US Supreme Court declines to hear Drew Peterson's appeal
Legal Topics | 2018/10/01 16:18
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson's appeal of his murder conviction in the drowning death of his third wife.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the high court refused Monday to take up Peterson's bid to have his murder conviction overturned. His appeal request was filed in June.

The 64-year-old Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, is serving a 38-year sentence for Kathleen Savio's 2004 death and another 40-year sentence after being convicted of plotting to kill the prosecutor in the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to overturn Peterson's murder conviction last year. Peterson is being held at a federal prison in Indiana. He's also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but hasn't been charged.


Supreme Court term amid starts in shadow of Kavanaugh
Court News | 2018/09/29 23:19
It's the storm before the calm at the Supreme Court. Americans watched Thursday's high court nomination hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh with rapt attention. The televised spectacle was filled with disturbing allegations of sexual assault and Kavanaugh's angry, emotional denial.

On Monday, the court will begin its new term with the crack of the marshal's gavel and not a camera in sight. The term's start has been completely overshadowed by the tumult over Kavanaugh's nomination.

Republicans had hoped to have Kavanaugh confirmed in time for the court's first public meeting since late June, an addition that would cement conservative control of the court.

Instead, there are only eight justices on the bench for the second time in three terms, with a breakdown of four conservatives and four liberals. The court was down a member in October 2016, too, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April 2017, after all but about a dozen cases had been argued

It's unclear how long the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement in July will last. Consideration of Kavanaugh's nomination by the Senate has been delayed while the FBI undertakes an investigation of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982.

An empty seat on the bench often forces a push for compromise and leads to a less exciting caseload, mainly to avoid 4-4 splits between conservatives and liberals.

The cases the court has agreed to hear so far this term look nothing like the stream of high-profile disputes over President Donald Trump's travel ban, partisan redistricting, union fees and a clash over religious objections to same-sex marriage that the court heard last term.


Nominee's attack on Democrats poses risk to Supreme Court
Opinions | 2018/09/27 23:20
Brett Kavanaugh's angry denunciation of Senate Democrats at his confirmation hearing could reinforce views of the Supreme Court as a political institution at a time of stark partisan division and when the court already is sharply split between liberals and conservatives.

The Supreme Court nominee called the sexual misconduct allegations against him a "calculated and orchestrated political hit" by Democrats angry that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. Kavanaugh went further than Clarence Thomas, who in 1991 attacked the confirmation process but didn't single out a person or political party, when he confronted allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill.

The comments injected a new level of bitter partisanship in an already pitched battle over the future of the Supreme Court and replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, frequently the decisive and swing vote on the most important issues of the day. Kavanaugh is more conservative than Kennedy and his ascendance to the high court would entrench conservative control of the bench for years.

"No matter what happens ... I think the court is the ultimate loser here. I think Judge Kavanaugh could have made the exact same points without making reference to the Clintons or Democrats, without going down that road," said Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "It's an optics thing. I don't think he'll vote any differently because of what happened in the past 10 days, but what will change is how people perceive it."

In his pointed remarks, Kavanaugh said he was a victim of character assassination orchestrated by Democrats. "This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups," he said.



India's top court lifts temple's ban on women who menstruate
Court Watch | 2018/09/26 23:20
India's Supreme Court on Friday lifted a temple's ban on women of menstruating age, holding that equality is supreme irrespective of age and gender.

The historic Sabarimala temple had barred women age 10 to 50 from entering the temple that is one of the largest Hindu pilgrimage centers in the world.

Some religious figures consider menstruating women to be impure. But the court ruled 4-1 the practice of excluding women cannot be regarded as an essential religious practice.

The temple argued the celibate nature of Sabarimala temple's presiding deity Lord Ayyappa was protected by India's Constitution.

The top court's verdict is part a string of recent rulings that recognize more rights of women, challenging deeply conservative Indian society. On Thursday, it scrapped a law which did not allow wives to bring criminal charges against adulterous husbands.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra in part of Friday's judgment said devotion could not be discriminatory and patriarchal notion could not trump equality in devotion.

"Religion cannot be the cover to deny women right to worship. To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality," he said.

Rahul Eswaran, an attorney for the temple, said the temple management would seek a review of the court's decision. It noted girls and women of other ages were allowed in the temple without restrictions.


UN court asked to probe Venezuela; leader defiant in speech
Headline Legal News | 2018/09/25 23:20
Six nations made the unprecedented move Wednesday of asking the U.N.’s International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity, even as President Nicolas Maduro made an unexpected trip to the world body’s headquarters to deliver a nearly hourlong speech declaring his nation “will never give in.”

Maduro’s speech at the General Assembly gathering of world leaders came hours after Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.

“To remain indifferent or speculative in front of this reality could be perceived as being complicit with the regime. We are not going to be complicit,” said Paraguayan Foreign Minister Andres Rodriguez Pedotti.

The six countries hope the move puts new pressure on Maduro to end the violence and conflict that have sent more than 2 million people fleeing and made Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates among the highest in the world.

Venezuelan officials have widely rejected international criticism, saying they’re driven by imperialist forces led by the U.S. to justify launching an invasion. And Maduro sounded a defiant tone Wednesday night, complaining that Washington was attacking his country through sanctions and other means and strong-arming other countries into going along in a “fierce diplomatic offensive.”

“The U.S. wants to continue just giving orders to the world as though the world were its own property,” Maduro said. “Venezuela will never give in.”

But at the same time, he said he was willing to talk with Trump.

Wednesday marked the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.

Canada was among nations referring Venezuela to the ICC, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the moment to defend the idea of global justice the court represents — the day after Trump attacked it in a stinging speech that challenged multilateral organizations.


Trump picks combat over caution in court fight
Court News | 2018/09/23 21:49
White House aides and congressional allies worked all week to keep President Donald Trump from unloading on the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

But as Kavanaugh's nomination hung in the balance, Trump couldn't contain his frustration any longer and unleashed a direct Twitter attack on the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago during a high school party.

Friday's tweet landed with a splat in the noxious brew of gender and politics that has taken over a high-stakes confirmation battle playing out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement. In keeping with Trump's natural instinct to fight back when under attack, as well as his long pattern of defending powerful men against the claims of women, the president's tweet reflected growing anger over all the focus on Ford's accusation.

Trump initially believed he could support his nominee without wading into the specific allegations against Kavanaugh since they did not involve him. But that began to change as Trump watched ongoing coverage of the accusations, particularly on Air Force One TVs tuned into Fox News on his long flight Thursday from Washington to Las Vegas, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the White House. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.


Supreme Court upholds hospital 'charity care' tax exemption
Attorney News | 2018/09/23 21:49
The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 law that sought to clarify property tax exemptions for charitable hospitals.

The court voted 7-0 in an opinion issued Thursday. It ruled on a law that allows issuing tax exemptions to hospitals when the value of the "charity care" or "free or discounted services" they provide exceed its estimated tax liability.

Constance Oswald argued in her lawsuit that the law requires issuing an exemption regardless of whether the constitutional requirements are met. The court found that the language of the law merely allows allowing an exemption in warranted cases.

Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun says the law has cleared up previous confusion and ensured financially stretched hospitals can serve their communities.


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