Court to hear challenge to speed up California executions
Legal Business | 2017/06/06 15:49
The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a ballot initiative designed to speed up executions that could fundamentally change the way the court handles death penalty appeals.

Death penalty opponents are challenging a ballot measure passed by a slim majority of voters in November that aimed to reform a dysfunctional system that hasn't executed a condemned killer in more than a decade.

Foes of capital punishment argue that Proposition 66 was unconstitutional because it would take power away from the state's high court to decide how it handles cases and it would disrupt the court system, cost the state more money and undermine the appeals process.

If allowed to take effect, the measure would require more lawyers to take death penalty appellate cases, some trial court judges would be assigned appeals and all state appeals would have to be completed in five years, which is about a third of the time it typically takes.

With a backlog of 380 death penalty appeals, there's concern judges would be overwhelmed trying to speed through appeals, said Elisabeth Semel, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who consulted for death penalty opponents on the case.

"There's an enormous ripple effect to that," said Semel, who directs the school's death penalty clinic. "The attention the justices can pay to each individual case is significantly diminished. When you're talking about life and death, that's important."

The ballot initiative supported by 51 percent of voters was designed to "mend not end" capital punishment in California, where nearly 750 inmates are on Death Row and only 13 have been executed since 1978.

A competing measure to repeal capital punishment lost by a slightly wider margin. Both sides acknowledged the current system is broken.



Trump admin asks Supreme Court to restore travel ban
Legal Business | 2017/06/03 01:07
The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to restore the ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

Per Reuters: "The administration filed two emergency applications with the nine Court justices seeking to block two different lower court rulings that went against Trump's March 6 order barring entry for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days while the U.S. government implements stricter visa screening."

Last week, an appeals court in Richmond upheld the block on Trump's order. Chief Judge Roger Gregory ruled that it, "speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." There have been conflicting rulings on the order, and on Trump's earlier attempt to implement the ban, as it has worked its way though the courts.


Court: Russian hacker can be extradited to US or Russia
Legal Business | 2017/05/29 04:53
A Czech court ruled Tuesday that a Russian man who faces charges of hacking computers at American companies can be extradited either to the United States or Russia — and the suspect immediately appealed his possible extradition to the United States.

Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague on Oct. 5 in cooperation with the FBI after Interpol issued an international warrant. He is accused of hacking computers and stealing information from LinkedIn, Dropbox and other companies.

Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of internet theft in 2009. Russian officials had previously said they were working to prevent his extradition to the U.S.

Judge Jaroslav Pytloun ruled Tuesday that the extradition requests from both countries meet all the necessary legal conditions.

The 29-year-old has denied wrongdoing.

"I'm innocent," Nikulin said through a translator at the hearing Tuesday. "I haven't done anything illegal. I have nothing to do with that."

Nikulin appealed his extradition to the United States. He has three days to decide if he will agree to being extradited to Russia.

Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will have the final say on where Nikulin goes after Prague's High Court decides on his appeal.

Nikulin's defense lawyers have rejected the U.S. charges, saying they are based on one FBI agent, and suggested the U.S. was seeking him for political reasons — to use him as a pawn in the investigation into alleged Russian hacking in the U.S. election.



Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio loses another round in court
Legal Business | 2017/05/22 06:23
An appeals court has rejected former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's bid to have a jury, rather than a judge, decide whether he is guilty of a criminal contempt-of-court charge for disobeying a court order in a racial profiling case.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Arpaio didn't show that his request warranted its intervention in the case.

The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix faces the misdemeanor charge for defying a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case to stop his signature immigration patrols.

Arpaio has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience wasn't intentional. If convicted, the 84-year-old could be sentenced up to six months in jail.  His trial is scheduled to begin on June 26.


Court likely to question if Trump's travel ban discriminates
Legal Business | 2017/05/15 21:15
For the second time in a week, government lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump's revised travel ban — and once again, they can expect plenty of questions Monday about whether it was designed to discriminate against Muslims.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments in Seattle over Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the travel ban, which would suspend the nation's refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Last week, judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to affirm a Maryland judge's decision putting the ban on ice. They peppered Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall with questions about whether they could consider Trump's campaign statements calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., with one judge asking if there was anything other than "willful blindness" that would prevent them from doing so.

Monday's arguments mark the second time Trump's efforts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations have reached the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit.

After Trump issued his initial travel ban on a Friday in late January, bringing chaos and protests to airports around the country, a Seattle judge blocked its enforcement nationwide — a decision that was unanimously upheld by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel.


South Dakota and Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe clash in court
Legal Business | 2017/05/13 22:06
The Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe is suing South Dakota over the state's interpretation that contractors working on an expansion of the Royal River Casino are required to pay contractor excise taxes to the state.

The Argus Leader reported that the lawsuit alleges it's an intrusion into tribal sovereignty and is conflicting with U.S. laws that regulate commerce on reservations.

"The economic burden and the intrusion into tribal sovereignty interfere and are incompatible with the federal and tribal interests in promoting tribal self-government, self-sufficiency and economic development," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is the latest clash between the tribe and the state. The tribe's casino has often been a flashpoint for disputes.

The Flandreau started expanding the casino after Gov. Dennis Daugaard agreed to allow the tribe to double the number of slots it had there. The tribe agreed to increase payments to Moody County to offset law enforcement expenses.

Daugaard's chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, said the tribe doesn't collect the contractors' excise tax.


Man arrested near UK Parliament in court on terror charges
Legal Business | 2017/05/10 09:07
Prosecutors say a British man arrested with several knives near Parliament last month is also accused of being an al-Qaida bomb-maker in Afghanistan.

Khalid Mohamed Omar Ali appeared in court Wednesday to face one charge of preparing terrorist acts and two of making or having explosives.

The 27-year-old Londoner was arrested at gunpoint in the street near Parliament on April 27 as part of what police called an ongoing counterterrorism operation. They said he had been under surveillance.

Prosecutors say Ali's fingerprints were allegedly found on parts for improvised explosive devices recovered by the U.S. in Afghanistan in 2012.

Ali refused to enter pleas during the hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf and he was ordered detained until his next court appearance May 19.


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