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Spanish court summons prime minister’s wife in corruption probe
Employment Law | 2024/06/04 18:01
A Spanish investigative judge has summoned the wife of Spain’s prime minister to give testimony as part of a probe into allegations that she used her position to influence business deals, a Madrid-based court said Tuesday.

Begoña Gómez is to appear at court on July 5 to answer questions.

Gómez has yet to speak publicly on the case, but Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called it a “smear campaign” to damage Spain’s leftist coalition government led by his Socialist party.

The probe is based on allegations against Gómez made by a group called Manos Limpias, or “Clean Hands.” Manos Limpias describes itself as a union, but its main activity is as a platform pursuing legal cases. Many have been linked to right-wing causes targeting leftist politicians, and most of them never succeed.

After the probe was launched in April, Sánchez stunned the nation by saying he would contemplate stepping down for what he said was the “attack without precedent” against his wife. After five days of silence, Sánchez said he had decided to remain in office.

The summoning of Gómez comes before this week’s European Parliament election, with Spaniards voting on Sunday. Far-right parties across Europe aim for big gains.

“I want to express our surprise for the fact and coincidence that this news is coming out precisely this week,” said Pilar Alegría, spokeswoman for Spain’s government.

“We are absolutely calm because we know there is nothing (to the allegations),” Alegría said. “What does exist is a mudslinging campaign by the right and far right.”

Manos Limpias has said its allegations against Gómez were entirely based on media reports: “If they are not true, it would be up to those who published them to admit to their falsehood, but if they are true, then we believe that the legal case should continue forward.”

Spain’s public prosecutors’ office recommended the probe be thrown out, but a provincial court ruled that the lower-court judge could continue the investigation. The judge will either table the probe or recommend it go to trial.


Trial turns testy as Trump lawyers try to pique fixer-turned-witness
Employment Law | 2024/05/25 05:19
After approximately five weeks, 19 witnesses, reams of documents and a dash of salacious testimony, the prosecution against Donald Trump rested its case Monday, handing over to the defense before closing arguments expected next week.

Trump’s team immediately sought to undermine key testimony against the former president, who is accused of covering up hush money paid to a porn star over an alleged encounter that could have derailed his successful 2016 White House bid.

His attorneys called lawyer Robert Costello — who once advised star prosecution witness Michael Cohen before falling out with him — in an apparent attempt to puncture Cohen’s credibility.

But Costello’s start on the stand was shaky at best, as his dismissive tone provoked an angry response from Judge Juan Merchan.

Merchan chided Costello for remarking “jeez” when he was cut off by a sustained objection and, at another point, “strike it.” Merchan told him: “I’m the only one that can strike testimony in the courtroom. Do you understand that?”

"And then if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Merchan was about to bring the jury back in when he asked Costello, “Are you staring me down right now?” and then kicked out the press to further admonish him.

"I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous,” Merchan said, according to the transcript of the conversation that occurred when the press was out of the room. ”If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.”

Costello didn’t return a message seeking comment Monday night.

Trump, speaking to reporters afterward, called the episode “an incredible display,” branding the proceedings “a show trial” and the judge “a tyrant.”

Extended quibbling among the two legal teams, along with the upcoming holiday weekend, means closing arguments that the judge had hoped could start Tuesday are now anticipated for next week.

It’s unlikely and risky, but the door remains open for Trump to take the stand in the criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president.

Experts doubt he will, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination by prosecutors — but his lawyer Todd Blanche has raised the prospect.

On Monday, Blanche finished his third day of questioning Cohen after hours of at times digressive, at other times bruising, exchanges.


China’s top court, prosecutors report surging cyberscams
Employment Law | 2024/03/09 00:22
China saw large increases in arrests and cases of phone and internet scams last year, according to reports presented Friday to the National People’s Congress that stressed the ruling Communist Party’s determination to safeguard national security and public order.

A report issued by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said the number of cases of computer crimes including social media fraud jumped 36.2% in 2023 and involved 323,000 people.

The sharp increase likely reflects a doubling down on cross-border computer fraud that has resulted in thousands of people, some of them victims of human traffickers who forced them to work for crime rings in remote areas of Myanmar and other neighboring countries, being returned to China.

Indictments of people for telecoms fraud jumped nearly 67% to about 51,000, the report said.

Overall, arrests surged 47% to 726,000 and indictments were up 17.3% to 168,800, the report said. China’s national congress serves mainly a ceremonial role, endorsing policies set by President Xi Jinping and other top leaders of the Communist Party. It is due to end its six-day session on Monday with approvals of reports by Premier Li Qiang and others that set the party’s plans for the year.

