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Stand-ins to decide who sits on West Virginia Supreme Court
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/09/24 10:19
A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.


Alaska man tied to girl's death appears in court
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/09/16 05:19
An Alaska man linked to a missing 10-year-old girl's death made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday. Peter Wilson, 41, of Kotzebue is charged with making false statements as authorities tried to find Ashley Johnson-Barr.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo, the criminal chief for the U.S. Attorney's office in Alaska, said in court a grand jury also could return an indictment against Wilson this week. If that happens, Wilson would be arraigned Friday. If not, he would return to court Sept. 27.

The girl had been missing since Sept. 6. She was found dead Friday just outside Kotzebue, a town of about 3,100 people on Alaska's northwestern coast.

An FBI affidavit says Wilson had the girl's cellphone, whose GPS coordinates of where the phone traveled led to the girl's body. The affidavit says the girl's death appears to be a homicide, but her death remains under investigation. The federal Public Defender's office was appointed to represent Wilson.

An Alaska man charged in connection with a 10-year-old girl's disappearance and death will make his first appearance in Federal Court Tuesday. Forty-one-year-old Peter Wilson of Kotzebue is charged with making false statements as authorities tried to find Ashley Johnson-Barr.

The girl had been missing since Sept. 6. She was found dead Friday just outside Kotzebue, a town of about 3,100 people on Alaska's northwestern coast.



Iran goes to UN's highest court over re-imposed US sanctions
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/28 03:08
Iran went to the United Nations' highest court Monday in a bid to have U.S. sanctions lifted following President Donald Trump's decision earlier this year to re-impose them, calling the move "naked economic aggression."

Iran filed the case with the International Court of Justice in July, claiming that sanctions the Trump administration imposed on May 8 breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates economic and consular ties between the two countries.

At hearings that started Monday at the court's headquarters in The Hague, Tehran asked judges at the world court to urgently suspend the sanctions to protect Iranian interests while the case challenging their legality is being heard — a process that can take years.

In a written statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the legal move an attempt by Tehran "to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security."

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Iranian representative Mohsen Mohebi told the court the U.S. decision was a clear breach of the 1955 treaty as it was "intended to damage, as severely as possible, Iran's economy."

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran.



Man admits slaying wife, blames her for daughters' deaths
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/21 15:10
The father of two young girls found submerged in oil tanks after being missing for days told authorities his pregnant wife killed the children after learning he wanted a separation, and that he erupted in rage after witnessing the killings and strangled their mother inside the family's suburban Denver home, according to court documents.

Days after letting police inside his home so they could help find his missing family, Christopher Watts told investigators "he would tell the truth."

Watts first asked to speak with his father then admitted to killing his wife, Shanann. Watts told police in court papers released Monday that he killed her after witnessing her strangling one of the girls on a baby monitor. The other child had already been killed by the woman, he said.

Watts, 33, faces three first-degree murder charges, two counts of murdering a child under 12, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday and is being held without bail.

District Attorney Michael Rourke declined to answer questions about the case Monday but said his office has three prosecutors working on it. Rourke also said it was too early to discuss whether he will seek the death penalty.

Police first visited the family's house on Aug. 13, after a friend asked officers to check on Shanann Watts. She had missed a doctor's appointment and wasn't answering calls or text messages hours after returning home after a business trip, the friend reported.



Alabama Supreme Court won't move lawsuit against Moore
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/18 23:05
The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday refused to transfer a defamation lawsuit against former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore by a woman who says Moore molested her decades ago.

The court denied Moore's request to have the case heard in Etowah County instead of Montgomery. Moore issued a statement calling the decision "ridiculous."

Leigh Corfman accused Moore of sexually molesting her decades ago when she was 14 and he was a prosecutor in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations, but they became an issue in the 2017 race in Alabama to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones.

Corfman in January filed a lawsuit against Moore and his campaign, saying they defamed her and made false statements, calling her a liar and immoral as they denied the claims in the midst of the election.

Moore sought to have the case heard in Etowah County where he and Corfman both live.

"The Court itself admits venue is proper in either county. Should not the case be tried in the county where we both live and where her reputation and character are well known?" Moore said.

Etowah County has also been friendlier territory for Moore. During the U.S. Senate race, Moore won about 60 percent of the vote in Etowah County, while he garnered just 27 percent of in Montgomery.

Several Supreme Court justices recused from the case involving Moore, who is a former chief justice of the court. Five retired judges were randomly selected to hear the case along with Associate Justice Brady Mendheim, Jr., and Associate Justice Will Sellers.



Court: Dismissal of cop's Black Lives Matter lawsuit is just
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/16 06:05
A federal appeals court says a Louisiana court rightly dismissed a deputy's lawsuit accusing Black Lives Matter and several leaders of inciting violence that led to a deadly 2016 attack on law enforcement officers.

The Advocate reports a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously supported the lower court's ruling Wednesday. A judge found last year that the lawsuit failed to state a plausible claim for relief.

The suit doesn't name the officer but its description of the plaintiff matches East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Tullier, who was critically wounded by 29-year-old Gavin Long. Long killed three law enforcement officers and was later gunned down by authorities.

The attack occurred less than two weeks after a white Baton Rouge officer killed 37-year-old black man Alton Sterling during a struggle.



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