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Court: No new offshore drilling work during federal shutdown
Class Action News | 2019/01/18 08:17
A federal judge in South Carolina has turned back the Trump administration's attempt to continue preparatory work for offshore drilling during the federal government's partial shutdown, issuing a ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the overall expansion plans.

In his order, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel halted federal agencies "from taking action to promulgate permits, otherwise approve, or take any other official action" for permits to conduct testing that's needed before drilling work can begin.

The ruling comes a few days after President Donald Trump's decision this week to recall workers at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management so they could continue to process testing permits for possible drilling off the Atlantic coastline. The recall drew an objection from the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva (gri-HAWL-vah) of Arizona. He called on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to reverse course or provide a briefing on the legal justification for the move.

Earlier this month, South Carolina joined a federal lawsuit opposing the administration's plans to conduct offshore drilling tests using seismic air guns. Gergel is overseeing that case, initially filed by environmental groups and municipalities along the state's coast.

The suit challenges permits for the testing that precedes the drilling itself. It claims the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits.


Court: State, governor can't be sued over public defenders
Class Action News | 2019/01/12 23:01
Missouri and its governor cannot be sued over the state’s underfunded and understaffed public defender system, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday said the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity means the state can’t commit a legal wrong and cannot be sued unless the legislature makes exceptions in state law, KCUR reported.

American Civil Liberties Union-Missouri filed the class action lawsuit in 2017. The organization argued the governor and state have ignored their constitutional obligation to provide meaningful legal representation to indigent clients by not providing enough funds to address chronic underfunding and understaffing in the public defender system. ACLU-Missouri argues in the lawsuit that Mississippi is the only state to allocate less than the $355 per case that Missouri spends for its indigent defense budget.

The lawsuit will continue against the head of the public defender system, Michael Barrett, and the public defender commission.

The decision, written by Judge Duane Benton, does not address the merits of the lawsuit. But the ruling means the legislature can’t be forced to appropriate more money to the system.

“It would be easier if the state itself were a defendant,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of ACLU-Missouri.

Rothert said if the ACLU prevails against the other defendants, the court could order the state to reduce public defenders’ caseloads, or prosecutors could use their discretion to not bring charges for certain crimes. Or defendants who aren’t considered dangerous could be released on bail and put on a waiting list for public defenders rather than staying in jail while awaiting trial.




Congo runner-up Fayulu asks court to order election recount
Class Action News | 2019/01/12 07:11
Congo's presidential runner-up Martin Fayulu has asked the constitutional court to order a recount in the disputed election, declaring on Saturday that "you can't manufacture results behind closed doors."

He could be risking more than the court's refusal. Congo's electoral commission president Corneille Nangaa has said there are only two options: The official results are accepted or the vote is annulled — which would keep President Joseph Kabila in power until another election. The Dec. 30 one came after two years of delays.

"They call me the people's soldier ... and I will not let the people down," Fayulu said. Evidence from witnesses at polling stations across the country is being submitted to the court, which is full of Kabila appointees.

Rifle-carrying members of Kabila's Republican Guard deployed outside Fayulu's home and the court earlier Saturday. It was an attempt to stop him from filing, Fayulu said while posting a video of them on Twitter: "The fear remains in their camp."

Fayulu has accused the declared winner, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, of a backroom deal with Kabila to win power in the mineral-rich nation as the ruling party candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, did poorly.

The opposition coalition for Fayulu, a businessman vocal about cleaning up widespread corruption, has said he won 61 percent of the vote, citing figures compiled by the Catholic Church's 40,000 election observers across the vast Central African country.




Court orders mediation in Maryland desegregation case
Class Action News | 2019/01/06 23:24
A federal appeals court has ordered a fourth attempt at mediation in a long-running dispute over the state of Maryland’s treatment of its historically black colleges.

The black colleges say the state has underfunded them while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly compete with them and drain prospective students away.

In 2013, a judge found that the state had maintained an unconstitutional “dual and segregated education system.” The judge said the state allowed traditionally white schools to replicate programs at historically black institutions, thereby undermining the success of the black schools.

Despite three previous tries at mediation, the two sides have been unable to agree on a solution.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Maryland’s higher education commission and the coalition to begin mediation again to try to settle the 12-year-old lawsuit.


Human rights court rules against Greece in Sharia law case
Class Action News | 2018/12/16 02:50
Greece violated a prohibition on discrimination by applying Islamic religious law to an inheritance dispute among members of the country's Muslim minority, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ruled Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights by applying Sharia law in the case, under which a Muslim Greek man's will bequeathing all he owned to his wife was deemed invalid after it was challenged by his sisters.

The man's widow, Chatitze Molla Sali, appealed to the European court in 2014, having lost three quarters of her inheritance. She argued she had been discriminated against on religious grounds as, had her husband not been Muslim, she would have inherited his entire estate under Greek law.

The European court agreed. It has not yet issued a decision on what, if any, penalty it will apply to Greece.

"Greece was the only country in Europe which, up until the material time, had applied Sharia law to a section of its citizens against their wishes," the court said in its ruling.

"That was particularly problematic in the present case because the application of Sharia law had led to a situation that was detrimental to the individual rights of a widow who had inherited her husband's estate in accordance with the rules of civil law but who had then found herself in a legal situation which neither she nor her husband had intended."

Molla Sali's husband had drawn up his will according to Greek law, and both a first instance and an appeals court initially ruled in her favor in the dispute with her sisters-in-law. But further court decisions ruled that inheritance issues within the Muslim minority had to be dealt with under Islamic religious law, and the will was deemed invalid.



Poland moves to reinstate retired judges to Supreme Court
Class Action News | 2018/11/21 21:02
Poland's ruling party has submitted a draft law to parliament that would reinstate Supreme Court judges who were recently forced into early retirement.

The development comes a month after the European Union's top court ordered Poland to immediately stop applying a law that lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges, forcing about two dozen of them off the bench.

Poland has been in a standoff with the European Union for three years over attempts by the ruling populist Law and Justice party to impose control over the court system. The efforts have raised serious concerns over rule of law in the young democracy.

Wednesday's legislative initiative marks one of the first significant steps by Poland to comply with EU demands.



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