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Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays
Criminal Law | 2017/11/11 04:47
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.


Florida man back at Supreme Court with 1st Amendment case
Law Firm Blogs | 2017/11/10 04:47
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.

This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.

Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.

A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.


Connecticut Governor Will Get His 6th Supreme Court Pick
Headline News | 2017/11/09 04:48
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy makes his pick for the next Connecticut chief justice, the Democrat will have nominated six of the seven people serving on the state's highest court — a rare feat in the history of the governorship.

Lawyers and other legal affairs observers say the court is rarely partisan, focusing mostly on interpretations of state law that often result in 7-0 rulings.

Occasionally, though, a case comes along that exposes an ideological rift, as it did in a 4-3 ruling that abolished the state's death penalty in 2015 when the majority and minority criticized each other in dueling opinions. Two cases currently before the court may also expose such a rift — a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington Arms in connection with the 2012 Newtown school massacre and a lawsuit challenging the way the state funds local education.

"They're not as controversial as you see at the federal level," said Proloy Das, a Hartford-based lawyer who chairs the appellate practice group at the Murtha Cullina law firm. "Our values aren't all that different across the state."

Das and other observers say the biggest impact of the Malloy nominations may be increased diversity on the court.

Malloy-nominated Justices Richard Robinson and Raheem Mullins are black. Newly appointed Justice Maria Araujo Kahn is one of two full-time female justices, joining soon-to-be-retiring Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who was nominated by Republican former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. And Justice Andrew McDonald, also picked by Malloy, is the court's first openly gay member.



Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Criminal Law | 2017/11/08 04:47
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.



'Dirty soda' Utah court battle ends with legal settlement
Court Alerts | 2017/11/04 03:48
Two Utah chains that sell flavor-shot-spiked "dirty sodas" have settled their court battle over the sugary concept that's grown increasingly profitable in a state where sugar is a common vice, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Soda shops Sodalicious and Swig will pay their own expenses, court papers said. The documents offer no details of the settlement terms and attorneys for the two sides did not return messages seeking comment.

Swig had accused competitor Sodalicious of copying the trademarked "dirty" idea, down to the frosted sugar cookies sold alongside the sweet drinks spiked with flavor shots, fruit purees and cream.

Both shops are known for their soda mixology. Swig's concoctions include the Tiny Turtle, which is Sprite spiked with green apple and banana flavors.

Swig sued in 2015 for damages and an order blocking Sodalicious from using words and signs similar to theirs. A trial had been set for this week, but it was on hold during settlement negotiations.

Sodalicious fought back, saying dirty is a longtime moniker for martinis and other drinks. They said tongue-in-cheek nicknames for concoctions like "Second Wife" make their business distinctly different.

Other sodas on their menu include the Rocky Mountain High, made with cherry and coconut added to Coke.

The court fight unfolded as the sweet drinks grew increasingly popular and profitable in a majority-Mormon state where sugar is a popular indulgence.

Both shops have more than a dozen locations across Utah, and have also expanded into the suburbs of Phoenix.


Telescope permit decision appealed to Hawaii Supreme Court
Criminal Law | 2017/11/03 16:23
Opponents of a giant telescope planned for a Hawaii mountain are appealing the state land board's approval of the project's construction permit.

Richard Wurdeman, an attorney representing some of the opponents, filed a notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The board in September approved a construction permit for Thirty Meter Telescope. Opponents of the $1.4 billion project say it will desecrate land sacred to Native Hawaiians while supporters say it will provide educational and economic opportunities.

The opponents appealed directly to the state Supreme Court because of a law that allows certain contested-case hearing decisions to bypass the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders fighting the telescope, says other participants opposing the project are expected to also file appeals this week.



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