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Appeals Court Tosses Out Bush Smog Rules
Court Feed News | 2006/12/26 18:19

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the new federal rules for smog reduction on Friday, stating that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Clean Air Act."

The smog standards were introduced in 2004 and required roughly 470 counties designated as "non-attainment" areas to reduce the level of smog within a three to seventeen year period. The court said the time period did not align with the federal Clean Air Act and held that EPA enforcement was not strict enough in states where smog levels have increased.

According to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood, the EPA has not yet determined if it will seek an en banc rehearing of the case, stating that the "EPA is committed to ensuring our nation's ozone air quality standards are implemented to protect public health and the environment."

Appeals court suspends order for FEMA
Court Feed News | 2006/12/25 03:55

A federal appeals court Friday suspended a November order by US District Judge Richard Leon requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reinstate certain housing payments  to Hurricane Katrina victims. The US DC Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the order in response to FEMA's request to allow the agency to delay action on the shelter program at least until March when the appeals court will hear arguments in the case.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) filed the lawsuit on behalf of displaced hurricane evacuees alleging violations of their due process rights. Leon granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction against the payments stoppage, maintaining that FEMA had failed to provide evacuees with adequate explanations for their denials of housing assistance and their means of appeal under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Leon's order also required FEMA to explain to evacuees in plain English why they are no longer eligible for funding.

US soldier who disputed Iraq war legality released
Legal Career News | 2006/12/25 03:47

Former US Army Sergeant Ricky Clousing, a paratrooper and interpreter who disputed the legality of the war in Iraq, was released Saturday from a military prison where he was serving a three-month sentence after pleading guilty to going absent without leave for 14 months. Clousing was released 15 days early for good conduct and is headed home to Washington state.

In October, a court-martial in Fort Bragg, NC, sentenced Clousing to 11 months' confinement, with all but three months suspended, under a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid a finding of desertion. Clousing abandoned his post at Fort Bragg after reporting abuses committed by fellow soldiers during his five-month stint in Iraq. Clousing refused to request conscientious objector status to receive a discharge because he said he does not believe all wars are wrong. After 14 months AWOL, Clousing turned himself in at Fort Lewis, WA.

Bush pardons 16 in year-end round
Court Feed News | 2006/12/24 00:31

President Bush granted pardons to 16 people on Thursday, including some convicted of drug crimes and others who were involved in fraud and kickback schemes. Bush additionally commuted the sentence of another man who had been convicted of drug offenses.

Bush has issued a total of 113 pardons in his six years as president, the fewest issued by any president since World War II. Former Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Reagan issued 457, 77, and 406 respectively during their tenures in office.

SEC settles with former Tyco exec, charges 2 others
Legal Career News | 2006/12/22 19:09

Former Tyco executive Richard "Skip" Heger reached a $450,000 settlement on financial reporting and record-keeping charges, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced  Thursday. The charges are connected to a fraud case in which Tyco agreed to pay a $50 million civil penalty and a $1 disgorgement fee for fraudulent accounting procedures used between 1996 through 2002. Heger, who at the time was in charge of the company's fire and security services division finances, was accused of approving financial results that he knew, or should have known, were inflated; he reached the settlement without entering a plea on the charges. Two other former executives, Richard Power and Edward Federman, were charged with fraud in overstating Tyco's operating income by hundreds of millions of dollars through the use of a sham transaction.

In the sham transaction, Tyco imposed a $200 “dealer connection fee” that it purportedly required independent dealers to pay. Tyco simultaneously increased the price it paid each dealer by the same $200, the SEC said. The transaction had no economic substance, but boosted income because the connection fee was recognised immediately as income and the $200 dealer payment was treated as a capital expenditure that was amortised over 10 years, the SEC said.

The April settlement allowed Tyco to avoid admitting any of the allegations in the SEC's complaint. According to the SEC, Tyco executives inflated key figures - including its operating income by more than $567 million and its cash flow by $719 million - in official reports to the SEC. Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz were found guilty of looting the company and its shareholders out of more than $150 million in unauthorized personal compensation, and have been sentenced to prison for 8 to 25 years. The company still faces a likely onslaught of shareholder litigation, which analysts predict could cost the company up to $4 billion.

The SEC said that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Tyco’s outside accountant, raised concerns about the $200 payment to dealers. In response, Tyco stopped calling the $200 payment a “growth bonus” and repackaged the payment as a $200 increase in the purchase price for each monitoring contract, the SEC said.

Defense lawyer urges US to keep custody of Saddam
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/22 19:00

Former US Attorney General and Saddam Hussein defense lawyer Ramsey Clark on Wednesday urged President Bush to keep Hussein and his Dujail trial co-defendants in US custody, expressing concern that Iraqi officials will torture the convicted defendants. Hussein and two of his co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti, were all convicted and sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. The deadline to file appellate papers for the Dujail trial is on Saturday, and many expect the appellate court to make a decision on the appeal in a matter of days.

If Hussein and his co-defendants lose the appeal, their execution will likely occur within 15 days, unless the US refuses to hand them over to Iraqi custody. Clark claims that the US has the "highest moral and legal obligation" to keep them in US custody, arguing that Iraqi officials will torture the co-defendants before their execution. Last week, an Iraqi official said that Hussein and his co-defendants will face a quick execution and possibly a secret burial if the appellate court upholds their conviction.

Hussein is currently on trial on separate genocide charges for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds during the so-called "Anfal" campaigns in the late 1980s. The Anfal trial could continue posthumously should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude.

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