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Maryland House May Scrap Electoral College
U.S. Legal News | 2007/03/30 15:37

The Maryland Senate passed a bill Wednesday to ignore the US Electoral College in presidential elections, instead awarding the state's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Currently, the state's 10 votes go to the candidate who won the popular vote in Maryland.

The Senate approved SB 634 by a 29-to-17 vote, and it now goes to the state House. The plan would only go into action if enough states representing a majority of the nation's 538 electoral votes adopt it, making it unlikely that it would be in effect by next year's presidential election.

Other states are also considering the plan as a way to avoid a situation where a candidate wins the popular vote but loses the election, as happened with Democrat Al Gore in 2000.



Bush to veto vote for withdrawal from Iraq
U.S. Legal News | 2007/03/24 18:48

President Bush accused the Democratic-led Congress of wasting taxpayers‘ time picking fights with the White House instead of resolving disputes over money for U.S. troops and the firings of the U.S. attorneys. He urged them to accept his offer to allow lawmakers to interview his advisers about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors — but not under oath — and provide documents detailing communications they had about the firings with outside parties.

"Members of Congress now face a choice: whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people‘s business," Bush said. "We have many important issues before us. So we need to put partisan politics aside and come together to enact important legislation for the American people."

Democrats said it was time to heed the mandate of their election sweep last November, which gave them control of Congress. Passage marked their most brazen challenge yet to Bush on a war that has killed more than 3,200 troops and lost favor with the American public.

"By choosing to make a political statement and passing a bill they know will never become law, the Democrats in Congress have only delayed the delivery of the vital funds and resources our troops need," Bush said. "The clock is running. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April 15, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions — and so will their families."

Bush said that to get the votes needed to pass the bill, House Democrats included billions of dollars in domestic and pork barrel spending for local congressional districts, including $74 million for peanut storage and $25 million for spinach growers, that has nothing to do with the war.



Blair condemns manner of Saddam's execution
U.S. Legal News | 2007/01/07 22:03

Nine days after Saddam Hussein was put to the death in a grisly, publicized video sequence that outraged the world, Britain's prime minister has finally conveyed his complete denunciation of it.

Blair's condemnation - delivered by his official spokesman and not by the great leader himself - came after he was roundly criticised for staying silent on the way Saddam was taunted and degraded before being hanged.

Blair's official spokesman said on Sunday that the execution was "completely wrong". He added that the hanging, which mobile phone footage showed was preceded by Saddam being taunted, "shouldn't have happened in that way".

Blair's condemnation, even if at second hand, came just hours after his chief political rival and anticipated successor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, said the events around Saddam's hanging were "deplorable" and "unacceptable". Blair has promised he will speak next week - in person - about the grisly events in Baghdad on December 30.

Blair had not officially vouchsafed an opinion on Saddam's hanging till now even though President Bush, Egyptian president Hosni Mumbarak and almost the entire British cabinet, starting with deputy prime minister John Prescott and foreign secretary Margaret Beckett have condemned it. Mubarak called the events around the execution "barbaric".

The prime minister's critics have questioned the extraordinary silence of a leader who has so far been quick to speak out about the deaths of footballers, pop stars, film actors, royal princesses and indeed any subject under the sun.

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell criticised Blair for not commenting, so far: "The prime minister's continuing silence is deafening. His unwillingness to condemn the shameful scenes surrounding Saddam Hussein's execution does him no credit."

Observers said Blair's refusal to discuss Saddam's controversial execution indicated how profoundly uncomfortable he was with the subject. Blair and much of Britain are totally opposed to capital punishment. Despite that, the UK has continued to insist the Iraqi authorities were justified in dealing with Saddam in any way they want.

On Sunday, Downing Street returned to the theme of crime and punishment by insisting that Saddam's crimes and the deaths of Iraqis at his hands should not be forgotten. Declining to confirm precisely when Blair would make his comments on Saddam's hanging, a spokesperson said, "In terms of what he will say next week, we don't think there are going to be any surprises on where he stands. He supports the inquiry by the Iraqi authorities. He does believe that the manner of execution was completely wrong, but this shouldn't lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam committed, including the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."

Blair, who was on holiday in Miami when the hanging was carried out, has only said so far that he is in favour of an Iraqi inquiry into leaked video footage of Saddam's death.



