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Illinois to require veterans courts across the state in 2018
Headline Legal News | 2017/10/29 18:59
A law passed last year requires every judicial circuit in Illinois to have a veterans treatment court starting Jan. 1.

The courts allow veterans who were honorably discharged to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a probation sentence, The Chicago Tribune reported. The sentence requires frequent court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Veterans can also apply to have their records expunged upon completing the sentence. Those who use the courts typically face lower level felonies.

Supporters say the program will help those who risked their lives for their country.

Army veteran Gregory Parker enrolled in the Lake County Veterans Treatment and Assistance Court after his fourth drunken driving arrest resulted in a felony reckless driving charge. Parker graduated from the program in about 18 months. He's quit drinking and continues to go to therapy.

"I finally find myself enjoying things in life I've never enjoyed before," he said.

But some wonder if every community has the resources or the need for a court dedicated to veterans.

Some rural communities may only have a few veterans moving through the court system, said Michelle Rock, executive director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, which provides support for treatment courts statewide.

"We know that it may not be cost-effective for every county in the state to have one," she said.

Before the new law, Kane County officials weighed the need for a veterans court with the availability of resources and decided against offering the court, said Court Administrator Doug Naughton.

The overall court system should be improved, instead of offering one group more options, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois.



Washington Supreme Court to hear education funding case
Headline Legal News | 2017/10/23 12:34
The Washington state Supreme Court is set to hear argument on whether the state has met its constitutional requirement to fully fund K-12 education.

Tuesday morning's hearing is on whether the state should still be held in contempt for lack of progress on satisfying a 2012 ruling that found that school funding was not adequate. Lawmakers needed a funded plan in place this year ahead of a Sept. 1, 2018 deadline the court had set.

The plan approved and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year relies largely on an increase to the statewide property tax that starts next year. The tax increases from $1.89 to $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value, with the increase earmarked for education. The plan — which keeps in place local property tax levies but caps them beginning in 2019 at a lower level— will ultimately raise property taxes for some districts and lower them in others.


Australia's High Court to consider fate of 7 lawmakers
Headline Legal News | 2017/10/23 09:06
Australia's prime minister said Monday that he was confident that government lawmakers would win a court challenge this week that threatens his administration's slender majority.

Seven High Court judges will decide whether seven lawmakers should be disqualified from Parliament because of a constitutional ban on dual citizens being elected. The three-day hearing begins Tuesday.

The fate of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is most crucial to the government in an unprecedented political crisis.

If the court rules that he was illegally elected in July last year due to New Zealand citizenship he unknowingly inherited from his father, the ruling conservative coalition could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, where governments are formed.

Joyce could stand in a by-election, having renounced his Kiwi citizenship. But with the government unpopular in opinion polls, voters in his rural electoral division could take the opportunity to throw both the deputy prime minister and his administration out of office.

Two of the six senators under a cloud are government ministers. Fiona Nash inherited British citizenship from her father and Matt Canavan became an Italian through an Australian-born mother with Italian parents. Disqualified senators can be replaced by members of the same party without need for an election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given no indication of what his government would do if the court rules against any of the three ministers.



Pakistan ex-PM criticizes judiciary for his disqualification
Headline Legal News | 2017/10/01 09:03
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday criticized the country's judiciary for rejecting his appeal over his disqualification from office and vowed again to fight a legal battle to clear his name.

In July, the Supreme Court barred him from office for concealing financial assets. Sharif has since been replaced by a member of his ruling party but has vowed to fight and prove he never indulged in corruption. Earlier this month, the top court rejected Sharif's request for a review of its July 28 ruling.

Tuesday's remarks by Sharif came just after he made his first appearance before an anti-corruption court to face corruption charges earlier in the day. He has returned home from London, where he travelled to see his ailing wife who is undergoing medical treatment in Britain.

"I know for what reasons I am being punished," Sharif told a news conference, without elaborating.

Sharif is likely to be indicted on Oct. 2 in connection with three corruption cases that were filed against him by the country's anti-corruption body earlier this month. Sharif resigned after the Supreme Court disqualified him, but afterward said he was being punished over a trivial charge.

As he appeared before the corruption court earlier on Tuesday, a group of Sharif's followers gathered outside the court and later some chanted slogans in his support inside the courtroom.



Abortion clinic seeks to sue Ohio over budget restrictions
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/29 09:02
A Cleveland abortion clinic asked Ohio's high court on Tuesday to grant it legal standing to sue over abortion-related restrictions tucked into the state's 2013 budget bill.

Preterm of Cleveland argued that the provisions impose added administrative and caseload burdens that clearly qualify the clinic to proceed with its constitutional challenge to the manner in which the bill was put together.

The clinic's attorney, B. Jessie Hill, told justices significant new hurdles are not required to meet the legal burden for standing.

"We have to do something we didn't have to do before: We have to enter into a new contract every two years," she said. "That's all we need to demonstrate."

The clinic disputes budget provisions that required more frequent renewal of a clinic's emergency transfer agreement with a local hospital after prohibiting public hospitals from participating and required testing for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion can be performed.

The state's attorney, Ryan Richardson, argued the clinic has not demonstrated true or threatened harm and so can't legally sue.

"As this court has said, really the essence of standing is having a plaintiff that has a direct and concrete stake in the issues, so that the plaintiff is able to properly sharpen the issues for the court's resolution," she said. "Bringing a plaintiff who is not directly affected impacts the ability to properly present the facts and legal issues that the court needs to properly adjudicate the case."

The lawsuit comes amid abortion clinic closures across Ohio that have coincided with falling abortion rates.


Court asked to dismiss cases tied to ex-drug lab chemist
Headline Legal News | 2017/09/22 03:05
A petition is asking the highest court in Massachusetts to dismiss every case connected to a former state chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she went to work at a state drug lab for eight years.

The state's public defender agency is a party to the petition filed Wednesday before the Supreme Judicial Court by two women whose drug possession convictions are tied to evidence handled by chemist Sonja Farak.

Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the state crime lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked at the lab between 2005 and 2013.

The women say the state failed to notify them of Farak's misconduct even after her conviction, depriving them of the opportunity to challenge their convictions.


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