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S Korea to retake military command
Legal World News | 2007/02/24 09:36

The United States will hand back wartime operational control of South Korea's armed forces in 2012. The deal reached between Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, and Kim Jang Soo, his Korean counterpart, will end a command arrangement that has been in place since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Under the deal announced on Friday, the current ROK (South Korea)-US Combined Forces Command, which is headed by a US general, will be disbanded, and American forces in the country will move into a supporting role.
 
"The agreement will serve as a key launching pad for a take-off in the South Korea-US alliance, praised as the most successful bond in the past 50 years," the South Korean president's office said in a statement.

The United States, stretched by engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, had hoped to transfer command as early as 2009, but ultimately agreed to South Korea's insistence that responsibilities be shifted at a slower pace.



Survivors await UN court's Bosnian war ruling
Legal World News | 2007/02/24 09:28

Survivors and relatives of victims of the Srebrinica massacre are on their way to The Hague for a ruling on a demand to hold Serbia accountable for mass killings during the Bosnian War. The case, brought by Bosnia, has been described as one of the most significant in the International Court's history. "We've been waiting a long time, and now we want to go there and witness justice for ourselves," said one woman boarding a bus in Sarajevo for The Hague. "We have been deceived many times before and now we want justice, finally," another said.

The UN Court in The Hague opened the case last year, 13 years after Bosnia first sued what remained of the Yugoslav state from which it broke away in 1992. At least 100,000 died in the ensuing conflict. Bosnia says modern-day Serbia should pay billions of euros in compensation for the genocide and other war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims during the fighting.

The most notorious episode came at Srebrinica when around 8,000 Bosnian men were massacred. Serbia's lawyers have argued the case between two multi-ethnic states does not reflect a war fought along ethnic lines. The ruling is expected on Monday.



N.Y. home court in arena suit - judge
Legal Career News | 2007/02/24 09:26

A lawsuit against the controversial Atlantic Yards basketball arena should be bounced out of federal court, a judge ruled yesterday. The suit challenging the use of eminent domain to make way for Forest City Ratner's $4.2 billion development in Brooklyn should be heard in a state court, Magistrate Robert Levy decided.

"This action represents important public policy concerns and is essentially local in nature," Levy wrote. "The state's interest in adjudicating this case in its own forum outweighs the federal interest in retaining jurisdiction."

The plaintiffs' lawyers now have two weeks to file objections to keep the case in federal court. The case was brought by 13 property owners facing eviction.

"We're disappointed found a basis to recommend dismissal," said Candace Carponter, a member of the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The project calls for an arena for the NBA's Nets and 16 towers with residential and commercial space. Construction began Tuesday.

While opponents fear the project will create a traffic nightmare and ruin the neighborhood's character, supporters say the project will be a boon for Brooklyn and the city.



CA heightens push to ease prison crowding
Law & Politics | 2007/02/23 19:15

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged legislative leaders yesterday to act swiftly to ease prison overcrowding, saying he would consider early release of inmates who are “old, feeble and sick” and “pose no threat to the public.”  The governor said that if lawmakers do not solve the long-standing overcrowding problem, the federal courts may order the release of criminals and the construction of new prisons, taking money that would otherwise go to education and health care.

“This is, of course, unacceptable. But we can make certain this doesn't happen if we act now,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference after meeting earlier with legislative leaders. He said he is confident that a Superior Court decision Tuesday blocking an emergency move to transfer inmates to prisons in other states will be overturned on appeal.

The out-of-state transfers have been the administration's only plan to quickly ease overcrowding. About 360 prisoners have been transferred, far short of the goal of 5,000.

AdvertisementIn response to a question, Schwarzenegger said the new urgency comes from an order last week by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco giving the state 90 days to spell out how the inmate population will be reduced in each of the next two years.

“I think by having this order it helps us to speed up the process and really start negotiating,” Schwarzenegger said.

California has more than 170,000 prisoners jammed into prisons designed for 100,000. Inmates are packed into gyms, classrooms and hallways – sometimes in beds stacked three high. Officials are concerned about potential riots.



Second Ohio Man Sentenced for Hate Crimes
Court Feed News | 2007/02/23 19:14

Joseph Kuzlik, of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for committing a racially motivated crime which violated the federally protected civil rights of a Cleveland family. Kuzlik was also ordered to pay restitution of $23,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $767 to the Ohio EPA, and additional sums to the individual victims who suffered financial losses as a result of the offenses. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Patricia Anne Gaughan said, “The abusive and serious nature of this offense is obvious to anyone with a modicum of decency and morality.  I cannot imagine the terror that was inflicted on these victims.  A message must be sent loud and clear that this behavior will not be tolerated and will result in a punishment at the high end of the guideline range.” 

On Nov. 27, 2006, Kuzlik pleaded guilty to conspiring to interfere with the federally protected housing rights of an interracial family because of their race, and for making false statements to federal investigators. Another Cleveland resident, David Fredericy, was sentenced on Jan. 17, 2007, to serve 33 months in prison for his role in the crime.

Fredericy and Kuzlik engaged in a series of acts intended to threaten and intimidate interracial residents in their neighborhood, including placing toxic mercury on the porch of a family with children for the purpose of intimidating them because one of the parents was African-American. As part of his guilty plea, Kuzlik admitted that he and Fredericy were attempting to intimidate the family and drive them from the neighborhood. In order to keep their unlawful actions secret, both Fredericy and Kuzlik lied to federal investigators from the EPA, the federal agency initially charged with cleaning up the mercury and investigating the incident.

“Bias-motivated acts of violence are despicable and intolerable, especially when they involve innocent children,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of these types of federal hate crimes.”

Gregory White, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said, “Today’s sentence is a fitting conclusion to a joint effort by the FBI, the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, and the Cleveland Police Department, and demonstrates the commitment of both state and federal law enforcement authorities to protecting every citizen’s basic right to live in and enjoy his or her own home without fear of racial intimidation.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann C. Rowland and Trial Attorney Kristy L. Parker of the Civil Rights Division.



Egypt cleric alleges torture after 2003 CIA rendition
Legal World News | 2007/02/23 09:03

Speaking publicly for the first time, Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr said Thursday that he was tortured by Egyptian officials during his four-year detention in Egypt following an alleged 2003 kidnapping and extraordinary rendition from Milan. Nasr, who has been at the heart of Italian judicial proceedings against US and Italian intelligence agents implicated in his alleged kidnapping, spoke to reporters outside the unrelated trial of 22-year-old Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil in Alexandria. Released from prison early last week, Nasr says he was tortured after being grabbed off a street in Milan and ultimately sent to Egypt. Late last week Italian Judge Caterina Interlandi issued indictments for 31 US and Italian intelligence agents for their alleged role in the abduction.

Testimony during the Italian proceedings leading up to the indictments disclosed that the CIA had contacted Italian intelligence about the possibility of performing extraordinary renditions in the days following the September 11 attacks. Also last week, officials in Switzerland announced that they were launching a criminal probe into the alleged unlawful use of Swiss airspace by US agents to transport Nasr from Milan to Germany. Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro has said he will likely try the US agents in absentia, as the US is not expected to turn them over for trial.



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