Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman returns to court in drug case

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/05 16:45   Bookmark and Share
Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is returning to a Brooklyn courtroom Friday, a day after a judge rejected his request to be allowed in the general inmate population.

The 59-year-old defendant famous for twice escaping from prison in Mexico lost his bid Thursday to relax the terms of his confinement at a lower Manhattan lockup when U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan concluded that solitary confinement was appropriate.

Cogan said the U.S. government had good justifications for applying tough jail conditions on a man who escaped twice, including once through a mile-long tunnel stretching from the shower in his cell. But Cogan relaxed the restrictions known as Special Administrative Measures enough for Guzman to communicate with his wife through written questions and answers.

His lawyers said in a statement that it was "devastating" for Guzman and his wife that they will not be allowed jail visits.

Guzman was brought to the U.S. in January to face charges that he oversaw a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking operation responsible for murders and kidnappings. He has pleaded not guilty.
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Top Kansas Court to Revisit Death Penalty in Wichita Murders

Legal Business 2017/05/04 16:44   Bookmark and Share
The Kansas Supreme Court is considering for a second time whether to spare two brothers from being executed for four murders in what became known as "the Wichita massacre" after earlier rulings in the men's favor sparked a political backlash.

The justices were hearing arguments from attorneys Thursday in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers were convicted of dozens of crimes against five people in December 2000 that ended with the victims being shot in a snow-covered Wichita field, with one woman surviving to testify against the brothers.

The crimes were among the most notorious in the state since the 1959 slayings of a western Kansas family that inspired the book "In Cold Blood." The state has 10 men on death row, including the Carrs, but it has not executed anyone since hangings in 1965.

The Kansas court overturned the Carr brothers' death sentences in July 2014, citing flaws in their joint trial and sentencing hearing. The decisions stunned the victims' families and friends, as well as legislators. Critics launched unsuccessful efforts to oust six of the seven justices in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the Kansas court's rulings in a sometimes scathing January 2016 opinion. The nation's highest court returned the men's cases to the Kansas court for further reviews.

The Carr brothers' attorneys are raising some of the same legal questions again, arguing that the Kansas Constitution requires the death sentences to be overturned even if the U.S. Constitution doesn't. The Kansas court has the last word on "state law" issues. There is one new justice since the court last ruled in 2014.

The Kansas court previously concluded that the two men should have had separate sentencing hearings. Jonathan Carr argued that he was not as responsible as his brother for the crimes and that Reginald Carr had been a bad influence on him during their troubled childhoods.

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Supreme Court says cities can sue banks under anti-bias law

Topics in Legal News 2017/05/03 08:37   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that cities may sue banks under the federal anti-discrimination in housing law, but said those lawsuits must tie claims about predatory lending practices among minority customers directly to declines in property taxes.

The justices' 5-3 ruling partly validated a novel approach by Miami and other cities to try to hold banks accountable under the federal Fair Housing Act for the wave of foreclosures during the housing crisis a decade ago.

But the court still threw out an appellate ruling in Miami's favor and ordered a lower court to re-examine the city's lawsuit against Wells Fargo and Bank of America to be sure that there is a direct connection between the lending practices and the city's losses.

Miami claimed that Wells Fargo and Bank of America, as well as Citigroup, pursued a decade-long pattern of targeting African-American and Hispanic borrowers for costlier and riskier loans than those offered to white customers. The loans to minority homeowners went into default more quickly as well, the city said.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America appealed the ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, arguing that cities can't use the Fair Housing Act to sue over reductions in tax revenues. The banks said the connection between a loan and the tax consequences is too tenuous. Citigroup did not appeal, though its lawsuit also would be affected by what the appeals court does in response to Monday's ruling.

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Trump 'absolutely' considered breaking up 9th Circuit Court

Court News 2017/05/03 08:37   Bookmark and Share
President Donald Trump, still chafing over rulings blocking his travel ban early this year, says he's considered breaking up the West Coast-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Asked during a White House interview by the Washington Examiner if he'd thought about proposals to break up the court, Trump replied, "Absolutely, I have." He added that "there are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous."

The comments echoed his Twitter criticism of the court Wednesday morning.

Trump called U.S. District Judge William Orrick's preliminary injunction against his order stripping money from sanctuary cities "ridiculous" on Twitter. He said that he planned to take that case to the Supreme Court. But an administration appeal of the district court's decision would go first to the 9th Circuit.

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Indiana high court to take up police unreasonable force case

Press Release 2017/05/02 08:38   Bookmark and Share
The Indiana Supreme Court is to take up the case of a man who claims Evansville police were too forceful when they used a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades to serve a search warrant.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports the court is to consider 31-year-old Mario Deon Watkins' case, which rises from his felony drug conviction. He claims the Evansville Police Department used unreasonable force when a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades were used to serve a search warrant.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in January reversed Watkins' sentence, criticizing use of the grenades that went off in the same room as a 9-month-old baby. But Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is asking the state's Supreme Court to clarify whether the state constitution prohibits police from using a SWAT team or the grenades.
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Court: Gay couple's suit against Kentucky clerk can proceed

Court News 2017/05/02 08:37   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court says a gay couple's lawsuit seeking damages from a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue them a marriage license can proceed. The ruling revives an issue that pulled the state into the center of a national debate over same-sex marriages following a historic Supreme Court ruling.

David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, in June 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. But Kim Davis, the county clerk, refused to issue them a license because she said it violated her religious beliefs.

Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other couples. Davis lost, and spent five days in jail for refusing to follow a court order. The dispute thrust the embattled clerk into the national limelight and prompted same-sex marriage opponents across the country to rally behind her. A Republican congressman from Ohio gave her a ticket to former President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. And she met with Pope Francis in Washington, although that encounter quickly sent the Vatican scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.

Davis has since changed her party affiliation to Republican, saying the Democratic Party had abandoned her. Ermold and Moore want Davis to pay damages for the emotional distress caused by her refusal to issue them a license. Ermold and Moore were not the first couple to be denied a license. But they filmed their rejection and uploaded it to YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues, has represented Davis throughout the case. The firm also represents former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered state probate judges to continue to enforce that state's ban on same-sex marriage despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore was removed from his post because of his order. He is now running for U.S. Senate.

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