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Court suspends law license for SC prosecutor facing charges
Law Firm News | 2018/09/26 10:22
South Carolina's Supreme Court has suspended the law license of a prosecutor accused of embezzling money seized from drug defendants to pay for personal trips to Europe and the Galapagos Islands.

The court issued that order Monday for 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, whose jurisdiction includes Richland and Kershaw counties, along with the state's capital city of Columbia.

Johnson was suspended from office last week following his indictment on more than two dozen federal charges including wire fraud and theft of government funds. His communications director, Nicole Holland, faces the same 26 charges.

State and federal authorities have been investigating the travel and spending habits of Johnson, who logged more than 70 days of travel over a period of less than two years. Trips to locations including Amsterdam, Colombia and the Galapagos Islands were reflected in credit card bills and receipts released by a nonprofit that obtained them through open-records laws.

The money, prosecutors said, was taken from state and federal accounts holding assets forfeited by defendants in illegal drug cases. Johnson recently lost a primary bid for a third term and hasn't responded to messages about charges against him. Previously, he has declined to answer specific questions about his travels but has said he didn't intend for public money to be used for personal expenses.



Stand-ins to decide who sits on West Virginia Supreme Court
Legal Network | 2018/09/24 10:21
A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.


Supreme Court upholds hospital 'charity care' tax exemption
Legal Network | 2018/09/23 22:21
The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 law that sought to clarify property tax exemptions for charitable hospitals.

The court voted 7-0 in an opinion issued Thursday. It ruled on a law that allows issuing tax exemptions to hospitals when the value of the "charity care" or "free or discounted services" they provide exceed its estimated tax liability.

Constance Oswald argued in her lawsuit that the law requires issuing an exemption regardless of whether the constitutional requirements are met. The court found that the language of the law merely allows allowing an exemption in warranted cases.

Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun says the law has cleared up previous confusion and ensured financially stretched hospitals can serve their communities.



Missouri court lets redistricting initiative go to voters
Court Watch | 2018/09/23 22:17
A Missouri appeals court panel cleared the way Friday for voters to decide a November ballot initiative that could shake up of the state Legislature by requiring districts to be drawn to achieve "partisan fairness" and imposing new lobbying limits.

The ruling overturned a decision issued a week ago by a state judge who said the so-called Clean Missouri initiative violated the state constitution by addressing multiple topics.

The Western District appeals panel disagreed, ruling that the "multiple provisions all relate to a single central purpose: regulating the legislature to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests."

Republican-aligned attorneys for those opposing the measure said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court. But time is running short. Missouri law sets a Tuesday deadline to make changes to the Nov. 6. ballot. The state's high court previously turned down a chance to hear the case in place of the appeals panel.

As it stands, the measure would appear on the ballot as Constitutional Amendment 1.

"We hope this brings an end to it and that the people can vote in November on whether they want to adopt these changes," said attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represents Clean Missouri.

The initiative has been opposed in court by the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a Republican voter who was represented by the law firm of Missouri Republican Party Chairman Todd Graves.




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