UN court hears case over strategic Indian Ocean islands
Legal Topics | 2018/09/02 06:59
Officials from the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius told United Nations judges Monday that former colonial power Britain strong-armed its leaders half a century ago into giving up territory as a condition of independence, a claim that could have an impact on a strategically important U.S. military base.

Judges at the International Court of Justice began hearing arguments for an advisory opinion the U.N. General Assembly requested on the legality of British sovereignty over the Chagos Islands. The largest island, Diego Garcia, has housed the U.S. base since the 1970s.

"The process of decolonization of Mauritius remains incomplete as a result of the unlawful detachment of an integral part of our territory on the eve of our independence," Mauritius Defense Minister Anerood Jugnauth told judges.

Mauritius argues that the Chagos archipelago was part of its territory since at least the 18th century and taken unlawfully by the U.K. in 1965, three years before the island gained independence. Britain insists it has sovereignty over the archipelago, which it calls the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Jugnauth testified that during independence negotiations, then-British Prime Minister Harold Wilson told Mauritius' leader at the time, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, that "he and his colleagues could return to Mauritius either with independence or without it and that the best solution for all might be independence and detachment (of the Chagos Islands) by agreement."

Ramgoolam understood Wilson's words "to be in the nature of a threat," Jugnauth said.

British Solicitor General Robert Buckland described the case as essentially a bilateral dispute about sovereignty and urged the court not to issue an advisory opinion.


Iran goes to UN's highest court over re-imposed US sanctions
Legal Topics | 2018/08/28 16:34
Iran went to the United Nations' highest court Monday in a bid to have U.S. sanctions lifted following President Donald Trump's decision earlier this year to re-impose them, calling the move "naked economic aggression."

Iran filed the case with the International Court of Justice in July, claiming that sanctions the Trump administration imposed on May 8 breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates economic and consular ties between the two countries.

At hearings that started Monday at the court's headquarters in The Hague, Tehran asked judges at the world court to urgently suspend the sanctions to protect Iranian interests while the case challenging their legality is being heard — a process that can take years.

In a written statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the legal move an attempt by Tehran "to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security."

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Iranian representative Mohsen Mohebi told the court the U.S. decision was a clear breach of the 1955 treaty as it was "intended to damage, as severely as possible, Iran's economy."

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran.



Filing period opens for West Virginia Supreme Court seat
Legal Topics | 2018/08/06 15:52
The filing period has begun for a special election for the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The filing period for the unexpired seat of former Justice Menis Ketchum started Monday and runs through Aug. 21. The special election will be held concurrently with the Nov. 6 general election.

Candidates must be at least 30 years old, residents of West Virginia for at least five years and admitted to practice law for at least 10 years.

Ketchum announced his retirement last month. He had two years remaining in his term.

Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards. He faces a plea hearing and up to 20 years in prison.


Oklahoma lawsuit against opioid makers back in state court
Legal Topics | 2018/08/05 07:47
A U.S. judge determined Friday that a lawsuit the state of Oklahoma filed against the makers of opioids does not "necessarily rise" to a federal issue.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City sends the matter back to state court. Drugmakers had it moved to federal court in June.

Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017. It is seeking unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

Opioid manufacturers had argued the state was asking them to make different safety and efficacy disclosures to the public than required by federal law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but they deny wrongdoing.

An attorney for the companies did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ruling came just minutes after Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton joined Hunter and Michael Burrage, a private attorney representing the tribes and the state, in announcing that the tribes are joining the state in suing the opioid manufacturers in state courts for unspecified damages.

Hunter did not immediately return a phone call for comment, but Burrage said during the news conference that the effort to return to lawsuit to state court was to keep it from potentially being folded into more than 800 similar lawsuit pending in Ohio.


Court: Mud buggy race operators weren't negligent in crash
Legal Topics | 2018/07/31 16:02
A jury properly determined that the operators of an Eau Claire mud buggy race weren't negligent in a wild crash that cost a spectator part of his leg, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The case revolves around Shawn Wallace, who was watching a race at Eau Claire's Pioneer Park in 2012 when a buggy hit a guardrail, flew off the track and landed in the crowd. Wallace was injured so badly he had to have one of his legs amputated below the knee.

He filed a lawsuit in 2013 alleging that the track's owner, Chippewa Valley Antique and Engine Model Club Inc., and the race's sanctioning body, Central Mudracing Association Inc., had been negligent.

The jury at the 2016 trial found that the accident was unforeseeable and that neither defendant had been negligent.

Wallace appealed, arguing that Eau Claire County Circuit Judge William Gabler had improperly barred him from telling the jury about a 2005 crash at the track that injured spectators and had improperly limited a crash reconstruction expert's testimony.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals sided with the judge. The court said in its ruling Tuesday that Gabler reasonably determined that the 2005 crash wasn't similar to the 2012 incident.

The earlier crash occurred on a different part of the track, the spectators who were injured were viewing the race from a truck, not the bleachers, and the track operators extended guardrails following that crash, the appeals court noted. Therefore the crash was of little value in Wallace's case, the court concluded.



Judge, calm in court, takes hard line on splitting families
Legal Topics | 2018/07/23 07:25
separated at the border. He challenged the Trump administration to explain how families were getting a fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution, but also expressed reluctance to get too deeply involved with immigration enforcement.

"There are so many (enforcement) decisions that have to be made, and each one is individual," he said in his calm, almost monotone voice. "How can the court issue such a blanket, overarching order telling the attorney general, either release or detain (families) together?"

Sabraw showed how more than seven weeks later in a blistering opinion faulting the administration and its "zero tolerance" policy for a "crisis" of its own making. He went well beyond the American Civil Liberties Union's initial request to halt family separation — which President Donald Trump effectively did on his own amid a backlash — by imposing a deadline of this Thursday to reunify more than 2,500 children with their families.

Unyielding insistence on meeting his deadline, displayed in a string of hearings he ordered for updates, has made the San Diego jurist a central figure in a drama that has captivated international audiences with emotional accounts of toddlers and teens being torn from their parents.

Circumstances changed dramatically after the ACLU sued the government in March on behalf of a Congolese woman and a Brazilian woman who were split from their children. Three days after the May hearing, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero tolerance policy on illegal entry was in full effect, leading to the separation of more than 2,300 children in five weeks.



State Supreme Court returns stalking case to lower court
Legal Topics | 2018/07/22 18:25
Facebook complaints against her neighbor constituted stalking.

The Rapid City Journal reports that a judge in 2016 granted Sarah Thompson's request for a protection order against Wambli Bear Runner over Bear Runner's frequent antagonistic updates against Thompson. The two women had been dating the same man.

One of the posts read, "I'll forever be watching #your enemy unless I get an apology!"

The high court ruled that the circuit court did not show why Bear Runner's comments qualified as stalking. The case has been returned to the lower court.

South Dakota's law against stalking notes harassment can come through verbal, digital, electronic or even telegraphic communication.


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