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Overriding of gun-bill veto kills local laws
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 17:25

The Ohio Senate voted Tuesday to override outgoing Gov. Bob Taft's veto of a bill that will wipe out local gun laws, marking the first time in 29 years the legislature has rejected a gubernatorial veto.

Members of the Ohio Senate voted 21-12 Tuesday to override outgoing Ohio Governor Robert Taft's veto of a revised concealed-carry gun law that Taft claimed would preempt local gun-related legislation in some 80 Ohio communities. The House approved an override last week, making this the first time since 1977 that the Ohio legislature has successfully overcome a veto by the state's chief executive.

In his veto message last week, Taft noted that the new legislation would effectively replace several stricter local legal regimes, including assault weapons bans in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo, and emphasized the importance of allowing local communities to make laws appropriate to their own challenges and circumstances. Supporters of the new legislation have emphasized the importance of statewide legal uniformity.

A majority of respondents to an Ohio survey said overriding local gun laws was a bad idea, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Hamden, Conn.-Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The vote was the first override by the legislature since lawmakers rejected a veto by Gov. James Rhodes of an election revision bill in 1977.

"The governor strongly believes his veto was the right thing to do and that our cities should have the ability to protect their citizens through reasonable firearms regulation," said Taft spokesman Mark Rickel.

The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which opposes concealed carry, accused lawmakers of giving in to the powerful and politically generous National Rifle Association.

"The passage of HB 347 and the override of Gov. Taft's veto is an appalling arrogance against the will of and respect for the people of Ohio to govern themselves," coalition Executive Director Toby Hoover said in a statement.

Judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 16:49

The US Department of Justice filed an appeal Tuesday against a November 28 ruling  by US District Judge James Robertson declaring that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency."

Government lawyers argued in court papers that printing readily distinguishable bill denominations at the urging of the American Council of the Blind would put undue burdens on the vending machine industry and would impose significant costs on the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces American paper money. The government also argued that blind persons could already use personal readers to distinguish bills or opt to make payments by credit card instead.

The United States is the only nation of some 180 using paper currency that produces undifferentiated same-size same-color bills in all denominations. Approximately 1.3 million Americans are legally blind.

"Girls Gone Wild" Sentenced to Pay $1.6 Million
Headline News | 2006/12/13 12:49
Mantra Films, Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif. company operating as Girls Gone Wild, was sentenced today to pay $1.6 million in criminal fines for failing to create and maintain age and identity records for films it produced, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller for the Northern District of Florida announced today.

The sentence was imposed today by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak at the federal court in Panama City, Fla.

Mantra pleaded guilty on Sept. 12, 2006 to three counts of failing to keep the required records and seven labeling violations in connection with Mantra's production of Girls Gone Wild films containing depictions of sexually explicit conduct. Each count refers to a different film produced or distributed by Mantra. Mantra admitted that it failed to create and maintain age and identity documents for performers in sexually explicit films produced and distributed by Girls Gone Wild and failed to label their DVDs and videotapes, as required by federal law.

Joseph Francis, founder and CEO of both Mantra Films and MRA Holdings, LLC, pleaded guilty to similar offenses in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2007. MRA also entered into an agreement that defers prosecution of criminal charges against the company for three years, if MRA abides by an agreement with the government. The package agreement with Mantra, MRA and Francis includes a public acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing, a pledge of cooperation with the government in future investigations, full compliance with the record keeping laws, and payment of a total of $2.1 million in fines and restitution.

The charges in this case are the first to be filed under a law passed by Congress to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. The law protects against the use of minors in the production of pornography by requiring producers to create and maintain age and identity records for every performer in sexually explicit movies and other media. Producers and distributors must then label their products with the name of the custodian of the records and their location.

Girls Gone Wild has admitted to hiring performers, and producing and distributing sexually explicit video materials during 2002 and part of 2003 while systematically violating the record keeping and labeling laws. The companies also admitted that in at least two instances in 2002 in Panama City they filmed minors in sexually explicit scenes that were included in two commercially released DVDs.

