Supreme Court sends bar fees case back for further look
Legal Topics | 2018/11/29 01:02
The Supreme Court is telling a lower court to take another look at a case challenging mandatory fees lawyers pay to a state bar association.

The case the justices sent back for further consideration Monday involves North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck, who sued after learning that bar fees were being used to oppose a ballot measure he supported. Fleck says he should have to affirmatively consent to paying for the bar association's political activities instead of being able to opt out.

North Dakota's fees range from $325 to $380. Lawyers who don't want to support the bar's political activities can deduct about $10.

The justices say the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling about fees paid to unions.



No holiday respite for Trump's criticism of nation's courts
Legal Topics | 2018/11/23 05:48
President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are engaging in an extraordinary public dispute over the independence of America's judiciary, with Roberts bluntly rebuking the president for denouncing a judge who rejected Trump's migrant asylum policy as an "Obama judge."

Trump, still seething over that Monday ruling, began his Thanksgiving Day by asserting that the courts should defer to his administration and law enforcement on border security because judges "know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe."

And taking aim at a co-equal branch of government, Trump said "Roberts can say what he wants" but the largest of the federal appellate courts, based in San Francisco and with a majority of judges appointed by Democratic presidents, "is a complete & total disaster." That's where an appeal of the asylum ruling would normally go.

Roberts had issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday defending judicial independence and contradicting Trump over his claim that judges are partisans allied with the party of the president who nominated them. Never silent for long, Trump responded with a "Sorry Justice Roberts" tweet.

The dustup is the first time that Roberts, the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary, has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has several times gone after federal judges who have ruled against him.



Heated congressional, court races on Arkansas midterm ballot
Legal Topics | 2018/11/03 13:12
A push by Democrats to flip a Republican-held congressional seat that represents the Little Rock area and a state Supreme Court race that has drawn heavy spending by a conservative interest group have drawn the most attention in Arkansas' midterm election.

The campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and state Supreme Court seats became increasingly bitter and expensive in the run-up to Tuesday's election, especially from outside groups that have been airing attack ads and sending mailers. The races have overshadowed an election in which Democrats face long odds of making gains in the solidly Republican state.
 
The secretary of state's office hasn't predicted how many of Arkansas' nearly 1.8 million registered voters will cast ballots in the election, but more than 350,000 had voted early through Friday.

Republicans have a solid hold on Arkansas' four U.S. House seats and President Donald Trump easily won the state two years ago, but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip a Little Rock-area district by focusing on the incumbent's vote to repeal the federal health care law.

Democrat Clarke Tucker is trying to unseat two-term Republican Rep. French Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents Little Rock and seven surrounding counties. Tucker is a state legislator who regularly talks about his battle with bladder cancer and his support for the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions




Supreme Court agrees to hear Maryland cross memorial case
Legal Topics | 2018/11/02 13:14
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped war memorial located on a Maryland highway median violates the Constitution's required separation of church and state, a case that could impact hundreds of similar monuments nationwide.

A federal appeals court in Virginia had previously ruled against the approximately four-story-tall cross. The judges said that it "has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion."

But the Maryland officials who maintain the memorial told the Supreme Court that the monument's context and history show it is intended to convey a secular message of remembrance, not a religious message. They said the appeals court's decision would "compel the removal or dismemberment of a cherished war memorial that has served as a site of solemn commemoration and civic unity for nearly a century." In urging the high court to take the case, officials argued that the lower court's decision puts at risk hundreds of other monuments nationwide.

The approximately 40-foot-tall cross at the center of the case is located in Bladensburg, Maryland, about 5 miles from the Supreme Court. Sometimes called the "Peace Cross," it was completed in 1925, and it honors 49 men from the surrounding county who died in World War I. A plaque on the cross' base lists the names of those soldiers, and both faces of the cross have a circle with the symbol of the American Legion, the veterans organization that helped raise money to build it.

Today, responsibility for the cross falls to a Maryland parks commission that took over ownership and maintenance of it in 1961 because of traffic safety concerns. The massive concrete structure could be dangerous to motorists if it were to fall or crumble.


N Carolina justices to take case on Court of Appeals number
Legal Topics | 2018/10/29 12:23
North Carolina's highest court says it will hear arguments on whether the legislature can trim judgeships from the state's intermediate-level appeals court through attrition.

The state Supreme Court says it will take up litigation from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper against Republican legislative leaders challenging a 2017 law reducing the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12 as retirements and other vacancies occur.

The governor usually gets to name replacements, but that wouldn't happen with the next three openings. The majority on a trial court panel last spring upheld the law.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear the case without it first going through the Court of Appeals itself. Cooper's lawyers said bypassing the Court of Appeals would eliminate any appearance of impropriety to rule on its own membership.



Virginia top court to hear 'unrestorably incompetent' case
Legal Topics | 2018/10/23 03:42
More than 13 years after a 16-year-old girl was found raped and murdered, the case of the man whose DNA was found at the scene is heading to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports 46-year-old Oswaldo Elias Martinez has never stood trial in Brittany Binger's 2005 death. Deemed incompetent because he can't speak or hear, he's been held in jail and mental hospitals.

Martinez's lawyers want his capital murder charge dismissed. Their filing says the state law used to hold him permits detention only for "medical" treatment to restore competency.

The state tried to teach Martinez sign language to assist in his defense. Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green says someone "unrestorably incompetent" who's charged with capital murder and poses a danger must continue along the restoration process.


Top French court to rule on faulty breast implant scandal
Legal Topics | 2018/10/10 23:38
France's top court is ruling Wednesday in a case that may require some 1,700 women around the world to pay back compensation they received over rupture-prone breast implants.

The decision is the latest in a years-long legal drama that has potential implications for tens of thousands of women from Europe to South America who received the faulty implants, which were made with industrial-grade silicone instead of medical silicone. The scandal helped lead to tougher European medical device regulations.

France's Court of Cassation is ruling Wednesday in one of multiple legal cases stemming from the affair. The case concerns German products-testing company TUV Rheinland, which was initially ordered to pay 5.7 million euros (currently $6.5 million) damages to the women.

The manufacturer of the implants, French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP, was convicted of fraud. But the bankrupt manufacturer couldn't pay damages to the women, who suffered from often painful, leaky implants — so they sought compensation from TUV Rheinland instead, arguing it should have never certified the product in the first place.

An appeals court in Aix-en-Provence later found the Germany company was not liable for the faulty implants, and ordered women to pay back the damages in 2015. TUV Rheinland lawyer Cecile Derycke says the company has paid 5.7 million euros ($6.5 million) overall to the women involved in this case, many in Colombia but also around Europe and elsewhere.

The case is now at the Court of Cassation, which will decide whether to uphold the appeals ruling or send it back for new legal proceedings. Lawyer Derycke argues that TUV Rheinland is being unfairly held responsible for PIP's wrongdoing.

Lawyer Olivier Aumaitre, representing thousands of women with the implants, argues that if no one is held responsible, then Europe's consumer product certification system is meaningless.

While 1,700 women will be directly affected by Wednesday's ruling, it could have fallout for thousands of others who joined other lawsuits seeking damages from TUV Rheinland.


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