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Court: State, Not Counties Accountable for Poor School Funds
Law & Politics | 2017/09/19 01:16
A North Carolina appeals court says students and parents still fighting for sufficient school funding decades after they were guaranteed the right to a sound, basic education should make demands of the governor and legislators, not county officials.

A divided state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that schoolchildren can't sue Halifax County commissioners over funding for the county's segregated public school districts.

Lawyers say though substandard Halifax County Schools' buildings sometimes force students to walk through sewage to reach their lockers, they get less local tax dollars than the majority white Roanoke Rapids schools.

Judges split 2-1 in ruling that local families should take their problems to Raleigh. The dissenting judge said counties can be sued since the legislature assigned them responsibility for funding buildings and supplies.


Indian court sentences 2 men to death in 1993 Mumbai blasts
Law & Politics | 2017/09/08 01:13
An Indian court on Thursday sentenced two men to death and two others to life in prison for a series of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. A fifth man was given 10 years in prison.

The five men were convicted earlier of criminal conspiracy and murder in the planting of 12 powerful bombs in cars, scooters and suitcases around India's financial capital.

The sentencing ended a second trial related to the bombings. An initial trial ended in 2007 with more than 100 people convicted, of whom 11 were sentenced to death and the rest to various terms in prison.

Ujjwal Nikam, the main prosecutor, said he could not ask for a death sentence for Abu Salem, a prime suspect, because he was extradited from Portugal to India in 2005 after the Indian government pledged he would not be given the death penalty, a key requirement in extradition proceedings in Europe.

He fled India after the bombings and was later arrested by police in Portugal.

The Mumbai court sentenced Salem to life in prison after finding him guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat state to Mumbai ahead of the blasts. These included AK-56 assault rifles, ammunition and hand grenades.

Prosecutors said the bombings were an act of revenge for the 1992 demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India. That triggered religious riots in parts of India, leaving more than 800 dead, both Hindus and Muslims.

The blasts targeted a number of prominent sites in Mumbai, including the stock exchange, Air India building, hotels, a cinema and shopping bazaars.

Prosecutors said the attack was masterminded by underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim. India accuses Pakistan of sheltering Ibrahim, a charge Islamabad denies. India says he has been living in Karachi, Pakistan's financial hub, after fleeing from Mumbai, and has asked Pakistan to hand him over to face trial in India.


Myanmar court grants bail for editor in defamation case
Law & Politics | 2017/07/28 23:41
A court in Myanmar granted bail Friday to a newspaper editor who is being tried under a controversial defamation statute in a telecommunications law.

Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor of The Voice Daily, was arrested in June for publishing online a satirical article that allegedly mocked the efforts of the military to reach a peace agreement with ethnic minority groups.

His previous requests for bail had been rejected, but during his ninth appearance in court, the judge granted his release on bail of 10 million kyats ($7,000).

He was charged under Article 66(D) of the Telecommunications Law, which broadly defines defamation and carries a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment.

Rights groups decry the article as a restriction on freedom of expression, but the country's parliament this week turned down a bid to drop the article and decriminalize the offense.

One of the newspaper's columnists, Kyaw Zwa Naing, was also arrested on June 2 under Article 66(D), but the charge against him was dropped last month.


Kansas faces skeptical state Supreme Court on school funding
Law & Politics | 2017/07/17 03:14
Attorneys for Kansas will try to convince an often skeptical state Supreme Court on Tuesday that the funding increase legislators approved for public schools this year is enough to provide a suitable education for kids statewide.

The high court is hearing arguments about a new law that phases in a $293 million increase in education funding over two years. The justices ruled in March that the $4 billion a year in aid the state then provided to its 286 school districts was inadequate, the latest in a string of decisions favoring four school districts that sued Kansas in 2010.

The state argues that the increase is sizable and that new dollars are targeted toward helping the under-performing students identified as a particular concern in the court's last decision.

