Judge rejects effort to block Confederate statue's removal

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/05/12 21:36   Bookmark and Share
A last-ditch effort to block the removal of a monument to a Confederate general in New Orleans was rejected Wednesday by a Louisiana judge who turned away arguments that the city doesn't own the statue or the land on which it sits.

"This has gone on an inordinate amount of time," Judge Kern Reese said as he outlined reasons for his refusal to grant an injunction protecting the statue of Gen. P.G.T Beauregard. It was a reference to state and federal court battles that delayed removal of the Beauregard monument and three others for more than a year.

The huge bronze image of Beauregard on horseback sits in the center of a traffic circle at the entrance to New Orleans City Park. Those who don't want it removed argued that it belongs to a park board and, therefore, the city has no authority to remove it.

Reese's rejection of an injunction means the city can remove the statue pending further proceedings in his court. Richard Marksbury, a New Orleans resident and monument supporter, said he may go to an appeal court to block removal.

The Beauregard statue, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis are slated for removal. A fourth structure, the Liberty Place monument, was removed late last month. It honored whites who battled a biracial Reconstruction-era government in New Orleans.

The Liberty Place monument was taken down without advance notice in the dead of night by workers in masks and body armor. City officials have been secretive about removal plans due to threats of violence against those tasked with taking down the structures.

In Reese's court, Franklin Jones, an attorney for Marksbury, cited documents asserting that the independent, state-supervised board that oversees City Park owns the Beauregard statue and the tract of land on which it sits. Adam Swensek, an assistant city attorney, noted court precedents holding otherwise and said delays in removing the monuments only prolong a controversy that has resulted in tense confrontations between pro- and anti-monument groups at monument sites.

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New Mexico Supreme Court won't restore funds to Legislature

Legal Insight 2017/05/11 21:37   Bookmark and Share
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request to override budget vetoes, leaving negotiations about how to solve the state's budget crisis — and restore funding to the Legislature — in the hands of the governor and lawmakers.

In a two-page order, the court said it was too soon to consider any possible constitutional violations related to Gov. Susana Martinez's vetoes of all funding for the Legislature and state universities in the coming fiscal year.

The order said the Legislature's lawsuit was "not ripe for review," siding with attorneys for the governor who cautioned justices against an abuse of their judicial power.

The Republican governor has called a special session for May 24 in an attempt to resolve the state budget crisis linked to faltering tax revenues and a weak state economy.

The Democratic-led Legislature had argued that Martinez overstepped her authority by defunding the legislative branch of government and all state institutions of higher education.

Martinez had urged the state Supreme Court to stay out of budget negotiations and said her vetoes were made in pursuit of reductions to state spending and never sought to abolish the Legislature.

Thursday's ruling sent lawmakers and the governor back to the negotiating table with no signs of agreement on how to shore up wobbly state finances.

"We need to have a little love, and there is not much love going around right now," said Republican Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, describing distrust that stands in the way of a budget deal and related tax reforms.

For the upcoming special session, Martinez has outlined rough proposals to restore most vetoed funding for the fiscal year starting July 1. Democratic lawmakers say the proposals are linked to untenable tax revenue increases on nonprofits and food.

The governor's office issued a statement praising the court decision and prodding legislative leaders to abandon a proposed tax increase on gasoline sales designed to shore up state finances.

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Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying top court

Court News 2017/05/10 21:37   Bookmark and Share
India's top court on Tuesday found wanted tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying its order barring him from transferring $40 million to his children.

Mallya, who fled to London last year, is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and bank demands that he pay back more than a billion dollars in loans extended to his now-defunct airline. India has been seeking his extradition over the charges, which Mallya denies.

The Supreme Court in its ruling Tuesday acted on a plea by Indian banks, who said Mallya received $40 million from the British firm Diageo and transferred it to his son and two daughters illegally. The court asked Mallya to appear before it in July to decide the punishment.

Mallya was famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models and Bollywood stars. He was once hailed as India's version of British tycoon Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

He ran into trouble when he failed to return millions of dollars of loans and left India last year amid attempts by a group of banks to recover the money.

India's External Affairs Ministry says Britain is still considering its request to issue a warrant for Mallya and to extradite him.
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Trump tabs Minnesota Justice Stras for federal appeals court

Topics in Legal News 2017/05/09 21:37   Bookmark and Share
Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and believes in a limited role for the judiciary.

Stras, 42, a former University of Minnesota Law School professor, was on Trump's list of possible Supreme Court nominees. The 8th Circuit serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. Sen. Al Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement he would take a close look at Stras' record. He criticized a nomination process that he said "relied heavily on guidance from far-right ... special interest groups."

Stras planned to issue a statement later Monday.

When Stras was appointed to the Minnesota court in 2010 by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Thomas traveled to Minnesota to administer the oath.

"I remain mindful that the role of a judge is a limited one, and that judges can't solve every problem," Stras said then. "But at the same time, judges play a crucial role in safeguarding liberty and protecting the rights of all citizens."

Stras has held to those beliefs, said Peter Knapp, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

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Indiana high court: Immigration status inadmissible at trial

Legal Business 2017/05/07 21:38   Bookmark and Share
The immigration status of a Mexican native who is suing over lost wages in a workplace injury case should not be considered at trial because it can cause unfair prejudice, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The state's high court reversed a lower court ruling that the immigration status of Noe Escamilla was admissible in his lawsuit against an Indianapolis construction company. Escamilla, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico with his parents at age 15, married a U.S. citizen and has three children who are also American citizens, his attorney has said.

"Indiana's tort trials should be about making injured parties whole — not about federal immigration policies and laws," the high court said in a 5-0 ruling written by Chief Justice Loretta Rush and issued Thursday.

Escamilla sued Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. for lost future wages after he slipped on ice in 2010 and severely injured his back while helping to lift a heavy masonry capstone at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. Court documents say a doctor found Escamilla's injury left him unable to lift more than 20 pounds, effectively ending his career as a masonry laborer.

Because Escamilla is a lawful resident of Mexico, Shiel Sexton argued that any lost wages he is able to claim should be based on the rate of pay available in Mexico, and not U.S. wages. A Montgomery County trial court ruled in Shiel Sexton's favor, finding that two witnesses who reviewed Escamilla's U.S. tax returns could not testify about his lost earnings and that his immigration status could be entered as evidence.
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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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