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Israeli president accused of raping four women
Legal World News | 2007/01/23 16:41

Prosecutors intend to charge President Moshe Katsav with rape and other crimes against female employees, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday, in what would be an unprecedented indictment against an Israeli head of state. Katsav has denied wrongdoing. His post is largely ceremonial and the scandal is unlikely to have a direct impact on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- who has himself been hurt politically by a string of investigations into suspected corruption, which he has denied.

"The attorney-general, with the agreement of the state attorney, reached the conclusion that there is sufficient prima facie evidence to indict the president," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The scandal erupted last year when several former staffers filed complaints with police, accusing Katsav of sex crimes. The ministry said an indictment would include the charge of raping one of the four women who accused Katsav of sexual assault.

In the statement, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz gave Katsav a last chance to present legal arguments before a final draft of the indictment, proposing a hearing at which he promised to hear the president's response with an "open heart and a willing soul".

Asked on Channel 10 television if Katsav intended to resign, his lawyer, Sharon Nahari, said: "I think it is too early to say. What is important is that this is a very difficult day for Israel. We hope all will become clear after the hearing."

The ministry said a date for the hearing would be set soon.

While serving as president, Katsav can be put on trial only if he is impeached by parliament. He has said he would suspend himself from office if indicted.

Katsav has been president since 2000 and is due to stand down in July.

Federal emissions law urged by business-NGO
Headline News | 2007/01/23 15:41

A coalition of businesses and environmental groups on Monday called for federal legislation to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In a letter to President Bush a day before his State of the Union Address, the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) advocated a "cap and trade" system, in which companies whose emissions exceed mandatory limits could buy credits from companies that produce less pollution. "This approach will ensure emission reduction targets will be met while simultaneously ... stimulating investment and innovation in the technologies that will be necessary to achieve our environmental goal," USCAP wrote in A Call for Action, a 16-page report released by the group Monday. Specifically, USCAP recommended that Congress set short-term and long-term targets for cutting emissions, ranging from a 10 percent reduction within 10 years to as much as 80 percent by 2050.

Scientific research suggests that man-made greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. USCAP's 14 members include large corporations such as Alcoa, BP America, DuPont and General Electric as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the World Resources Institute [advocacy websites]. Its report is the culmination of a year-long effort. White House press secretary Tony Snow responded to the USCAP proposal  during his daily briefing, noting that although Bush opposes mandatory CO2 limits, he will discuss alternatives to fossil fuels in his address to Congress on Tuesday. AP has more. C-SPAN has recorded video of the USCAP press conference.

Enron Law Firm to Pay $18M
Headline News | 2007/01/23 10:45

Texas law firm Andrews Kurth will pay Enron's estate $18.5 million to settle potential malpractice claims stemming from legal advice the firm allegedly offered concerning the energy giant’s asset transactions.

"We have continuously denied wrongdoing and culpability with respect to our work for Enron," Andrews Kurth managing partner Howard Ayres said in a statement. "We felt, though, after the passage of five years, that it was expedient to enter into the settlement to put this matter behind us."

While the estate never officially sued the law firm for allegedly signing off on improper deals, a court-appointed bankruptcy examiner has written in reports that the firm may have committed malpractice in approving 28 transactions that involved asset transactions allegedly disguised as sales. Classifying the transactions in such a manner could have allowed Enron to falsely boost its cash flow.

Last year, another Houston-based law firm -- Vinson & Elkins -- settled bankruptcy-related litigation for $30 million. The bankruptcy examiner had alleged that Vinson & Elkins may have committed malpractice by failing to respond to red flags about Enron’s accounting practices.

Both law firms neither admitted, nor denied, wrongdoing or liability in agreeing to the settlements.

A federal bankruptcy judge must approve Andrews Kurth’s deal.

Court Upholds Copyright Law on 'Orphan Works
Court Feed News | 2007/01/23 06:41

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Monday dismissed a challenge to the constitutionality of changes to copyright law made in the 1990s. The Court affirmed a lower court's dismissal of Kahle v. Gonzales, in which the plaintiffs argued that the move from an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" system of copyright law required a First Amendment review in order to be upheld as constitutional. Under the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998, a new "opt-out" system effectively meant that copyrighted works created from 1964 to 1977 are automatically renewed. In upholding the constitutionality of the CTEA, the Court relied on the 2003 Eldred v. Ashcroft ruling in which the Supreme Court held that the CTEA did not violate the First Amendment.

Monday's opinion faulted plaintiffs for making "no compelling reason" for the Court to depart from Eldred's holding and explained the Court's stance on copyright term duration as determined by weighing the impetus provided to authors by longer terms against the benefit provided to the public by shorter terms. That weighing is left to Congress, subject to rationality review. The CTEA also retroactively extended statutory copyright protection by another 20 years beyond the original term of the author's life plus 50 years, thus decreasing the number of works entering the public domain. Ownership of orphan works is often difficult to determine, and archives such as Google, Yahoo!, and academic libraries have lobbied for less stringent copyright laws in order to increase the amount of information open to the public domain.

Former Saddam VP seeks to avoid death penalty
Legal World News | 2007/01/23 06:41

A lawyer for Saddam-era Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has filed an appeal with the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) arguing that the Tribunal's Appeals Chamber was not authorized to effectively direct its trial court to deliver a death penalty for Ramadan after originally according him a life sentence. Ramadan was convicted in November in connection with crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. The Appeals Chamber ruled December 26 in its decision upholding Saddam Hussein's death sentence  that a life sentence for Ramadan was too lenient and ordered the trial court to re-sentence him. The Trial Chamber is expected to issue a death sentence later this week.

Ramadan lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano argued Sunday that the Appeals Chamber improperly relied on Article 24 of the IHT statute when directing the trial chamber to increase Ramadan's sentence.

Libby trial jury selected for CIA leak case
Legal Career News | 2007/01/23 04:43
A twelve-person jury was selected Monday to sit in the CIA leak trial of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Even though jury selection began last Tuesday and was supposed to conclude Thursday the process was extended as too many of the original 60 jurors were dismissed on the grounds that they could not set aside their views on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Ultimately, nine women and three men were selected, along with four alternates; four of the active jurors oppose the Iraq war. Opening statements, originally slated for Monday, are now set to begin Tuesday, with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald expected to speak for one hour and defense attorney Theodore Wells expected to speak for two hours.

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