Iraq's federal court rules against prime minister's reforms

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/10/13 22:44   Bookmark and Share
Iraq's federal court ruled on Monday that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's move to abolish the largely ceremonial posts of the country's vice president and deputy prime minister is unconstitutional.

Under Iraq's constitution, abolishing the posts would require the approval of an absolute majority in parliament followed by a national referendum, the court said in a statement.

The decision, which is binding for the Iraqi government, was a slap for al-Abadi, who canceled the posts last year as part of a wide-ranging reform plan that was approved by his Cabinet and passed by Parliament. It was intended to shore up public support for his government in the face of widespread protests.

The cancellations were also an apparent attempt to consolidate power under al-Abadi's government in order to combat corruption and tackle the country's ballooning budget crisis, sparked in part because of a plunge in the price of oil over the past two years, government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said.

"The return of the (vice president and the deputy prime minister) will affect the expenses of the state," al-Hadithi said.

The decision underscores the government's enduring weakness as Iraqi forces prepare to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. While the U.S.-led coalition has closely supported Iraq's security forces in the military fight against IS, coalition officials say the Iraqi government is responsible for enacting political reforms that will prevent IS from growing in power in Iraq once again.

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Court enters default judgment in Kansas voting rights case

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/10/13 22:44   Bookmark and Share
A federal court clerk entered a default judgment Tuesday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for failing to file a timely response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens.

It remains unclear whether U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will give Kobach more time to respond. If the judgment stands it would apply to all voters in all federal, state and local elections — effectively ending the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Kobach did not immediately return a cellphone message, but spokeswoman Desiree Taliaferro said he would comment.

Kobach faces four separate lawsuits challenging various aspects of Kansas' voter registration law. The law, which went into effect in January 2013, requires prospective voters to submit documentary proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers.

Kobach, a conservative Republican, has championed the proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-fraud measure that keeps non-citizens from voting, including immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Critics say such requirements suppress voter turnout, particularly among young and minority voters, and that there have been few cases of fraud in the past.

"Oftentimes judges will give an attorney who has not filed something in a timely manner another chance," said Paul Davis, an attorney for the voter who brought the lawsuit. "We will have to see whether Judge Robinson is willing to do that in this case."

Kobach could ask the judge to set aside the clerk's action, possibly on grounds that include "excusable neglect," said Mark Johnson, another attorney for the voter.

But if the clerk's action stands, it means the proof-of-citizenship requirement can't be enforced, Johnson said.

The lawsuit contends the requirement violates voters' constitutional right to right to due legal process and the right to freely travel from state to state by infringing on people's ability to vote and to sign petitions. It also contends the actions Kobach has taken to verify citizenship status discriminates against people who were born or got married in other states.
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Gays can seek parental rights for nonbiological kids

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/09/03 23:45   Bookmark and Share
New York's highest court expanded the definition of parenthood Tuesday by ruling that former same-sex couples may seek visitation and custody of children even when they aren't the biological or adoptive parent.

The Court of Appeals decision resolves two cases of former unmarried same-sex couples in which the biological mothers kept the children and their ex-partners sought legal standing to see them. In one case, lower courts ruled the ex-partner had no standing. In the other, the ex-partner pays child support and was later granted visitation.

A 25-year-old definition of parenthood required a person seeking custody or visitation to have a biological or adoptive connection to the child. In its decision, the court said the standard had become "unworkable" in light of society's "increasingly varied familial relationships."

"Where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law," reads the opinion written by Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

New York began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2011, and children born into a marriage are considered the children of both parents. But the law was far murkier when it came to same-sex couples who had a child before the law was enacted or who have foregone marriage. Same-sex partners often found it impossible to seek visitation or custody of a non-biological child they had not adopted if the relationship ended.

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2 teens killed in Atlanta suburb: Man accused due in court

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/08/19 16:10   Bookmark and Share
A man accused of killing two teenagers near Atlanta is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing.

Jeffrey Hazelwood is scheduled to appear Friday morning in Fulton County Magistrate Court.

The 20-year-old is charged with murder and theft in the killings of Carter Davis and Natalie Henderson in Roswell. The 17-year-olds were shot in the head. An autopsy report says their bodies were found behind a grocery store and had been placed in distinct poses.

Police have declined to discuss a possible motive for the slayings, or whether Hazelwood knew the teens.

Hazelwood's attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, has said he'll provide a vigorous defense.

Henderson and Davis, who used to live in Rapid City, South Dakota, would have been seniors this year at their Georgia high schools.
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'Whitey' Bulger asks US Supreme Court to hear his appeal

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/08/18 16:10   Bookmark and Share
James "Whitey" Bulger has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal of his racketeering convictions for playing a role in 11 murders and committing a litany of other crimes.

It is unclear if the high court will take up the Boston gangster's case. The court generally agrees to hear only a small percentage of the thousands of cases it's asked to review each year. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bulger's 2013 convictions in March.

A three-judge panel of the court found that Bulger had not shown that his right to a fair trial was violated when a judge barred him from testifying about his claim that a now-deceased federal prosecutor granted him immunity. The trial judge said Bulger had not offered any hard evidence that such an agreement existed.

Bulger, now 86, led a notoriously violent gang from the 1970s through the early 1990s. He fled Boston in 1994 after an FBI agent tipped him that he was about to be indicted. Bulger remained a fugitive until 2011, when he was captured in Santa Monica, California. He is now serving a life sentence.

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Spain court orders Operation Puerto blood bags released

Lawyer Blog Post 2016/06/14 12:47   Bookmark and Share
A Spanish court ruled Tuesday that blood bags that are key evidence in one of Spain's worst doping scandals should be handed over to authorities for investigation.

The Madrid Provincial Court said bags containing blood samples and plasma should be handed over to the Spanish Cycling Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Cycling Union and Italy's Olympic Committee.

The announcement came 10 years after Operation Puerto revealed a doping network involving some of the world's top cyclists when police seized coded blood bags from the Madrid clinic of sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

The decision backed an appeal by lawyers for prosecuting parties against a 2013 court ruling that the bags should be destroyed for privacy reasons.

The court said Thursday's ruling "took into account that the goal is to fight against doping, which goes against sport's ethical values."

Not ordering the bags to be made available would have "generalized the danger of other sports people being tempted to dope themselves and sent a negative social message that the end justifies the means," the court said.

The 2013 order to destroy the blood bags outraged the sports community. Spain's anti-doping agency, the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency were among the entities that appealed.
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