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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.

5th Family Justice Center Opens in South Bend, Ind.
Legal Career News | 2007/02/22 19:02

The Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County opened its doors today, the Justice Department and the City of South Bend announced. The center, located in South Bend, Ind., is the final center to be opened under President Bush’s Family Justice Center Initiative, and is located in one of 15 communities chosen under the President’s Initiative to prevent and respond to violence against women.

The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative, which was unveiled by President Bush in October 2003 and funded by the Justice Department, is an unprecedented pilot program designed to make a victim’s search for assistance more effective by bringing the necessary services together under one roof. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has guided this pilot program with the goal of using these centers as models for how communities should provide coordinated domestic violence services across the country.

“Offering coordinated and centralized services for domestic violence victims is how our communities can better respond to violence against women,” said Mary Beth Buchanan, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. “We hope that these centers will serve as models for other communities to duplicate across the country.”

The services in communities designed to help victims of domestic violence are often fragmented and uncoordinated. Centers like the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County are designed to bring together various components, including victim advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, probation officers, forensic medical professionals, civil legal attorneys, chaplains, and representatives from community-based organizations into one centralized location to better serve victims of abuse.

Through the President’s Intiative, the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County received extensive technical assistance from the original family justice center based in San Diego, Cailf., to aid in the comprehensive development. Additional technical assistance was provided by centers in Indianapolis, Ind. and Hennepin County, Minn. Additionally, the National Network to End Domestic Violence provided the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County with assistance in technology and victim safety.

UN nuclear chief: Iran has refused to halt enrichment
Legal World News | 2007/02/22 17:00

Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program instead of complying with a UN Security Council ultimatum to freeze it, the UN nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday. The finding clears the path for harsher Security Council sanctions against Teheran.  "Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities," said the International Atomic Energy Agency, basing its information on material available to it as of Saturday. The conclusion - while widely expected - was important because it could serve as the trigger for the council to start deliberating on new sanctions meant to punish Teheran for its nuclear intransigence.

In a report written by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency also said that the Islamic republic continues construction of a reactor that will use heavy water and a heavy water production plant - also in defiance of the Security Council.

Both enriched uranium and plutonium produced by heavy water reactors can produce the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. Iran denies such intentions, saying it needs the heavy water reactor to produce radioactive isotopes for medical and other peaceful purposes and enrichment to generate energy.

The six-page report obtained by The Associated Press also said that agency experts remain "unable ... to make further progress in its efforts to verify fully the past development of Iran's nuclear program" due to lack of Iranian cooperation. That, too, put it in violation of the Security Council, which on Dec. 23 told Teheran to "provide such access and cooperation as the agency requests to be able to verify ... all outstanding issues" within 60 days.

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