As China marks the 75th anniversary of the Oct. 1, 1949, founding of the People’s Republic of China, the party is stressing its determination to fortify its control and protect national security.


Court strikes down new law giving participants right to change venue
Employment Law | 2023/10/30 19:11
Kentucky’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a new state law that allowed participants in constitutional challenges to get the cases switched to randomly selected counties. The court said the legislature’s action on the assignment of court cases encroached on judicial authority.

The law, enacted this year over the governor’s veto, allowed any participants to request changes of venue for civil cases challenging the constitutionality of laws, orders or regulations. It required the clerk of the state Supreme Court to choose another court through a random selection.

Such constitutional cases typically are heard in Franklin County Circuit Court in the capital city of Frankfort. For years, Republican officials have complained about a number of rulings from Franklin circuit judges in high-stakes cases dealing with constitutional issues.

The high court’s ruling was a victory for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who in his veto message denounced the measure as an “unconstitutional power grab” by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature. Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto, sparking the legal fight that reached the state’s highest court.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office defended the venue law, which passed as Senate Bill 126. Cameron is challenging Beshear in the Nov. 7 gubernatorial election — one of the nation’s highest-profile campaigns this year.

Writing for the court’s majority, Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter said the new law amounted to a violation of constitutional separation of powers.

The measure granted “unchecked power to a litigant to remove a judge from a case under the guise of a “transfer,” circumventing the established recusal process, the chief justice wrote.

“It operates to vest a certain class of litigants with the unfettered right to forum shop, without having to show any bias on the part of the presiding judge, or just cause for removal,” VanMeter said.


Polish director demands apology from justice minister for comparing her film
Employment Law | 2023/09/16 01:39
Film director Agnieszka Holland demanded an apology from Poland’s justice minister after he compared her latest film, which explores the migration crisis at the Poland-Belarus border, to Nazi propaganda.

Holland said Wednesday that she planned to bring defamation charges against Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro unless she receives an apology within seven days. She also demanded that he make a charitable donation of 50,000 Polish zlotys ($11,600) to an association that helps Holocaust survivors.

Holland’s feature film, “Green Border,” explores a migration crisis that has played out along Poland’s border with Belarus over the past two years. It takes a sympathetic approach toward the migrants from the Middle East and Africa who got caught up as pawns in a geopolitical standoff.

It also looks critically at the way Poland’s security services pushed back migrants who were lured to the border by Belarus, an ally of Russia.

Ziobro slammed the film earlier this week, saying: “In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today, they have Agnieszka Holland for that.”

He made his comment on the social platform X, formerly Twitter, on Monday, a day before the film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Holland noted in a statement that Ziobro, who serves as prosecutor general as well as justice minster, commented on her film without having seen it and that she believed his words amounted to defamation, calling them “despicable.”

“I cannot remain indifferent to such an open and brutal attack by a person who holds the very important constitutional position of minister of justice and prosecutor general in Poland,” she wrote in a statement from Venice dated Wednesday but published in Poland on Thursday.


The initial online search spurring a raid on a Kansas paper was legal
Employment Law | 2023/08/21 21:57
The initial online search of a state website that led a central Kansas police chief to raid a local weekly newspaper was legal, a spokesperson for the agency that maintains the site said Monday, as the newspaper remains under investigation.

Earlier this month, after a local restaurant owner accused the Marion County Record of illegally accessing information about her, the Marion police chief obtained warrants to search the newspaper’s offices and the home of its publisher, as well as the home of a City Council member who also accessed the driver’s license database.

The police chief led the Aug. 11 raids and said in the affidavits used to obtain the warrants that he had probable cause to believe that the newspaper and the City Council member had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.

Both the City Council member and the newspaper have said they received a copy of the document about the status of the restaurant owner’s license without soliciting it. The document disclosed the restaurant’s license number and her date of birth, information required to check the status of a person’s license online and gain access to a more complete driving record. The police chief maintains they broke state laws to do that, while the newspaper and Herbel’s attorneys say they didn’t.

The raid on the Record put it and its hometown of about 1,900 residents in the center of a debate about press freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Kansas’ Bill of Rights. It also exposed divisions in the town over local politics and the newspaper’s coverage of the community and put an intense spotlight on Police Chief Gideon Cody.

Department of Revenue spokesperson Zack Denney said it’s legal to access the driver’s license database online using information obtained independently. The department’s Division of Vehicles issues licenses.

“That’s legal,” he said. “The website is public facing, and anyone can use it.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation continues to probe the newspaper’s actions. The KBI reports to state Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, while the Department of Revenue is under Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s authority.


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