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Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation member
Lawyer News | 2022/06/14 00:49
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Native Americans prosecuted in certain tribal courts can also be prosecuted based on the same incident in federal court, which can result in longer sentences.

The 6-3 ruling is in keeping with an earlier ruling from the 1970s that said the same about a more widely used type of tribal court.

The case before the justices involved a Navajo Nation member, Merle Denezpi, accused of rape. He served nearly five months in jail after being charged with assault and battery in what is called a Court of Indian Offenses, a court that deals exclusively with alleged Native American offenders.

Under federal law Courts of Indian Offenses can only impose sentences of generally up to a year. The man was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He said the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy” clause should have barred the second prosecution.

But the justices disagreed.

“Denezpi’s single act led to separate prosecutions for violations of a tribal ordinance and a federal statute. Because the Tribe and the Federal Government are distinct sovereigns, those” offenses are not the same, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for a majority of the court. “Denezpi’s second prosecution therefore did not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause.”

The Biden administration had argued for that result as had several states, which said barring federal prosecutions in similar cases could allow defendants to escape harsh sentences.

The case before the justices involves a tribal court system that has become increasingly rare over the last century. Courts of Indian Offenses were created in the late 1800s during a period when the federal government’s policy toward Native Americans was to encourage assimilation. Prosecutors are federal officers answerable to federal authorities, not tribal authorities.

Federal policy toward Native Americans shifted in the mid-1930s, however, to emphasize a greater respect for tribes’ native ways. As part of that, the government has encouraged tribes to create their own tribal courts, and the number of Courts of Indian Offenses has steadily decreased. Today there are five regional Courts of Indian Offenses that serve 16 tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. They are generally tribes with a small number of members or limited resources. Nationwide there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes.

The court said in 1978 that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the federal government from prosecuting a Native person in federal court after a tribal court prosecution, so the only question for the court this time was whether the rule should be different for Courts of Indian Offenses.

In July 2017, Denezpi traveled with a female member of the Navajo Nation to Towaoc, Colorado, which is a part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. While there, Denezpi raped the woman.

Denezpi was first charged in a Court of Indian Offenses with assault and battery, among other things. He eventually agreed to a so-called Alford plea in the case, not admitting guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence that he would likely be convicted at trial. He was sentenced to time served, 140 days in jail. His prosecution in federal court followed.


Russian court says bobsledder can keep Olympic titles
Lawyer News | 2019/01/07 21:12
Russian bobsledder Alexander Zubkov won a Moscow court ruling on Friday that could make it harder for the International Olympic Committee to recover his gold medals.

The Russian flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was stripped of his two gold medals from those games in 2017 by the IOC for doping. He failed to overturn that disqualification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

But Moscow’s highest civil court in November upheld Zubkov’s claim that the CAS procedure was unfair and shouldn’t be recognized in Russia. That means Zubkov is legally recognized as an Olympic champion — but only in Russia.

On Friday, the court rejected an IOC-backed appeal from the Russian Olympic Committee, which earlier said letting Zubkov keep his medals could “give rise to doubt that Russia truly observes the main principles of the fight against doping.”

Zubkov strongly denies cheating. “I am a clean athlete. If you don’t know my story you can open Wikipedia and see how much I’ve done for sport and what I did in Sochi,” he said. “I brought gold medals here and gave sport 30 years (of my life).”

Friday’s ruling will also make it harder for Zubkov to be removed as president of the Russian Bobsled Federation, and may entitle him to a Russian state pension for retired star athletes.



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.


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