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Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades
Criminal Law | 2017/11/11 04:47
President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America's federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation's diversity.

So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump's most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.


Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays
Criminal Law | 2017/11/11 04:47
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.


Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Criminal Law | 2017/11/08 04:47
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.



Telescope permit decision appealed to Hawaii Supreme Court
Criminal Law | 2017/11/03 16:23
Opponents of a giant telescope planned for a Hawaii mountain are appealing the state land board's approval of the project's construction permit.

Richard Wurdeman, an attorney representing some of the opponents, filed a notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The board in September approved a construction permit for Thirty Meter Telescope. Opponents of the $1.4 billion project say it will desecrate land sacred to Native Hawaiians while supporters say it will provide educational and economic opportunities.

The opponents appealed directly to the state Supreme Court because of a law that allows certain contested-case hearing decisions to bypass the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders fighting the telescope, says other participants opposing the project are expected to also file appeals this week.



Ohio court won't hear case in seizure of exotic animals
Criminal Law | 2017/10/26 23:49
Another court has dealt a blow to an Ohio man who is trying to get his six tigers and several other exotic animals back from the state.

The Ohio Supreme Court earlier this month said it would not hear an appeal in the case involving the owner of a roadside animal sanctuary near Toledo.

Ohio took custody of 11 animals from Kenny Hetrick in January 2015 after officials say he ignored warnings that he needed a permit.

Hetrick argues he was treated differently than other exotic animal owners and has asked the courts to force the state to give him a permit and return the animals.

The tigers, bear, leopard and cougar are now being kept in out-of-state sanctuaries during the state's appeal.


Tennessee church shooting suspect due in court Monday
Criminal Law | 2017/10/23 23:49
The man accused of fatally shooting one person and wounding six others at a Tennessee church is slated for a court appearance.

A preliminary hearing for 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson is scheduled for Monday morning in front of a Davidson County general sessions judge.

Samson is charged with murder in the Sept. 24 slaying of a woman at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville. Additional charges are expected. He's being held without bond.

An arrest affidavit says Samson waived his rights and told police he arrived armed and fired at Burnette. Police haven't determined a motive.


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