Supreme Court deadline nears for suit over wetland loss

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/07/11 16:54   Bookmark and Share
A Louisiana flood board is nearing a deadline for asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review its lawsuit seeking to make oil and gas companies pay for decades of damage to coastal wetlands.

Federal district and appeals courts have rejected the lawsuit, which was met by fierce opposition from the energy industry and many in state government when it was filed in 2013. The suit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East said drilling and dredging activity contributed to loss of wetlands that form a hurricane buffer for New Orleans.

Oil industry supporters have labeled the lawsuit an attack on a vital industry. Tuesday marks the deadline for the flood board attorneys to seek Supreme Court review after their last defeat in April.

A federal district judge's 2015 ruling held that federal and state law provided no avenue by which the board could bring the suit.

A three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in March and the full 15-member court refused a rehearing in April. Lawyers for the flood board had a 90-day window to seek Supreme Court review.

Flood authority lawyers have argued that the flood board has the right to seek compensation for levee damage under the federal Rivers and Harbors Act. They also argued that federal judges should not have allowed the case to be moved to federal court from the state court where it originally was filed.

Meanwhile, some coastal parishes are pursuing coastal damage suits in state courts on different legal grounds. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has urged the energy companies to work toward a settlement. Industry leaders have resisted, saying the suits are meritless.




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Court filing: Marsh seeks OK to sell 26 grocery stores

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/13 09:23   Bookmark and Share
A bankruptcy court document says two Ohio-based grocery chains have agreed to buy 26 of Marsh Supermarkets' 44 remaining stores for a total of $24 million.

The court filing posted Tuesday says Fishers-based Marsh is seeking court approval to sell 11 stores to Kroger Co. subsidiary Topvalco Inc. for $16 million and 15 stores to Findlay, Ohio-based Fresh Encounter parent Generative Growth LLC for about $8 million.

Topvalco agreed to buy three stores in Bloomington; two each in Indianapolis, Muncie and Zionsville, and single stores in Fishers and Greenwood.

Generative Growth agreed to buy two Indianapolis stores; other Indiana stores in Columbus, Elwood, Greensburg, Hartford City, Marion, New Palestine, Pendleton, Richmond and Tipton; and Ohio stores in Eaton, Middletown, Troy, and Van Wert.

Indiana governor names Judge Goff to state Supreme Court

Indiana's next state Supreme Court justice, Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher Goff, said Monday his appointment to the state's highest court is humbling beyond words and something he never would have imagined at the start of his legal career.

Goff's selection to fill the vacancy created by Justice Robert Rucker's retirement was announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The governor said Goff, 45, "will bring his unique voice and experiences" from his years in rural Indiana to the five-member court when he becomes its youngest member.

"Judge Goff grew up in a working class neighborhood and has spent most of his life living in a rural county, which will complement his colleagues on the bench with their own deep roots in other urban and suburban regions of the state," Holcomb said at his Statehouse announcement.

He selected Goff over the two other finalists for the vacancy chosen by Indiana's Judicial Nominating Commission: Boone Superior Court Judge Matthew Kincaid and Clark Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael. Twenty people had applied for the vacancy.

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Alabama asks US Supreme Court to let execution proceed

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/07 11:02   Bookmark and Share
Alabama’s attorney general on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let an execution proceed this week, arguing that questions about a lethal injection drug have been settled by the courts.

Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office asked the justices to let the state proceed with Thursday’s scheduled execution of Robert Melson who was convicted of killing three Gadsden restaurant employees during a 1994 robbery.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week granted a stay as it considers appeals from Melson and other inmates who contend that a sedative used by Alabama called midazolam will not render them unconscious before other drugs stop their lungs and heart. The state argues there was no reason to grant the stay since midazolam’s use in lethal injections has been upheld by the high court, and the court has let executions proceed using midazolam in Alabama and Arkansas.

“Alabama has already carried out three executions using this protocol, including one less than two weeks ago in which this court, and the Eleventh Circuit, denied a stay,” lawyers with the attorney general’s office wrote in the motion

“If the stay is allowed to stand, Melson’s execution will be delayed many months, if not years. The State, the victims’ families, and the surviving victim in this case have waited long enough for justice to be delivered. This Court should vacate the lower court’s stay,” attorneys for the state wrote.

