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Court won't reconsider making public family slain autopsies
Headline News | 2018/04/25 17:25
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday once again rejected requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 5-2 without comment against reconsidering its December decision that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case before the court involved seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016. No arrests have been made or suspects identified.

Heavily redacted versions of the autopsy reports released in 2016 showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, but details about any other injuries and toxicology test results weren't released.

In the 4-3 December ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said Ohio law regarding coroner records clearly exempts the redacted material as "confidential law enforcement investigatory records."

Once a criminal investigation ends, confidential information in autopsy reports can become public records, but the process leading to a suspect can sometimes take time, O'Connor wrote.


Taxpayer tab for law firm overseeing Atlantic City hits $4.8M
Headline News | 2018/04/19 00:29
New Jersey taxpayers' tab for the takeover of Atlantic City has reached about $5 million in fees from the law firm former Gov. Chris Christie picked to oversee the gambling resort.

Records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press show the firm of Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi billed the state for $4.8 million going back to the November 2016 takeover of the gambling resort. That's up from reports of $4 million from earlier this year.

The disclosure comes days after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced that government functions overseen by the firm, run by former U.S. senator and Christie ally Jeffrey Chiesa, would revert to the state Department of Community Affairs within 30 days.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who oversees the department, said the price tag was a factor in the decision.

"The cost was of concern to us and was relevant in our decision to bring Atlantic City oversight responsibilities back into DCA," Oliver said in a statement to the AP.

She added that the department is better equipped than an outside law firm to handle the job and that DCA has traditionally overseen financially distressed towns.

Oliver said she did not have an estimate for what the cost to oversee Atlantic City would be for the department, but predicted it would be "significantly less" than what Chiesa billed.

A message left for Chiesa was not returned.

Murphy's announcement said the action would "ensure economic growth and empowerment" for the city and its residents.

Chiesa's work has gotten mixed reviews. Christie, before he left office in January, praised it as a bargain, and Democrats too have given it some positive reviews.

Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, whose district includes Atlantic City, gave Chiesa credit for settling a roughly $160 million bill owed to the Borgata for around $70 million.


Ohio court to decide if ex-player can sue over concussions
Headline News | 2018/04/08 01:33
The Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether the widow of a former University of Notre Dame football player can sue the school and the NCAA over allegations her husband was disabled by concussions from his college career in the 1970s.

Steve Schmitz was suffering from dementia and early onset Alzheimer's disease when he and his wife, Yvette, filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County in October 2014. The lawsuit alleged both institutions showed "reckless disregard" for the safety of college football players and for their failure to educate and protect players from concussions.

The lawsuit said the link between repeated blows to the head and brain-related injuries and illnesses had been known for decades, but it was not until 2010 that the NCAA required colleges to formulate concussion protocols to remove an athlete from a game or practice and be evaluated by doctors.

Steve Schmitz died in February 2015. The lawsuit said the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed him in 2012 with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease attributed to receiving numerous concussions.

A judge ruled that too much time had passed for Schmitz to sue, a decision overturned by a state appeals court. The state's high court planned to hear arguments from both sides on Wednesday.

A ruling in favor of Schmitz's widow would allow her to return to court and argue the specific allegations regarding the impact of concussions on her husband, a running back and receiver.

Notre Dame and the NCAA argue the statute of limitations for Schmitz to have sued date back to his playing days when he first realized he suffered head injuries. As such, the two-year window for filing a personal injury claim had long passed, the institutions say.


Court hears case alleging unconstitutional 6th District gerrymander
Headline News | 2018/03/18 04:40
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed frustration with partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

The case, which alleges a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the same time justices are considering the constitutionality of an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, has some legal experts wondering whether the justices might be on the verge of establishing a standard that would allow judicial intervention in partisan gerrymandering cases for the first time in the court’s history.

The 6th District challenge was brought by seven Maryland residents, including three from Frederick County, who argue that the district — which includes southwestern parts of Frederick County and the city of Frederick — was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Democrats and punish Republicans during the reapportionment process after the 2010 census.

The justices heard arguments in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case in October, but have not yet released an opinion.

The Maryland and Wisconsin cases both focus on unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.

The two cases also allege different violations of voters’ rights: The Maryland case claims retaliation against Republican voters under a First Amendment framework, while the Wisconsin plaintiffs are alleging a violation of the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment.


Cambodian court denies opposition leader release on bail
Headline News | 2018/03/09 12:01
Cambodia's Supreme Court has denied bail for an opposition leader charged with treason who is seeking to be released for medical treatment abroad.

The court ruled Friday that Kem Sokha must remain in pretrial detention for his own safety and because the investigation into his case is ongoing. His Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved last November by a court ruling on a complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Kem Sokha's case is widely regarded as a political setup by the government to cripple its opponents ahead of a general election this July. The party's dissolution was linked to the treason charge against Kem Sokha, for which he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Kem Sokha's lawyers say he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and has fallen sick in prison since being detained last September.

The court said if Kem Sokha is sick, the prison will arrange for a doctor to examine him inside the prison facility.

"If Kem Sokha is not allowed to have medical treatment at a hospital and in case he dies inside the prison, who will take responsibility? Are all of you responsible?" one of Kem Sokha's lawyers, Chea Cheng, asked the court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court this month granted a six-month extension for Kem Sokha's pre-trial detention period after the expiration of the initial six months. He has now been denied bail three times.

Kem Sokha was arrested last September on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from U.S. pro-democracy groups. The opposition party has denied the treason allegation, saying the charge is politically motivated.

In the past several years the opposition party has faced an onslaught of legal challenges from Hun Sen's government with the support of the courts, which are generally seen as favoring his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Court rulings forced Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha's predecessor as opposition leader, to remain in exile to avoid prison and pressured him into resigning from his party. Other top opposition party leaders fled Cambodia after Kem Sokha's jailing and the party's dissolution.


Maldives court delays reinstating pro-opposition lawmakers
Headline News | 2018/02/20 07:04
The Supreme Court of the Maldives delayed its order Sunday reinstating 12 pro-opposition lawmakers ahead of a key parliamentary sitting, the latest political turmoil to roil the island nation.

Opposition lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof said the government may call for important votes at a parliamentary sitting Monday to extend a state of emergency or dismiss two Supreme Court judges who have been arrested on allegations of corruption.

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's ruling party may have lost a majority in the 85-member parliament if the 12 lawmakers were to be allowed to participate Monday.

The Maldives has faced upheaval since Feb. 1, when the Supreme Court ordered the release of Yameen's imprisoned political opponents and the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers sacked after they sided with the opposition.

The prisoners include Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first president elected in a free election, who could have been Yameen's main rival in his re-election bid later this year.

After days of conflict with the judiciary, Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency and had the country's chief justice and another Supreme Court judge arrested on bribery allegations.


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