Appeals court: EPA chief doesn't have to give deposition
Legal Topics | 2015/11/26 00:41
A federal appeals court says U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy doesn't have to give a deposition in a coal company's lawsuit over the impact of regulations on jobs.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on Wednesday overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Bailey had ruled there's no viable alternative to deposing McCarthy in coal producer Murray Energy's lawsuit alleging the EPA has shirked its obligation to conduct job-loss analyses on the Clean Air Act regulations.

The appeals court's one-page order did not explain why it ruled in McCarthy's favor.

High court directs Andhra Pradesh government to prepare summer plan
Court Watch | 2015/11/25 00:41
The Hyderabad High Court has directed the Andhra Pradesh government to take steps to protect people from heat waves during summer season.

The bench of acting Chief Justice Dilip B Bhosale and Justice S Ravi Kumar gave AP two weeks to come up with a plan.

They were hearing a public interest petition filed by Pittala Srisailam of Rangareddy district who was questioning the inaction of both AP and Telangana in creating facilities to provide relief to the people in this regard. He wanted authorities to follow the model of Odisha and Gujarat that have successfully brought down the ill-effects of summer by creating a variety of facilities that saved scores of lives.

Even the working hours were changed and people were not allowed to work during peak heat hours in those states, Sravan Kumar, the counsel for the petitioner, said. "We have decided to follow the model of Odisha and Gujarat," A Sanjeev Kumar, the special government pleader of T regime said. Relief shelters, cool water facilities etc will be set up all over the state, he said and added that instructions were already issued to the district collectors. A high-level committee was set up for the purpose which has already commenced its work to prepare a detailed action plan to be followed in the coming summer season, he said. The bench directed AP to set up a high-level committee in the same way as Telangana government has done and posted the case to two weeks.

Lawyer: Don't judge Chicago officer based on shooting video
Opinions | 2015/11/23 20:42
An attorney for a white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times says his client acted lawfully and urges the public not to rush to judgment based solely on a video of the shooting that's to be released within days.

Attorney Dan Herbert told reporters Friday that Officer Jason Van Dyke is — in his words — "scared to death." Herbert says the officer is concerned about the safety of his wife and two school-age children in the event the video prompts violence.

A judge on Thursday ordered the city to release squad car dashcam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald's 2014 shooting.

Herbert says the video doesn't capture the whole confrontation.

Van Dyke has been stripped of his police powers, but remains at work on desk duty.

Rancher pleads guilty to falsely claiming cattle losses
Headline Legal News | 2015/11/22 20:42
A South Dakota rancher has pleaded guilty in federal court to falsely claiming he lost more than a hundred cattle during the autumn blizzard of 2013 that left ranchers in the state reeling with financial losses.
Karl Knutson pleaded guilty Friday as part of a deal with prosecutors, the Rapid City Journal reported. The agreement dismisses a felony count of making a false statement, and prosecutors are recommending Knutson be sentenced to probation and fines.

Knutson's indictment said he submitted a claim in May 2014 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency for the loss of 129 head of cattle in the October blizzard, even though the Vale rancher actually lost at most 13.

Court documents say the disaster payment for that claim would have paid out nearly $117,000.

The indictment also says Knutson told the agency in "a handwritten invoice" in August 2014 that he paid $135,350 for 103 head of cattle that he didn't actually buy.

Knutson didn't immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press requesting comment regarding the plea. The maximum sentence the 27-year-old could face would be five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, followed by three years of supervised release.

The 2013 storm is estimated to have killed more than 50,000 livestock, causing financial problems for ranchers in the western part of the state.

Detroit-area ex-officer found guilty in videotaped beating
Legal Topics | 2015/11/20 20:41
A white, former Detroit-area police officer was found guilty Thursday of assault and misconduct in the bloody beating of a black driver during a traffic stop that was captured on video.
Wayne County jurors handed down the verdict in the case against William Melendez, who was charged in the January beating of Floyd Dent. Police stopped Dent, 58, in the Detroit suburb of Inkster for disregarding a stop sign, and dashcam video from a police vehicle shows Melendez punching him 16 times in the head.

It wasn't until after WDIV-TV aired the footage in March that Melendez was fired. Inkster later agreed to pay $1.4 million to Dent, who suffered broken ribs, blood on his brain and other injuries.

The jurors found Melendez guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and of misconduct in office. They cleared him of a charge of assault by strangulation.

The packed courtroom was largely quiet after the verdict was read, following Judge Vonda Evans' orders to neither "cry out" nor "applaud" out of respect for the jury. Melendez's wife rushed out of the courtroom, invoking Evans' ire and a demand that she return and "sit down."

Evans ordered Melendez to jail pending his Dec. 3 sentencing. Beforehand, defense attorney James Thomas argued that Melendez "is not a danger to the community" and posed "no risk of flight."

Thomas told reporters after the verdict that despite his disappointment, Melendez "remains upbeat" and "resolved." Thomas said he plans to appeal the verdict after sentencing.

Melendez did not testify during the eight-day trial, but his attorney said the officer was justified in the assault because Dent was aggressive and resisting police. Other officers and a criminal justice professor testified that the beating was reasonable because Dent was resisting arrest.

But Vicki Yost, who was chief of police at the time of the beating, said Melendez's actions were unnecessary, based on the video.

Perry's indictment in hands of top Texas criminal court
Legal Topics | 2015/11/19 21:55
Attorneys for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged the state's highest criminal court Wednesday to dismiss felony abuse-of-power charges that the Republican blames in part for foiling his short-lived 2016 presidential run.

After two hours of arguments, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gave no timetable for ruling whether Perry should face trial in the case that has dragged on since August 2014 — about five times longer than his second unsuccessful White House bid.

Perry didn't attend the crowded hearing in a courtroom behind his old Texas Capitol office, but his high-powered lawyers told judges that enough was enough.

"The danger of allowing a prosecutor to do this is mind-boggling," Perry attorney David Botsford said.

Perry is accused of misusing his power in 2013 when he vetoed funding for local prosecutors after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, an elected Democrat, refused calls to resign following a drunken driving arrest. He was indicted a year later by a grand jury in liberal Austin and faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Perry has denounced the charges as a partisan attack. But in a lively back-and-forth with an eight-judge panel, all but one of whom is an elected Republican, Perry's legal team didn't raise claims of political retribution and instead framed the veto as a rightful constitutional power.

Special prosecutors say that's for a trial to determine — and not for the court to settle now. Judges met that with a tone of skepticism, with Republican Judge Kevin Yeary pressing at one point whether going through with a trial would be "wasting everyone's time."

Perry was originally indicted on two counts, but a lower court has already thrown out the other charge of coercion of a public servant. Prosecutors are asking the court to not only order a trial on the remaining charge but also reinstate the other one.

Court won’t hear case over grant to Planned Parenthood
Headline Legal News | 2015/11/17 21:36
The Supreme Court has rejected an anti-abortion group’s bid to force disclosure of confidential Planned Parenthood and federal government records about a contract for family planning services in New Hampshire.

The justices on Monday let stand a ruling that allowed the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to withhold some documents in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by New Hampshire Right to Life.

Abortion opponents objected to a $1 million contract HHS awarded Planned Parenthood in 2011 for family planning services in New Hampshire. The move followed action by the state’s Executive Council to stop a long-standing practice of funneling federal money to the clinics. Councilors who opposed funding Planned Parenthood said they didn’t want grant money given to the organization because it provides abortions using private funds.

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