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As time runs out, dozens of judge nominees waiting on Senate
Legal World News | 2016/10/18 03:20
Federal judges in New Jersey have struggled with a workload approaching 700 cases each, nearly double what's manageable, because of judicial vacancies. In Texas, close to a dozen district judgeships remain open, more than in any other state.

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees slowed to a halt this election year, a common political occurrence for the final months of divided government with a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate. The vacancy on the Supreme Court attracted the most attention as Republicans refused to even hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, insisting that the choice to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February rests with the next president.

But more than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary are taking a toll on judges, the courts and Americans seeking recourse. Obama has nominated replacements for more than half of those spots, including 44 nominees for the district court and seven for the appeals court. Yet the Senate has confirmed only nine district and appeals court judges this year — and only four since Scalia died.


Spanish court seeks arrest of Putin-linked Russians
Legal World News | 2016/05/09 05:22
A Spanish judge wants two senior Russian officials with links to the Kremlin arrested so they can be questioned in court about suspected money laundering and criminal association.

National court judge Jose de la Mata Amaya has issued international arrest warrants for Nikolai Aulov, deputy director of Russia's federal drug control agency, and Vladislav Reznik, who is a member of parliament's lower house for the main Kremlin party and deputy chairman of its financial markets committee. Both men are viewed as allies of President Vladimir Putin.

They are among 15 suspects in a years long investigation into alleged Russian mafia activities in Spain, according to court documents released this week. The court said their whereabouts are not known.

The judge handed down his ruling in January. A national court spokesman said the case was never placed under judicial secrecy after the arrest orders were issued on Jan. 22 but it only became publicly known after Spain's El Mundo on Tuesday published a story based on documents outlining the judge's order.

The spokesman said he did not know whether those named in the document had Spanish lawyers. He spoke on condition of anonymity, in keeping with court policy.

The Russian federal drug control agency said the Spanish judge's decision to seek Aulov's arrest was "legally unprofessional, a political hit job and perhaps connected with drug mafia revenge," the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.

A lawyer for Reznik, Alexander Gofshtein, also has described the case as being politically driven.



High court seems poised to overturn McDonnell conviction
Legal World News | 2016/05/05 05:22
The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed poised to overturn the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on political corruption charges and place new limits on the reach of federal bribery laws.

Justices across the ideological spectrum expressed major concerns that the laws give prosecutors too much power to criminalize the everyday acts that politician perform to help constituents.

Chief Justice John Roberts said it was "extraordinary" that dozens of former White House attorneys from Democratic and Republican administrations submitted legal papers saying that upholding McDonnell's conviction would cripple the ability of elected officials to do their jobs.

"I think it's extraordinary that those people agree on anything," Roberts said.

Justice Breyer said the law presents "a real separation of powers problem" and "puts at risk behavior that is common."

"That's a recipe for giving the Department of Justice and prosecutors enormous power over elected officials," Breyer said.

McDonnell, who was in the courtroom with his wife Maureen to watch the arguments, was convicted in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.

At issue is a federal law that bars public officials from accepting money or gifts in exchange for "official acts." The court is expected to clarify what distinguishes bribery from the routine actions that politicians often perform as a courtesy to constituents.

But the justices struggled over how to draw that line. Both Roberts and Breyer suggested the bribery law could be considered unconstitutionally vague.


Kansas considers giving governor more say in high court
Legal World News | 2016/02/03 20:55
Kansas lawmakers are considering giving the governor more authority over who is appointed to the state Supreme Court, which has been under increasing attacks by conservatives who say it is too liberal.

A proposed constitutional amendment to change the system received first-round approval in the House on Wednesday and advances to final action today. It needs approval from two-thirds of House members to advance to the Senate.

With major cases on school funding and abortion restrictions now pending before the high court, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies are seeking to change its makeup. Last year, Brownback openly campaigned against the retention of two state Supreme Court justices.

The state's high court judges are chosen by five attorneys and four representatives selected by the governor. The nonpartisan committee then chooses three finalists, with the governor making the final selection. A proposed constitutional amendment would change the system so that the governor would nominate justices, who would then be approved for the court by a majority of the Senate.

During debate Wednesday, opponents argued the move is drastic. Supporters argued that the current process is undemocratic.



Jeffrey Dahmer's lawyer suspended by Supreme Court
Legal World News | 2015/12/24 18:50
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's attorney for two months over a series of ethics violations tied largely to an attempt to help a client recover money spent on fake John Lennon memorabilia.

The justices also ordered Gerald Boyle to take courses in law office management and to pay $24,900 to cover the costs of the disciplinary proceedings against him.

Boyle rose to prominence in southeastern Wisconsin law circles after he defended Dahmer. The serial killer was sentenced to life in prison after confessing to 17 murders. Another inmate killed Dahmer in 1994. Boyle also gained fame for defending former Green Bay Packers star Mark Chmura against sexual assault charges. Chmura was ultimately acquitted in 2001.

Boyle didn't immediately return a voicemail left Wednesday at his Milwaukee office.

According to court documents, the state Office of Lawyer Regulation brought six misconduct counts against Boyle last year. Five counts were connected to a man who paid out-of-state galleries tens of thousands of dollars for a microphone Lennon had used and sketches the Beatles front man had drawn.

The man, identified only as D.P. in the documents, hired Boyle to represent him in efforts to recover his money after he learned the memorabilia was fake.

Boyle improperly deposited $65,000 in advance fees from D.P. in his office's operational account rather than in a client trust fund, according to court documents. The attorney also failed to prepare written fee agreements or explain in writing the basis for the fees.



Egyptian court sentences 188 people to death
Legal World News | 2014/12/05 00:18
An Egyptian court sentenced 188 people to death Tuesday pending the opinion of the country's top religious authority, the latest mass death sentence handed down by the country's judicial system despite widespread international criticism.

The 188 were charged over the killing of 11 policemen last year in Kerdasa, a restive town west of Cairo considered a militant stronghold. The attack, which saw the policemen's bodies mutilated, is considered one of the country's grisliest assaults on security forces.

The defendants also were accused of attempting to kill 10 more policemen, damaging a police station, setting police cars on fire and possessing heavy weapons.

The attack happened on the same day that security forces brutally cleared two protest camps of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's supporters, killing hundreds. Protesters were demanding the reinstatement of Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Some 22,000 people have been arrested since Morsi's ouster, including most of the Brotherhood's top leaders, as well as large numbers of others swept up by police during pro-Morsi protests.


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