Arkansas candidate's political ties targeted in court race

Legal Insight 2020/02/22 13:35   Bookmark and Share
The race for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court is technically nonpartisan, but the close ties of one of the two main candidates to the state Republican Party — she's married to its leader — highlight just how partisan such campaigns have become, with outside conservative groups outspending the candidates themselves.

Barbara Webb, chief administrative law judge for the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission and the wife of the state Republican Party chairman, is running against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch in the March 3 election.

Although both candidates have been promising to be independent voices if elected to the court, Welch has been making noise about Webb's appeals to Republicans and speeches to GOP gatherings around the state. She's had public support from top Republican leaders, including Sen. Tom Cotton and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and one of Webb's campaign mailings features a photo of GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“It hadn't escaped my notice that party politics is the family business,” Welch said recently. “It is some concern to me. I noticed that she's pretty much talking to an echo chamber of one political party.”

Webb and Welch are running for the seat being vacated by retiring Justice Jo Hart, and whoever wins will be elected to an eight year term. The court has angered conservatives in recent years with rulings blocking part of the state's plan to execute eight inmates in quick succession in 2017 and disqualifying a GOP-backed 2018 ballot measure that sought to cap the amount of damages that could be awarded in lawsuits.
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Ruling ends court fight over merger of 2 school districts

Legal Insight 2020/02/09 19:23   Bookmark and Share
A court ruling is ending a legal fight over the voluntary merger of two school districts in south Mississippi.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday that opponents waited too long to file a lawsuit, the Hattiesburg American reported.

In April 2017, the Lumberton Public School District and the Lamar County School District voted to consolidate. The plan included some territory and affected some students in Pearl River County.

The Mississippi Board of Education approved the plan in June 2017, and the two districts consolidated in July 2018. Lamar County schools officials agreed to keep Lumberton schools open and have Lumberton students attend those schools. The officials also hired Lumberton teachers.

Pearl River County officials filed a lawsuit to oppose the Lamar and Lumberton merger. They aregued that students who live in Pearl River County should attend school in Pearl River County. A chancery judge ruled against the Pearl River County plaintiffs, and they appealed to the state Supreme Court. The consolidation remains in place.


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Wood County commissioner reprimanded by Supreme Court

Legal Insight 2020/01/30 11:01   Bookmark and Share
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday reprimanded a part-time Wood County circuit court commissioner for not removing himself from hearing a case involving an attorney who was a personal friend.

The court reprimanded part-time commissioner Kenneth Gorski after agreeing with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission's determination that Gorski had willfully violated several rules of the judicial conduct code. Gorski works about two afternoons a month as a part-time circuit court commissioner, a job he started in 2014.

The complaint stems from a small claims case that Gorski should have recused himself from because he was personal friends for more than 20 years with the attorney, the Supreme Court said. They went on four overseas vacations together between 2015 and 2018 as well as frequent overnight golfing trips, the Supreme Court said.

During the trial, Gorski lost his temper with the defendant who was opposed by his attorney friend, groaning in anger and making sarcastic comments, the Supreme Court said.
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Bangladesh court orders 231 factories closed to save river

Legal Insight 2020/01/19 16:00   Bookmark and Share
Bangladesh’s High Court has asked authorities to shut down 231 factories surrounding the highly polluted main river in the nation’s capital, lawyers and activists said Tuesday.

Manzil Murshid, who filed a petition with the court seeking its intervention, said the factories are mainly small dyeing, tanning and rubber plants operating without approval from the Department of Environment. Such factories often are able to operate with the backing of influential politicians or by bribing government officials.

The court’s decision Monday on the factories near the River Buriganga was hailed by environment activists despite some previous court orders that were not carried out by government authorities, Murshid said.

Murshid represents Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, a domestic advocacy group.

He said the decision came after the environment department submitted a report on 231 factories that operate illegally and contribute highly to the pollution. The court also asked the officials to prepare “a complete list of illegal factories or factories without effluent treatment plants” operating in and around Dhaka within three months.

“This is a good decision. The court has asked the authorities to disconnect water, electricity and other utility services for factories that are polluting the Buriganga,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Amatul Karim, who represented the Department of Environment in the case, said the court’s order came after a thorough examination of the history of the factories, the level of pollution of the river and overall damage to the environment.
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WikiLeaks' Assange in UK court fighting extradition to USA

Legal Insight 2020/01/10 10:20   Bookmark and Share
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a brief court appearance Monday in his bid to prevent extradition to the United States to face serious espionage charges.

He and his lawyers complained they weren't being given enough time to meet to plan their battle against U.S. prosecutors seeking to put him on trial for WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

The 48-year-old was brought to court from Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He saluted the public gallery, which was packed with ardent supporters including the musician MIA, when he entered the courtroom. He later raised his right fist in defiance when he was taken to holding cells to meet with lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Peirce said officials at Belmarsh Prison are making it extremely difficult for her to meet with Assange.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way ?- it is a breach of a defendant's rights,” she said.

Assange refrained from making political statements. He confirmed his name and date of birth, and at one point said he didn't understand all of the proceedings against him during the brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He faces 18 charges in the U.S., including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer. He has denied wrongdoing, claiming he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.

Many advocacy groups have supported Assange's claim that the charges would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.
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President, Supreme Court top Wisconsin races in 2020

Legal Insight 2020/01/04 10:23   Bookmark and Share
Everyone knows Wisconsin will be in the spotlight for the presidential race in 2020. It's one of just a few states where the electorate is so evenly divided, it could swing either way. That is the biggest prize on the ballot this year, but it's far from the only contest for Wisconsin voters. Here are the highlights of what's on Wisconsin's political horizon in 2020:

PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Wisconsin will be the focus of the presidential race all year. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and both sides expect another close race. Wisconsin is one of just a few states expected to be competitive and for that reason, many expect it to be the epicenter of the fight for the White House. Democrats will get a chance to vote for their nominee on April 7. With a large field and unsettled race, many expect it to still be undecided for Wisconsin's primary. Milwaukee hosts the Democratic National Convention in July and both sides are expected to flood the state with money ? and candidate appearances ? before the November election.

SUPREME COURT

Wisconsin elects its Supreme Court justices and one of them who was appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, is up for election in April. Dan Kelly was appointed in 2016 and now he's running for a full 10-year term. He's part of the current 5-2 conservative majority on the court. If he wins, that majority will not change. But if one of two liberal candidates prevail, the conservative hold on the court will drop to 4-3. Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone have Democratic support in the race. A Feb. 18 primary will narrow the field to two candidates. The winner will be elected on April 7. That is the same day as Wisconsin's presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high. That could spell trouble for Kelly.

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