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North Carolina's altered legislative districts back in court
Court Watch | 2018/01/02 22:53
North Carolina legislative districts are back in court again as federal judges must decide whether to accept proposed alterations by their appointed third-party expert.

A three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired redrew boundaries the way he did. House and Senate districts drawn by Republican legislators have been in courts since 2011.

The same judicial panel previously struck down 28 districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, ultimately leading GOP legislators last summer to retool their maps. But the judges said there seemed to be lingering problems with race and constitutional violations and brought in a special master.

GOP lawyers already have said they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the judicial panel approves the professor's proposal.



Democratic judge announces bid for Ohio Supreme Court seat
Law Firm News | 2017/12/29 22:53
A Democratic judge has announced his candidacy for a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. Michael Donnelly currently serves on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland. He said Thursday he's running for the high court this year.

There are two November races for seats on the seven-person court. One is for an open seat being vacated by the retirement of Republican Justice Terrence O'Donnell. The second is for a seat being vacated this month by Democratic Justice William O'Neill, who is running for governor.

Gov. John Kasich is expected to appoint a fellow Republican to fill O'Neill's seat, and that person will then choose whether to run for the full six-year term.


Court calls on jailer to resign; cites poor conditions
Legal Interview | 2017/12/26 22:52
A court in Kentucky has called for a county jailer to resign, citing several recent incidents at the jail that include what the court viewed as substandard living conditions, along with multiple escapes and overdoses.

Judge-Executive Steve Towler and county commissioners approved a resolution requesting that Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett step down, the Independent reported Wednesday. Burchett was not present at the meeting. He is an elected official, so he can't be fired.

"The jailer shall have the custody, rule and charge of the jail in his county and must keep the jail comfortably warm, clean and free from nauseous odors," the resolution states. "There have been numerous incidents over the past several months evidencing the current Boyd County jailer's failure to adhere" to those requirements.

The incidents have created a threat to personal safety and security for county residents, Towler said.

Commissioner John Greer said he hoped that Burchett would "see the light and retire," but he noted that it is "totally his decision."

Four maximum-security prisoners escaped from the jail on Dec. 28. Two of the four inmates have been captured.

Last month, Boyd Commonwealth's Attorney Rhonda Copley announced the existence of an investigation into possible malfeasance by Burchett. Malfeasance is a misdemeanor charge. Under state law, if any elected county official is convicted of the charge, that person's office would be declared vacant.


Court extends halt in Louisiana executions after judge dies
Court Watch | 2017/12/22 22:53
A court order blocking Louisiana from carrying out any executions has been extended indefinitely after the death of the federal judge who issued it.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has kept death sentences on hold since 2014. U.S. District Judge James Brady, who died Dec. 9 after a brief illness, oversaw the lawsuit and agreed to order the temporary stay of all executions.

Brady's order was due to expire next Monday, but U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed Thursday to extend it until another judge is assigned to the lawsuit.

Louisiana has 72 inmates on death row, according to state corrections department spokesman Ken Pastorick. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when it carried out a death sentence for Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Drug shortages have forced the corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the state's current execution protocols, its primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a two-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam.

The most recent order that Brady issued to halt executions — at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry — is limited to death row inmates who are plaintiffs in the litigation. But others can join the lawsuit if an execution date is set by the courts.



Western powers warn Kosovo on changing war crimes court law
Headline News | 2017/12/19 22:52
Five western nations have warned Kosovo against repealing or amending a law on a war crimes court, saying it would suffer negative consequences "in international and Euro-Atlantic integration."

A statement Thursday from the nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy — said they were "deeply concerned by ongoing efforts to undermine the work of the Specialist Chambers." It called on Kosovo politicians and lawmakers "to abandon any thought of repealing or re-negotiating any aspect of the law ... (because that) calls into question Kosovo's commitment to the rule of law."

In December, a group of Kosovo lawmakers tried to amend the law, seeking to extend its jurisdiction over Serbs, their former adversaries in the 1998-1999 war for independence. The court now has jurisdiction only over potential war crimes suspects who were Kosovo citizens.

"(This move) puts the interests of certain individuals above the interests of Kosovo society. We condemn such a move," the nations said.

Kosovo detached from Yugoslavia following a three-month NATO air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. It then declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, a move recognized by 114 states but not by Serbia.

The court law was passed in 2015 as a result of U.S. and European pressure on Kosovo's government to confront alleged war crimes that the Kosovo Liberation Army committed against ethnic Serbs.


State high court won't hear Mateen Cleaves sex assault case
Court Watch | 2017/12/18 22:51
The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to review a judge's decision to reinstate sexual assault charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves.

The state's high court on Wednesday joined three Michigan Court of Appeals judges, who in August denied Cleaves' request. Earlier, Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman reinstated the case against Cleaves, who faces charges including unlawful imprisonment and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The case is expected to return to county court for trial. Cleaves is accused of assaulting a woman after a charity golf event and a visit to a Flint-area bar in 2015.

Defense attorney Frank Manley says he remains "confident" Cleaves will be "vindicated."

Cleaves, a Flint native, led Michigan State to the NCAA basketball championship in 2000 and played for four NBA teams.



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