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Governor swears in newest Rhode Island state court judge
Business Law Info | 2021/03/26 09:19
The newest judge to the Rhode Island Superior Court was sworn in Saturday.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee presided over the swearing in of R. David Cruise, a longtime political operative and state senator, at the Boys & Girls Club location in Cumberland.

McKee, a former Cumberland mayor who has known Cruise for years, said in a statement that he’s an “honest, fair and thoughtful leader who brings decades of legal and government experience to the bench.”

Cruise is a former state senator and Cumberland town councilor. In recent years, he’s served as former Gov. Gina Raimondo’s director of legislative affairs, former administrative magistrate with the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and chief of staff to the Rhode Island Senate, among other posts, according to McKee’s office.

In the 1990s, Cruise worked in the commerce department under President Bill Clinton and chief of staff to former Governor Bruce Sundlun. In the 1980s, he was a state senator and before that served on the Cumberland Town Council.

Cruise, who graduated from Providence College and the Suffolk University School of Law, replaces former Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo, who retired in February.

The Rhode Island Superior Court has 22 judges and five magistrates. It handles both civil and criminal matters.


Israel revokes permit of Palestinian foreign minister
U.S. Legal News | 2021/03/22 20:22
Israel on Sunday revoked the VIP permit of the Palestinian foreign minister after he returned to the West Bank from a trip to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed.

The move appeared to be Israeli retaliation for Palestinian support for the ICC’s war crimes investigation against Israel.

A Palestinian official said Foreign Minister Riad Malki was stopped Sunday as he entered the West Bank from Jordan through the Israeli-controlled crossing. Malki’s VIP card was seized, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue. Losing the VIP status makes it harder for him to move through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, and traveling abroad will require Israeli permission.

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed the incident, but directed questions to the Shin Bet security agency, which declined comment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined comment.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced earlier this month that she was opening an investigation  into possible war crimes by Israel committed in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip.

The investigation is expected to look at the Israeli military’s conduct in a 2014 war against Hamas militants and during months of mass protests along Gaza’s frontier with Israel in which dozens of Palestinian were killed or wounded by Israeli gunfire. Israel has said its actions were legitimate acts of defense.

The probe also is set to examine Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians for a hoped-for independent state.

According to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, Malki met with Bensouda last Thursday and urged her to expedite the investigations “to end the era of impunity and to start the path of accountability” of Israel.

The investigation was launched in response to a request by the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted nonmember observer status in the U.N. General Assembly.

Israel has fiercely condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias and saying it has no jurisdiction since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be subject to arrest abroad if warrants are issued.

The court said last week it has sent formal notices to both sides about the impending investigation, giving them a month to seek deferral  by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.


Washington judge taking time off after comments on Black man
Business Law Info | 2021/03/16 22:22
A judge in southwestern Washington said he will take time off to reflect on his behavior after he came under pressure for making critical comments about a Black man killed last year by police.

Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman made the announcement Tuesday following condemnations from county District Court judges, a decision by prosecutors to seek his removal from their criminal cases and a call from a prominent law firm for him to resign, The Columbian reported. Zimmerman said he will determine what he can do to help heal community he has served.

Last week, Zimmerman described Kevin Peterson Jr. as “the Black guy they were trying to make an angel out of,” and said, among other comments, he believed Peterson “was so dumb.”

Court records say three Clark County deputies shot Peterson, of Camas, on Oct. 29 after authorities said he sold Xanax pills to a confidential informant in Hazel Dell. Deputies fired 34 rounds at the 21-year-old, who died after being hit four times. Peterson was carrying a gun but investigators have found no evidence that he fired it.

Zimmerman’s son was on scene as a member of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office but didn’t fire his weapon. In a story by The Columbian on Monday, Zimmerman told the newspaper, “any time we lose a life, it is a tragedy; Kevin Peterson is no exception.” But he did not apologize for his statements or describe them as racist.

The judge said Peterson’s father had told a police chaplain he felt the shooting was justified but, “the next day, he wakes up with dollar signs in his eyes and George Floyd’s attorneys had already contacted him.”

In a statement Tuesday issued on Zimmerman’s behalf by attorney Josephine C. Townsend, he said, “I have always prided myself in being open minded, fair and just in my duties as a judicial officer. I do understand that even my personal comments, when made public – bring about an outcry of concern because I am a judicial officer.”

