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Maine ban on religious tuition funding goes to Supreme Court
Business Law Info | 2021/02/05 23:17
Three families demanding that the state pay tuition for religious schools are taking their appeal to a U.S. Supreme Court that looks much different than when the lawsuit was filed more than two years ago.

The conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling in a Montana case make attorneys for the Maine families more optimistic that they'll prevail in changing the state's stance, which dates to 1980. The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the appeal, filed Thursday.

“The court should grant this case and resolve this issue once and for all,” said the families' attorney, Michael Bindas, from the Institute for Justice.

The Maine Department of Education currently allows families who reside in towns without their own public schools to receive tuition to attend a public or private school of their choice. But religious schools are excluded.

There have been several lawsuits over the years, but the courts always have sided with the state, which contends using taxpayer dollars to fund religious education violates the separation of church and state.

The latest lawsuit targeting Maine's tuition program was filed in August 2018 after the Supreme Court held that a Missouri program was wrong in denying a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing.


More protests called in Moscow to demand Navalny’s release
Class Action News | 2021/02/01 22:41
Moscow braced for more protests seeking the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces a court hearing Tuesday after two weekends of nationwide rallies and thousands of arrests in the largest outpouring of discontent in Russia in years.

Tens of thousands filled the streets across the vast country Sunday, chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin and demanding freedom for Navalny, who was jailed last month and faces years in prison. Over 5,400 protesters were detained by authorities, according to a human rights group.

One of those taken into custody for several hours was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who was ordered Monday to pay a fine of about $265 for participating in an unauthorized rally.

While state-run media dismissed the demonstrations as small and claimed that they showed the failure of the opposition, Navalny’s team said the turnout demonstrated “overwhelming nationwide support” for the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. His allies called for protesters to come to the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday.

“Without your help, we won’t be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” his politician’s team said in a social media post.

Mass protests engulfed dozens of Russian cities for the second weekend in a row despite efforts by authorities to stifle the unrest triggered by the jailing of 44-year-old Navalny.

He was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities reject the accusation. He faces a prison term for alleged probation violations from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that is widely seen as politically motivated.

Last month, Russia’s prison service filed a motion to replace his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the conviction with one he must serve. The Prosecutor General’s office backed the motion Monday, alleging Navalny engaged in “unlawful conduct” during the probation period.


Biden could change course in high court health care case
Court Feed News | 2021/01/28 06:41
The pending Supreme Court case on the fate of the Affordable Care Act could give the Biden administration its first opportunity to chart a new course in front of the justices.

The health care case, argued a week after the election in November, is one of several matters, along with immigration and a separate case on Medicaid work requirements, where the new administration could take a different position from the Trump administration at the high court.

While a shift would be in line with President Joe Biden’s political preferences, it could prompt consternation at the court. Justices and former officials in Democratic and Republican administrations routinely caution that new administrations should generally be reluctant to change positions before the court.

Justice Elena Kagan, who as solicitor general was the top Supreme Court lawyer for President Barack Obama before he appointed her to the court, said in a 2018 forum that the bar should be high.

“I think changing positions is a really big deal that people should hesitate a long time over, which is not to say that it never happens,” Kagan said at the time. Indeed, Trump’s Justice Department made a switch four times in the first full high court term of the administration.

Still, the health care case is a good candidate for when a rare change of position may be warranted, said Paul Clement, who was solicitor general under President George W. Bush.

The Justice Department defends federal laws at the Supreme Court “whenever reasonable arguments can be made,” Clement said at an online Georgetown University forum.

The Trump administration called on the justices to strike down the entire Obama-era law under which some 23 million people get health insurance and millions more with preexisting health conditions are protected from discrimination.

Biden was vice president when the law was enacted, famously calling it a “big (expletive) deal” the day Obama signed it into law in 2010.


Supreme Court ends Trump emoluments lawsuits
Court Feed News | 2021/01/25 19:11
The Supreme Court on Monday brought an end to lawsuits over whether Donald Trump illegally profited off his presidency, saying the cases are moot now that Trump is no longer in office.

The high court’s action was the first in an expected steady stream of orders and rulings on pending lawsuits involving Trump now that his presidency has ended. Some orders may result in dismissals of cases since Trump is no longer president. In other cases, proceedings that had been delayed because Trump was in the White House could resume and their pace even quicken.

The justices threw out Trump’s challenge to lower court rulings that had allowed lawsuits to go forward alleging that he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel and patronize other businesses owned by the former president and his family.

The high court also ordered the lower court rulings thrown out as well and directed appeals courts in New York and Richmond, Virginia, to dismiss the suits as moot now that Trump is no longer in office.

The outcome leaves no appellate court opinions on the books in an area of the law that has been rarely explored in U.S. history.

The cases involved suits filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia, and high-end restaurants and hotels in New York and Washington, D.C., that “found themselves in the unenviable position of having to compete with businesses owned by the President of the United States.”

