N.J. gay-marriage case must begin in lower court
Legal Topics | 2010/07/27 16:09

The push for gay marriage in New Jersey suffered a setback Monday when the state Supreme Court said six gay couples who claim New Jersey has denied them the rights granted to married heterosexual couples must argue their case through the lower courts.
The court was split, 3-3, in the decision; four affirmative votes are needed for a motion to be granted.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Justices Roberto Rivera-Soto and Helen Hoens said in an order that the issue "cannot be decided without the development of an appropriate trial-like record," and denied the plaintiffs' motion without prejudice.

They added that they reached no conclusion on the merits of the plaintiffs' allegations that the Civil Union Act violates their constitutional rights.



Neb. town may halt immigration law to save money
Areas of Focus | 2010/07/27 10:19

Faced with expensive legal challenges, officials in the eastern Nebraska town of Fremont are considering suspending a voter-approved ban on hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants until the lawsuits are resolved.

The City Council narrowly rejected the ban in 2008, prompting supporters to gather enough signatures for the ballot measure. The ordinance, which was approved by voters last month, has divided the community. Supporters say it was necessary to make up for what they see as lax federal law enforcement and opponents argue that it could fuel discrimination.

But the council's president, Scott Getzschman, insisted the elected body was concerned about money, not about any lack of support for the ordinance. The City Council is scheduled to vote on suspending the ban on Tuesday night, a day before the city goes to court over the measure.

The city faces lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund. City officials have estimated that Fremont's costs of implementing the ordinance — including legal fees, employee overtime and improved computer software — would average $1 million a year.



Goldman Allowed to Keep Issuing Securities
Headline Legal News | 2010/07/27 08:10

Goldman Sachs will remain qualified as an issuer of securities after settling civil fraud charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission this month, the agency ruled.

In a letter to Goldman’s legal counsel at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, the S.E.C. said that the settlement cleared a path for the firm to continue issuing securities under federal regulations.

As one of the world’s largest securities issuers, Goldman would have been placed into a tough spot if the S.E.C. had enjoined the firm from that business.
Under federal securities laws (and specifically Rule 405), the commission can deem a firm an “ineligible issuer” if within the past three years the brokerage had broken S.E.C. regulations.

Goldman’s settlement, announced almost two weeks ago, included the firm’s paying $550 million and admitting to mistakes in its marketing materials. What it didn’t do was require the firm to admit to  wrongdoing alleged by the S.E.C. regarding a mortgage-linked investment.



Court grants bail to jailed ex-media mogul Black
Headline Legal News | 2010/07/20 15:58

Conrad Black, the brash former newspaper magnate who lived extravagantly before his 2007 federal conviction for defrauding shareholders, may soon be released from a Florida prison after a federal appeals court granted him bail Monday.

The ruling from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals came weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court kicked Black's fraud conviction back to a lower court.

Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the British House of Lords, was convicted along with three other former executives from the media empire Hollinger International of swindling the company's shareholders out of $6.1 million. He was acquitted of nine other charges.

It was not immediately clear when Black, 65, would be released from the low-security prison in Coleman, Fla., where he has served more than two years of a 6 1/2-year sentence. The conditions of his release will be determined by U.S. District Court judge in Chicago, according to an order from the three-judge panel.

Last month, the Supreme Court weakened the "honest services" law that was central to Black's fraud conviction. The justices left it up to a lower court to decide whether the conviction should be overturned. That decision has not yet been made.



US to watch Arizona for racial profiling
Areas of Focus | 2010/07/20 09:05

According to a Press Release: The Justice Department hasn't ruled out filing a second lawsuit challenging Arizona's immigration law if evidence shows racial profiling at work, Attorney General Eric Holder says.

The Obama administration sued Arizona last week, arguing that the state is impinging on federal responsibilities for dealing with immigration. The state law requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if there's reasonable suspicion the person is in the country illegally. It also requires legal immigrants to carry their immigration documents.

The suit didn't deal with concerns about racial profiling so that it could focus on the most serious problem with the law, Holder said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." In six months or a year, his department might look into the law's impact on racial profiling, he said.

If you currently have legal permanent resident (Green Card) status and are interested in becoming a U.S. citizen (naturalizing), the San Diego Immigration Law Firm of McHenry & Associates can help.  Based in San Diego, California we help legal permanent resident (Green Card) clients anywhere in the United States and around the world naturalize.  We provide prompt, personalized and practical legal services to all those wishing to gain the benefits of U.S. citizenship.



Judicial Vacancies Slow the Wheels of Justice
Legal Topics | 2010/07/12 17:08

As the Senate prepares to vote on whether Elena Kagan should fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, there remain a substantial number of other vacancies in the nation’s lower federal courts that urgently need filling.

Currently, there are about 100 vacancies in the lower federal courts. The American Bar Association says the lack of judges is affecting the efficiency and fairness of the justice system.

ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm said, “Our courts are already terribly strained at the federal level because of the caseload and the workload, and when you’re a hundred justices down…that’s a big gap.  We have speedy trial rules that require them to put criminal cases first.  As a result, all of the civil proceedings are put off and there is a real gap in terms of a significant delay as a result of the vacancies. It is edging toward a crisis not to have a full bench.”

Even if all the vacancies were filled, said Lamm, a significant number of new judgeships would still be necessary to handle caseload growth.  In fact, the Judicial Conference of the United States is recommending 67 new permanent and temporary judgeships. 

Beyond the existing 100 vacancies, more than 20 additional judges have announced that they will retire in the next several months. Since the start of the 111th Congress, President Obama has made 78 nominations to fill the empty seats, and the Senate has confirmed 36 of the nominees.  



Self Representation Hurting Individual Cases, Courts, Say Judges
Headline Legal News | 2010/07/12 17:08

In a survey released today by the American Bar Association, judges indicated that a lack of representation in civil matters is hurting those individuals’ cases, and is negatively impacting courtrooms.

Approximately 1,000 state trial judges responded to the survey, which posed questions about their dockets, self-representation and the impact on the courts.  More than half of the judges stated that their dockets increased in 2009, with the most common areas of increase involving foreclosures, domestic relations, consumer issues such as debt, and non-foreclosure housing issues such as rental disputes. 

Sixty percent of judges said that fewer parties are being represented by lawyers, with 62 percent saying that parties are negatively impacted by not being represented.  The impact is exemplified, through a failure to present necessary evidence (94 percent), procedural errors (89 percent), ineffective witness examination (85 percent), failure to properly object to evidence (81 percent) and ineffective argument (77 percent).

The ABA has a resource page on its website that can help individuals find legal assistance — www.findlegalhelp.org.  

During a time when state budgets are constrained, agencies as well as courts are being asked to become more efficient.  However, the increase in non-represented parties makes this more difficult for courts.  The lack of representation has a negative impact on the court, said 78 percent of the judges, and 90 percent of judges stated that court procedures are slowed when parties are not represented.

Nearly half of the judges responding believe that there is a middle-class gap with respect to access to justice, stating that the number of people who are not represented and who do not qualify for aid has increased.

Lamm announced the findings during a news conference earlier today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

The survey of judges on the impact of the economic downturn on representation in the courts was conducted for the ABA Coalition for Justice.  Respondents came from around the country.



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