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Manhattan DA drops part of Weinstein case
Legal News | 2018/10/11 14:58
Manhattan’s district attorney dropped part of the criminal sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence emerged that cast doubt on the account one of his three accusers provided to the grand jury.

The development was announced in court Thursday with Weinstein looking on.

The tossed charge involves allegations made by one of the three accusers in the case, Lucia Evans, who was among the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.

In an expose published in The New Yorker one year ago Wednesday, Evans accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex when they met alone in his office in 2004 to discuss her fledgling acting career. At the time, Evans was a 21-year-old college student.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge that prosecutors wouldn’t oppose dismissal of the count in the case involving Evans. She insisted the rest of the case, involving two other accusers, was strong.

“In short, your honor, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the judge he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein. He also said he believed a police detective had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.


Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh clears crucial Senate hurdle
Legal News | 2018/10/05 23:22
A deeply divided Senate pushed Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination past a key procedural hurdle Friday, setting up a likely final showdown this weekend in a battle that's seen claims of long-ago sexual assault by the nominee threaten President Donald Trump's effort to tip the court rightward for decades.

The Senate voted 51-49 to limit debate, effectively defeating Democratic efforts to scuttle the nomination with endless delays. With Republicans clinging to a two-vote majority, one Republican voted to stop the nomination, one Democrat to send it further.

Of the four lawmakers who had not revealed their decisions until Friday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted yes, as did Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted not to send the nomination to the full Senate.

Lawmakers might vote differently on the climactic confirmation roll call, and Collins told reporters that she wouldn't rule out doing so. That left unclear whether Friday's tally signaled that the 53-year-old federal appellate judge was on his way to the nation's highest court. Confirmation would be a crowning achievement for Trump, his conservative base and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The vote occurred a day after the Senate received a roughly 50-page FBI report on the sexual assault allegations, which Trump ordered only after wavering GOP senators forced him to do so.

Republicans said the secret document — which described interviews agents conducted with 10 witnesses — failed to find anyone who could corroborate allegations by his two chief accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Democrats belittled the bureau's findings, saying agents constrained by the White House hadn't reached out to numerous other people with potentially important information.

The vote also occurred against a backdrop of smoldering resentment by partisans on both sides. That fury was reflected openly by thousands of boisterous anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who bounced around the Capitol complex for days, confronting senators in office buildings and even reportedly near their homes.


High court denies review of Grand Canyon-area mining ban
Legal News | 2018/10/02 16:23
The U.S. Supreme Court won't review an Obama-era action that put land around the Grand Canyon off-limits to new mining claims, ending the legal battle as environmentalists keep a close eye on actions by the Trump administration that they fear could lead to more access for the mining industry.

The Obama administration put about 1,562 square miles (4,045 square kilometers) outside the boundaries of the national park off-limits to new hard rock mining claims until 2032. The 20-year ban was meant to slow a flurry of mining claims over concern that the Colorado River — a major water source serving 30 million people — could become contaminated and to allow for scientific studies.

The mining industry asked the Supreme Court in March to review the ban, saying it was based on an unconstitutional provision of federal law. The high court on Monday declined the request, leaving the ban in place.

"Clearly, we're disappointed," said Ashley Burke, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association. "There continues to be great risk to our domestic supply chain thanks to unwarranted withdrawals like this." Burke said the association will continue advocating for land access. The American Exploration and Mining Association also challenged the ban. Environmentalists hailed the court's decision but are worried the ban could be undone administratively.





Stand-ins to decide who sits on West Virginia Supreme Court
Legal News | 2018/09/26 06:00
A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.


Supreme Court upholds hospital 'charity care' tax exemption
Legal News | 2018/09/23 22:57
The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 law that sought to clarify property tax exemptions for charitable hospitals.

The court voted 7-0 in an opinion issued Thursday. It ruled on a law that allows issuing tax exemptions to hospitals when the value of the "charity care" or "free or discounted services" they provide exceed its estimated tax liability.

Constance Oswald argued in her lawsuit that the law requires issuing an exemption regardless of whether the constitutional requirements are met. The court found that the language of the law merely allows allowing an exemption in warranted cases.

Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun says the law has cleared up previous confusion and ensured financially stretched hospitals can serve their communities.


Juvenile waived to adult court in Indy doctor's slaying
Legal News | 2018/09/16 07:33
A juvenile has been waived to adult court to face charges in the fatal shooting of an Indiana University doctor and educator last year.

Online court records say 16-year-old Tarius Blade faces three felony burglary charges in the Nov. 20, 2017, slaying of Dr. Kevin Rodgers.

Blade was arrested in December along with Ka'Ron Bickham-Hurst, then 18. Court records show Bickham-Hurst has agreed to plead guilty to three burglary charges.

Two other men were arrested last month. Eighteen-year-old Nehemiah Merriweather was charged with felony murder and two counts of burglary and 17-year-old Devon Seats was charged with murder, felony murder and two counts of burglary.

The 61-year-old Rodgers was the program director emeritus of the emergency medicine residency at the Indiana University School of Medicine.



Nevada high court says execution doctor's name stays secret
Legal News | 2018/09/11 19:14
The name of the physician picked to attend a state inmate's execution can remain secret, even from drug makers suing to ban the use of their products in the twice-postponed lethal injection, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a twist, lawyers for three pharmaceutical companies who won the right to obtain the name last week — and had promised to sue the doctor once they got it — told a judge in Las Vegas that they welcomed Monday's high court order.

Attorney Todd Bice, representing drug firm Alvogen, told Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez the high court decision to protect the doctor's identity, coupled with a recent sworn statement from Nevada prisons chief James Dzurenda, bolsters companies' arguments that their business would be hurt if their drugs are used.

"We aren't going to get into the identity of the doctor. We do intend to argue strongly that having your name associated with capital punishment is harmful to reputations," Bice said. "The director testified that it would be ruinous of the doctor's reputation."

Gonzalez had ruled last week that drug companies could learn the name, but it would not be disclosed to the public.


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