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Oklahoma tribe sues oil companies in tribal court over quake
Topics | 2017/03/06 10:45
An Oklahoma-based Native American tribe filed a lawsuit in its own tribal court system Friday accusing several oil companies of triggering the state's largest earthquake that caused extensive damage to some near-century-old tribal buildings.

The Pawnee Nation alleges in the suit that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the 5.8-magnitude quake in September and is seeking physical damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The case will be heard in the tribe's district court with a jury composed of Pawnee Nation members.
"We are a sovereign nation and we have the rule of law here," said Andrew Knife Chief, the Pawnee Nation's executive director. "We're using our tribal laws, our tribal processes to hold these guys accountable."

Attorneys representing the 3,2 00-member tribe in north-central Oklahoma say the lawsuit is the first earthquake-related litigation filed in a tribal court. If an appeal were filed in a jury decision, it could be heard by a five-member tribal Supreme Court, and that decision would be final.

"Usually tribes have their own appellate process, and then, and this surprises a lot of people, there is no appeal from a tribal supreme court," said Lindsay Robertson, a University of Oklahoma law professor who specializes in Federal Indian Law.


California court expands endangered-species removal powers
Topics | 2017/03/01 10:46
The California Supreme Court on Monday said petitioners seeking to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list could present new evidence to argue the listing was wrong.

In a unanimous ruling, the court overturned a lower court decision that said efforts to remove the salmon and other species could only argue that the listing was no longer necessary.

The high court decision came in a lawsuit by Big Creek Lumber Co. and the Central Coast Forest Association, which includes forest landowners. They filed a petition to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list, arguing that the listing was wrong because the fish were not native to the area and were introduced and maintained there artificially using hatcheries.

The fight was over coho salmon in streams south of San Francisco. The Fish and Game Commission listed those salmon as endangered in 1995.

Environmental groups were keeping a close eye on the case to see whether the court would rule on the native species argument. It did not do that and instead sent the case back to the appeals court for that determination.

"We don't accept that they are not native fish just because they are hatchery raised," said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a brief in the case.


Graft conviction keeps south Indian politician out of office
Topics | 2017/02/20 09:03
India's top court on Tuesday upheld the corruption conviction of the head of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu state, ending her chances of becoming the southern state's next chief minister.

The Supreme Court set aside a lower court order that had cleared Sasikala Natarajan of corruption charges.

India's politics are often dominated by outsized personalities and their friends and relatives, creating an environment where corruption is endemic.

Sasikala was the personal assistant to Jayaram Jayalalitha, a former movie star who became Tamil Nadu's top politician, or chief minister. Jayalalitha died in office in December triggering a succession battle within her AIADMK party.

Jayalalitha inspired intense loyalty among her political supporters who called her "Mother." Some of that charisma rubbed off on Sasikala, who was hailed as "Little Mother."

The corruption case, filed in 1996, accused Jayalalitha, Sasikala and two of Sasikala's kin of possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. It was moved to neighboring Karnataka state due to fairness concerns, and the defendants were found guilty in 2014, but nine months later, were acquitted by the Karnataka high court following an appeal. That decision was challenged in the Supreme Court.

Jayalalitha died before the top court could give its decision, but on Tuesday, the judges ordered Sasikala and the two remaining co-defendants to complete their four-year jail terms.

The conviction means Sasikala is barred from contesting an election for six years after completing her jail sentence, thus removing her from the political scene for the next 10 years.


NC court blocks law stripping governor of election powers
Topics | 2017/02/14 00:18
North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.

A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.

"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.

The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.

Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.

Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.

Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.

A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.


Aaron Hernandez expected in court as murder trial nears
Topics | 2017/01/19 17:47
Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez is expected in a Boston courtroom for a pretrial hearing in his upcoming double murder trial.

Hernandez is accused of killing two men he encountered at a Boston nightclub in 2012. Prosecutors say the former New England Patriots tight end followed the men and opened fire on their car at a stop light after one of them accidentally bumped into Hernandez and spilled his drink.

Hernandez is due in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday, when a judge is expected to hear arguments on defense motions. Hernandez's trial is scheduled to begin next month.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty. He's already serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.


Ohio brother slaying case might return to juvenile court
Topics | 2017/01/11 13:42
An Ohio teenager accused of killing his 14-year-old brother after an argument over Halloween candy will have a hearing Feb. 9 to determine whether his case is handled in juvenile court or the adult court system.

The 16-year-old Springfield boy was charged with aggravated murder and pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in Clark County Common Pleas Court.

The Springfield News-Sun reports the case is returning to juvenile court for a hearing because of a recent Ohio Supreme Court case. In that ruling, justices said automatically transferring certain juvenile cases to adult courts is unconstitutional.

Authorities allege the Springfield teen beat his brother with a baseball bat, then stabbed him. Their grandmother found the younger teen dead in bed on Oct. 31.


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