Texas’ high court keeps execution drug supplier secret
Legal Topics | 2019/04/13 23:38
A supplier of Texas’ execution drugs can remain secret under a court ruling Friday that upheld risks of “physical harm” to the pharmacy, ending what state officials called a threat to the entire U.S. death penalty system.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, where Republicans hold every seat on the bench, doesn’t change operations at the nation’s busiest death chamber because state lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015.

A lawsuit filed a year earlier by condemned Texas inmates argued that the supplier’s identity was needed to verify the quality of the drugs and spare them from unconstitutional pain and suffering. Lower courts went on to reject Texas’ claims that releasing the name would physically endanger pharmacy employees at the hands of death-penalty opponents.

Now, however, the state’s highest court has found the risks valid and ordered the identity of the supplier to stay under wraps.

“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

The court deciding that a “substantial” risk of harm exists appeared to largely hinge on an email sent to an Oklahoma pharmacy in which the sender suggested they enhance security and referenced the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

“I’m speechless with the absurdity of them relying on that singular fact to close, to keep in secret how Texas essentially carries out its execution,” said Maurie Levin, a defense attorney who helped bring the original lawsuit.

The availability of execution drugs has become an issue in many death penalty states after traditional pharmaceutical makers refused to sell their products to prison agencies for execution use. Similar lawsuits about drug provider identities have been argued in other capital punishment states.


Court overrules judge in Coryell County hospital explosion dispute
Court News | 2019/04/12 15:49
An appeals court in Waco has ruled that a district judge in Gatesville abused his discretion in rulings he made in a lawsuit related to the June 2018 explosion at the Coryell County Memorial Hospital.

In a five-page opinion written by 10th Court of Appeals Justice Rex Davis and released Wednesday evening, the three-judge court granted a writ of mandamus requested by AP Gulf States, the general contractor overseeing the hospital renovation and expansion project.

The court ruled that 52nd State District Judge Trent Farrell’s pretrial order in February requiring AP Gulf States’ insurance carrier to deposit $6.8 million into the court’s registry was “a clear and prejudicial error of law and an abuse of discretion” and ordered him to remedy the error within 21 days.

Tenth Court Chief Justice Tom Gray concurred in part and dissented in part. Gray noted that he agrees with the court’s judgment ordering Farrell to withdraw his February registry order but he disagreed with the order compelling him to rule on other pretrial motions with a prescribed time frame.

AP Gulf States took out a builder’s risk insurance policy with Zurich American Insurance Co. when the project began. In December, five months after the explosion that killed three workers and injured more than a dozen, AP Gulf States initiated an arbitration proceeding against the hospital seeking to recover funds it alleged it was owed from the project.



Chief Justice Unveils Opioid-Related Court Initiative
Court News | 2019/04/11 22:49
Kentucky’s chief justice has unveiled a statewide initiative to help the judicial system respond to the opioid epidemic that has put a strain on courts.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said Thursday that the effort aims to better equip judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel to deal with the challenges caused by drug addiction.

Minton says the program will help judges as they steer drug offenders into recovery programs. He says the initiative will help provide evidence-based information on best court practices to support treatment of drug addiction.

Kentucky has been hard hit by the wave of addictions to opioid painkillers.

Judges and court officials from across the state attended the announcement at the state Capitol.


South Korean court orders easing of decades-old abortion ban
Attorney News | 2019/04/10 22:50
In a major reversal, South Korea's Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the easing of the country's decades-old ban on most abortions, one of the strictest in the developed world.

Abortions have been largely illegal in South Korea since 1953, though convictions for violating the restrictions are rare. Still, the illegality of abortions forces women to seek out unauthorized and often expensive procedures to end their pregnancies, creating a social stigma that makes them feel like criminals.

The court's nine-justice panel said that the parliament must revise legislation to ease the current regulations by the end of 2020. It said the current abortion law was incompatible with the constitution and would be repealed if parliament fails to come up with new legislation by then.

The ruling is final and cannot be appealed, court officials said, but current regulations will remain in effect until they are replaced or repealed.

An easing of the law could open up the door to more abortions for social and economic reasons. Current exceptions to the law only allow abortions when a woman is pregnant through rape or incest, when a pregnancy seriously jeopardizes her health, or when she or her male partner has certain diseases.

A woman in South Korea can be punished with up to one year in prison for having an illegal abortion, and a doctor can get up to two years in prison for performing an unauthorized abortion.

Thursday's verdict was a response to an appeal filed in February 2017 by an obstetrician charged with carrying out about 70 unauthorized abortions from 2013-2017 at the request or approval of pregnant women.


Judges reject Afghanistan probe; cite lack of cooperation
Court News | 2019/04/10 22:49
In a decision decried as a "devastating blow for victims," International Criminal Court judges on Friday rejected a request by the court's prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and alleged crimes by U.S. forces linked to the conflict.

In a lengthy written ruling, judges said an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice" because an investigation and prosecution were unlikely to be successful, as those targeted, including the United States, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, are not expected to cooperate, the court said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch slammed the ruling, calling it "a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress."

The ICC decision does acknowledge that the November 2017 request from Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a probe "establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the Court."

In a written reaction, the court's prosecution office said it "will further analyze the decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies."

The decision comes a month after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.



Court finds WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty
Areas of Focus | 2019/04/08 22:50
Court in Britain finds WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail conditions.

Police arrested Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday, after the South American nation decided to revoke the political asylum that had given him sanctuary for almost seven years.

London police said they were invited into the embassy by Ecuador’s ambassador. Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 after he was released on bail while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations that have since been dropped.

Assange has been under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny for years for Wikileaks’ role in publishing thousands of government secrets and was an important figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as investigators examined how WikiLeaks obtained emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic groups.

Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, said his government made a “sovereign decision” to revoke Assange’s political asylum due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life.”

“Today I announce that that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video released on Twitter.

Video posted online by Ruptly, a news service of Russia Today, showed several men in suits carrying Assange out of the embassy building and loading him into a police van while uniformed British police officers formed a passageway. Assange sported a full beard and slicked-back grey hair.


Parkland sheriff removal case heads to Florida Supreme Court
Legal Business | 2019/04/06 22:51
A lawsuit claiming Florida's governor improperly suspended a county sheriff for failing to prevent last year's Parkland school shooting is going directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal transferred the case to the state's highest court Tuesday, certifying the case to be of great public importance.

A circuit court dismissed the lawsuit last week, ruling Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order removing Scott Israel as Broward County sheriff was consistent with the Florida Constitution. Israel appealed the decision.

DeSantis has said Israel displayed poor leadership and failed to keep children safe during the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

The sheriff has said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority and interfered with the public's right to determine their elected official.


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