Court halts construction of another section of pipeline
Court News | 2016/09/18 14:00
A federal appeals court has ordered a halt to construction of another section of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a ruling late Friday that it needs more time to consider the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request for an emergency injunction. It said it will issue another order setting a date for oral arguments on the motion.  

The order "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the panel said. The ruling stops construction within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. The federal government on Sept. 9 ordered a halt to construction on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land under and around the lake after a U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected the tribe's request for a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the $3.8 billion four-state pipeline. That led the tribe to ask for an emergency injunction.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Dakota Access LLC, said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, called the ruling disappointing but said his group respects the panel's decision.

"Judge Boasberg, in his thoughtful and thorough opinion last week, confirmed that the Army Corps of Engineers did their jobs expertly and in accordance with the law," Stevens said in a statement. "We are confident that another fair review of the corps' work will render the same decision."

The corps also issued a ruling on Friday granting the tribes a temporary permit that allows demonstrators to legally protest on federal lands managed by the agency. In turn, the tribe assumes responsibility for maintenance, damage and restoration costs, the security and safety of protesters, and liability insurance.


Pakistan court adjourns case of British woman's murder
Attorney News | 2016/09/17 14:00
A Pakistani court on Saturday adjourned the case of a British-Pakistani woman's murder until Sept. 23 to give police more time to finalize charges against her father and ex-husband, who are accused of slaying her in the name of honor, police and lawyers said.

Police brought both men before the court in Jhelum as they covered their faces. They avoided most questions from journalists. However, when pressed, the woman's father, Mohammad Shahid, told reporters that the accusations are "all lies."

"The police arrested me, police charged me, you go to police station and check my report, check my statement," Shahid said.

The death of 28-year-old Samia Shahid has shocked the nation as the latest alleged case of so-called "honor killings" in Pakistan. The Bradford native's death while visiting Pakistan in July was originally declared to be from natural causes.

But Shahid's second husband, Mukhtar Kazim, publicly accused her family of killing her. The case was reopened and a police probe quickly concluded that Shahid's death was a "premeditated, cold-blooded murder," according to a police statement.

Police allege that Mohammed Shahid stood guard while his daughter's ex-husband, Mohammed Shakeel, raped her. The men then both strangled her, according to police.

Defense lawyer Mohammed Arif dismissed the police allegations as a baseless, saying his clients have been wrongly accused. He said he will appeal another court's recent rejection of bail for Mohammed Shahid.


Appeals court orders judge to expunge woman's convictions
Legal Interview | 2016/09/16 14:01
A state appeals court has overruled a western Indiana judge and ordered him to expunge a woman's convictions despite his disgust for her crimes.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 last week that Jay Circuit Judge Brian Hutchison must expunge the convictions of 35-year-old Mindy M. McCowan of Dunkirk for forgery in 2003 and for dealing methamphetamine in 2004.

The ruling said McCowan was released from prison in 2007 and completed probation in 2010. She has since maintained employment and earned an associate's degree and professional certifications.

The Star Press reports Hutchison declined to expunge the convictions last November, saying he has drug cases before him every day and he wasn't "doing favors for people who are causing these problems in Jay County."


Court rules man treated for mental illness can have a gun
Opinions | 2016/09/15 14:01
A Michigan man who can't buy a gun because he was briefly treated for mental health problems in the 1980s has won a key decision from a federal appeals court, which says the burden is on the government to justify a lifetime ban against him.

The Second Amendment case was significant enough for 16 judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to participate. Cases usually are heard only by three-judge panels.

Clifford Tyler, 74, of Hillsdale said his constitutional right to bear arms is violated by a federal law that prohibits gun ownership if someone has been admitted to a mental hospital.

In 1985, Tyler's wife ran away with another man, depleted his finances and filed for divorce. He was deeply upset, and his daughters feared he was a danger to himself.

Tyler was ordered to a hospital for at least two weeks. He subsequently recovered, continued working for another two decades and remarried in 1999.

"There is no indication of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed many years ago and who have no history of intervening mental illness, criminal activity or substance abuse," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in the lead opinion.

The court on Thursday sent the case back to the federal court in Grand Rapids where the government must argue the merits of a lifetime ban or the risks of Tyler having a gun.

Gibbons suggests Tyler should prevail, based on his years of good mental health.





LA Supreme Court considers teen robber’s 99-year sentence
Press Release | 2016/09/14 14:01
Louisiana’s Supreme Court is considering whether recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings about juveniles convicted of murder mean a juvenile robber’s 99-year sentence is unconstitutional.

Alden Morgan is now 35. He was 17 years old when he held up a couple with their baby daughter.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that several justices noted that his punishment is much higher than the nation’s highest court would have allowed for second-degree murder.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional to execute juveniles, to give them life sentences for most crimes, and — except in rare cases — to deny them a chance at parole for most killings.

Morgan’s case appears to be the first time that Louisiana’s high court has considered how those rulings may affect sentences for lesser offenses.



Appeals court sympathetic to voting rules challenge
Legal Business | 2016/09/11 22:56
A federal appeals court seems likely to side with voting rights groups trying to stop Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from making residents prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form.

Judges heard arguments in the case Thursday. At issue is whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form's proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice.

People registering to vote in other states need only to swear that they are citizens, not show proof.

Two of the three judges hearing the case suggested the citizenship requirement can pose a tough hurdle for many eligible voters.

A federal judge in July refused to block the requirement while the case is being decided.


Biden, Supreme Court nominee on Hill to pressure GOP
Court News | 2016/09/10 22:56
Judge Merrick Garland found himself back on Capitol Hill on Thursday in a familiar place ? meeting with a Democratic senator who used the visit to complain about Republicans' inaction on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. said he met with Garland to "see how he's doing." Nearly six months ago, Obama nominated Garland to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February. Republicans have said they won't act until the next president chooses a nominee.

"He's had to wait longer than any nominee ever has," Leahy told reporters. "We've got plenty of time. If they want to do their job, we could easily have the hearing and the confirmation in September."

Asked if he'd seen any signs that Republicans are wavering in their refusal to consider a nominee this year, Leahy said, "You'll have to ask them." The spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who's led GOP opposition to Garland, said nothing has changed.

"The majority leader has been clear: The next president will make the nomination for this vacancy," said spokesman Don Stewart.

Vice President Joe Biden also planned to be on Capitol Hill on Thursday to help turn up the pressure on McConnell.

It was Garland's first visit to Congress since he held dozens of individual meetings with senators in the spring.

The court is currently divided 4-4 between liberal- and conservative-leaning justices. Garland's confirmation would tip the court in the more liberal direction.

Both parties have appealed to voters by making the court's leaning a campaign issue, stressing that either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump will decide that by whomever they nominate.


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