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McConnell touts Thapar for Supreme Court seat
Business Law Info | 2018/07/01 00:03
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he has touted fellow Kentuckian Amul Thapar to fill a looming vacancy on the Supreme Court, but acknowledged he has "no idea" who President Donald Trump will choose.

McConnell told reporters he has encouraged Trump to consider Thapar, and said he hopes the federal appeals court judge is "in the final group" as the president looks for a successor to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Thapar is a former U.S. District Court judge in Kentucky. He has already been nominated once by Trump, for his current seat on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. McConnell has been a longtime supporter of Thapar, stretching back to the judge's tenure as a federal prosecutor.

"I think he's absolutely brilliant, with the right temperament," McConnell said of Thapar. "But others have their favorites. And I have no idea who the president may choose."

Trump has said he will announce his choice on July 9. The president has promised to draw the next justice from a list of 25 prospective candidates that was first established during the 2016 presidential campaign and updated last fall, with advice from conservatives. Thapar's name has come up among possible nominees being eyed.

In a speech Saturday to a GOP gathering in Louisville, McConnell said the goal is to have a new justice in place in time for the start of the Supreme Court's next term in October. As majority leader, McConnell sets the schedule in the narrowly divided Senate.

"There's not any doubt in my mind that we'll be able to get this new nominee confirmed, and I'm confident the president is going to send up an all-star, somebody of very high quality," McConnell told reporters later.

McConnell predicted the nominee will be similar to Trump's first Supreme Court selection, Neil Gorsuch, in terms of background and philosophy on the judiciary's role.


Court: S.Korea must allow alternative for military objectors
Business Law Info | 2018/06/28 00:04
South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the country must allow alternative social service for people who conscientiously object to military service, which is currently mandatory for able-bodied males.

The ruling requires the government to introduce alternative service by the end of 2019. It was hailed by activists as a breakthrough that advances individual rights and freedom of thought.

It is also likely to trigger a heated debate in a country which maintains a huge military to counter North Korea threats, and where many have accused conscientious objectors of attempting to evade the draft.

Hundreds of conscientious objectors are imprisoned in South Korea each year, serving terms of 18 months or longer. Most are Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to serve in the military on religious grounds.

"Too many people have been forced to choose between prison and the military, and when they choose prison, a term of 1 1/2 years has been almost automatic," said Lim Jae-sung, a human rights lawyer who has represented contentious objectors. "This is great news for those who are currently on trial or will conscientiously object to military service in the future as we probably won't be marching them straight to jail."

The court said the current law, which does not permit alternative service, is unconstitutional because it infringes excessively on individual rights.

The court acknowledged that conscientious objectors experience "enormous disadvantages" in addition to their prison terms, including restrictions in public sector employment, maintaining business licenses and social stigma.




European Union moves against Poland for its new court law
U.S. Legal News | 2018/06/28 00:03
The European Union opened a rule-of-law procedure Monday against Poland over what it sees as flaws in Poland's Supreme Court law, intensifying a standoff that could eventually see Poland lose its EU voting rights.

The move comes a day before a new law takes effect that forces the early retirement of nearly 40 percent of the court's judges.
The law is the culmination of the ruling populist Law and Justice Party's efforts to put Poland's entire court system until its control, a plan it began nearly three years ago. For their part, party leaders claim they are reforming an inefficient. corrupt court system in the grip of an unaccountable caste of judges.

Critics see the law on Poland's Supreme Court as the most dramatic step in the party's takeover of the courts, giving the ruling party the power to stack the court with its supporters. One of court's jobs is to verify the results of elections, and critics say the new law marks a serious reversal for democracy.

The European Commission said Monday the measures in Poland's new court law "undermine the principle of judiciary independence." It also insisted that it "stands ready to continue the rule-of-law dialogue" despite starting the legal procedure.


Georgia officer to appear in court after deadly shooting
Law & Politics | 2018/06/27 00:03
A white Georgia police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter after shooting a fleeing black man is set to make his first court appearance.

Kingsland Police Officer Zechariah Presley's hearing will be at 2 p.m. Friday in Camden County, Georgia.

Presley was charged after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reviewed his body camera recording and other evidence in the death of Anthony Green in the small south Georgia town of Kingsland.

Presley's lawyer, Adrienne Browning, said her client is looking forward to his day in court and declined further comment. The killing has enraged Green's family and friends. They plan to hold a news conference with their lawyers at 11:30 a.m. Friday.


Supreme Court upholds Trump administration travel ban
Law Firm News | 2018/06/26 00:04
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries, rejecting a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded his authority. The 5-4 decision Tuesday is the court’s first substantive ruling on a Trump administration policy. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by his four conservative colleagues. Roberts wrote that presidents have substantial power to regulate immigration. He also rejected the challengers’ claim of anti-Muslim bias.

But he was careful not to endorse either Trump’s provocative statements about immigration in general and Muslims in particular. “We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” Roberts wrote. The travel ban has been fully in place since the court declined to block it in December. The justices allowed the policy to take full effect even as the court fight continued and lower courts had ruled it out of bounds.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent that based on the evidence in the case “a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.” She said her colleagues arrived at the opposite result by “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan also dissented. The policy applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries: blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. A sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list in April after improving “its identity-management and information sharing practices,” Trump said in a proclamation.

The administration had pointed to the Chad decision to show that the restrictions are premised only on national security concerns. The challengers, though, argued that the court could just ignore all that has happened, beginning with Trump’s campaign tweets to prevent the entry of Muslims into the United States.

Just a week after he took office in January 2017, Trump announced his first travel ban aimed at seven countries. That triggered chaos and protests across the U.S. as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. Trump tweaked the order after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to reinstate the ban.



Man charged in bike path killings speaks in court of 'Allah'
Attorney Blogs | 2018/06/24 23:26
The man charged with murdering eight people on a New York City bike path and injuring many more spoke out in court Friday over a prosecutor's objection, invoking "Allah" and defending the Islamic State.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, raised his hand to speak immediately after U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick set an Oct. 7, 2019 date for the Uzbek immigrant's trial.

Earlier, he had pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the latest indictment in the Oct. 31 truck attack near the World Trade Center. A prosecutor said the Justice Department will decide by the end of the summer whether to seek the death penalty against Saipov, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, before the attack.

Speaking through an interpreter for about 10 minutes, Saipov said the decisions of a U.S. court were unimportant to him. He said he cared about "Allah" and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.

At the prompting of Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle, Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," Saipov said.

"So the Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or like some say, for oil. They have one purpose, and they're fighting to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on earth," he said.

After Saipov spoke more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Beaty interrupted him to object that the judge was letting Saipov make the kind of statement publicly that special restrictions placed on him in prison would otherwise prevent, including discussing "terrorist propaganda."

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he was unlikely to let him speak out in court again in a similar manner. Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing.

Saipov thanked the judge for letting him speak but added at one point: "I don't accept this as my judge."

Prosecutors had been seeking an April 2019 trial date. Houle said the families of the dead and the dozens who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

"The victims here are anxious now when that trial is going to be," she said. "The public deserves a speedy trial, and the surviving victims deserve to know when that trial is going to be."

Defense lawyers have said the government should accept a guilty plea and a sentence of life in prison without parole to provide victims' families and the public with closure.


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