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US House to vote on Mexico offshore drilling bill
Headline News | 2006/12/03 00:49

Republicans in the US House of Representatives agreed Friday to vote on a compromise offshore drilling bill on Tuesday under special rules that limit amendments and generally speed up proceedings, but require a two-thirds majority for approval. If passed, the bill would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the eastern-central Gulf and boost federal royalty shares from two percent to 37.5 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Environmental leaders, however, oppose the measure, especially in light of the GOP's pending loss of majority rule.

The Senate passed the compromise bill, 71-25, in August, limiting offshore expansion to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill passed by the House in June, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, would have ended the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US.

New Hampshire GOP phone jamming case settles
Legal Career News | 2006/12/02 23:49
The lawsuit brought against the New Hampshire Republican State Committee for the jamming of Democratic phone lines in the 2002 Senate race has been settled, according to a statement Friday from GOP state Committee Chairman Wayne Semprini. The New Hampshire Democratic Party filed civil suit for compensation for the 800 hang-up phone calls that were placed to interfere with Democratic get-out-the-vote campaigns. The settlement comes just as trial was set to start Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court on issues of phone system interference and compensation, after the trial judge dismissed 5 of the initial 8 counts in the complaint. Democrats sought $4 million compensation for the cost of the seven-month voter turnout campaign, while Republicans wanted damages to be limited to the $4,974 spent on phone rentals and use. A judge ruled Wednesday that damages above phone rentals could be sought, though not the full $4 million, and that the Democrats had the right to allege that the phone jamming thwarted their efforts to increase voter turnout. The settlement amount has not been disclosed. In a statement Saturday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party said that although the settlement "closes one chapter of the litigation stemming from the shameful and criminal Republican campaign to rob people of their fundamental right to vote, the federal criminal investigation will continue."

New York Times seeks dismissal of anthrax libel lawsuit
Court Feed News | 2006/12/02 20:48

The New York Times has asked US District Judge Claude M. Hilton to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill, a former Army germ-warfare researcher who was named a "person of interest" by the FBI in its investigations of anthrax mailings shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hatfill sued the Times for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the newspaper published a story stating that the government's decision not to further pursue Hatfill as a suspect was the result of "poor investigation." The newspaper moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that as a public speaker on bioterror, Hatfill is a public figure and therefore must prove a higher standard of defamation. The "public figure" must prove that the defamatory actions were taken with "actual malice", a standard which the Times motion contends Hatfill has failed to meet.

Hatfill's suit against the Times and columnist Nichols Kristoff was initially dismissed by a trial court, who ruled the columns were an ongoing report about a government investigation, not libel. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, ruling that a jury should decide that issue. In March, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari in the case. Hatfill has also sued the government for related claims.

Saddam rejects mass grave testimony
Court Feed News | 2006/12/01 17:17

Saddam Hussein on Thursday rejected forensic evidence of mass graves presented by US experts in his genocide trial for the "Anfal" campaigns against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq between 1987 and 1988. Hussein said that pictures of the graves are "irrelevant to the Anfal case" and that he "refutes all the testimonies submitted by the Americans" in the Anfal case, but expressed willingness to accept evidence offered by coalition countries other than the United States. Also on Thursday, Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa admitted testimony of Michael Trimble, an American forensics expert with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Trimble offered an account of his discovery of corpses of hundreds of Kurdish women and children in three mass graves.

On Tuesday, Khalifa rejected an attempt by Hussein to bar testimony by American forensics expert Clyde Snow after Hussein demanded a neutral witness from a country that was not involved in the 2003 Iraq invasion. Hussein was sentenced to death earlier this month 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's execution. The Anfal trial has now been adjourned until Monday.

Terror suspect to be extradited to US
Legal Career News | 2006/12/01 16:34

The UK High Court ruled Thursday that two British citizens charged with terrorism offenses can be extradited to the US to face terrorism charges. Haroon Rashid Aswat, wanted in the US on suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp, and Babar Ahmad, wanted for conspiring to kill Americans and running a website used to fund terrorists and recruit al Qaeda members, had argued that they should not be extradited to the US because they would be mistreated or tried as enemy combatants. The extraditions were approved only after the US offered assurances that it would not seek the death penalty, try the suspects before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants. Lord Justice John Laws dismissed the appeal and held that possible mistreatment by the US "would require proof of a quality entirely lacking here" and that the US is a country" in which the United Kingdom has for many years reposed the confidence not only of general good relations, but also of successive bilateral treaties consistently honoured."

Aswat was arrested in August 2005 by Zambian police and returned to the UK in connection with the July 7 London bombing attacks. He was later arrested under a US warrant on the suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon five years ago. Ahmad was indicted in the US in October 2004. Both extradition cases were heard under a "fast track" extradition procedure under the UK Extradition Act 2003 that decreases the burden of proof on certain countries, including the United States.

U.S. Prison and Jail Population Increases in 2005
Headline News | 2006/11/30 20:35

The population of individuals in US prisons rose by 2.7 percent in 2005, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report indicates that over 7 million people were either in jail, on probation, or on parole by the end of last year, with 2.2 million of them in prison.

The Justice Department statistics also show that the percentage of female prisoners is rising - the number of female inmates rose 2.6 percent in 2005 with the male population only increasing by 1.9 percent. Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that promotes criminal justice reform, has blamed the increase in women prisoners on harsh sentences handed down for nonviolent drug offenses.

The report also showed racial disparities among prisoners that are similar among men and women inmates. Among male prisoners ages 25-29, 8.1 percent of black men are in prison, while 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men are incarcerated. South Dakota accounted for the highest increase in inmate population with a rise of 11 percent, followed by Montana with 10.4 percent, and Kentucky with 7.9 percent. Georgia's prison population dropped the most with a decrease of 4.6 percent, followed by Maryland with a 2.4 percent drop, and Louisiana with a 2.3 percent decrease.

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