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Appeals court keeps Flynn case alive, won’t order dismissal
Court Feed News | 2020/09/01 10:04
A federal appeals court in Washington declined Monday to order the dismissal of the Michael Flynn  prosecution, permitting a judge to scrutinize the Justice Department’s request to dismiss its case against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser.

The decision keeps the case at least temporarily alive and rebuffs efforts by both Flynn’s lawyers and the Justice Department to force the prosecution to be dropped without further inquiry from the judge, who has for months declined to dismiss it. The ruling is the latest development in a criminal case that has taken unusual twists and turns over the last year and prompted a separation of powers tussle involving a veteran federal judge and the Trump administration.

In a separate ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the same appeals court again threw out a lawsuit by House Democrats to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee.

The Flynn conflict arose in May when the Justice Department moved to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period.

But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who had upbraided Flynn for his behavior at a 2018 court appearance, signaled his skepticism at the government’s unusual motion. He refused to dismiss the case and instead scheduled a hearing and appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s position. That former judge, John Gleeson, challenged the motives  behind the department’s dismissal request and called it a “gross abuse” of prosecutorial power.

Flynn’s lawyers sought to bypass Sullivan and obtain an appeals court order that would have required the case’s immediate dismissal. They argued that Sullivan had overstepped his bounds by scrutinizing a dismissal request that both sides, the defense and the Justice Department, were in agreement about and that the case was effectively moot once prosecutors decided to abandon it.

At issue before the court was whether Sullivan could be forced to grant the Justice Department’s dismissal request without even holding a hearing into the basis for the motion.

“We have no trouble answering that question in the negative,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion for the eight judges in the majority.



1st Black woman confirmed to be justice on NJ high court
Court Feed News | 2020/08/28 01:01
The nomination of the first Black woman to sit on New Jersey’s Supreme Court was confirmed Thursday by the state Senate.

Fabiana Pierre-Louis, a 39-year-old attorney in private practice and a former federal prosecutor, was nominated by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in June to succeed Justice Walter Timpone. He was nominated to the court by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2016 and will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 later this year.

“Ms. Pierre-Louis is a New Jersey success story who will bring more diversity to the highest court of the most diverse state in the country,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, also a Democrat. She is Murphy’s first pick for the high court.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Pierre-Louis was the first person to go to law school in her family. At the event in Trenton in June with Murphy, she seemed to get choked up talking about the role they played in her life.

“Many years ago, my parents came to the United States from Haiti with not much more than the clothes on their backs and the American dream in their hearts. I think they have achieved that dream beyond measure because my life is certainly not representative of the traditional trajectory of someone who would one day be nominated to the Supreme Court of New Jersey,” she said.

Pierre-Louis is a partner at Montgomery McCracken in Cherry Hill, where she is in the white collar and government investigations practice.

Before that, she served for nearly a decade as an assistant United States Attorney in New Jersey.

As part of that role, she served as the attorney-in-charge of the Camden branch office — the first woman of color to hold that a position, according to her biography on Montgomery McCracken’s website.

Murphy, a Democrat, said that Pierre-Louis would carry on the legacy of John Wallace, who was the last Black justice on the state’s highest court and who she clerked for.

Murphy lamented that Wallace was not renominated when his first term expired in 2010 — the first time that had happened under the state’s current constitution.


Thai court issues new arrest warrant for Red Bull scion
Business Law Info | 2020/08/28 00:59
A Thai court issued a new arrest warrant on Tuesday for an heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune, a month after news of the dropping of a long-standing charge against him caused widespread anger.

Assistant National Police Chief Lt. Gen. Jaruwat Waisay confirmed that Vorayuth Yoovidhya, commonly known by the nickname “Boss,” faces charges of causing death by negligent driving and use of a narcotic substance.

“This was the recommendation by the police committee investigating the case," he said by phone. "We are confident that we can move forward on this, otherwise this decision would not have been made.”

Vorayuth is the grandson of Chaleo Yoovidhya, one of the creators of the globally famous Red Bull brand. Forbes puts the family’s net worth at $20 billion.

Around dawn on Sept. 3 , 2012, Vorayuth was at the wheel of a Ferrari that struck the back of a traffic policeman’s motorcycle on a main Bangkok road. The officer was flung from his motorbike and died at the scene, while Vorayuth drove home.

The family does not dispute he was the driver but says the policeman caused the crash by veering suddenly across his path. A forensic examination at the time put his speed at around 177 kilometers (110 miles) per hour in an 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour zone, and medical tests allegedly found traces of cocaine in his bloodstream.

For years Boss avoided court by not turning up to meet prosecutors. Meanwhile, the number of charges against him dwindled due to the statute of limitations.

After an AP investigation revealed that he was continuing to live a globetrotting life, using private jets to party around the world and staying in the family's luxurious properties, authorities finally issued an arrest warrant for causing death by reckless driving in April 2017.


Colombia court calls on Uribe to testify in massacre probe
Class Action News | 2020/08/24 08:02
Colombia’s Supreme Court is calling on powerful former President Alvaro Uribe to testify in an investigation into three massacres that could once and for all establish whether he had any ties to violent paramilitary groups.

The new legal quandary for Uribe is potentially more damaging than a separate Supreme Court probe into possible witness tampering that sparked protests earlier this month after magistrates placed the ex-president on house arrest.

Details of the massacre inquiry are contained in a 71-page court document obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday and also published in local media in which magistrates examine whether Uribe had any connection to three mass killings in the Antioquia department as well as the death of a human rights activist during his time as governor.

Both cases strike at long-standing ? but never legally proven ? accusations that Uribe had a direct role in paramilitary groups, which were formed by landowners during Colombia’s long civil conflict to fight violent Marxist guerrillas.