But lawyers for the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, school districts argue that lawmakers fell at least $600 million short of adequately funding schools over two years. They also question whether the state can sustain the spending promised by the new law, even with an income tax increase enacted this year.

The court has ruled previously that the state constitution requires legislators to finance a suitable education for every child. In past hearings, justices have aggressively questioned attorneys on both sides but have not been shy about challenging the state's arguments.

The court is expected to rule quickly. Attorneys for the districts want the justices to declare that the new law isn't adequate and order lawmakers to fix it by Sept. 1 — only a few weeks after the start of the new school year.


Supreme Court term ended much different than it began
Law & Politics | 2017/06/28 03:19
The Supreme Court began its term nine months ago with Merrick Garland nominated to the bench, Hillary Clinton favored to be the next president, and the court poised to be controlled by Democratic appointees for the first time in 50 years.

Things looked very different when the justices wrapped up their work this week. The court's final decisions and orders were almost emphatic declarations, if there had been any doubt, that this is once again a conservative-leaning court that may only move more to the right in the years to come. The justices gave President Donald Trump the go-ahead to start enforcing at least part of his travel ban, showed that the wall between church and state is perhaps not as high as it once was and invigorated a baker's religion-based refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

"Liberals were certainly looking forward to a Clinton presidency that would alter the direction of the court. This was not an outcome we predicted," said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. The first casualty of Trump's election was Garland, the appellate judge whom President Barack Obama nominated to the high court. Instead of Garland on the far right of the bench where the newest justice sits, there was Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The placement also meshed with his votes. The Trump nominee who joined the court in April, Gorsuch staked out the most conservative position in a number of closely watched cases, including the one on the travel ban. The 49-year-old Coloradan restored the court's conservative tilt, nearly 14 months after Justice Antonin Scalia's death left the remaining eight justices divided between four liberal-leaning Democratic appointees and four conservative-leaning Republican appointees.

Trump also could bring seismic change to the court if any of the three oldest justices — 84-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy or 78-year-old Stephen Breyer — steps down in the next few years. The youngest justice was unusually active both as a questioner during arguments and in his writing. Gorsuch wrote separately from the court's majority opinion seven times in less than three months, the same number of such opinions Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her first two years on the court, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck noted on Twitter.


Court: Ignorance about allergy medicine crime no excuse
Law & Politics | 2017/06/11 13:43
Just because a man previously convicted of methamphetamine-related crimes didn't know it was now illegal for him to buy over-the-counter allergy medicine given his criminal history doesn't mean his rights were violated, a divided North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Friday.

A majority of the seven justices reversed a lower appeals court decision overturning the conviction of Austin Lynn Miller for buying one box of capsules at a Walmart in Boone in early 2014, barely a month after an expanded purchase prohibition law took effect.

Miller was barred from buying anything beyond minuscule amounts of the medicine because it contained pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make meth, due to his 2012 convictions on possession of meth and keeping a car or house to sell controlled substances.

A jury convicted Miller for possessing the allergy medicine. He received a suspended sentence with probation.

State law already required the nonprescription medicine to be kept behind the counter and mandated electronic record keeping to monitor whether a meth lab was buying up the drugs. Often purchasers follow screen prompts saying they understand buying the medicines in large quantities or too frequently is illegal.

Miller's lawyer argued his client's due process rights were violated because he had no knowledge the purchasing law had changed in December 2013 and that he didn't intend to violate the law. There were no signs in pharmacies about the changes, either, the attorney said.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in March 2016 the law was unconstitutional as it applied to a convicted felon like Miller who failed to receive notice from the state that their "otherwise lawful conduct is criminalized" unless there's other proof the person knew about the law.

State attorneys argued that Miller's ignorance of the law was no excuse and that it was his intentional action of purchasing the medicine that led to the crime.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Sam Ervin IV sided with the state and rejected Miller's arguments that the retail purchase was an innocuous act that raised no alarms about whether he was breaking the law.



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