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Kenya court set to hear petitions challenging repeat vote
Law Firm News | 2017/11/13 04:46
Kenya's Supreme Court is poised to hear petitions challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election in a repeat presidential poll.

The court made history when it nullified Kenyatta's re-election in August. It cited irregularities and illegalities in the vote count and the electoral commission's failure to allow scrutiny of its servers to dispel opposition leader Raila Odinga's claim of fraud. It then ordered a new vote.

There are concerns about intimidation after the court failed to find a quorum to consider a petition seeking to postpone the repeat presidential election on Oct. 26, a day after a bodyguard of one of the judges was shot.

Politician Harun Mwau and activists Njonjo Mue and Khelef Khalifa seek to nullify the Oct. 26 election, which Odinga boycotted citing lack of electoral reforms.



Supreme Court's Kagan says Scalia death forced compromises
Law Firm News | 2017/09/06 05:47
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death forced the rest of the court to learn how to work together to avoid ties, Justice Elena Kagan said during a stop Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kagan spoke for about an hour with UW Law School Dean Margaret Raymond as scores of law students, attorneys and judges listened. Raymond asked Kagan what role the high court can play in mending a politically polarized country and improving civil discourse.

Kagan acknowledged that many people see the court as mirroring the nation's political differences and the court ultimately must decide cases, not provide an example for how other governmental institutions should function. But she said Scalia's death in 2016 forced the remaining eight justices to work together more closely.

Justice Neil Gorsuch replaced Scalia earlier this year, but before he joined the court the justices worked hard to avoid 4-4 ties out of fear they'd been seen as incapable of doing their jobs, Kagan said.

"None of us wanted that to happen," she said. "It forced us to keep talking to each other. ... I'm actually hopeful that the effects of it will continue. All of us will remember not to stop the conversation too soon and all of us will remember the value of trying to find a place where we can agree or more of us can agree."

She didn't offer any specific examples of compromises on any cases. Raymond didn't ask Kagan about any cases pending before the court and Kagan didn't offer any comments about any specific issues.

She did joke that she was glad she wasn't the court's junior justice anymore now that Gorsuch is on board. She said the junior justice has to open the door during the justices' conference and deliver any coffee or files other justices have requested from their clerks. Earlier this year she had injured her foot and was in a walking boot but her colleagues still made her get up and open the door.


Challenge filed in court to Australian gay marriage ballot
Law Firm News | 2017/08/11 06:57
Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government's unusual plan to canvass Australians' opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable.

The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won't legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say "no," the government won't allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation's ban on same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie and marriage equality advocates Shelley Argent and Felicity Marlowe, applied to the High Court for an injunction that would prevent the so-called postal plebiscite from going ahead.

"We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power," lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge.

"I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It's an important question," Turnbull said.

Gay-rights advocates and many lawmakers want Parliament to legislate marriage equality now without an opinion poll, which they see as an unjustifiable hurdle to reform.

Retired High Court judge Michael Kirby, a gay man who supports marriage equality, dismissed the ballot as "irregular and unscientific polling."

"It's just something we've never done in our constitutional arrangements of Australia, and it really is unacceptable," Kirby told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Kirby would not comment on the legality of the government proceeding with the 122 million Australian dollar ($96 million) ballot without Parliament's approval, but said: "I'm not going to take any part in it whatsoever."

Plebiscites in Australia are referendums that don't deal with questions that change the constitution. Voting at referendums is compulsory to ensure a high voter turnout and that the legally-binding result reflects the wishes of a majority of Australians.



Court to hear challenge to speed up California executions
Law Firm News | 2017/06/06 15:56
The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a ballot initiative designed to speed up executions that could fundamentally change the way the court handles death penalty appeals.

Death penalty opponents are challenging a ballot measure passed by a slim majority of voters in November that aimed to reform a dysfunctional system that hasn't executed a condemned killer in more than a decade.

