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Colorado baker returns to court over 2nd LGBT bias allegation
Court Line | 2018/12/17 02:49

Attorneys for a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds — a stand partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — argued in federal court Tuesday that the state is punishing him again over his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

Lawyers for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, are suing to try to stop the state from taking action against him over the new discrimination allegation. They say the state is treating Phillips with hostility because of his Christian faith and pressing a complaint that they call an "obvious setup."

"At this point, he's just a guy who is trying to get back to life. The problem is the state of Colorado won't let him," Jim Campbell, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said after the hearing. The conservative Christian nonprofit law firm is representing Phillips.

State officials argued for the case to be dismissed, but the judge said he was inclined to let the case move forward and would issue a written ruling later.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina because she's transgender. Phillips' shop refused to make a cake last year that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside after Scardina revealed she wanted it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

She asked for the cake on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would consider Phillips' appeal of the previous commission ruling against him. In that 2012 case, he refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins.



Human rights court rules against Greece in Sharia law case
Court Line | 2018/12/15 02:50

Greece violated a prohibition on discrimination by applying Islamic religious law to an inheritance dispute among members of the country's Muslim minority, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Wednesday.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ruled Greece violated the European Convention on Human Rights by applying Sharia law in the case, under which a Muslim Greek man's will bequeathing all he owned to his wife was deemed invalid after it was challenged by his sisters.

The man's widow, Chatitze Molla Sali, appealed to the European court in 2014, having lost three quarters of her inheritance. She argued she had been discriminated against on religious grounds as, had her husband not been Muslim, she would have inherited his entire estate under Greek law.

The European court agreed. It has not yet issued a decision on what, if any, penalty it will apply to Greece.

"Greece was the only country in Europe which, up until the material time, had applied Sharia law to a section of its citizens against their wishes," the court said in its ruling.

"That was particularly problematic in the present case because the application of Sharia law had led to a situation that was detrimental to the individual rights of a widow who had inherited her husband's estate in accordance with the rules of civil law but who had then found herself in a legal situation which neither she nor her husband had intended."

Molla Sali's husband had drawn up his will according to Greek law, and both a first instance and an appeals court initially ruled in her favor in the dispute with her sisters-in-law. But further court decisions ruled that inheritance issues within the Muslim minority had to be dealt with under Islamic religious law, and the will was deemed invalid.



Spanish court gears up for high-stakes trial of separatists
Court Line | 2018/12/14 02:52

A preliminary hearing in a rebellion case against Catalan separatists Tuesday displayed some of the dynamics between defense and prosecutors expected during a trial that is likely to dominate Spanish politics.

Altogether, 18 former politicians and activists from the Catalonia region are charged with rebellion, sedition, disobedience and misuse of public funds for their parts in an attempt to secede from Spain last year.

At Tuesday's hearing, a panel of seven magistrates heard from defense attorneys who argued the trial should be heard by the top regional court in Catalonia rather than Spain's highest court in Madrid.

Prosecutors countered that Madrid was the proper venue, saying the events that led regional lawmakers to make a unilateral declaration of independence on Oct. 27, 2017 had ramifications outside of Catalonia.

The country's top court also has jurisdiction, prosecutors argued, because the secession attempt affected all Spaniards.



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.



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.



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