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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.


Puerto Ricans await court decision on potential new governor
Business Law Info | 2019/08/05 08:33
Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court on Monday agreed to rule on a lawsuit that the island’s Senate filed in a bid to oust a veteran politician recently sworn in as the island’s governor.

The court gave all parties until Tuesday at noon to file all necessary paperwork, noting that no extensions will be awarded.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction ordering Pedro Pierluisi to cease his functions immediately and also asks that the court declare unconstitutional a 2005 law that says a secretary of state does not have to be approved by both the House and Senate if he or she has to step in as governor.

“I want to put an end to this, but I want to do it correctly,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said during a special session in which he stated he would let the court decide the outcome, adding that Pierluisi only had five of 15 votes needed from the Senate for his earlier nomination as secretary of state.

It is unclear how quickly the Supreme Court might rule or whether it would hold a hearing or simply issue a written opinion. The announcement comes as Puerto Ricans who successfully ousted the previous governor from office following nearly two weeks of protests await yet another twist in what is a deepening constitutional crisis.


Louisiana judge orders man's mouth taped for interruptions
Business Law Info | 2019/07/29 04:01
Court logs show a Louisiana district court judge ordered a man's mouth be taped shut for repeatedly interrupting proceedings.

The Acadiana Advocate reports Michael C. Duhon was being sentenced July 18 for theft and money laundering.

Court minutes show Duhon objected when Judge Marilyn Castle asked him to stop submitting motions on his own behalf instead of through his attorney. After repeatedly requesting for Duhon to be quiet, Castle ordered the bailiff to tape Duhon's mouth shut.

The tape was removed after an objection from Duhon's public defense attorney, Aaron Adams, who requested the judge remove his client from the courtroom instead.

Castle sentenced Duhon to 11 years in prison and recommended he be transferred to a facility with mental health treatment options.

Another public defender in the courtroom faces contempt charges for recording the incident.



Democratic governor getting to shape Kansas' top court
Business Law Info | 2019/07/27 10:53
A Cyprus court on Friday extended the detention of seven of the 12 Israeli teenagers initially arrested as suspects in the rape of a 19-year-old British woman.

The court ordered the suspects to remain in police custody for another six days to give investigators time to finish looking into the woman’s reported rape at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh says five other suspects were released from custody on Thursday and have returned to Israel.

Lawyer Yiannis Habaris told The Associated Press that police investigators confirmed that the five released Israelis had no connection with the case. Habaris represents four suspects, two of whom were among those who were released.

Habaris said investigators connected the seven remaining suspects to the case through witness statements as well as DNA evidence which link three of the seven to the alleged victim.

The Cypriot lawyer said the suspects offered investigators certain “explanations” into their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime.

The court heard that the alleged victim was involved in a relationship with one of the seven suspects and had sexual contact with several of the remaining six over the course of a few days, Habaris said.

Habaris said investigators may decide to take the case to trial before a criminal court if any of the seven suspects aren’t released in the coming days.

Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who represents three of the 12 Israelis, alleged the release of the five damaged the accuser’s credibility because she told police a dozen individuals sexually assaulted her.

Yaslovitzh also urged Cypriot investigators to look into the woman’s actions at the hotel where the alleged crime occurred and where she was also working.

The seven suspects again covered their faces with their shirts as they entered and exited the courthouse. They face charges of rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

Yaslovitzh had said after the initial custody hearing that all 12 Israelis had come on holidays to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other. Some had gone on vacation prior to being inducted into the Israeli army.



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