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Court rejects settlement in water dispute between New Mexico and Texas
Blog News | 2024/06/21 19:04
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a settlement between Western states over the management of one of North America’s longest rivers.

The 5-4 decision rebuffs an agreement that had come recommended by a federal judge overseeing the case over how New Mexico, Texas and Colorado must share water from the Rio Grande. The high court found that the federal government still had claims about New Mexico’s water use that the settlement would not resolve.

U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Melloy had called the proposal a fair and reasonable way to resolve the conflict between Texas and New Mexico that would be consistent with a decadeslong water-sharing agreement between the two states as well as Colorado.

The federal government, though, lodged several objections, including that the proposal did not mandate specific water capture or use limitations within New Mexico.

New Mexico officials have said implementing the settlement would require reducing the use of Rio Grande water through a combination of efforts that range from paying farmers to leave their fields barren to making infrastructure improvements. Some New Mexico lawmakers have voiced concerns, but the attorney general who led the state’s negotiations had called the agreement a victory.

Farmers in southern New Mexico have had to rely more heavily on groundwater wells over the last two decades as drought and climate change resulted in reduced flows and less water in reservoirs along the Rio Grande. Texas sued over the groundwater pumping, claiming the practice was cutting into the amount of water that was ultimately delivered as part of the interstate compact.

The proposed settlement would recognize several measurements to ensure New Mexico delivers what’s owed to Texas. New Mexico, meanwhile, agreed to drop its challenges against Texas in exchange for clarifying how water will be accounted for as it flows downstream. The agreement also outlined transfers if not enough or too much water ended up in Texas.


Three Americans in alleged coup attempt appear in Congo military court
Blog News | 2024/06/07 22:07
Three Americans accused of being involved in last month’s coup attempt in Congo appeared in a military court in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, on Friday, along with dozens of other defendants who were lined up on plastic chairs before the judge on the first day of the hearing.

The proceedings before the open-air military court were broadcast live on the local television channel.

Six people were killed during the botched coup attempt led by the little-known opposition figure Christian Malanga last month that targeted the presidential palace and a close ally of President Felix Tshisekedi. Malanga was shot and killed soon after live-streaming the attack for resisting arrest, the Congolese army said.

The defendants face a number of charges, many punishable by death, including terrorism, murder and criminal association. The court said there were 53 names on the list, but the names of Malanga and one other person were removed after death certificates were produced.

Alongside Malanga’s 21-year-old son Marcel Malanga — who is a U.S. citizen — two other Americans are on trial for their alleged role in the attack. All three requested an interpreter to translate the proceedings from French to English.

Malanga’s son was the first to be questioned by the judge, who asked him to confirm his name and other personal details. The military official chosen to translate for him was apparently unable to understand English well.

Eventually, a journalist was selected from the media to replace him, but he too had trouble translating numbers and the details of the proceedings.

“He’s not interpreting right. We need a different interpreter who understands English, please,” Marcel Malanga told the judge after the journalist incorrectly translated his zip code.

But no other translator emerged and the defendants had to make do with the journalist, who worked for the national radio. Malanga appeared frustrated and defiant as the interview stumbled ahead.

Tyler Thompson Jr, 21, flew to Africa from Utah with the younger Malanga for what his family believed was a vacation, with all expenses paid by the elder Malanga. The young men had played high school football together in Salt Lake City suburbs. Other teammates accused Marcel of offering up to $100,000 to join him on a “security job” in Congo.

Thompson appeared before the court with a shaved head and sores on his skin, looking nervous and lost as he confirmed his name and other personal details to the judge.

His stepmother, Miranda Thompson, told The Associated Press that the family found out about the hearing too late to arrange travel to Congo but hoped to be present for future court dates. Before this week, the family had no proof he was still alive.

“We’re thrilled with the confirmation,” she said.

Miranda Thompson had worried that her stepson might not even know that his family knew he’d been arrested. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Congo told the AP it had yet to gain access to the American prisoners to provide consular services before the trial.


Alabama hospital pauses IVF treatments after court ruling on embryos
Blog News | 2024/02/22 18:48
Alabama’s largest hospital paused in vitro fertilization treatments Wednesday as providers and patients across the state scrambled to assess the impact of a court ruling that said frozen embryos are the legal equivalent of children.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said in a statement that it must evaluate whether its patients or doctors could face criminal charges or punitive damages for undergoing IVF treatments. “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF,” the statement from spokeswoman Savannah Koplon read.

