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North Carolina Court to Rule on Law on Gov's Elections Role
Court Alerts | 2017/07/21 06:16
North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.





Idaho Supreme Court upholds grocery tax veto
Court Alerts | 2017/07/20 13:16
The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's contentious veto of legislation repealing the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The high court's decision comes after 30 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit claiming Otter took too long to veto the grocery tax repeal because he waited longer than 10 days as outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

Otter, along with other top elected officials, countered he was just following a 1978 high court ruling that said the veto deadline only kicks after it lands on his desk. The lawsuit originally singled out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney because he verified the governor's veto. Otter was later named in the challenge at the Republican governor's request because he argued that it was his veto that sparked the lawsuit.

However, the justices disagreed with Otter. Nestled inside their 21-page ruling, the court overruled the previous 1978 decision — a rare move inside the courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent— because they argued the Constitution clearly states the deadline starts when the Legislature adjourns for the year. That part of the Tuesday's decision will only apply to future legislative sessions and not the grocery tax repeal case nor any other prior vetoes.

"The 1978 decision did not interpret the Constitution; it purported to rewrite an unambiguous phrase in order to obtain a desired result," the justices wrote.

Otter's spokesman did not respond to request for comment, though Otter is currently hospitalized recovering from back surgery and an infection. Denney's office also did not return request for comment.

For many Idahoans, Tuesday's ruling won't result in changes at the grocery checkout line. They will continue paying the tax and the state won't be at risk of losing the tax revenue, which helps pay for public schools and transportation projects. Instead, it's the Idaho Legislature that will face dramatic changes when handling bills at the end of each session.


Pakistan's opposition calls on court to oust prime minister
Court Alerts | 2017/07/16 13:15
Opposition parties in Pakistan on Monday called on the Supreme Court to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after an investigation found that he and his family possess wealth exceeding their known sources of income.

The investigation is linked to the mass leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm in 2016, which revealed that Sharif and his family have offshore accounts.

Naeem Bukhari, a lawyer for opposition leader Imran Khan, submitted the request to the court. The court has the constitutional power to disqualify someone from serving as prime minister, and is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

The Sharifs have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorney, Khawaja Haris, argued Monday that the probe was flawed. The court will resume hearing the case Tuesday.


Man charged with killing Maine couple on Christmas in court
Court Alerts | 2017/07/13 17:22
The case of a New York man charged with killing a Maine couple on Christmas Day 2015 is scheduled to return to court in Portland.

Police charged David Marble Jr. of Rochester with shooting 35-year-old Eric Williams and 26-year-old Bonnie Royer in Manchester. His case is scheduled for a court conference on Thursday.

A judge granted a request from Marble's attorney in April to move the trial from Kennebec County to Cumberland County due to the publicity the case has received.

A court spokeswoman says the trial has not yet been scheduled. Marble's attorney made the case that finding an impartial jury in Kennebec County would be difficult. Marble has pleaded not guilty to the charges.


First Opioid Court in the U.S. Focuses on Keeping Users Alive
Court Alerts | 2017/07/09 23:40
After three defendants fatally overdosed in a single week last year, it became clear that Buffalo's ordinary drug treatment court was no match for the heroin and painkiller crisis.

Now the city is experimenting with the nation's first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days, requires them to check in with a judge every day for a month instead of once a week, and puts them on strict curfews. Administering justice takes a back seat to the overarching goal of simply keeping defendants alive.

"The idea behind it," said court project director Jeffrey Smith, "is only about how many people are still breathing each day when we're finished."

Funded with a three-year $300,000 U.S. Justice Department grant, the program began May 1 with the intent of treating 200 people in a year and providing a model that other heroin-wracked cities can replicate.

Two months in, organizers are optimistic. As of late last week, none of the 80 people who agreed to the program had overdosed, though about 10 warrants had been issued for missed appearances.

Buffalo-area health officials blamed 300 deaths on opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 127 two years earlier. That includes a young couple who did not make it to their second drug court appearance last spring. The woman's father arrived instead to tell the judge his daughter and her boyfriend had died the night before.

"We have an epidemic on our hands. ... We've got to start thinking outside the box here," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. "And if that means coddling an individual who has a minor offense, who is not a career criminal, who's got a serious drug problem, then I'm guilty of coddling."

Regular drug treatment courts that emerged in response to crack cocaine in the 1980s take people in after they've been arraigned and in some cases released. The toll of opioids and profile of their users, some of them hooked by legitimate prescriptions, called for more drastic measures.

Acceptance into opioid crisis court means detox, inpatient or outpatient care, 8 p.m. curfews, and at least 30 consecutive days of in-person meetings with the judge. A typical drug treatment court might require such appearances once a week or even once a month.




Court: Detained immigrant children entitled to court hearing
Court Alerts | 2017/07/07 23:41
Immigrant children who cross the border without their parents have the right to a court hearing to challenge any decision to detain them instead of turning them over to family in the U.S., a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said two laws passed by Congress did not end the right to a bond hearing for unaccompanied immigrant children who are detained by federal authorities.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing gang and drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have entered the U.S. in recent years.

Federal officials place the vast majority of them with family in the U.S., who care for the minors while they attend school and while their cases go through the immigration court system.

But the Department of Human Services has the authority to hold children in secure facilities if they pose a danger to themselves or others or have committed a crime. Some have spent months in detention.

Immigration advocates estimate the size of the group in secure custody at several hundred children and say bond hearings allow them to understand why they are being held and challenge their detention.

"If you don't give kids transparency and a clear finite date when their detention will end you see all kinds of psychological effects," said Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis.

Cooper represented plaintiffs in the legal fight over the bond hearings. The 9th Circuit ruling cited a declaration from one teenager who was held for 16 months, mostly at a juvenile detention center in Northern California. The teen, referred to only by his first name, Hector, said federal officials provided no explanation for his continued detention, and he received no hearing before an immigration judge. He was eventually released to his mother.

The Obama administration argued that two laws — one approved in 2002 and the other in 2008 — did away with the bond hearing requirement in a 1997 court settlement by giving the human services department all authority over custody and placement decisions for unaccompanied children.

The Department of Justice said in a 2016 court filing that immigration judges "are not experts in child-welfare issues and possess significantly less expertise in determining what is in the best interest of the child" than human services officials.


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