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Judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Court Feed News | 2006/11/29 22:45

In a Tuesday ruling, Judge James Robertson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia declared that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency." In support of its decision, the court noted that over half of all countries that print their currency vary its size or texture to aid the blind. The court rejected the government's arguments that the change would be cost prohibitive, increase counterfeiting, and disrupt international recognition of US currency.

Robertson wrote:

Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they lack meaningful access to US currency. They have put forth several potential accommodations that are reasonable on their face. The government has not sustained its burden of showing that any of them would be unduly burdensome to implement... I will grant plaintiffs’ prayer for a declaratory judgment.

The American Council of the Blind filed the action four years ago. Under 28 USC s.1292(b), the government has ten days to appeal the ruling.



KBR to Pay $8 Mil to Settle Allegations of Fraud
Court Feed News | 2006/11/29 19:38

WASHINGTON – Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) has agreed to pay the United States $8 million to settle allegations of overcharging and other procurement irregularities regarding the Houston-based company’s billings to the Army under a contract for logistical support of military operations in the Balkans during 1999 and 2000, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement resolves allegations under the False Claims Act that concerned various purchase orders awarded to 10 different foreign KBR subcontractors or vendors.

Part of the allegations concerned double-billing or delivery of non-comforming products by aggregate suppliers for use in the construction of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. The other matters generally involved inflation of prices for various goods resulting from the alleged failure to ensure competitive procurements.

“The Department of Justice remains committed to vigorously pursuing allegations of procurement abuses affecting the military,” said Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Civil Division.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service participated in the investigation of this matter.



Saddam genocide trial resumes
Court Feed News | 2006/11/28 17:24

Saddam Hussein's genocide trial resumed Monday with testimony from witnesses describing how Hussein's soldiers executed civilians during the "Anfal" campaigns against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq from 1987 to 1988. All seven defendants appeared in court, though several were represented by court-appointed lawyers while members of the defense team continue their boycott of the proceedings.

In a separate case and ruling issued earlier this month, Hussein was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail. An appeals panel is expected to rule on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein is executed.



DOJ watchdog opens domestic surveillance probe
Legal Career News | 2006/11/28 03:11

US Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine has launched an internal investigation into the DOJ's use of intelligence gathered under the NSA's domestic surveillance program, according to a letter from Fine to Congressional leaders obtained by AP Monday. Fine has notified leaders of the House and Senate judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees that his office is investigating the Justice Department's "controls and use of information related to the program" as well as its "compliance with legal requirements governing the program."

Under the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, warrantless wiretaps are used to intercept telephone calls and e-mails of conversations of individuals suspected of being involved with the al Qaeda terrorist network if one of person is located outside the US.

After the program was first disclosed last year, inspectors general from both the DOJ and the Defense Department refused requests to investigate the program, with Fine citing a lack of jurisdiction. The DOJ request was referred to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, but the internal probe into the role DOJ lawyers played in designing the program was dropped after the NSA denied investigators clearance to review all relevant documents. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later said that President Bush personally put an end to the internal OPR investigation.

Jeff  Castaldo
Staff Reporter



Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges
Court Feed News | 2006/11/28 02:54

WASHINGTON — Joseph Kuzlik, of Ohio, pleaded guilty today to federal civil rights charges for his role in violating the civil rights of an interracial family in Cleveland. He also pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators. Sentencing has been set for Feb. 23, 2007. On Oct. 26, 2006, David Fredericy, another individual charged in the case, entered a guilty plea to the same charges.

Kuzlik pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges for his role in using force and threats of force to interfere with federally protected housing rights of the victims because of their race. The indictment in this case alleges that Kuzlik and Fredericy conspired to engage in a series of acts intended to threaten and intimidate African-American residents in their neighborhood. The indictment charges, among other acts, that the defendants placed mercury, a toxic substance, on the family’s porch. As part of his guilty plea, Kuzlik admitted that he did so for the purpose of intimidating the family because they were an interracial family, and that he and his co-defendant were attempting to drive the family out of the neighborhood. Kuzlik also admitted to lying to federal investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency that was initially charged with cleaning up the mercury and investigating the incident, because of an agreement he had with Fredericy to keep their actions secret.

“Today’s plea sends a clear message that bias-motivated acts of violence are intolerable and will be prosecuted aggressively by the Justice Department consistent with federal law,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is a tragedy that crimes such as this occur at all in our nation, but we will not relent in our efforts to protect and defend the civil rights afforded by our Constitution and laws.”

U.S. Attorney Gregory White of the Northern District of Ohio said, “Today’s guilty plea is the result of a joint effort by the FBI, the Cleveland Police Department and the EPA 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. We must all work together, as a community, to prevent this type of conduct from recurring.”

The maximum potential penalties on the conspiracy and civil rights charges are 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any period of incarceration, per count. The maximum term of imprisonment for the false statements charge is five years. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann C. Rowland and Trial Attorney Kristy L. Parker of the Civil Rights Division.

Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has charged 161 defendants in 103 cases of bias-motivated crimes.



Spitzer cautions against easing corporate reforms
Headline News | 2006/11/27 03:12

Many of the efforts to soften the corporate accountability reforms of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act are being pushed by the same corporations that employed questionable accounting and business practices before the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, New York state attorney general and governor-elect Eliot Spitzer said in an interview with the Financial Times published Monday.

Last week, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson  accused Sarbanes-Oxley of raising the cost of doing business in America, citing declining share sales since 2002 as one example of its impact, and recommended legislative tweaks to the Act, especially to the internal control structure requirements of Section 404. Spitzer said Monday that individual corporations are responsible for their own poor performances, and that corporate accountability and ethics will strengthen US markets in the long run.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been an object of criticism since its passage in the wake of the Enron debacle and other high-profile corporate scandals. Rep. Michael Oxley, one of the law's co-sponsors, said last year that the legislation was "rushed" and included "excessive" corporate reforms. A GAO report earlier this year noted that an increasing number of small businesses are going private in order to avoid disproportionately higher costs of complying with the law, prompting several senators to urge regulators to find ways to make it less onerous for smaller companies to comply.



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