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Samsung heir freed after appeal wins suspended jail term
Attorneys News | 2018/02/03 15:20
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong was freed Monday after a South Korean appeals court gave him a 2 ½-year suspended jail sentence for corruption in connection with a scandal that toppled the country's president.

The Seoul High Court softened the original ruling against Lee, rejecting most of the bribery charges leveled against Lee by prosecutors who sought a 12-year prison term.

While the ruling clears the way for the Samsung vice chairman to resume his role at the helm of the industrial giant founded by his grandfather after a year in prison, he faces a slew of challenges outside prison.

Chief among them will be winning trust that he is capable of running South Korea's biggest company, and assuaging public anger among those who viewed the court's surprise decision as a setback in the war on corruptions.

"The past year was a precious time for personal reflection," Lee told reporters waiting outside the gates of a detention center in southern Seoul.

Lee's first stop from the prison was a Samsung hospital where his father has been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack in 2014.

Lee was charged with offering $38 million in bribes to former President Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil, embezzling Samsung funds, hiding assets overseas, concealing proceeds from criminal activities and perjury.

The appeals court said Lee was unable to reject the then-president's request to financially support her confidante and was coerced into making the payments. The court still found Lee guilty of giving 3.6 billion won ($3.3 million) in bribes for equestrian training of Choi's daughter and of embezzling the money from Samsung funds.

Lee's lawyer, Lee Injae, told reporters that the Samsung vice chairman still plans to appeal his conviction. Prosecutors also were expected to appeal the court's ruling, making it almost certain the case will go to the Supreme Court.

Lee, 49 and the only son of Samsung's ailing chairman, was given a five-year prison term in August on bribery and other charges linked to a political scandal that took down former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Lee has pleaded not guilty to charges he used Samsung corporate funds to bribe Park and a confidante, seeking to consolidate his control over Samsung and facilitate a smooth transfer of corporate leadership from his father. The appeals court rejected the lower court's view that corporate succession was one of the issues at stake.

Many South Koreans were expecting a tough stance from the appeals court and took to social media and online news portals to vent their anger at the ruling and the judge who issued the verdict.

"Republic of Samsung" and the name of the judge who handed down Monday's verdict were among the top trending words on Twitter in Korean.

The earlier ruling against Lee was seen as a departure from the previous court cases that had been criticized for being too soft toward white-collar crime and toward executives of chaebol, the big conglomerates that helped South Korea's rapid industrialization.

Lee's case and the current trial of the former president are seen as tests of the country's commitment to ending cozy ties among South Korea's political and business elite. Such links once were seen as the key to South Korea's impressive rise from the ashes of its 1950-53 war but now are blamed for corruption, inequality and stifling innovation.

Before the final hearing at the appeals court Lee paid back 8 billion won ($7.3 million) to Samsung Electronics. The lower court had said Lee embezzled that amount from Samsung to bribe Choi.


North Carolina's altered legislative districts back in court
Attorneys News | 2018/01/17 05:59
North Carolina legislative districts are back in court again as federal judges must decide whether to accept proposed alterations by their appointed third-party expert.

A three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired redrew boundaries the way he did. House and Senate districts drawn by Republican legislators have been in courts since 2011.

The same judicial panel previously struck down 28 districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, ultimately leading GOP legislators last summer to retool their maps. But the judges said there seemed to be lingering problems with race and constitutional violations and brought in a special master.

GOP lawyers already have said they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the judicial panel approves the professor's proposal.


Myanmar court extends detention for 2 Reuters reporters
Attorneys News | 2017/12/30 13:55
A court in Myanmar extended the detention of two Reuters journalists on Wednesday and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where abuses widely blamed on the military have driven more than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The charges are are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

"We are just working as journalists. ... We never violate journalism ethics," Wa Lone told reporters as he and his colleague were led out of a police van into the courtroom in Mingalardon, on the outskirts of Yangon.

Their families wept as they got a chance to see them for the first time since their arrests.

"I want my husband to be free soon. And I trust him that he would never violate the law," said Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon.

