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Federal appeals court upholds MCA habeas-stripping provisions
Court Feed News | 2007/02/20 13:19

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled Tuesday that provisions in the Military Commissions Act stripping foreign nationals held as "enemy combatants" of the right to file habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions do not violate the Suspension Clause of the US Constitution. The ruling came in the consolidated cases of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The court also held that Congress was clear in its intent to strip federal courts of habeas jurisdiction even in pending challenges. The DC Circuit vacated the lower court decisions in the cases and dismissed the detainees' petitions for lack of jurisdiction.

President Bush signed the MCA into law last October and shortly thereafter the the US Justice Department sent letters to the DC district and appeals courts, notifying the lower court that it no longer had jurisdiction over some 200 pending cases filed by Guantanamo detainees, and urging the appeals court to reach the merits in the present cases. Tuesday's appeals court ruling is expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Justice Department to Monitor Election in New York
Headline News | 2007/02/20 10:25

The Justice Department today announced that on Feb. 20, 2007, it will monitor the special election in Richmond County (Staten Island), N.Y., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The Department monitors will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in the county. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. During calendar year 2004, a record number of 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 105 jurisdictions in 29 states. This compares to the 640 federal observers and 103 Department personnel deployed during the entire 2000 presidential calendar year. In 2006, another record was set for the mid-term elections with more than 800 federal observers and Department personnel sent to monitor polling places in 69 jurisdictions in 22 states on Election Day. The Department’s election monitoring program also has been very active in non-federal election years. In calendar year 2005, for example, 640 federal observers and 191 Department personnel were sent to monitor 47 elections in 36 jurisdictions in 14 states.

Fleischman and Walsh, L.L.P
Law Firm Press | 2007/02/19 20:07

Since its founding in 1976, Fleischman and Walsh, L.L.P. has effectively served its clients in the telecommunications, cable television, broadcasting, energy, transportation, corporate, and financial areas, representing large international and domestic corporations, established and start-up companies, and individuals and closely held entities, helping each client to achieve its optimum goals.

Being a mid-sized firm, Fleischman and Walsh, L.L.P. is the ideal size for personalized and highly specialized client service. We seek to represent each of our clients, large or small, with a thorough, thoughtful and result-oriented approach.

Fleischman and Walsh, L.L.P Specialty

Cable Television

The firm has an unparalleled depth and breadth of knowledge, experience, and ability in cable television law. We represent our cable television clients on a full range of matters arising before the FCC, such as rate regulation, must carry/retransmission consent, customer service standards, leased access, subscriber privacy, EEO, program access and affiliation agreements, licensing, rulemakings, and special relief and waiver petitions, as well as all types of ownership issues. We also assist with copyright matters, including the resolution of disputes before the U.S. Copyright Office and issues before other federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service, Federal Aviation Administration, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On the local level, we help our cable clients in their relations with local and state franchising authorities regarding matter such as franchise renewals, modifications and transfers, rate increases, and franchise fees. Our regulatory attorneys work closely with our corporate and securities group to ensure that cable system sales, acquisitions, refinancings, and other transactional matters are handled in the most efficient and effective manner.

Increasingly, our cable practice has involved competitive issues, such as system overbuilds, direct broadcast satellites (DBS), wireless cable, open video systems, rate uniformity, access to programming, marketing practices, access to multiple-dwelling buildings, and ownership of internal wiring. And as our clients have entered into Internet access, voice over Internet protocol, and other new lines of business, our practice has evolved with them, allowing us to offer advice and counsel on the telecommunications, intellectual property, antitrust and other legal issues raised by these endeavors.

We are also involved in state and federal legislative matters affecting cable television, assisting the National Cable Television Association and other clients in connection with various proposals pending before Congress and the FCC from time to time, including the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the 1992 Cable Act, and the 1984 Cable Act. We also represent state cable television trade associations in connection with state legislative and regulatory issues and federal proposals with state-wide impact.

Our cable television clients include several of the nation's largest and most prominent multiple-system operators, growing medium-sized companies and smaller, privately owned entities. We also represent established and start-up cable programming networks, as well as brokerage firms, lenders, equipment manufacturers and others involved in various aspects of the cable industry.

Search Warrants Target Tax Preparers in 7 Cities
Lawyer News | 2007/02/16 22:05

WASHINGTON — Search warrants were carried out in seven cities this week by special agents from the Internal Revenue Service. According to affidavits filed in federal court, the IRS is seeking evidence from tax-preparation businesses suspected of preparing returns on behalf of clients requesting egregious amounts involving this year’s special telephone excise tax refund.

IRS criminal investigators served search warrants at tax preparation businesses in Atlanta, Ga.; Dallas, Tyler and Athens, Texas; Riverside, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; and New Orleans, La. Special agents temporarily closed the businesses, seizing computers and documents to use in their investigations.

“We want everyone who is eligible for the telephone tax refund to claim it but not to inflate the amount requested,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “We have seen limited but serious instances of abuse, and we’ve sent in criminal investigators to pursue the matter accordingly.”

Along with the IRS enforcement action in seven cities, other tax preparers across the nation who are preparing questionable telephone tax refund requests are receiving visits from IRS revenue agents (auditors) and special agents. The agency began conducting the visits last week. The IRS advised taxpayers to stay away from unscrupulous promoters and tax preparers who make false claims about the telephone tax refund and suggest that many, if not most, phone customers can get hundreds of dollars or more back under this program.

