison was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison. The court delayed the execution to consider whether to further review the case.

Madison was sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend. Prosecutors have said that Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Madison's attorneys argued that strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to remember killing Schulte or fully understand his looming execution. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that condemned inmates must have a "rational understanding" that they are about to be executed and why.

"We are thrilled that the court stopped this execution tonight. Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel," attorney Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative, said Thursday after the stay was granted.

The Alabama attorney general's office opposed the stay, arguing that a state court has ruled Madison competent and Madison has presented nothing that would reverse the finding.


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