US court rejects bid to stop Saddam execution
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/30 20:05

A US federal judge has rejected an eleventh-hour bid by lawyers for Saddam Hussein seeking a direct stay of execution. US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a 6-page ruling late Friday evening following a telephone conference with lawyers in the wake of court papers filed around 1 PM Friday afternoon.

Kollar-Kotelly wrote:

As Judge Reggie Walton recently concluded in a strikingly similar matter, this "Court lacks habeas corpus jurisdiction over an Iraqi citizen, convicted by an Iraqi court for violations of Iraqi law, who is held pursuant to that conviction by members of the Multi-National Force-Iraq." Al-Bandar v. Bush, et al., Civ. A. No. 06-2209 (RMC) (D.D.C. Dec. 27, 2006) (denying motion for temporary restraining order to prevent transfer of petitioner to Iraqi custody); see also, Al-Bandar v. Bush, et al., Civ. A. No. 06-5425 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 29, 2006) (denying motion for stay or injunction enjoining transfer of petitioner to Iraqi custody pending appeal). A United States court has no "power or authority to review, affirm, set aside or annul the judgment and sentence imposed" by the court of a sovereign nation pursuant to their laws. Hirota, et al. v. General of the Army Douglas McArthur, et al., 338 U.S. 197, 198, 69 S. Ct. 197, 93 L. Ed. 1902 (1948); Flick v. Johnson, 174 F. 2d 983, 984 (D.C. Cir. 1949). Accordingly, this Court has no jurisdiction to prevent the transfer of Petitioner Hussein to the custody of the Iraqi government, as that would effectively alter the judgment of an Iraqi court.

Moreover, Petitioner is not being held under the custody of the United States, and as a result, this Court lacks habeas corpus jurisdiction. Petitioner's counsel agreed that, while Petitioner may be held by members of the United States Military, it is pursuant to their authority as members of the MNF-I. The MNF-I derives its "ultimate authority from the United Nations and the MNF-I member nations acting jointly, not from the United States acting alone." Mohammed v. Harvey, 456 F. Supp. 2d 115, 122 (D.D.C. 2006). As such, it is clear that Petitioner is either in the actual physical custody of the MNF-I or in the constructive custody of the Iraqi government, and not in the custody of the United States. Id. As Petitioner is clearly not held in the custody of the United States, this Court is without jurisdiction to entertain his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.



Defense lawyer urges US to keep custody of Saddam
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/22 19:00

Former US Attorney General and Saddam Hussein defense lawyer Ramsey Clark on Wednesday urged President Bush to keep Hussein and his Dujail trial co-defendants in US custody, expressing concern that Iraqi officials will torture the convicted defendants. Hussein and two of his co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti, were all convicted and sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. The deadline to file appellate papers for the Dujail trial is on Saturday, and many expect the appellate court to make a decision on the appeal in a matter of days.

If Hussein and his co-defendants lose the appeal, their execution will likely occur within 15 days, unless the US refuses to hand them over to Iraqi custody. Clark claims that the US has the "highest moral and legal obligation" to keep them in US custody, arguing that Iraqi officials will torture the co-defendants before their execution. Last week, an Iraqi official said that Hussein and his co-defendants will face a quick execution and possibly a secret burial if the appellate court upholds their conviction.

Hussein is currently on trial on separate genocide charges for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds during the so-called "Anfal" campaigns in the late 1980s. The Anfal trial could continue posthumously should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude.



US Lawyers Urge Bush to Keep Saddam in Custody
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/21 17:26

Former US Attorney General and Saddam Hussein defense lawyer Ramsey Clark on Wednesday urged President Bush to keep Hussein and his Dujail trial co-defendants in US custody, expressing concern that Iraqi officials will torture the convicted defendants. Hussein and two of his co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti, were all convicted and sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. The deadline to file appellate papers for the Dujail trial is on Saturday, and many expect the appellate court to make a decision on the appeal in a matter of days. If Hussein and his co-defendants lose the appeal, their execution will likely occur within 15 days, unless the US refuses to hand them over to Iraqi custody. Clark claims that the US has the "highest moral and legal obligation" to keep them in US custody, arguing that Iraqi officials will torture the co-defendants before their execution. Last week, an Iraqi official said that Hussein and his co-defendants will face a quick execution  and possibly a secret burial if the appellate court upholds their conviction.

Hussein is currently on trial on separate genocide charges for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds during the so-called "Anfal" campaigns in the late 1980s. The Anfal trial could continue posthumously should Hussein be executed before proceedings in the second trial conclude.



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