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Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Attorney Blogs | 2017/11/16 21:52
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.



German Court: Kuwait Airways Can Refuse Israeli Passengers
Court Feed News | 2017/11/15 19:52
A German court ruled Thursday that Kuwait's national airline didn't have to transport an Israeli citizen because the carrier would face legal repercussions at home if it did.

The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of the Middle Eastern country's boycott of Israel.

The court said it didn't evaluate whether "this law make sense," but that the airline risked repercussions that were "not reasonable" for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.

An Israeli citizen, who was identified in court papers as Adar M., a student living in Germany, sued Kuwait Airways after it canceled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City.

The cancellation came a few days before M.'s scheduled departure in August 2016 when he revealed he had an Israeli passport. The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier.

The man refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.

The court rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, calling it "unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany."

Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker expressed a similar view. "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt," Becker said.

Courts in the United States and Switzerland previously have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in comparable cases, the German news agency dpa reported.



Court gives go-ahead for minimum alcohol price in Scotland
Court Feed News | 2017/11/14 05:51
Britain's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland — a watershed moment for public health advocates alarmed at the level of abuse.

The court on Wednesday rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the policy of setting a floor price per unit of alcohol. Health advocates argue that the increasing affordability of alcohol is leading to an increase in consumption.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that she was "absolutely delighted" by the decision that she says will prove to be a "bold and necessary move to improve public health."

During the 1980s alcohol deaths in Scotland had been relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, but in 2006 drink-related deaths peaked at 1,546.


Samsung worker killed by brain tumor wins compensation case
Attorney Blogs | 2017/11/13 05:51
Overturning an appeal court's decision, South Korea's Supreme Court said Tuesday the family of a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumor should be eligible for state compensation for an occupational disease.

The ruling on Lee Yoon-jung, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 30 and died two years later, reflects a shift in the handling of such cases in South Korea.

Workers used to have the onus of proving the cause of a disease caused by their work. But after years of campaigning by labor advocates to raise awareness about the obstacles workers face in getting information about chemicals used in manufacturing, courts have begun to sometimes rule in favor of workers.

Lee worked at a Samsung chip factory for six years from 1997 to 2003 but there was no record available of the levels of chemicals she was exposed to while working there.

An appeals court denied the claim filed by Lee, based on government investigations into the factory conducted after she left the company. The investigations reported that the workers' exposure to some toxins, such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, were lower than maximum permissible limits. They did not measure exposure levels to other chemicals or investigate their health risks.

The Supreme Court said such limitations in government investigations should not be held against a worker with a rare disease whose cause is unknown.

The case filed by Lee's family is the second time this year South Korea's highest court has ruled in favor of a worker. In August, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court's ruling that denied compensation to a former Samsung LCD factory worker with multiple sclerosis.

The government-run Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, the defendant in the case, did not respond to requests for comment.

Lim Ja-woon, the lawyer representing Lee, said brain tumors are the second-most common disease, after leukemia, among former Samsung workers who sought compensation or financial aid from the government or from Samsung for a possible occupational disease. He said 27 Samsung Electronics workers have been diagnosed with brain tumors, including eight people who worked at the same factory as Lee.


Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades
Headline News | 2017/11/11 05:51
President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America's federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation's diversity.

So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump's most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.



Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays
Law & Politics | 2017/11/10 09:50
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.


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