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Arkansas judge blocks state from issuing birth certificates
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/02 10:13
An Arkansas judge on Friday blocked the state from issuing any birth certificates until officials are able to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state's birth certificate law illegally favors heterosexual parents.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Friday set aside his orders requiring the state and three same-sex couples go into mediation on how to fix the state law to comply with the U.S. high court's order. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge earlier this week asked the state Supreme Court to stay or lift Fox's mediation order.

"This case has been pending for over two years and it has been more than six months since the United States Supreme Court ruled the Arkansas statutory scheme unconstitutional," Fox wrote in his order. "There are citizens and residents of the state of Arkansas whose constitutional rights are being violated on a daily basis."

Fox last month had threatened to halt the issuance of birth certificates if both sides couldn't find language by Jan. 5 to be stricken from the law. Rutledge told the court this week that both sides had agreed on an order on how to comply with the high court ruling, but Fox rejected it. A spokeswoman for Rutledge said the AG's office was reviewing Fox's order and did not have an immediate comment.

In his order, Fox said he was hopeful Gov. Asa Hutchinson would have the authority to fix the birth certificate law through executive action. If the state is unable to fix the law, Fox said, the injunction would be in effect until lawmakers could address the issue. Lawmakers are not scheduled to convene again until February for a session focused on the budget. Hutchinson could call a special session.


Liberia court says presidential runoff vote can go ahead
Headline Legal News | 2017/12/01 10:14
Liberia's supreme court has cleared the way for the presidential runoff election to go forward, saying there was not enough evidence to support allegations of fraud.

The second-round vote between soccer star George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai had been put on hold after the Liberty Party alleged first-round voting irregularities.

But the court said Thursday those violations were not sufficient to overturn the vote's outcome.

No date has been set for the runoff vote. The National Elections Commission has been ordered to clean up its voter roll.

The Liberty Party's candidate was not among the top two finishers in the first round held Oct. 10.

Voters are choosing a replacement for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades
Headline Legal News | 2017/11/13 16:08
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.



Moscow court seizes property of prominent director
Headline Legal News | 2017/11/03 16:07
A Moscow court has seized the property of a prominent theater and film director who is being investigated for fraud.

Kirill Serebrennikov, arguably Russia's best known director, was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that sent shockwaves across Russia's art community and raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship. Investigators accuse him of scheming to embezzle about $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he directed. He has dismissed the charges as absurd.

Russian news agencies on Thursday quoted the Basmanny district court as saying that it has ordered the blocking of all of Serebrennikov's property including his apartment in central Moscow, his car and 60,000 euros in a bank account.


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.


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