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High court rules for retired US marshal in W.Va. tax dispute
U.S. Legal News | 2019/02/21 17:45
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that the state of West Virginia unlawfully discriminated against a retired U.S. marshal when it excluded him from a more generous tax break given to onetime state law enforcement officers.

The court ruled unanimously for retired marshal James Dawson.

West Virginia law exempts state law enforcement retirees, including former policemen and firefighters, from paying income tax on their retirement benefits. But retired U.S. Marshals Service employees such as Dawson haven’t been getting that tax advantage.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that because there aren’t any significant differences between Dawson’s former job responsibilities and those of state law enforcement retirees, “we have little difficulty concluding” that West Virginia’s law unlawfully discriminates against Dawson under federal law.

West Virginia had argued that it wasn’t doing anything wrong and that Dawson was getting the same benefit, a $2,000 income tax exemption, that applies to virtually all retired federal, state and local employees in West Virginia. The state said that only a “surpassingly small” number people who participate in specific, state-managed retirement plans get the exemption Dawson wanted to claim.

The U.S. government had backed Dawson, who served in the U.S. Marshals Service from 1987 to his retirement in 2008. He led the Marshals Service in the Southern District of West Virginia for the past six years.

In 2013, he filed paperwork seeking to amend his tax returns for two years and claim the more favorable tax exemption. Dawson said the state owed him $2,174 for 2010 and $2,111 for 2011. State tax officials disagreed, so Dawson took his case to court.


The Latest: Shutdown affects court cases that involve Trump
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/29 08:19
The partial government shutdown has prompted the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts to suspend work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers. The order suspends action in several civil lawsuits in which President Donald Trump is a defendant.

Judge Colleen McMahon said in a written order that the suspension will remain in effect until the business day after the president signs a budget appropriation law restoring Justice Department funding.

The Manhattan courts, with several dozen judges, are among the nation’s busiest courts.

In one case involving Trump, a judge last week ruled that a group of people suing Trump and his three eldest children can remain anonymous because they fear retaliation by the president or his followers.

Back from a 29-hour trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq, President Donald Trump is returning his attention to the ongoing partial U.S. government shutdown, which is in its sixth day.

In a morning tweet, Trump says “we desperately need” a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, funding for which has been a flashpoint between the White House and Congress ever since Trump took office.

The president is calling on Democrats in Congress to fund his wall, saying the shutdown affects their supporters. He says: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are on unpaid furlough and even more are required to work without pay after Trump and Congress could not reach consensus on a short-term funding bill last week.


Prominent Chinese rights lawyer tried in closed proceedings
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/27 09:19
The trial of a prominent human rights lawyer began in northern China on Wednesday with about two dozen plainclothes officers stationed outside a courthouse and at least one supporter taken away by police.

Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was being tried. Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was kept from attending the proceedings by security agents who had blocked the exit of her apartment complex since Tuesday.

Li told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Liu Weiguo, Wang's government-appointed lawyer, confirmed the trial had started. But he did not tell her whether it was now over or whether a verdict had been reached.

The court said in a statement on its website that it "lawfully decided not to make public" the trial hearings because the case involved state secrets. A decision will be announced at a future date, the court said.

Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the most recognized in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016. He has been held without access to his lawyers or family for more than three years.

Fengrui has pursued numerous sensitive cases and represented outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party. Wang represented members of the Falun Gong meditation sect that the government has relentlessly suppressed since banning it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Group leaders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and ordinary followers locked up as alleged threats.


Thai court extends detention of refugee sought by Bahrain
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/12 19:05
A Thai court ruled Tuesday that a soccer player who holds refugee status in Australia can be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain, the homeland he fled four years ago on account of alleged political persecution and torture.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who was detained Nov. 27 upon entry at Bangkok's main airport, was denied release on bail during his court appearance. Thai officials said he was originally held on the basis of a notice from Interpol in which Bahrain sought his custody because he had been sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for vandalizing a police station, a charge he denies. He came to Thailand on vacation with his wife.

Al-Araibi says he fears being tortured if sent to Bahrain. Australia, which granted him refugee status and residency in 2017, has called for his release and immediate return to his adoptive home. He had played for Bahrain's national soccer team and now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club. He has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals.

He also has alleged he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012.

He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.


Defamation lawsuit against activist continues in state court
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/09 03:07
A Maine activist who accused an orphanage founder in Haiti of being a serial pedophile asked the state supreme court on Tuesday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that was moved from federal court.

An attorney for Paul Kendrick told justices that the assertions were protected by a Maine law that protects people from meritless suits aimed at chilling First Amendment rights.

The argument that invoked Maine's Anti-SLAPP statute was met with skepticism from justices who questioned whether the law was intended to apply to harassment and cyberbullying.

But Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley suggested there's a balancing act when between free speech and defamation.

"Are we not sliding into an areas where we have to be very careful not to chill the voices of people who say we must speak up in support of children who have been abused?" she asked an attorney at one point. "We know that if people are afraid to speak up that abuse can go on for decades."



Dutch court rejects man’s request to be 20 years younger
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/02 01:42
Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation which are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.



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