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DOJ Releases New Americans with Disabilities Act
Legal Career News | 2007/02/28 02:38
The Department of Justice today released new technical assistance materials to help state and local governments comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The materials are part of the “ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments,” a project announced by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October 2006.

“In our work with state and local governments throughout the country, we see many common problems with ADA compliance,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department is issuing the Tool Kit to help state and local government officials gain a better understanding of how to ensure equal access to government programs and services for all of their citizens with a disability.”

The Tool Kit is a commonsense guide to achieving ADA compliance. Chapters 3 and 4 of the Tool Kit, released today, address the ADA requirement of ensuring effective communications for people with disabilities. “People who are deaf or hard of hearing, those who are blind or have low vision, and individuals with other types of disabilities are entitled to equal access to state and local government programs, services and activities,” added Assistant Attorney General Kim. “These new chapters of the Tool Kit contain practical guidance, including checklists and action steps, that state, county and city officials can use to identify and resolve ADA compliance issues in government agencies and programs across the country, including public hospitals, courts, law enforcement agencies, 9-1-1 emergency communication systems, and recreation programs.”

During the past six years, through its Project Civic Access initiative, the Civil Rights Division has worked cooperatively with city and county officials to improve access for more than 2 million people with disabilities. The Department has reached 152 agreements that improve access for people with disabilities to city and county office buildings, courts, polling places, emergency shelters, museums, parks, law enforcement and corrections facilities, and websites.

Mississippi grand jury fails to indict in Till murder case
Court Feed News | 2007/02/27 20:29

A grand jury in Mississippi Tuesday refused to indict Carolyn Bryant on charges of manslaughter for the 1955 kidnap and murder of Emmett Till due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Carolyn is the wife of Rob Bryant, who, along with his half brother J.W. Milam, was acquitted in 1955 by an all-white jury on all charges related to the murder. Rob Bryant later confessed to the killing. A friend of Till called the grand jury's decision racist, telling AP "we had overwhelming evidence, and they came back with the same decision. Some people haven't changed from 50 years ago."

The Till case leads a series of attempts by federal law enforcement authorities to settle unfinished civil rights cases. Following a probe of investigative errors, the US Justice Department re-opened the case in 2004. Last year, the FBI reported that no federal civil rights charges would be filed in the Emmett Till case, and subsequently turned over to the local Mississippi district attorney.

Ex-Liberia interim president charged with corruption
Legal World News | 2007/02/27 15:31

Charges have been brought against former interim president of Liberia Gyude Bryant for embezzling $1.3 million during his tenure from October 2003 until January 2006, according to a Liberia government statement Tuesday. The indictment was based on an audit conducted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which monitored the interim government after former President Charles Taylor stepped down in August 2003. Taylor is currently awaiting trial at The Hague before judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone on crimes against humanity charges.

On Monday, current Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced the government's plans to prosecute all present and former government officials involved in corruption. In December, two former finance ministers and a former minister of commerce were charged with corruption; however, the men were subsequently freed. Bryant has denied the charges against him and is expected to face trial in an intermediate court in Monrovia.

Western States Agree to Cut Greenhouse Gases
Headline News | 2007/02/27 05:04

The governors of five western US states signed an agreement Monday to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, a cause of global warming. During the winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA), the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which calls for the states to set reduction goals within six months, devise a "market-based program" to reach those goals and track emissions through a regional registry. "In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states ... to address climate change," Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) said in a press release. The market-based program could take the form of a cap-and-trade system, in which companies whose emissions exceed mandatory limits could buy credits from companies that produce less pollution. A regional cap and trade program would be a powerful first step toward developing a national program, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), the only Republican among the five governors, said in an address to the NGA. Statements were also issued by Govs. Bill Richardson (D-NM), Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) and Christine Gregoire.

Monday's agreement is only the latest joint effort by the western states. Last year, Arizona and New Mexico formed the Southwest Climate Change Initiative, and the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement in 2003 calling for regional action to address global warming. Elsewhere in the country, several Northeastern states have created the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through a regional cap-and-trade program, and some Midwestern states signed on to the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium, to establish a voluntary registry for companies to report their emissions-reduction efforts.

Efforts to establish national emissions limits have gained traction in Congress since the Democrats became the majority party, with at least four major proposals emerging. President Bush opposes mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) limits but has proposed reducing emissions through the use of alternative fuels. A coalition of businesses and environmental groups has called for federal legislation, including a cap-and-trade program, to limit emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In September, California became the first US state to restrict greenhouse gas emissions when Schwarzenegger signed a bill authorizing a state board to set emissions targets for various industries.

Oil rises amid US chill, Iran tensions
Legal World News | 2007/02/27 01:01

Oil rose on Monday as a burst of cold weather boosted heating demand in the United States and as world powers discussed tightening UN sanctions on Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.

US crude rose 26 cents to $US61.40 a barrel, just below the 2007 high of $US61.80 hit on Friday. London Brent was up 47 cents to $US61.35.

Analysts said wintry weather sweeping across the key Midwest and North-east heating markets was supporting oil's gains, and added that prices could find even more strength heading into the spring, when gasoline demand picks up.

"It is the first time this year that the large speculative funds are showing a net long position in crude oil," said Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Swiss-based Petromatrix.

Oil prices have swung between a high of $US78.40 last July, when fighting flared in Lebanon, and a 20-month low of $US49.90 in January, when an expected influx of fund money failed to materialise, disappointing oil investors.

A steady recovery in prices since late January has been supported by gradually tightening supplies - OPEC has twice cut output since November - and by concerns over a possible disruption of Iran's oil supplies.

Supreme Court hears arguments in deadly force
Legal Career News | 2007/02/26 19:03
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in Scott v. Harris, 05-1631, where the court must decide whether a police officer violated a fleeing suspect's constitutional rights by using deadly force when he bumped his police car into the suspect's car to end a high speed chase. Victor Harris was pursued by Coweta County, Georgia police when he refused to pull over while speeding. Video taken from the dashboard of the police car showed the ensuing collision, which resulted in Harris' paralysis and eventual suit against former sheriff's deputy Timothy Smith for violation of the Fourth Amendment. The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Scott's qualified immunity claim under the Fourth Amendment was an insufficient defense because he acted unreasonably. The accident video was not played in court, but at least half of the bench appeared to have seen the footage; Justices Breyer and Kennedy each implied the video evidenced that contrary to the appeals court holding Harris was driving erratically. The Court is expected to rule by July.

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