Alaska Supreme Court won't block Medicaid expansion

Topics in Legal News 2015/09/01 14:17   Bookmark and Share
Thousands of lower-income Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid after the Alaska Supreme Court on Monday refused to temporarily block the state from expanding the health care program.

The win capped a big day for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who earlier flew with President Barack Obama from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage.

"The Alaska Supreme Court's ruling today brings final assurance that thousands of working Alaskans will have access to health care tomorrow," Walker said in a statement issued Monday evening.

Walker earlier this summer announced plans to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage after state legislators tabled his expansion legislation for further review.

The Legislative Council, acting on behalf of lawmakers, sued to stop expansion.

Thirty other states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, or plan to do so, to include all adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The federal government agreed to pay all costs for the new enrollees through 2016, but it will begin lowering its share in 2017. States will pay 10 percent of the costs by 2020.

Some Alaska legislators have expressed concern with adding more people to a system they consider broken. Administration officials have acknowledged the current Medicaid program isn't sustainable, but they see expansion as a way to get federal dollars to help finance reform efforts.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner denied the request from lawmakers to halt expansion while a lawsuit moves forward. The Alaska Supreme Court on Monday agreed, saying lawyers for the lawmakers failed to show Pfiffner erred when denying the motion for a preliminary injunction.

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Brother of murder victim attacks defendant in court

Topics in Legal News 2015/02/04 09:44   Bookmark and Share
The brother of a murder victim has been arrested after authorities say he attacked his sister's killer in Onslow County court.

Authorities say 26-year-old Alfonso Law of Acworth, Georgia, has been charged with contempt of court, assault on a government official, simple assault, and disorderly conduct.

News outlets report that Law charged at 26-year-old Pernell Jones on Monday as Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Anita Law.

After Jones admitted to killing the teenager, Law rushed at him and both men ended up on the floor before deputies pulled them apart,

Jones was sentenced to between 16 and 20 years in prison.

Alfonso Law goes before Judge Charles Henry on the contempt charge Thursday. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney.
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High court won't hear challenge to Vermont campaign law

Topics in Legal News 2015/01/13 12:32   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to part of Vermont's campaign finance laws that impose contribution limits on political action committees.

The justices on Monday declined to hear an appeal from the Vermont Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group. The group argued that Vermont's campaign finance registration, reporting and disclosure requirements for PACs were too broad and unconstitutional.

The group argued that a subcommittee it created should not be subject to Vermont's $2,000 limit on contributions to PACs because the subcommittee does not give money directly to candidates and makes only independent expenditures.

But a federal judge rejected those arguments, finding that there was no clear accounting between the two committees. A federal appeals court agreed.
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Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada gay marriage laws in court

Topics in Legal News 2014/09/07 16:22   Bookmark and Share
For the first time since it declared California's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, the federal appeals court in San Francisco is readying to hear arguments over same-sex weddings in a political and legal climate that's vastly different than when it overturned Proposition 8 in 2012.

State and federal court judges have been striking down bans in more than a dozen states at a rapid rate since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

Now, three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — all appointed by Democrats and one of whom wrote the opinion overturning Proposition 8 — are set to hear arguments Monday on gay marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii.

"It seemed like such an uphill battle when I started," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I really couldn't imagine then that we would be where we are now."

Minter has been fighting for gay marriage for 21 years, was instrumental in challenging bans in California and Utah and is representing gay couples seeking to overturn Idaho's prohibition.
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NC Supreme Court again weighs Duke Energy rates

Topics in Legal News 2014/09/06 16:23   Bookmark and Share
North Carolina's highest court is examining whether state utilities regulators correctly weighed the consumer impact of two rate increases for a Duke Energy operating unit.

The state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Monday in two lawsuits in which Attorney General Roy Cooper argues regulators didn't sufficiently consider the size of rate increases. The two rate cases involve Duke Energy Carolinas, a Duke Energy subsidiary serving customers in Durham and western North Carolina.

One case involves a 4.5 percent average increase approved last year for two years, growing to a 5.1 percent increase thereafter. The second involves a 7.2 percent rate increase originally approved in 2012. Consumers are already paying the higher rates.

Cooper appealed the 2012 rate increase and the Supreme Court last year ordered the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reconsider its size in light of its effect on customers. The commission did, but came to the same conclusion.

Cooper's staff attorneys argued in court filings that regulators didn't really make the findings of fact about the effect of changing economic conditions on customers required by the Supreme Court in last year's ruling.
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Court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims

Topics in Legal News 2014/07/28 13:34   Bookmark and Share
A divided federal appeals court on Thursday threw out claims potentially worth billions of dollars against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Chiquita, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.

The majority cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum that imposed limits on attempts by foreigners to use U.S. courts to seek damages against corporations for human rights abuses abroad. Chiquita had insisted that ruling meant the Colombians' lawsuit had to be tossed out.

"We are gratified that the U.S. Court of Appeals has now agreed with us and the claims have been dismissed," said Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd in an email statement. "The decision reinforces what Chiquita has maintained from the beginning — that Chiquita is not responsible for the tragic violence that has plagued Colombia."
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