Kansas Supreme Court sends DNA request back to lower court
Legal Business | 2018/06/10 18:57
The Kansas Supreme Court has remanded a convicted man's request for DNA testing back to Leavenworth County District Court for further review.

The court on Friday reversed earlier rulings by a district judge and the Kansas Court of Appeals that denied the request from 39-year-old Gregory Mark George Jr., who is serving time for rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated intimidation of a witness.

The Leavenworth Times reports George was convicted of raping a clerk during a robbery at a Lansing convenience store in 2004.

In 2013, George filed a petition for DNA testing of hairs that were collected as part of his case but were never tested.

The state Supreme Court ruling asks a district judge to determine whether the requested testing might produce evidence that could help exonerate George.



Congressional Dems take Trump to court over foreign favors
Legal Business | 2018/06/06 23:00
Lawyers representing nearly 200 Democrats in Congress plan to argue in federal court Thursday that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign state favors without first seeking congressional approval.

The case argues that the president has received foreign government favors, such as Chinese government trademarks for his companies, payments for hotel room stays and event space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower.

Ethics experts say the constitutional emoluments clause was created by the Founding Fathers to ensure that government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind instead of their own pocketbooks. Since then, it has been applied to the lowest of government of officials up to the president without a court challenge.

"This argument on Thursday will essentially put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is leading the effort. "He's thumbed his nose at the plain text and in doing so he's thumbed his nose at the American people."

Unlike prior presidents, Trump chose not to divest from his assets and he remains the owner of the Trump Organization, a sprawling business empire with 550 entities in more than 20 countries that include branded hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests. His Washington, D.C., hotel just steps from the White House has become a magnet for foreign governments, including groups tied to Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.


High Court Rules in Dispute Over Immigrant Teen's Abortion
Legal Business | 2018/06/03 23:01
The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case about a pregnant immigrant teen who obtained an abortion with the help of the ACLU, siding with the Trump administration and wiping away a lower court decision for the teen but rejecting a suggestion her lawyers should be disciplined.

The decision is about the teen's individual case and doesn't disrupt ongoing class action litigation about the ability of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. The justices ruled in an unsigned opinion that vacating a lower court decision in favor of the teen, who had been in government custody after entering the country illegally, was the proper course because the case became moot after she obtained an abortion.

Government lawyers had complained to the Supreme Court that attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union didn't alert them that the teen's abortion would take place earlier than expected. The administration said that deprived its lawyers of the chance to ask the Supreme Court to block the procedure, at least temporarily. The Trump administration told the court that discipline might be warranted against the teen's attorneys. The ACLU said its lawyers did nothing wrong.

The Supreme Court said it took the government's allegations "seriously" but the court declined to wade into the finger-pointing between the sides.

"Especially in fast-paced, emergency proceedings like those at issue here, it is critical that lawyers and courts alike be able to rely on one another's representations. On the other hand, lawyers also have ethical obligations to their clients and not all communications breakdowns constitute misconduct," the justices wrote in a 5-page opinion, adding that the court "need not delve into the factual disputes raised by the parties" in order to vacate the decision for the teen.

The teen at the center of the case entered the U.S. illegally in September as a 17-year-old and was taken to a federally funded shelter in Texas for minors who enter the country without their parents. The unnamed teen, referred to as Jane Doe, learned while in custody that she was pregnant and sought an abortion. A state court gave her permission, but federal officials — citing a policy of refusing to facilitate abortions for pregnant minors in its shelters — refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her for the procedure.

The ACLU helped the teen sue the Trump administration, and after a federal appeals court sided with her, the government was preparing to ask the Supreme Court to step in and block the procedure, at least temporarily.

But the teen, allowed out of the shelter by court order, had an abortion first, about 12 hours after a court gave her the go-ahead. In response, the Trump administration, in a highly unusual filing with the Supreme Court, cried foul. The ACLU has defended its attorneys' actions, saying government lawyers made assumptions about the timing of the teen's abortion.


