New Jersey court proposes tossing out old open-warrant cases
Court News | 2018/07/21 01:25
The highest court in New Jersey is taking steps to do away with hundreds of thousands of open warrants for minor offenses such as parking tickets as part of an overhaul of the state's municipal court system.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on Thursday assigned three Superior Court judges to hold hearings on the proposal to dismiss at least 787,764 open warrants for offenses more than 15 years old that were never prosecuted.

"Those old outstanding complaints and open warrants in minor matters raise questions of fairness, the appropriate use of limited public resources by law enforcement and the courts, the ability of the state to prosecute cases successfully in light of how long matters have been pending and the availability of witnesses, and administrative efficiency," Rabner wrote in his order.

NJ.com reported that the order covers open warrants issued before 2003 for failure to appear in low-level cases, including 355,619 parking ticket cases, 348,631 moving violations and some cases related to town ordinance violations.

The open warrant and the underlying unpaid ticket would be dismissed. The order indicates that more serious charges such as speeding and drunken driving would not be included.

Throwing out old low-level cases was among 49 recommendations following a Supreme Court committee's review of the municipal court system. The committee cited a growing "public perception" that municipal courts "operate with a goal to fill the town's coffers," which the panel called contrary to the purpose of the courts.



India's top court calls for new law to curb mob violence
Court News | 2018/07/16 23:20
India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence fueled mostly by rumors that the victims either belonged to members of child kidnapping gangs or were beef eaters and cow slaughterers.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, who heard a petition related to deadly mob violence. They said the menace needs to be "curbed with iron hands," the news agency reported.

The judges asked the legislature to consider a law that specifically deals with lynchings and cow vigilante groups and provides punishment to offenders.

India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014. The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or carrying beef. Last month, two Muslims were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft. In such mob attacks, at least 20 people have been killed by cow vigilante groups mostly believed to be tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.

Most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilantes from Hindu groups have targeted Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many members of India's Hindu majority, and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country.

However, most of the mob attacks this year have been fueled mainly by rumors ignited by messages circulated through social media that child-lifting gangs were active in villages and towns. At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in the attacks. The victims were non-locals, mostly targeted because they looked different or didn't speak the local language.


German court: Catalan politician can legally be extradited
Court News | 2018/07/14 07:31
A German court on Thursday removed a hurdle to the extradition of a prominent Catalan politician on charges of embezzlement, setting the stage for a possible trial in Spain but on lesser charges than prosecutors there had hoped for.

In its decision in the case of Carles Puigdemont, the Schleswig-Holstein state court said the former Catalan leader could be extradited on embezzlement charges, but not rebellion.

The charge of rebellion is not recognized in Germany and the court said related German statutes such as that against treason did not apply, because his actions "did not rise to this kind of violence."

The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government's unauthorized referendum last year on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.

The Spanish government rejects Catalan independence. Puigdemont hailed the decision as a victory, tweeting "we have defeated the central lie of the (Spanish) state. German justice denies that the referendum of October 1 was rebellion."

The decision means that if he is extradited, Puigdemont can only stand trial in Spain on embezzlement charges over allegations he misused public funds, court spokeswoman Christine von Milczewski said.

Rebellion carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while misuse of public funds carries up to 12 years.


Schumer rallies opposition to Trump anti-abortion court pick
Court News | 2018/07/02 22:56
The Senate's top Democrat tried Monday to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick by President Donald Trump who'd oppose abortion rights, issuing a striking campaign season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate."

With Trump saying he'll pick from a list of 25 potential nominees he's compiled with guidance from conservatives, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Trump has said he is focusing on up to seven potential candidates, including two women, to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court. He's said he'll announce his pick July 9.

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.


For new Supreme Court justice, a host of big issues awaits
Court News | 2018/06/26 22:58
Justice Anthony Kennedy's successor will have a chance over a likely decades-long career to tackle a host of big issues in the law and have a role in shaping the answers to them.

Most court-watchers and interest groups are focused on abortion and whether a more conservative justice may mean more restrictions on abortions get upheld or even whether the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision affirming a woman's right to abortion might someday be overturned.

But Kennedy's replacement will quickly confront a host of issues, some prominent and others not. Whomever President Donald Trump chooses, the person is expected to move the court to the right. Conservative groups, seeing a court friendlier to their views, might look at the new court and think it's time to bring challenges to liberal laws currently on the books. And conservative state lawmakers may also attempt to pass legislation testing boundaries they wouldn't have while Kennedy was on the court.

