Husband of high court candidate begins prison sentence

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/04/08 14:47   Bookmark and Share
The husband of a Pennsylvania appellate court judge who is running for the state’s highest court began serving a prison sentence Tuesday in a long-running case, authorities said.

Charles McCullough’s incarceration comes as voters decide whether to back his wife in her bid for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough is seeking the Republican nomination in May 18′s primary election against two fellow Republican judges.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court denied Charles McCullough’s latest appeals. He is currently representing himself.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office said McCullough reported as ordered Tuesday morning and was taken into custody to begin serving a state sentence of 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison.

The 66-year-old McCullough, a former Allegheny County councilman, was convicted of theft and misappropriation of funds in 2015 for using his power of attorney to take $50,000 from the trust fund of an elderly woman.

He spent the money in 2006 and 2007, using $40,000 for campaign contributions and sending the other $10,000 to a charity, according to court records.

McCullough was charged in 2009. He had argued at his trial that he had the widow’s approval to use the money and had remained free on appeal since his sentencing.

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Philippine Supreme Court slams killings of lawyers, judges

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/03/23 15:03   Bookmark and Share
The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday condemned the alarming number of killings and threats against lawyers and judges. One legal group has said these attacks are considerably higher under President Rodrigo Duterte compared to the past 50 years under six former presidents.

The 15-member high court asked lower courts, law enforcement agencies and lawyers and judges’ groups to provide information about such attacks in the last 10 years, in order for the court to take preemptive steps. The attacks, it said, endanger the rule of law in an Asian bastion of democracy.

“To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the judiciary. To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands,” the high court said in a rare, strongly-worded censure of the attacks. “This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours.”

The court said it would not “tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles and speculate on the worth of human lives.”

The Free Legal Assistance Group, a prominent group of lawyers, said at least 61 lawyers have been killed in the five years of Duterte’s presidency compared to at least 25 lawyers and judges slain under six presidents since 1972, when dictator Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law.

Lawyers’ groups said the court’s denunciation was long overdue but nevertheless welcomed it. “We have been sounding out the clarion call and providing information and concrete recommendations for the longest time,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, who heads the left-wing National Union of People’s Lawyers.

A number of lawyers who represented suspected drug dealers or were linked to the illegal drug trade were among those gunned down under Duterte’s rule. When he took office in mid-2016, Duterte launched a massive anti-drug crackdown that has left more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed Western governments and human rights groups.
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High court revives ex-student’s suit against Georgia college

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/03/08 14:29   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court is reviving a lawsuit brought by a Georgia college student who sued school officials after being prevented from distributing Christian literature on campus.

The high court sided 8-1 with the student, Chike Uzuegbunam, and against Georgia Gwinnett College. Uzuegbunam has since graduated, and the public school in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has changed its policies. Lower courts said the case was moot, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

Groups across the political spectrum including the American Civil Liberties Union had said that the case is important to ensuring that people whose constitutional rights were violated can continue their cases even when governments reverse the policies they were challenging.

At issue was whether Uzuegbunam’s case could continue because he was only seeking so-called nominal damages of $1.

“This case asks whether an award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury. We hold that it can,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for a majority of the court.

Writing only for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed. Roberts argued that the case brought by Uzuegbunam and another student, Joseph Bradford, is moot since the two are no longer students at the college, the restrictions no longer exist and they “have not alleged actual damages.”

Writing about the symbolic dollar they are seeking, Roberts said that: “If nominal damages can preserve a live controversy, then federal courts will be required to give advisory opinions whenever a plaintiff tacks on a request for a dollar.” He accused his colleagues of “turning judges into advice columnists.”

It appears to be the first time in his more than 15 years on the court that the chief justice has filed a solo dissent in an argued case. That’s according to Adam Feldman, the creator of the Empirical SCOTUS blog, which tracks a variety of data about the court.

Uzuegbunam’s lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that focuses on faith-based cases, cheered the ruling. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court weighed in on the side of justice for those victims,” she said in a statement.

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SKorean court gives Samsung scion prison term over bribery

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/01/18 08:51   Bookmark and Share
Billionaire Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong was sent back to prison on Monday after a South Korean court handed him a two and a half-year sentence for his involvement in a 2016 corruption scandal that spurred massive protests and ousted South Korea’s then-president.