Foes of capital punishment argue that Proposition 66 was unconstitutional because it would take power away from the state's high court to decide how it handles cases and it would disrupt the court system, cost the state more money and undermine the appeals process.

If allowed to take effect, the measure would require more lawyers to take death penalty appellate cases, some trial court judges would be assigned appeals and all state appeals would have to be completed in five years, which is about a third of the time it typically takes.

With a backlog of 380 death penalty appeals, there's concern judges would be overwhelmed trying to speed through appeals, said Elisabeth Semel, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who consulted for death penalty opponents on the case.

"There's an enormous ripple effect to that," said Semel, who directs the school's death penalty clinic. "The attention the justices can pay to each individual case is significantly diminished. When you're talking about life and death, that's important."

The ballot initiative supported by 51 percent of voters was designed to "mend not end" capital punishment in California, where nearly 750 inmates are on Death Row and only 13 have been executed since 1978.

A competing measure to repeal capital punishment lost by a slightly wider margin. Both sides acknowledged the current system is broken.


Court of Appeals Judge Elmore won't seek re-election
Law Firm News | 2017/05/25 15:59
A North Carolina appeals court judge said Wednesday he won't run again when his seat comes up for re-election next year.

Judge Rick Elmore has served since 2003. The former private practice lawyer from Greensboro was re-elected to a second eight-year term in 2010.

In an interview, Elmore said he'll be satisfied serving two full terms on the state's intermediate-level appeals court when comparing it to the uncertainty of any outcome if he was to run another statewide campaign in 2018. Elmore, 66, also would have been unable to serve another full term due to the state's mandatory retirement age for judges at 72.

Leaving after this term expires "seemed to be a good fit," Elmore said, adding that he wanted to "leave on my own terms."

Elmore said he wanted to make the announcement before state political parties gather this year. Elmore is a registered Republican. A law approved last December makes Court of Appeals races officially partisan elections again, with party primaries.

Elmore said his decision had nothing to do with legislation approved in March by the General Assembly to reduce the number of Court of Appeals judges from 15 to 12 by eliminating positions vacated by resignation or death. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measure, but the veto was overridden.

The appeals court usually meets in panels of three judges. The court is the final arbiter in state court matters except for cases heard by the state Supreme Court.


Turkish protesters denounce alleged coup plotters at court
Law Firm News | 2017/03/18 16:01
Turkish protesters on Monday demanded the death penalty, abolished in Turkey more than a decade ago, for 18 alleged coup plotters on trial for the killing of a military officer who resisted an effort to overthrow the government.

The demonstrators jeered as security forces escorted the defendants into a courthouse in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The crowd also displayed an effigy of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania who is blamed by Turkey for the failed coup attempt on July 15. The effigy had a noose around its neck. Gulen has denied involvement in the uprising.

Turkey abolished the death penalty as a campaign to join the European Union gained momentum, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said since the coup attempt that Turkey could hold a referendum on reinstating it if parliament fails to pass such a measure. European leaders say any talks on Turkey's bid to join the EU, which faltered years ago, would end if Ankara restores the death penalty.

Relations reached a new low this month because of Turkey's anger over the refusal of some European countries to let Turkish Cabinet ministers campaign for diaspora votes ahead of an April 16 constitutional referendum on increasing the powers of the Turkish president. Supporters of the measure say a more centralized leadership would help Turkey deal with security, economic and other challenges; critics say its approval would fit a pattern of increasingly authoritarian behavior by Erdogan.

The suspects who appeared in court in Ankara are accused of involvement in the shooting of Omer Halisdemir, an officer who was killed after he shot dead Semih Terzi, a renegade military commander who allegedly tried to take over the special forces headquarters in the capital during last year's uprising by some military units.

Suspect Ahmet Kara, who was Terzi's military aide, testified last month that he was duped into participating in the rogue operation without understanding that it was an attempt to overthrow the government. The defendants, whose trial began in February, face life imprisonment if convicted of murder and other crimes.



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