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Lawyer: Security video in Arbery case may show water breaks
Business Law Info | 2020/05/17 20:13
A young black man filmed by a security camera walking through a home under construction in December and in February may have stopped at the site for a drink of water, according to an attorney for the homeowner thrust into the investigation of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery was killed Feb. 23 in a pursuit by a white father and son who armed themselves after the 25-year-old black man ran past their yard just outside the port city of Brunswick. Right before the chase, Arbery was recorded inside an open-framed home being built on the same street.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, have been jailed on murder charges since May 7. The elder McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was responsible for recent break-ins in the neighborhood. He also said Arbery attacked his son before he was shot.

Arbery’s mother has said she believes her son was merely out jogging.

On Friday, an attorney for the owner of the house under construction released three security camera videos taken Dec. 17, more than two months before the shooting. They show a black man in a T-shirt and shorts at the site. In the final clip, he walks a few steps toward the road, then starts running at a jogger's pace.

“It now appears that this young man may have been coming onto the property for water,” J. Elizabeth Graddy, the attorney for homeowner Larry English, said in a statement. “There is a water source at the dock behind the house as well as a source near the front of the structure. Although these water sources do not appear within any of the cameras’ frames, the young man moves to and from their locations.”

A man in similar clothes appears briefly in another security video taken at the home construction site Feb. 11, less than two weeks before the shooting. Graddy said that person appears to be the same man shown in the Dec. 17 videos.


Wisconsin court sets argument date for stay-at-home lawsuit
Business Law Info | 2020/05/03 21:17
The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear oral arguments early next week in a lawsuit seeking to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.

The justices ruled 6-1 to accept the case and scheduled oral arguments for Tuesday morning via video conference. The arguments are expected to last at least 90 minutes.

The ruling said the court will consider whether the order was really an administrative rule and whether Palm was within her rights to issue it unilaterally. Even if the order doesn’t qualify as a rule, the court said it will still weigh whether Palm exceeded her authority by “closing all ‘nonessential’ businesses, ordering all Wisconsin persons to stay home, and forbidding all “nonessential’ travel.’”

Conservatives hold a 5-2 majority on the court. Liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet cast the lone dissenting vote. The ruling didn’t include any explanation from her.

Evers initially issued the stay-at-home order in March. It was supposed to expire on April 24 but state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm extended it until May 26 at Evers’ direction.

The order closed schools, shuttered nonessential businesses, limited the size of social gatherings and prohibits nonessential travel. The governor has said the order is designed to slow the virus’ spread, but Republicans have grown impatient with the prohibitions, saying they’re crushing the economy.

Republican legislators filed a lawsuit directly with the conservative-controlled Supreme Court last month challenging the extension. They have argued that the order is really an administrative rule, and Palm should have submitted it to the Legislature for approval before issuing it.


Wisconsin’s pandemic election puts focus on state’s court
Business Law Info | 2020/04/09 18:07
Anyone needing proof of the power and significance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court can look no further than the lines of mask-wearing voters that stretched for hours in Milwaukee during an election held despite a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

An election-eve decision by the court overturning the governor’s order to postpone the vote made the state an outlier in pushing ahead with voting, ignoring pleadings from health experts and local officials about the danger of spreading the virus.

The fact that Wisconsin went forward when other states delayed their elections, and that many voters were willing to endure long waits to cast ballots, reflects the hotly disputed role the court has taken in a state with outsize importance in national politics.

Republicans and Democrats both see Wisconsin as crucial to winning national elections and gaining control of Congress. Historically, elections in the state are decided by close margins and power has flipped between the parties.

Since conservatives have held a majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republican-dominated Legislature has been able to enact laws that enhanced the GOP’s position, including voter ID laws and limits on labor unions, despite legal challenges from Democrats. The court would play a pivotal role in reviewing the drawing of new district lines for legislative and congressional offices following the 2020 census, which has a major impact on the balance of political power.


Lawyers, judges push to close immigration courts amid virus
Business Law Info | 2020/04/08 01:05
Immigration attorneys have sported swim goggles and masks borrowed from friends to meet with clients in detention centers. Masked judges are stocking their cramped courtrooms with hand sanitizer for hearings they want to do by phone.

While much of daily life has ground to a halt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is resisting calls from immigration judges and attorneys to stop in-person hearings and shutter all immigration courts. They say the most pressing hearings can be done by phone so immigrants aren’t stuck in detention indefinitely.

Rules change daily as the virus spreads and federal officials struggle to figure out how and whether they can keep the massive system running. Officials say they have not ruled out a total shutdown but are closing specific courts and delaying hearings.

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday postponed hearings for asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico, but only after judges in San Diego canceled hearings in defiance of orders to keep them running amid the pandemic. The government has delayed hearings for immigrants who aren’t in detention but is moving forward for those who are.

Suspected coronavirus infections have forced immigration courts in New York, New Jersey and Colorado to temporarily shut down in the past week. As a precaution, the government announced the closure of several more Wednesday. Others that previously closed had reopened Thursday, including in Seattle. A handful of courts are only accepting documents.


Fight over jaguar habitat in Southwest heads back to court
Business Law Info | 2020/03/30 00:58
A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest.

Groups representing ranchers had sued, arguing that a 2014 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.

With the order released this week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jaguars are currently found in 19 countries. Several individual male jaguars have been spotted in Arizona and New Mexico over the last two decades but there's no evidence of breeding pairs establishing territories beyond northern Mexico.

Shrinking habitats, insufficient prey, poaching and retaliatory killings over livestock deaths are some of the things that have contributed to the jaguar’s decline in the Southwest over the past 150 years.

Under a recovery plan finalized last year, Mexico as well as countries in Central and South America would be primarily responsible for monitoring jaguar movements within their territory. Environmentalists have criticized the plan, saying the U.S. government is overlooking opportunities for recovery north of the international border.



Asylum Seekers Attend Border Court Amid Outbreak
Business Law Info | 2020/03/17 18:12
U.S. immigration courts sharply scaled back operations Monday but have stopped well short of a total shutdown demanded by employees, including judges and government attorneys.

Wearing face masks, about 30 asylum seekers who had been waiting in Mexico were escorted by authorities into a federal building in El Paso, Texas, some carrying children.

They reported, as instructed, to a border crossing at 4 a.m. Monday and were driven to the court in white vans. Journalists were barred from the courtroom on the grounds that it was too crowded.

A lawyer who attended said the judge appeared by video conference, and few, if any migrants wore masks once the hearing began.

“All of the benches are taken up,” Imelda Maynard said. “Most of the children are asleep in their parent’s arms.”

The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review late Sunday postponed preliminary hearings for people who aren’t in custody through April 10. While significant, the order doesn’t extend to courts in immigration detention centers or to the government’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in the U.S. It also didn’t apply to final hearings which determine whether migrants are granted asylum.


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