In a much-anticipated retrial, the Seoul High Court found Lee guilty of bribing then-President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante to win government support for a 2015 merger between two Samsung affiliates. The deal helped strengthen his control over the country’s largest business group.

Lee’s lawyers had portrayed him as a victim of presidential power abuse and described the 2015 deal as part of “normal business activity.”  Wearing a mask and black suit and tie, Lee was taken into custody following the ruling. He didn’t answer questions by reporters upon his arrival at the court.

Injae Lee, an attorney who leads Lee Jae-yong’s defense team, expressed regret over the court’s decision, saying that the “essence of the case is that a former president abused power to infringe upon the freedom and property rights of a private company.”

He didn’t specifically say whether there would be an appeal. Samsung didn’t issue a statement over the ruling.  Lee Jae-yong helms the Samsung group in his capacity as vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s largest makers of computer chips and smartphones.

In September last year, prosecutors separately indicted Lee on charges of stock price manipulation, breach of trust and auditing violations related to the 2015 merger.

It isn’t immediately clear what his prison term would mean for Samsung. Samsung didn’t show much signs of trouble during the previous time Lee spent in jail in 2017 and 2018, and prison terms have never really stopped South Korean corporate leaders from relaying their management decisions from behind bars.

Samsung is coming off a robust business year, with its dual strength in parts and finished products enabling it to benefit from the coronavirus pandemic and the prolonged trade war between United States and China.

Samsung’s semiconductor business rebounded sharply after a sluggish 2019, driven by robust demand for PCs and servers as virus outbreaks forced millions of people to stay and work at home.

The Trump administration’s sanctions against China’s Huawei Technologies have meanwhile hindered one of Samsung’s biggest rivals in smartphones, smartphone chips and telecommunications equipment.

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Biden to name Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/01/14 08:51   Bookmark and Share
President-elect Joe Biden has selected Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by Republicans for a seat on the Supreme Court, as his attorney general, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.

In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned four years ago ? refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose ? but Biden is banking on Garland’s credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.

Biden is expected to announce Garland’s appointment on Thursday, along with other senior leaders of the department, including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He will also name an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.

Garland was selected over other finalists including former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The people familiar with the process spoke on condition of anonymity. One said Biden regards Garland as an attorney general who can restore integrity to the Justice Department and as someone who, having worked as both a federal prosecutor and a high-level supervisor inside the agency, will enjoy the respect of nonpartisan career staff.

Garland’s confirmation prospects were solidified as Democrats on Wednesday scored control of the Senate majority by winning both Georgia Senate seats.

Garland would confront immediate challenges if confirmed, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, as well as calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into President Donald Trump after he leaves office. A special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe also remains open, forcing a new attorney general to decide how to handle it and what to make public.

Garland would also inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.
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Georgia high court rejects latest Trump election appeal

Lawyer Blog Post 2020/12/14 11:38   Bookmark and Share
President Donald Trump has lost his latest legal challenge seeking to overturn Georgia’s election results, with the state Supreme Court’s rejection late Saturday of a case from Trump’s campaign and Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer.

The suit - similar to other Trump team legal challenges, which made baseless allegations of widespread fraud in Georgia’s presidential election - was initially filed Dec. 4, then rejected by the Fulton County Superior Court because the paperwork was improperly completed and it lacked the appropriate filing fees.

The case was subsequently appealed directly to the state Supreme Court, asking justices to consider the case before Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College. In a brief order, justices wrote that “petitioners have not shown that this is one of those extremely rare cases that would invoke our original jurisdiction.”

It’s the latest legal setback in the president’s efforts to overturn the election results. On Friday  the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit backed by Trump seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory, a move that ended a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court.

Even as lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies have been rejected around the country, the president has continued to make repeated baseless claims of widespread fraud. In Georgia, he has rained criticism on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both fellow Republicans.

Raffensperger has been steadfast in his defense of the integrity of the election in the state, and Kemp has said he has no power to intervene in elections.

Results certified by Raffensperger last month showed that Biden led by a margin of 12,670 votes, or 0.25% of the roughly 5 million ballots cast. An audit involving a hand count of the paper ballots also showed Biden won.

Last week, Raffensberger again recertified the state’s election results after a recount requested by Trump confirmed once again that Biden won the state, and the governor then recertified the state’s 16 presidential electors.

“We have now counted legally cast ballots three times, and the results remain unchanged,” Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol.
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