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Supreme Court could put new limits on voting rights lawsuits
Employment Law | 2021/02/27 06:28
Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting.

The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct.

The high court’s consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters.

A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators.

The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution.

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections.




Labor unions to hand out masks outside House sessions
Business Law Info | 2021/02/24 04:07
Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”



New Mexico begins construction of new state crime lab
Class Action News | 2021/02/23 12:07
New Mexico is getting a new state crime lab. The state Department of Public Safety announced Tuesday that construction of the new $21.9 million forensic laboratory has begun in Santa Fe and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2022.

The new facility will support New Mexico law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and court systems by analyzing forensic evidence collected at crime scenes and provide testimony in court.

The 44,000-square-foot (4,088-square-meter) lab is being built on a state-owned lot in northeast Santa Fe.

General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz said the replacement project has long been in the planning stages.

The new lab will be over four times the size as the current one, which is 50 years -old, officials said the new facility will have new equipment and space for future growth.


Judge says lawyer who killed her son also tracked Sotomayor
Class Action News | 2021/02/20 01:47
The lawyer who killed a federal judge’s son and seriously wounded her husband at their New Jersey home last summer also had been tracking Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the judge said in a television interview.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said FBI agents discovered the information in a locker belonging to the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander. “They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition. But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” Salas said in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” The segment is scheduled for broadcast Sunday, but a portion of the interview aired Friday on “CBS This Morning.”

Both the Supreme Court and the FBI declined to comment Friday. “We do not discuss security as a matter of Court policy,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email.

Authorities have said Den Hollander, a men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings, posed as a FedEx delivery person and fatally shot 20-year-old Daniel Anderl and wounded his father, Mark Anderl, in July. Salas was in another part of the home at the time and was not injured.

Den Hollander, 72, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the ambush. Authorities believe he also shot and killed a fellow attorney in California in the days before the attack at Salas’ home.

The AP has previously reported that when Den Hollander was found dead he had a document with him with information about a dozen female judges from across the country, half of whom are Latina, including Salas.

Salas has been calling for more privacy and protections for judges, including scrubbing personal information from the internet, to deal with mounting cyberthreats. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges, said there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, up from 926 such incidents in 2015.

Legislation named for Salas’ son that would make it easier to shield judges’ personal information from the public failed to pass the Senate in December, but could be reintroduced this year.



European court rejects case vs Germany over Afghan airstrike
Employment Law | 2021/02/16 18:50
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a complaint against Germany’s refusal to prosecute an officer who ordered the deadly bombing in 2009 of two fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan.

Scores of people died when U.S. Air Force jets bombed the tankers hijacked by the Taliban near Kunduz. The strike was ordered by the commander of the German base in Kunduz, Col. Georg Klein, who feared insurgents could use the trucks to carry out attacks.

Contrary to the intelligence Klein based his decision on, most of those swarming the trucks were local civilians invited by the Taliban to siphon fuel from the vehicles after they had become stuck in a riverbed.

An Afghan man who lost two sons aged 8 and 12 in the airstrike, Abdul Hanan, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights after German authorities declined to prosecute Klein. He alleged that Germany failed to conduct an effective investigation and that no “effective domestic remedy” to that had been available in Germany.

The Strasbourg, France-based court rejected the complaints. It found that German federal prosecutors were “able to rely on a considerable amount of material concerning the circumstances and the impact of the airstrike.”

It also noted that courts including Germany’s highest, the Federal Constitutional Court, rejected cases by Hanan. And it added that a parliamentary commission of inquiry “had ensured a high level of public scrutiny of the case.”

Wolfgang Kaleck, the head of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights who provided legal support to Hanan, said the verdict was a disappointment for the plaintiff and his fellow villagers, but noted that judges had made clear that governments have a duty to at least investigate such cases.

“The bombardment and the dozens of civilian deaths didn’t result in a rebuke, there’s no resumption of the criminal case,” he told reporters after the court announced its decision. “On the other hand it will be very important internationally, also in future, that the European Convention on Human Rights applies,” Kaleck said. “That’s to say, those who conduct such military operations have to legally answer for them afterward, hopefully to a greater extent than in the Kunduz case.”

A separate legal effort to force Germany to pay more compensation than the $5,000 it has so far given families for each victim was rejected last year by the Federal Constitutional Court. This civil case can still be appealed in Strasbourg.


Man who broke ankle at farm obstacle course wins appeal
Business Law Info | 2021/02/13 02:50
A man who broke an ankle on an obstacle course at a pumpkin patch will get his foot inside a courthouse again.

A judge wrongly dismissed Tarek Hamade’s lawsuit against DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Thursday.

Hamade fractured an ankle while running across tires that were part of an obstacle course known as “Tough Farmer.” He said he was injured while stepping on a tire that was very soft at the fall attraction near Belleville.

DeBuck’s argued that the spongy tire was an open and obvious risk, a key legal standard under Michigan liability law.

“It’s an obstacle course. It’s meant to be difficult to traverse,” attorney Drew Broaddus said at a Feb. 3 hearing.

But the appeals court said the tire’s condition was not obvious.

“If they’d called it the ‘spongy tire challenge’ we might have a different case. But that’s not what it was presented as,” Judge Michael Gadola said.

Hamade’s lawsuit now returns to Wayne County Circuit Court.




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