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.


Hawaii Supreme Court sides with lesbian couple in B&B case
Legal Topics | 2018/07/09 23:33
A Hawaii appeals court ruling that a bed and breakfast discriminated by denying a room to two women because they're gay will stand after the state's high court declined to take up the case.

Aloha Bed & Breakfast owner Phyllis Young had argued she should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of her religious beliefs.

But the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected Young's appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered her to stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

Young is considering her options for appeal, said Jim Campbell, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm that is representing her. He said Young might not be able to pay her mortgage and could lose her home if she's not able to rent rooms.

"Everyone should be free to live and work according to their religious convictions - especially when determining the living arrangements in their own home," Campbell said in an emailed statement.

Peter Renn, who represents the couple, said the Hawaii high court's order indicates the law hasn't changed even after the U.S. Supreme Court last month, in a limited decision, sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He said "there still is no license to discriminate."

"The government continues to have the power to protect people from the harms of discrimination, including when it's motivated by religion," said Renn, who is a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, an organization that defends LGBTQ rights.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, California, tried to book a room at Aloha Bed & Breakfast in 2007 because they were visiting a friend nearby. When they specified they would need just one bed, Young told them she was uncomfortable reserving a room for lesbians and canceled the reservation.


Trump has 2 or 3 more candidates to interview for court
Legal Topics | 2018/07/03 15:56
President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices and plans to meet with a few more as his White House aggressively mobilizes to select a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Eager to build suspense, Trump wouldn't divulge whom he's talking to in advance of his big announcement, set for July 9. But he promised that "they are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way. I had a very, very interesting morning."

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with four people for 45 minutes each Monday and will continue meetings through the rest of the week. She said Tuesday he has "two or three more that he'll interview this week and then make a decision."

The interviews were with federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. The Washington Post first reported the identities of the candidates Trump spoke with.

The president spent the weekend at his Bedminster golf club, consulting with advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy with a justice who has the potential to be part of precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said Monday, repeating the role he played in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

McGahn will be supported by a White House team that includes spokesman Raj Shah, taking a leave from the press office to work full time on "communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies." Justin Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.

Trump's push came as the Senate's top Democrat tried to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick who would oppose abortion rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a campaign-season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate," which confirms judicial nominees.

With Trump committed to picking from a list of 25 potential nominees that he compiled with guidance from conservatives, Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CNN's "State of the Union," said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.



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