Belgian court pushes back extradition hearing for 5 Catalans

Legal Insight 2017/11/17 16:10   Bookmark and Share
A court in Belgium on Friday pushed back the extradition arguments of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four allies until at least Dec. 4, likely keeping the secessionist rebels in Belgium right through Catalonia's regional election campaign.

The court hearing in Brussels for the five Catalans is the latest step in their flight from Spain to Brussels and their refusal to return to face rebellion and sedition charges that could land them in jail for 25 years.

Before the court session, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium discussed their bilateral relations, which have been strained over the case of the Catalan officials who are wanted on a Spanish arrest warrant.

Puigdemont lawyer Paul Bekaert said after the first court session Friday that "we will argue the case on Dec. 4." Whatever decision is made at that stage, two appeals will be possible and a final ruling could well only come only after the Dec. 21 election day in Catalonia.

Bekaert said even though the prosecutor asked for the execution of the extradition request from Spain for the five, the defense lawyers could still give written arguments until early next month.
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Feds head to court to seek dismissal of Twin Metals lawsuit

Legal Insight 2017/11/10 16:11   Bookmark and Share
Government lawyers go to federal court Tuesday to seek dismissal of a lawsuit by developers of the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine who are seeking to regain their mineral rights leases.

The Obama administration last year declined to renew the longstanding leases that Twin Metals needs for the underground mine near Ely in northeastern Minnesota. The government cited the potential harm to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Twin Metals sued last fall to get those leases back, saying it has already invested $400 million, while its congressional supporters are trying to persuade the Trump administration to reverse that decision.

The government argues that the U.S. District Court for Minnesota should dismiss the lawsuit because it's a contract dispute that must be brought in the Court of Federal Claims.

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Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays

Legal Insight 2017/11/03 16:12   Bookmark and Share
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.

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Indonesia court upholds seizure of illegal fishing vessel

Legal Insight 2017/10/27 09:01   Bookmark and Share
Indonesia says it has won a two-year court battle that confirms the legality of the government's seizure of a Thai vessel linked to human trafficking and illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.

Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti said the "monumental" ruling from a court in Aceh province shows that governments can win in the fight against cross-border crime.

Pudjiastuti said in a statement this week that the ministry plans to make the refrigerated cargo ship Silver Sea 2 part of a museum to teach the public about illegal fishing.

The ship was seized by Indonesia's navy in August 2015 amid a crackdown on illegal fishing and after an Associated Press investigation showed its links to human trafficking in the fishing industry.

Several months before its capture, the ship and Thai fishing trawlers had abruptly left an island in remote eastern Indonesia, where the Thai fishing industry held trafficked crew members captive, to escape a government crackdown on illegal fishing.

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Washington Supreme Court to hear education funding case

Legal Insight 2017/10/26 12:34   Bookmark and Share
The Washington state Supreme Court is set to hear argument on whether the state has met its constitutional requirement to fully fund K-12 education.

Tuesday morning's hearing is on whether the state should still be held in contempt for lack of progress on satisfying a 2012 ruling that found that school funding was not adequate. Lawmakers needed a funded plan in place this year ahead of a Sept. 1, 2018 deadline the court had set.

The plan approved and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year relies largely on an increase to the statewide property tax that starts next year. The tax increases from $1.89 to $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, with the increase earmarked for education. The plan — which keeps in place local property tax levies but caps them beginning in 2019 at a lower level— will ultimately raise property taxes for some districts and lower them in others.
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Court says man deserves new trial because jurors slept

Legal Insight 2017/10/25 19:02   Bookmark and Share
The highest court in Massachusetts says a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter should get a new trial because two jurors at his original trial slept during testimony.

The Supreme Judicial Court said Thursday the judge in the 2011 trial of Anthony Villalobos erred by failing to question the jurors about what they had missed while napping.

Villalobos was one of a dozen men charged in what was called the "tuxedo killing." The suspects, some wearing black tuxedos with red vests, went to a Boston club in August 2009 after attending a funeral and got into a fight with another group outside. Jose Alicea died of injuries sustained in the fight.

Prosecutors called Thursday's decision "disappointing and frustrating" but have not yet decided whether to retry. Villalobos has already been released from prison.
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