Melson is one of several inmates who filed lawsuits, which were consolidated, arguing that the state’s execution method is unconstitutional. A federal judge in March dismissed the lawsuits, and the inmates appealed to the 11th Circuit saying the judge dismissed their claims prematurely.

A three-judge panel of 11th Circuit judges did not indicate whether they thought the inmates would succeed in their appeals. Rather, the judges wrote Friday that they were staying Melson’s execution to avoid the “untenable” prejudging of the inmates’ cases.

Midazolam is supposed to prevent an inmate from feeling pain, but several executions in which inmates lurched or moved have raised questions about its use. An Arkansas inmate in April lurched about 20 times during a lethal injection. Melson’s lawyers wrote in a Friday motion that Alabama “botched” a December execution in which inmate Ronald Bert Smith coughed and moved for the first 13 minutes.

“Mr. Smith’s botched execution supports the argument that midazolam is a vastly different drug than pentobarbital. It does not anesthetize the condemned inmate, and because it does not anesthetize, defendants’ use of potassium chloride is unconstitutional,” Melson’s attorneys wrote last week.

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High court limits seizure of assets from drug conspiracies

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/07 11:01   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court is limiting the government's ability to seize assets from people who are convicted of drug crimes but receive little of the illegal proceeds.

The justices ruled Monday that a Tennessee man convicted for his role selling iodine water purification filters to methamphetamine makers does not have to forfeit nearly $70,000 in profits.

Terry Honeycutt helped sell more than 20,000 filters at his brother's hardware store. Prosecutors said the brothers knew the iodine was used by local meth cooks.

Honeycutt's brother pleaded guilty and forfeited $200,000 of the $270,000 in profits. But Honeycutt argued he wasn't responsible for the rest since he didn't personally see any profits.

A federal appeals court ruled against Honeycutt, saying everyone who joins a drug conspiracy can be required to give up profits.
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Bill Cosby arrives in court ahead of sexual assault trial

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/06 11:01   Bookmark and Share
Bill Cosby arrived at the suburban Philadelphia courthouse for the start of his sexual assault trial Monday. The 79-year-old Cosby showed up at the Montgomery County courthouse at about 8:40 a.m. amid a large media presence.

Arriving with the disgraced comedian were his defense attorneys and his former "Cosby Show" castmate Keshia Knight Pullman who played his daughter Rudy.

Cosby's life and legacy are on the line when his accuser takes the stand in the only criminal case to emerge from the dozens of sexual assault allegations lodged against the actor. The former college basketball manager says Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2004.

This is the only criminal case to emerge from the dozens of sexual assault allegations lodged against him. Cosby says he had a romantic relationship with her. She will tell her story in public for the first time when she testifies. Those involved in the case worry about duplicating the media frenzy that dominated O.J. Simpson's murder trial.

Cameras are banned in Pennsylvania courtrooms. The jury will be sequestered for the estimated two-week trial.
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Mom sentenced in Australian court for drowning 3 children

Lawyer Blog Post 2017/06/02 10:38   Bookmark and Share
A mother who drowned three of her children and attempted to kill a fourth by driving the family car into an Australian lake was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and six months in prison.

Akon Guode, 37, drove a SUV carrying four of her seven children into the lake in Melbourne in April 2015. Her 5-year-old daughter Alual survived after passersby pulled her from the partially submerged car.

But Guodes' 16-month-old son Bol and 4-year-old twins, Hanger and her brother Madit, died.

Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said he would have sentenced Goude to life in prison if she had not pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.

"People don't understand why you did what you did," the judge said. "In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation," he added.

Goude wept and wailed through her sentencing hearing as the judge outlined her crimes and her troubled life that led to it.

Born one of 16 children in 1979, she fled Sudan's civil war in which her husband died and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The judge set a non-parole period of 20 years and said she will likely be deported on release. Her hometown, the city of Wau, is now in South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011. It's not clear to which country she will be deported.
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