At the same time, the IRS urged taxpayers now filling out their 2006 returns not to overlook the telephone tax refund. Out of early filers, nearly one in three are failing to request this special refund, and although some of them may not be eligible, others may qualify and not know it. The vast majority of those who are requesting it are doing so correctly.

The government stopped collecting the long-distance excise tax last August after several federal court decisions held that the tax does not apply to long-distance service as it is billed today. Officials also authorized a one-time refund of the federal excise tax paid on service billed during the previous 41 months, stretching from the beginning of March 2003 to the end of July 2006. The tax continues to apply to local-only phone service.

The IRS has monitored telephone excise tax refund requests for potential problems since the tax-filing season opened in early January. The agency has seen some problems with returns from tax preparers that may indicate criminal intent.

Some tax-return preparers are requesting thousands of dollars of refunds for their clients in instances where clients are entitled to only a tiny fraction of that amount. In some cases, taxpayers requested a refund in the thousands of dollars, suggesting that the taxpayer paid more for telephone service than they received in income. In several instances, taxpayers requested a refund of $30,000 — hundreds of times of what could be reasonably expected. Some refund requests appear to be for the entire amount of the taxpayer’s phone bill, rather than just the three-percent long-distance tax.

Taxpayers who request more of a refund than they are entitled to receive will have their refunds held and be subject to an audit.

To make the refund easier to figure, the government established a standard refund amount, based on personal exemptions, ranging from $30 to $60. If taxpayers have phone bills and other records, they can request the actual amount of excise tax paid. Though using the standard amount is optional, it is easy to figure and approximates the eligible amount for most individual taxpayers. Taxpayers only have to fill out one line on their return, and they don’t need to present proof to the IRS.

To avoid mistakes and get a refund quickly, the IRS encourages taxpayers to file their tax return electronically and electronically deposit their refund directly into a checking or savings account. Electronic-filing software helps taxpayers figure tax breaks, such as the telephone tax refund, accurately and report them properly. Free e-file services are available to low and moderate-income taxpayers (incomes of $52,000 or less) through the Free File link on this Web site.

The best and most reliable information on this unique refund can be found in the Telephone Excise Tax Refund section of this Web site. Here, taxpayers can download forms, find answers to frequently-asked questions and link to participating private-sector Free File partners offering free electronic-filing services.

DOD Employee Pleads Guilty to Accepting Gratuities
Court Feed News | 2007/02/16 21:58

WASHINGTON – Steven Merkes, a former Department of Defense (DOD) employee, pleaded guilty to accepting illegal gratuities while serving as an operational support planner in the Future Operations Division of the U.S. Army Headquarters, Special Operations Command–Europe (HQSOCEUR), Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

According to plea documents filed in federal court, Merkes served in the U.S. Air Force until January 2005, when he left active duty and began work as a DOD civilian employee. In both the Air Force and in his civilian DOD employment, Merkes served as a logistical planner for the HQSOCEUR in Stuttgart, Germany. In both positions, Merkes’ official duties consisted of planning military exercises for U.S. Special Operations forces in the European theater of operations.

In April 2005, Merkes took official acts to benefit Philip Bloom, a U.S. citizen who operated and controlled construction and service companies in Romania and Iraq that did business with the U.S. government. Shortly thereafter, Merkes accepted a job offer and $24,000 from Bloom, knowing that the job and the money were for official acts he had agreed to perform for Bloom.

Merkes pleaded guilty to accepting illegal gratuities which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing has been set for June 1, 2007.

On March 10, 2006, Bloom, pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering. Bloom was sentenced earlier today to 46 months in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys James A. Crowell IV and John P. Pearson of the Public Integrity Section, headed by Acting Section Chief Edward C. Nucci, and trial attorney Patrick Murphy of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, headed by Section Chief Richard Weber, of the Criminal Division.

These cases are being investigated by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security (ICE), U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General, and the FBI Washington Field Office in support of the Justice Department’s National Procurement Fraud Task Force and the International Contract Corruption Initiative. The investigation has received substantial assistance from the ICE Cybercrimes Division.

The National Procurement Fraud Initiative was announced by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty in October 2006, and is designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. As part of this initiative, the Deputy Attorney General has created the National Procurement Fraud Task Force, which is chaired by Assistant Attorney General Fisher.

Hanson Bridgett brings in ex-49ers lawyer
Headline News | 2007/02/16 17:40

Hanson Bridgett Marcus Vlahos & Rudy LLP said the former lawyer for the San Francisco 49ers has joined the firm.

Ed Goines spent five years with the football team as vice president and general counsel, He directed the legal and business contractual matters of 49ers' sponsorship and broadcast media contracts, player and coaching contracts and front office employment agreements. Goines also acted as a liaison to governmental officials.

Goines left the team in May 2006 and started a solo practice focusing on sports and entertainment law.

Goines decided to bring his practice to San Francisco-based Hanson Bridgett in order to offer his clients more services. Goines' sports and entertainment practice, Sui Generis P.C., will operate from Hanson Bridgett's San Francisco office. Goines and Hanson Bridgett share some clients, including Russell Baze, thoroughbred racing's winningest jockey.

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