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Supreme Court: Justices healthy and trying to stay that way
Court Feed News | 2020/03/22 00:24
The Supreme Court reported Friday that the nine justices are healthy and trying to stay that way.

To that end, when the court held its regularly scheduled private conference Friday morning, some of the justices participated remotely, and those who were in the building did not engage in the tradition of shaking hands, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

The court plans to issue opinions Monday in cases argued during the fall and winter without taking the bench, Arberg said. The last time that happened was when the court decided Bush v. Gore late in the evening of Dec. 12, 2000, essentially settling the disputed 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush.

Arberg wouldn't say who showed up in person Friday to the justices' conference room, adjacent to Chief Justice John Roberts' office. Six of the nine justices are 65 and older, at higher risk of getting very sick from the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned 87 on Sunday, and Stephen Breyer, 81, are the oldest members of the court.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, 54, flew on a commercial flight last week between Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky, for a ceremony in honor of U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, a former law clerk whom President Donald Trump named to the federal bench last year.


Australia’s High Court hears what may be Pell’s last appeal
Court Feed News | 2020/03/13 19:54
The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse took his appeal to Australia’s highest court Wednesday in potentially his last bid to clear his name.

Cardinal George Pell was sentenced a year ago to six years in prison for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

He was convicted by the unanimous verdict of a Victoria state County Court jury in December 2018 after a jury in an earlier trial was deadlocked.

A Victoria Court of Appeal rejected his appeal against his convictions in a 2-1 majority decision in August last year.

Pope Francis’ 78-year-old former finance minister is arguing before the High Court that the guilty verdicts were unreasonable and could not be supported by the whole of the evidence from more than 20 prosecution witnesses who include priests, altar servers and former choirboys.

Seven judges are hearing the case over two days.

Pell’s lawyer Bret Walker told the judges that there had been a “reversal of onus” in which Pell was expected to prove the offending didn’t happen instead of prosecutors proving the crimes were committed beyond reasonable doubt.

“That is a wrong question which sends the inquiry onto a terribly damaging wrong route,” Walker said.

Walker said the allegations that Pell had molested the two boys in a priests’ sacristy moments after a Mass could not be proved if the jury had accepted the evidence of sacristan Maxwell Potter and Monsignor Charles Portelli.

Potter had testified that the sacristy was kept locked during Masses and Portelli had given evidence that he was always with Pell while he was dressed in his archbishop’s robes.


International court approves Afghanistan investigation
Court Feed News | 2020/03/12 02:55
International Criminal Court judges authorized a far-reaching investigation Thursday of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Afghan government forces, the Taliban, American troops and U.S. foreign intelligence operatives.

The appellate ruling marked the first time the court’s prosecutor has been cleared to investigate U.S. forces, and set the global tribunal on a collision course with the Trump administration.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pledged to carry out an independent and impartial investigation and called for full support and cooperation from all parties.

“The many victims of atrocious crimes committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan deserve to finally have justice,” Bensouda said. “Today they are one step closer to that coveted outcome.”

Washington, which has long rejected the court’s jurisdiction and refuses to cooperate with it, condemned the decision while human rights groups and lawyers for victims applauded it.

A five-judge appellate panel upheld an appeal by prosecutors against a pretrial chamber’s rejection in April last year of Bensouda’s request to open a probe in Afghanistan.

While acknowledging that widespread crimes have been committed in Afghanistan, pretrial judges had said an investigation wouldn’t be in the interests of justice because the expected lack of cooperation meant convictions would ultimately be unlikely.


Court fight over lost dog survives after dog's owner dies
Court Feed News | 2020/02/10 03:07
A federal appeals court has ruled that a legal fight over a lost dog could continue in Mississippi, even after the dog's owner has died.

The dispute is over a German shepherd named Max who jumped out a window and escaped from his owner's Hattiesburg home in 2015. Max got loose when people were providing medical help to his owner, Charles Holt, who had fallen and could not get up.

Holt was more than 90 years old at the time. He was hospitalized after the fall. Max was captured weeks after he escaped, and he was impounded in an animal shelter. More weeks passed before Holt was notified that his dog was in the shelter, according to court papers. When Holt tried to reclaim his dog, the shelter refused, based on orders from the city.

A city court judge ordered the shelter to keep Max because the dog allegedly posed a threat to the people taking care of Holt. A county court judge later agreed with that decision.

Holt then filed a federal lawsuit saying the city had deprived him of his property, Max, without due process. A district court judge threw out his claim, and Holt appealed.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that although Holt has died, questions about his property claim survive. The appeals court sent it back to a district court for the possibility of further consideration.


WADA asks sports court to open Russia case to public hearing
Court Feed News | 2020/02/05 11:09
The World Anti-Doping Agency wants a rare public hearing for sport’s highest court to judge a four-year slate of punishments faced by Russia for persistent cheating.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is preparing a hearing expected within weeks for the blockbuster case in Switzerland.

“It is WADA’s view and that of many of our stakeholders that this dispute at CAS should be held in a public forum to ensure that everybody understands the process and hears the arguments,” the Montreal-based agency’s director general, Olivier Niggli, said in a statement.

Urged on by President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, is formally challenging a WADA ruling in December to declare it non-compliant after key data from the Moscow testing laboratory was corrupted.

The CAS panel of three judges will have power to enforce WADA-recommended sanctions including a ban on Russia’s team name, flag and anthem at Olympic Games and world championships.

WADA also wants Russian athletes to compete as neutrals at the Olympics and major events only if they pass a vetting process which examines their history of drug testing and possible involvement in lab cover-ups of positive tests.

CAS hearings can be opened to media and public observers in some cases when both parties consent.

The court held its first public hearing for 20 years in November when WADA appealed a ruling by swimming’s world body not to ban China’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang for alleged doping rule violations.



Dutch court throws out case against Israeli military chiefs
Court Feed News | 2020/01/28 03:08
A Dutch court threw out a civil case Wednesday brought by a Dutch-Palestinian man seeking damages from two former Israeli military commanders for their roles in a 2014 airstrike on a Gaza house that killed six members of his family.

The Hague District Court ruled that the case filed by Ismail Zeyada can't proceed because the commanders, including high profile former military chief Benny Gantz, have immunity.

Zeyada was attempting to sue Gantz, who is now a prominent Israeli politician, and former Israeli air force commander Amir Eshel. Neither Gantz nor Eshel was in court for the decision.

Zeyada, who lives in the Netherlands, brought the case in The Hague because he argued he can't successfully hold Israeli military leaders accountable in Israeli courts.

But presiding judge Larisa Alwin said the court can't hear the case because the commanders “enjoy functional immunity from jurisdiction” as their actions were part of a state-sanctioned military operation.

Zeyada said he and his lawyers would study the ruling with a view to appealing. “I owe it to all the Palestinians who have suffered and continue to suffer the same fate, to continue this struggle to achieve what is denied to them: Access to independent justice and accountability for the unspeakable crimes committed against them,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.

The court agreed with the arguments of Dutch lawyers representing the men who said last year they should reject the case for lack of jurisdiction because the commanders have immunity because their actions in the 2014 Gaza conflict were part of an Israeli military operation and that Zeyada was free to sue them in Israel.



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