The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheila Phillips of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dixie Morrow of the Northern District of Florida. The Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was formed to focus on the prosecution of adult obscenity nationwide. The Task Force is directed by Brent D. Ward. Investigation of the cases was conducted by Special Agent Denise Conrad of the Adult Obscenity Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is based in Washington, D.C.

No Change in Interest Rates for the 2007
Lawyer News | 2006/12/13 11:53
The Internal Revenue Service today announced there will be no change in the interest rates for the calendar quarter beginning January 1, 2007.  The interest rates are as follows:

-  eight (8) percent for overpayments [seven (7) percent in the case of a corporation];
-  eight (8) percent for underpayments;
- ten (10) percent for large corporate underpayments; and
- five and one-half (5.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest is determined on a quarterly basis.  For taxpayers other than corporations, the overpayment and underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points.  Generally, in the case of a corporation, the underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points and the overpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 2 percentage points.  The rate for large corporate underpayments is the federal short-term rate plus 5 percentage points.  The rate on the portion of a corporate overpayment of tax exceeding $10,000 for a taxable period is the federal short-term rate plus one-half (0.5) of a percentage point.

The interest rates announced today are computed from the federal short-term rate based on daily compounding determined during October 2006.

FBI Asked To Release Anthrax Attack Information
Legal Career News | 2006/12/12 23:28

US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) announced Tuesday that they have sent the FBI a lettersigned by thirty-three members of Congress asking it release information from its probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks, in which letters containing anthrax spores were sent to senators and news organizations, leading to the deaths of five people. The letter, signed by members of both parties and addressed to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, demands that the FBI release information to Congress on the five-year-old investigation. Until now, the FBI has refused to share information about the probe due to possible leaks, but the lawmakers dismissed the idea that the concerns should prevent them from effective oversight of the agency:

Given recent revelations that FBI agents were the anonymous sources for New York Times stories casting suspicion on “person of interest,” Stephen Hatfill, it appears that the FBI may itself be responsible for the inappropriate disclosures of sensitive case information. Whether on Capitol Hill or within the FBI, individuals who make inappropriate disclosures should be held accountable. However, as an institution, Congress cannot be cut-off from detailed information about the conduct of one of the largest investigations in FBI history. That information is vital in order to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.

Earlier this month, New York Times asked a federal court to dismiss a libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit brought by Hatfill after the newspaper published a story stating that the government's decision not to further pursue him as a suspect was the result of "poor investigation."

Annan urges US to uphold rule of law principles
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/12 23:23

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday urged the US not to abandon "its own ideals and objectives" in the war against terrorism, stressing that "human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity." In his last speech as secretary-general, delivered at the Truman Presidential Library in Missouri, Annan also pushed UN Security Council reform, saying that the body's membership "reflects the reality of 1945, not of today's world."

During his remarks, Annan outlined five lessons he learned during his 10-year leadership of the United Nations, including "that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law."

Annan said:

Although increasingly interdependent, our world continues to be divided "not only by economic differences, but also by religion and culture. That is not in itself a problem. Throughout history human life has been enriched by diversity, and different communities have learnt from each other. But if our different communities are to live together in peace we must stress also what unites us: our common humanity, and our shared belief that human dignity and rights should be protected by law.

That is vital for development, too. Both foreign investors and a country's own citizens are more likely to engage in productive activity when their basic rights are protected and they can be confident of fair treatment under the law. And policies that genuinely favor economic development are much more likely to be adopted if the people most in need of development can make their voice heard.

In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, "We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might." That's why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.

And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. It is doing the right thing. No state can make its own actions legitimate in the eyes of others. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose "for broadly shared aims" in accordance with broadly accepted norms.

No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little" and the international community is among them. This we must change.

The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, "We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."

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