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Unions in court over laws limiting Wisconsin governor, AG
Business Law Info | 2019/03/21 07:13
Laws passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature during a lame-duck session in December that weakened powers of the Democratic governor and attorney general were back before a circuit judge Monday, less than a week after another judge struck them down as unconstitutional.

Republicans appealed last week's ruling, and the state appeals court could rule as soon as Monday on that request to immediately reinstate the laws and put last week's ruling on hold.

Gov. Tony Evers moved quickly after last week's order to rescind 82 of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker's appointments that the state Senate confirmed during the lame-duck session. And Attorney General Josh Kaul, at Evers' order, moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, a power taken away from him during the lame-duck session.

The judge last week ruled that the laws were illegally passed because the type of session lawmakers used to meet in December was unconstitutional. Republicans called themselves into "extraordinary session" to pass the bills, but Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said there was no basis in state law to call such sessions.

The attorney for Republican lawmakers, Misha Tseytlin, argued that the ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during extraordinary sessions.



N Carolina governor signs law keeping Court of Appeals at 15
Business Law Info | 2019/03/11 01:18
North Carolina's intermediate-level appeals court will stay at 15 judges as Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation that repeals a 2017 law that would have reduced the seats to 12 over time.

Cooper announced Thursday that he had signed the law , which Republicans controlling the General Assembly approved quickly over the past several days.

GOP leaders said they sought the repeal because it would end litigation Cooper filed challenging the previous law. The Republicans won the first legal round, but oral arguments at the state Supreme Court were next.

The 2017 law would have prevented the governor from appointing replacements for the next three court vacancies due to retirement or other reasons because the seats would be eliminated instead. The first such vacancy would have occurred at the end of March.


Wisconsin court: Judge's Facebook friendship could show bias
Business Law Info | 2019/02/16 17:45
A Wisconsin judge's decision to become Facebook friends with a woman whose child custody case he was hearing created at least the appearance of bias, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday in ordering the case to be re-heard by another judge.

The case, which is the first of its kind in the state, contemplates whether judges' use of social media can compromise them. In its ruling, the 3rd District Court of Appeals didn't lay out any bright-line rules for judges, but it warned them to use caution when engaging with people online to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"We caution that judges should recognize that online interactions, like real-world interactions, must be treated with a degree of care," appellate Judge Mark Seidl wrote in the ruling.

According to court documents, Angela Carroll filed a motion in Barron County in 2016 to adjust a custody arrangement she had reached with her son's father, Timothy Miller. She demanded sole legal custody, primary placement of the boy and an order forcing Miller to pay child support. She argued Miller had abused her, an accusation Miller denied.

The case landed with Judge Michael Bitney. Three days after Carroll and Miller submitted their final written arguments in 2017, Bitney accepted a Facebook friend request from Carroll.

She proceeded to like 18 of the judge's posts and commented on two of them. None of the posts were directly related to the pending custody case. Bitney didn't like or comment on any of Carroll's posts and didn't reply to her comments. He didn't deny reading them, however.

Carroll also shared one third-party photograph related to domestic violence. Nothing suggests the judge ever saw it, but the post could have appeared on his newsfeed, according to the documents.



High court upholds texting suicide manslaughter conviction
Business Law Info | 2019/02/06 18:09
The involuntary manslaughter conviction of a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend through dozens of text messages to kill himself was upheld Wednesday by Massachusetts' highest court.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with a lower court judge who found that Michelle Carter caused Conrad Roy III's death when she told him to "get back in" his truck that was filling with toxic gas after he told her he was scared. The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy's family when she knew he was killing himself.

"And then after she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die," Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling.

Carter's lawyers noted the only evidence she instructed Roy to get back in the truck was a long, rambling text she sent to a friend two months later in which she called Roy's death her fault.

Carter was 17 when Roy, 18, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014. Carter, now 22, was sentenced to 15 months in jail, but has remained free while she pursues her appeals.

Prosecutors had argued Carter could have stopped Roy from killing himself, but instead bullied him into going through with his plan through text messages that became more insistent as he delayed.


US presses ahead with border wall in court despite shutdown
Business Law Info | 2019/01/16 08:12
A federal attorney in South Texas said in court this week that during the ongoing partial government shutdown, he only has been allowed to work on cases related to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project on Thursday released a transcript of a Tuesday hearing in a case where the U.S. government has sued a local landowner for her property along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many other civil cases have been delayed during the shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

According to the transcript, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez noted that government attorneys working on border wall cases have not been furloughed despite the shutdown.

The prosecutor, Eric Paxton Warner, responded, “This is all I’m allowed to work on, Your Honor.”

Warner and a spokeswoman for the local U.S. attorney’s office did not return messages. A spokesman for the Department of Justice says each U.S. attorney had the authority to determine which civil cases should move forward or be delayed, but that civil cases would be delayed “to the extent this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last year that it planned to start building in February. But unlike on other parts of the border, most border land in South Texas is owned privately. That requires the government to seize it through eminent domain, suing private landowners in cases that can take months or years. Some landowners who would be affected have already vowed to fight the government in court.

Efren Olivares, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, accused the government of being “fixated” on a border wall at the expense of other matters.

“As someone who is also handling family reunification cases in which government lawyers are telling us they can’t do anything to help us because of the government shutdown, it’s extremely upsetting and frustrating,” he said.

The case that led to Tuesday’s hearing was opened 11 years ago, during the last major effort to build border barriers under the Secure Fence Act. It involves a chunk of land in Los Ebanos, a town of roughly 300 people situated along a bend in the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas.

Olivares said the U.S. government already obtained the land it sought from the landowner, Pamela Rivas, but both sides haven’t agreed yet on compensation.


Prominent Chinese rights lawyer tried in closed proceedings
Business Law Info | 2018/12/26 20:07
The trial of a prominent human rights lawyer began in northern China on Wednesday with about two dozen plainclothes officers stationed outside a courthouse and at least one supporter taken away by police.

Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was being tried. Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was kept from attending the proceedings by security agents who had blocked the exit of her apartment complex since Tuesday.

Li told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Liu Weiguo, Wang's government-appointed lawyer, confirmed the trial had started. But he did not tell her whether it was now over or whether a verdict had been reached.

The court said in a statement on its website that it "lawfully decided not to make public" the trial hearings because the case involved state secrets. A decision will be announced at a future date, the court said.

Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the most recognized in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016. He has been held without access to his lawyers or family for more than three years.

Fengrui has pursued numerous sensitive cases and represented outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party. Wang represented members of the Falun Gong meditation sect that the government has relentlessly suppressed since banning it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Group leaders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and ordinary followers locked up as alleged threats.




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