Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute
Court Watch | 2017/09/21 15:45
An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.



Toys R Us files for Chapter 11 reorganization
Areas of Focus | 2017/09/20 09:23
Toys R Us, the pioneering big box toy retailer, has announced it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while continuing with normal business operations.

A statement by the Wayne, New Jersey-based company late Monday says it voluntarily is seeking relief in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond - and that its Canadian subsidiary is seeking similar protection through a Canadian court.

Toys R Us says court-supervised proceedings will help restructure its outstanding debt and reorganize for long-term growth.

The company says separate operations outside the U.S. and Canada, including more than 250 licensed stores and a joint venture partnership in Asia, are not part of the filings.

It emphasizes that its approximately 1,600 locations will remain open, that it will continue to work with suppliers and sell merchandise.


Court: State, Not Counties Accountable for Poor School Funds
Opinions | 2017/09/20 02:24
A North Carolina appeals court says students and parents still fighting for sufficient school funding decades after they were guaranteed the right to a sound, basic education should make demands of the governor and legislators, not county officials.

A divided state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that schoolchildren can't sue Halifax County commissioners over funding for the county's segregated public school districts.

Lawyers say though substandard Halifax County Schools' buildings sometimes force students to walk through sewage to reach their lockers, they get less local tax dollars than the majority white Roanoke Rapids schools.

Judges split 2-1 in ruling that local families should take their problems to Raleigh. The dissenting judge said counties can be sued since the legislature assigned them responsibility for funding buildings and supplies.



With 2 in 3 months, Ohio executions could be back on track
Court Watch | 2017/09/19 09:24
Court rulings favorable to the state and the outcome of two executions in three months indicate Ohio could be on track to resume putting inmates to death regularly.

The state executed child killer Ronald Phillips in July and double killer Gary Otte on Wednesday in the state death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Witnesses said Phillips did not appear to be distressed. Otte’s chest rose and fell several times over two minutes in a fashion similar to some executions, though the movement appeared to go on longer than in the past.

Otte’s lawyers believe he suffered a phenomenon known as air hunger and plan to continue their challenge of Ohio’s use of a sedative called midazolam.

“My concerns were that he was obstructing, he was suffering air hunger, trying desperately to get air, and there were tears running down his face, which indicated to me that he was feeling pain or sensations,” federal public defender Carol Wright said after Wednesday’s execution.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the procedure “was carried out in compliance with the execution policy and without complication.”

The next and last execution scheduled this year is Nov. 15, when the state plans to put Alva Campbell to death. A jury found Campbell, 69, guilty of killing 18-year-old Charles Dials 20 years ago after Campbell, who was in a wheelchair while feigning paralysis, escaped from a court hearing.

Ohio is scheduled to execute four people next year, including Cleveland R. Jackson, of Lima, and six in 2019. Nine men were executed in 2010, the most since Ohio resumed putting inmates to death in 1999.



Rooney gets road ban after pleading guilty to drunk driving
Court News | 2017/09/18 09:25
Former England captain Wayne Rooney pleaded guilty to drunk driving on Monday, leading to a court imposing a two-year driving ban and ordering him to perform 100 hours of unpaid community work.

The Everton striker was stopped by police outside Manchester on Sept. 1 while driving someone else's car.

Rooney was three times above the legal limit for driving with alcohol in the body, the hearing at Stockport Magistrates' Court was informed as the 31-year-old player entered his guilty plea.

"Following today's court hearing I want publicly to apologize for my unforgivable lack of judgment in driving while over the legal limit. It was completely wrong," Rooney said in a statement.

"I have already said sorry to my family, my manager and chairman and everyone at Everton FC. Now I want to apologize to all the fans and everyone else who has followed and supported me throughout my career."

A breathalyzer test showed Rooney's alcohol level was 104 micrograms in 100 milliliters of breath. The driving limit in England and Wales is 35 micrograms per 100 milliliters of breath.

Rooney's legal team asked District Judge John Temperley to consider not imposing a community work order because of his ongoing charitable work. However Temperley said he was "not convinced" that imposing a large fine "would have the same effect". Rooney was also told to pay 85 pounds ($115) of prosecution costs and a victim surcharge for the same amount.


3 bank customers in Germany fined for ignoring collapsed man
Court Watch | 2017/09/16 09:24
A German court has fined three bank customers for failing to help an elderly man who collapsed in a bank branch and later died.

The Essen district court handed the defendants, a woman and two men, fines ranging from 2,400 to 3,600 euros ($2,865 to $4,300).

Police said surveillance camera footage showed four people walking past or over him as he lay on the floor. The fourth person faces separate proceedings.

The 83-year-old man collapsed as he used a banking terminal on a public holiday last October.

Only after about 20 minutes did another customer call emergency services. The man was taken to a hospital but died a few days later.

News agency dpa reported that the defendants testified Monday they had thought he was a sleeping homeless man.


Indian court sentences 2 men to death in 1993 Mumbai blasts
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/15 09:25
An Indian court on Thursday sentenced two men to death and two others to life in prison for a series of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. A fifth man was given 10 years in prison.

The five men were convicted earlier of criminal conspiracy and murder in the planting of 12 powerful bombs in cars, scooters and suitcases around India's financial capital.

The sentencing ended a second trial related to the bombings. An initial trial ended in 2007 with more than 100 people convicted, of whom 11 were sentenced to death and the rest to various terms in prison.

Ujjwal Nikam, the main prosecutor, said he could not ask for a death sentence for Abu Salem, a prime suspect, because he was extradited from Portugal to India in 2005 after the Indian government pledged he would not be given the death penalty, a key requirement in extradition proceedings in Europe.

He fled India after the bombings and was later arrested by police in Portugal.

The Mumbai court sentenced Salem to life in prison after finding him guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat state to Mumbai ahead of the blasts. These included AK-56 assault rifles, ammunition and hand grenades.

Prosecutors said the bombings were an act of revenge for the 1992 demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India. That triggered religious riots in parts of India, leaving more than 800 dead, both Hindus and Muslims.

The blasts targeted a number of prominent sites in Mumbai, including the stock exchange, Air India building, hotels, a cinema and shopping bazaars.

Prosecutors said the attack was masterminded by underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim. India accuses Pakistan of sheltering Ibrahim, a charge Islamabad denies. India says he has been living in Karachi, Pakistan's financial hub, after fleeing from Mumbai, and has asked Pakistan to hand him over to face trial in India.



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