German court sends ECB challenge to European court

Court Watch 2017/08/16 08:42   Bookmark and Share
Germany's top court has declined to hear a series of challenges to the European Central Bank's bond-buying stimulus program, referring them instead to the European Court of Justice.

The dpa news agency reports Tuesday that those against the program claimed it constituted illegal budget financing and that Germany's central bank should not be participating.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that because the challenge was about European Union regulations, it was up to the European court to decide.

The ECB's 2.28 trillion euro ($2.7 trillion) bond-purchasing program is only due to run through 2017, raising the question of whether the case can be heard before the program has already ended.

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Former Pakistan PM challenges disqualification by court

Court Watch 2017/08/16 08:38   Bookmark and Share
A Pakistani official says former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification and removal from office.

Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, who is in Sharif's party, said Tuesday that the former prime minister's lawyers filed three petitions to review the verdict.

The court disqualified Sharif after documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm showed that his family held previously undisclosed overseas assets. A five-judge panel last month disqualified Sharif, accusing him of concealing assets.

Last week Sharif held a series of rallies across the country, criticizing the court ruling and seeking to whip up popular support.
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British cybersecurity expert pleads not guilty to US charges

Court Watch 2017/08/12 08:43   Bookmark and Share
A British cybersecurity researcher credited with helping curb a recent worldwide ransomware attack pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges accusing him of creating malicious software to steal banking information three years ago.

Marcus Hutchins entered his plea in Wisconsin federal court, where prosecutors charged him and an unnamed co-defendant with conspiring to commit computer fraud in the state and elsewhere. Authorities arrested the 23-year-old man on Aug. 2 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where he was going to board a flight to his home in Ilfracombe, England. He had been in Las Vegas for a cybersecurity convention.

Hutchins is free on $30,000 bail, but with strict conditions. His bond has been modified so that he can stay in Los Angeles near his attorney and travel anywhere in the U.S., but Hutchins is not allowed to leave the country. He is currently staying at a hotel in Milwaukee.

He was also granted access to use a computer for work, a change from an earlier judge's order barring him from using any device with access to the internet. Hutchins' current work wasn't detailed at Monday's hearing. The next hearing in the case was set for Oct. 17.

Hutchins' attorney, Adrian Lobo, hasn't responded to several phone messages left by The Associated Press over the last week.

The legal troubles Hutchins faces are a dramatic turnaround from the status of cybercrime-fighting hero he enjoyed four months ago when he found a "kill switch" to slow the outbreak of the WannaCry virus. It crippled computers worldwide, encrypting files and making them inaccessible unless people paid a ransom ranging from $300 to $600.

Prosecutors allege that before Hutchins won acclaim he created and distributed a malicious software called Kronos to steal banking passwords from unsuspecting computer users. In addition to computer fraud, the indictment lists five other charges, including attempting to intercept electronic communications and trying to access a computer without authorization.

The indictment says the crimes happened between July 2014 and July 2015, but the court document doesn't offer any details about the number of victims. Prosecutors have not said why the case was filed in Wisconsin. The name of Hutchins' co-defendant is redacted from the indictment.

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Court sides with towns over utilities in tax dispute

Court Watch 2017/06/04 10:36   Bookmark and Share
Two electric utilities seeking to reduce their property taxes in dozens of towns across New Hampshire lost an appeal Friday to the state Supreme Court.

Eversource and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative sought tax abatements from 64 towns in 2011 and 2012, but the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals rejected most of those requests, and the utilities appealed.

The utilities argued that towns' property tax assessments were too high and that their property taxes instead should be based on a valuation formula used by the state Department of Revenue Administration in levying a separate utility tax.

In the ruling released Friday, the court sided with the towns, though it said it was troubled by substantial differences in assessments by towns for property tax purposes and assessments by the state for utility taxes. The court said such disputes could be avoided by adopting a uniform appraisal method, a decision for the Legislature, not the courts.

Eversource spokesman Martin Murray said the company has a duty to dispute valuations made by communities the company considers extreme outliers compared to the state assessments. He said the company remains concerned about the wide discrepancies.




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Idaho Judicial Council accepting applications for high court

Court Watch 2017/05/01 08:38   Bookmark and Share
An opening on the Idaho Supreme Court won't be filled through an election but through an application process.

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann announced earlier this year he will retire in August — 16 months before the end of his current six-year term.

Because Eismann is stepping down early, the Idaho Judicial Council will solicit applications and recommend up to four names to the governor for appointment instead of waiting until the 2018 election, The Spokesman-Review reported. Idaho's Supreme Court positions are nonpartisan.

It's a merit-based process that had been used primarily to replace outgoing justices until this past year when former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones announced he would retire at the end of his term.

"I would never have been on the court if the only avenue was to go through the Judicial Council and be appointed by the governor," said Jones, 74, who was twice elected Idaho attorney general. "It just didn't even occur to me as a possibility, because if you've been involved in the political arena, you probably at one time or another have stepped on the toes of whoever ends up being governor."

Eismann joined the state's highest court in 2001 after successfully running against incumbent Justice Cathy Silak. That election was the first time in 68 years that a sitting supreme court justice had been ousted in an election.

He caused a stir when he decided to announce his election campaign at a Republican Party event in eastern Idaho. He has since become one of the most outspoken justices, known for his tough questioning and advocating for specialty courts throughout Idaho.
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Court: Wisconsin Bell discriminated against worker

Court Watch 2017/04/01 15:26   Bookmark and Share
A Wisconsin appeals court says state labor officials properly determined that Wisconsin Bell's decision to fire a bipolar employee amounted to discrimination.

According to court documents, Wisconsin Bell fired Charles Carlson in 2011 for engaging in electronic chats with co-workers and leaving work early one day. Carlson maintained he was reacting to news he didn't get a promotion, he was looking for support as his therapist had suggested and he doesn't react like other people.

The Labor Industry Review Commission found the company fired Carlson because of his disability in violation of employment discrimination laws.

The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the commission's interpretation was reasonable and there's enough evidence to support imposing liability on Wisconsin Bell.

Wisconsin Bell says it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including that based on disability. The company says it disagrees with the ruling and is considering its options.

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