Groups sue over conditions in S. Carolina’s juvenile lockups

Legal Insight 2022/04/27 17:14   Bookmark and Share
Several civil rights groups are suing South Carolina over conditions at its juvenile lockups, alleging that children in state custody are subject to violence and isolation while deprived of educational or rehabilitative programs.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday comes less than two weeks after officials at the state Department of Juvenile Justice agreed to make changes at its main detention center following a federal investigation that found the state was violating the civil rights of youths housed there.

But that agreement doesn’t go far enough because it only addresses issues at the Broad River Road Complex in Columbia, the groups said in their complaint, arguing that the Department of Juvenile Justice also needs to fix conditions at four other facilities across the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, the NAACP Office of General Counsel and two law firms filed the lawsuit on behalf of the state’s NAACP conference, the criminal justice reform organization Justice 360, and Disability Rights South Carolina.

Echoing findings by federal and state investigators in recent years, the complaint describes routine youth-on-youth violence and violence by staff against the youths that agency employees often ignore or enable. Children who commit minor infractions are also placed in isolation, spending up to 23 hours a day in small cells without natural light.

One officer told a 16-year-old who was assaulted by three other children earlier this year to stay away from facility cameras so he would not be seen bleeding, the complaint alleges. Another child was beaten and choked by five members of the agency’s police force while handcuffed and shackled over accusations of robbing staff; he was then hogtied and blocked from filing a grievance, according to the complaint.

A lack of staff means children are often detained past the legal limit of 45 days at evaluation centers across the state, the groups said. At the main pre-trial detention center in Columbia, some youths sleep in plastic makeshift “boat beds” because of a lack of bed space. Youths live in unsanitary conditions, with human waste on the floors and cockroaches in the food, the complaint states.


Arizona judge nixes suit that wants Trump backers off ballot

Legal Business 2022/04/23 14:09   Bookmark and Share
A judge in Phoenix has dismissed lawsuits seeking to disqualify three Republican lawmakers from this year’s ballot because they participated in or helped organize the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington that led to an unprecedented attack on Congress.

The decision from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury made public Friday means Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and state Rep. Mark Finchem remain on the primary ballot barring a reversal by the state Supreme Court. Gosar and Biggs are seeking reelection and Finchem is running for Secretary of State, Arizona’s chief election officer.

The lawsuits filed on behalf of a handful of Arizona voters alleged that Gosar, Biggs and Finchem can’t hold office because they participated in an insurrection. They cited a section of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution enacted after the Civil War.

None of the lawmakers are accused of participating in the actual attack on Congress that was intended to stop certification of President Joe Biden’s win.

Coury agreed with the lawmakers’ attorneys who said Congress created no enforcement mechanism for the 14th Amendment, barring a criminal conviction. He noted that Congress proposed such a law in the wake of the attack on Congress but it is not been enacted.

AG wants death-row prisoner’s mental fitness exam called off

Legal Business 2022/04/16 15:48   Bookmark and Share
Prosecutors have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to call off an upcoming hearing scheduled by a lower-court judge to determine the mental fitness of a prisoner to be executed in what would be the state’s first use of the death penalty in nearly eight years.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office told the state’s highest court in a filing Wednesday that the May 3 mental competency hearing scheduled in Pinal County for death-row prisoner Clarence Dixon is likely to delay his May 11 execution. Dixon was sentenced to death for his murder conviction in the 1977 killing of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin.

The prosecutors are seeking to throw out the lower court’s order that concluded defense lawyers had shown reasonable grounds for planning a hearing over whether Dixon is psychologically fit.

Dixon’s lawyers have said their client erroneously believes he will be executed because police at Northern Arizona University wrongfully arrested him in a previous case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys concede he was in fact lawfully arrested then by Flagstaff police.

Abortion restriction bill signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis

Legal Insight 2022/04/12 15:49   Bookmark and Share
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.

The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

“This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the “Nación de Fe” (“Nation of Faith”), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.

DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or, in the case of one, regretted having done so.

Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying “Choose life,” while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant’s feet and a heartbeat reading, “Protect Life.”

Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal and revealing inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.

Mexico high court OKs preference for state power plants

Headline Legal News 2022/04/09 15:01   Bookmark and Share
Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed constitutional Thursday a controversial energy law pushed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that gives government-owned power plants preference over private competitors.

The law took effect in March 2021, but a number of private energy companies sought injunctions blocking enforcement. With the law ruled constitutional, the injunctions will now have to be resolved.

The law establishes that electricity must be bought first from government power plants, which use primarily coal, oil and diesel to produce energy. If demand requires it, additional electricity could be purchased from private wind, solar and natural gas plants.

Jesús Ramírez, presidential spokesman, celebrated the court’s decision. “History will judge those who betray the country and the interests of Mexican people,” he said via Twitter.

Critics, including the United States government, maintain the law will undermine competition in the sector, hurt the environment and violate free trade agreements.


Groups seek to stop gold mine exploratory drilling in Idaho

Legal Insight 2022/04/04 15:00   Bookmark and Share
Environmental groups are renewing efforts to stop exploratory drilling by a Canadian mining company hoping to build a gold mine in Idaho west of Yellowstone National Park.

The Idaho Conservation League and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, in documents filed in federal court last month against the U.S. Forest Service, ask that the case involving Excellon Idaho Gold’s Kilgore Gold Exploration Project in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Clark County be reopened.

Excellon Idaho Gold is a subsidiary of Toronto, Ontario-based Excellon Resources Inc.

The company says the area contains at least 825,000 ounces (23.4 million grams) of gold near the surface, and potentially more deeper. The company said it is looking at possibly building an open-pit mine if exploration finds that the gold is mostly near the surface, or an underground mine if the gold is deeper.


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