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Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Legal Focuses | 2018/09/06 06:10

Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.



Cities vying for 2020 convention court Democrats in Chicago
Legal Focuses | 2018/08/26 17:12

The three cities vying to host the 2020 Democratic convention are courting party leaders and activists at their summer meeting in Chicago.

Houston, Miami and Milwaukee are the finalists. A selection committee has been visiting the potential sites. A decision is expected early next year.

Miami gave people attending the Democratic National Committee meeting a taste of Chicago's waterfront offerings by renting out a boat docked at Navy Pier for its party.

Milwaukee's gathering featured an appearance by onetime Milwaukee Bucks basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The city has suggested the Bucks' new arena as the convention's venue.

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams highlighted Houston's party. Houston also scattered promotions throughout the DNC's meeting hotel, including Texas-shaped decals on the carpet and bar tabletops.



Zimbabwe court to rule Friday on opposition's vote challenge
Legal Focuses | 2018/08/24 10:15

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court said it will rule on Friday after hearing the main opposition party's challenge to the results of last month's presidential election, the first without longtime leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot.

Police barricaded streets in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday amid high tensions over the case which will decide if the victory of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe enforcer, is valid. The opposition claims "gross mathematical errors" and seeks a fresh election or a declaration that its candidate, 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, won.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared Mnangagwa narrowly won with 50.8 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff. It said Chamisa received 44.3 percent.

Many hoped the peaceful vote on July 30 would launch a new era for Zimbabwe after Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure, but two days later six people were killed when troops swept into the capital to disperse opposition protesters.

Western election observers and diplomats condemned the "excessive" use of force. European Union election observers were in court on Wednesday; the 75-year-old Mnangagwa badly needs a credible electoral process as a key step in removing international sanctions.

The opposition claims the electoral commission bumped up Mnangagwa's figures through double counts and the creation of "ghost" polling stations. It also alleges that some polling stations recorded more voters than those registered.


German court rules in broadcaster Nazi camp spat with Poland
Legal Focuses | 2018/08/22 08:08

A German court has ruled that public broadcaster ZDF can’t be forced to post a specifically worded apology demanded by a Polish court for erroneously calling two World War II Nazi camps “Polish death camps.”

ZDF used that wording in reference to the Majdanek and Auschwitz death camps in advertising a 2013 documentary. After the Polish Embassy in Berlin objected, it changed the text to “German death camps on Polish territory.”

A Polish citizen who was a former inmate of Auschwitz and the Flossenbuerg concentration camp then launched a legal battle with ZDF, which twice apologized to him for the initial error and later published an apology.

In 2016, the plaintiff secured a ruling from a court in Krakow, Poland, ordering ZDF to post on its website for one month an apology stating that the original wording was “an incorrect formulation that distorts the history of the Polish people.” The broadcaster did publish the text from Dec. 2016 to Jan. 2017, but the plaintiff considered its compliance unsatisfactory and sought to have the Polish ruling legally enforced.

Lower German courts ruled that the verdict can be enforced in Germany. But the Federal Court of Justice said that it disagreed because the required formulation would violate the broadcaster’s right to freedom of opinion.


Zimbabwe's opposition challenges election results in court
Legal Focuses | 2018/08/13 23:46

Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.



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