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High court seems to lean against West Virginia in tax case
Court Line | 2018/12/04 17:47

The Supreme Court seemed inclined Monday to side with a retired U.S. marshal who argues West Virginia is discriminating against former federal law enforcement officers like him by giving a more generous tax break to former state law enforcement officers.

James Dawson says West Virginia currently exempts the vast majority of state law enforcement retirees — including police and firefighters — from paying income tax on their retirement benefits. But retired U.S. Marshals Service employees like him don't get that perk. Dawson has to pay income tax on his retirement benefits except for the first $2,000 annually, which is tax free.

Dawson says federal law prohibits West Virginia from taxing his retirement income more heavily than it taxes the retirement income of those who did a similar job working for the state.

During arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday, both conservative and liberal justices seemed more willing to side with Dawson. Justice Neil Gorsuch asked West Virginia's attorney Lindsay See why looking at the text of the federal law wasn't "game over," ending the case in Dawson's favor. And Justice Stephen Breyer listed a number of those getting better tax treatment than Dawson.

"It's not just the state police. It's also the local police. It's everybody in law enforcement almost. And they can get into it and the feds can't. Why isn't that just the end of it?" Breyer said.



EU court adviser: Britain could change its mind on Brexit
Attorney News | 2018/12/04 17:46

A top official at the European Union's highest court advised Tuesday that Britain can unilaterally change its mind about leaving the European Union, boosting hopes among to pro-EU campaigners in the U.K. that Brexit can be stopped.

Prime Minister Theresa May's government insists it will never reverse the decision to leave, but May faces a tough battle to win backing in Parliament before lawmakers vote next week on whether to accept or reject the divorce agreement negotiated with the bloc. Defeat would leave the U.K. facing a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit and could topple the prime minister, her government, or both.

Advocate General Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona told the European Court of Justice that a decision by the British government to change its mind about invoking the countdown to departure would be legally valid. The advice of the advocate general is often, but not always, followed by the full court.

The court is assessing the issue under an accelerated procedure, since Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29. The final verdict is expected within weeks.

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the 28-nation bloc, and invoked Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in March 2017, triggering a two-year exit process. Article 50 is scant on details — largely because the idea of any country leaving the bloc was considered unlikely — so a group of Scottish legislators asked the courts to rule on whether the U.K. can pull out of the withdrawal procedure on its own.


Sri Lanka court orders prime minister to refrain from duties
Court Watch | 2018/12/03 01:47

A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers to refrain from carrying out their duties as it hears an appeal against them.

While the ruling by the Court of Appeal is an interim order, it is yet another setback for Rajapaksa, who has held on to the position of prime minister with President Maithripala Sirisena's backing despite losing two no-confidence votes.

The parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa's government was dissolved after the passage of the no-confidence motions. Parliament has also passed resolutions to cut off funds to the offices of Rajapaksa and his ministers.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to function as prime minister, with Sirisena dismissing the no-confidence votes, saying proper procedures were not followed.

Rajapaksa said in a statement later Monday that he did not accept the interim order and would file an appeal early Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the country's highest court.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since Oct. 26, when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.




Court: Man put clothes, ID on stand-in corpse in $2M scheme
Court Line | 2018/12/02 01:47

A Minnesota man accused of faking his own death seven years ago to collect a $2 million life insurance policy arranged for a stand-in corpse to be dressed in his clothes in Moldova, according to a judge’s detention order.

Igor Vorotinov, 54, also planted his identification on the body before placing the corpse along a road in the Eastern European country, a U.S. judge said in rejecting Vorotinov’s request to be freed pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez ruled Wednesday that Vorotinov posed too great a flight risk. In her ruling, Menendez said Vorotinov showed “substantial resourcefulness and cunning.”

Vorotinov was indicted in 2015 on one count of mail fraud. He was arrested this month and returned to the U.S.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that Vorotinov took out the life insurance policy in spring 2010 and designated then-wife Irina Vorotinov as the primary beneficiary. The couple divorced later that year.

In 2011, Irina Vorotinov, 51, identified a corpse in Moldova as her husband’s, prosecutors allege. She then returned to the U.S. with a death certificate and cremated remains and received the life insurance payment. Money was then transferred to her son, and to accounts in Switzerland and Moldova.

She has pleaded guilty to her role and is serving a three-year sentence. Alkon Vorotinov, 28, pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to probation.



Lump of coal? Taxes more likely for online gifts this season
Attorney News | 2018/11/28 01:37

Shoppers heading online to purchase holiday gifts will find they're being charged sales tax at some websites where they weren't before. The reason: the Supreme Court.

A June ruling gave states the go-ahead to require more companies to collect sales tax on online purchases. Now, more than two dozen have moved to take advantage of the ruling, many ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

"Will your shopping bill look any different? ... The answer right now is it depends," said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 major retailers.

Whether shoppers get charged sales tax on their online purchases comes down to where they live and where they're shopping.

Before the Supreme Court's recent decision , the rule was that businesses selling online had to collect sales tax only in states where they had stores, warehouses or another physical presence. That meant that major retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Macy's and Target, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, were generally collecting sales tax from online customers. But that wasn't the case for businesses with a big online presence but few physical locations.



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