The Supreme Court in the term that ended Wednesday had two cases before it dealing with whether electoral maps can give an unfair advantage to a political party. The justices ducked that question, sending cases from Wisconsin and Maryland back to lower courts for further review. Kennedy had been the justice who left the door open to court challenges to extreme partisan redistricting, but he never found a way to measure it that satisfied him. A case involving North Carolina's heavily Republican congressional districting map now in a lower court could provide an opportunity for the justices to revisit the issue as soon as next term.

Another unresolved issue recently before the court is whether a business can cite religious objections in order to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. The court could have tackled that issue in a case argued this term about a Colorado baker who wouldn't make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Instead, the justices found that a member of the Colorado commission that looked at the case displayed an anti-religious bias against the baker but left for another day the broader question.

The justices could have added another case on the issue to the list of cases they'll begin hearing arguments in this fall, a case that involved a flower shop owner who cited her religious beliefs in declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. For now they've sent that case back to a lower court. That same case or another one like it could quickly be in front of the court again.


Man charged in bike path killings speaks in court of 'Allah'
Court News | 2018/06/23 04:32
The man charged with murdering eight people on a New York City bike path and injuring many more spoke out in court Friday over a prosecutor's objection, invoking "Allah" and defending the Islamic State.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, raised his hand to speak immediately after U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick set an Oct. 7, 2019 date for the Uzbek immigrant's trial.

Earlier, he had pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the latest indictment in the Oct. 31 truck attack near the World Trade Center. A prosecutor said the Justice Department will decide by the end of the summer whether to seek the death penalty against Saipov, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, before the attack.

Speaking through an interpreter for about 10 minutes, Saipov said the decisions of a U.S. court were unimportant to him. He said he cared about "Allah" and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.

At the prompting of Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle, Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," Saipov said.

"So the Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or like some say, for oil. They have one purpose, and they're fighting to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on earth," he said.

After Saipov spoke more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Beaty interrupted him to object that the judge was letting Saipov make the kind of statement publicly that special restrictions placed on him in prison would otherwise prevent, including discussing "terrorist propaganda."

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he was unlikely to let him speak out in court again in a similar manner. Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing.

Saipov thanked the judge for letting him speak but added at one point: "I don't accept this as my judge."

Prosecutors had been seeking an April 2019 trial date. Houle said the families of the dead and the dozens who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

"The victims here are anxious now when that trial is going to be," she said. "The public deserves a speedy trial, and the surviving victims deserve to know when that trial is going to be."

Defense lawyers have said the government should accept a guilty plea and a sentence of life in prison without parole to provide victims' families and the public with closure.



Indonesia court sentences cleric behind attacks to death
Court News | 2018/06/22 04:32
Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court Friday for ordering Islamic State group-affiliated militants to carry out attacks including the January 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta.

Abdurrahman, who police and prosecutors say is a key ideologue for IS militants in the world's largest Muslim nation, kneeled and kissed the floor as the panel of five judges announced the sentence while counterterrorism officers guarding him uttered "praise be to God."

Several hundred paramilitary and counterterrorism police secured the Jakarta court where the trial took place. Fears of attacks have been elevated in Indonesia after suicide bombings in the country's second-largest city, Surabaya, last month that were carried out by families including their young children. Police say the leader of those bombers was part of the network of militants inspired by Abdurrahman.

During the trial, prosecutors said Abdurrahman's instructions from prison, where he was serving a terrorism-related sentence, resulted in several attacks in Indonesia in 2016 and 2017.

They included the Starbucks attack in the capital that killed four civilians and four militants, an attack on a bus terminal in Jakarta that killed three police officers and an attack on a church in Kalimantan that killed a 2-year-old girl. Several other children suffered serious burns from the Kalimantan attack.

The defendant's "speeches, teachings and instructions have inspired his group and followers to commit criminal acts of terrorism in Indonesia," said presiding Judge Ahmad Zaini.

The court said there was no reason for leniency. It gave defense lawyers seven days to consider lodging an appeal.

Abdurrahman has refused to recognize the authority of the court, part of his rejection of secular government in Indonesia and desire to replace it with Shariah law.


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