The suits sought financial records showing how much state and foreign governments have paid the Trump Organization to stay and eat at Trump-owned properties.

The cases never reached the point where any records had to be turned over. But Karl Racine and Brian Frosh, the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland, respectively, said in a joint statement that a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland that went against Trump “will serve as precedent that will help stop anyone else from using the presidency or other federal office for personal financial gain the way that President Trump has over the past four years.”

Other cases involving Trump remain before the Supreme Court, or in lower courts.

Trump is trying to block the Manhattan district attorney ’s enforcement of a subpoena for his tax returns, part of a criminal investigation into the president and his businesses. Lower courts are weighing congressional subpoenas for Trump’s financial records. And the justices also have before them Trump’s appeal of a decision forbidding him from blocking critics on his Twitter account. Like the emoluments cases, Trump’s appeal would seem to be moot now that he is out of office and also had his Twitter account suspended.

Republican senators and some legal scholars have said that Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate cannot proceed now that he is once again a private citizen. But many scholars have said that Trump’s return to private life poses no impediment to an impeachment trial.


Woman accused of helping steal Pelosi laptop freed from jail
U.S. Legal News | 2021/01/21 18:29
A Pennsylvania woman facing charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the attack on the U.S. Capitol will be released from jail, a federal judge decided Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson directed that Riley June Williams be released into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed her to appear Monday in federal court in Washington to continue her case.

“The gravity of these offenses is great,” Carlson told Williams. “It cannot be overstated.”

Williams, 22, of Harrisburg, is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Carlson noted Williams has no prior criminal record.

The FBI says an unidentified former romantic partner of Williams tipped them off that she appeared in video from the Jan. 6 rioting and the tipster claimed she had hoped to sell the computer to Russian intelligence.

Williams’ defense lawyer, Lori Ulrich, told Carlson the tipster is a former boyfriend who had been abusive to Williams and that “his accusations are overstated.”

Video from the riot shows a woman matching Williams’ description exhorting invaders to go “upstairs, upstairs, upstairs” during the attack, which briefly disrupted certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich told the judge.

Williams surrendered to face charges on Monday. She was expected to leave the county jail in Harrisburg later Thursday, and will be on electronic monitoring to await trial.

Heavican said the court’s online payment systems allowed residents to pay traffic tickets and court fines without leaving their homes, and the judiciary also offered an online education system to help judges, lawyers, guardians and others meet continuous education requirements.

New attorneys were sworn into office via online ceremonies across the state, Heavican said. In Dawson County, one judge is broadcasting court proceedings on YouTube.

Heavican said schools and private organizations have hosted trials in counties whose courthouses are too small for adequate social distancing to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. He said jury trials were held at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Grand Island Central Community College and local K-12 schools and the Lincoln Masonic Lodge.

Heavican also touted the benefits of probation services and problem-solving courts. He said probation costs nearly $2,000 per person, per year, and problem-solving courts costs about $4,000, compared to $41,000 for a person in prison. “Do the math,” he said. “Probation is the taxpayers’ friend.”


Appeals court OKs convictions in college basketball scandal
Court Feed News | 2021/01/18 04:12
A federal appeals court in New York on Friday upheld convictions against a sports marketer, an aspiring agent and a financial adviser in a college basketball scandal that spoiled the careers of several coaches and left a stain on the integrity of college athletics.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said in its written decision that it was not adequate for the defendants to argue that their actions mirrored what was commonly done in college basketball programs and that their aim was to help universities, rather than harm.

“The ends, however, do not justify the means, and that others are engaging in improper behavior does not make it lawful,” the 2nd Circuit said in an opinion written by Judge Denny Chin.

The convictions grew from the 2017 arrests of 10 individuals in what authorities described as a conspiracy to pay bribes to the families of young players to ensure NBA-bound college basketball stars would pledge allegiance to certain agents and handlers or attend certain schools.

The appeal stemmed from the convictions of former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager Christian Dawkins and amateur league director Merl Code. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for funneling money and recruits to Louisville and Kansas.

Dawkins and Code were convicted at a second trial on a single conspiracy count but acquitted of some other charges.

At trial, the men acknowledged that their actions violated NCAA rules and the official policies of the universities, but they also maintained that the universities quietly welcomed the secret payments as long as they could pretend they knew nothing of them.

Other defendants pleaded guilty to charges or cooperated with prosecutors rather than go to trial, including four former assistant basketball coaches who pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy. Prison sentences in the case were relatively short.

In ruling, the three-judge appeals panel noted that the defendants argued that they should not have been convicted because they did not have fraudulent intent since their scheme was designed to help the schools recruit top-tier players.

Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch offered a partial dissent, saying he would have rejected some charges on grounds that evidence of some phone calls the defendants wanted to show jurors was unjustly disqualified.


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