Romania: Court tells president to fire anti-graft prosecutor
Legal Business | 2018/06/02 23:01
Romania's top court on Wednesday told the country's president to fire the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, widely praised for her efforts to root out high-level graft, but a thorn in the side of some politicians.

The move angered some Romanians. More than 1,500 people gathered in protest in Bucharest, the capital, and hundreds rallied in the western cities of Timisoara and Sibiu calling the court "a slave" of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

The constitutional court ruled in a 6-3 vote that there had been an institutional conflict after President Klaus Iohannis disagreed with the justice minister's assessment that National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi should be dismissed on grounds of failing to do her job properly.

In his February report calling for her dismissal, the minister, Tudorel Toader, said she was authoritarian, claimed that prosecutors falsified evidence and asserted that the number of acquittals was too high. He also said she had harmed Romania's image in interviews with foreign journalists. Kovesi later refuted his accusations.

Under her leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery, fraud, abuse of power and other corruption-related offenses.

Kovesi's departure would be a blow to the agency, respected by ordinary Romanians, the European Union and the U.S. The court will explain its ruling later.



The Latest: Colorado governor announces Supreme Court pick
Legal Business | 2018/05/27 23:02
Gov. John Hickenlooper has named Carlos Samour to the Colorado Supreme Court, filling a vacancy left by Chief Justice Nancy Rice's imminent retirement.

Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County, is best known for presiding over the Aurora theater shooting trial in 2015.

Samour was raised in El Salvador, where his father was also a judge. Hickenlooper said his family fled the country when Samour was 13 because his father feared retaliation for finding a military official guilty.

"His father was ousted from his judicial position and his home was riddled by bullets because his father chose to faithfully apply the laws of that country," said Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Samour was chosen from three nominees after Rice in March announced her plans to retire at the end of June. She will have served more than four years as chief justice, nearly 20 years on the court and about 31 years total as a judge in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday plans to announce his choice to fill a vacancy on the Colorado Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, a judicial nominating commission gave the governor three judges to choose from, after Chief Justice Nancy Rice announced her retirement.

The nominees are Maria Berkenkotter, the former chief judge of the 20th Judicial District in Boulder County; Karen Brody, a judge in the 2nd Judicial District in Denver County; and Carlos Samour, a judge in the 18th Judicial District in Arapahoe County.


Court: Montana minimizes impact of mining near Yellowstone
Legal Business | 2018/05/25 23:02
A gold exploration proposal near Yellowstone National Park faced a significant setback as a judge blamed Montana officials for understating the potential for mining to harm land, water and wildlife.

The ruling released Friday means the Montana Department of Environmental Quality would have to conduct a lengthy environmental review before Lucky Minerals can proceed.

The Vancouver, Canada, company received approval last year to begin searching for gold, copper and other minerals at 23 locations in Emigrant Gulch, a picturesque area of steep mountains and dense forest in south-central Montana's Paradise Valley. It has a long history of small-scale mining.

The results of the exploration work would guide the company's future plans for commercial-scale mining.

Environmental groups sued over the project last year on behalf of local residents, who are concerned mining could reduce tourism and pollute the nearby Yellowstone River.

State Judge Brenda R. Gilbert agreed with the environmentalists that state officials gave too much deference to the company in considering the project and ignored evidence that water supplies could be damaged.

The agency also should have looked more closely at the project's impacts on grizzly bears and wolverines and considered the broader implications if Lucky Minerals expands onto federal lands, Gilbert said.


Court asked to toss more cases tied to drug lab scandal
Legal Business | 2018/05/07 01:57
Massachusetts' highest court is set to hear arguments in a case sparked by the misconduct of a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at a state drug lab for eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the state's public defender agency will ask the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to order the dismissal of all convictions that relied on evidence from the drug lab during Sonja Farak's tenure.

Prosecutors already have agreed to dismiss thousands of cases tainted by Farak, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

The ACLU and Committee for Public Counsel Services also are asking the court to establish protocols for instances of misconduct.


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