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Democrats Claim Victory In Wisconsin's Supreme Court Race
Firm Websites | 2018/04/06 18:36
In Wisconsin Tuesday, Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet won a seat on the state Supreme Court, riding a wave of Democratic enthusiasm to victory in this (officially) nonpartisan election.

The race drew national attention, mostly from big-name Democrats from around the country who saw it as an opportunity build momentum before the general election in November.

Dallet won the seat over her opponent, Judge Michael Screnock from Sauk County, Wisc., a former conservative-activist turned lawyer.

"I think my message resonated with Wisconsinites," Dallet told supporters in Milwaukee Tuesday night. "People are tired of special interests ruling and wanted to speak up."

With the win, she will replace outgoing conservative Justice Michael Gableman, bringing the court's 5-2 conservative majority down to 4-3.

While the state's Supreme Court seats are non-partisan, candidates have long found ways to send hints about their political leanings, but this year's race was overtly partisan.

Dallet's first TV ad featured grainy black and white footage of President Donald Trump, warning voters that their values were under attack.

Her endorsements came from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee ran ads on Dallet's behalf, and he campaigned for her last month during stops in Wisconsin. In a statement Tuesday night, Holder said, "Today, the voters of Wisconsin took a critical first step toward a state government that better reflects their needs and interests."

Screnock, meanwhile, argued Dallet's overtures to Democrats showed she would be an "activist" on the court, but Screnock himself received $300,000 from the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the most a political party has ever spent on a Supreme Court candidate in the state's history.



Mom sentenced in Australian court for drowning 3 children
Firm Websites | 2017/06/02 01:48
A mother who drowned three of her children and attempted to kill a fourth by driving the family car into an Australian lake was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and six months in prison.

Akon Guode, 37, drove a SUV carrying four of her seven children into the lake in Melbourne in April 2015. Her 5-year-old daughter Alual survived after passersby pulled her from the partially submerged car.

But Guodes' 16-month-old son Bol and 4-year-old twins, Hanger and her brother Madit, died.

Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said he would have sentenced Goude to life in prison if she had not pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.

"People don't understand why you did what you did," the judge said. "In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation," he added.

Goude wept and wailed through her sentencing hearing as the judge outlined her crimes and her troubled life that led to it.

Born one of 16 children in 1979, she fled Sudan's civil war in which her husband died and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The judge set a non-parole period of 20 years and said she will likely be deported on release. Her hometown, the city of Wau, is now in South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011. It's not clear to which country she will be deported.


Bosnian Serbs vote in referendum banned by top court
Firm Websites | 2016/09/22 06:01
Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country's constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous region and criminal charges against their leaders.

The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state, igniting the ruinous 1992-95 war. It comes despite the top court's ruling that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Bosnia.

Authorities said turnout was between 56 and 60 percent. Preliminary results after 30.76 percent of the ballots were counted say 99.8 percent of the voters were in favor of the holiday.

The vote has raised tensions and fears of renewed fighting as Bosniaks and Croats see the referendum as an attempt to elevate the Serb region above the country's constitutional court. It is also a test for a more serious referendum that Bosnian Serb leaders have announced for 2018 — one on independence from Bosnia.



Breyer says Supreme Court not diminished with only 8 members
Firm Websites | 2016/06/12 20:12
Justice Stephen Breyer said Monday that the Supreme Court has not been diminished by having only eight members since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

Breyer suggested in response to questions at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress that Scalia would have made a difference in only four or five cases out of more than 70 the court will decide this term.

"We may divide 4-4 in four or five cases, we may not," Breyer said of the term than will end in June.

That could include some of the term's biggest cases involving abortion and immigration. A tie vote would leave the lower court ruling in place and prevent the court from setting a legal precedent that applies to the entire country.

The court has already deadlocked in three cases, including a high-profile dispute over public-sector labor unions. And last week, the justices returned a dispute over access to birth control to lower courts, suggesting they could not form a majority that would have settled a major conflict over the scope of the nation's health care law.

Breyer stressed that the court in recent years has ruled unanimously about half the time and divided 5-4 in only a small percentage of cases. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan also have said in recent public comments that the court would find its way until a ninth justice is confirmed.

Breyer did not address the partisan debate over whether the Senate should confirm Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by Obama to take Scalia's seat. Senate Republicans have refused to hold a hearing on Garland's confirmation or schedule a vote, saying the choice should be left to Obama's successor.

Breyer was at the ceremony, the Burton Awards for Legal Achievement, to receive an award for his latest book about the use of foreign law in American courts.






High court sides with property owners in wetlands case
Firm Websites | 2016/06/02 06:35
The Supreme Court is making it easier for landowners to bring a court challenge when federal regulators try to restrict property development due to concerns about water pollution.

The justices ruled unanimously Tuesday that a Minnesota company could file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the agency's determination that its land is off limits to peat mining under the Clean Water Act.

The ruling is a win for property rights and business groups that said it was unfair for government agencies to decide what land is subject to complex environmental laws without a court ever deciding whether the agency is right.

It was the second time in four years that the high court sided with property owners against the government in a dispute over the right to challenge a designation of protected wetlands.

The Obama administration argued that the Hawkes Company could only contest the finding by seeking a permit, an expensive process that could take years to resolve. The company said it should be able to challenge the order immediately in federal court without having to spend more than $100,000 on a permit or risk hefty fines.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Corps' decision was the kind of final decision that carries a risk of major criminal and civil penalties if landowners don't go along. He said property owners shouldn't have to wait for the agency to "drop the hammer in order to have their day in court."

The case began when the East Grand Forks, Minnesota, company planned to expand its peat processing operations and asked the Corps for guidance. The agency issued a determination that the property was governed by the Clean Water Act because it affected the Red River of the North about 120 miles away.



High court rejects appeal over Homeland Security records
Firm Websites | 2016/01/10 22:57
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a public interest group seeking to get internal records from the Department of Homeland Security about its protocol for shutting down wireless networks during emergencies.

The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the agency could refuse to release the documents under an exception to the Freedom of Information Act for disclosures that could endanger lives.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center argued that the appeals court construed the law too broadly so that the government could conceal any records by claiming they concern security measures.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agency didn't need to specify exactly whose life would be endangered.



Charleston church suspect's friend charged with lying to FBI
Firm Websites | 2015/09/17 00:33
A friend of the man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a Charleston church is charged with lying to federal authorities and concealing information during their investigation, and he was scheduled for his first court appearance Friday.
 
Court documents dated Tuesday and unsealed Friday say that Joey Meek, 21, told an FBI agent that he did not know specifics about Dylann Roof's plan to shoot the churchgoers during Bible study, but the FBI says that was a lie.

Authorities notified Meek last month that he was under investigation. He was arrested Thursday. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney to contact for comment on the case, but his girlfriend has said he is innocent. Meek was expected to appear in court for arraignment at 11 a.m. Friday.

Meek has said Roof stayed with him in before the shootings. Meek previously told The Associated Press that Roof had drunkenly complained that "blacks were taking over the world" and "someone needed to do something about it for the white race."

Roof faces federal hate crime charges as well as nine counts of murder in state court in the June 17 shootings.

On Aug. 6, Meek received a letter that he was the target of an investigation.




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