Attorney general applauds high court decision on water rule

Press Release 2018/01/27 11:32   Bookmark and Share
North Dakota's attorney general is applauding a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that recognizes federal district courts as the forum to hear legal challenges to an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem led a coalition of 12 states that obtained the first preliminary injunction against the "Waters of the U.S. Rule" in 2015 in North Dakota, arguing it would greatly and unlawfully expand the federal government's authority over states' land and water and the ability to control pollution.

The rule has never taken effect because of lawsuits and is now under review by President Donald Trump's administration.

Stenehjem says he'll ask the federal district court to resume North Dakota's case as soon as possible now that the jurisdiction issue has been resolved.


Indiana high court to take up police unreasonable force case

Press Release 2017/05/02 08:38   Bookmark and Share
The Indiana Supreme Court is to take up the case of a man who claims Evansville police were too forceful when they used a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades to serve a search warrant.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports the court is to consider 31-year-old Mario Deon Watkins' case, which rises from his felony drug conviction. He claims the Evansville Police Department used unreasonable force when a SWAT team and flash-bang grenades were used to serve a search warrant.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in January reversed Watkins' sentence, criticizing use of the grenades that went off in the same room as a 9-month-old baby. But Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is asking the state's Supreme Court to clarify whether the state constitution prohibits police from using a SWAT team or the grenades.

Bahrain court more than doubles opposition leader's sentence

Press Release 2016/06/01 23:58   Bookmark and Share
A Bahraini appeals court on Monday more than doubled the prison term for the country's top Shiite opposition figure in a ruling that his political bloc blasted as "unacceptable and provocative."

Sheikh Ali Salman now faces nine years behind bars, up from an earlier four, following his conviction last year on charges that included incitement and insulting the Interior Ministry.

Salman is the secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, the country's largest Shiite political group. He was a key figure in Bahrain's 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising, which was dominated by the island nation's Shiite majority and sought greater political rights from the Sunni monarchy.

Authorities crushed the initial uprising in a matter of weeks with help from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Localized protests continue in Shiite communities, with young activists frequently clashing with police.

Occasional small bomb attacks have killed police officers in the country, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The case against Salman relates to speeches he gave between 2012 and 2014, though Al-Wefaq has said his words were taken out of context. He was convicted and sentenced by a lower court in June.

Both sides appealed that verdict, with the court ruling Monday in favor of the prosecution while rejecting Salman's appeal, according to a statement carried by the official Bahrain News Agency.


Court: Some NC legislator emails must be released

Press Release 2014/11/21 16:29   Bookmark and Share
North Carolina legislators aren't required to give up emails with other lawmakers and staff to those suing over the state's election-overhaul law, but correspondence with third parties is largely fair game, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Peake ruled on the extent of legislative confidentiality in three lawsuits filed against the state and officials including Gov. Pat McCrory and challenging provisions of the 2013 law. Attorneys are collecting evidence for trial on the lawsuits next summer.

Those who sued demanded emails and other correspondence from more than a dozen state legislators that they hoped would provide insight to why the law was approved. The lawsuits, filed by civil rights groups, the U.S. government and voters among others, say that elements of the law are unconstitutional and discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act because they harm minority voters.

The lawsuits seek to overturn provisions that reduced the number of early voting days by one week, ended same-day registration during the early-voting period and mandate photo identification to vote in 2016.

In her ruling, Peake said legislative privilege applies to communications between legislators and their aides but not between lawmakers and constituents or interest groups. The state's attorneys cited no authority by which lawmakers should receive the privilege simply because they expected privacy with the communications, she wrote.

Peake rejected a request by the suing groups to require state attorneys to create a log of specific documents with lawmakers or staff corresponding with each other and that lawmakers believe are subject to the privilege — presumably for Peake later to decide whether the documents should be disclosed.

The privilege log "would itself significantly intrude into the legislative sphere, and would also place a heavy burden on the legislators in contravention of one of the aims of the legislative privilege," she wrote.

Abortion-rights supporters welcomed the delay Tuesday.

Press Release 2014/11/05 13:15   Bookmark and Share
"Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed the women of Oklahoma a crucial victory by protecting their constitutional rights and restoring critical options for those seeking safe and legal abortion services," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is supporting efforts to fight the laws.

"Time and time again, courts are seeing that the true motive behind these underhanded and baseless restrictions is to push essential reproductive health care services out of reach for as many women as possible," she said.

A message seeking comment from Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was not immediately returned. A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said the governor was on the road on Election Day and was unsure if she could be reached for comment.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of an Oklahoma doctor who performs nearly half the state's abortions, seeking to block the law requiring admitting privileges law.

The physician, Dr. Larry Burns, said he had applied for admitting privileges at 16 nearby hospitals but had yet to get approval from any facility.

When Burns filed his lawsuit in October, Fallin — who signed the legislation into law in May— said she believed abortion was wrong and that she had been "proud to work with lawmakers in both parties to support legislation that protects the health and lives of both mothers and their unborn children."

Court: Silence can be used against suspects

Press Release 2014/08/18 14:19   Bookmark and Share

The California Supreme Court has ruled that the silence of suspects can be used against them.

Wading into a legally tangled vehicular manslaughter case, a sharply divided high court on Thursday effectively reinstated the felony conviction of a man accused in a 2007 San Francisco Bay Area crash that left an 8-year-old girl dead and her sister and mother injured.

Richard Tom was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter after authorities said he was speeding and slammed into another vehicle at a Redwood City intersection.

Prosecutors repeatedly told jurors during the trial that Tom's failure to ask about the victims immediately after the crash but before police read him his so-called Miranda rights showed his guilt.

Legal analysts said the ruling could affect future cases, allowing prosecutors to exploit a suspect's refusal to talk before invoking 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

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