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Democratic governor getting to shape Kansas' top court
Court Issues | 2019/07/29 03:54
The Kansas Supreme Court's chief justice plans to retire before the end of the year, allowing first-year Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to leave a bigger mark on the state's highest court than her conservative Republican predecessors.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced Friday that he would step down Dec. 17 after serving on the court since 2002 and as chief justice since 2010. During Nuss' tenure as chief justice, GOP conservatives increasingly criticized the court as too liberal and too activist for the state over rulings on abortion, capital punishment and public school funding.

His announcement came a little more than two weeks after Justice Lee Johnson, another target of criticism on the right, announced plans to retire in September. That means Kelly will have two appointments to the seven-member court since she took office in January when conservative GOP Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer had only one appointee between them during the previous eight years.

Both justices voted repeatedly to direct legislators to increase education funding in recent years and were part of the 6-1 majority that declared in April that the state constitution protects access to abortion as a "fundamental" right. They also voted to overturn death sentences in capital murder cases, though Nuss concluded that the death penalty law itself is constitutional.


Cyprus police frees 5 Israelis, 7 held in hotel rape probe
Legal Interview | 2019/07/25 10:55
A Cyprus court on Friday extended the detention of seven of the 12 Israeli teenagers initially arrested as suspects in the rape of a 19-year-old British woman.

The court ordered the suspects to remain in police custody for another six days to give investigators time to finish looking into the woman’s reported rape at a hotel in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

Defense lawyer Nir Yaslovitzh says five other suspects were released from custody on Thursday and have returned to Israel.

Lawyer Yiannis Habaris told The Associated Press that police investigators confirmed that the five released Israelis had no connection with the case. Habaris represents four suspects, two of whom were among those who were released.

Habaris said investigators connected the seven remaining suspects to the case through witness statements as well as DNA evidence which link three of the seven to the alleged victim.

The Cypriot lawyer said the suspects offered investigators certain “explanations” into their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime.

The court heard that the alleged victim was involved in a relationship with one of the seven suspects and had sexual contact with several of the remaining six over the course of a few days, Habaris said.

Habaris said investigators may decide to take the case to trial before a criminal court if any of the seven suspects aren’t released in the coming days.

Yaslovitzh, an Israeli lawyer who represents three of the 12 Israelis, alleged the release of the five damaged the accuser’s credibility because she told police a dozen individuals sexually assaulted her.

Yaslovitzh also urged Cypriot investigators to look into the woman’s actions at the hotel where the alleged crime occurred and where she was also working.

The seven suspects again covered their faces with their shirts as they entered and exited the courthouse. They face charges of rape and conspiracy to commit rape.

Yaslovitzh had said after the initial custody hearing that all 12 Israelis had come on holidays to Cyprus in three separate groups and didn’t know each other. Some had gone on vacation prior to being inducted into the Israeli army.



Supreme Court: Trump can use Pentagon funds for border wall
Court Issues | 2019/07/24 10:58
The Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.

The court’s five conservative justices gave the administration the green light on Friday to begin work on four contracts it has awarded using Defense Department money. Funding for the projects had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit over the money proceeded. The court’s four liberal justices wouldn’t have allowed construction to start.

The justices’ decision to lift the freeze on the money allows President Donald Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise heading into his race for a second term. Trump tweeted after the announcement: “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

The Supreme Court’s action reverses the decision of a trial court, which initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court, which kept that freeze in place earlier this month. The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5 billion in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.

The case the Supreme Court ruled in began after the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of last year. Trump ended the shutdown in February after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding. But the amount was far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking, and Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.

The money Trump identified includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department money and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.


Dutch Supreme Court upholds Srebrenica deaths liability
Court Issues | 2019/07/20 21:35
The Dutch Supreme Court upheld Friday a lower court’s ruling that the Netherlands is partially liable in the deaths of some 350 Muslim men who were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The Netherlands’ highest court ruled that Dutch United Nations peacekeepers evacuated the men from their military base near Srebrenica on July 13, 1995, despite knowing that they “were in serious jeopardy of being abused and murdered” by Bosnian Serb forces.

Presiding Judge Kees Streefkerk said “the state did act wrongfully” and told relatives of the dead they can now claim compensation from the Dutch government.

“They are responsible and they will always have a stain,” Munira Subasic, one of the relatives who brought the case, said angrily of the Dutch. “We know what happened; we don’t need this court to tell us.”

The ruling upholding a 2017 appeals court judgment was the latest in a long-running legal battle by a group of relatives known as The Mothers of Srebrenica to hold the Dutch government accountable for the deaths of their family members in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten said the government accepted the ruling.

“We want to express again our sympathy to the relatives of the victims,” she said in a statement. “The Srebrenica genocide must never be forgotten.”

The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified Muslim residents of the Srebrenica area who took shelter in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the region was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic, who was convicted of genocide by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in 2017 for masterminding the massacre that left some 8,000 Muslim men and boys dead. Mladic has appealed.


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