Grassley: GOP can't stonewall a Clinton Supreme Court pick
Legal Interview | 2016/10/20 20:01
Republicans "can't just simply stonewall" nominees to the Supreme Court even if the president making the choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, says the GOP chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a reaffirmation of the Senate's advise-and-consent role on judicial picks.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's comments on Tuesday was a response to fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, who a day earlier vowed that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. That unprecedented pledge raised the possibility that the Supreme Court would have to operate for four years of a Clinton term with one or more vacancies, rather than nine justices.

The court has had one vacancy for months since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Republicans have refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, arguing that the next president should fill the opening.

"I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet — if you want to use the word vet — whoever nominee that person puts forward," Grassley told radio reporters in Iowa. "We have the same responsibility for (Donald) Trump. We know more the type of people Trump would nominate because he's listed 20. They fall into the category of strict constructionists. As I heard about Hillary on the last debate, the type of people she's going to appoint, I would say they're judicial activists."

He added that the new president should make the choice and "if that new president happens to be Hillary. We can't just simply stonewall."

McCain's comments came in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano to promote the candidacy of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the more vulnerable GOP incumbents as Republicans scramble to hold onto their Senate majority.

Landowners to court: Exxon Mobil pipeline breaches contract
Headline Legal News | 2016/10/19 20:00
Attorneys for landowners along a crude oil pipeline that ruptured in Arkansas in 2013 say Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. breached its contract because the pipeline interferes with their ability to enjoy their property.

Attorneys for the landowners and Exxon Mobil appeared Wednesday before judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota.

The landowners asked the appeals court to reinstate their case, which was dismissed last year, and have it re-certified as a class-action suit. Attorney Phillip Duncan says it's an issue of honoring easements.

Exxon Mobil attorney Gary Marts said the case was properly dismissed. He says landowners are essentially trying to regulate pipeline safety through a lawsuit - but that's the job of a federal agency.

The Pegasus Pipeline runs through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Texas.

As time runs out, dozens of judge nominees waiting on Senate
Legal Business | 2016/10/18 20:00
Federal judges in New Jersey have struggled with a workload approaching 700 cases each, nearly double what's manageable, because of judicial vacancies. In Texas, close to a dozen district judgeships remain open, more than in any other state.

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees slowed to a halt this election year, a common political occurrence for the final months of divided government with a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Senate. The vacancy on the Supreme Court attracted the most attention as Republicans refused to even hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, insisting that the choice to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February rests with the next president.

But more than 90 vacancies in the federal judiciary are taking a toll on judges, the courts and Americans seeking recourse. Obama has nominated replacements for more than half of those spots, including 44 nominees for the district court and seven for the appeals court. Yet the Senate has confirmed only nine district and appeals court judges this year — and only four since Scalia died.

Court hearing on potential Ontario ban of Indians name, logo
Legal Topics | 2016/10/17 20:00
A Toronto court will hear arguments on an attempt to bar the Cleveland Indians from using their team name and logo in Ontario.

The legal challenge by indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal comes on the same day the baseball team takes on the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Toronto.

Cardinal's lawyers will ask the court Monday to bar the usage of the name and logo by the team, Major League Baseball and Toronto team owner Rogers Communications, which is broadcasting the game in Canada.

The logo, called Chief Wahoo, is a cartoon man with red skin and a feather in his headband.

Cardinal says they shouldn't be allowed to wear their regular jerseys, the logo shouldn't be broadcast and the team should be referred to as "the Cleveland team."

Lithuania wants Gorbachev to testify in war crimes trial
Legal Business | 2016/10/16 20:00
A Lithuanian court has called former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to testify in a mass trial related to the 1991 crackdown on the country's independence movement.

Gorbachev and Russian authorities haven't answered previous requests so it's unlikely he would comply with Monday's request from the Vilnius district court.

The case involves more than 60 former Soviet officials charged with war crimes and other offenses for their roles in a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrators that left 14 people dead in January 1991, when Gorbachev was still in power.

The judges approved a request by one of the plaintiffs in the case to call Gorbachev to the court as a witness.

Only two defendants are present in court. Others, mainly citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, are being tried in absentia.

Former Ohio officer charged with murder due back in court
Court Watch | 2016/10/15 11:38
A former college police officer charged with murder in the fatal traffic-stop shooting of a black man is due back in court.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan set a Friday pretrial hearing, ahead of the planned start of jury selection on Oct. 25.

Twenty-six-year-old Ray Tensing faces charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 2015 shooting of 43-year-old Sam DuBose. The white officer, who has since been fired by the University of Cincinnati, pulled DuBose over near campus for a missing front license plate.

Tensing has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has said that his client feared being dragged under the car as DuBose tried to drive away.

Tensing is free on $1 million bond and hasn't attended earlier pretrial hearings this year.

Court enters default judgment in Kansas voting rights case
Legal Topics | 2016/10/14 11:39
A federal court clerk entered a default judgment Tuesday against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for failing to file a timely response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens.

It remains unclear whether U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will give Kobach more time to respond. If the judgment stands it would apply to all voters in all federal, state and local elections ? effectively ending the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement.

Kobach did not immediately return a cellphone message, but spokeswoman Desiree Taliaferro said he would comment.

Kobach faces four separate lawsuits challenging various aspects of Kansas' voter registration law. The law, which went into effect in January 2013, requires prospective voters to submit documentary proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers.

Kobach, a conservative Republican, has championed the proof-of-citizenship requirement as an anti-fraud measure that keeps non-citizens from voting, including immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Critics say such requirements suppress voter turnout, particularly among young and minority voters, and that there have been few cases of fraud in the past.

"Oftentimes judges will give an attorney who has not filed something in a timely manner another chance," said Paul Davis, an attorney for the voter who brought the lawsuit. "We will have to see whether Judge Robinson is willing to do that in this case."

Kobach could ask the judge to set aside the clerk's action, possibly on grounds that include "excusable neglect," said Mark Johnson, another attorney for the voter.

But if the clerk's action stands, it means the proof-of-citizenship requirement can't be enforced, Johnson said.

The lawsuit contends the requirement violates voters' constitutional right to right to due legal process and the right to freely travel from state to state by infringing on people's ability to vote and to sign petitions. It also contends the actions Kobach has taken to verify citizenship status discriminates against people who were born or got married in other states.

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