The statement said Zimmerman deeply regrets his comments that have caused divisiveness and concern in the community.

Townsend said Zimmerman self-reported his statements to the Commission on Judicial Conduct over the weekend, which has the power to investigate the comments and recommend that the Washington Supreme Court take action against him.

“I want my colleagues and the public to know that I have accepted responsibility for my actions,” Zimmerman’s statement said.

In the meantime, his leave from the bench will be coordinated through District Court’s presiding judge, Townsend said.


Man gets 5 years in prison for arson at Savannah city office
Employment Law | 2021/03/15 17:54
A Georgia man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting fire to a Savannah city government office building.

Stephen Charles Setter, 19, was sentenced by a U.S. District Court judge after pleading guilty to a charge of arson, federal prosecutors said in a news release. In his plea, Setter admitted to setting a blaze that destroyed the city’s code enforcement office last year on May 3.

Setter also told the court he had activated a fire alarm at a local marina that same night to draw firefighters away from their station. He said that allowed him to slip into the station and steal a radio, which he used to listen to fire department communications.

The fire at the code enforcement office spread to the attic and the roof. The building was declared a total loss with damage estimated at nearly $1 million. The fire was set late at night, when the building was unoccupied. No one was injured.

In addition to the prison sentence, the judge ordered Setter to pay $1.2 million in restitution.


Nepal Parliament, reinstated by high court, begins session
Court Feed News | 2021/03/07 08:15
After being reinstated by the nation’s Supreme Court, Nepal’s Parliament began a session on Sunday that will likely determine the future of the prime minister and the government.

The split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party has left Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli without the majority of votes in Parliament required for him to continue in office. Oli so far has refused to step down and is determined to continue.

A vote of no confidence against Oli is likely to be brought by the splinter group from his own party, which would force him to step down. The group has not yet made a formal decision.

Oli would have to get the support of other political parties in Parliament in order to stay in power. The process could take days, leaving an unstable political situation in the country.

Oli had the president dissolve Parliament in December and announce fresh elections after the rift in the party. Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of Parliament in response to several cases filed with the court charging that Oli’s decision to dissolve the legislature was unconstitutional.

Since Parliament’s dissolution, there have been regular street protests against Oli by tens of thousands of people in Kathmandu and other cities.

Oli became prime minister after the party won elections three years ago. His party and that of former Maoist rebels had merged to form a strong Communist party to win the elections.

However, there has been a power struggle between Oli and the leader of the former Maoists rebels, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also co-chair of the party. The two had previously agreed that they would split the five-year prime minister’s term, but Oli has refused to allow Dahal to take over.



Mississippi told to pay $500K to wrongfully imprisoned man
Headline News | 2021/03/03 22:27
A judge is ordering the state of Mississippi to pay $500,000 to a Black man who was wrongfully imprisoned more than 22 years and was tried six times in a quadruple murder case.

Curtis Flowers was released from prison in December 2019, months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a district attorney had excluded Black jurors from his trials. Flowers had spent years on death row.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in September that she would not try Flowers a seventh time in the 1996 slayings and a robbery that took place at a furniture store in Winona. He had been in custody since 1997.

In November, Flowers sued the state seeking compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Court papers show the attorney general’s office agreed to his request.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge George Mitchell on Tuesday ordered the state to pay Flowers $500,000. That is the maximum allowed under a 2009 state law, which says the state can pay $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, for a up to 10 years.

Mitchell also ordered the state to make a separate payment of $50,000 to Flowers’s attorneys.

Flowers was convicted four times: twice for individual slayings and twice for all four killings. Two other trials involving all four deaths ended in mistrials. Each of Flowers’s convictions was overturned.

In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the conviction and death sentence from Flowers’s sixth trial, which took place in 2010. Justices said prosecutors’ pattern of excluding Black jurors from his trials was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling came after American Public Media’s “In the Dark” investigated the case. The podcast recorded jailhouse informant Odell Hallmon in 2017 and 2018 recanting his testimony that Flowers had confessed to him.

The first six trials were prosecuted by the local district attorney. Flowers was still facing the 1997 indictments in December 2019 when a judge agreed to release him on bond. The district attorney handed the case to the attorney general, and her staff spent months reviewing it before deciding not to go forward because of a lack of credible witnesses.


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