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Ex-Congressman Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison
Court Feed News | 2007/01/20 01:11

Former US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) was sentenced Friday to 30 months imprisonment for receiving gifts and campaign contributions in exchange for political favors. Ney pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy and making false statements in relation to his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In response to the political corruption scandal, the Republican congressman resigned from the US House of Representatives in November.

Ney's prison sentence will include two years of probation and a $6,000 fine. If he completes a prison alcohol rehabilitation program to address his recently-acknowledged alcohol abuse problem, his sentence could be reduced by up to a year. During sentencing proceedings, Ney's defense team provided evidence that he was a "functioning alcoholic" whose decision-making ability was clouded by his dependency on alcohol. US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected the claim, asserting that it didn't fully explain his corrupt behavior or excuse violating laws he was "sworn to enforce and uphold."



Klein to join law firm BLG as business adviser
Headline News | 2007/01/20 01:01

Less than a week after leaving provincial politics, former Alberta premier Ralph Klein has joined a top law firm to advise clients on business opportunities in the booming province.

Ralph Klein, the former Alberta premier whose grip on office earned him the sobriquet King Ralph, has gone from reigning to making rain.

The one-time TV reporter and high-school dropout announced yesterday he is joining national law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP as senior business adviser, just one month after resigning as premier and three days after relinquishing his seat in the Alberta Legislative Assembly.

Although not licensed to practise law, Mr. Klein says he will act as a resource for BLG lawyers working on files of key personal interest, such as energy development, health care reform and the evolution in securities law, among other things -- "although I need to bone up a bit on securities legislation."

Klein will devote about spend two-thirds of his time to the law firm and be based out of its Calgary office.

He is working with former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin to develop an energy policy for the Fraser Institute and he’s joining another conservative think-tank, the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

Klein will be a guest lecturer in the fall at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. The former premier also has commitments to be executive in residence at the University of Alberta, and chair of communications at Calgary’s Mount Royal College.



Ethics reform bill approved by Senate
Legal Career News | 2007/01/19 22:16

The US Senate passed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 by a 96-2 vote Thursday, but declined to create a Senate Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics breaches. The bill was the first major initiative taken by the Senate in the new Democrat-dominated session of Congress. The measure regulates lobbying activities by preventing lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, requiring stricter reporting of lobbying activity, preventing spouses of lawmakers from lobbying the Senate and extending the period a former senator must wait before undertaking lobbying activities to two years. The final text passed by the Senate, however, did not include a provision which would have required disclosure of grass-roots lobbying. Senators voted 55-43 not to include that provision in the bill.

The bill also requires clearer reporting of home state projects, denies pension benefits to those convicted of serious crimes and requires lawmakers to pay the full price fare when traveling on chartered planes. Opponents of the bill complained the measure discouraged free speech by deterring petition drives, but majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called the measure "the most significant legislation in ethics and lobbying reform we've had in the history of this country."



Bush´s domestic spy program under court review
Court Feed News | 2007/01/19 16:30
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rapped federal judges Wednesday for ruling on cases that affect national security policy. Judges, he contended, are unqualified to decide terrorism issues that he said are best settled by Congress or the president.

In a sharply worded speech directed at the third, and equal, branch of the government, Gonzales outlined some of the qualities the Bush administration looks for when selecting candidates for the federal bench. He condemned what he termed activist judges with lifetime appointments who "undermine the right of the people to govern themselves."

In nominating a judge, "we want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments," Gonzales said in the 20-minute speech to American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country."

Gonzales did not cite any specific activist jurists or give examples of national security cases.

Pressed later for examples, he noted that Congress approved the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes military trials for terrorism suspects, four months after the Supreme Court ruled the trials would violate U.S. and international law.

"I don't think the judiciary is equipped at all to make decisions about what's in the national security interests of our country," Gonzales said. "How would they go about doing that? They don't have embassies around the world to give them that information. They don't have intelligence agencies gathering up intelligence information. ... It was never intended that they would have that role."

Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said it is inevitable that courts would decide some of the most contentious questions involving national security.

"Some of the most difficult issues are about national security, how to balance national security and civil liberties - especially in the context of domestic surveillance and enemy combatants," Tobias said. "Those are critically important issues that the courts are being asked to resolve."

Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, also characterized efforts to retaliate against unpopular rulings as misguided. He mentioned a failed South Dakota proposal to sue or jail judges for making unpopular court decisions.

He also urged Congress to consider increasing the number of federal judges to handle heavy workloads and to offer them higher salaries to lure and keep the best ones on the bench.



Ethics reform bill approved by Senate
Legal Career News | 2007/01/19 16:28

The US Senate passed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 by a 96-2 vote Thursday, but declined to create a Senate Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics breaches. The bill was the first major initiative taken by the Senate in the new Democrat-dominated session of Congress. The measure regulates lobbying activities by preventing lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, requiring stricter reporting of lobbying activity, preventing spouses of lawmakers from lobbying the Senate and extending the period a former senator must wait before undertaking lobbying activities to two years. The final text passed by the Senate, however, did not include a provision which would have required disclosure of grass-roots lobbying. Senators voted 55-43 not to include that provision in the bill.

The bill also requires clearer reporting of home state projects, denies pension benefits to those convicted of serious crimes and requires lawmakers to pay the full price fare when traveling on chartered planes. Opponents of the bill complained the measure discouraged free speech by deterring petition drives, but majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called the measure "the most significant legislation in ethics and lobbying reform we've had in the history of this country."



Court upholds killing of 'Wal-Mart bill'
Court Feed News | 2007/01/18 16:52

A federal appeals court on Wednesday said the State of Maryland may not require large retailers (Wal-Mart was the target) to spend 8 percent of their payrolls on health care for employees. In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that said Maryland's law violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. (That federal labor law says companies may offer uniform health benefits across the country rather than deal with a variety of state requirements.)

"Hopefully this will send a message to other states," said the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that represents the interests of state lawmakers and advocates free-market policies. According to ALEC, five other states - Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi and New York -- have all filed "Fair Share" bills like the one that became law in Maryland. A Wal-Mart defense group -- Working Families for Wal-Mart -- applauded the appeals court ruling.



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