Court: Indiana layoffs of older workers not discrimination
Opinions | 2017/07/28 03:43
A federal appeals court has ruled against 20 former Lake County employees who claimed their layoffs were driven by age discrimination.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Wednesday that the plaintiffs, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, weren't victims of deliberate discrimination.

The Northwest Indiana Times reports  falling tax revenues prompted county officials to terminate or send into early retirement employees older than 65 with promises that included a Medicare supplemental insurance plan.

But they later learned that insurance plan was only for retirees and opted to terminate the older workers in 2013 rather than buy another plan.

The court found the county wasn't practicing unlawful age discrimination because it retained a larger group of older employees not covered by that insurance.


Court: Violence law unfair to gay South Carolina couples
Areas of Focus | 2017/07/27 03:44
People in same-sex relationships in South Carolina should get the same legal protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday, deeming a portion of the state's domestic violence law unconstitutional.

The court was asked to weigh in after a woman tried to get a protective order against her former fiancée, also a woman, and was denied.

Current law defines "household members" as a spouse, former spouse, people with a child in common, or men and women who are or have lived together. It does not include unmarried same-sex couples.

Acting Justice Costa Pleicones, who wrote the majority opinion, said during oral arguments in March 2016 that he felt the law was "pretty clearly unconstitutional in its discriminatory impact upon same-sex couples."

In his opinion, Pleicones pointed out lawmakers have over the years addressed the definition of "household members" as covered under domestic violence protections in 1994, amending the language from "persons" living together to "male and female." In 2015, during a massive overhaul of South Carolina's criminal domestic violence law, legislators made changes including increasing penalties for offenders but left the gender-based definition intact.

The U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, the court wrote, states, "No state shall ... deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," such as a benefit offered to one class of person but not others.

"In this case, we cannot find a reasonable basis for providing protection to one set of domestic violence victims - unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, opposite-sex couples - while denying it to others," the court wrote.

Other states have addressed this issue since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide. The Ohio Supreme Court in 2016 adopted the use of gender-neutral references in family court cases. California and Massachusetts proactively changed language in their laws.


Top Vatican official to face Australian court on sex charges
Attorney News | 2017/07/25 22:52
The most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis is expected to make his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday, as he vows to clear his name in a scandal that has rattled Rome.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis' top financial adviser, was charged last month with sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical" sexual assault offenses - meaning crimes that occurred years ago.

Pell is to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a hearing that will likely last just minutes and deal largely with administrative matters, such as setting future court dates. Despite the routine nature of the hearing, it is expected to draw hordes of journalists, abuse survivors and spectators.

Pell took a leave of absence from his duties in Rome to return to Australia to fight the charges. He has vehemently denied the allegations, saying last month, "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

The pope has said he will wait for Australian justice to run its course before making a judgment of Pell himself.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he served as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. But more recently, Pell became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican to interview him last year.



Driver due in court after deaths of migrants in tractor-trailer
Court News | 2017/07/24 15:55
The driver of a tractor-trailer turned deadly transporter for undocumented migrants is due to face criminal charges in a Texas court Monday in what police are calling a human trafficking crime.

Authorities called to the San Antonio Walmart lot Sunday morning where the trailer was parked found eight bodies and 30 undocumented immigrants severely injured from overheating inside. A ninth person later died in hospital, ICE officials said. Thirty-nine people were recovered from the trailer, including one person who was found in a nearby wooded area.

"Checking the video from the store, we found there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.

"The driver and whoever else we find is involved in this will be facing state and federal charges," he said.

The US Attorney's Office said the driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was being held in connection with the incident. Prosecutors plan to file a criminal complaint against Bradley in federal court on Monday morning.

"These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters," said Richard L. Durbin Jr., US attorney for the Western District of Texas.


Court hearing could decide fate of dog pardoned by governor
Court News | 2017/07/24 15:55
A court hearing could determine the fate of a dog that was due to be euthanized before Maine's governor tried to grant the pooch clemency.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage's pardon made a celebrity out of the Alaskan husky named Dakota that was ordered to be put down after attacking two dogs, killing one. The hearing is set for Monday afternoon in Augusta.

It's debatable whether the governor has the authority to pardon the dog. But it could become moot depending on the outcome of the hearing that could permanently lift the order to euthanize the dog.

A previous effort to save Dakota by moving her to a New Hampshire shelter failed after a woman who wanted to adopt the dog objected.


Ohio sheriff's deputy pleads not guilty to rape, kidnapping
Areas of Focus | 2017/07/22 22:55
An Ohio sheriff's deputy has pleaded not guilty to charges for allegedly raping a 26-year-old woman inside his county-issued cruiser.

Summit County deputy Antonio Williamson entered pleas Friday during an arraignment in the county court in Akron. He was indicted Thursday on rape, kidnapping, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition charges.

His attorney declined to comment after the hearing. A judge set a $100,000 bond.

The 46-year-old Williamson supervised the sheriff's office crime scene unit. He surrendered to authorities Thursday.

Prosecutors say the sexual assault occurred outside an Akron gentlemen's club in March. A county prosecutor's spokesman has said Williamson was in uniform and was leaving an off-duty security job prior to the assault. The spokesman says Williamson didn't know the woman previously.


Court ends hearing into corruption charges against PM
Court News | 2017/07/21 15:58
Pakistan’s supreme court on Friday concluded its hearing into a high-profile case involving allegations of corruption against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, but it wasn’t immediately clear when a verdict would be announced, defense lawyers and attorneys for petitioners said.

According to attorneys involved in the case, the court heard arguments from both the government and opposition after a court-ordered investigation found “significant disparity” between declared wealth and known sources of income of Sharif and his family.

Under Pakistani law, the court has the power to disqualify Sharif if he is found guilty. Sharif denies allegations he misused his office to enrich himself.

“The Supreme Court today concluded the hearing of this case and it will set a date for announcing the judgment later,” said Salman Akram Raja, the lawyer for Sharif’s family.

Fawad Chaudhry, one of the lawyers for opposition leader Imran Khan who led the fight to have the prime minister investigated, said Sharif faced a serious challenge and “we hope Nawaz Sharif will be disqualified” for concealing his assets.

Opposition lawmakers have been fighting a legal battle to disqualify Sharif as prime minister since 2016 when leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm disclosed his family’s offshore accounts.

Sharif’s political fate has been hanging in the balance since April. The Supreme Court, acting on petitions from opposition lawmakers, decided to establish a six-member Joint Investigation Team to delve into the allegations corruption involving his family, including his daughter and two sons.

Two of the five supreme court judges opposed setting up an investigation team preferring to hand down a verdict based on the information they already had in its possession.

However the team was established and on July 10 it submitted its voluminous report to the court to support its conclusion that a “significant disparity” existed between the Sharif’s declared wealth and its known sources of income. The report suggested the Supreme Court take action against Sharif and his family in accordance with a 1999 accountability law intended to help stamp out corruption. Sharif has sought to discredit the investigators, accusing them of bias.


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