Appeals court revives challenge to consumer agency
Court News | 2015/07/27 08:39
A federal appeals court on Friday revived a legal challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal office created to protect consumers in financial dealings with banks, lenders and credit card companies.
 
The federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a Texas bank could challenge the constitutionality of the watchdog agency's powers even though the bank's conduct has not been subject to any enforcement.

A federal district judge had dismissed the lawsuit in 2013 after finding the bank had no legal standing to bring the claims.

The independent agency was created in 2010 by a sweeping law that overhauled financial regulations following the 2008 financial crisis. Wall Street interests and Republicans in Congress fiercely opposed the agency.

The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to consider the challenges.

Eleven states had joined the lawsuit filed by State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, to argue that Congress delegated too much power to the bureau. They also argue that it should not be headed by just one person and that President Barack Obama illegally appointed the agency's director, Richard Cordray, during a congressional recess. Cordray was later confirmed by the Senate.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said those arguments could proceed. Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the bank did not have to intentionally violate the law in order to launch a constitutional challenge.

But Kavanaugh said the bank could not challenge the constitutionality of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by the financial overhaul law to designate certain financial companies deemed "too big to fail" for additional regulatory oversight.

The court also rejected the bank's challenge to part of the law that allows the Treasury secretary to order liquidation of a failing financial company that poses a risk to the financial stability of the U.S. government.

The government has argued that the bureau's structure and powers are constitutional.



Appeals court revives challenge to consumer age
Court News | 2015/07/25 15:58
A federal appeals court on Friday revived a legal challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal office created to protect consumers in financial dealings with banks, lenders and credit card companies.

The federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a Texas bank could challenge the constitutionality of the watchdog agency's powers even though the bank's conduct has not been subject to any enforcement.

A federal district judge had dismissed the lawsuit in 2013 after finding the bank had no legal standing to bring the claims.

The independent agency was created in 2010 by a sweeping law that overhauled financial regulations following the 2008 financial crisis. Wall Street interests and Republicans in Congress fiercely opposed the agency.

The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to consider the challenges.

Eleven states had joined the lawsuit filed by State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, to argue that Congress delegated too much power to the bureau. They also argue that it should not be headed by just one person and that President Barack Obama illegally appointed the agency's director, Richard Cordray, during a congressional recess. Cordray was later confirmed by the Senate.




NY state Sen. Sampson found guilty of obstruction
Court News | 2015/07/24 15:58
A once-powerful New York politician was convicted Friday on charges he lied to the FBI in an attempt to obstruct a corruption investigation targeting him for embezzlement.

A federal jury in Brooklyn reached the verdict after deliberating for about a week at the trial of state Sen. John Sampson.

The Brooklyn Democrat was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements. He was acquitted on six other counts, including witness tampering.

Sampson, 50, who was re-elected last year, was at the center of the latest federal trial resulting from federal prosecutors' campaign against dirty dealing in Albany.

The verdict showed that the jury agreed that the defendant has an "utter disregard for the rule of law and criminal justice system," acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie said outside court.

Defense Attorney Nathaniel Akerman called the mixed verdict a partial victory, and told reporters he would pursue all his appeal options to appeal the convictions "until Mr. Sampson is vindicated."

Also speaking outside court, jury forewoman Kim O'Meally said that jurors decided to clear Sampson on the counts tied to a government cooperator, real estate developer Edul Ahmad. Asked what she thought of the witness, she replied: "He's dirty."

Prosecutors originally charged him with embezzling funds while acting as a court-appointed referee for home foreclosure proceedings in the mid-2000s. They also alleged he persuaded Ahmad to loan him nearly $200,000 to cover up the theft in exchange for political favors.


Crimean Filmmaker Pleads Not Guilty in Terrorism Trial
Legal Business | 2015/07/22 11:15
A Ukrainian filmmaker who has been in a Russian jail for more than a year on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Critics have dismissed Oleh Sentsov's prosecution as revenge for his pro-Ukrainian position in Russia-occupied Crimea. Sentsov, a Crimean native, was a vocal voice against Russia's annexation of Crimea which followed a hastily called referendum in March.

The 39-year-old Sentsov was arrested in Crimea's capital in May 2014 after a pro-Ukrainian rally protesting the annexation.

At the opening of his trial in the southern city of Rostov-on Don on Tuesday, Sentsov pleaded not guilty and insisted the case against him is a fabrication, Russian news agencies reported.

Sentsov's defense team describes Sentsov's arrest in May 2014 as a kidnapping.

Sentsov, who unlike many Crimeans didn't apply for Russian citizenship, was grabbed on the street in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, by Russian security agents and resurfaced days later in custody in Moscow.



Court suspends ex-Chad dictator trial to ready new lawyers
Attorney News | 2015/07/21 11:15
The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habre was suspended on Tuesday until September to allow court-appointed lawyers to prepare his defense.

The Extraordinary African Chambers, established by Senegal and the African Union, is trying the former leader of Chad for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, in an unprecedented case of one African country prosecuting the former ruler of another.

Habre on Tuesday refused representation but Attorney General Mbacke Fall said Habre must accept lawyers appointed by the judge, since he refused to be represented by his own.

Three Senegalese lawyers were appointed by the court to represent Habre and they were given until Sept. 7 to prepare the defense.

"The appointed lawyers have a duty to defend Habre. Even if the accused refuses to collaborate with the appointed lawyers for him, the procedure will continue," said Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam.

Habre has said he does not recognize the special tribunal, dismissing it as politically motivated. On Monday, Habre was taken away from court by security guards after he and a supporter yelled out, causing chaos. He then refused to return, submitting a statement saying he had been illegally detained.

Habre's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to a report published in May 1992 by a 10-member truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission singled out Habre's political police force for using torture.



Wife says Chinese rights lawyer being denied legal counsel
Legal Business | 2015/07/20 09:09
A prominent Chinese rights lawyer whose trial is drawing near on charges of inciting ethnic hatred and provoking trouble has been denied access to lawyers for nearly a month, his wife and one of his attorneys said Monday.

Meng Qun, wife of Pu Zhiqiang, raised the concern in an open letter addressed to the leadership of the Beijing detention center where her husband is being held, urging authorities to honor China's own rules to allow Pu access to lawyers.

One of Pu's attorneys, Shang Baojun, confirmed that Pu last met his lawyers on June 23 and verified the authenticity of Meng's letter.

Pu is widely believed to be politically persecuted amid Beijing's crackdown on civil society. The charges stem from his online posts that questioned China's ethnic policies in the wake of deadly violence involving ethnic minority Uighurs, and others that mocked several political figures.

He was taken away in May 2014 and was indicted on May 15 this year, after one year in detention.

Shang said he expects a Beijing court to hold Pu's trial soon, because by law Chinese courts have three months from the indictment to hold a trial and issue a verdict, but the authorities have not yet announced a date.





Ill. high court rejects intervention on state paychecks
Court News | 2015/07/19 09:09
The Illinois Supreme Court has denied a request by state officials to decide the issue of paying government workers during the budget crisis.

The high court made no comment Friday in rejecting the plea by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Madigan sought intervention because two separate courts ruled opposite ways last week on pay for 64,500 employees.

A Cook County judge ruled it would be illegal to pay most of them. But an appellate court reversed that decision Friday and sent it back for additional arguments.

A St. Clair County judge decreed it would violate the Constitution not to pay them.

State Comptroller Leslie Munger began paying workers this week.

A new fiscal year began July 1 but Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats can't agree on a spending plan.



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