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Malawi Judge to Rule On Madonna's Maternal Fitness
Court Feed News | 2006/11/13 23:03

The Malawi Human Rights Commission is seeking permission from Malawi's High Court to be a party to the assessment of Madonna's parental fitness in her attempt to adopt David Banda, a Malawi toddler, given up for adoption by his still living father. Says Justin Dzonzi, attorney and chairman of the coalition known as the Human Rights Consultative Committee, told journalists after a 1 1/2-hour closed hearing Monday, "Basically what we are asking the court is that we want to be joined as a party to the assessment because we have a lot of legal issues we want to raise." Dzonzi's committee has petitioned the court to make sure no Malawian laws were broken and to allow the committee to help assess Madonna's maternal fitness.

Though the coalition and child advocacy group claims that it is not their intention to stop the adoption, only to ensure that Malawi law is respected and upheld, it has been noted by Donzi that Malawi's current adoption laws are archaic and irregular, routinely allowing foreigners to adopt. "Over 1,000 Malawian children are being adopted illegally every year and yet the laws says international adoption are not permissible," said Dzonzi. "There is no system to monitor how these adopted children are being treated, wherever they are."

Madonna's Malawian lawyer Alan Chinula told journalists as far as Madonna was concerned, all Malawian adoption laws were followed. "If the laws are archaic it's not the Ritchie's fault," Chinula said. Madonna has said she met all the country's requirements. Chinula said apart from complying with Malawian laws, the Ritchie's were complying with adoption laws in Britain.

A High Court judge granted Madonna and her British filmmaker husband, Guy Ritchie, interim custody of David on Oct. 12, pending a decision on permanent adoption after an 18-to-24 months assessment period. Though Malawi regulations stipulate that the assessment period be spent in Malawi, Madonna was allowed to take the boy to her London home.

"We want to use the Madonna case to make sure that the rights of children in Malawi are effectively protected," said Dzonzi.

Said Penstone Kilembe, director of child welfare development, "We will work with child welfare officers in the county where the Ritchies are staying,"

David Banda's father, has said the human rights group's lawsuit threatens his son's future, but child advocacy groups have said the lack of clarity in Malawi when it comes to foreign adoptions could be exploited by child traffickers or pedophiles. Banda placed his son in the orphanage a month after his 28 year old wife died from complications during child birth. Yohane Banda expressed his concern, "As David's father I consented. I see no reason why I should change my mind now," said the 32-year-old farmer. He appealed to the advocacy group to "to back off and leave my son alone."

The singer discovered David at the orphanage after visiting to promote Raising Malawi - a charity she set up to assist orphans in the southern African country where largely due to AIDS, an estimated 2 million children have lost one or both parents and hundreds are adopted by foreigners every year.

Malawi's Department of Gender and Child Welfare Development said a team of Malawian child welfare officers would fly to London to make the first assessment in May 2007 and one more assessment will be done by December 2007 before a report is filed on the suitability of the Ritchies as adoptive parents. The couple has two other children, Lourdes, 10, and Rocco, six.

Malawi's High Court said Monday it will rule in one week's time whether a coalition of Malawian human rights and child advocacy groups should help decide whether pop star Madonna is fit to adopt a motherless Malawian toddler.

Justice Andrew Nyirenda adjourned the case after hearing arguments from the 67-member coalition that includes the state-run Malawi Human Rights Commission. His ruling was likely to have far-reaching consequences.

The judge said he would rule Nov. 20 on whether to admit the coalition as a party in the adoption proceedings.

Breaking Legal News.com
Sheryl Jones
Staff Writer



Enron CFO Goes to Prison
Criminal Law Updates | 2006/11/13 18:34

After a delay of nearly two months, former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow is going to prison in the federal correctional system. The purpose of the delay was to allow him to give a deposition in the securities fraud class action against the company's banks. Fastow testified for eight and a half days in Houston, before being dispatched on the BOP bus to Oakdale, taking daily trips with U.S. Marshals to a facility where seventy lawyers listened to him, along with live internet broadcasting.

Fastow is currently being held in the Federal Detention Center in Oakdale, Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Hoyt recommended during sentencing that the Bureau of Prisons place Fastow at the minimum security facility at Bastrop, Texas, near Austin. However, judges have no control over what the BOP decides on assignments. The Oakdale complex includes a minimum security facility (the Oakdale FCI), where former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers is serving a 25-year sentence. Fastow is currently in the FDC which also includes a prison camp.

A New York Times story estimates that at $450 per hour, all those lawyers billed about $2.1 million. That figure does not include the costs of support personnel and firm associates in addition to the costs of daily transcripts and duplication. If the securities fraud case goes to trial, then Fastow may have to take a few more trips to Houston to testify - again.

