Illinois to require veterans courts across the state in 2018
Court News | 2017/10/30 15:31
A law passed last year requires every judicial circuit in Illinois to have a veterans treatment court starting Jan. 1.

The courts allow veterans who were honorably discharged to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a probation sentence, The Chicago Tribune reported. The sentence requires frequent court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Veterans can also apply to have their records expunged upon completing the sentence. Those who use the courts typically face lower level felonies.

Supporters say the program will help those who risked their lives for their country.

Army veteran Gregory Parker enrolled in the Lake County Veterans Treatment and Assistance Court after his fourth drunken driving arrest resulted in a felony reckless driving charge. Parker graduated from the program in about 18 months. He's quit drinking and continues to go to therapy.

"I finally find myself enjoying things in life I've never enjoyed before," he said.

But some wonder if every community has the resources or the need for a court dedicated to veterans.

Some rural communities may only have a few veterans moving through the court system, said Michelle Rock, executive director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, which provides support for treatment courts statewide.

"We know that it may not be cost-effective for every county in the state to have one," she said.

Before the new law, Kane County officials weighed the need for a veterans court with the availability of resources and decided against offering the court, said Court Administrator Doug Naughton.

The overall court system should be improved, instead of offering one group more options, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois.

Court, for now, blocks immigrant teen's access to abortion
Court News | 2017/10/21 18:51
An appeals court is blocking, for now, an abortion sought by a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant being held in a Texas facility, ruling that the government should have time to try to release her so she can obtain the abortion outside of federal custody.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its ruling Friday hours after arguments from lawyers for the Trump administration and the teenager. The court ruled 2-1 that the government should have until Oct. 31 to release the girl into the custody of a sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States. If that happens, she could obtain an abortion if she chooses. If she isn't released, the case can go back to court.

The judge who dissented wrote that the court's ruling means the teen will be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy for "multiple more weeks."

The teen, whose name and country of origin have been withheld because she's a minor, is 15 weeks pregnant. She entered the U.S. in September and learned she was pregnant while in custody in Texas.

She obtained a court order Sept. 25 permitting her to have an abortion. But federal officials have refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others may take her to have an abortion. A lower federal court ruled that she should be able to obtain an abortion Friday or Saturday, but the government appealed.

Federal health officials said in a statement that for "however much time" they are given they "will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies" in their facilities.

Australia's High Court to consider fate of 7 lawmakers
Court News | 2017/10/10 16:18
Australia's prime minister said Monday that he was confident that government lawmakers would win a court challenge this week that threatens his administration's slender majority.

Seven High Court judges will decide whether seven lawmakers should be disqualified from Parliament because of a constitutional ban on dual citizens being elected. The three-day hearing begins Tuesday.

The fate of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is most crucial to the government in an unprecedented political crisis.

If the court rules that he was illegally elected in July last year due to New Zealand citizenship he unknowingly inherited from his father, the ruling conservative coalition could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, where governments are formed.

Joyce could stand in a by-election, having renounced his Kiwi citizenship. But with the government unpopular in opinion polls, voters in his rural electoral division could take the opportunity to throw both the deputy prime minister and his administration out of office.

Two of the six senators under a cloud are government ministers. Fiona Nash inherited British citizenship from her father and Matt Canavan became an Italian through an Australian-born mother with Italian parents. Disqualified senators can be replaced by members of the same party without need for an election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given no indication of what his government would do if the court rules against any of the three ministers.

Court nixes class-action status for TGI Friday's drink suit
Court News | 2017/10/07 23:18
A lawsuit accusing restaurant chain TGI Friday's violated consumer fraud laws with its drink pricing can't go ahead as a class action that could have included millions of members, but a similar case involving Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants can, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Debra Dugan sued TGI Friday's after she was charged one price for a drink at the bar and a higher price at a table in 2008. The restaurant didn't list drink prices on its menus, according to the lawsuit.

A lower court in 2012 granted class-action status to anyone who ordered unpriced drinks at 14 of the company's restaurants in New Jersey from 2004 through 2014. TGI Friday's had estimated that could have amounted to as many as 14 million customers, according to court filings. But the plaintiffs disputed that figure.

According to the lawsuit, TGI Friday's conducted research that showed that customers spent an average of $1.72 less on drinks if the prices were displayed than if the prices weren't displayed. The lawsuit sought to prove that that amount could be considered a loss for anyone who had ordered a drink at the restaurants. Wednesday's 5-1 ruling rejected that argument, but said individual claims could still proceed.

Pakistan ex-PM criticizes judiciary for his disqualification
Court News | 2017/09/27 15:35
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday criticized the country's judiciary for rejecting his appeal over his disqualification from office and vowed again to fight a legal battle to clear his name.

In July, the Supreme Court barred him from office for concealing financial assets. Sharif has since been replaced by a member of his ruling party but has vowed to fight and prove he never indulged in corruption. Earlier this month, the top court rejected Sharif's request for a review of its July 28 ruling.

Tuesday's remarks by Sharif came just after he made his first appearance before an anti-corruption court to face corruption charges earlier in the day. He has returned home from London, where he travelled to see his ailing wife who is undergoing medical treatment in Britain.

"I know for what reasons I am being punished," Sharif told a news conference, without elaborating.

Sharif is likely to be indicted on Oct. 2 in connection with three corruption cases that were filed against him by the country's anti-corruption body earlier this month. Sharif resigned after the Supreme Court disqualified him, but afterward said he was being punished over a trivial charge.

As he appeared before the corruption court earlier on Tuesday, a group of Sharif's followers gathered outside the court and later some chanted slogans in his support inside the courtroom.

Ski Resort Fraud Court Case to Get Started in Vermont
Court News | 2017/09/23 22:36
The case of whether government leaders in Vermont were complicit in ski resort fraud is headed to a courtroom for the first time.

Foreign investors sued Vermont. The Burlington Free Press reports the case moves to Vermont Superior Court in Hyde Park on Monday.

The lawsuit alleges the Vermont Regional EB-5 Center and Jay Peak were essentially partners in fraud. It says the scheme involved millions of dollars from the investors.

Jay Peak's leadership was accused last year of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program for developments at or near the ski resort.

Lawyers for the investors and for the state are expected to argue whether the government should be immune from the lawsuit and whether the case should be dismissed.

Rooney gets road ban after pleading guilty to drunk driving
Court News | 2017/09/18 09:25
Former England captain Wayne Rooney pleaded guilty to drunk driving on Monday, leading to a court imposing a two-year driving ban and ordering him to perform 100 hours of unpaid community work.

The Everton striker was stopped by police outside Manchester on Sept. 1 while driving someone else's car.

Rooney was three times above the legal limit for driving with alcohol in the body, the hearing at Stockport Magistrates' Court was informed as the 31-year-old player entered his guilty plea.

"Following today's court hearing I want publicly to apologize for my unforgivable lack of judgment in driving while over the legal limit. It was completely wrong," Rooney said in a statement.

"I have already said sorry to my family, my manager and chairman and everyone at Everton FC. Now I want to apologize to all the fans and everyone else who has followed and supported me throughout my career."

A breathalyzer test showed Rooney's alcohol level was 104 micrograms in 100 milliliters of breath. The driving limit in England and Wales is 35 micrograms per 100 milliliters of breath.

Rooney's legal team asked District Judge John Temperley to consider not imposing a community work order because of his ongoing charitable work. However Temperley said he was "not convinced" that imposing a large fine "would have the same effect". Rooney was also told to pay 85 pounds ($115) of prosecution costs and a victim surcharge for the same amount.

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