U.S., U.N. and European Union officials are among others calling for their release.

Dozens of Myanmar journalists appeared at the court wearing black shirts as part of a protest against the journalists' arrests.

"We are facing the same kind of harassment under the civilian government as we did under the military government," said Thar Lun Zaung Htet, head of a local pressure group for press freedom. "It is not fair for the two journalists to be charged under the official secrets act because they were doing their job as journalists who tried to get information."

On Tuesday, authorities said they would drop charges against two Singaporean reporters and their local staff working for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT. They were arrested on Oct. 27 for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament building without permission.


S. Korean court says worker's rare disease linked to Samsung
Attorneys News | 2017/08/30 14:01
South Korea's Supreme Court said a former worker in a Samsung LCD factory who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis should be recognized as having an occupationally caused disease, overturning lower court verdicts that held a lack of evidence against the worker.

In a milestone decision that could aid other sickened tech workers struggling to prove the origin of their diseases, the Supreme Court ruled there was a significant link between Lee Hee-jin's disease and workplace hazards and her working conditions.

Lower courts had denied her claim, partly because no records of her workplace conditions were publicly available. The Labor Ministry and Samsung refused to disclose them when a lower court requested the information, citing trade secrets.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court said the lack of evidence, resulting from Samsung's refusal to provide the information and an inadequate investigation by the government, should not be held against the sickened worker.

Instead, it said, such special circumstances should be considered in favor of the worker.

Lee, 33, began to work at a Samsung LCD factory in Cheonan, south of Seoul, in 2002 when she was a high school senior. She evaluated nearly one hundred display panels per hour on a conveyor belt, looking for defective panels and wiping them with isopropyl alcohol. She worked next to assembly lines that used other chemicals.

Three years after she joined Samsung Electronics, she first reported the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a rare disease that affects the central nervous system. The average age of reporting multiple sclerosis in South Korea is 38. She left Samsung in 2007.

Lee first filed a claim in 2010 with a government agency, which denied her request for compensation. She took her case to the courts and lost twice before Tuesday's victory.



First Opioid Court in the U.S. Focuses on Keeping Users Alive
Attorneys News | 2017/07/11 00:18
After three defendants fatally overdosed in a single week last year, it became clear that Buffalo's ordinary drug treatment court was no match for the heroin and painkiller crisis.

Now the city is experimenting with the nation's first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days, requires them to check in with a judge every day for a month instead of once a week, and puts them on strict curfews. Administering justice takes a back seat to the overarching goal of simply keeping defendants alive.

"The idea behind it," said court project director Jeffrey Smith, "is only about how many people are still breathing each day when we're finished."

Funded with a three-year $300,000 U.S. Justice Department grant, the program began May 1 with the intent of treating 200 people in a year and providing a model that other heroin-wracked cities can replicate.

Two months in, organizers are optimistic. As of late last week, none of the 80 people who agreed to the program had overdosed, though about 10 warrants had been issued for missed appearances.

Buffalo-area health officials blamed 300 deaths on opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 127 two years earlier. That includes a young couple who did not make it to their second drug court appearance last spring. The woman's father arrived instead to tell the judge his daughter and her boyfriend had died the night before.

"We have an epidemic on our hands. ... We've got to start thinking outside the box here," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. "And if that means coddling an individual who has a minor offense, who is not a career criminal, who's got a serious drug problem, then I'm guilty of coddling."

Regular drug treatment courts that emerged in response to crack cocaine in the 1980s take people in after they've been arraigned and in some cases released. The toll of opioids and profile of their users, some of them hooked by legitimate prescriptions, called for more drastic measures.

Acceptance into opioid crisis court means detox, inpatient or outpatient care, 8 p.m. curfews, and at least 30 consecutive days of in-person meetings with the judge. A typical drug treatment court might require such appearances once a week or even once a month.


In one state, abused animals get a legal voice in court
Attorneys News | 2017/06/02 17:22
Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success.

There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases.

"Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."

The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.


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