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Mississippi marijuana program hinges on initiative arguments
Law Firm Press | 2021/04/13 00:33
The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that’s trying to block a voter-approved medical marijuana program by arguing that the the issue should not have been on the ballot.

Arguments were not about marijuana. Instead, they were about Mississippi’s initiative process.

Voters in November approved Initiative 65, which requires the state Health Department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year. The department is working to create a program, even as the legal fight continues.

To get Initiative 65 on the statewide ballot, organizers gathered signatures from the five congressional districts that Mississippi used during the 1990s. They did that based on legal advice issued years ago by the state attorney general’s office.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed a lawsuit days before the election, contending that the state’s initiative process is outdated.

The Mississippi Constitution says petitioners must gather an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. The state dropped from five congressional districts to four after the 2000 Census, but the constitution’s language about initiatives was not updated. Butler’s lawsuit argues that this creates a mathematical impossibility with four districts because the constitution still specifies that no more than one-fifth of the signatures may come from any single district.

In papers filed Dec. 28 and in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, state attorneys argued that Mississippi has two sets of congressional districts ? one set used for congressional elections and one set used for other purposes.

Attorneys for Butler argued that the only purpose of a congressional district is to have geographical boundaries for electing U.S. House members.

Butler opposed Initiative 65 because it limits a city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana businesses.

The Health Department, the Mississippi Municipal League and some others filed briefs supporting Butler’s lawsuit. The Health Department argued that Initiative 65 seeks to transform the department “into something it is not,” even as the department is stretched because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the legislative session that recently ended, the Senate tried to create rules for a state medical marijuana program, but the House defeated the effort. Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of DeSoto County said the proposal was a backstop to have a program in place in case the Supreme Court agrees with Butler and invalidates Initiative 65. But supporters of Initiative 65 balked at the Senate’s proposal, saying they saw it as an attempt to usurp the will of the voters.



Court: Airline’s workers can’t sue as class in pay dispute
Law Firm Press | 2020/01/02 01:39
American Airlines workers at Newark’s airport who claim in a lawsuit they’ve been shorted on overtime pay can’t sue as a class, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

The three-judge panel’s decision published Tuesday reversed a New Jersey judge’s ruling that would have allowed the lawsuit to go forward and include all non-exempt hourly workers employed at Newark Liberty International Airport since April 2014.

Several employees, including mechanics and workers responsible for tasks such as cargo handling, filed the suit in 2016 and said American’s timekeeping system automatically paid employees based on their schedules rather than on the hours they actually worked.

They also alleged managers regularly refused to authorize overtime pay for work performed before and after scheduled shifts and during scheduled 30-minute lunch breaks. The lawsuit sought back pay as well as punitive damages. American denied the allegations.

The appeals court sided with the airline, which argued that while the timekeeping system applied to all employees, it would be wrong to group all employees into a class because it would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis which employees worked overtime.



Sri Lanka court orders prime minister to refrain from duties
Law Firm Press | 2018/12/03 01:42
A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers to refrain from carrying out their duties as it hears an appeal against them.

While the ruling by the Court of Appeal is an interim order, it is yet another setback for Rajapaksa, who has held on to the position of prime minister with President Maithripala Sirisena's backing despite losing two no-confidence votes.

The parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa's government was dissolved after the passage of the no-confidence motions. Parliament has also passed resolutions to cut off funds to the offices of Rajapaksa and his ministers.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to function as prime minister, with Sirisena dismissing the no-confidence votes, saying proper procedures were not followed.

Rajapaksa said in a statement later Monday that he did not accept the interim order and would file an appeal early Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the country's highest court.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since Oct. 26, when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.


Suspect in vandalism to Jewish boundary heads to court
Law Firm Press | 2018/06/04 02:25
A Massachusetts man charged with vandalizing the boundaries of a symbolic Jewish household known as an eruv is heading to court.

Police say 28-year-old Yerachmiel Taube, of Sharon, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on charges including malicious destruction of property and destruction to a religious organization.

Taube was arrested Saturday in connection with the vandalism in Sharon that has been going on for several weeks.

The eruv is a series of poles and string that mark the boundaries of the Orthodox Jewish community's "household" in which they can carry certain items on the Sabbath.

Taube was held in custody over the weekend. It was not clear if he has a lawyer.

The Sharon eruv has been in the community since 1990 and is maintained by 40 volunteers.


Stephen Reinhardt, liberal circuit court judge, dies at 87
Law Firm Press | 2018/03/20 04:40
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a liberal stalwart on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly four decades, died Thursday in Southern California. He was 87.

Reinhardt died of a heart attack during a visit to a dermatologist in Los Angeles, court spokesman David Madden said.

"As a judge, he was deeply principled, fiercely passionate about the law and fearless in his decisions," 9th Circuit Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said in a statement. "He will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench."

Reinhardt was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and went on to become the sixth longest-serving judge on the court.

He was considered to be one of the most liberal judges on the 9th Circuit and his rulings often placed him on the side of immigrants and prisoners. Reinhardt wrote a 2012 opinion striking down California's gay marriage ban.

He also wrote a 1996 opinion that struck down a Washington state law that prohibited doctors from prescribing medication to help terminally ill patients die.

Last year he wrote in an opinion that a Trump administration order to deport a man who entered the country illegally nearly three decades ago and became a respected businessman in Hawaii was "inhumane" and "contrary to the values of the country and its legal system."

Reinhardt was "brilliant - a great legal mind and writer - but he was equally hard working," said Hector Villagra, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

Villagra, who clerked for Reinhardt in 1995, said he once found the judge in his chambers at 11 p.m. on a Saturday writing a dissent to the court's decision not to rehear a death penalty appeal.


GOP to take new congressional map to court
Law Firm Press | 2018/02/18 15:03
Republicans say they’ll go to federal court this week to try to block new court-ordered boundaries of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts from remaining in effect for 2018’s elections.

Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument. Crompton won’t say whether Republicans will go to a district court or the U.S. Supreme Court or what type of legal remedy they’ll seek.

But the case will involve making the argument the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t stop the state court’s order to redraw congressional districts. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf calls the new map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the new boundaries of congressional districts being imposed by the state Supreme Court.

Wolf said in a statement Monday that Pennsylvanians “are sick and tired of gerrymandering.” He calls the court’s map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Wolf had backed the Democratic-majority state high court’s ruling last month to throw out Pennsylvania’s district boundaries. Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in three elections under the invalidated map, although statewide elections are often closely contested.



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