Breaking Legal News.com
Sheryl Jones
Staff Writer




CA - Death Penalty Jury Instructions Upheld
Court Feed News | 2006/11/13 17:52

The US Supreme Court on Monday upheld California's "catch-all" jury instruction for death penalty cases, ruling that the instructions provide adequate opportunity for jurors to weigh evidence that favors the defendant. In a 5-4 decision in Ayers v. Belamontes, the Court reinstated Belamontes' conviction for first degree murder in the killing of a 19 year old woman during a burglary. Belamontes had appealed his death penalty sentence, arguing that the jury instructions did not require the jury to consider all mitigating factors, including his probable future conduct in prison. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the sentence and California prosecutors appealed to have his sentence reinstated.



ACLU to Congress- Investigate Rumsfeld Immediately
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/10 17:31

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Donald Rumsfeld's resignation from his post as Defense Secretary, and called on Congress to investigate the gross abuse of power committed under his watch.

"Donald Rumsfeld's resignation is a step in the right direction," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "Rumsfeld is responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees in U. S. military custody and must be held accountable for the failures that occurred on his watch. He has placed the blame on junior military members and has been nothing but derelict in his duty. Congress must initiate an immediate and exhaustive investigation into his six-year-long record of unlawful activity, violations of the rule of law and complicity in the executive branch abuse of power."

As a result of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. In March 2005, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed the first federal lawsuit naming Rumsfeld and other top U.S. officials in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan that has tarnished America's reputation. A hearing in that case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, is scheduled for December 8. In June 2006, the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Bush administration policy on detention, orchestrated by Rumsfeld, was illegal.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit to uncover details of Pentagon surveillance of peace groups and law-abiding Americans who have attended anti-war protests. The documents obtained by the ACLU reveal that the Pentagon shared information on activists with other government agencies through the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database, which was intended to track groups or individuals with links to terrorism.



Democrats Sweep of US Congress is Election Triumph
Law & Politics | 2006/11/09 18:07

(VOA) - The Democratic Party appears to have regained control of both houses of the U.S. Congress from President Bush's Republican Party.

American media reports say that challenger Jim Webb has defeated Republican incumbent George Allen in the Senate race in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is the last Senate race from Tuesday's mid-term elections to be decided.

Allen has not yet conceded defeat, but major newspapers and television networks report that Webb holds more than a 7,000 vote lead.

Opposition Democrats have already swept to victory in the U.S. House of Representatives. Projections show that the party holds a majority of 229 seats in the 435-seat chamber.

If Webb indeed wins in Virginia, Democrats and Republicans will each hold 49 of the Senate's 100 seats. Two independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have pledged to vote with the Democrats, tipping the balance in the Senate to Democratic Party control.

The Democratic Party victory comes on the back of voter frustration with the war in Iraq and several political scandals. And it sets the stage for a number of policy battles with the White House. The Democrats have not controlled both chambers of Congress in 12 years.

President Bush has expressed disappointment with the election results, but he called on both political parties to work together. He is meeting separately Thursday, with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Opinion polls showed that dissatisfaction with President Bush and his handling of the Iraq war drove many voters to vote for Democrats.

Meanwhile, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House. She has pledged to work with congressional Republicans.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of the U.S. state of Nevada said the message from the electorate was clear, and that Americans voted for change.



2007 Changes Widen Tax Brackets, Expand Benefits
Lawyer News | 2006/11/09 18:04

WASHINGTON — Personal exemptions and standard deductions will rise, tax brackets will widen and income limits for IRAs will increase in 2007, thanks to inflation adjustments announced today by the Internal Revenue Service.

By law, the dollar amounts for a variety of tax provisions must be revised each year to keep pace with inflation. As a result, more than three dozen tax benefits, affecting virtually every taxpayer, are being adjusted for 2007. Key changes affecting 2007 returns, filed by most taxpayers in early 2008, include the following:

  • The value of each personal and dependency exemption, available to most taxpayers, will be $3,400, up $100 from 2006.
  • The new standard deduction will be $10,700 for married couples filing a joint return (up $400), $5,350 for singles and married individuals filing separately (up $200) and $7,850 for heads of household (up $300). Nearly two out of three taxpayers take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
  • Tax-bracket thresholds will increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket will be $63,700, up from $61,300 in 2006.

In 2007, for the first time, inflation adjustments will raise the income limits that apply to the retirement savings contributions credit, contributions to a Roth IRA and deductible contributions to a traditional IRA where the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work.  



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