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Court hears testimony on whether Assange was spied on
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/27 19:57
Spain’s National Court heard testimony Monday in an investigation into whether a Spanish company was hired to spy on Julian Assange during the seven years the WikiLeaks founder spent in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

The court is investigating whether David Morales, a Spaniard, and his Undercover Global S.L. security agency invaded the privacy of Assange and his visitors at the embassy by secretly recording their meetings. The intelligence that Morales’ company collected is suspected of being handed over to third parties, according to court papers.

Among those set to face the court's questions Monday were prominent Spanish lawyer Baltasar Garzón, who is part of Assange’s legal team; former Ecuadorean consul in London Fidel Narváez; and Stella Morris, a legal adviser and Assange’s partner, who revealed earlier this year that she had two children with him while he lived in the embassy. Staff of the Spanish security company are due to testify on Tuesday.

Assange, whose lawyers filed a complaint at the court to trigger the investigation, is in a British prison after being removed from the embassy last year. He is fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges over the activities of WikiLeaks.

The court is conducting an investigation, begun last year, before deciding whether there is evidence of wrongdoing that warrants a trial.

Undercover Global, also known as UC Global, was hired by Ecuador’s government to provide security at the Ecuadorean embassy in London between 2015 and 2018. Its main task was to secure the property’s perimeter, including the deployment of security staff, due to Assange’s presence inside, court papers say.



US Supreme Court denies Nevada church’s appeal of virus rule
Class Action News | 2020/07/25 02:57
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 50% of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Three justices wrote strongly worded dissenting opinions on behalf of the four conservatives who said they would have granted the injunctive relief while the court fully considers the merits of the case.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito said. “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance.”

Kavanaugh also wrote his own dissent, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said today’s world “with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges.”

“But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Gorsuch wrote.

David Cortman, senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church, said in an email sent to The Associated Press late Friday that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening.”

“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution,” he said.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


Ohio court to hear arguments in appeal over judge shot video
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/21 16:31
Surveillance video showing an Ohio judge being shot and wounded at a courthouse before the assailant was himself shot and killed is a public record that should be released, according to arguments by an attorney for The Associated Press in a case before the state Supreme Court.

The video shows Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. being shot outside a Steubenville courthouse in eastern Ohio in August 2017 by 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond, and then Richmond being killed by a probation officer.

Richmond had a pending wrongful death lawsuit in front of Bruzzese at the time. The judge recovered and returned to the bench. The Ohio Supreme Court planned oral arguments for Tuesday. A decision isn't expected for weeks.

The day of the shooting, the AP asked for a copy of the surveillance video recorded by a camera positioned in front of the courthouse, but Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin denied that request, saying the video was a confidential law enforcement record and part of the courthouse’s infrastructure security system, among other arguments.

In February 2019, the Ohio Court of Claims sided with an appeal brought by the AP, saying the video doesn’t contain information used to protect a public office from “attack, interference or sabotage.”
 
Hanlin appealed, and in September 2019, the 7th District Court of Appeals in Youngstown agreed with the prosecutor, determining the video is exempt from being released under Ohio public record laws as part of the courthouse’s security measures.
 
The appeals court said, in part, that the Court of Claims should have considered affidavits submitted by Hanlin, based on her personal knowledge of the situation, that the video met the security exemption under state law.



Justice Ginsburg says cancer has returned, but won’t retire
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/19 15:12
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Friday she is receiving chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer, but has no plans to retire from the Supreme Court.

The 87-year-old Ginsburg, who has had four earlier bouts with cancer including pancreatic cancer last year, said her treatment so far has succeeded in reducing lesions on her liver and she will continue chemotherapy sessions every two weeks “to keep my cancer at bay.”

“I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that,” Ginsburg said in a statement issued by the court.

Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, is the senior liberal justice on a court that leans conservative by a 5-4 margin. Her departure before the election could give President Donald Trump the chance to shift the court further to the right.

