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Texas’ high court keeps execution drug supplier secret
Employment Law | 2019/04/12 23:47
A supplier of Texas’ execution drugs can remain secret under a court ruling Friday that upheld risks of “physical harm” to the pharmacy, ending what state officials called a threat to the entire U.S. death penalty system.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, where Republicans hold every seat on the bench, doesn’t change operations at the nation’s busiest death chamber because state lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015.

A lawsuit filed a year earlier by condemned Texas inmates argued that the supplier’s identity was needed to verify the quality of the drugs and spare them from unconstitutional pain and suffering. Lower courts went on to reject Texas’ claims that releasing the name would physically endanger pharmacy employees at the hands of death-penalty opponents.

Now, however, the state’s highest court has found the risks valid and ordered the identity of the supplier to stay under wraps.

“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

The court deciding that a “substantial” risk of harm exists appeared to largely hinge on an email sent to an Oklahoma pharmacy in which the sender suggested they enhance security and referenced the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

“I’m speechless with the absurdity of them relying on that singular fact to close, to keep in secret how Texas essentially carries out its execution,” said Maurie Levin, a defense attorney who helped bring the original lawsuit.

The availability of execution drugs has become an issue in many death penalty states after traditional pharmaceutical makers refused to sell their products to prison agencies for execution use. Similar lawsuits about drug provider identities have been argued in other capital punishment states.


Smollett team: Court cameras would show state's flimsy case
Employment Law | 2019/03/16 06:15
A lawyer for Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that she would welcome cameras in the courtroom during the “Empire” actor’s trial on charges accusing him of lying to the police, saying there has been a lot of leaked misinformation and cameras would allow the public to “see the evidence and the lack thereof.”

Attorney Tina Glandian made the comments during a brief hearing Tuesday in Cook County criminal court during which both sides agreed that cameras would be allowed at the next hearing in the case, which is scheduled for Thursday. During that hearing, the case will be assigned to a trial judge who will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea.

During the hearing, which was held after local news organizations requested that cameras be allowed in the courtroom, Judge LeRoy Martin, Jr. said that the new judge will decide whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom during subsequent hearings and the trial.

After the hearing, Glandian told reporters that evidence has been presented against Smollett that is “demonstrably false.”

“We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,” she said.

Smollett was charged last month with one count of misconduct —the felony in Illinois that people are charged with when accused of lying to police — because he allegedly lied to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29. Last week, a grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of the same crime.

Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, enlisted the help of two other black men and staged the Jan. 29 attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. Those men have admitted to police that they took part in the staged attack for Smollett, who paid them $3,500.

Smollett’s attorneys have called 16 counts “prosecutorial overkill.” The actor, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.


Court raises concerns over power lines by historic Jamestown
Employment Law | 2019/03/11 18:20
A federal appeals court raised concerns Friday that power lines with towers nearly as high as the Statue of Liberty could spoil the view in one of the nation's most historically rich areas, a stretch of river in Virginia where England founded its first permanent settlement.

The power lines cross the James River near Jamestown Island. And they began transmitting 500,000 volts of electricity on Tuesday.

Despite the project's completion, the court directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full environmental impact statement for the project. The agency previously deemed it to be unnecessary.

The appeals court found that the Corps failed to fully consider the project's impact before issuing a permit to Dominion Energy. The ruling also said the Corps failed to resolve concerns that were raised in many of the 50,000 public comments that were submitted and by other federal agencies over the years.

For instance, the National Park Service has said utility lines should be run underground in the area, allowing people to experience views similar to what English explorer John Smith saw in the early 1600s.


Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view
Employment Law | 2019/02/24 15:34
The Democrats had blamed Russia for the hacking and release of damaging material on his presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump wasn’t buying it. But on July 27, 2016, midway through a news conference in Florida, Trump decided to entertain the thought for a moment.

“Russia, if you’re listening,” said Trump, looking directly into a television camera, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” — messages Clinton was reported to have deleted from her private email server.

Actually, Russia was doing more than listening: It had been trying to help Republican Trump for months. That very day, hackers working with Russia’s military intelligence tried to break into email accounts associated with Clinton’s personal office.

It was just one small part of a sophisticated election interference operation carried out by the Kremlin — and meticulously chronicled by special counsel Robert Mueller.

We know this, though Mueller has made not a single public comment since his appointment in May 2017. We know this, though the full, final report on the investigation, believed to be in its final stages, may never be made public. It’s up to Attorney General William Barr.

We know this because Mueller has spoken loudly, if indirectly, in court — indictment by indictment, guilty plea by guilty plea. In doing so, he tracked an elaborate Russian operation that injected chaos into a U.S. presidential election and tried to help Trump win the White House. He followed a GOP campaign that embraced the Kremlin’s help and championed stolen material to hurt a political foe. And ultimately, he revealed layers of lies, deception, self-enrichment and hubris that followed.


Kenya court postpones ruling on anti-gay laws to May 24
Employment Law | 2019/02/22 15:35
A Kenyan court Friday postponed a ruling on whether to decriminalize same sex relationships, disappointing many in the country's LGBT community.

The ruling will not be made until May 24 because some judges had been busy, Justice Chaacha Mwita of the High Court said.

Several activists who went to the court for the landmark ruling expressed their dismay.

"To say we are disappointed would be an understatement," the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which is among the petitioners in the case, said in a tweet.

A case so important should have been should have been given the time it deserves, said activist Grace Mbijiwa outside the courtroom.

"However we are looking forward because we have a date in May 2019," said Mbijiwa. "We are looking forward and hoping for the best, looking forward for LGBT being legalized."

Activists argue that the colonial-era law which criminalizes same consensual sex-relations between adults is in breach of the constitution because it denies basic rights.



Appellate judge announces run for Supreme Court seat
Employment Law | 2019/02/05 02:11
An appellate judge has announced he will run for a spot on the Kentucky Supreme Court days after Justice Bill Cunningham retired.

Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Christopher "Shea" Nickell told The Paducah Sun that he is running in November's election for the vacant seat, which represents the First Supreme Court District encompassing 24 counties in western Kentucky. The winner of the general election will serve the rest of Cunningham's current term ending in 2022.

Gov. Matt Bevin will appoint a temporary justice to the seat until November, but Nickell did not submit his name for consideration. He says that would have required him to step down from the appeals court.

Nickell practiced law for 22 years before he became an appellate judge.


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