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Legal help too slow in Texas arrest, high court says
Law Firm News | 2008/06/24 15:06
A man whose life was turned upside-down by a wrongful arrest and weeks in jail should have been given access to a lawyer sooner so he could have shown the arrest was erroneous, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday.

The high court ruled 8-1 in favor of Walter Rothgery. In 2004, three weeks after he arrived from Arizona to take a job managing an RV park in Gillespie County, Rothgery was arrested for carrying a gun as a convicted felon. No lawyer was provided at his first court hearing and his wife used their last $500 for bail.

The arrest was based on a mistake in a computer database that showed he was a felon, which left him unable to find a full-time job. By the time he was indicted six months later, he was broke, his bond had tripled and he was sent back to a county jail 100 miles from his home.

A sympathetic warden helped Rothgery find an attorney to obtain documentation showing he had no felony record. He was released and the weapons charge finally was dropped.

Rothgery sued Gillespie County for violating his constitutional right to counsel. When a federal court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case, his attorneys went to the Supreme Court. The ruling Monday returns his lawsuit to the lower courts.

"Texas really is part of America now," Rothgery, 57, told The Associated Press on Monday from Llano, where he works in an equipment rental store. "I am fairly pleased. I was trying to keep an even keel. It got harder as we got to the end of June.

"Now I can let it loose. Before I was trying to hold back and try not get my hopes too high."

Rothgery's lawyers argued Texas should provide a defense lawyer for indigent clients once they've made a first appearance before a magistrate, even if no prosecutor was present.



Court rejects case on fast track for border fence
Law Firm News | 2008/06/23 14:29
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a plea by environmental groups to rein in the Bush administration's power to waive laws and regulations to speed construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has used authority given to him by Congress in 2005 to ignore environmental and other laws and regulations to move forward with hundreds of miles of fencing in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

The case rejected by the court involved a two-mile section of fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Naco, Ariz. The section has since been built.

"I am extremely disappointed in the court's decision," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said. "This waiver will only prolong the department from addressing the real issue: their lack of a comprehensive border security plan."

Thompson chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. He and 13 other House democrats — including six other committee chairs — filed a brief in support of the environmentalists' appeal.

Earlier this year, Chertoff waived more than 30 laws and regulations in an effort to finish building 670 miles of fence along the southwest border. Administration officials have said that invoking the legal waivers — which Congress authorized in 1996 and 2005 laws — will cut through bureaucratic red tape and sidestep environmental laws that currently stand in the way of fence construction.



1st black La. Supreme Court justice dies at 84
Blog News | 2008/06/23 14:29
Revius Ortique Jr., the first black justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court, has died of complications from a stroke. He was 84.

Current Supreme Court Justice Kitty Kimball says Ortique died Sunday.

Ortique was elected to the court in 1992, but had to step down two years later when he reached the state's mandatory retirement age for judges at 70.

As a civil rights lawyer in the 1950s and '60s, he helped integrate state labor unions and sued to get equal pay for black workers.

He held several presidential appointments, including a stint as an alternate delegate to the United Nations under President Clinton.



Court will review $2.8 million award to Iranian
Court Watch | 2008/06/22 15:50
The Supreme Court will review a ruling that allows the brother of an Iranian terrorism victim to collect $2.8 million.

The justices said Monday they will consider overturning a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the case of Dariush Elahi, who is seeking the money as compensation for the killing of his brother, Cyrus, in Paris in 1990.

French authorities blamed the Iranian government for the killing.

In 2000, Dariush Elahi sued Iran in federal court in Washington. The Iranian government failed to respond to the lawsuit and, after a trial, a judge awarded Elahi $11.7 million in compensatory and $300 million in punitive damages.

When Dariush Elahi accepted $2.3 million from the U.S. government under a law that allows terrorism victims to collect damages from the U.S. Treasury, lawyers for the Bush administration and the Iranian government said he relinquished his claim to the rest of the original judgment.

But the appeals court said that he is entitled to collect another $2.8 million from a California company that owes Iran for a canceled weapons shipment.



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