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Kentucky governor, attorney general clash before high court
Headline Legal News | 2017/08/19 08:26
Kentucky's Democratic attorney general warned the state's highest court on Friday that the accreditation of the state's public colleges and universities would be at risk if they don't take his side against the Republican governor.

But an attorney for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called Andy Beshear's argument "poppycock." He told the justices they should dismiss Beshear's lawsuit and vacate a lower court's judgment that the governor broke the law when he abolished the University of Louisville's board and replaced its trustees with an executive order last year.

What was supposed to have been a 30-minute hearing stretched more than an hour in a courtroom packed with political aides from both parties as two of Kentucky's top politicians faced off before the Supreme Court for the second time in a year.

Ultimately, Bevin got his wish for a new board at the university after the legislature convened and the Republican majority approved his choices under a new law. That's why a ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court in this case likely won't affect the new board.

But Beshear is asking the court to declare Bevin's original order illegal and to prevent him from doing it again. If he's successful, it would be his second legal victory against Bevin and would be likely fodder for a potential campaign for governor in 2019.

If Bevin wins, it would bolster the governor's argument that Beshear has wasted time filing frivolous lawsuits against him.

Bevin replaced the board because he said the university needed a "fresh start" after a series of scandals and because the board violated state law by not having proportionate representation of racial minorities and political parties.

In issuing his executive order, Bevin relied on a state law, KRS 12.028 , that lets the governor make temporary changes when the legislature is not in session. The legislature then reviews those changes when they reconvene. If they don't act on them, the changes expire.


Maryland removes Dred Scott ruling author's statue
Headline Legal News | 2017/08/18 08:25
A statue of the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House early Friday.

The statue of Roger B. Taney was lifted away by a crane at about 2 a.m. It was lowered into a truck and driven away to storage.

The bronze statue was erected in 1872, just outside the original front door of the State House.

Three of the four voting members of the State House Trust voted by email Wednesday to move the statue. House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat who was one of the three who voted to remove it, wrote this week that the statue "doesn't belong" on the grounds.

His comments came after the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, with clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters. A woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were there to condemn the white nationalists, who had rallied against Charlottesville officials' decision to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.




Groups sue seeking court oversight of Chicago police reforms
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/14 23:39
Several leading community groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago Wednesday in a bid to bypass or even scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to reform the nation's second largest police force without federal court oversight.

The more than 100-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago argues that an overhaul of Chicago's 12,000-officer force in the wake of a damning civil rights report in January can't work without the intense scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor answerable to a judge.

"Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve," the lawsuit says. "It is clear that federal court intervention is essential to end the historical and on-going pattern and practice of excessive force by police officers in Chicago."

While President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has expressed skepticism about court involvement, President Barack Obama's administration saw it as vital to successful reforms. Obama's Justice Department typically took a city reform plan to a judge to make it legally binding in the form of a consent decree.

Wednesday's lawsuit — which names Black Lives Matters Chicago among the plaintiffs — asks for a federal court to intervene and order sweeping reforms to end the "abusive policies and practices undergirding the alleged constitutional and state law violations."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration said earlier this month that a draft deal negotiated by the city and the Justice Department — one that foresees a monitor not selected by a court — is being reviewed in Washington. Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malle cautioned last week that "there is no agreement at this time."

A lead attorney in the new lawsuit, Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and outspoken advocate for far-reaching police reforms, said in a telephone interview that reports about the draft influenced the decision to sue now.



Court: Neighbors can sue pot grower for stinky smells
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/08 13:01
A pot farm's neighbor can sue them for smells and other nuisances that could harm their property values, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revives a lawsuit between a Colorado horse farm and a neighboring marijuana-growing warehouse.

The horse farm's owners, the Reillys, sued in 2015, claiming that the pot-growing warehouse would diminish their land's value by emitting "noxious odors" and attracting unsavory visitors. A federal district court dismissed the Reillys' claim, and the pot warehouse opened in 2016.

The horse farm owners appealed, and a three-judge appeals panel agreed Wednesday that their claims should be heard. But the judges said the Reillys can't sue Colorado to force the state to enforce federal drug law and not allow the pot warehouse in the first place.

The southern Colorado horse-vs-pot case is interesting because the horse farm owners are trying to use a 1970 federal law crafted to fight organized crime. The Reillys say that federal racketeering laws entitle them to collect damages from the pot farm, even though the pot farm is legal under state law.

"The landowners have plausibly alleged at least one (racketeering) claim," the judges wrote.

Pot opponents say the racketeering strategy gives them a possible tool to break an industry they oppose. It could give private citizens who oppose pot legalization a way to sue the industry out of business, even as federal officials have so far declined to shut down most pot businesses operating in violation of federal drug law.

"This is a tremendous victory for opponents of the marijuana industry," said Brian Barnes, a Washington-based lawyer who represents the Reillys on behalf of the anti-crime nonprofit group Safe Streets Alliance.

Owners of the pot warehouse, owned by a company called Alternative Holistic Healing, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday. An attorney representing them in the case could not be reached, either.

The case now goes to back to a federal district court that had earlier dismissed it.

The appeals panel handed pot opponents a defeat on another case Wednesday, however. The judges ruled that a lower court was right to dismiss a claim from a group of sheriffs in Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma, who had asked the federal court to block Colorado's pot law.


High court limits seizure of assets from drug conspiracies
Headline Legal News | 2017/06/05 08:59
The Supreme Court is limiting the government's ability to seize assets from people who are convicted of drug crimes but receive little of the illegal proceeds.

The justices ruled Monday that a Tennessee man convicted for his role selling iodine water purification filters to methamphetamine makers does not have to forfeit nearly $70,000 in profits.

Terry Honeycutt helped sell more than 20,000 filters at his brother's hardware store. Prosecutors said the brothers knew the iodine was used by local meth cooks.

Honeycutt's brother pleaded guilty and forfeited $200,000 of the $270,000 in profits. But Honeycutt argued he wasn't responsible for the rest since he didn't personally see any profits.

A federal appeals court ruled against Honeycutt, saying everyone who joins a drug conspiracy can be required to give up profits.




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