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Chief justice remembers Scalia's 'irrepressible spirit'
Legal Career News | 2016/02/22 22:51
Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday remembered the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a friend and colleague of "irrepressible spirit" as the Supreme Court resumed work for the first time since Scalia's death.

"He was our man for all seasons and we will miss him beyond measure," Roberts said in brief remarks after the court's eight remaining justices took the bench.

Roberts recounted Scalia's humble roots in New Jersey, his graduation at the top of his class at Georgetown University and his stellar performance at Harvard Law School. As a top attorney at the Justice Department, Roberts said Scalia argued his first and only case before the Supreme Court in 1976.

"He prevailed, establishing a perfect record before the court," Roberts said to laughter.

Scalia became the 103rd justice confirmed to the high court in 1986, Roberts noted, and wrote 292 majority opinions for the court.

"He was also known on occasion to dissent," Roberts said to more laughter.

The high court is resuming work just two days after the justices and thousands of dignitaries, friends and family mourned his loss at a funeral Mass in Washington.

The void created by Scalia's death was visible on Monday. His chair, in its usual place to the right of Roberts, was draped in black wool crepe, which will remain until next month.

Only in late March do the justices plan to switch seats in line with their seniority on the court. Justice Anthony Kennedy is now the longest-serving member of the court, with 28 years of experience.

President Barack Obama has vowed to nominate a candidate to take Scalia's seat, but Senate Republicans, backed by their party's presidential contenders, have pledged to block anyone Obama puts forward. Republicans have said the choice should await the next president.

Scalia's sharp questioning of lawyers transformed arguments into lively sessions in which the justices sometimes seemed to be talking to each other, rather than to the lawyers arguing before them.


Man recounts harrowing Uber ride with Kalamazoo suspect
Legal Career News | 2016/02/21 22:52
An Uber passenger says he called the police to report an erratic driver more than an hour before authorities allege the driver began shooting people at random, killing six and wounding two others before being arrested.

Matt Mellen told WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo that Jason Dalton picked him up at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He said Dalton introduced himself as "Me-Me" and that he sat in front, since Dalton had his dog in the backseat.

Mellen said about a mile into the trip, Dalton got a phone call and that when he hung up, he began driving erratically, blowing through stop signs and sideswiping cars.

"We were driving through medians, driving through the lawn, speeding along and when we came to a stop, I jumped out of the car and ran away," said Mellen. He said he called the police and that when he got to his friend's house, his fiancée posted a warning to friends on Facebook.

Authorities allege that Dalton shot the first victim outside of an apartment complex shortly before 6 p.m. and that he shot seven others over the next several hours. Dalton, 45, was arrested without incident early Sunday morning after a deputy spotted his vehicle driving through downtown Kalamazoo after leaving a bar parking lot.


Rome court acquits ex-Vatican accountant of corruption
Legal Career News | 2016/01/18 19:50
A lawyer for an Italian monsignor who was fired from his Vatican accountant's job says a Rome court has acquitted his client of corruption.

Prosecutors alleged Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was involved in a purported plot to use a private plane to try to smuggle 20 million euros (about $22 million) from Switzerland into Italy to evade taxes. They suspected the money was deposited in Switzerland to avoid Italian taxes.

Defense lawyer Silverio Sica says Scarano was acquitted of the corruption charge on Monday. According to Sica, the court convicted Scarano of slander and gave him a suspended two-year sentence.

Separately, Scarano is on trial in Salerno, Italy, for allegedly using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money. Italian prosecutors said the once highly-secretive Vatican bank amply cooperated in that case.


Panama high court OKs corruption probe of ex-president
Legal Career News | 2015/01/30 21:06
Panama's Supreme Court voted Wednesday to open a corruption probe against former President Ricardo Martinelli, a move likely to rally popular support in a nation where the politically powerful rarely face justice for misdeeds.

A statement from the court said all nine judges voted to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Martinelli over allegations he inflated contracts worth $45 million to purchase dehydrated food for a government social program.

The accusation is based on the testimony of a political ally, Giacomo Tamburelli, the former head of the National Assistance Program who has said he was taking orders from the then president to inflate contracts. He is now under house arrest.

Martinelli, a billionaire supermarket magnate, has denied the charges and says he is the target of political persecution by his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, who broke with the government in 2011 while serving as Martinelli's vice president and foreign minister.


NY court: Chimps don't have same rights as humans
Legal Career News | 2014/12/05 23:45
A chimpanzee is not entitled to the rights of a human and does not have to be freed by its owner, a New York appeals court ruled Thursday.

The three-judge Appellate Division panel was unanimous in denying "legal personhood" to Tommy, who lives alone in a cage in upstate Fulton County.

A trial level court had previously denied the Nonhuman Rights Project's effort to have Tommy released. The group's lawyer, Steven Wise, told the appeals court in October that the chimp's living conditions are akin to a person in unlawful solitary confinement.

Wise argued that animals with human qualities, such as chimps, deserve basic rights, including freedom from imprisonment. He has also sought the release of three other chimps in New York and said he plans similar cases in other states.

But the mid-level appeals court said there is neither precedent nor legal basis for treating animals as persons.


Writers object after UK court bans abuse memoir
Legal Career News | 2014/10/20 20:03
Prominent writers say free speech is under threat after a British court halted publication of a celebrity's memoir of child abuse because his ex-wife argued that it would harm their son.

Three appeals court judges last week temporarily stopped publication of the book, which has already been printed and was due to be published this fall.

They described the author as a "talented young performing artist" whose ex-wife lives abroad with their son.

She argued the book would cause "psychological harm" to the boy, who has Asperger's syndrome and other disabilities.

The judges granted an injunction stopping publication of key sections of the book pending a full trial.

On Friday writers including Tom Stoppard, David Hare and Stephen Fry called the ruling "a significant threat to freedom of expression."


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