Law Firm News
Court absolves soldiers in army killing of suspects - 2016/06/14
A Mexican civilian court has freed the last three soldiers accused of homicide in a 2014 incident in which at least a dozen suspects were allegedly executed after they surrendered. The federal Attorney General's Office emailed a news release shortly after 11 p.m. Friday saying the court absolved all three of charges of homicide, cover-up and alteration of evidence for lack of proof. Santiago Aguirre, deputy director of the nonprofit Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights, which is representing a woman who survived the incident but whose daughter was killed, said authorities cannot appeal the ruling but families of the victims may still do so. If there is no appeal, the decision could signal an end to a case that rights groups see as emblematic of abuses by some agents in the Mexican security forces. "This confirms what we had been warning, in the sense that one of the most serious recent cases of human rights violations was on the way to going unpunished," Aguirre said. The Mexican army reported in June 2014 that 22 presumed criminals had died in a clash with troops at a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya west of Mexico City. It said only one soldier was wounded.
Man accused of shooting 2 police officers due in court - 2016/06/10
A man accused of shooting two New Hampshire police officers who were chasing him because he matched the description of a suspect in a gas station armed robbery is due in court. Ian MacPherson, 32, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday in Manchester. Police said MacPherson shot Officer Ryan Hardy, 27, and Officer Matthew O'Connor, 28, minutes apart as they pursued him early Friday. O'Connor was treated for a gunshot wound to the leg and was released from a hospital later Friday. Hardy was treated for gunshot wounds to the face and torso and was released from a Boston hospital on Saturday. MacPherson, who was arrested after a three-hour pursuit, wasn't injured. He's being held without bail on two counts of attempted capital murder. Flags at all public buildings in the state were lowered to half-staff on Sunday. "We are grateful that Manchester's two officers will recover, and we are reminded that whenever one of our law enforcement officials makes the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, it cuts through the very fabric of our society," Gov. Maggie Hassan said in an order directing that flags be lowered in honor of National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Police said Hardy stopped MacPherson because he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. MacPherson began shooting at Hardy as soon as the officer announced himself, police said. About 20 minutes later, MacPherson encountered O'Connor and shot him, police said.
Texas Supreme Court upholds state's school funding formula - 2016/06/13
Texas' complicated school finance system is constitutional, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Friday ? a surprise defeat for the 600-plus school districts that endured more than four years of costly legal battles hoping judges would force the Republican-controlled Legislature to fork over more funding. The all-Republican court reversed a lower judge's decision that had sided with schools and called state lawmakers' $5.4 billion in classroom cuts in 2011 inadequate and unfairly distributed among the wealthy and poor districts. The 9-0 decision ends a case that was the largest of its kind in Texas history. Major legal battles over classroom funding have raged six times since 1984, but the latest ruling marks just the second time that justices have failed to find the system unconstitutional. It also means the Texas Legislature won't have to devise a new funding system. "Our Byzantine school funding 'system' is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement. But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements," the court found in its ruling. "Accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority." The court also said "there doubtless exist innovative reform measures to make Texas schools more accountable and efficient, both quantitatively and qualitatively" but it added that "our judicial responsibility is not to second-guess or micromanage Texas education policy." The school funding mechanism is a "Robin Hood" formula where wealthy school districts share local property tax revenue with districts in poorer areas. Districts rely heavily on property taxes because Texas has no state income tax.
Court considers medication in terror suspect case - 2016/06/11
An attorney for a mentally ill man accused of trying to join al-Qaida-linked fighters in Syria asked a federal appeals court Thursday to overturn a ruling that would allow his client to be forcibly medicated, arguing that neither the public nor the government would be harmed if the man was civilly committed instead of prosecuted. Joseph Gilbert told a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that civilly committing Basit Sheikh would virtually ensure he wouldn't be released to the community any time soon. He suggested that allowing the government to forcibly medicate in this case could open the door for many more to follow. "If you allow it in this case, there's no case where the government wouldn't be able to say: 'Serious crime, we should be able to stick him with this medicine,'" Gilbert said. Sheikh, of North Carolina, is charged with providing material support to a terrorist group for attempting to join Jabhat al-Nusra militants. He was arrested almost two years ago in an FBI sting to find and arrest Americans before they fought in Syria. A federal judge ruled in October that Sheikh could be forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication to see if it would make him competent to stand trial. Prosecutors say the Pakistan native refuses to talk to doctors and has resisted physical exams. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Rubin rejected Gilbert's suggestion that retribution against Sheikh is the only interest the government has in prosecuting his case instead of civilly committing him. Rubin argued that Sheikh's prosecution would protect the public by deterring others from trying to join terror groups. "This is a priority for the executive branch," Rubin said. "Those interests demand a prosecution here." Rubin also dismissed Gilbert's claim that the government failed to show that the proposed treatment ensures Sheikh is competent to stand trial. He said a research study discussed by one of the doctors who testified at an earlier hearing showed that nearly 80 percent of the 133 federal defendants who were forcibly medicated between 2003 and 2009 were restored to competency.