Doctors and patients were gripped by a mixture of shock, anxiety and fear as they weighed how to proceed in the wake of the ruling by the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court that put in question the future of IVF.

“Disbelief, denial, all the stages of grief. ... I was stunned,” said Dr. Michael C. Allemand, a reproductive endocrinologist at Alabama Fertility, which provides IVF services.

Allemand said they are having daily discussions about how to proceed. He said IVF is often the best treatment for patients who desperately want a child, and the ruling threatens doctors’ ability to provide that care.

“The moments that our patients are wanting to have by growing their families — Christmas mornings with grandparents, kindergarten, going in the first day of school, with little back-backs— all that stuff is what this is about. Those are the real moments that this ruling could deprive patients of,” he said.

Gabby and Spencer Goidel of Auburn, Alabama, turned to IVF after three miscarriages. The Alabama ruling came down on the same day Gabby began a 10-day series of daily injections ahead of egg retrieval, with the hopes of getting pregnant through IVF next month.

“When I saw this ruling, I got very angry and very hurt that it could potentially stop my cycle. People need to know this is affecting couples — real-life couples who are trying to start families, who are just trying to live the quote, unquote American dream,” Gabby Goidel, 26, said. She said her clinic is continuing to provide treatment for now but is reviewing the situation on a day-by-day basis.

Justices — citing language in the Alabama Constitution that the state recognizes the “rights of the unborn child” — said three couples could sue for wrongful death when their frozen embryos were destroyed in a accident at a storage facility.

“Unborn children are ‘children’ ... without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority ruling. Mitchell said the court had previously ruled that a fetus killed when a woman is pregnant is covered under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and nothing excludes “extrauterine children from the Act’s coverage.”

Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker, in a scripture-draped concurring opinion, wrote that, “even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”

While the court case centered on whether embryos were covered under the wrongful death of a minor statute, some said treating the embryo as a child — rather than property — could have broader implications and call into question many of the practices of IVF.

“If this is now a person, will we be able to freeze embryos?” Barbara Collura, CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said.

The fertility clinic and hospital in the Alabama case could ask the court to reconsider the decision or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the matter if they believe there is a conflict with federal law.


Man sentenced to death for arson attack at Japanese anime studio that killed 36
Blog News | 2024/01/26 22:29
A Japanese court sentenced a man to death after finding him guilty of murder and other crimes Thursday for carrying out an arson attack on an anime studio in Kyoto that killed 36 people.

The Kyoto District Court said it found the defendant, Shinji Aoba, mentally capable to face punishment for his crimes and announced the sentence of capital punishment after a recess in a two-part session on Thursday.

Aoba stormed into Kyoto Animation’s No. 1 studio on July 18, 2019, and set it on fire. Many of the victims were believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 30 other people were badly burned or injured.

Judge Keisuke Masuda said Aoba had wanted to be a novelist but was unsuccessful and so he sought revenge, thinking that Kyoto Animation had stolen novels he submitted as part of a company contest, according to NHK national television.

NHK also reported that Aoba, who was out of work and struggling financially after repeatedly changing jobs, had plotted a separate attack on a train station north of Tokyo a month before the arson attack on the animation studio.

Aoba plotted the attacks after studying past criminal cases involving arson, the court said in the ruling, noting the process showed that Aoba had premeditated the crime and was mentally capable.

“The attack that instantly turned the studio into hell and took the precious lives of 36 people, caused them indescribable pain,” the judge said, according to NHK. During the trial, Aoba told the victims’ families that he was sorry, but he did not show sincere regret or face their sufferings fully, and there was little hope for correction, the ruling said.

Aoba, 45, was severely burned and was hospitalized for 10 months before his arrest in May 2020. He appeared in court in a wheelchair.

His defense lawyers argued he was mentally unfit to be held criminally responsible.

About 70 people were working inside the studio in southern Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, at the time of the attack. One of the survivors said he saw a black cloud rising from downstairs, then scorching heat came and he jumped from a window of the three-story building gasping for air.

The company, founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni, made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls, and the studio trained aspirants to the craft.

Japanese media have described Aoba as being thought of as a troublemaker who repeatedly changed contract jobs and apartments and quarreled with neighbors. The fire was Japan’s deadliest since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Kyoto Animation attack was “a highly tragic case” and that the government has since stepped up restrictions on gasoline sales, including mandatory identification checks of purchasers. Hayashi, however, declined to comment on the death penalty ruling.


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