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California court body has paid $500K to settle sex claims
U.S. Legal News | 2018/03/18 04:42
The policymaking body for California's courts says it has paid more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds since 2011 to settle five complaints of sexual harassment against judges and court employees.
   
The Judicial Council released the figures on Friday. They were first reported by the legal publication, the Recorder.
   
The council said three of the complaints were against judges and two were against court employees.
   
The council said it has paid another roughly $80,000 since 2010 to investigate sexual harassment allegations against five judicial officers.
   
It did not disclose any names or details of the individual cases.
   
The Judicial Council's figures come as California's Legislature has been embroiled in sexual misconduct scandals that have brought down several lawmakers.



Greek court postpones decision in Turkish extradition case
U.S. Legal News | 2018/02/04 15:19
A Greek court postponed ruling Tuesday on a Turkish extradition request for the second of nine Turkish citizens alleged to be left-wing militants and arrested in November, days before an Athens visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Naci Ozpolat, 48, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, is wanted by Turkey on charges of assisting a terrorist organization. He attended the hearing the court ended up adjourning until March 6, saying it needed more information from Turkey.

The nine suspects were arrested for alleged links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union have deemed a terrorist organization.

Turkey has charged them with terrorism-related offenses, forgery, arms and explosives possession and resisting arrest. All deny the charges.

A Greek court last week rejected a similar extradition request for the first of the nine on grounds he had been granted refugee status in France. The court said he was at risk of facing torture or other inhumane treatment if he were returned to Turkey.


Court rules that Kushner firm must disclose partners' names
U.S. Legal News | 2018/01/20 13:16
A federal judge ruled Friday that the family company once run by Jared Kushner isn't allowed to keep secret the identity of its business partners in several Maryland properties.

A U.S. district judge in the state rejected the argument that the privacy rights of the Kushner Cos. partners outweigh the public interest in obtaining judicial records in a lawsuit before the court. The decision means the company tied to President Donald Trump's son-in-law might be forced to provide a rare glimpse into how it finances its real estate ventures.

The ruling backed the argument by The Associated Press and other news organizations that the media has a "presumptive right" to see such court documents and the Kushner Cos. had not raised a "compelling government interest" needed by law to block access.

U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled that Westminster Management, a Kushner Cos. subsidiary, must file an unsealed document with the identity of its partners by Feb. 9.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by tenants last year alleging Westminster charges excessive and illegal rent for apartments in the state. The lawsuit seeks class-action status for tenants in 17 apartment complexes owned by the company.

Westminster has said it has broken no laws and denies the charges.

In addition to its privacy argument, the Kushner subsidiary had said media reports of the Maryland dispute were "politically motivated" and marked by "unfair sensationalism." Disclosure of its partners' names would trigger even more coverage and hurt its chances of getting an impartial decision in the case, it had said.

In Friday's ruling, the judge said these are not "frivolous concerns," but the public's right to know is more important.


Warrant dropped for professor who spoke Hawaiian in court
U.S. Legal News | 2018/01/20 13:16
A judge dropped an arrest warrant Thursday for a University of Hawaii professor who refused to respond in court to English and spoke Hawaiian instead.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo was in court Wednesday facing a trial for charges connected to his participation in a 2017 protest against the construction of a solar telescope on top of Haleakala, a volcano on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported .

When Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked Kaeo to confirm his identity, he repeatedly responded in Hawaiian instead of English.

Kobayashi said he couldn't understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for Kaeo's arrest, saying "the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo."

Kaeo, an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, said he has appeared before the judge before and complained that "it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn't like."

Kobayashi recalled the bench warrant Thursday, the state Judiciary said in a statement. Judiciary spokesman Andrew Laurence declined to answer questions about the recall, including what prompted it.

Kaeo faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. Kaeo, who also speaks English, requested a Hawaiian interpreter in the courtroom but prosecutors had objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense that would have caused delays.


Court extends halt in Louisiana executions after judge dies
U.S. Legal News | 2018/01/14 13:59
A court order blocking Louisiana from carrying out any executions has been extended indefinitely after the death of the federal judge who issued it.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has kept death sentences on hold since 2014. U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died Dec. 9 after a brief illness, oversaw the lawsuit and agreed to order the temporary stay of all executions.

Brady's order was due to expire next Monday, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed Thursday to extend it until another judge is assigned to the lawsuit.

Louisiana has 72 inmates on death row, according to state corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when it carried out a death sentence for Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Drug shortages have forced the corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the state's current execution protocols, its primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam.

The most recent order that Brady issued to halt executions — at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation. But others can join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.



Michigan High Court to Hear Arguments on Guns in Schools
U.S. Legal News | 2017/12/29 13:54
Michigan's high court is expected to weigh in next year on whether school districts can ban anyone not in law enforcement from carrying guns onto school grounds.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week invited school districts and gun rights groups in a disputed lower-court decision to file written arguments. Oral arguments are expected in coming months, though a hearing date hasn't been set, the Detroit News reported.

The legal battle stems from a 2016 appellate court ruling that public schools can ban guns from their premises, citing more than two dozen state laws with language referencing "weapon-free school zones." The ruling rejected a challenge by gun rights groups and parents who are licensed to carry firearms.

Gun rights advocates said the court was wrong to find Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District aren't in conflict with state law, which prohibits local governments from regulating gun possession.

The Ann Arbor district banned all guns on school property and school-sponsored activities in 2015 after Ulysses Wong, a parent, openly carried a firearm into a high school music concert. Under the district's rules, bringing a gun into the school would constitute an emergency and result in evacuation or other response strategies.


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