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.


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.


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