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.


Massachusetts high court to weigh teen texting suicide case
Legal Topics | 2018/10/05 05:17
Massachusetts' highest court is set to consider whether to throw out the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman who as a teenager encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages.

Lawyers for 22-year-old Michelle Carter will urge the Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday to reject a judge's finding that she caused Conrad Roy III's death when she told him to get back in a truck filled with toxic gas.

Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail last year but has remained free while she pursues her appeal. Prosecutors say Carter could have stopped Roy, who was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.

Her lawyers say her conviction criminalizes free speech and that Carter's words didn't cause Roy's death.


US Supreme Court declines to hear Drew Peterson's appeal
Legal Topics | 2018/10/01 16:18
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson's appeal of his murder conviction in the drowning death of his third wife.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the high court refused Monday to take up Peterson's bid to have his murder conviction overturned. His appeal request was filed in June.

The 64-year-old Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, is serving a 38-year sentence for Kathleen Savio's 2004 death and another 40-year sentence after being convicted of plotting to kill the prosecutor in the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to overturn Peterson's murder conviction last year. Peterson is being held at a federal prison in Indiana. He's also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but hasn't been charged.


Egypt court sentences 65 people over 2013 violence
Legal Topics | 2018/09/23 21:49
An Egyptian court has sentenced 64 people to varying prison terms and one man to death over violence in 2013 when the military overthrew the elected Islamist president.

The Sunday decision by the Minya Criminal Court included a life sentence for Mohammed Badie, the spiritual guide of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, over events in the city of el-Adwa, south of Cairo, where a crowd raided a police station and a sergeant was killed.

The case which ran for over three years included more than 35 hearings, with testimony by the defense and witnesses.

The death sentence, issued to a man named Ahmed Ashour, will now be reviewed by Egypt's top religious authorities for their non-binding opinion. The ruling can still be appealed.


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