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Lithuania wants Gorbachev to testify in war crimes trial
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/10/16 03:19
A Lithuanian court has called former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to testify in a mass trial related to the 1991 crackdown on the country's independence movement.

Gorbachev and Russian authorities haven't answered previous requests so it's unlikely he would comply with Monday's request from the Vilnius district court.

The case involves more than 60 former Soviet officials charged with war crimes and other offenses for their roles in a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrators that left 14 people dead in January 1991, when Gorbachev was still in power.

The judges approved a request by one of the plaintiffs in the case to call Gorbachev to the court as a witness.

Only two defendants are present in court. Others, mainly citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, are being tried in absentia.



US Supreme Court won't hear Arizona death sentence case
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/10/04 19:16
The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear Arizona's appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned a convicted murderer's death sentence has opened the door for about 25 death row inmates to challenge their sentences.

The justices on Monday let stand the ruling that said Arizona unconstitutionally excluded evidence about James McKinney's troubled childhood and post-traumatic stress disorder that might have led to a lesser punishment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last December that Arizona's causal nexus rule violated the Constitution. The rule required any mitigating evidence, such as mental illness or post-traumatic stress disorder, to be directly tied to the crime committed to be relevant in sentencing.


Court rules man treated for mental illness can have a gun
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/09/21 05:04
A Michigan man who can't buy a gun because he was briefly treated for mental health problems in the 1980s has won a key decision from a federal appeals court, which says the burden is on the government to justify a lifetime ban against him.

The Second Amendment case was significant enough for 16 judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to participate. Cases usually are heard only by three-judge panels.

Clifford Tyler, 74, of Hillsdale said his constitutional right to bear arms is violated by a federal law that prohibits gun ownership if someone has been admitted to a mental hospital.

In 1985, Tyler's wife ran away with another man, depleted his finances and filed for divorce. He was deeply upset, and his daughters feared he was a danger to himself.

Tyler was ordered to a hospital for at least two weeks. He subsequently recovered, continued working for another two decades and remarried in 1999.

"There is no indication of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed many years ago and who have no history of intervening mental illness, criminal activity or substance abuse," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in the lead opinion.

The court on Thursday sent the case back to the federal court in Grand Rapids where the government must argue the merits of a lifetime ban or the risks of Tyler having a gun.

Gibbons suggests Tyler should prevail, based on his years of good mental health.


Gays can seek parental rights for nonbiological kids
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/09/04 06:26
New York's highest court expanded the definition of parenthood Tuesday by ruling that former same-sex couples may seek visitation and custody of children even when they aren't the biological or adoptive parent.

The Court of Appeals decision resolves two cases of former unmarried same-sex couples in which the biological mothers kept the children and their ex-partners sought legal standing to see them. In one case, lower courts ruled the ex-partner had no standing. In the other, the ex-partner pays child support and was later granted visitation.

A 25-year-old definition of parenthood required a person seeking custody or visitation to have a biological or adoptive connection to the child. In its decision, the court said the standard had become "unworkable" in light of society's "increasingly varied familial relationships."

"Where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law," reads the opinion written by Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

New York began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2011, and children born into a marriage are considered the children of both parents. But the law was far murkier when it came to same-sex couples who had a child before the law was enacted or who have foregone marriage. Same-sex partners often found it impossible to seek visitation or custody of a non-biological child they had not adopted if the relationship ended.


Judge in Stanford swimmer case switching to civil court
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/08/26 21:35
A judge whose six-month sentence in the sexual assault case of a former Stanford swimmer has removed himself from handling criminal matters, but efforts to recall him remain.

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky requested that he be assigned to civil court and that request was approved, the county's Presiding Judge Rise Pinchon said in a statement Thursday.

"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served," Pichon said. "Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment."

The move is not necessarily permanent. The assignment is subject to an annual review and takes effect Sept. 6.

Pichon said that another judge's desire to transfer to Palo Alto has made a quick swap with Persky possible. Normally such changes don't happen until a new year.

Persky ordered the six-month sentence for Brock Turner, a Dayton, Ohio, resident who had been attending Stanford on a swimming scholarship. The judge cited a probation department recommendation and the effect the conviction will have on Turner's life.



Arkansas court denies request for new execution law hearing
Lawyer Blog News | 2016/07/16 16:48
Arkansas' highest court has denied a request to reconsider its June ruling upholding the state's execution secrecy law, but justices issued a stay that prevents the state from setting new execution dates as some inmates appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Arkansas Supreme Court issued an order Thursday denying a rehearing request by attorneys representing nine inmates who challenged the law that requires the Department of Correction to conceal the maker, seller and other information about the drugs. The inmates have argued the law could lead to cruel or unusual punishment and reneges on an earlier pledge by the state to share information.

The order also grants a request to delay putting the ruling into effect so the inmates can appeal the drug protocol to the U.S. Supreme Court.



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