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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.


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.



Indian court grants bail to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/06 23:25
A court on Saturday granted bail to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, who will be allowed to remain free while he appeals his conviction on charges of poaching rare deer in a wildlife preserve two decades ago.

Khan was convicted Thursday and sentenced to five years in prison and was immediately sent to jail. On Saturday, Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi ordered him to sign a surety bond of 50,000 rupees ($770) before he could be set free from the jail in Jodhpur, a town in western India.

After he was released, he was driven straight to the airport to fly to his home in Mumbai, India's entertainment capital.

Hundreds of Khan's overjoyed fans danced outside the courtroom and chanted "We love you, Salman." His sisters, Alvira and Arpita, were present during the hearing.

Carrying big garlanded posters of Khan, they also set off firecrackers and sang songs from his Bollywood movies as some of them chased his car heading to the airport.

The scenes were more intense outside his Mumbai residence. Thousands of fans waited for hours and lit up the sky with fireworks as Khan reached his home.

Flanked by his father and other relatives, he came to the balcony of his apartment with folded hands and waved, thanking them for their support. He retreated after signalling his fans to go home.

Four other Bollywood stars accused in the case - Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam - were acquitted Thursday by Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri. They were in the vehicle that Salman Khan was believed to be driving during the hunt in 1998. Tabu and Neelam both use just one name.

Khan says he did not shoot the two blackbuck deer. The heavily muscled actor was acquitted in two related cases.

His attorney Mahesh Bora has challenged the conviction and sentence, and Khan will remain free pending the outcome of the appeal.



Brazil's top court: Lula can be jailed for upheld conviction
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/03 21:25
A sharply divided top court voted early Thursday to reject an attempt by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva to stay out of jail while he appeals a corruption conviction, delivering a hard blow to the front-running candidate in this year's presidential election in Latin America's largest nation.

After nearly 11 hours of often heated debate, the Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 6-5 to deny da Silva's request to stave off a 12-year prison sentence while he fights a conviction that he has always argued was nothing more than a ploy to keep him off of the October ballot.

Despite the conviction and several other corruption charges against him, da Silva leads all preference polls for the election.

The decision means that da Silva will likely be jailed soon, though probably not until at least next week thanks to various technicalities.

Chief Justice Carmen Lucia, who was sharply criticized during the session by various colleagues, cast the deciding vote after the court was tied at 5 to 5.

"The constitution secures individual rights, which are fundamental to democracy, but it also assures the exercise of criminal law," she said.

The debate at the Supreme Federal Tribunal underscored how fraught the matter is at a time of high tension and angst in Brazil.

Justice Gilmar Mendes, traditionally a critic of da Silva, voted in favor of da Silva's petition to stay out of jail, challenging his colleagues to buck pressure from society.

"If a court bows (to pressure), it might as well not exist," said Mendes.

Justice Luis Roberto Barroso argued that the integrity of the justice system was at stake.

"A penal system that doesn't work with minimal effectiveness leads to an instinct for taking justice into one's own hands," Barroso said in voting against da Silva.



Cambodian court denies opposition leader release on bail
Headline Legal News | 2018/03/09 22:50
Cambodia's Supreme Court has denied bail for an opposition leader charged with treason who is seeking to be released for medical treatment abroad.

The court ruled Friday that Kem Sokha must remain in pretrial detention for his own safety and because the investigation into his case is ongoing. His Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved last November by a court ruling on a complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Kem Sokha's case is widely regarded as a political setup by the government to cripple its opponents ahead of a general election this July. The party's dissolution was linked to the treason charge against Kem Sokha, for which he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Kem Sokha's lawyers say he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and has fallen sick in prison since being detained last September.

The court said if Kem Sokha is sick, the prison will arrange for a doctor to examine him inside the prison facility.

"If Kem Sokha is not allowed to have medical treatment at a hospital and in case he dies inside the prison, who will take responsibility? Are all of you responsible?" one of Kem Sokha's lawyers, Chea Cheng, asked the court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court this month granted a six-month extension for Kem Sokha's pre-trial detention period after the expiration of the initial six months. He has now been denied bail three times.

Kem Sokha was arrested last September on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from U.S. pro-democracy groups. The opposition party has denied the treason allegation, saying the charge is politically motivated.

In the past several years the opposition party has faced an onslaught of legal challenges from Hun Sen's government with the support of the courts, which are generally seen as favoring his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Court rulings forced Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha's predecessor as opposition leader, to remain in exile to avoid prison and pressured him into resigning from his party. Other top opposition party leaders fled Cambodia after Kem Sokha's jailing and the party's dissolution.



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