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Spain seeks broader EU constitution
Legal World News | 2007/01/27 19:30

Spain Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos argued for an expanded European constitution in his opening statement at the “Friends of the EU Constitution” summit that got under way in Madrid Friday. The summit is only open to delegates from the 18 countries that already have ratified the constitution, as well as delegates from Ireland and Portugal, where ratification is strongly supported and seems likely, and seeks to find ways to convince countries that have not ratified the constitution to do so. Moratinos advocated a more comprehensive constitution that could address topics such as immigration, climate change, and defense.

While most summit delegates argued against modifying the constitution, others agreed with Moratinos, and said that the current text is at the threshold for being so minimalist that any further reductions would destroy the worth of the document entirely. Of the countries that have not ratified the current text, several have advocated significant reductions.

Maine says 'No' to Real ID Act
Legal Career News | 2007/01/26 17:26

Both the Maine House of Representatives and Senate approved a joint resolution Thursday refusing to implement the federal Real ID Act. The resolution had broad support across both parties, with the House of Representatives approving the resolution 137-4 and the Senate 34-0. The federal act, scheduled to take effect in 2008, mandates that state governments require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs, which will have to comply with standards established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Real ID Act is facing similar state legislative oppositions in Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington. The Bush administration has repeatedly endorses the act, saying that it will discourage illegal immigration and make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs.

State lawmakers, governors, and privacy advocates have express concerns about implementing the federal law, with many objecting to the expensive undertaking required for state compliance and privacy concerns associated with the federal requirements. In December 2005, the National Governor's Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, collectively released a report concluding that states are unprepared to implement the law and may need up to eight years to acquire the resources and time to successfully enact the legislation.

Prosecutors urge court to restore DeLay charge
Court Feed News | 2007/01/26 17:17

Prosecutors attempting to restore a conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay argued Wednesday that the "plain language" of Texas law means he can be charged with conspiring to violate the election code.

But lawyers for DeLay and two co-defendants told the Court of Criminal Appeals that the law is clear in their view -- that conspiracy was added to the state election code after prosecutors allege the crime happened.

"Historically, there have been limitations on the use of conspiracy laws," said DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin of Houston.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's office is appealing lower court rulings that threw out the charge accusing DeLay and Republican fundraisers Jim Ellis and John Colyandro of conspiring to violate the Texas election code and its ban on corporate campaign contributions.

It could be weeks or months before the appeals court makes a decision.

DeLay and the co-defendants are still charged with money laundering and conspiracy to launder money, but state District Judge Pat Priest has said he does not have jurisdiction and cannot hold a trial until the appeals court makes its ruling.

Italy moves towards criminalizing Holocaust denial
Legal World News | 2007/01/26 11:19

Italy is set to become the latest country in Europe to criminalize Holocaust denial after the cabinet of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi unanimously approved a draft bill Thursday. The draft, written by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, will now be given to parliament for debate. It makes it a crime punishable by up to four years in prison to defend, justify, or otherwise instigate crimes against humanity.

Earlier this month, Germany announced that as part of its 2007 EU presidency, it would propose EU-wide laws criminalizing Holocaust denial. A prior German attempt at such a law was blocked by Italy, which has since softened its opposition. It is currently illegal to deny the Holocaust in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain. DPA has more.

S. Korea court rejects lawsuit against tobacco companies
Legal World News | 2007/01/26 09:21

A Seoul court ruled Thursday that cancer patients suing South Korean tobacco firm Korea Tobacco and Ginseng Co. (KTG) do not have enough evidence to link their diseases to negligence on the part of the companies. The court conceded the link between smoking and the plaintiffs' illnesses, but said that there was insufficient evidence to show that their diseases were explicitly caused by smoking the defendant's cigarettes. In addition, the court said that there was no evidence to support assertions that the companies provided inadequate warnings about their products.

South Korea has an extremely high smoking population, at 12 million out of 47 million people, according to a 2005 report by Euromonitor International. Widespread anti-smoking campaigns have been largely ineffective. The suit dismissed Thursday was the first brought by cancer patients against tobacco companies in South Korea and was a consolidation of two separate lawsuits filed in 1999 against KTG, which was then a government-run company. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have said they will appeal the decision.

Israeli president granted leave of absence
Legal World News | 2007/01/25 17:05

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who may be indicted on rape and other sexual assault charges, had his request for a leave of absence granted Thursday by a parliamentary panel. Legislators approved the request, which could last up to six months, with a 13-11 vote.

Under Israeli law, Katsav had to receive the approval of a Knesset committee before he could be removed. On Tuesday, prosecutors said they have enough evidence to charge Katsav with rape, harassment, abusing his power for sex, obstructing justice and illegally distributing gifts while president and cabinet minister. Katsav has said publicly that he will resign if indicted. In an emotional news conference Wednesday, he blamed the media for their "witch hunt," "McCarthyism" and "persecution."

Also on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert added to the growing political pressure on Katsav to resign. "Under these circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position and he must leave the president's residence," Olmert said at a security conference.

Attorney-General Meni Mazuz said Tuesday that while he planned to indict Katsav, he first wanted to give the president a chance to plead his case before him.

The first woman to accuse Katsav came forward last summer accusing him of forcing her to have sex in his office. Other women then came forward with similar accusations. If found guilty, Katsav could face more than 20 years in prison.

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