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Court to rule on Newtown shooting lawsuit against gun maker
Legal News | 2019/03/16 06:34

The Connecticut Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on whether gun maker Remington can be sued for making the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Justices are split on the question as the court is scheduled to release majority and dissenting opinions Thursday.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza was designed as a military killing machine and is too dangerous for the public, but Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, agreeing with Remington that federal law shields gun makers from liability when their products are used in crimes.


Detained Saudi women's rights activists brought to court
Legal News | 2019/03/14 20:34

Women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia appeared in a closed-door court hearing Wednesday on unknown charges after being detained in a crackdown last year, making their first appearance before a judge in a case that has sparked international outrage.

The arrests came just before Saudi Arabia began allowing women to drive, something women's rights activists had been demanding for years. The arrests showed that King Salman and his 33-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are willing to crack down on any opposition even while courting the West.

It also was sandwiched between the mass arrest of businessmen in what authorities said was a campaign against corruption, and the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, and Saudi state media did not immediately report on the hearing. Authorities barred Western diplomats and journalists from the hearing in Riyadh, a person with knowledge of the hearing told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.


Court: Constitutional ban on high fines applies to states
Legal News | 2019/02/21 18:09

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to the states, an outcome that could help efforts to rein in police seizure of property from criminal suspects.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court's opinion in favor of Tyson Timbs, of Marion, Indiana. Police seized Timbs' $40,000 Land Rover when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin.

Reading a summary of her opinion in the courtroom, Ginsburg noted that governments employ fines "out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence" because fines are a source of revenue. The 85-year-old justice missed arguments last month following lung cancer surgery, but returned to the bench on Tuesday.

Timbs pleaded guilty, but faced no prison time. The biggest loss was the Land Rover he bought with some of the life insurance money he received after his father died.

Timbs still has to win one more round in court before he gets his vehicle back, but that seems to be a formality. A judge ruled that taking the car was disproportionate to the severity of the crime, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000. But Indiana's top court said the justices had never ruled that the Eighth Amendment's ban on excessive fines — like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights — applies to states as well as the federal government.

The case drew interest from liberal groups concerned about police abuses and conservative organizations opposed to excessive regulation. Timbs was represented by the libertarian public interest law firm Institute for Justice.

"The decision is an important first step for curtailing the potential for abuse that we see in civil forfeiture nationwide," said Sam Gedge, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice.

Law enforcement authorities have dramatically increased their use of civil forfeiture in recent decades. When law enforcement seizes the property of people accused of crimes, the proceeds from its sale often go directly to the agency that took it, the law firm said in written arguments in support of Timbs.


Appeals court reopens case involving payment to law firm
Legal News | 2019/01/27 03:06

An appeals court on Friday ordered more proceedings in a legal fight involving Kentucky's governor and two of his political rivals over a $4 million payment to a law firm for negotiating a settlement on behalf of the state with the maker of OxyContin.

A three-judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously that a summary judgment previously granted in the case was "premature" because it didn't allow more information to be reviewed. The ruling returned the case to a lower court, where it could have implications in this year's governor's race.

"In this case, there was no opportunity to take discovery," Judge Christopher Shea Nickell said in writing for the appeals court panel.

"Since there was no discovery, obviously there was no 'ample opportunity to complete discovery.' ... Thus, we do not even reach the question of whether there were any material issues of fact precluding summary judgment," he added.

The ruling keeping the case alive drew quick praise from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration. Bevin's general counsel, Steve Pitt, said additional information could shed light on why Kentucky's lawsuit against a large pharmaceutical company was settled "for pennies on the dollar."

The case also involves Attorney General Andy Beshear, who already has declared himself a candidate for governor as a Democrat. Bevin and Beshear have been embroiled in several lawsuits since they took office. Bevin filed papers Friday to run for a second term.



Defamation lawsuit against activist continues in state court
Legal News | 2018/12/09 03:07

A Maine activist who accused an orphanage founder in Haiti of being a serial pedophile asked the state supreme court on Tuesday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that was moved from federal court.

An attorney for Paul Kendrick told justices that the assertions were protected by a Maine law that protects people from meritless suits aimed at chilling First Amendment rights.

The argument that invoked Maine's Anti-SLAPP statute was met with skepticism from justices who questioned whether the law was intended to apply to harassment and cyberbullying.

But Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley suggested there's a balancing act when between free speech and defamation.

"Are we not sliding into an areas where we have to be very careful not to chill the voices of people who say we must speak up in support of children who have been abused?" she asked an attorney at one point. "We know that if people are afraid to speak up that abuse can go on for decades."



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