Newest justice joins high court amid competing caricatures
Legal Interview | 2017/04/08 22:38
Somewhere between the Republican caricature of the next justice of the Supreme Court as a folksy family guy and the Democrats' demonization of him as a cold-hearted automaton, stands Neil Gorsuch.

Largely unknown six months ago, Gorsuch has seen his life story, personality and professional career explored in excruciating detail since he was nominated by President Donald Trump 10 weeks ago.

The portrait that emerges is more nuanced than the extremes drawn by his supporters and critics.

Gorsuch is widely regarded as a warm and collegial family man, boss and jurist, loyal to his employees and kind to those of differing viewpoints. He also has been shown to be a judge who takes such a "rigidly neutral" approach to the law that it can lead to dispassionate rulings with sometimes brutal results.

Four times during his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch invoked a "breakfast table" analogy, telling senators that good judges set aside what they have to eat — and their personal views — before they leave the house in the morning to apply the law and nothing else to the facts of the cases at hand. It was all part of Gorsuch's artful effort to reveal as little as possible of his own opinions.


Supreme Court nominee has defended free speech, religion
Legal Interview | 2017/02/13 15:27
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims, an Associated Press review of his rulings shows. His record puts him at odds with President Donald Trump's disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics.

On other First Amendment cases involving freedom of religion, however, Gorsuch's rulings in his decade on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reflect views more in line with the president and conservatives. Gorsuch repeatedly has sided with religious groups when they butt up against the secular state.

In a 2007 opinion involving free speech, Gorsuch ruled for a Kansas citizen who said he was bullied by Douglas County officials into dropping his tax complaints. "When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties," Gorsuch wrote.


Rolling Stone defamation case over rape story back in court
Legal Interview | 2017/02/10 15:27
Attorneys for Rolling Stone magazine are heading back to federal court to try to overturn a jury's defamation verdict over its botched story "A Rape on Campus."

A judge is holding a hearing in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Thursday to consider Rolling Stone's request to throw out the jury's November verdict. The jury awarded University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo $3 million after finding Rolling Stone and a reporter defamed her.

The 2014 story told the account of a woman identified only as "Jackie," who said she was gang raped at the school. A police investigation found no evidence to back up Jackie's claims.

The magazine argues, among other things, there's no evidence reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely acted with actual malice. Eramo's attorneys are urging the judge to keep the verdict.




Court ponders mass murderer Breivik's prison conditions
Legal Interview | 2017/01/22 06:53
An appeals court in Norway is considering whether the prison conditions under which mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is being held amount to a violation of his human rights.

The six-day trial ended Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom inside Skien prison in southern Norway where Breivik, 37, is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.

Breivik's lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, spent most of the last day seeking to show that restrictions on his client's visitors and the strict control over Breivik's mail and phone calls have led to a lack of human interaction and privacy, which amounts to a violation of his rights.

The case is "really about a person that is sitting very, very alone in a small prison within a prison" since 2012, explained Storrvik.

He dismissed the benefits of the weekly visits by a state-appointed prison confidante for Breivik, saying "it's a paid job."

Addressing the court last week, Breivik said his solitary confinement had deeply damaged him and made him even more radical in his neo-Nazi beliefs.

The Norwegian state rejected the criticism and said efforts to find a prison confidante show the authorities have "gone out of their way" to remedy the situation.

In a surprise verdict last year, the Oslo District Court sided with Breivik, finding that his isolation was "inhuman (and) degrading" and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. It ordered the government to pay his legal costs.

But it dismissed Breivik's claim that his right to respect for private and family life was violated by restrictions on contacts with other right-wing extremists, a decision that Breivik is appealing.

If the state loses the appeal, Breivik's prison regime will have to be revised. The government could decide to take the case to the Norwegian Supreme court. A ruling is expected in February.


Man accused of killing Orlando officer defiant in court
Legal Interview | 2017/01/19 06:54
A man suspected of fatally shooting a Florida police officer spoke out of turn and was defiant in an Orlando courtroom where he made an initial appearance on charges of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Forty-one-year-old Markeith Loyd told the judge Thursday morning that he plans to represent himself and said the charges against him were made up. The judge ordered Loyd held without bond.

Loyd's eye was bandaged and two officers flanked him as he stood at the podium wearing a bullet-proof vest. He was injured during his arrest Tuesday night following a weeklong manhunt.

Loyd faces multiple charges including first-degree murder, unlawful killing of an unborn child and attempted murder in the December death of Sade Dixon. He hasn't been charged in the death of Lt. Debra Clayton who was gunned down while she searched for him outside a Wal-Mart store Jan. 9.



Court says convicted killer Skakel's defense was adequate
Legal Interview | 2017/01/03 02:14
Convicted killer Michael Skakel could be headed back to prison after the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated his 2002 conviction for the gruesome murder of his 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley.

Moxley was killed — bludgeoned with a golf club belonging to the Skakel family and stabbed in the neck with the broken-off handle — the night before Halloween in 1975 in the driveway of her Greenwich home. No physical evidence tied Skakel to the crime, but he was convicted because of incriminating things he said to friends and a weak alibi he gave investigators.

Skakel, the now 56-year-old nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, served a decade of his 20-to-life sentence until he was released in 2013 when an appeals court ruled he didn’t get an adequate legal defense from his lawyer Mickey Sherman.

Connecticut’s highest court rejected that ruling yesterday in a divided 4-3 decision that found Sherman “rendered constitutionally adequate representation” — setting in motion a series of last-ditch efforts by Skakel’s appellate attorneys to keep him from heading back to the lock-up.


Delaware County creates domestic violence court
Legal Interview | 2016/11/16 20:57
The Indiana Supreme Court has approved the creation of a domestic violence court in Delaware County.

Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold tells The (Muncie) Star Press all felony domestic battery cases now will be filed in Delaware Circuit Court 1, where Judge Marianne Vorhees presides.

Arnold says the judge volunteered to create the domestic violence court. He says when one judge brings a lot of expertise to a legal area, it creates consistency.

Arnold recently has added a deputy prosecutor, an investigator and a victim advocate to deal exclusively deal with domestic violence cases.

Arnold says Vorhees will continue to preside over other types of criminal cases.


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