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Mississippi told to pay $500K to wrongfully imprisoned man
Headline News | 2021/03/03 22:27
A judge is ordering the state of Mississippi to pay $500,000 to a Black man who was wrongfully imprisoned more than 22 years and was tried six times in a quadruple murder case.

Curtis Flowers was released from prison in December 2019, months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a district attorney had excluded Black jurors from his trials. Flowers had spent years on death row.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in September that she would not try Flowers a seventh time in the 1996 slayings and a robbery that took place at a furniture store in Winona. He had been in custody since 1997.

In November, Flowers sued the state seeking compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Court papers show the attorney general’s office agreed to his request.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge George Mitchell on Tuesday ordered the state to pay Flowers $500,000. That is the maximum allowed under a 2009 state law, which says the state can pay $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, for a up to 10 years.

Mitchell also ordered the state to make a separate payment of $50,000 to Flowers’s attorneys.

Flowers was convicted four times: twice for individual slayings and twice for all four killings. Two other trials involving all four deaths ended in mistrials. Each of Flowers’s convictions was overturned.

In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the conviction and death sentence from Flowers’s sixth trial, which took place in 2010. Justices said prosecutors’ pattern of excluding Black jurors from his trials was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling came after American Public Media’s “In the Dark” investigated the case. The podcast recorded jailhouse informant Odell Hallmon in 2017 and 2018 recanting his testimony that Flowers had confessed to him.

The first six trials were prosecuted by the local district attorney. Flowers was still facing the 1997 indictments in December 2019 when a judge agreed to release him on bond. The district attorney handed the case to the attorney general, and her staff spent months reviewing it before deciding not to go forward because of a lack of credible witnesses.


Anchorage companies, man fined for clean air violations
Business Law Info | 2021/03/02 06:28
Act involving asbestos work at a shopping center more than five years ago, a judge said.

The work was performed at the Northern Lights Center in Anchorage, the former location of an REI store. Reports of potential asbestos exposure at the time closed the store for a day back in 2015, authorities said.

U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred sentenced Tae Ryung Yoon, 64, on Friday to probation, fined him $35,000 and said he owes $30,000 in restitution for medical monitoring of the four workers who claimed they were exposed to asbestos, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The owners of Yoo Jin Management Company Ltd. and Mush Inn Corp. were also sentenced after agreeing to plead guilty to a charge of violating the Clean Air Act’s Asbestos Work Practice Standards. Both companies are owned by Chun Yoo, who is in his 80s and has “serious medical conditions,” and his wife, attorney Kevin Fitzgerald said. The couple still owns the center.

The case centers on workers who said they were exposed to asbestos during improperly conducted renovations involving an old boiler room. The work was stopped when two of the workers raised concerns.

High levels of asbestos exposure can cause lung disease or cancer.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the building owners and manager relied on a contractor who was not a certified asbestos abatement contractor and “failed to inform the contractor of the possibility of asbestos in the old boiler room.”

Fitzgerald argued that an assessment indicated no evidence of asbestos when his clients bought the center in 2006. Yoon was the building’s property manager at the time.

Documents show the boilers were replaced by another company in 2012 and the old ones were removed in 2014 to make more room. Some of the workers took photos of what they thought was asbestos and emailed them to the property management company that employed Yoon.




Supreme Court could put new limits on voting rights lawsuits
Employment Law | 2021/02/27 06:28
Eight years after carving the heart out of a landmark voting rights law, the Supreme Court is looking at putting new limits on efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting.

The justices are taking up a case about Arizona restrictions on ballot collection and another policy that penalizes voters who cast ballots in the wrong precinct.

The high court’s consideration comes as Republican officials in the state and around the country have proposed more than 150 measures, following last year’s elections, to restrict voting access that civil rights groups say would disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters.

A broad Supreme Court ruling would make it harder to fight those efforts in court. Arguments are set for Tuesday via telephone, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It would be taking away one of the big tools, in fact, the main tool we have left now, to protect voters against racial discrimination,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections program.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said the high court case is about ballot integrity, not discrimination. “This is about protecting the franchise, not disenfranchising anyone,” said Brnovich, who will argue the case on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year, and since 2018, the state has elected two Democratic senators.

The justices will be reviewing an appeals court ruling against a 2016 Arizona law that limits who can return early ballots for another person and against a separate state policy of discarding ballots if a voter goes to the wrong precinct.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ballot-collection law and the state policy discriminate against minority voters in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and that the law also violates the Constitution.

The Voting Rights Act, first enacted in 1965, was extremely effective against discrimination at the ballot box because it forced state and local governments, with a history of discrimination, including Arizona, to get advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to elections.




Labor unions to hand out masks outside House sessions
Business Law Info | 2021/02/24 04:07
Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”



New Mexico begins construction of new state crime lab
Class Action News | 2021/02/23 12:07
New Mexico is getting a new state crime lab. The state Department of Public Safety announced Tuesday that construction of the new $21.9 million forensic laboratory has begun in Santa Fe and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2022.

The new facility will support New Mexico law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and court systems by analyzing forensic evidence collected at crime scenes and provide testimony in court.

The 44,000-square-foot (4,088-square-meter) lab is being built on a state-owned lot in northeast Santa Fe.

General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz said the replacement project has long been in the planning stages.

The new lab will be over four times the size as the current one, which is 50 years -old, officials said the new facility will have new equipment and space for future growth.


Judge says lawyer who killed her son also tracked Sotomayor
Class Action News | 2021/02/20 01:47
The lawyer who killed a federal judge’s son and seriously wounded her husband at their New Jersey home last summer also had been tracking Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the judge said in a television interview.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said FBI agents discovered the information in a locker belonging to the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander. “They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition. But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” Salas said in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” The segment is scheduled for broadcast Sunday, but a portion of the interview aired Friday on “CBS This Morning.”

Both the Supreme Court and the FBI declined to comment Friday. “We do not discuss security as a matter of Court policy,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email.

Authorities have said Den Hollander, a men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings, posed as a FedEx delivery person and fatally shot 20-year-old Daniel Anderl and wounded his father, Mark Anderl, in July. Salas was in another part of the home at the time and was not injured.

Den Hollander, 72, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the ambush. Authorities believe he also shot and killed a fellow attorney in California in the days before the attack at Salas’ home.

The AP has previously reported that when Den Hollander was found dead he had a document with him with information about a dozen female judges from across the country, half of whom are Latina, including Salas.

Salas has been calling for more privacy and protections for judges, including scrubbing personal information from the internet, to deal with mounting cyberthreats. The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects about 2,700 federal judges, said there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, up from 926 such incidents in 2015.

Legislation named for Salas’ son that would make it easier to shield judges’ personal information from the public failed to pass the Senate in December, but could be reintroduced this year.



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