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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange loses bid to delay hearing
Business Law Info | 2019/10/21 20:59
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a U.K. court Monday to fight extradition to the United States on espionage charges, and he lost a bid to delay proceedings so that his legal team would have more time to prepare his case.

Assange defiantly raised a fist to supporters who jammed the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates Court for a rare view of their hero. He appears to have lost weight but looked healthy, although he spoke very softly and at times seemed despondent and confused.

Assange and his legal team failed to convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that a delay in the already slow-moving case was justified. The full extradition is still set for a five-day hearing in late February, with brief interim hearings in November and December.

Assange hadn’t been seen in public for several months and his supporters had raised concerns about his well-being. He wore a blue sweater and a blue sports suit for the hearing, and had his silvery-gray hair slicked back.

After the judge turned down his bid for a three-month delay, Assange said in halting tones he didn’t understand the events in court.

He said the case is not “equitable” because the U.S. government has “unlimited resources” while he doesn’t have easy access to his lawyers or to documents needed to prepare his battle against extradition while he is confined to Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London.

U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Assange, told the judge that more time was needed to prepare Assange’s defense because the case has many facets, including the very rare use of espionage charges against a journalist, and will require a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation

“Our case will be that this is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It is legally unprecedented,” he said.

He also accused the U.S. of illegally spying on Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge and taking other illegal actions against the WikiLeaks founder.


Appeals Court to Hold Rehearing on Trump Hotel Lawsuit
Business Law Info | 2019/10/19 04:02
A federal appeals court will reconsider a ruling from a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel.

The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hold a hearing before the full court of 15 judges. Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 12.

In a 2017 lawsuit, the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting profits through foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel.

A federal judge in Maryland ruled that the lawsuit could move forward.

But a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit overturned that ruling in July, handing the president a significant legal victory. All three judges were nominated by Republican presidents.


Brazil court overrules Rio mayor on gay kiss book ban
Business Law Info | 2019/09/04 23:58
A Brazilian Supreme Court justice has blocked efforts by Rio de Janeiro's conservative mayor to have a book fair remove a comic book showing two men kissing.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella had ordered the Bienale to remove the "Avengers" comic that included the kiss, saying he was acting to protect children against "sexual content."

That set off a legal battle as federal Attorney General Raquel Dodge challenged the move by Crivella, a former evangelical pastor. She said allowing the mayor to remove books goes against freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.

A lower court sided with Crivella. But chief justice Jose Dias Toffoli ruled in favor of Dodge on Sunday, blocking the mayor from removing any books. Crivella's office said he will appeal to the full court.



Activist loses UK court case on police facial recognition
Business Law Info | 2019/09/03 23:57
A British court ruled Wednesday that a police force's use of automated facial recognition technology is lawful, dealing a blow to an activist concerned about its implications for privacy.

Existing laws adequately cover the South Wales police force's deployment of the technology in a trial, two judges said , in what's believed to be the world's first legal case on how a law enforcement agency uses the new technology.

The decision comes amid a broader global debate about the rising use of facial recognition technology. Recent advances in artificial intelligence make it easier for police to automatically scan faces and instantly match them to "watchlists" of suspects, missing people and persons of interest, but it also raises concerns about mass surveillance.

"The algorithms of the law must keep pace with new and emerging technologies," Judges Charles Haddon-Cave and Jonathan Swift said.

Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident and human rights campaigner who filed the judicial review, said South Wales police scanned his face twice as it tested the technology - once while he was Christmas shopping in 2017 and again when he was at a peaceful protest against a defense expo in 2018.

"This sinister technology undermines our privacy and I will continue to fight against its unlawful use to ensure our rights are protected and we are free from disproportionate government surveillance," he said in a statement released by Liberty, a rights group that worked on his case.

His legal team argued that he suffered "distress" and his privacy and data protection rights were violated when South Wales police processed an image taken of him in public.

But the judges said that the police force's use of the technology was in line with British human rights and data privacy legislation. They said that all images and biometric data of anyone who wasn't a match on the "watchlist" of suspects was deleted immediately.


US appeals court: Another conflict in New Orleans courts
Business Law Info | 2019/08/20 23:53
A state magistrate judge in New Orleans has a conflict of interest when he sets bail for criminal defendants because bail fees help fund court operations, a federal appeals court said Thursday ? the second time in a week it has found such a conflict in New Orleans courts.

The ruling was in response to an appeal filed by Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ? often the first court official to preside over a newly arrested defendant’s case, and the one who initially sets bond.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Cantrell’s appeal and upheld a lower court finding that there was a conflict because fees collected as part of bail go to a judicial expense fund.

The lower court’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by two state criminal defendants, one of whom was jailed for two weeks until money for a bail bond was raised, and another who was never able to come up with the money and stayed in jail for a month.

“Because he must manage his chambers to perform the judicial tasks the voters elected him to do, Judge Cantrell has a direct and personal interest in the fiscal health of the public institution that benefits from the fees his court generates and that he also helps allocate,” Judge Gregg Costa wrote for the appeals panel. The bond fees, the opinion said, contribute between 20% and 25% of the amount spent by the court in recent years.

Last Friday, a separate 5th Circuit panel said the district court judges who hear cases and preside over trials have a conflict of interest when they are faced with deciding whether some defendants are able to pay fines and fees that partially fund their court’s expenses. That decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by criminal defendants who accused the New Orleans-based court of operating what amounted to a debtors’ prison.


Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Business Law Info | 2019/08/08 08:35
Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.


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