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Wisconsin Supreme Court primary will leave just two
Legal Career News | 2018/02/10 06:23
The latest battle over the ideological balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court plays out in the Feb. 20 primary, where one of three candidates will be eliminated ahead of a spring election.

Partisan politics have weighed heavy over weeks of campaigning. Madison attorney Tim Burns has most embraced his liberal beliefs, while Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet sought to appear as a moderate. Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, an appointee of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has the backing of conservatives.

The primary is the first statewide race this year, and while officially nonpartisan, it could be a bellwether for how Republicans and Democrats stand heading into the fall. Turnout is expected to be low, likely less than 10 percent.

The top two vote-getters advance to the April 3 general election, with the winner replacing outgoing conservative Justice Michael Gableman. He decided against seeking another 10-year term.

The court is currently controlled 5-2 by conservatives, so no matter who wins the ideological control will not change. Burns, who represents clients nationwide in lawsuits against insurance companies, is the only non-judge in the race. He also has little experience litigating in Wisconsin courtrooms, having argued only one case in state court and six in federal court in Wisconsin.

Burns argues his experience outside of Wisconsin is a strength that will help him fix what he views as a broken system. And, he argues a victory for him will energize liberals across the state headed into the fall.

Dallet argues that Burns has gotten too political. But she's walking a fine line trying to win over many of the same liberal voters Burns is appealing to. She ran a commercial attacking Trump and has criticized the current Supreme Court for voting in 2015 to end an investigation into Walker and conservatives.

Kenya's High Court orders government's TV shutdown to end
Legal Career News | 2018/02/01 18:13
Kenya's High Court on Thursday ordered the government to end its shutdown of the country's top three TV stations after they tried to broadcast images of the opposition leader's mock inauguration, a ceremony considered treasonous.

Journalists and human rights groups have raised an outcry over the shutdown of live transmissions that began Tuesday. Some journalists told The Associated Press they spent the night in their newsroom to avoid arrest.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday declared himself "the people's president" in protest of President Uhuru Kenyatta's election win last year, in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of supporters in the capital, Nairobi. Odinga claims the vote was rigged and that electoral reforms in the East African nation have not been made.

The government responded to Odinga's "swearing-in" by declaring the opposition movement a criminal organization and investigating "conspirators" in Tuesday's ceremony. An opposition lawmaker who stood beside Odinga and wore judicial dress was arrested Wednesday and taken to court, where police fired tear gas at his supporters. It was not clear what charges the lawmaker, T.J. Kajwang, faced.

Kenya's interior minister, Fred Matiangi, on Wednesday said the TV stations and some radio stations would remain shut down while being investigated for their alleged role in what he called an attempt to "subvert and overthrow" Kenyatta's government. Matiangi claimed that the media's complicity in the mock inauguration would have led to the deaths of thousands of Kenyans.

But on Thursday, High Court Judge Chacha Mwita directed the government to restore the transmission for the Kenya Television Network, Citizen Television and Nation Television News and not to interfere with the stations until a case challenging their shutdown is heard.

Court calls on jailer to resign; cites poor conditions
Legal Career News | 2018/01/14 13:58
A court in Kentucky has called for a county jailer to resign, citing several recent incidents at the jail that include what the court viewed as substandard living conditions, along with multiple escapes and overdoses.

Judge-Executive Steve Towler and county commissioners approved a resolution requesting that Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett step down, the Independent reported Wednesday. Burchett was not present at the meeting. He is an elected official, so he can't be fired.

"The jailer shall have the custody, rule and charge of the jail in his county and must keep the jail comfortably warm, clean and free from nauseous odors," the resolution states. "There have been numerous incidents over the past several months evidencing the current Boyd County jailer's failure to adhere" to those requirements.

The incidents have created a threat to personal safety and security for county residents, Towler said.

Commissioner John Greer said he hoped that Burchett would "see the light and retire," but he noted that it is "totally his decision."

Four maximum-security prisoners escaped from the jail on Dec. 28. Two of the four inmates have been captured.

Last month, Boyd Commonwealth's Attorney Rhonda Copley announced the existence of an investigation into possible malfeasance by Burchett. Malfeasance is a misdemeanor charge. Under state law, if any elected county official is convicted of the charge, that person's office would be declared vacant.

Western powers warn Kosovo on changing war crimes court law
Legal Career News | 2018/01/13 13:58
Five western nations have warned Kosovo against repealing or amending a law on a war crimes court, saying it would suffer negative consequences "in international and Euro-Atlantic integration."

A statement Thursday from the nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy — said they were "deeply concerned by ongoing efforts to undermine the work of the Specialist Chambers." It called on Kosovo politicians and lawmakers "to abandon any thought of repealing or re-negotiating any aspect of the law ... (because that) calls into question Kosovo's commitment to the rule of law."

In December, a group of Kosovo lawmakers tried to amend the law, seeking to extend its jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the 1998-1999 war for independence. The court now has jurisdiction only over potential war crimes suspects who were Kosovo citizens.

"(This move) puts the interests of certain individuals above the interests of Kosovo society. We condemn such a move," the nations said.

Kosovo detached from Yugoslavia following a three-month NATO air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. It then declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 states but not by Serbia.

The court law was passed in 2015 as a result of U.S. and European pressure on Kosovo's government to confront alleged war crimes that the Kosovo Liberation Army committed against ethnic Serbs.

Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US
Legal Career News | 2017/12/12 11:08
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."

Supreme Court declines Michigan emergency manager law case
Legal Career News | 2017/09/30 23:49
The Supreme Court won't take up a challenge to a Michigan law that allows the state to temporarily take away local officials' authority during financial crises and appoint an emergency manager.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the case. Voters and elected officials were challenging a state law that says that to rescue financially stressed cities and school districts the state can reassign the governing powers of local officials to a state-appointed emergency manager. An emergency manager was in place during the water crisis in Flint.

Those bringing the lawsuit said emergency managers have been appointed in a high number of areas with large African-American populations but not in similar areas with majority white populations.

Lower courts said lawsuit was brought under a federal law that didn't apply.

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