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Ex-Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock to appear in court in Chicago
Court Center | 2019/03/07 03:43
Former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock is scheduled to appear in court for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved in his corruption case.

A federal judge in Chicago set a Wednesday hearing for the 37-year-old, who once was a rising star of the Republican Party.

Schock resigned from Congress in 2015 amid scrutiny of his spending, including redecorating his office in the style of the "Downton Abbey" TV series. He was indicted in 2016 on 22 counts, i ncluding wire fraud and falsification of election commission filings.

Schock has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys argued the case should be dismissed, saying his prosecution violated separation-of-powers clauses. The Supreme Court declined last month to consider it.

The case was originally filed in central Illinois. The Justice Department transferred it to prosecutors in Chicago last year.


Japan court OK's Nissan ex-Chairman Ghosn's release on bail
Legal Interview | 2019/03/06 03:45
A Tokyo court approved the release of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn on 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) bail on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal by prosecutors to keep him jailed, a lawyer for the auto executive said.

He could be freed as soon as Wednesday morning, according to Japan's Kyodo News.

Jean-Yves Le Borgne, Ghosn's French lawyer, said a court issued a late-night ruling rejecting prosecutors' appeal of the initial ruling. Le Borgne cautioned that prosecutors still had leeway to file new charges as they had done once before.

Ghosn said in a written statement that he is grateful for his family and friends who had stood by him "throughout this terrible ordeal."

He said he is "innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations."

The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors alliance has been detained since he was arrested on Nov. 19. He says he is innocent of charges of falsifying financial information and of breach of trust.

His Japanese lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, is famous for winning acquittals in Japan, a nation where the conviction rate is 99 percent.

Hironaka said the legal team "proposed concrete ways showing how he would not tamper with evidence or try to flee."

Hironaka said Monday that he had offered new ways to monitor Ghosn after his release, such as camera surveillance. Hironaka also questioned the grounds for Ghosn's arrest, calling the case "very peculiar," and suggesting it could have been dealt with as an internal company matter.

In Japan, suspects are routinely detained for months, often until their trials start. That's especially true of those who insist on their innocence.

The 1 billion yen bail set by the court was relatively high but not the highest ever in Japan.

Among the conditions for Ghosn's release were restrictions on where he can live, his mobile phone use, as well as a ban on foreign travel and contact with Nissan executives, according to Kyodo News.


N Carolina court: State retirees should pay health premiums
Attorneys News | 2019/03/06 03:44
A North Carolina appeals court is throwing out a judge's ruling that a former Supreme Court chief justice and other retired state government workers can't be forced to pay part of their health insurance premiums.

A state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday the retirees don't have a contract preventing them from contributing to their coverage. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that retired state employees were promised nothing more than what is offered to current workers.

Legislators passed a law in 2011 requiring retirees to pay premiums they didn't pay while working. Retirees including former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake sued, saying that broke the state's promise to provide health insurance.

The State Health Plan covers more than 700,000 employees, retirees and their dependents.


Oregon's high court: Developers can't offset harm to farmers
Legal Interview | 2019/03/02 03:46
The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that negative impacts on Oregon's farmers from non-farm development can't be offset by making payments.

The Capital Press reported Friday that the court also ruled this week that it's not enough for a development to avoid taking away agriculturally-zoned land. A project also can't change costs or agricultural practices for farmers.

The ruling settles a lawsuit filed over a planned expansion of a landfill in Yamhill County that would affect nearby farms and orchards.

Waste Management, the owner of the Riverbend Landfill, is reviewing the Oregon Supreme Court's ruling.



Supreme Court seems inclined to retain cross on public land
Headline News | 2019/02/28 03:41
The Supreme Court seemed inclined Wednesday to rule that a 40-foot-tall cross that stands on public land in Maryland is constitutional, but shy away from a sweeping ruling.

The case the justices heard arguments in is being closely watched because it involves the place of religious symbols in public life. But the particular memorial at issue is a nearly 100-year-old cross that was built in a Washington, D.C., suburb as a memorial to area residents who died in World War I.

Before arguments in the case, it seemed that the memorial's supporters, including the Trump administration, had the upper hand based on the court's conservative makeup and its decision to take up the matter. On Wednesday, even liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer suggested that they could join a narrow ruling upholding this particular memorial.

Kagan noted that the cross is a symbol linked with soldiers killed in World War I.

"When you go into a World War I battlefield, there are Stars of David there, but because those battlefields were just rows and rows and rows of crosses, the cross became, in people's minds, the pre-eminent symbol of how to memorialize World War I dead," she said, adding that there are no religious words on the Maryland cross and that it sits in an area with other war memorials. She asked, "So why in a case like that can we not say essentially the religious content has been stripped of this monument?"

Breyer, for his part, asked a lawyer arguing for the cross' challengers what she thought about saying that "history counts" and that "We're not going to have people trying to tear down historical monuments even here."

"What about saying past is past?" he said at another point during arguments conducted in a courtroom whose friezes include depictions of Moses and Muhammed and that began, as always, with the marshal's cry: "God save the United States and this honorable court."

The cross's challengers include three area residents and the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association, a group that includes atheists and agnostics. They argue that the cross's location on public land violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. They say the cross should be moved to private property or modified into a nonreligious monument such as a slab or obelisk. The group lost the first round in court, but in 2017 an appeals court ruled the cross unconstitutional.


Governor says 'no executions' without court-backed drugs
Court Center | 2019/02/26 17:34
Recent statements and actions by Gov. Mike DeWine suggest Ohio could go years without executing another death row inmate.

Last month, the Republican governor ordered the prison system to come up with a new lethal drug protocol after a federal judge's scathing critique of the first drug in Ohio's method.

Last week, DeWine said Ohio "certainly could have no executions" during that search and the court challenges that would follow adopting a new system.

After Ohio started looking for new drugs in 2014, it took the state more than three years to establish its current three-drug lethal injection protocol. Since then, it has become even more difficult for states to find drugs, meaning a new search could easily last as long.

The first drug in Ohio's new system, the sedative midazolam, has been subject to lawsuits that argue it exposes inmates to the possibility of severe pain because it doesn't render them deeply enough unconscious.

Because of Ohio's use of midazolam, federal Judge Michael Merz called the constitutionality of the state's system into question in a Jan. 14 ruling and said inmates could suffer an experience similar to waterboarding.

But because attorneys for death row inmate Keith Henness didn't prove a viable alternative exists, Merz declined to stop the execution. But DeWine did, postponing Henness' execution from Feb. 13 until Sept. 12, although that would be contingent on the state having a new, court-approved lethal injection system in place, which is unlikely in that time frame.

Ohio is also scheduled to execute Cleveland Jackson on May 29, a timeline Merz questioned last week, given the governor's order.


Dominion to ask Supreme Court to hear pipeline appeal
Legal Watch | 2019/02/26 17:33
Dominion Energy said Tuesday it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal after a lower court refused to reconsider a ruling tossing out a permit that would have allowed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

Lead pipeline developer Dominion said it expects the filing of an appeal in the next 90 days. On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request for a full-court rehearing from Dominion and the U.S. Forest Service.

A three-judge panel ruled in December that the Forest Service lacks the authority to authorize the trail crossing and had "abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources" when it approved the pipeline crossing the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, as well as a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trial.

The 605-mile (974-kilometer) natural gas pipeline would originate in West Virginia and run through North Carolina and Virginia.

The appellate ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups. The denial "sends the Atlantic Coast Pipeline back to the drawing board," the law center and Sierra Club said in a joint statement on Monday.


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