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Oklahoma lawsuit against opioid makers back in state court
Legal Topics | 2018/08/05 07:47
A U.S. judge determined Friday that a lawsuit the state of Oklahoma filed against the makers of opioids does not "necessarily rise" to a federal issue.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City sends the matter back to state court. Drugmakers had it moved to federal court in June.

Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017. It is seeking unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

Opioid manufacturers had argued the state was asking them to make different safety and efficacy disclosures to the public than required by federal law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but they deny wrongdoing.

An attorney for the companies did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ruling came just minutes after Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton joined Hunter and Michael Burrage, a private attorney representing the tribes and the state, in announcing that the tribes are joining the state in suing the opioid manufacturers in state courts for unspecified damages.

Hunter did not immediately return a phone call for comment, but Burrage said during the news conference that the effort to return to lawsuit to state court was to keep it from potentially being folded into more than 800 similar lawsuit pending in Ohio.


The Latest: Zimbabwe's president welcomes court challenge
Areas of Focus | 2018/08/04 23:50
Zimbabwe's president says people are free to approach the courts if they have issues with the results of Monday's election, which he carried with just over 50 percent of the vote.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke to journalists shortly after opposition leader Nelson Chamisa called the election results manipulated and said they would be challenged in court. Chamisa received 44 percent of the vote but says his supporters' own count gave him 56 percent.

Mnangagwa is praising the vote as free and fair despite the opposition concerns and those of international election observers who noted the "extreme bias" of state media and the "excessive" use of force when the military cracked down on opposition protesters in the capital on Wednesday.

The president also is looking forward to his inauguration, saying that under the constitution it should happen nine days after election results are declared.

Zimbabwe's president is praising "a free, fair and credible election, as we have always promised" and "unprecedented flowering of freedom and democracy in our beloved homeland" even as the opposition loudly rejects the results.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke shortly after opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said Monday's peaceful election had been manipulated and said the results would be challenged in court.

Mnangagwa, a former enforcer of longtime leader Robert Mugabe, has tried to recast himself as a voice of change. He is calling the deadly violence against opposition supporters in the capital on Wednesday "unfortunate" and says Chamisa has a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe's future.


SC Supreme Court to decide if elected sheriff is qualified
Attorney News | 2018/08/04 23:49
Clarke Stearns has been working as sheriff for more than 18 months in McCormick County, but it's still up in the air whether he is qualified to be the county's top lawman.

Stearns' Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, J.R. Jones, sued him within a month after his victory, saying Stearns never served as a law officer in South Carolina and therefore didn't meet the requirement of being a certified officer in the state.

Stearns' lawyers have successfully argued so far that his 30 years certified as a law enforcement officer in Virginia are more than enough to cover the qualification to be sheriff and he also got his certification in South Carolina after the election.

After a lower court judge ruled against Jones, the lawsuit is now going before the state Supreme Court. Jones' lawyer Charles Grose, told The Index-Journal of Greenwood the Supreme Court has expedited the case.

Stearns, a Republican, received 57 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.

Both sides said they have sent their briefs to the South Carolina Supreme Court and are ready for the justices either to rule or set a time for arguments.

Under South Carolina law , sheriffs must be at least 21 years old, a citizen of the United States, a registered voter and have a year of experience as a certified officer if they have a four-year college degree.


With scant record, Supreme Court nominee elusive on abo
Court News | 2018/08/02 06:50
Twice in the past year, Brett Kavanaugh offered glimpses of his position on abortion that strongly suggest he would vote to support restrictions if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

One was in a dissent in the case of a 17-year-old migrant seeking to terminate her pregnancy. The other was a speech before a conservative group in which he spoke admiringly of Justice William Rehnquist's dissent in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that established a woman's right to abortion.

Yet the big question about Kavanaugh's view on abortion remains unanswered: whether he would vote to overturn Roe. He'll almost certainly decline to answer when he is asked directly at his confirmation hearing. Decades of Kavanaugh's writings, speeches and judicial opinions, reviewed by The Associated Press, reveal a sparse record on abortion.

That leaves the migrant case, known as Garza v. Hargan, and the Rehnquist speech as focal points for anti-abortion activists who back President Donald Trump's nominee and for abortion rights advocates who say Kavanaugh has provided ample clues to justify their worst fears.

"This is the rhetoric from the anti-abortion groups being used by a potential Supreme Court justice, and that really gives us pause," said Jacqueline Ayers, the national director of legislative affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Democrats have been casting Kavanaugh as a threat to abortion rights as they face the difficult task of blocking his nomination in a Senate where Republicans hold a narrow majority. Kavanaugh's views on other issues, such as the reach of presidential powers, will also be part of a confirmation fight. But abortion is perpetually a contentious issue for court nominees, and the stakes are particularly high this time since Kavanaugh would be replacing the moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has voted to uphold abortion rights.


Officer involved in militia leader's death named in court
Legal Business | 2018/08/01 20:50
A state police officer has accidently revealed the name of one of the officers who fatally shot a militia leader who participated in the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the officer's name slipped out this week during the trial of indicted FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, who accused of lying about firing shots toward Robert "LaVoy" Finicum's truck.

Authorities have concealed the officers' names for more than two years citing concerns about threats from militias.

People who were involved in or supported the refuge occupation have circulated the officer's name and photo online. Several threats toward the officer followed.

Finicum's widow and Ammon Bundy have spoken out against these actions. The occupiers seized the refuge in 2016 to protest the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers.



Donald Trump Jr., wife due in court for divorce hearing
Court News | 2018/07/31 16:03
Donald Trump Jr. and his estranged wife Vanessa are expected to appear before a judge in New York City for a hearing in their divorce case.

They're due in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday. Vanessa Trump filed for divorce in March. Afterward, they issued a joint statement saying they will "always have tremendous respect for each other."

The 2007 birth of the couple's first child made Donald Trump Sr. a grandfather a decade before he became president.

The Trumps were married in 2005 and have five children. Former Fox News Channel personality Kimberly Guilfoyle recently left the network amid news that she's dating Donald Trump Jr. She has joined a super PAC supporting the president. The divorce, initially listed as uncontested, is now contested.




Court: Mud buggy race operators weren't negligent in crash
Legal Topics | 2018/07/31 16:02
A jury properly determined that the operators of an Eau Claire mud buggy race weren't negligent in a wild crash that cost a spectator part of his leg, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The case revolves around Shawn Wallace, who was watching a race at Eau Claire's Pioneer Park in 2012 when a buggy hit a guardrail, flew off the track and landed in the crowd. Wallace was injured so badly he had to have one of his legs amputated below the knee.

He filed a lawsuit in 2013 alleging that the track's owner, Chippewa Valley Antique and Engine Model Club Inc., and the race's sanctioning body, Central Mudracing Association Inc., had been negligent.

The jury at the 2016 trial found that the accident was unforeseeable and that neither defendant had been negligent.

Wallace appealed, arguing that Eau Claire County Circuit Judge William Gabler had improperly barred him from telling the jury about a 2005 crash at the track that injured spectators and had improperly limited a crash reconstruction expert's testimony.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals sided with the judge. The court said in its ruling Tuesday that Gabler reasonably determined that the 2005 crash wasn't similar to the 2012 incident.

The earlier crash occurred on a different part of the track, the spectators who were injured were viewing the race from a truck, not the bleachers, and the track operators extended guardrails following that crash, the appeals court noted. Therefore the crash was of little value in Wallace's case, the court concluded.



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