Minn. panel rules on more disputed Senate votes
Areas of Focus | 2008/12/15 18:21
The Canvassing Board in Minnesota's U.S. Senate recount is off to a fast start in its second day of awarding challenged ballots to the candidates.

The board got off to a halting start Tuesday, but in less than an hour Wednesday it dispatched almost 50 ballots

As of late Tuesday, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman was 264 votes ahead of Democratic rival Al Franken.

The board hopes to finish by Friday, but it still has more than 1,000 challenges to consider unless the campaigns pull back a lot more.

The Senate recount also comes before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday. Coleman wants the high court to stop counties and the canvassing board from including improperly rejected absentee ballots in the recount tally.



Oklahoma files appeal in poultry litter case
Headline Legal News | 2008/12/14 18:22
Oklahoma is again hoping to stop 13 Arkansas-based poultry companies from disposing of bird waste in the Illinois River watershed.

The state's 61-page appeal of an earlier judge's ruling was filed late Monday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Oklahoma had tried to get an injunction to halt a practice thousands of farmers have employed for decades in the 1 million-acre watershed, which occupies parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma: Taking the ammonia-reeking chicken waste — clumped bird droppings, bedding and feathers — and spreading it on their land as a low-cost fertilizer.

The injunction also could have led to similar environmental lawsuits nationwide against the industry, which produced more than 48 billion pounds of chicken in 2006.

But in September, U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell ruled that Oklahoma "has not yet met its burden of proving that bacteria in the waters" are "caused by the application of poultry litter rather than by other sources, including cattle manure and human septic systems."

Charlie Price, spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson, said that ruling "contained several troubling, and we believe inaccurate, legal interpretations that we feel compelled to present to the higher court."



Financially 'struggling' gov had big legal bills
Legal Topics | 2008/12/12 17:25
Rod Blagojevich is the third-highest-paid governor in the country, but you wouldn't know it from conversations recorded by federal authorities.

He is heard on six weeks of recordings saying he is "struggling" financially, even though he makes $177,412 a year and his household income has averaged $344,000 annually for the past five years. He allegedly says he feels he is "stuck" as governor and imagines making as much as $300,000 as the head of a group pushing organized labor's agenda or a not-for-profit organization.

If he could land his wife a seat on one or more corporate boards and she "picks up another $150 grand or whatever," according to the recordings, it would help him "get through" his remaining two years as governor.

Federal authorities arrested Blagojevich on Tuesday on charges that include allegedly scheming to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate for anything from an ambassadorship to a corporate-board post for his wife.

"I want to make money," Blagojevich is quoted by authorities as saying on a federal wiretap recording, discussing whether President-elect Barack Obama would name him to a Cabinet post in exchange for who he thought was Obama's choice to take his Senate seat.



Ambulance attendants accused of molesting patients
Areas of Focus | 2008/12/11 18:24
They answer the call 24-7, often risking their own safety to rescue the sick and injured and rush them to the hospital. But some paramedics have been more predator than hero.

Over the past 18 months, at least 129 ambulance attendants across the U.S. have been accused of sex-related crimes on duty or off, an investigation by The Associated Press found. Some of them molested patients in the back of an ambulance.

"It's a dream job for a sexual predator," said Greg Kafoury, a Portland, Ore., lawyer who represents three women who were groped by a paramedic. "Everything is there: Women who are incapacitated, so they're hugely distracted. Medical cover to put your hands in places where, in any other context, a predator would be immediately recognized as such."

Across the U.S., emergency medical technicians have been accused in recent months of such crimes as rape, soliciting minors over the Internet and possession of child porn, according to an AP survey of the state agencies that oversee those professions.



Foe of 10 Commandments judge loses license
Court Watch | 2008/12/09 18:23
A key figure in the case that ousted Alabama's Ten Commandments judge has had his law license suspended over a complaint filed by a client.

Stephen Glassroth's license was suspended by the Alabama Bar Association after he did not respond to a complaint that he failed to represent lawyer Dana Jill Simpson, who had hired him to defend her in a tax case.

Glassroth drew the ire of many in Alabama when he filed a lawsuit in 2001 to force Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building. Moore ignored a court order to remove the monument, and Glassroth succeeded in getting him expelled from office in 2003.

Simpson, who has said she worked on Moore's judicial campaign, did not return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. Glassroth did not return a call to his Georgia home seeking comment.

Simpson made the news in the summer of 2007 when she testified before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming that GOP operatives pushed for the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat. Simpson told the committee she learned of the effort when she worked on the 2002 campaign of Alabama's current Republican governor, Bob Riley, who beat Siegelman in his bid for re-election that year.

Siegelman was convicted of federal charges of taking a bribe from former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy in exchange for a seat on a state medical regulatory board. Siegelman's appeal of the conviction is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in Atlanta.



Obama legal team meets with anti-torture generals
Legal Topics | 2008/12/03 23:12
A dozen retired generals met with President-elect Barack Obama's top legal advisers Wednesday, pressing their case to overturn seven years of Bush administration policies on detention, interrogation and rendition in the war on terror.

"President-elect Obama has said that Americans do not engage in torture, that we must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and that we as a nation should stand against torture. He believes that banning torture will actually save American lives and help restore America's moral stature in the world," said an official close to the transition who asked not to be named to discuss internal matters. "This meeting is timely and very helpful to advancing this work."

Among those who met with Eric Holder, Obama's pick to be attorney general, and Greg Craig, tapped to be White House counsel, were Gen. Charles Krulak, a former Marine Corps commandant, and retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, former chief of the Central Command.

Hoar called the meeting "productive."

"It's important that the dialogue is going," Hoar said. "Part of the challenge here is big and philosophical. Part is nuts and bolts. How do you translate the rhetoric of the campaign and the transition period into action?"

The generals would like to see authority rescinded for the CIA to use harsh interrogation methods that go beyond those approved for use by the military, an end to the secret transfer of prisoners to other governments that have a history of torture, and the closing of the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

President George W. Bush vetoed legislation championed by the retired officers that would have held the CIA to the military's interrogation methods in March.

Obama has criticized the use of torture in interrogating detainees and promised to close Guantanamo Bay's military prison. The transition team official said no decisions about the detainee policies will be made until after the inauguration and Obama's full national security and legal teams are in place.



Court upholds $156M Palestinian terror verdict
Legal Topics | 2008/12/03 23:03
A federal appeals court has upheld a $156 million judgment against three Palestinian charities accused of bankrolling terrorism, but dropped a Chicago man from the long-running civil suit.

The opinion was filed over the killing by Hamas terrorists of American-born student David Boim (BOYM). It says donors to charities are liable if those charities engage in terrorist acts.

But the court dropped Chicagoan Muhammad Salah (suh-LAH') from the case, saying he was in jail when the anti-terrorism law was passed, so he couldn't have violated it.

Boim was fatally shot in May 1996 while standing at a bus stop in a West Bank town near Jerusalem.

The case isn't over who pulled the trigger, but who must pay damages.



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