Open records policy set for administrative court records

Legal Insight 2017/08/11 08:44   Bookmark and Share
Kentucky's Supreme Court justices have approved an open records policy to guide how the public accesses administrative records in the state court system.

State officials say the first open records policy for the Administrative Office of the Courts takes effect Aug. 15. The AOC is the operations arm of the state's court system.

The new policy describes how to submit an open records request to AOC.

Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. says the judicial branch has long complied with the "spirit" of the open records law, but says it's time to formalize its commitment in a written policy.

First Amendment expert and Louisville lawyer Jon Fleischaker says he's looked forward to the time when the public had definitive guidance on how to access the court system's administrative records.

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Academic accused in Chicago killing due in California court

Legal Business 2017/08/08 08:44   Bookmark and Share
A Northwestern University microbiologist suspected in the stabbing death of a 26-year-old Chicago man is due in a California courtroom.

Wyndham Lathem and Oxford University financial officer, Andrew Warren, were sought in a cross-country chase on first-degree murder charges in the death of Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau. His body was found July 27 in an apartment near downtown Chicago.

Lathem and Warren were fugitives for more than a week before separately turning themselves in to California authorities. They have yet to be charged.

The 42-year-old Lathem is being held without bail in Alameda County. His court appearance is Monday in the city of Pleasanton.

Attorney Barry Sheppard says he expects Lathem to waive extradition. He also urged the public to wait until all the facts are released before making judgments.

Mental health court established for offenders on probation

A specialized court has been established in Pinal County to give defendants with mental problems an alternative path and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

Presiding Judge Stephen McCarville signed an administrative order last month calling for the establishment of Mental Health Treatment Court. It’s a therapeutic, post-sentence court for defendants placed on supervised probation.

People screened with a mental illness are referred to the court by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office or the county’s probation department. Then the court’s staff reviews the defendant’s case to determine whether the person’s situation is appropriate for the program, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported.

The offender undergoes outpatient treatment at a mental health facility while checking in with the court on a weekly basis. If defendants don’t follow the terms of the treatment, then they’re subject to having their probation revoked.

The goal is to keep people with mental disabilities out of the criminal justice system, Pinal County Superior Court Administrator Todd Zweig said. The number of probationers with mental health conditions has been increasing in the county, he added, prompting the need for this type of service.
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Challenge filed in court to Australian gay marriage ballot

Politics 2017/08/06 08:44   Bookmark and Share
Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government's unusual plan to canvass Australians' opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable.

The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won't legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say "no," the government won't allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation's ban on same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and marriage equality advocates Shelley Argent and Felicity Marlowe, applied to the High Court for an injunction that would prevent the so-called postal plebiscite from going ahead.

"We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power," lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge.

"I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It's an important question," Turnbull said.

Gay-rights advocates and many lawmakers want Parliament to legislate marriage equality now without an opinion poll, which they see as an unjustifiable hurdle to reform.

Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, a gay man who supports marriage equality, dismissed the ballot as "irregular and unscientific polling."

"It's just something we've never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia, and it really is unacceptable," Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kirby would not comment on the legality of the government proceeding with the 122 million Australian dollar ($96 million) ballot without Parliament's approval, but said: "I'm not going to take any part in it whatsoever."

Plebiscites in Australia are referendums that don't deal with questions that change the constitution. Voting at referendums is compulsory to ensure a high voter turnout and that the legally-binding result reflects the wishes of a majority of Australians.
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Prosecutors ask court to imprison Samsung heir for 12 years

Legal Interview 2017/08/02 08:45   Bookmark and Share
South Korean prosecutors have recommended a 12-year jail term for Lee Jae-yong, 49-year-old billionaire heir of the Samsung business empire, urging a court to convict him of bribery and other crimes.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, became emotional Monday as he denied ever trying to seek political favors in his final remarks in the four-month-long trial. Lee was arrested in February amid a tumultuous corruption scandal that triggered months of massive public protests and culminated with the ouster of South Korea's president.

A panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said they will hand down their verdict on Aug. 25.

