Program offering chance to avoid prison has 1st graduates
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/12 02:39
A program out of Chicago’s federal court building designed to give non-violent suspects a chance to stay out of prison has held its first graduation.
It’s a pretrial diversionary program emphasizing teamwork and counseling on living constructive, crime-free lives.

A statement from the U.S. District Court for northern Illinois says five participants whose alleged crimes ranged from computer fraud to drug possession graduated at a ceremony Thursday. Successful completion keeps participants out of prison. It can lead to reductions of felonies to misdemeanors and even to dismissal of charges.

Participants can’t have felony records. They attend bi-monthly court sessions for up to two years. Judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys help oversee the program. It’s called Sentencing Options that Achieve Results, or SOAR for short. It was established in 2016.


Court: Skechers shoe nearly identical to Adidas icon
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/11 02:40
A U.S. appeals court says a shoe made by American footwear giant Skechers is nearly identical to an iconic Adidas shoe and would likely confuse consumers about the manufacturers.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling blocking Skechers from selling its Onix shoe.
Adidas argued in a lawsuit that the Onix was a rip-off of its Stan Smith tennis shoe.

The 9th Circuit judges said the shoes had only minor differences, and there was evidence that Skechers intended to confuse consumers.
A spokeswoman for Skechers, Jennifer Clay, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The 9th Circuit allowed Skechers to sell its Cross Court shoe, saying Germany-based Adidas failed to show irreparable harm from the sale of that footwear.


Court upholds convictions of 2012 Ron Paul campaign staffers
Areas of Focus | 2018/05/10 02:41
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the convictions of three top staffers on Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign who were found guilty of arranging for money to be funneled through a vendor to an influential Iowa state senator who dropped his support for another Republican candidate in favor of Paul.

Campaign chairman Jesse Benton, campaign manager John Tate and deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari were convicted in 2016 of causing false records to be filed, causing false campaign expenditure reports, engaging in a false statements scheme and conspiring to commit the offenses. Kesari was sentenced to three months in prison while the other two got probation. They have completed their sentences but are seeking to clear the felony convictions from their records.

The three argued that they broke no laws when they paid a video production company, which passed on $73,000 to then-Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who withdrew his support from Michele Bachmann and backed Paul six days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Sorenson also was convicted in the scheme and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was released in April.


Olivia de Havilland asks court to revive "Feud" lawsuit
Attorney News | 2018/05/08 08:58
Olivia de Havilland has asked the California Supreme Court to revive her lawsuit against the FX Networks show "Feud: Bette and Joan."

Lawyers for the 101-year-old actress filed the appeal Friday, asking the court to reverse an appeals court decision in March that threw out the suit.

De Havilland objected to her depiction on the show, saying her likeness was illegally used and her character, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, came across as a vulgar gossipmonger.

The appeals court ruled that creators' First Amendment rights trump de Havilland's objections.

"Feud" creator Ryan Murphy said after the decision that it was a victory for the creative community.

De Havilland's lawyer says in a statement Friday that the rejection of the lawsuit "puts everyone at the mercy of the media and entertainment industry."



Court asked to toss more cases tied to drug lab scandal
Legal Business | 2018/05/07 01:57
Massachusetts' highest court is set to hear arguments in a case sparked by the misconduct of a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at a state drug lab for eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the state's public defender agency will ask the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to order the dismissal of all convictions that relied on evidence from the drug lab during Sonja Farak's tenure.

Prosecutors already have agreed to dismiss thousands of cases tainted by Farak, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

The ACLU and Committee for Public Counsel Services also are asking the court to establish protocols for instances of misconduct.


Court to hear challenge to Winona County's sand mining ban
Legal Topics | 2018/05/05 08:58

Winona County, Minnesota's only county to ban the mining of silica sand for use by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing, goes to court Monday to defend the ban.

Minnesota Sands LLC, which holds extensive mineral rights in southeastern Minnesota, is challenging the legality before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Here's a look at the ban and key issues before a three-judge panel:

The Winona County Board adopted the ban in 2016 after public hearings that drew large crowds. The Land Stewardship Project spearheaded a 17-month grassroots campaign, citing risks to public health, air and water; damage to the scenic landscape of southeastern Minnesota; the impact on roads from heavy truck traffic and the loss of farmland.

Minnesota Sands LLC sued, arguing it was an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce and it made worthless the company's mineral rights leases on nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county. The company says the silica sand there is worth between $3.6 billion and $5.8 billion. Winona County District Judge Mary Leahy rejected those arguments last November, so the company appealed.


Analysis: Voter ID Fight Testing Court as Much as New Law
Court Watch | 2018/05/05 08:57
The Arkansas Supreme Court's decision to allow the state to enforce its voter ID law in this month's primary while justices consider whether the measure is unconstitutional sets up a test over Republican lawmakers' efforts to reinstate a law struck down four years ago. More importantly, it will show how much the state's highest court has changed since 2014.

Justices last week put a hold on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray's decision to block the law's enforcement, meaning voters will have to show photo identification before they cast a ballot in the May 22 primary. Early voting for the primary begins Monday. Republican advocates of the law said the Supreme Court's decision to put the law on hold will avoid creating confusion.

"The stay issued this afternoon provides needed clarity for Arkansas voters and election officials," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement shortly after the high court's ruling.

The 6-1 order from the court — only Chief Justice Dan Kemp would have denied the request to halt Gray's ruling — didn't elaborate on the reason for the stay. Both sides are set to begin filing briefs in the appeal of Gray's ruling in June, likely ensuring the legal fight will last throughout the summer.

"We are disappointed for the voters in Arkansas that the Arkansas Secretary of State and the Attorney General continue to want to enforce an unconstitutional Voter ID law," Jeff Priebe, an attorney for the Little Rock voter who challenged the measure, said after the ruling.

The decision creates a scenario similar to 2014, when a Pulaski County judge struck down Arkansas' previous voter ID law but put the ruling on hold and allowed it to be enforced in the primary that year.

The state Supreme Court ultimately came down against the 2013 voter ID law, striking it down weeks before the general election in 2014. Opponents of the law were able to point to nearly 1,000 votes in the primary that year that weren't counted because of the photo ID requirement.

The latest law is aimed at addressing a secondary reason some justices raised while striking down the previous voter ID law. The court unanimously struck down Arkansas' law, with four of the court's seven justices saying it violated the state's constitution by adding a qualification to vote. But three of the justices cited a different reason, saying the law didn't garner the two-thirds vote needed in both chambers of the Legislature to change voter registration requirements.



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