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Colombia court nixes military justice overhaul
Legal World News | 2013/10/25 22:53
In a stiff blow to the government, Colombia's highest court for constitutional questions on Wednesday struck down an expansion of the military justice system that human rights activists had said would lead to greater impunity for war criminals.

In a 5-4 decision not subject to appeal, the Constitutional Court nullified a constitutional amendment and pursuant statute that would have placed under the jurisdiction of an expanded military justice system all but seven types of violations of international humanitarian law involving armed forces personnel.

Currently, all human rights cases are supposed to be tried in civil court.

Magistrate Jorge Ivan Palacio read a statement saying the court found "procedural defects" in the change's journey through Congress, accepting the arguments of opposition lawmakers and a top human rights lawyer. The decision was not released.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon called the ruling "a blow to the morale of the military forces that without doubt will affect Colombians' security." He said the government would consider submitting a revised military court overhaul, but gave no details.

President Juan Manuel Santos was seen as having pushed the change through Congress to win the backing of military leaders for peace talks that began last year with the country's main rebel group in Cuba.

Santos repeatedly insisted the legal change would not lead to impunity in war crimes, but such arguments did not persuade members of the U.S. Congress, which withheld at least $10 million in military aid in objection to the measure.


Wenatchee lawyer picked for federal judgeship
Legal World News | 2013/09/23 18:44
The White House has nominated Wenatchee lawyer Stanley Bastian to become Eastern Washington's newest federal judge.

If approved by the Senate, he would replace Judge Edward Shea on the bench in Richland.

Bastian is a 1983 University of Washington Law School graduate who has served as an assistant city attorney in Seattle and as a state Appeals Court law clerk. He joined a Wenatchee firm in 1988.

The Spokesman-Review reports in the 1990s Bastian was hired by Douglas County to defend sheriff's investigators and prosecutors who were sued for their roles in the discredited Wenatchee sex ring case.

The Tri-City Herald reports Shea was the first federal judge to be based full-time in the Tri-Cities and went on senior status in June 2012, with a reduced workload.
A federal appeals court dealt another blow to New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports gambling Tuesday, upholding a ruling that the state's betting law conflicts with federal law and shouldn't be implemented.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, and the state could seek to have the case re-heard by the full appeals court. But Tuesday's ruling more likely means New Jersey's last chance to legalize sports gambling is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

 


Fed court nixes NJ appeal in sports betting case
Legal World News | 2013/09/18 22:40

A federal appeals court dealt another blow to New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports gambling Tuesday, upholding a ruling that the state's betting law conflicts with federal law and shouldn't be implemented.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, and the state could seek to have the case re-heard by the full appeals court. But Tuesday's ruling more likely means New Jersey's last chance to legalize sports gambling is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday, but in the past Christie has said he would go to the nation's highest court if necessary.

Voters passed a sports betting referendum in 2011, and last year New Jersey enacted a law that limited bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's horse racing tracks. Bets wouldn't be taken on games involving New Jersey colleges or college games played in the state. Christie said at the time that he hoped to grant sports betting licenses by early this year, but those plans were put on hold.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA sued the state last year, and the NCAA moved several of its championship events out of New Jersey, though it later relented.

The leagues said the betting law could harm the sanctity of the games. In a court deposition, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said he was "appalled" by Christie's actions.

Attorneys for the state had attacked the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on several constitutional levels. They argued the law unfairly "grandfathered" Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware, which each had some form of sports gambling at the time, and said the law violated state sovereignty and equal protection provisions and trampled the authority of state legislatures under the 10th Amendment.


Appeals court removes key civil service protection
Legal World News | 2012/08/22 22:05
A federal appeals court ruling that has taken key civil service protection away from government employees involved in national security work will have far-reaching implications, advocates for federal workers say.

Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy group, said Tuesday that the appeals court has given agencies "a blank check to cancel all government accountability in civil service law."

In a 2-1 decision Friday involving two Defense Department employees, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the Merit Systems Protection Board is prohibited from reviewing dismissals and demotions of government employees who hold "noncritical sensitive" positions, regardless of whether those jobs require access to classified information.

The dissenting judge in the case said the decision "effectively nullifies" the 1978 civil service law. Advocates for federal workers point out that federal employees in "noncritical sensitive" jobs work at many federal agencies, making the impact of the ruling government-wide.


Pa. high court denies Orie Melvin request
Legal World News | 2012/07/20 18:37
A Pennsylvania state Supreme Court justice who is fighting political corruption charges has lost a request for her fellow justices to intervene in her criminal court case and require that an out-of-county judge preside over it.

The state Supreme Court issued the one-page order denying the request from suspended Justice Joan Orie Melvin on Tuesday. Melvin had sought to keep Allegheny County judges from hearing her case, complaining that one Allegheny County judge is married to a key prosecution witness, Lisa Sasinoski.

Melvin also had objected to a local district judge presiding over her preliminary hearing, saying the case may be too complex. Melvin asked her colleagues on the state Supreme Court to intervene after an Allegheny County judge denied her initial request.


Regulators probe bank's role in Facebook IPO
Legal World News | 2012/05/23 23:10
Regulators are examining whether Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that shepherded Facebook through its highly publicized stock offering last week, selectively informed clients of an analyst's negative report about the company before the stock started trading.

Rick Ketchum, the head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the self-policing body for the securities industry, said Tuesday that the question is "a matter of regulatory concern" for his organization and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The top securities regulator for Massachusetts, William Galvin, said he had subpoenaed Morgan Stanley. Galvin said his office is investigating whether Morgan Stanley divulged to only some clients that one of its analysts had cut his revenue estimates for Facebook before the stock hit the market on Friday.

The bank said late Tuesday that it "followed the same procedures for the Facebook offering that it follows for all IPOs," referring to initial public offerings of stock. It said that its procedures complied with regulations.

The questions about the role played by Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter for the deal, add to the confusion surrounding Facebook's IPO. In the most hotly anticipated stock debut in years, the offering raised $16 billion for the social networking company, valuing it at $104 billion.


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