Court: Cherokee Freedmen have right to tribal citizenship

Legal Insight 2017/09/01 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen, who were once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have a right to tribal citizenship under a ruling handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Wednesday in a long-standing dispute between the Cherokee Freedmen and the second largest tribe in the United States.

Freedmen have long argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based Cherokees, gave them and their descendants "all the rights of native Cherokees." There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants today.

But Cherokee leaders have argued the tribe has the fundamental right to determine its citizens, and in 2007 more than three-fourths of Cherokee voters approved an amendment to remove the Freedmen from tribal rolls.

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Dispute over rights to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan goes to court

Legal Insight 2017/08/28 00:37   Bookmark and Share
Tom Clancy's widow wants a court to rule that the author's estate is the exclusive owner of the rights to his famous character Jack Ryan.

News media outlets report that Alexandra Clancy's lawsuit says that the author's estate should be the sole beneficiary of any posthumous books featuring the character who was first introduced in "The Hunt for Red October."

Alexandra Clancy is suing the personal representative of Clancy's estate, J.W. Thompson Webb, for allowing other entities to profit from posthumous book revenues. Clancy's first wife, Wanda King, is a partial owner of those other entities.

The lawsuit says: "Tom Clancy made Jack Ryan; and in a sense, Jack Ryan made Tom Clancy."

The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court in Baltimore. Tom Clancy died in 2013.
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Supreme Court justice blocks ruling on redrawing Texas districts

Legal Insight 2017/08/26 00:38   Bookmark and Share
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday temporarily halted enforcement of a lower-court ruling that required two Texas congressional districts to be redrawn.

Responding to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Alito halted action on the order and gave those who challenged the districts until Sept. 5 to address the points raised by Paxton’s appeal.

Sept. 5 is the day the three-judge court was to hold a hearing in San Antonio on redrawing the districts, including one based in Travis County and another that includes Bastrop County.

The court ruled two weeks ago that the districts were created by the Republican-controlled Legislature to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to favor Democrats.


Top NC court weighs lawmakers stripping of governor's powers

North Carolina's highest court on Monday tackled the question of how far the Republican-led legislature can go to minimize new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's ability to pursue goals that helped him get elected last year by reshaping state government.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by Cooper that claims legislators violated North Carolina's constitution this spring by passing a law diminishing the governor's role in managing elections.

It's the first time the high court has waded into the ongoing political battle between lawmakers and Cooper that began after he narrowly beat incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last November. GOP lawmakers have sought to diminish Cooper's powers ever since.

The governor's lawyers told the seven-member court that the General Assembly violated the constitution's separation of powers requirement by reshaping the state elections board in ways that entrench Republican advantage. Elections boards are examples of the types of bodies that implement laws, functions that the state constitution requires from governors.
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Judge refuses to end Roman Polanski sex assault case

Legal Insight 2017/08/21 09:37   Bookmark and Share
A Los Angeles judge on Friday denied the impassioned plea of Roman Polanski's victim to end a four-decade-old sexual assault case against the fugitive director.
 
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski must return to California if he expects to resolve the charges. The Oscar winner fled the country on the eve of sentencing in 1978.

Gordon's ruling follows a request by Samantha Geimer to end the legal proceedings. The ruling was issued on Polanski's 84th birthday and blamed the director for the fact that the case was still alive.

"Her statement is dramatic evidence of the long-lasting and traumatic effect these crimes, and defendant's refusal to obey court orders and appear for sentencing, is having on her life," Gordon wrote.

Harland Braun, Polanski's attorney, said the ruling came after the judge asked for proposals on how to resolve the case.

Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with Geimer when she was 13. She has said he drugged, raped and sodomized her.
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Open records policy set for administrative court records

Legal Insight 2017/08/11 08:44   Bookmark and Share
Kentucky's Supreme Court justices have approved an open records policy to guide how the public accesses administrative records in the state court system.

State officials say the first open records policy for the Administrative Office of the Courts takes effect Aug. 15. The AOC is the operations arm of the state's court system.

The new policy describes how to submit an open records request to AOC.

Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. says the judicial branch has long complied with the "spirit" of the open records law, but says it's time to formalize its commitment in a written policy.

First Amendment expert and Louisville lawyer Jon Fleischaker says he's looked forward to the time when the public had definitive guidance on how to access the court system's administrative records.

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EU closer to sanctions on Poland over changes in judiciary

Legal Insight 2017/07/15 22:47   Bookmark and Share
The European Union is coming closer to imposing sanctions on Poland for the government's attempt to take control over the judiciary, a senior official warned Wednesday, but he said the bloc was still open to dialogue.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke Wednesday in Brussels, shortly after Poland's lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to send a contentious draft law that would reorganize the nation's top Supreme Court for more work by a special parliamentary commission.

Timmermans said that the EU was closer to triggering Article 7 against Poland because its recent steps toward the judiciary "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law" and threaten putting the judiciary "under full political control of the government." But he said that dialogue between the EU and Poland should continue while the legislation is being worked on.

The EU's Article 7 allows the bloc to strip a nation of its voting rights. Article 7 was envisioned to ensure democratic standards in EU members. It requires unanimity among all other member states.

The vote in Poland's parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party, was preceded by a heated debate and street protests. It was the latest in a string of conflicts over the policies of the conservative party, which won power in a 2015 election. The government is also under strong criticism from other EU leaders.

Lawmakers voted 434-6 with one abstention for the commission for justice and human rights to review and issue its opinion on the draft law, which gives politicians, not lawyers, the power over appointments to the Supreme Court and reorganizes its structure.

The head of the commission, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, said it wasn't clear when the commission would convene and when its opinion would be known. He said the number of amendments proposed by the opposition was aimed at obstructing its work.

In a heated debate Tuesday, the opposition proposed more than 1,000 amendments to the draft, which, it says, kills judicial independence and destroys the democratic principle of the separation of the judiciary from the executive power.

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