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Court case to tackle jails' medication-assisted treatment
Attorney News | 2019/02/12 17:52

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine started making its case in federal court on Monday against the ban on medication-assisted treatment in county jail amid the opioid crisis.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills recently lifted the Maine Department of Corrections' ban on medication-assisted treatment. The ACLU's lawsuit filed in September argued that it's unconstitutional and harmful for Maine jails to prohibit such treatment.

Madawaska resident Brenda Smith sued, asking to continue using medication-assisted treatment to keep her opioid use disorder in remission. Smith, who is expected to report to Aroostook County Jail this year, testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland during a court case that is expected to last all week.

Smith wept on the stand while describing how access to the medicine is critical to stabilizing her life. ACLU lawyers said they will spend the week making the case that such access is a constitutional issue, as well as a protected right under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It makes me feel normal, like I'm a normal human being," Smith said.

Smith's lawsuit against the jail comes at a time when jails and prisons across the country are starting to provide addiction medications to inmates, as resistance from long-skeptical corrections officials appears to be loosening amid the national drug epidemic.

Attorneys for the jail have pushed back at the idea that a ban on medically assisted treatment is a violation of a prisoner's rights. Attorney Peter Marchesi, an attorney representing the jail Monday, has previously said medical staff members at the jail have the ability to manage prisoners' withdrawal symptoms.

Monday's court action also included an expert witness, Dr. Ross MacDonald, who has overseen medical care for New York City's jail system. The medical literature supports medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and it's important to have that option available to prisoners, he said.


Court upholds order to unseal records in brazen lynching
Attorney News | 2019/02/10 17:54

A historian who has spent years looking into the unsolved lynching of two black couples in rural Georgia more than 70 years ago hopes some answers may finally be within his grasp.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a lower court ruling to unseal the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that followed a monthslong investigation into the killings.

Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey were riding in a car that was stopped by a white mob at Moore's Ford Bridge, overlooking the Apalachee River, in July 1946. They were pulled from the car and shot multiple times along the banks of the river.

Amid a national outcry over the slayings, President Harry Truman sent the FBI to rural Walton County, just over 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Atlanta. Agents investigated for months and identified dozens of possible suspects, but a grand jury convened in December 1946 failed to indict anyone.

Anthony Pitch, who wrote a 2016 book on the lynching — "The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town" — has sought access to the grand jury proceedings, hoping they may shed some light on what happened.


Spain's courts put to test by trial of Catalan separatists
Attorney News | 2019/02/08 17:55

Spain is bracing for the nation's most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017.

The proceedings, which begin Tuesday, will be broadcast live on television and all eyes will be focused on the impartiality of the Spanish Supreme Court.

Catalonia's separatists have attacked the court's credibility in the run-up to the trial, saying it is a puppet of the Spanish government and any ruling will be a political one that has been decided in advance.

"In reality, it's democracy itself that will go on trial," Oriol Junqueras, one of the accused, wrote from jail in reply to questions sent by The Associated Press. "We are before a trial which, through a partial investigation full of falsities and irregularities, criminalizes a political option and an ideology."

But Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes dismisses that notion, saying the trial is the most important since Spain's transition to democracy in 1977 after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

"This is a trial following the highest standards set by the European Union," Lesmes recently told a group of journalists.



Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma
Attorney News | 2019/01/20 08:03

A lawyer for the family of an incapacitated Arizona woman who gave birth in a long-term care facility said she is not in a coma as previously reported.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that attorney John Micheaels said the 29-year-old woman has “significant intellectual disabilities” and does not speak but has some ability to move, responds to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.

Phoenix police have said the woman was the victim of a sexual assault and have disclosed little other information.

A Jan. 8 statement by San Carlos Apache Tribe officials said the woman, a tribal member, gave birth while in a coma.

News media outlets have reported that the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was in a vegetative state at the facility where she spent many years.

“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” Micheaels told the newspaper.


US presses ahead with border wall in court despite shutdown
Attorney News | 2019/01/16 08:13

A federal attorney in South Texas said in court this week that during the ongoing partial government shutdown, he only has been allowed to work on cases related to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project on Thursday released a transcript of a Tuesday hearing in a case where the U.S. government has sued a local landowner for her property along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many other civil cases have been delayed during the shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

According to the transcript, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez noted that government attorneys working on border wall cases have not been furloughed despite the shutdown.

The prosecutor, Eric Paxton Warner, responded, “This is all I’m allowed to work on, Your Honor.”

Warner and a spokeswoman for the local U.S. attorney’s office did not return messages. A spokesman for the Department of Justice says each U.S. attorney had the authority to determine which civil cases should move forward or be delayed, but that civil cases would be delayed “to the extent this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last year that it planned to start building in February. But unlike on other parts of the border, most border land in South Texas is owned privately. That requires the government to seize it through eminent domain, suing private landowners in cases that can take months or years. Some landowners who would be affected have already vowed to fight the government in court.

Efren Olivares, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, accused the government of being “fixated” on a border wall at the expense of other matters.

“As someone who is also handling family reunification cases in which government lawyers are telling us they can’t do anything to help us because of the government shutdown, it’s extremely upsetting and frustrating,” he said.

The case that led to Tuesday’s hearing was opened 11 years ago, during the last major effort to build border barriers under the Secure Fence Act. It involves a chunk of land in Los Ebanos, a town of roughly 300 people situated along a bend in the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas.

Olivares said the U.S. government already obtained the land it sought from the landowner, Pamela Rivas, but both sides haven’t agreed yet on compensation.


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