Lee, princeling of South Korea's richest family and its biggest company, choked up during his final remarks, saying his ordeal was unjust but he had reflected during his six months in jail and realized that the bigger Samsung became, "the stricter and higher the expectations from the public and the society," a pool report from Monday's hearing said.

"Whether it was for my personal profit or for myself, I have never asked the president for any favors," he told the court.

In his remarks wrapping up the trial, Special Prosecutor Park Young Soo said Samsung's alleged bribery was typical of the corrupt and cozy ties between the South Korea's government and big businesses. Such dealings once helped fuel the country's rapid industrialization but now increasingly are viewed as illegal and unfair.

Park also accused Samsung officials of lying in their testimonies to protect Lee.

In past cases, South Korean courts have often given suspended prison terms to members of the founding families of the chaebol, the big, family-controlled businesses that dominate South Korea's economy. In some cases, presidents have pardoned them, citing their contributions to the national economy. But recent rulings on white collar crimes have shown less leniency. If convicted, Lee may be the first in his family to serve a prison term.

Lee was indicted in February on charges that included offering $38 million in bribes to four entities controlled by a friend of then-President Park Geun-hye, including a company in Germany set up to support equestrian training for the daughter of one of Park's friends, Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors alleged the bribes were offered in exchange for government help with a merger that strengthened Lee's control over Samsung at a crucial time for organizing a smooth leadership transition after his father fell ill.

Park was removed from office in March and is being tried separately. Her friend Choi also is on trial.

Lee has denied all charges. He has said he did not know of Choi or her daughter before the scandal grabbed national headlines and said Samsung's succession situation was not discussed during three meetings he held with the former president.

Samsung's lawyers do not contest having donated a large sum of money to the entities controlled by Choi. They disagreed with the prosecutors about the nature of the funds and insisted that at the time the donations were made Samsung was unaware that Choi controlled them.
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Myanmar court grants bail for editor in defamation case

Headline Legal News 2017/07/26 08:45   Bookmark and Share
A court in Myanmar granted bail Friday to a newspaper editor who is being tried under a controversial defamation statute in a telecommunications law.

Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor of The Voice Daily, was arrested in June for publishing online a satirical article that allegedly mocked the efforts of the military to reach a peace agreement with ethnic minority groups.

His previous requests for bail had been rejected, but during his ninth appearance in court, the judge granted his release on bail of 10 million kyats ($7,000).

He was charged under Article 66(D) of the Telecommunications Law, which broadly defines defamation and carries a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment.

Rights groups decry the article as a restriction on freedom of expression, but the country's parliament this week turned down a bid to drop the article and decriminalize the offense.

One of the newspaper's columnists, Kyaw Zwa Naing, was also arrested on June 2 under Article 66(D), but the charge against him was dropped last month.

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Idaho Supreme Court upholds grocery tax veto

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/07/20 22:48   Bookmark and Share
The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's contentious veto of legislation repealing the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The high court's decision comes after 30 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit claiming Otter took too long to veto the grocery tax repeal because he waited longer than 10 days as outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

Otter, along with other top elected officials, countered he was just following a 1978 high court ruling that said the veto deadline only kicks after it lands on his desk. The lawsuit originally singled out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney because he verified the governor's veto. Otter was later named in the challenge at the Republican governor's request because he argued that it was his veto that sparked the lawsuit.

However, the justices disagreed with Otter. Nestled inside their 21-page ruling, the court overruled the previous 1978 decision — a rare move inside the courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent— because they argued the Constitution clearly states the deadline starts when the Legislature adjourns for the year. That part of the Tuesday's decision will only apply to future legislative sessions and not the grocery tax repeal case nor any other prior vetoes.

"The 1978 decision did not interpret the Constitution; it purported to rewrite an unambiguous phrase in order to obtain a desired result," the justices wrote.

Otter's spokesman did not respond to request for comment, though Otter is currently hospitalized recovering from back surgery and an infection. Denney's office also did not return request for comment.

For many Idahoans, Tuesday's ruling won't result in changes at the grocery checkout line. They will continue paying the tax and the state won't be at risk of losing the tax revenue, which helps pay for public schools and transportation projects. Instead, it's the Idaho Legislature that will face dramatic changes when handling bills at the end of each session.

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