Supreme Court: Water rule suits should begin in trial courts

Legal Business 2018/01/22 11:32   Bookmark and Share
Opponents of an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution now know which courts should be hearing their lawsuits.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that litigation over the rule should begin in the lowest level of federal courts, not in the federal courts of appeal. The rule has never taken effect because of lawsuits and is now under review by President Donald Trump's administration.

The 2015 rule sought to settle a debate over which waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate has dragged on for years and remained murky despite two Supreme Court rulings.

President Barack Obama's administration redefined "waters of the United States" protected under the act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

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Greece to limit Sharia law after European Court challenge

Opinions 2018/01/20 11:29   Bookmark and Share
Lawmakers in Greece are set to limit the powers of Islamic courts operating in a border region that is home to a 100,000-strong Muslim minority.

Backed by parliament's largest political parties, the draft law is set to be voted on later Tuesday. The proposal aims to scrap rules dating back more than 90 years ago and which refer many civil cases involving members of the Muslim community to Sharia law courts. The new legislation will give Greek courts priority in all cases.

The changes — considered long overdue by many Greek legal experts — follow a complaint to the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights over an inheritance dispute by a Muslim woman who lives in the northeastern Greek city of Komotini.

Legislation concerning minority rights was based on international treaties following wars in the aftermath of the Ottoman empire's collapse. The Muslim minority in Greece is largely Turkish speaking. Minority areas were visited last month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Greek governments in the past have been reluctant to amend minority rights, as many disputes between Greece and Turkey remain unresolved.

Currently, Islamic court hearings are presided over by a single official, a state-appointed Muslim cleric.

In parliament Tuesday, Constantine Gavroglou, minister of education and religious affairs, praised opposition party support for the bill.

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Supreme Court sides with police over partygoers in wild bash

Court News 2018/01/18 11:32   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court sided Monday with police over partygoers in a dispute about arrests at a 2008 bash at a vacant home that had been turned into a makeshift strip club.

The high court ruled that police had sufficient reason to make arrests at the raucous party, which took place in a District of Columbia duplex furnished only with a few metal chairs and a mattress. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion that police reasonably concluded that the revelers "were knowingly taking advantage of a vacant house as a venue for their late night party."

"Most homeowners do not live in near-barren houses. And most homeowners do not invite people over to use their living room as a strip club, to have sex in their bedroom, to smoke marijuana inside, and to leave their floors filthy. The officers could thus infer that the partygoers knew their party was not authorized," he wrote.

Police officers arrived after receiving a complaint about loud music and illegal activities at a home that had been vacant for months. Arriving officers found loud music playing. Inside the home, they smelled marijuana and saw beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor. Scantily clad women were performing lap dances while wearing cash-stuffed garter belts. Upstairs, officers found a naked woman, several men, open condom wrappers and a bare mattress.

The partiers provided police with inconsistent stories about the bash. Many said it was a bachelor party, but no one could identify the bachelor. Partygoers claimed they'd been invited to the home but could not say by whom. Two people said that a woman named "Peaches" was the party's host, but she wasn't there when police arrived. Reached by phone, Peaches eventually told police she had invited people to the house but didn't have the homeowner's approval to use the place.
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Jailed Catalan separatists pledge to eschew unilateral moves

Legal Insight 2018/01/15 11:30   Bookmark and Share
Three backers of Catalonia's independence sought Thursday to get released from jail for their role in the region's push to break from Spain, which triggered the country's worst political crisis in decades.

Former Catalan interior minister, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sanchez, a member of pro-independence civic group National Catalan Assembly, and Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart made their cases to a Spain Supreme Court judge. A ruling from Judge Pablo LLarena is not expected Thursday.

Forn was one of several regional ministers jailed on provisional charges of rebellion after the regional parliament unilaterally — and unsuccessfully — declared Catalonia an independent republic Oct. 27.

The action prompted the Spanish government in Madrid to remove the region's government from office, dissolve the parliament and call a fresh election that was held last month.

Sanchez and Forn were elected on separatist party tickets, but the Spanish government still is running Catalonia.

Sanchez and Cuixart had been jailed earlier on provisional sedition charges related to preparations for an Oct. 1 independence referendum, which Spain's Constitutional Court had suspended.

All three supporters of Catalan independence told the judge they would oppose further unilateral moves to secede and act in accordance with Spanish law, according to lawyers familiar with the proceedings.

The lawyers requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss what was said during the closed-door hearings.

The lawyers said Sanchez acknowledged that the Oct. 1 referendum was not legally valid. Forn, who as interior minister oversaw Catalonia's security and its regional police, said he would not accept the post again, if he were asked to.

Developments surrounding Catalonia have gripped Spain for months, and the tumult is showing no sign of letting up before the new parliament's first session on Wednesday.
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Supreme Court delays order for North Carolina to redraw maps

Legal Interview 2018/01/12 11:31   Bookmark and Share
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional districts by next week because of excessive partisan bias in current lines.

The justices announced the stay after legal briefs were filed for and against the GOP legislators' request for a delay. Their lawyers successfully argued that a three-judge panel's ruling last week declaring the state congressional map an illegal partisan gerrymander should be on hold while similar cases involving Wisconsin legislative districts and one Maryland congressional district before the Supreme Court are considered. The court has never declared that the inherently political process of redistricting can be too partisan.

Voter advocacy groups and Democratic voters who sued over the map — heavily weighted toward Republicans in a closely divided state — argued no delay was necessary because it would be struck down however the justices rule in the other cases.

The Supreme Court's order said the delay remains in place while the case is appealed. The request was considered by the entire court, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the request for the delay, according to the order.

GOP Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, redistricting leaders at the state General Assembly, praised the intervention in a release. "We are grateful that a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly halted the lower court's 11th-hour attempt to intervene in election outcomes" and restored certainty to voters about their districts, they said.

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Judge Rejects Request for New Vote in Virginia House Race

Lawyer Blog Post 2018/01/10 11:29   Bookmark and Share
A federal judge on Friday rejected a request for a new election that might have forced a 50-50 split in Virginia's House of Delegates, calling ballot mistakes cited by Democrats a "garden-variety" problem that doesn't merit federal intervention.

Democrats had hoped a new election in the 28th District would provide an opportunity for an even split in the chamber, which is now on track to be controlled by a 51-49 GOP majority.

Democrats cited state election officials who said 147 voters received the wrong ballot before Republican Bob Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by only 73 votes.

It is the second defeat in as many days for Democrats. On Thursday, election officials broke a tie vote in another House district by drawing names from a bowl, and picking the Republican.

It is the second time Ellis has rejected a request to intervene in the race. Last month he rejected a request to issue a temporary restraining order that would have barred state elections officials from certifying Thomas as the winner. In both rulings, Ellis said he was leery of interjecting federal courts into a state elections process.
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