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UN court asked to probe Venezuela; leader defiant in speech
Lawyer News | 2018/09/30 10:28
Six nations made the unprecedented move Wednesday of asking the U.N.’s International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity, even as President Nicolas Maduro made an unexpected trip to the world body’s headquarters to deliver a nearly hourlong speech declaring his nation “will never give in.”

Maduro’s speech at the General Assembly gathering of world leaders came hours after Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.

“To remain indifferent or speculative in front of this reality could be perceived as being complicit with the regime. We are not going to be complicit,” said Paraguayan Foreign Minister Andres Rodriguez Pedotti.

The six countries hope the move puts new pressure on Maduro to end the violence and conflict that have sent more than 2 million people fleeing and made Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates among the highest in the world.

Venezuelan officials have widely rejected international criticism, saying they’re driven by imperialist forces led by the U.S. to justify launching an invasion. And Maduro sounded a defiant tone Wednesday night, complaining that Washington was attacking his country through sanctions and other means and strong-arming other countries into going along in a “fierce diplomatic offensive.”

“The U.S. wants to continue just giving orders to the world as though the world were its own property,” Maduro said. “Venezuela will never give in.”

But at the same time, he said he was willing to talk with Trump.

Wednesday marked the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.

Canada was among nations referring Venezuela to the ICC, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the moment to defend the idea of global justice the court represents — the day after Trump attacked it in a stinging speech that challenged multilateral organizations.

Its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, already has opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Venezuelan government forces since April 2017 “frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations,” and abused some opposition members in detention.


French court upholds Kate Middleton topless photos fine
Lawyer News | 2018/09/16 05:18
A French court of appeals has upheld a ruling Wednesday that two directors of French celebrity magazine Closer should be fined a maximum 45,000 euros ($52,500) for breaching the privacy of Kate Middleton, when publishing topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing back in 2012.

The Versailles appeals court upheld the Sept. 2017 decision in Nanterre to hand the maximum possible fine under French law to Laurence Pieau, an editor of Closer's French edition, and Ernesto Mauri, chief executive of Mondadori, the media group that publishes the weekly.

The court also upheld fines for the two photographers who snapped the duchess of 10,000 euros each.

Last September, the office of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were pleased at the ruling as they "wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen."

The timing of last year's ruling had particular resonance in Britain, as it was shortly after the 20th anniversary of the death of Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, who was being pursued by paparazzi when her car crashed in a tunnel in Paris.


Romania: Court tells president to fire anti-graft prosecutor
Lawyer News | 2018/06/03 02:26
Romania's top court on Wednesday told the country's president to fire the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, widely praised for her efforts to root out high-level graft, but a thorn in the side of some politicians.

The move angered some Romanians. More than 1,500 people gathered in protest in Bucharest, the capital, and hundreds rallied in the western cities of Timisoara and Sibiu calling the court "a slave" of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

The constitutional court ruled in a 6-3 vote that there had been an institutional conflict after President Klaus Iohannis disagreed with the justice minister's assessment that National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi should be dismissed on grounds of failing to do her job properly.

In his February report calling for her dismissal, the minister, Tudorel Toader, said she was authoritarian, claimed that prosecutors falsified evidence and asserted that the number of acquittals was too high. He also said she had harmed Romania's image in interviews with foreign journalists. Kovesi later refuted his accusations.

Under her leadership, the agency has successfully prosecuted lawmakers, ministers and other top officials for bribery, fraud, abuse of power and other corruption-related offenses.

Kovesi's departure would be a blow to the agency, respected by ordinary Romanians, the European Union and the U.S. The court will explain its ruling later.


Cosby defense team lobs attacks in court of public opinion
Lawyer News | 2018/04/19 00:29
Jurors weren't allowed to hear testimony that Bill Cosby's chief accuser was once hooked on hallucinogenic mushrooms or had her sights set on becoming a millionaire, but that hasn't stopped the defense from airing the explosive claims about Andrea Constand in the court of public opinion.

With Cosby's sexual assault retrial heading for deliberations this week, the 80-year-old comedian's lawyers and publicists are increasingly playing to an audience of millions, not just the 12 people deciding his fate.

They're hitting at Constand's credibility in the media with attacks that Judge Steven O'Neill is deeming too prejudicial or irrelevant for court, and they're holding daily press briefings portraying Cosby as the victim of an overzealous prosecutor and an unjust legal system.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt has decried Constand's allegations of drugging and molestation as "fantastical stories" and deemed District Attorney Kevin Steele an "extortionist" for spending taxpayer money on the case.

Lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who's been in court following the retrial, said prominent defendants like Cosby almost always play to the court of public opinion when there's no gag order, but that his team's approach hasn't been "particularly effective or convincing."

"It is so strident, and it is so hyperbolic, I think most people will turn it off," said McAndrews, who prosecuted chemical heir John E. du Pont for murder in 1997 and is not associated with either side in the Cosby case.

O'Neill is expected to rule Monday on what could be the Cosby team's last line of attack in the courtroom: whether jurors can hear deposition testimony that Cosby's lawyers say could have insights into what led Constand to accuse him.

Constand's confidante, Sheri Williams, gave the testimony as part of Constand's 2005 lawsuit against Cosby, which he wound up settling for nearly $3.4 million. Cosby's lawyers said that testimony is vital because Williams is not responding to subpoena attempts.


Randle, an enforcer on the court, is a gentle giant elsewhere
Lawyer News | 2018/03/15 04:42
Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson were not scheduled to speak at Julius Randle’s wedding. It was an elegant affair, bathed in white roses to celebrate a love that began almost instantly when Randle met Kendra Shaw at a friend’s party in college.

The friend who introduced them spoke at the reception. A coach who grew to be like a brother to Randle spoke. So did some childhood friends.

Then Young and Clarkson, lubricated by wedding wine and the firm belief that the wedding guests expected their shenanigans, got an idea. They loved Randle. The people needed to hear them, they presumed. Together, they took the microphone.

Clarkson, then Randle’s teammate with the Lakers, declared he couldn’t stand Randle when they first met. Randle’s punishing style of play in high school irked Clarkson’s friends who played against him back in Texas. Just as Randle’s mother reared up to protect her sweet baby boy, Clarkson finished, saying as he got to know Randle as part of the same Lakers rookie class in 2014, he learned Randle would do anything for his friends and loved ones.



Organized labor case goes in front of Supreme Court
Lawyer News | 2018/03/04 12:03
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor.

All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump.

Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations.

The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees.

The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can't be compelled to contribute to unions' political activities.


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