Though the Supreme Court is still in an investigative stage, the inquiries have split open tensions in Colombia over the peace process that led to an accord with the country’s biggest rebel movement. Uribe has vehemently denied the accusations and his lawyer is calling into question the timing of the new court request. Human rights activists, meanwhile, have praised the court for advancing the probes in a country where the powerful routinely escape accountability.


Court halts police subpoena for media’s protest images
Class Action News | 2020/08/21 08:04
Less than 24 hours before a court order would have required five Seattle media companies to turn over unpublished protest photos and videos to police, the state Supreme Court has granted them a temporary respite.

A Washington state Supreme Court commissioner on Thursday postponed a King County judge’s order that would have required The Seattle Times and local television stations KIRO, KING, KOMO and KCPQ, to comply with a Seattle police subpoena by handing over photos and video taken during racial injustice protests.

Instead, Commissioner Michael E. Johnston agreed with the news companies’ motion for an emergency stay while the high court considers the media groups’ appeal of King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee’s July 31 order, The Seattle Times reported.

“On balance, I am not persuaded that the potential harm to SPD (Seattle Police Department) outweighs the potential harm to the news media,” Johnston wrote in his ruling.

Lee had given the news companies until Aug. 21 to produce to his court their unpublished images from a 90-minute period when protests turned chaotic in downtown Seattle on May 30.

Last month, the Seattle Police Department contended it was at a standstill in its investigation of arson and thefts that day, leading detectives to seek and obtain a subpoena for the images. Investigators say the images could help identify people who torched five Seattle Police Department vehicles and stole two police guns from police vehicles during the mayhem.

The news groups countered that Washington’s so-called “shield law” protected the images from disclosure. As in most states, journalists in Washington are shielded from law enforcement subpoenas except under limited circumstances. The laws are an extension of the First Amendment, meant to guard against government interference in news gathering.

Lee, a former King County prosecutor, ruled that the rare public safety concerns of the case overrode the shield law’s protections, subjecting the news photos and video to the subpoena. Under his order, Lee or a special master of his choosing would have screened the media images privately to decide whether any should be turned over to police.

The ruling drew criticism from First Amendment groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, press organizations and members of the Seattle City Council, who asked City Attorney Pete Holmes to drop the subpoena. Seattle police officials, however, have defended the subpoena as necessary to solve the investigation and retrieve the weapons, which remain missing.

On Aug. 11, the news groups appealed directly to the Supreme Court, asking the panel to halt enforcement of the subpoena until the court resolved the news groups’ contentions that Lee erred in his ruling.

“The equities favor the news media, though I am deeply mindful of the public safety concerns attendant to stolen police firearms and intentional destruction of law enforcement vehicles and other property,” Johnston wrote.

The Supreme Court will decide at “the earliest opportunity as to whether to retain the (media companies’) appeal or refer it to the Court of Appeals,” Johnston’s ruling stated.


Int'l court: Hezbollah member guilty in Lebanon ex-PM death
U.S. Legal News | 2020/08/18 17:16
A U.N.-backed tribunal on Tuesday convicted one member of the Hezbollah militant group and acquitted three others of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Salim Ayyash was guilty as a co-conspirator of five charges linked to his involvement in the suicide truck bombing. Hariri and 21 others were killed and 226 were wounded in a huge blast outside a seaside hotel in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

However, after a years-long investigation and trial, three other Hezbollah members were acquitted of all charges that they also were involved in the killing of Hariri, which sent shock waves through the Mideast.

None of the suspects were ever arrested and were not in court to hear the verdicts.

The tribunal’s judges also said there was no evidence the leadership of the Hezbollah militant group and Syria were involved in the attack, despite saying the assassination happened as Harairi and his political allies were discussing calling for an “immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon,” Presiding Judge David Re said.

When launched in the wake of the attack, the tribunal raised hopes that for the first time in multiple instances of political violence in Lebanon, the truth of what happened would emerge and those responsible would be held to account.

But for many in Lebanon, the tribunal failed on both counts. Many of the suspects, including the man convicted Tuesday, are either dead or out of reach of justice. And the prosecution was unable to present a cohesive picture of the bombing plot or who ordered it.

The verdicts come at a particularly sensitive time for Lebanon, following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut two weeks ago, and as many in Lebanon are calling for an international investigation into that explosion.

UN-backed court to issue verdicts in Lebanon’s Hariri case

More than 15 years after the truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, a U.N.-backed tribunal in the Netherlands is announcing verdicts this week in the trial of four members of the militant group Hezbollah allegedly involved in the killing, which deeply divided the tiny country.

The verdicts on Tuesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in a village on the outskirts of the Dutch city of The Hague, are expected to further add to soaring tensions in Lebanon, two weeks after a catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port that killed nearly 180 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed thousands of homes in the Lebanese capital.

Unlike the blast that killed Hariri and 21 others on Feb. 14, 2005, the Aug. 4 explosion was believed to be a result of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that accidentally ignited at Beirut’s port. While the cause of the fire that provided the trigger is still not clear, Hezbollah, which maintains huge influence over Lebanese politics, is being sucked into the public fury directed at the country’s ruling politicians.

Even before the devastating Beirut port blast, the country’s leaders were concerned about violence after the verdicts. Hariri was Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni politician at the time, while the Iran-backed Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim group.

Tensions between Sunni and Shiites in the Middle East have fueled deadly conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and to a smaller scale in Lebanon. Some Lebanese see the tribunal as an impartial way of uncovering the truth about Hariri’s slaying, while Hezbollah ? which denies involvement ? calls it an Israeli plot to tarnish the group.


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