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Court rules for man arrested for cursing
Court Feed News | 2007/02/04 00:27

A federal appeals court has ruled that a police officer who arrested a Michigan man for using a curse word in a public meeting violated the man's right to free speech.

The ruling reverses a lower court's decision that the officer had probable cause to arrest Thomas Leonard, who cursed while addressing the Montrose Township board in 2002. At the time, his wife was suing the town over a towing contract.

A three-judge appeals panel ruled that the use of "mild profanity" while peacefully advocating a political position is not a criminal act.



Michigan appeals court rules against same-sex benefits
Court Feed News | 2007/02/04 00:26

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman also prohibits Michigan public employers from offering benefits, such as health insurance, to same-sex partners of homosexual employees. The appeals court overturned a lower court decision finding no conflict between the 2004 amendment and providing the benefits.

In its ruling Thursday, the court wrote:

It is undisputed that under the marriage amendment, heterosexual couples that have not married also may not obtain employment benefits as a couple on the basis of an agreement "recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose. . . ." The amendment is grounded in the longstanding and legitimate governmental interest in favoring the institution of marriage. . . . The amendment is narrowly tailored to further the legitimate governmental interest in protecting and strengthening the institution of marriage, and not to arbitrarily or invidiously exclude individuals from the protections of the laws of this state. . . .

Because the marriage amendment does not make arbitrary or invidious distinctions in furthering the legitimate governmental interests of the state, does not violate the equal protection guarantee of the Michigan constitution. . . .

The marriage amendment's plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose.
In March 2005 Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox issued an opinion asserting that the amendment's language barred public employers from offering domestic partner benefits. After the lower court ruling, the Michigan Senate approved resolutions preventing taxpayer money from being spent on same-sex benefits until the state Supreme Court decides the issue. The ACLU of Michigan expressed disagreement with appeals court decision, claiming that the voters were told the amendment would not affect domestic partnership benefits, and said that an appeal to the state high court is planned.



White House tapes played in Libby trial
Court Feed News | 2007/02/02 06:13

US Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald played portions of White House briefing room videos Thursday as the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby continued. Fitzgerald said the tapes show Libby's eagerness to publicly conceal conversations he had with reporters about CIA official Valerie Plame. US District Judge Reggie B. Walton allowed Fitzgerald to play portions of the videos that show former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan publicly clearing Libby's name and announcing that individuals responsible for the leak would be fired. Judge Walton did not allow Fitzgerald to show a heated question and answer session between McClellan and reporters.

Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation into the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby's defense team has indicated that they plan to call Libby's former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to testify and that Libby also plans to take the witness stand himself. Walton has denied a request from several news organizations seeking the daily release of audio recordings of arguments and testimony.



Ex-Enron prosecutor joins law firm in D.C
Headline News | 2007/02/02 05:58

Former Enron prosecutor Kathy Ruemmler has joined the law firm of Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C.

Ruemmler was one of three Assistant U.S. Attorneys who took leading roles in the 2004 Enron Nigerian barge case and the criminal trial of former Enron executives Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay last year.

Prior to joining the Department of Justice in 2001, Ruemmler was Associate Counsel to President Bill Clinton. She also handled white collar criminal defense cases and civil litigation at both Latham and Zuckerman Spaeder in Washington.

She joins former Enron Task Force chief Sean Berkowitz, who joined Latham in November.



Former NYT reporter Miller testifies at Libby trial
Court Feed News | 2007/02/01 03:47

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified on Tuesday in the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby concerning conversations Libby had with Miller, during which he allegedly told her about his frustration with the CIA and revealed to her the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Wilson. On cross-examination, defense counsel wanted to ask Miller about other sources with whom she had discussed a separate intelligence leak, but the prosecution argued that she should not have to answer the questions, since they were not specifically relevant to Libby's case. Judge Reggie M. Walton will rule on whether he will admit the line of questioning on Wednesday.

If Miller is called to answer the questions and refuses, she could face charges of perjury, as she did in July of 2005 when she was jailed after refusing to reveal sources in conjunction with the federal criminal investigation into the leak of Plame's identity. Miller resigned her post at the Times after her release from the 85-day jail term.

Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the CIA leak investigation.



Anit-Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit Launched
Legal Career News | 2007/02/01 02:47

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Wan J. Kim, announced today the creation of the Human Trafficking Prosecution (HTP) Unit within the Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Unit is designed to develop new strategies to combat modern-day slavery by focusing the Division’s human trafficking expertise and expanding its anti-trafficking enforcement program to further increase human trafficking investigations and prosecutions throughout the nation. “The Justice Department is proud to be at the forefront of the Administration’s efforts to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. “With the creation of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, we will expand and enhance our ability to fight this crime by working together with federal, state and local investigators, and NGOs, to tackle the enormous challenges posed by this evil. We will continue to develop new ways to help victims and to bring their captors to justice.”

The HTP Unit will work to enhance the Department’s investigation and prosecution of significant human trafficking and slavery cases, such as multi-jurisdictional cases and those involving financial crimes. The Unit will also engage in training, technical assistance and outreach initiatives to federal, state and local law enforcement and NGOs.

The HTP Unit will be headed by noted anti-trafficking prosecutors who have prosecuted traffickers and freed hundreds of foreign and domestic victims from sex trafficking in brothels and forced labor in fields, homes and factories. Robert Moossy will head up the Unit, and is joined by Chief Counsel Lou de Baca and Special Litigation Counsels Hilary Axam and Andrew Kline, who bring significant anti-slavery experience to this effort and have been leaders in developing the modern victim-centered approach to human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. They will be joined in the coming months by additional federal prosecutors, a victim/witness specialist, and support staff. Attorney General Gonzales has made combating human trafficking a top priority of the Justice Department. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed, quadrupled the number of defendants charged, and tripled the number of defendants convicted. In FY 2006, the Department initiated 168 investigations, charged 111 defendants in 32 cases, and obtained a record number of convictions totaling 98.



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