Philippine lawmakers ask top court to nullify martial law
Legal Topics | 2017/06/04 22:49
Philippine opposition lawmakers petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to review and nullify President Rodrigo Duterte's imposition of martial law in the southern third of the country.

The petition filed by six House lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel Lagman said there was no revolution or invasion where public safety required the declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. It said the proclamation contained "fatal inaccuracies and falsities."

The petitioners said congressional leaders and the majority of lawmakers allied with Duterte were derelict in their constitutional duty by refusing to convene a joint session of Congress to vote whether to revoke the martial law proclamation.

Duterte made the declaration May 23 after extremists allied with the Islamic State group laid siege to Marawi city. The declaration lasts through mid-July but could be extended with the consent of Congress.

The martial law proclamation said the militants openly attempted to remove that part of the country from its allegiance to the Philippine government by taking over a hospital, establishing several checkpoints in the city, burning down certain government and private facilities, and flying the flag of the Islamic State group in several areas.

But the petitioners said the military acknowledged the conflict in Marawi was precipitated by an attempt by troops to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a high-profile militant commander. They also said the claim that militants took over a hospital and Duterte's claim that a local police chief was decapitated both turned out to be wrong.


Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch: Rule of law 'a blessing'
Legal Topics | 2017/06/03 18:07
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged Friday that there is "a lot of skepticism about the rule of law" in the country but defended the United States judicial system as "a blessing" and "a remarkable gift" during a talk at Harvard University.

The court's newest justice marveled that in America "nine old people in polyester black robes" and other judges can safely decide cases according to their conscience and that the government can lose cases without resorting to the use of armed force to impose its will.

"That is a heritage that is very, very special," he said. "It's a remarkable gift. Travel elsewhere. See how judges live. See whether they feel free to express themselves."

Gorsuch, made the comments during his first public appearance since joining the high court in a conversation with fellow Justice Stephen Breyer at Harvard University.

Gorsuch said that particularly in tumultuous times it's important to convince the next generation "that the project (of justice) is worth it because many of them have grave doubts."

"I think there is a lot of skepticism about the rule of law, but I see it day in and day out in the trenches — the adversarial process of lawyers coming to court and shaking hands before and after, the judges shaking hands as we do, before we ascend to the bench," he said. "That's how we resolve our differences in this society."

Gorsuch, who was nominated to the high court earlier this year by Republican President Donald Trump, said he believes there is still confidence in the judicial system. He said that 95 percent of all cases are decided in the trial court, while only 5 percent are appealed, and the Supreme Court hears about 80 cases in a good year.


Family of Colorado man killed by police settles lawsuit
Legal Topics | 2017/05/22 06:23
Court documents show the family of a Colorado man killed by police has settled its lawsuit against the city and the officer.

The Pueblo Chieftain says it obtained documents Thursday which showed the settlement resolved “all pending claims” against officer James Ashby and the city of Rocky Ford.

Reports say Ashby fatally shot 27-year-old Jack Jacquez. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the murder.

Jacquez’s mother, his estate and the mothers of his minor children filed a lawsuit against Ashby and the city in October.

The settlement is waiting on the approval of the Otero County Probate Court judge to include the children in it.

A court filling from this week does not show the terms of the settlement.


High court won't hear appeal over CIA torture report
Legal Topics | 2017/04/24 17:35
The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal seeking to force the CIA to release the full 2014 Senate report about the agency's use of harsh interrogation tactics.

The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the 6,900-page report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee was not subject to Freedom of Information laws.

The committee previously released a lengthy summary of the report to the public, but the American Civil Liberties Union sued to obtain the full version. The ACLU argued that the report became subject to disclosure laws after the committee sent it around to several federal agencies for review.

The appeals court said Congress clearly intended to retain control of the report.



Conservatives fault Arkansas court for halting executions
Legal Topics | 2017/04/20 23:56
Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking the start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review," Hutchinson said in a statement after the Wednesday ruling.

Since the last execution in 2005, the state Supreme Court has at least twice forced Arkansas to rewrite its death penalty law. One of those cases spared Don Davis, who again received a stay Monday night. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken."

But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million last year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.



Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family
Legal Topics | 2017/04/19 20:56
Under tight security, Pakistan's top court is to deliver a much-awaited decision on Thursday on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family which could determine his political future.

If the Supreme Court announces punitive measures against Sharif or his family members as part of the decision, it may lead to a crisis in government. In 2012, the same court convicted then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Thursday's decision will be the outcome of petitions from opposition lawmakers dating back to documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm that indicated Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif's family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.

The opposition wants Sharif, in power since 2013, to resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment. Sharif has defended his financial record.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters the government will "accept the court decision."

Naeemul Haq, a spokesman for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party is leading the petition, said the decision will be an "historic one."

Lawyer A.K. Dogar, who is not involved in the probe by the Supreme Court or the petition, said the decision could determine the political fate of Sharif.

Senior opposition politician Mehnaz Rafi, from Khan's party, told The Associated Press she hopes the decision will help recover tax money from Sharif's family and others who set up offshore companies to evade taxes. If the court finds Sharif's family evaded paying taxes, she said he should resign as he will no longer have "moral authority to remain in power."

The prime minister has insisted his father built up the family business before Sharif entered politics in the 1980s. Sharif says he established a steel mill abroad while he was exiled to Saudi Arabia by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999.



Court: Banned Dartmouth fraternity can't live in house
Legal Topics | 2017/04/12 22:37
The New Hampshire Supreme Court says members of a former Dartmouth College fraternity aren't allowed to live in their house after the college banned the frat from campus.

The Hanover zoning board revoked the $1.4 million Alpha Delta house's status as a student residence when the fraternity was de-recognized for burning brands into the skin of new members in 2015.

Zoning rules require that such residences operate "in conjunction with" an institution, such as the college. Alpha Delta argued it should be considered "grandfathered" under an older zoning ordinance, but the court on Tuesday rejected that argument.

Alpha Delta had been a fraternity at Dartmouth since the 1840s, and since 1920 has housed 18-22 students. It partially served as the inspiration for the 1978 movie "Animal House."


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