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Maryland high court considers same-sex marriage ban
Headline News | 2006/12/05 20:43

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Monday in a case challenging a 1973 state law banning same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that marriage is a fundamental right which should not be denied according to the parties' genders. In response, Maryland Attorney General Robert Zarnoch argued that no court in the country has identified same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, and he urged the court to defer to the legislature. The state is appealing a January ruling by the Baltimore City Circuit Court in which the law was held to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriage, which was legalized when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 2003 that a ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. Several cases similar to the Maryland case have been decided or are pending in other states including California, New Jersey, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut.



US House to vote on Mexico offshore drilling bill
Headline News | 2006/12/03 00:49

Republicans in the US House of Representatives agreed Friday to vote on a compromise offshore drilling bill on Tuesday under special rules that limit amendments and generally speed up proceedings, but require a two-thirds majority for approval. If passed, the bill would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the eastern-central Gulf and boost federal royalty shares from two percent to 37.5 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Environmental leaders, however, oppose the measure, especially in light of the GOP's pending loss of majority rule.

The Senate passed the compromise bill, 71-25, in August, limiting offshore expansion to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill passed by the House in June, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, would have ended the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US.



U.S. Prison and Jail Population Increases in 2005
Headline News | 2006/11/30 20:35

The population of individuals in US prisons rose by 2.7 percent in 2005, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report indicates that over 7 million people were either in jail, on probation, or on parole by the end of last year, with 2.2 million of them in prison.

The Justice Department statistics also show that the percentage of female prisoners is rising - the number of female inmates rose 2.6 percent in 2005 with the male population only increasing by 1.9 percent. Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that promotes criminal justice reform, has blamed the increase in women prisoners on harsh sentences handed down for nonviolent drug offenses.

The report also showed racial disparities among prisoners that are similar among men and women inmates. Among male prisoners ages 25-29, 8.1 percent of black men are in prison, while 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men are incarcerated. South Dakota accounted for the highest increase in inmate population with a rise of 11 percent, followed by Montana with 10.4 percent, and Kentucky with 7.9 percent. Georgia's prison population dropped the most with a decrease of 4.6 percent, followed by Maryland with a 2.4 percent drop, and Louisiana with a 2.3 percent decrease.



Spitzer cautions against easing corporate reforms
Headline News | 2006/11/27 03:12

Many of the efforts to soften the corporate accountability reforms of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act are being pushed by the same corporations that employed questionable accounting and business practices before the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, New York state attorney general and governor-elect Eliot Spitzer said in an interview with the Financial Times published Monday.

Last week, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson  accused Sarbanes-Oxley of raising the cost of doing business in America, citing declining share sales since 2002 as one example of its impact, and recommended legislative tweaks to the Act, especially to the internal control structure requirements of Section 404. Spitzer said Monday that individual corporations are responsible for their own poor performances, and that corporate accountability and ethics will strengthen US markets in the long run.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been an object of criticism since its passage in the wake of the Enron debacle and other high-profile corporate scandals. Rep. Michael Oxley, one of the law's co-sponsors, said last year that the legislation was "rushed" and included "excessive" corporate reforms. A GAO report earlier this year noted that an increasing number of small businesses are going private in order to avoid disproportionately higher costs of complying with the law, prompting several senators to urge regulators to find ways to make it less onerous for smaller companies to comply.



President of Hyundai's Insurance Arrested
Headline News | 2006/11/15 21:53

Ha Jong Sun, former attorney and president of Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co. became the second suspect arrested in a week as a result of a probe into the 2003 sale of Korea Exchange Bank to Lone Star Funds.

Lee Kang Won, former Korea Exchange Bank head Lee Kang Won, was the first of the two suspects arrested in connection with the probe that has stalled Lone Star's efforts to sell Korea Exchange Bank for a profit of more than $4 billion.


Sun was apprehended by South Korean prosecutors and taken into custody on a warrant that was issued by the Seoul Central District Court, according to prosecutor, Chae Dong Wook. The court issued the warrant for Ha, a former attorney, because he tried to tamper with evidence.

The Seoul Central District Court refused to issue an arrest warrant for Byeon Yang Ho, the former government official. Byeon's warrant was rejected because prosecutors failed to prove he would destroy evidence or flee, the Korean-language news agency said. Chae, of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, declined to comment on the court's reasons.

Prosecutors are investigatingt to find out whether the U.S. buyout firm bought the countries fifth-largest bank illegally.


Breaking Legal News.com
Neal Andrea
Staff Writer


Shipping Company Sentenced for Vessel Pollution
Headline News | 2006/11/14 20:01

WASHINGTON – USDOJ) The Sun Ace Shipping Company, based in Seoul, South Korea, was sentenced today to pay a $400,000 penalty, a $100,000 community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Program, Delaware Estuary Grants Program, which will be used to protect and restore the natural resources of the Delaware Estuary and its watershed, and to a three-year term of probation during which its vessels will be banned from U.S. ports and waters. On Sept. 6, 2006, Sun Ace Shipping pleaded guilty to a one-count information for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) in relation to the operation of a bulk carrier vessel the M/V Sun New. A trial date for the Chief Engineer and Second Engineer, who were charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and a violation of the APPS, has been set for Dec. 5, 2006, in front of Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark, N.J.

Sun Ace Shipping was charged with knowingly failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book that fully recorded the disposal of oil residue and bilge into the ocean and then falsifying records to conceal illegal discharges.

Engine room operations on board large oceangoing vessels such as the M/V Sun New generate large amounts of waste oil. International and U.S. law prohibit the discharge of waste oil without treatment by an Oily Water Separator. The law also requires that all overboard discharges be recorded in an Oil Record Book, a required log which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

In addition, the government has petitioned the court for an award under the APPS to be granted to three crew members of the M/V Sun New who reported the use of the bypass hoses and the illegal dumping to the Seamen’s Church Institute of Philadelphia and South New Jersey on Jan. 2, 2006. This report and the subsequent assistance of these three crew men were key to the government's investigation and prosecution of the case. APPS gives the Court the discretion to award up to half of the criminal penalty to the whistleblowers, and the Justice Department has requested that the court divide the $200,000 equally among the three crew men who reported the dumping. The Department’s petition is still under review by the court.

This case was investigated by marine inspectors from Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay and special agents from the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney David Kehoe in the Environmental Crimes Section in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.



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