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California restores prisoner voting rights
Legal Career News | 2006/12/29 18:54

The State of California has decided not to appeal a December 21st decision of the California 1st District Court of Appeal restoring voting rights to approximately 100,000 inmates serving a year or less for felony convictions in local jails. The case, filed by the League of Women Voters of California and other voter and prisoner right interest groups, challenged a December 2005 interpretation of Art. 2 Sec. 4 of the California Constitution by Secretary of State Bruce McPhearson maintaining that those serving short term sentences for felonies in county jails were not eligible to vote.

The court’s decision relied on Section 17 of the California Penal Code, which defines felonies and misdemeanors. When a person is sent to a local jail, typically for confinement as a condition of probation, they are not actually convicted of a felony, which would allow their voting rights to be stripped.

Court restores voting rights of 100,000 jail inmates
Court Feed News | 2006/12/29 03:21

A state appeals court is restoring the voting rights of about 100,000 local jail inmates statewide who are serving a year or less for felony convictions.

The state said it would not appeal last week's decision from the 1st District Court of Appeal. The affected inmates were eligible to vote until last year, when the state disenfranchised them.

For three decades, California's secretary of state had interpreted the state Constitution as barring voting by those in state prisons and those on parole after their release. The appeals court said the state wrongly changed the policy last year to include persons convicted of felonies but sentenced to a year or less in a local county jail.

The League of Women Voters brought the case on behalf of three San Francisco County jail inmates.

Court Reprimands Ohio Governor Over Gifts
Headline News | 2006/12/29 03:17

Governor Bob Taft (R-OH) Wednesday received a public reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court for ethics violations stemming from charges that he received over 50 gifts worth up to $6,000 during four years in office. The reprimand will be a permanent mark on his record as an attorney, but while the justices had the option of issuing a stronger punishment in their 6-0 opinion, they cited Taft's previously clean record as a lawyer and otherwise unblemished record in public office.

In 2005, Taft pleaded no contest and was fined for the original charges, however in April of this year a disciplinary action was initiated by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, part of the Ohio Supreme Court tasked with monitoring lawyer behavior. That office determined that Taft had violated the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility by accepting the gifts. Taft did not seek re-election due to term limits, and is leaving office in less than 2 weeks. He has said that he would be more interested in teaching than in returning to practicing law.

Podiatrist to appeal tax conviction
Lawyer News | 2006/12/29 03:14

A podiatrist is appealing his federal-court conviction and two-year prison sentence for tax evasion, but a federal judge says the doctor must still report to prison on Jan. 5.

Dr. Clifford B. Marston of Gassville operated Sunshine Foot Clinics at Mountain Home and Harrison. The 57-year-old was convicted in May of tax evasion and filing false income tax returns.

Marston was sentenced to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay about $300,000 in restitution and fines.

U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren denied a request from Marston to remain free on bond while his appeal proceeds, and ordered him to report to prison on Jan. 5.

Marston filed a notice of appeal in federal court at Harrison on Dec. 22. He said last year that the IRS had misapplied regulations and he believed that most Americans do not have taxable income.

DOJ Asks Federal Court to Bar Tax Preparer
Legal Career News | 2006/12/28 22:27

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has sued a federal income tax preparer in U.S. District Court in Miami seeking to bar her from preparing tax returns for others. According to the government’s civil injunction complaint, Tashanna McFarland of Miramar, Fla., prepared federal tax returns claiming fraudulent fuel tax credits, a scam that the complaint explains is a serious enforcement problem for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The suit alleges that McFarland operates her tax preparation business out of a booth at a flea market in Miami.

Federal law imposes a fuel tax on gasoline and diesel fuel sold in the United States. The tax is included in the purchase price at the pump. Businesses can claim a fuel tax credit in certain rare circumstances, but most businesses and consumers who use cars or trucks on roads and highways are not eligible for the credit. According to the government’s complaint, McFarland claimed the fuel credit on her customers’ returns so they could claim tax refunds to which they were not entitled.

The complaint says that on a return for one customer—a babysitter—McFarland claimed that the customer purchased 16,451 gallons of gasoline for business-related purposes. The suit notes that for such a claim to be accurate, the babysitter (whose total income for the year was $9,316) would have had to spend approximately $36,192 for gasoline that year—nearly four times her total income—and would had to have driven approximately 246,765 miles during the year, an average of 676 miles each day, seven days a week.

The government complaint alleges that McFarland has prepared at least 970 returns since 2003 and the IRS has identified over $1.5 million dollars in fraudulent fuel tax credits on McFarland-prepared returns. “People who have their returns prepared by others should review them carefully to make sure they are truthful,” said Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The preparer who seems to be saving you taxes now is setting you up for trouble later, when the IRS realizes that you filed a false return and obtained a larger refund, or paid less in taxes, than you should have.”

“This problem is primarily being caused by unscrupulous tax return preparers located across the country," said Kathy Petronchak, Commissioner of the IRS Small Business / Self Employed Division. "The IRS is working closely with the Department of Justice to stop this behavior."

Since 2001, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained more than 215 injunctions to stop the promotion of tax fraud schemes and the preparation of fraudulent returns.

New EPA Smog Rules Infringe Clean Air Act
Court Feed News | 2006/12/27 18:04

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the new federal rules for smog reduction on Friday, stating that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Act." The smog standards were introduced in 2004 and required roughly 470 counties designated as "non-attainment" areas to reduce the level of smog within a three to seventeen year period. The court said the time period did not align with the federal Clean Air Act and held that EPA enforcement was not strict enough in states where smog levels have increased.

The EPA has not yet determined if it will seek an en banc rehearing of the case, according to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood, stating that the "EPA is committed to ensuring our nation's ozone air quality standards are implemented to protect public health and the environment."

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