Mississippi man takes Confederate flag fight to high court

Legal Insight 2017/06/29 09:45   Bookmark and Share
A black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state's Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against Moore, "a city could adopt 'White Supremacy Forever' as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag."

Mississippi's is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

However, several cities and towns and all eight of the state's public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.

The fresh scrutiny has extended to other Old South symbols on public display; New Orleans recently removed statues of Confederate officers and a monument to white supremacy, and other cities are considering similar demotions.

The lawsuit Moore filed in February 2016 says the Mississippi flag is "state-sanctioned hate speech," and seeks to have it declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed it in September without ruling on the merits, saying Moore lacked legal standing to sue because he failed to show the emblem caused an identifiable legal injury.
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Case of gay couple's wedding cake heads to Supreme Court

Legal Insight 2017/06/28 09:45   Bookmark and Share
A Colorado clash between gay rights and religion started as an angry Facebook posting about a wedding cake but now has big implications for anti-discrimination laws in 22 states.

Baker Jack Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away a same-sex couple who wanted a cake to celebrate their 2012 wedding.

The justices said Monday they will consider Phillips' case, which could affect all states. Twenty-two states include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws that bar discrimination in public accommodations.

Phillips argues that he turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins not because they are gay, but because their wedding violated Phillips' religious belief.

After the couple was turned away in 2012, they complained about Masterpiece Cakeshop on Facebook, then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The state sided with the couple.

"It solidified the right of our community to have a right to public accommodations, so future couples are not turned away from a business because of who they are," Mullins said Monday.

Phillips says that artisans cannot be compelled to produce works celebrating an event that violates the artist's religion. A lawyer for Phillips pointed out that another Denver-area baker was not fined for declining to bake a cake with an anti-gay message.

"The government in Colorado is picking and choosing which messages they'll support and which artistic messages they'll protect," said Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which took the baker's case.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the high court's conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The Colorado case could settle challenges from at least a half-dozen other artists in the wedding industry who are challenging laws in other states requiring them to produce work for same-sex ceremonies.
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D.C. on edge: rumors of new Supreme Court vacancy swirl

Legal Insight 2017/06/26 09:46   Bookmark and Share

White House sources think Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's ideological fulcrum, may announce his retirement today, as the justices gather on the bench for the last time this term.

If that happens, Day 158 instantly becomes President Trump's biggest moment.

Trump's first Court appointment, of Justice Neil Gorsuch, was a one-for-one ideological swap for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Replacing Kennedy would be even more historic and consequential: a momentous chance to edge the Court right, since Kennedy is the center of the Court — the one most willing to listen to both sides. On a controversial case, both sides pitch to him. It's been called "Kennedy's Court."

No one's predicting: Court watchers say no one knows, and Kennedy has said nothing publicly. He could well wait one more year: The Court buzz is that it'll be this year or next.

Be smart: Few domestic developments could more instantly and decisively change the national conversation — blotting out almost everything else, and vastly reducing the sting for conservatives is healthcare tanks.

A Washington wise man emails: "With two court appointments and maybe one more, Trump's presidency will be consequential even if he has few legislative achievements. This week may well demonstrate both."
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Ronaldo summoned to court, Mourinho accused of tax fraud

Legal Insight 2017/06/21 09:47   Bookmark and Share
Cristiano Ronaldo has been summoned to appear before a Spanish judge, and Jose Mourinho could be next.

Ronaldo and Mourinho are the latest members of the soccer elite to be accused of tax fraud in Spain. Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, among others, have already been convicted.

On Tuesday, Ronaldo was told to appear in court on July 31, while Mourinho was accused by a state prosecutor of defrauding Spain's Tax Office of 3.3 million euros ($3.7 million).

Ronaldo, who is in Russia at the Confederations Cup with Portugal's national soccer team, has played in Spain for Real Madrid since 2009. The 54-year-old Mourinho was Real Madrid coach from 2010-13. He now is the coach of English club Manchester United.

The cases are about the profits made from image rights, not salaries from their clubs. Real Madrid and Man United are not directly involved.

Both Ronaldo and Mourinho are represented by Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes. Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao and Real Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao, who have also been accused of tax fraud in Spain, are also clients of Mendes.

A request for comment from Mendes' agency, Gestifute, was not immediately answered.

Last week, Ronaldo was accused by a state prosecutor of four counts of tax fraud totaling 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million). The Portugal forward is now under official investigation and will have to appear in the Pozuelo de Alarcon court No. 1 on July 31. A judge will then decide if they are grounds to charge him with a crime.

The prosecutor said last Tuesday that there was evidence that Ronaldo used a shell company in the Virgin Islands to hide the money he had made from image rights. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.

The accusations against Ronaldo have caused speculation in Portugal and Spain that he is now considering leaving the country to play elsewhere.

The summoning of Ronaldo coincided with the same Madrid-based prosecutor's office accusing Mourinho of two counts of tax fraud.

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Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

Legal Insight 2017/06/19 09:47   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court will take up a momentous fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans across the United States.

At issue is whether Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin drew legislative districts that favored their party and were so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.

It will be the high court's first case in more than a decade on what's known as partisan gerrymandering. A lower court struck down the districts as unconstitutional last year.

The justices won't hear the arguments until the fall, but the case has already taken on a distinctly ideological, if not partisan, tone. Just 90 minutes after justices announced Monday that they would hear the case, the five more conservative justices voted to halt a lower court's order to redraw the state's legislative districts by November, in time for next year's elections.

The four more liberal justices, named to the court by Democrats, would have let the new line-drawing proceed even as the court considers the issue.

That divide could be significant. One factor the court weighs in making such decisions is which side seems to have a better chance of winning.

Republicans who control the state legislature assured the court that they could draw new maps in time for the 2018 elections, if the court strikes down the districts. If the state wins, there'll be no need for new districts.

Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into Republican electoral majorities. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps.

Both parties have tried to get the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.
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Roman Polanski sex victim to appear in court for first time

Legal Insight 2017/06/08 15:56   Bookmark and Share
The victim of Roman Polanski's sex assault 40 years ago is going to appeal directly to a judge to end the long-running case against the fugitive director, his lawyer said Thursday.

Samantha Geimer, 13 at the time of the crime, has long supported Polanski's efforts to end the legal saga that limits his freedom, but Friday will be the first time she's appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on his behalf, attorney Harland Braun said.

"She's tired of this case," Braun said. "The judge is just playing games with him."

The Oscar-winner has been a fugitive since he fled to France in 1978 on the eve of sentencing for the crime of having unlawful sex with a minor. Prosecutors dropped charges that he drugged, raped and sodomized the girl.

Polanski feared the judge was going to renege on a plea agreement and send him away for more time than the six weeks he served in prison during a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing.

His lawyers have been fighting for years to end the case and lift an international arrest warrant that confined him to his native France, Switzerland and Poland, where he fled the Holocaust.

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