Court: No right to copy court reporter’s recordings
Legal Business | 2017/10/30 15:30
Georgia’s highest court says the makers of a popular podcast series do not have the right to copy audio recordings made during a murder trial by a court reporter.

The second season of the “Undisclosed” podcast featured the case of Joey Watkins, who was convicted of murder and other crimes for his role in the January 2000 slaying of Isaac Dawkins in northwest Georgia. He was sentenced to serve life plus five years in prison.

Undisclosed LLC argued the recordings are court records, and rules governing the courts provide for the right to copy court records.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Nels Peterson wrote in an opinion published Monday that, under common law, court records include only materials filed with the court. The recordings at issue weren’t filed with the court.


Court gives government a win in young immigrants' cases
Legal Business | 2017/10/26 06:07
A federal appeals court handed the U.S. government a victory Tuesday in its fight against lawsuits opposing a decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan directed Brooklyn judges to expeditiously decide if a court can properly review the decision to end in March the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The government insists it cannot.

Activists are suing the government in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland. DACA has protected about 800,000 people, many of them currently in college, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.

A three-judge 2nd Circuit panel issued a brief order after hearing oral arguments. It said the government will not have to continue to produce documents or submit to depositions before the lower court decides whether the cases can proceed. It also said it will only decide the issue of whether to order the lower court to limit document production once those issues are addressed.

Attorney Michael Wishnie, who argued for plaintiffs suing the government, praised the appeals court for having "moved swiftly to address the government filings in this case."

And he noted that a Brooklyn judge gave the government until Friday to submit written arguments on the legal issues the appeals court said must be resolved before the case proceeds. The plaintiffs must submit their arguments by Nov. 1.

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim M. Mooppan told the appeals court panel the government planned to ask the Brooklyn federal court by early next week to dismiss the lawsuits.

He said lawyers fighting the government were engaging in a "massive fishing expedition" for documents and testimony that would reveal the deliberative processes at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. He called it "wholly improper."

Mooppan seemed to get a sympathetic ear from appeals judges, with one of them saying the government's opponents seemed to be pursuing "a disguised application under the Freedom of Information Act."

"There are a lot of different ways this is very wrong, your honor. That might be one of them," Mooppan said.



Court agrees to take on US-Microsoft dispute over emails
Legal Business | 2017/10/14 15:53
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take on a major dispute over the government's authority to force American technology companies to hand over emails and other digital information sought in criminal probes but stored outside the U.S.

The justices intervened in a case of a federal drug trafficking investigation that sought emails that Microsoft keeps on a server in Ireland. The federal appeals court in New York said that the emails are beyond the reach of a search warrant issued by an American judge.

The Trump administration and 33 states told the court that the decision is impeding investigations into terrorism, drug trafficking, fraud and child pornography because other courts are relying on the ruling in preventing U.S. and state authorities from obtaining information kept abroad.

The case is among several legal clashes that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other technology companies have had with the government over questions of digital privacy and authorities' need for information to combat crime and extremism.

Privacy law experts say the companies have been more willing to push back against the government since the leak of classified information detailing America's surveillance programs.

The case also highlights the difficulty that judges face in trying to square decades-old laws with new technological developments. In urging the high court to stay out of the case, Microsoft said Congress needs to bring the law into the age of cloud computing.

In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant under a 1986 law for emails from an account they believe was being used in illegal drug transactions as well as identifying information about the user of the email account.



Supreme Court declines Michigan emergency manager law case
Legal Business | 2017/10/01 23:01
The Supreme Court won't take up a challenge to a Michigan law that allows the state to temporarily take away local officials' authority during financial crises and appoint an emergency manager.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the case. Voters and elected officials were challenging a state law that says that to rescue financially stressed cities and school districts the state can reassign the governing powers of local officials to a state-appointed emergency manager. An emergency manager was in place during the water crisis in Flint.

Those bringing the lawsuit said emergency managers have been appointed in a high number of areas with large African-American populations but not in similar areas with majority white populations.

Lower courts said lawsuit was brought under a federal law that didn't apply.


Protests continue at Spanish court over secession arrests
Legal Business | 2017/09/24 22:36
Thousands of protesters stood firm outside a Spanish court in Barcelona after night fell Thursday, continuing to shout demands for the release of a dozen regional officials arrested in connection with a planned vote on Catalan independence.

Spanish authorities maintain the referendum scheduled for Oct. 1 is illegal and are challenging its constitutionality. But Catalan pro-independence groups also are digging in their heels as they fight for what they say is their right to vote.

The demonstrators who spent the day outside the Catalan Superior Court of Justice, a branch of the Spain’s national legal system, answered a call by pro-independence civic groups to stage long-term street protests against the surprise crackdown by police the previous day.

As the sun set, a large crowd sang, waved pro-independence flags and held banners proclaiming “Democracia!” (Democracy!) Unlike the previous night, when there were scuffles with police and patrol cars were vandalized, the mood remained festive.




Chicago's lawsuit over sanctuary city threat goes to court
Legal Business | 2017/09/11 15:36
Chicago is asking a federal judge to block President Donald Trump's administration from following through on its threat to withhold public safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities.

Attorneys for the city will be in court Monday to argue their case. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago won't "be blackmailed" into changing its values as a city welcoming of immigrants.

Trump's policy stands to withhold public safety grants unless cities agree to tougher enforcement of immigrations laws. Chicago is among several cities refusing to cooperate.

Chicago sued the U.S. Department of Justice last month, arguing the new federal requirements are unconstitutional.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that Chicago would forfeit its rights to the federal funds if it insists on violating the "rule of law."




Supreme Court's Kagan says Scalia death forced compromises
Legal Business | 2017/09/07 22:37
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death forced the rest of the court to learn how to work together to avoid ties, Justice Elena Kagan said during a stop Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kagan spoke for about an hour with UW Law School Dean Margaret Raymond as scores of law students, attorneys and judges listened. Raymond asked Kagan what role the high court can play in mending a politically polarized country and improving civil discourse.

Kagan acknowledged that many people see the court as mirroring the nation's political differences and the court ultimately must decide cases, not provide an example for how other governmental institutions should function. But she said Scalia's death in 2016 forced the remaining eight justices to work together more closely.

Justice Neil Gorsuch replaced Scalia earlier this year, but before he joined the court the justices worked hard to avoid 4-4 ties out of fear they'd been seen as incapable of doing their jobs, Kagan said.

"None of us wanted that to happen," she said. "It forced us to keep talking to each other. ... I'm actually hopeful that the effects of it will continue. All of us will remember not to stop the conversation too soon and all of us will remember the value of trying to find a place where we can agree or more of us can agree."

She didn't offer any specific examples of compromises on any cases. Raymond didn't ask Kagan about any cases pending before the court and Kagan didn't offer any comments about any specific issues.

She did joke that she was glad she wasn't the court's junior justice anymore now that Gorsuch is on board. She said the junior justice has to open the door during the justices' conference and deliver any coffee or files other justices have requested from their clerks. Earlier this year she had injured her foot and was in a walking boot but her colleagues still made her get up and open the door.



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