Attorney general applauds high court decision on water rule

Press Release 2018/01/27 11:32   Bookmark and Share
North Dakota's attorney general is applauding a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that recognizes federal district courts as the forum to hear legal challenges to an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem led a coalition of 12 states that obtained the first preliminary injunction against the "Waters of the U.S. Rule" in 2015 in North Dakota, arguing it would greatly and unlawfully expand the federal government's authority over states' land and water and the ability to control pollution.

The rule has never taken effect because of lawsuits and is now under review by President Donald Trump's administration.

Stenehjem says he'll ask the federal district court to resume North Dakota's case as soon as possible now that the jurisdiction issue has been resolved.

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Women taking their right to go topless to state's high court

Headline Legal News 2018/01/27 11:30   Bookmark and Share
In a case that pits freedom of expression and equality against public decency, three women are challenging a New Hampshire city ordinance prohibiting public nudity and taking it to the state's highest court.

Heidi Lilley, Kia Sinclair and Ginger Pierro were ticketed in 2016 in Laconia after they went topless at Weirs Beach over Memorial Day weekend. Pierro was doing yoga, while the other two were sunbathing.

Some beachgoers complained and a police officer asked them to cover up. When they refused, they were arrested. A legal motion to dismiss a case against the women was denied so they have appealed it to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case Feb. 1. The women want to the court to dismiss their conviction by invalidating the city's ordinance.

The three women argue there's no state law forbidding female toplessness and that the ordinance is discriminatory since men are allowed to go shirtless. They also contend their constitutional rights to freedom of expression were violated.

"The law in the state of New Hampshire is that it is legal for a woman to go topless so we're trying to get the town of Laconia to recognize and to stay with the state," Lilley said. "The town ordinance, in our opinion, is not constitutional. We're hoping the Supreme Court will see that."

The women are part of the Free the Nipple movement, a global campaign that argues it should be acceptable for women to bare their nipples in public, since men can. Supporters of the campaign also are taking their causes to courts with mixed success.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in October that a public indecency ordinance in Missouri didn't violate the state constitution by allowing men, but not women, to show their nipples. But in February, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, from enforcing a law against women going topless, arguing it was based on gender discrimination. The city is appealing.''

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Hong Kong court to rule later on 3 activists' prison terms

Legal Business 2018/01/26 11:31   Bookmark and Share
Three Hong Kong activists will have to wait to learn the outcome of their final appeal Tuesday to overturn prison sentences for their roles in sparking 2014's massive pro-democracy protests in the semiautonomous Chinese city.

Judges at Hong Kong's top court said they would issue their decision at a later, unspecified date following the appeal hearing for Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow against the sentences of up to eight months. Bail for the three was extended.

The three were initially let off with suspended or community service sentences after they were convicted of taking part in or inciting an unlawful assembly by storming a courtyard at government headquarters to kick-off the protests.

But the case sparked controversy when the justice secretary requested a sentencing review that resulted in stiffer sentences, raising concerns about rule of law and fears that the city's Beijing-backed government is tightening up on dissent.

The trio's lawyers said the lower court overstepped its boundaries and put too much emphasis on the need for deterrence in handing down the revised harsher sentence.

"Laying down a heavy sentence will have a deterrent effect, but a balance has to be held between a deterrent and stifling young idealistic people," Law's lawyer, Robert Pang, told the judges.

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Court: Yes, there is doctor-patient confidentiality

Court News 2018/01/26 11:30   Bookmark and Share
Connecticut's highest court has ruled on an issue that most people may think is already settled, saying doctors have a duty to keep patients' medical records confidential and can be sued if they don't.

The Supreme Court's 6-0 decision Thursday overturned a lower court judge who said Connecticut had yet to recognize doctor-patient confidentiality.

The high court's ruling reinstated a lawsuit by former New Canaan resident Emily Byrne against the Avery Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology in Westport.

Byrne, who now lives in Montpelier, Vermont, alleged the doctor's office sent her medical file to a court without her permission — allowing the father of her child to look at it and use the information to harass her.

The Avery Center argued there is no duty for doctors to keep patients' information confidential.

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Court seems to favor death row inmate in dispute with lawyer

Court News 2018/01/23 11:31   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court seems ready to say that a lawyer for a criminal defendant cannot override his client's wish and concede his guilt at trial, even if the lawyer's aim is to avoid a death sentence.

The court on Wednesday dived into the case of Louisiana death row inmate Robert McCoy. He repeatedly objected to his lawyer's decision to acknowledge that McCoy killed the son, mother and step-father of his estranged wife in 2008.

Lawyer Larry English has said the evidence against McCoy was overwhelming and that the only way to keep McCoy off death row was to beg for mercy. In the end, the strategy failed and a jury sentenced McCoy to death. If he wins at the Supreme Court, he could get a new trial.

Supreme Court won't take case of ex-NY assembly speaker

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for a re-trial of ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The high court declined Tuesday to get involved in the case. That allows for a re-trial tentatively set for April to proceed.

Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted of public corruption charges in late 2015. But the U.S. court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned that conviction last year and sent the case back to the trial court.

The appeals court said that the trial judge would need to instruct jurors on the law in a different manner to conform with a 2016 Supreme Court decision that reversed the public corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.


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Doctor charged in wife's death moved after threat to him

Headline Legal News 2018/01/23 11:30   Bookmark and Share
A New Jersey doctor accused of having his wife killed to protect an illegal prescription drug ring he was running with an outlaw biker gang has been moved to a different jail nearly 100 miles away due to an alleged plot by a co-defendant to kill him.

James Kauffman, 68, of Linwood, New Jersey, is charged with numerous offenses, including murder, racketeering and weapons offenses.

Kauffman and co-defendant Ferdinand Augello, 61, of Petersburg, New Jersey, are charged in the death of Kauffman's 47-year-old wife, April, a radio talk show host who was fatally shot in her home in May 2012.

The charges, including those relating to April Kauffman's shooting as well as the alleged plot to kill James Kauffman, were announced Tuesday after more than five years of investigation.

On Thursday, following brief initial court appearances via video links, prosecutors said Kauffman has been moved from the Atlantic County Jail in Mays Landing to the Hudson County Jail in Kearney, nearly 100 miles away, for his protection.

"We don't think it would be prudent for those two to be lodged together," Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said.

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