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Supreme Court examines Kentucky's medical review panels
Court Feed News | 2018/08/11 06:39
After Ezra Claycomb was born with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy, his mother considered filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. But in 2017, Kentucky's Republican-controlled legislature passed a law requiring all such lawsuits first be reviewed by a panel of doctors.

The law gave the panel nine months to issue an opinion on whether the lawsuit is frivolous — yet section 14 of Kentucky's Constitution says every person has access to the courts "without ... delay."

Claycomb's parents sued to block the new law, making Kentucky the latest state to have its medical review panels challenged in court.

A circuit judge agreed the law was unconstitutional. But Republican Gov. Matt Bevin appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments Wednesday.

"This is a modern day version of the poll tax," said attorney J. Guthrie True, who represents Claycomb in a lawsuit he says has class action status to represent all patients. "This has one purpose, and that is to obstruct the courthouse door."

Matthew Kuhn, an attorney for the governor, said the state Constitution's ban on delaying access to the courts only applies to the court system itself. It does not apply to the legislature, which he says has the power to impose rules on the court system. He noted Kentucky has other laws that limit when people can file lawsuits. For example, heirs wanting to sue the executor of an estate must wait at least six months after the executor has been appointed before they can do so. Kuhn says that law has never been challenged.

Kuhn said the medical review process is helpful because it gets the two sides talking before a lawsuit is filed, which could jumpstart settlement discussions. It also makes sure both sides have all the evidence collected before they go to a judge.




Child remains found at New Mexico compound, man due in court
Court Feed News | 2018/08/07 15:39
For months, neighbors worried about a squalid compound built along a remote New Mexico plain, saying they brought their concerns to authorities long before sheriff's officials first found 11 hungry children on the lot, and then the remains of a small boy.

Two men and three women also had been living at the compound, and were arrested following a raid Friday that came as officials searched for a missing Georgia boy with severe medical issues.

Medical examiners still must confirm whether the body found at the property in a second search on Monday is that of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, who was 3 in December when police say his father took him from his mother in Jonesboro, Georgia.

The boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was among those arrested in the compound raid that has since resulted in the series of startling revelations on the outskirts of Amalia, a tiny town near the Colorado state line marked by scattered homes and sagebrush. Authorities said they found the father armed with multiple firearms, including an assault rifle.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on a warrant from Georgia that seeks his extradition to face a charge of abducting his son from that state last December. He had expressed wanting to perform an exorcism on his son, the warrant said.

The group arrived in Amalia in December, with enough money to buy groceries and construction supplies, according to Tyler Anderson, a 41-year-old auto mechanic who lives nearby.

He said Tuesday he helped the newcomers install solar panels after they arrived but eventually stopped visiting.


N Carolina Supreme Court candidate sues over party label law
Court Feed News | 2018/08/05 23:16
A North Carolina Supreme Court candidate has made good on his threat to sue Republican legislators to challenge a law finalized over the weekend preventing him from having his party designation next to his name on the November ballot.

Chris Anglin filed a lawsuit Monday against Republican legislative leaders and elections officials in state court. He wants the law declared unconstitutional and his GOP designation retained.

The law prevents judicial candidates from having party labels next to their names if they changed affiliations less than 90 days before filing. Anglin switched from a Democratic affiliation three weeks before filing.

Anglin says the law gives unfair benefit to opponent Justice Barbara Jackson, who will have a Republican label. The race's other candidate — Anita Earls — will have a Democratic label.



Oklahoma lawsuit against opioid makers back in state court
Court Feed News | 2018/08/04 23:16
A U.S. judge determined Friday that a lawsuit the state of Oklahoma filed against the makers of opioids does not "necessarily rise" to a federal issue.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City sends the matter back to state court. Drugmakers had it moved to federal court in June.

Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017. It is seeking unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

Opioid manufacturers had argued the state was asking them to make different safety and efficacy disclosures to the public than required by federal law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but they deny wrongdoing.

An attorney for the companies did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ruling came just minutes after Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton joined Hunter and Michael Burrage, a private attorney representing the tribes and the state, in announcing that the tribes are joining the state in suing the opioid manufacturers in state courts for unspecified damages.

Hunter did not immediately return a phone call for comment, but Burrage said during the news conference that the effort to return to lawsuit to state court was to keep it from potentially being folded into more than 800 similar lawsuit pending in Ohio.



Sex predator law challenged by Cosby to get court review
Court Feed News | 2018/08/01 23:17
Pennsylvania's highest court will consider whether the state can lawfully designate certain sex offenders as sexually violent predators, as it's seeking to do in the case of Bill Cosby.

Cosby's attorneys also are challenging the constitutionality of the law.

But the state Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to review the statute was made in response to an appeal by the state in a different case, not Cosby's challenge. A lower court judge had found the process by which offenders are deemed predators unconstitutional.

A state panel last week recommended a judge find Cosby to be a sexually violent predator after the 81-year-old's April conviction on aggravated indecent assault charges.

That classification would require him to receive sex offender counseling by a state-approved provider for the rest of his life.

Cosby faces sentencing Sept. 24. He plans to appeal.



German court: Catalan politician can legally be extradited
Court Feed News | 2018/07/17 16:56
A German court on Thursday removed a hurdle to the extradition of a prominent Catalan politician on charges of embezzlement, setting the stage for a possible trial in Spain but on lesser charges than prosecutors there had hoped for.

In its decision in the case of Carles Puigdemont, the Schleswig-Holstein state court said the former Catalan leader could be extradited on embezzlement charges, but not rebellion.

The charge of rebellion is not recognized in Germany and the court said related German statutes such as that against treason did not apply, because his actions "did not rise to this kind of violence."

The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government's unauthorized referendum last year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.

The Spanish government rejects Catalan independence. Puigdemont hailed the decision as a victory, tweeting "we have defeated the central lie of the (Spanish) state. German justice denies that the referendum of October 1 was rebellion."

The decision means that if he is extradited, Puigdemont can only stand trial in Spain on embezzlement charges over allegations he misused public funds, court spokeswoman Christine von Milczewski said.

Rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while misuse of public funds carries up to 12 years.


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