Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute

Attorney News 2017/09/14 03:13   Bookmark and Share
An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.

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Trump nominates White House lawyer to important court seat

Court Watch 2017/09/10 03:14   Bookmark and Share
President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the most important federal appeals courts, opening the door for confirmation hearing questions about the legal controversies that dominated the first seven months of Trump's presidency.

Gregory Katsas was nominated Thursday to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Katsas, the deputy White House counsel, was a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. A biography on the White House's website says he has argued more than 75 appeals, including the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

He would replace the libertarian-leaning Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who retired this summer. The court is influential, in part because of its role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration. It is sometimes called America's second highest court because it can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court just a few blocks away.

Katsas, once a law clerk to Justice Thomas, has served in high-ranking Justice Department roles, including as head of the civil division that has responsibility for defending the administration's policies against court challenges. He is part of the steady stream of Jones Day law firm partners who have flowed into the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn.

So many Jones Day attorneys work in the White House that the counsel's office issued a blanket ethics waiver for them so that they can maintain contact with their former colleagues without running afoul of ethics provisions. The firm's lawyers continue to represent members of the Trump campaign outside the White House.

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France: Court finds topless photos violated royal’s privacy

Court Watch 2017/09/07 03:14   Bookmark and Share
A French court ruled Tuesday that photographers and gossip magazine executives violated the privacy of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge by taking and publishing photographs of the former Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.

The court in a Paris suburb fined two executives of French gossip magazine Closer — owner Ernesto Mauri and executive editor Laurence Pieau — each the maximum of 45,000 euros ($53,500) for such an offense.

The Closer executives, along with two photographers for a celebrity photo agency, were collectively ordered to pay 50,000 euros ($59,500) in damages to Kate and the same amount to her husband, Prince William.

The damage award was substantially below the figure that the magazine’s lawyer said the royals had requested, but the timing of the court’s finding of privacy invasion had particular resonance in Britain.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the death of William’s mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car accident that occurred while she was being pursued by paparazzi.

The royal couple did not attend the hearing where the verdict was announced. Their office at Kensington Palace said they were pleased the court ruled in their favor and now consider the matter closed.

Kate and William “wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen,” the palace said in a statement.
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Israeli protesters erect golden statue of High Court chief

Legal Interview 2017/09/01 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Jerusalem residents woke to discover a surprising spectacle outside the country's Supreme Court — a golden statue of the court's president put up in protest by members of a religious nationalist group.

Police quickly removed the statue of Miram Naor, raised outside the court overnight, but after questioning some suspects, said no criminal activity had occurred.

Derech Chaim, which wants to impose Jewish religious law in Israel, said it had put up the statue to protest what one activist called the court's "dictatorship." Many Israeli hardliners consider the court to be excessively liberal and interventionist.

Ariel Gruner, a Derech Chaim activist, said the statue was erected in response to a court ruling this week over the country's treatment of African migrants. The ruling said that while Israel can transfer migrants to a third country, it cannot incarcerate them for more than 60 days to pressure them to leave.

The ruling is among a series of decisions that "eliminates the possibility of elected officials, of the government, to make decisions and rule," Gruner said.

He acknowledged that the statue had been inspired by a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erected by a left-wing artist in a main Tel Aviv square last year.

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Court: Cherokee Freedmen have right to tribal citizenship

Legal Insight 2017/09/01 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen, who were once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have a right to tribal citizenship under a ruling handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Wednesday in a long-standing dispute between the Cherokee Freedmen and the second largest tribe in the United States.

Freedmen have long argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based Cherokees, gave them and their descendants "all the rights of native Cherokees." There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants today.

But Cherokee leaders have argued the tribe has the fundamental right to determine its citizens, and in 2007 more than three-fourths of Cherokee voters approved an amendment to remove the Freedmen from tribal rolls.

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