Ginsburg’s history with cancer goes back more than 20 years. In addition to being treated without surgery for a tumor on her pancreas last year, she also underwent surgery for colorectal cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and lung cancer in December 2018.

Dr. Alan Venook, a pancreatic cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who is not involved in Ginsburg’s care, said that “clearly, she’s got incurable disease now” because of the spread to her liver.

On average, patients with advanced pancreatic cancer live about a year, but the fact that her disease took so long to recur from her initial pancreatic cancer surgery in 2009 and previous treatments “suggests that it’s not been growing rapidly,” he said.

“She’s above average in many ways.” and has done remarkably well with all her treatments so far, Venook said. “There’s no reason to think she would die imminently.”

Asked earlier this week about a possible opening on the court before the election, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the president would act quickly if any opening were to arise. Meadows commented after news that Ginsburg had  left the hospital after receiving treatment for an infection, which she said Friday was unrelated to the cancer.

“I can’t imagine if he had a vacancy on the Supreme Court that he would not very quickly make the appointment and look for the Senate to take quick action,” Meadows said, adding that he didn’t want any comment to be seen as wishing Ginsburg “anything but the very best.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that if there were to be a vacancy on the court during this year’s election cycle, the Republican-controlled Senate would likely confirm a nominee selected by Trump.

Ginsburg said she was disclosing her cancer treatment now because she is satisfied “that my treatment course is now clear.”

Venook said the chemotherapy drug Ginsburg said she is getting, gemcitabine, is one that’s often used. Immunotherapy, which Ginsburg’s statement said she tried unsuccessfully, has not worked well for pancreatic cancer, Venook said.

Ginsburg said a medical scan in February revealed growths on her liver and she began chemotherapy in May.

“My most recent scan on July 7 indicated significant reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease,” she said. “I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment.”


Given a chance, Trump would push court pick before election
U.S. Legal News | 2020/07/17 22:12
President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have tried to make it clear: Given the chance, they would push through a Supreme Court nominee should a vacancy occur before Election Day.

The issue has taken on new immediacy with the disclosure Friday that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is receiving chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer after four earlier bouts with the disease. The 87-year-old liberal, who apologized in 2016 for her pointed public criticism of Trump during his first campaign, says she has no plans to retire.

The development has focused even more on what's at stake this election, with the winner in position to help shape the trajectory of the court for years to come.

Trump administration officials have underscored that Trump would not hesitate to fill an opening before voters have their say Nov. 3, less than four months away, on whether to give him a second term.

Four years ago, also in a presidential election year, the GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote when President Barack Obama, a Democrat, nominated Merrick Garland, a federal judge, to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia after his death in February. Nine months before that year's election, McConnell said voters should determine who would nominate the person to fill that seat.




New Orleans councilman, attorney plead not guilty to fraud
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/07/14 16:41
New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and an attorney in his law firm pleaded not guilty to federal tax fraud charges on Friday.

Williams, 47, and Nicole Burdett, 39, appeared remotely before a federal magistrate judge and entered their pleas to charges of conspiracy, preparing false or fraudulent tax returns and failing to file tax forms related to cash received, news outlets reported.

The two were charged in an 11-count indictment  last month following a yearslong investigation led by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

Williams, a criminal defense lawyer, was accused of inflating his business expenses from 2013 to 2017 in order to reduce his tax liability by more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana. The indictment also alleged Williams and Burdett, an attorney in Williams’ law office who also handled administrative duties, failed to file the proper reports on cash payments from clients totaling $66,516.

Williams’ attorney, Billy Gibbens, has contended his client was just following the advice of his tax preparer, saying the accountant made the errors on his own, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. Michael Magner, an attorney for Burdett, also said his client was innocent and did not have any role in the tax decisions.

Williams and Gibbens raised questions about the timing of the indictment as Williams prepares to challenge Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for the top prosecuting role. The campaign qualifying period for the Nov. 3 election is set to end July 24. Williams has said he still plans to run for the seat, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.  A preliminary trial date for the case was set for Sept. 14.



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