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Belgian court pushes back extradition hearing for 5 Catalans
Labor & Employment | 2017/11/23 05:20
A court in Belgium on Friday pushed back the extradition arguments of ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four allies until at least Dec. 4, likely keeping the secessionist rebels in Belgium right through Catalonia's regional election campaign.

The court hearing in Brussels for the five Catalans is the latest step in their flight from Spain to Brussels and their refusal to return to face rebellion and sedition charges that could land them in jail for 25 years.

Before the court session, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium discussed their bilateral relations, which have been strained over the case of the Catalan officials who are wanted on a Spanish arrest warrant.

Puigdemont lawyer Paul Bekaert said after the first court session Friday that "we will argue the case on Dec. 4." Whatever decision is made at that stage, two appeals will be possible and a final ruling could well only come only after the Dec. 21 election day in Catalonia.

Bekaert said even though the prosecutor asked for the execution of the extradition request from Spain for the five, the defense lawyers could still give written arguments until early next month.


The Latest: Senate panel approves tax overhaul bill
Law & Politics | 2017/11/22 05:20
Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."

Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."


Steve Mostyn, Houston attorney and major Dem donor, dies
Court Alerts | 2017/11/19 05:21
Steve Mostyn, a prominent Houston trial attorney and a top Democratic Party donor, has died. He was 46.

In a statement, his family confirmed Thursday his death on Wednesday "after a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue."

"Steve was a beloved husband and devoted father who adored his children and never missed any of their sporting events," the statement reads. "He was a true friend, and a faithful fighter for those who did not have a voice."

"Steve touched countless lives. Many friends and colleagues in Texas and throughout the country have reached out during this painful time. Our family is requesting privacy . . . The details of a celebration of Steve's life will be announced at a later date."

"In honor of Steve's life and legacy,  please consider supporting the important work of the Mostyn Moreno Foundation or the Special Olympics of Texas. If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide, or experiencing a health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now."

Born John Steven Mostyn  in Whitehouse, a small town in East Texas, just southeast of Tyler, Mostyn graduated from the South Texas College of Law in 1996 and joined a Houston firm. Soon, he went on his own to create what he called "a uniquely different Texas law firm" -- Mostyn Law -- that focused on corporate negligence and wrongdoing.


Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Law & Politics | 2017/11/16 20:46
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.


German Court: Kuwait Airways Can Refuse Israeli Passengers
Court Alerts | 2017/11/16 20:45
A German court ruled Thursday that Kuwait's national airline didn't have to transport an Israeli citizen because the carrier would face legal repercussions at home if it did.

The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of the Middle Eastern country's boycott of Israel.

The court said it didn't evaluate whether "this law make sense," but that the airline risked repercussions that were "not reasonable" for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.

An Israeli citizen, who was identified in court papers as Adar M., a student living in Germany, sued Kuwait Airways after it canceled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City.

The cancellation came a few days before M.'s scheduled departure in August 2016 when he revealed he had an Israeli passport. The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier.

The man refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.

The court rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, calling it "unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany."

Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker expressed a similar view. "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt," Becker said.

Courts in the United States and Switzerland previously have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in comparable cases, the German news agency dpa reported.


Court gives go-ahead for minimum alcohol price in Scotland
Law & Politics | 2017/11/15 04:46
Britain's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland — a watershed moment for public health advocates alarmed at the level of abuse.

The court on Wednesday rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the policy of setting a floor price per unit of alcohol. Health advocates argue that the increasing affordability of alcohol is leading to an increase in consumption.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that she was "absolutely delighted" by the decision that she says will prove to be a "bold and necessary move to improve public health."

During the 1980s alcohol deaths in Scotland had been relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, but in 2006 drink-related deaths peaked at 1,546.


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