July trial on for man accused in Florida Keys bomb plot - 2016/05/08
A July trial date is on for a Florida man accused of conspiring to detonate a bomb at a Florida Keys beach. A federal judge said Wednesday that 24-year-old Harlem Suarez remains on track for a July 11 trial in Key West. There have been several delays in the case. The FBI says Suarez drew inspiration from the Islamic State terrorist organization, although no direct links have been revealed. The FBI says Suarez told an informant he wanted to detonate a backpack bomb on a Key West beach. He was arrested last year after accepting an inert device from an FBI employee posing as an Islamic State member. Suarez has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and supporting terrorism.
Planned Parenthood shooting defendant returning to court - 2016/05/11
A man who admitted killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic is returning to court for the continuation of a hearing on whether he's mentally competent to stand trial. A psychologist who examined 57-year-old Robert Dear is scheduled to testify Tuesday. Dear is charged with 179 counts including murder, attempted murder and assault in the Nov. 27 shootings at the Colorado Springs clinic. Nine people were injured in the attack. In court, he has declared himself a "warrior for the babies" and said he was guilty. The hearing started last month, when two psychologists testified that Dear isn't competent to stand trial. If the judge agrees, Dear's case would be put on hold while he undergoes treatment at a state psychiatric hospital intended to restore him to competency.
Bollywood filmmaker challenges censoring of drug-abuse film - 2016/06/11
A Bollywood film producer took his row with India's censor board to a court Wednesday, challenging dozens of cuts and changes to a film that depicts the menace of drug abuse in the northern state of Punjab. Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalini said in a newspaper interview that the movie wrongly depicts 70 percent of people of the state consuming drugs and defaming them. He told reporters that the censor board has approved the movie for screening in theaters with the cuts ordered. He accused producer Anurag Kashyap of whipping up a controversy to create interest in his film. Compared to Hollywood, movie norms in India are extremely strict. Censorship authorities often order filmmakers ? both Indian and foreign ? to chop scenes deemed offensive. Films with graphic content can be barred completely. Last year, India's censor authorities ordered that kissing scenes in the James Bond movie, "Spectre," be shortened before it was released in the country. Kashyap asked the Mumbai High Court to overrule the cuts ordered by the censor board. The court is expected to take up the petition later Wednesday. It could reject the matter or order reconsideration. Kashyap said the censor board chief Nihalini demanded 89 cuts to the film and even asked him to drop the name of the state from the title, "Udta Punjab," or "Flying Punjab." Bollywood producers and directors rallied behind Kashyap in his fight with the censor board. "The job of the censor board is to certify films and not suggest cuts."
Court Vacates $1.8M Ventura Award in 'American Sniper' Case - 2016/05/11
A federal appeals court on Monday threw out a $1.8 million judgment awarded to former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who says he was defamed in the late author Chris Kyle's bestselling book "American Sniper." The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the jury's 2014 award of $500,000 for defamation and $1.3 million for unjust enrichment against Kyle's estate. Kyle, a former SEAL who was the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills, died in 2013. The majority of the three-judge panel reversed the unjust-enrichment award, saying it fails as a matter of law. The majority also vacated the defamation award, but sent that portion of the case back to court for a new trial. Messages left with Ventura's publicist and attorney were not immediately returned Monday. A message left with an attorney for Kyle's estate also did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Kyle claimed in a subchapter called "Punching Out Scruff Face," to have decked a man, whom he later identified as Ventura, during a fallen SEAL's wake at a California bar in 2006. He wrote that "Scruff Face" had made offensive comments about the elite force, including a remark that the SEALs "deserve to lose a few" in Iraq. Ventura, a former Underwater Demolition Teams/SEAL member and ex-pro wrestler, testified at trial that Kyle's story was a fabrication. Ventura said he never made the comments and that the altercation never happened. He said the book ruined his reputation in the tight-knit SEAL community.
High Court won't hear dispute over birthright citizenship - 2016/04/17
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a group of American Samoans who say the United States should grant full citizenship to people born in the U.S. territory. The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship does not extend to the islands that have been a part of the country since 1900. Current law considers American Samoans to be "nationals," not full citizens like those born in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories. Nationals are allowed to work and live anywhere in the United States, but unlike citizens, they can't vote or hold elective office. The challengers said that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last year that birthright citizenship does not automatically apply to the nation's unincorporated political territories. The lawsuit was filed by a small group of American Samoans who did not have the support of the islands' government officials. The government of American Samoa has argued that automatic U.S. citizenship could undermine local traditions and practices, including rules that restrict land ownership to those of Samoan ancestry.
Appeals court denies Hope Solo's bid to avoid trial - 2016/04/13
A state appeals court has rejected U.S. women's soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo's request to avoid trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Seattlepi.com reports the 34-year-old's appeal related to a 2014 incident at her sister's home in suburban Seattle was denied in a Tuesday ruling. Solo was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew in the incident. Her lawyer has said Solo was a victim in the altercation. The case has bounced between the city of Kirkland and King County courts and is currently back in city court, where Solo had asked for a review. The appeals court denied the review, essentially upholding the county court's ruling. It's unclear whether Solo will ask the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. br>