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Dayton appoints Democratic Rep. Thissen to Supreme Court
Attorney News | 2018/04/14 17:03
Gov. Mark Dayton appointed longtime Democratic state Rep. Paul Thissen to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, the latest in a long line of partisans to join the state's highest court.

Thissen is an attorney and Minneapolis lawmaker who has served eight terms in the House — including one as House Speaker and two as its Minority Leader — and had eyes on the governor's office until he suspended his campaign in February. He'll resign from his House seat on Friday and join the court soon after.

He replaces Justice David Stras, who was nominated by Donald Trump to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and recently confirmed. Thissen's addition means Dayton has picked five of the seven members on the state's highest court, and while the court has not been openly partisan, it's a mark that will long outlast the Democratic governor's tenure ending early next year.

The other two members were appointed by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

"Judicial appointments are one of, if not the most, important appointments I make," Dayton said, noting he had emphasized increasing the diversity throughout state courts during his time in office.

Thissen was one of four finalists on the shortlist to replace Stras that also included Lucinda Jesson, Dayton's former commissioner at the Department of Human Services who he appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2016. Minnesota Tax Court Chief Judge Bradford Delapena and District Court Judge Jeffrey Bryan were also in the running.

Dayton and others said Thissen's blend of legal work and political experience made him the perfect choice for the Supreme Court.

"Under the intense pressures of end of session deal-making, he always stood firm on his own principled convictions and to the high standards of proper Minnesota governance," Dayton said.

Neither Dayton nor his predecessors have shied away from party allies when filling seats on the state's highest court. Dayton appointed longtime Democratic attorney David Lillheaug to the court in 2013. Lillehaug helped Dayton during his 2010 recount victory and also worked on former Sen. Al Franken's 2008 recount and other Democratic elections. Pawlenty named both his campaign attorney Christopher Dietzen and Minnesota Republican Party attorney Barry Anderson to the Supreme Court.


Supreme Court hearing case about online sales tax collection
Lawyer Media News | 2018/04/13 17:03
involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses' collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn't have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don't.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they're losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they're shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court's physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.


Supreme Court again refuses to hear Blagojevich appeal
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/12 17:01
The Supreme Court for the second time has refused to hear an appeal by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his corruption convictions.

The justices didn't comment Monday in letting stand the convictions and 14-year prison term the 61-year-old is serving. His scheduled release date is 2024.

Blagojevich's lawyers had wanted the high court to take up his case to make clear what constitutes illegal political fundraising. They argued that politicians are vulnerable to prosecution because the line between what's allowed and what's illegal is blurry.

His convictions included trying to extort a children's hospital for contributions and seeking to trade an appointment to the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he was elected president for campaign cash.

The court also refused to hear his 2016 appeal.


Question of sales tax on online purchases goes to high court
Legal News | 2018/04/10 17:01
Online shoppers have gotten used to seeing that line on checkout screens before they click "purchase." But a case before the Supreme Court could change that.

At issue is a rule stemming from two, decades-old Supreme Court cases: If a business is shipping to a state where it doesn't have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn't have to collect the state's sales tax.

That means large retailers such as Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from customers who buy from them online. But other online sellers, from 1-800 Contacts to home goods site Wayfair, can often sidestep charging the tax.

More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider that rule in a case being argued Tuesday. They say they're losing out on "billions of dollars in tax revenue each year, requiring cuts to critical government programs" and that their losses compound as online shopping grows. But small businesses that sell online say the complexity and expense of collecting taxes nationwide could drive them out of business.

Large retailers want all businesses to "be playing by the same set of rules," said Deborah White, the president of the litigation arm of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 of America's largest retailers.

For years, the issue of whether out-of-state sellers should collect sales tax had to do mostly with one company: Amazon.com. The online giant is said to account for more than 40 percent of U.S. online retail sales. But as Amazon has grown, dotting the country with warehouses, it has had to charge sales tax in more and more places.

President Donald Trump has slammed the company, accusing it of paying "little or no taxes" to state and local governments. But since 2017, Amazon has been collecting sales tax in every state that charges it. Third-party sellers that use Amazon to sell products make their own tax collection decisions, however.

The case now before the Supreme Court could affect those third-party Amazon sellers and many other sellers that don't collect taxes in all states — sellers such as jewelry website Blue Nile, pet products site Chewy.com, clothing retailer L.L. Bean, electronics retailer Newegg and internet retailer Overstock.com. Sellers on eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also don't collect sales tax nationwide.

States generally require consumers who weren't charged sales tax on a purchase to pay it themselves, often through self-reporting on their income tax returns. But states have found that only about 1 percent to 2 percent actually pay.


Court clerk: Despite memo, staff not required to campaign
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/09 23:24
The clerk of court in one North Carolina county says she never meant to require any of her employees to work for her re-election even though that's what a leaked memo said.

After the memo was published, Surry County Clerk of Court Teresa O'Dell told the Mount Airy News that she doesn't require staff to work for her campaign. She acknowledged that the memo "seemed to indicate otherwise" and sent a follow-up note.

A memo distributed March 27th said employees would be required to campaign for her, including taking vacation time so they weren't doing political work while on the clock.

She also told staffers that she wouldn't be in the office before the primary.

O'Dell is facing a challenge from Neil Brendle in the May 8 Republican primary.


Michigan Democrats back Nessel for state attorney general
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/07 17:00
Thousands of fired-up Michigan Democrats endorsed Dana Nessel on Sunday in a hotly contested race for state attorney general, backing the former prosecutor-turned-civil rights lawyer to wrest back control of an office the party last held 16 years ago.

If elected in November, Nessel — who helped mount a successful legal challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban — would be Michigan's first openly gay statewide officeholder. She defeated Pat Miles, the former U.S. attorney for western Michigan in the Obama administration, in a fight that drew a record number of delegates to Detroit.

"I want to bring empathy back to the office of Michigan attorney general," Nessel said after her victory inside a packed convention hall in the Cobo Center, where she became the rare candidate to win a convention fight despite not being supported by the influential United Auto Workers union and Michigan AFL-CIO, which had backed Miles. "With the help of not just Democrats in the state but independents and yes, even Republicans, I think we can do that and I look forward to being able to try."

The 48-year-old Nessel, who was a Wayne County assistant prosecutor for 11 years, co-owns a small Detroit law firm that among other things focuses on criminal defense, family law and adoptions for same-sex couples. Barring a surprise, she will be officially nominated at Democrats' next convention in August and face a Republican nominee — either state House Speaker Tom Leonard or state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — in the November election. GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette cannot run again due to term limits and is instead vying for governor.

Nessel's win sets the stage for a female-dominated Democratic statewide ticket if favorite Gretchen Whitmer wins the gubernatorial primary election in August. Democrats, who flooded the convention despite icy, rainy weather, also endorsed Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state in an uncontested race, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is running for re-election to a fourth term.



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