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Trial turns testy as Trump lawyers try to pique fixer-turned-witness
Court Watch | 2024/05/26 05:20
After approximately five weeks, 19 witnesses, reams of documents and a dash of salacious testimony, the prosecution against Donald Trump rested its case Monday, handing over to the defense before closing arguments expected next week.

Trump’s team immediately sought to undermine key testimony against the former president, who is accused of covering up hush money paid to a porn star over an alleged encounter that could have derailed his successful 2016 White House bid.

His attorneys called lawyer Robert Costello — who once advised star prosecution witness Michael Cohen before falling out with him — in an apparent attempt to puncture Cohen’s credibility.

But Costello’s start on the stand was shaky at best, as his dismissive tone provoked an angry response from Judge Juan Merchan.

Merchan chided Costello for remarking “jeez” when he was cut off by a sustained objection and, at another point, “strike it.” Merchan told him: “I’m the only one that can strike testimony in the courtroom. Do you understand that?”

"And then if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Merchan was about to bring the jury back in when he asked Costello, “Are you staring me down right now?” and then kicked out the press to further admonish him.

"I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous,” Merchan said, according to the transcript of the conversation that occurred when the press was out of the room. ”If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.”

Costello didn’t return a message seeking comment Monday night.

Trump, speaking to reporters afterward, called the episode “an incredible display,” branding the proceedings “a show trial” and the judge “a tyrant.”

Extended quibbling among the two legal teams, along with the upcoming holiday weekend, means closing arguments that the judge had hoped could start Tuesday are now anticipated for next week.

It’s unlikely and risky, but the door remains open for Trump to take the stand in the criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president.

Experts doubt he will, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination by prosecutors — but his lawyer Todd Blanche has raised the prospect.

On Monday, Blanche finished his third day of questioning Cohen after hours of at times digressive, at other times bruising, exchanges.


War crimes prosecutor seeks arrest of Israeli and Hamas leaders
Court Watch | 2024/05/21 18:23
The chief prosecutor of the world’s top war crimes court sought arrest warrants Monday for leaders of Israel and Hamas, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over actions taken during their seven-month war.

While Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, do not face imminent arrest, the announcement by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor was a symbolic blow that deepened Israel’s isolation over the war in Gaza.

The court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, accused Netanyahu, Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the move as disgraceful and antisemitic. U.S. President Joe Biden also lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.

Israel is not a member of the court, so even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Netanyahu called the prosecutor’s accusations against him a “disgrace,” and an attack on the Israeli military and all of Israel. He vowed to press ahead with Israel’s war against Hamas.

Biden said the effort to arrest Netanyahu and Gallant over the war in Gaza was “outrageous,” adding “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Hamas also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s actions, saying the request to arrest its leaders “equates the victim with the executioner.”

Netanyahu has come under heavy pressure at home to end the war. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring home Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity, fearing that time is running out.

In recent days, the two other members of his war Cabinet, Gallant and Benny Gantz, have threatened to resign if Netanyahu does not spell out a clear postwar vision for Gaza.

But on Monday, Netanyahu received wall-to-wall support as politicians across the spectrum condemned the ICC prosecutor’s move. They included Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, and his two main political rivals, Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid.

It is unclear what effect Khan’s move will have on Netanyahu’s public standing. The possibility of an arrest warrant against Netanyahu could give him a boost as Israelis rally behind the flag. But his opponents could also blame him for bringing a diplomatic catastrophe on the country.

Yuval Shany, an expert on international law at Hebrew University and the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said it was far more certain that Netanyahu’s already troubled international standing could be further weakened.


Starbucks appears likely to win Supreme Court dispute with federal labor agency
Court Watch | 2024/04/26 20:10
The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to side with Starbucks Tuesday in a case that could make it harder for the federal government to seek injunctions when it suspects a company of interfering in unionization campaigns.

Justices noted during oral arguments that Congress requires the National Labor Relations Board to seek such injunctions in federal court and said that gives the courts the duty to consider several factors, including whether the board would ultimately be successful in its administrative case against a company.

“The district court is an independent check. So it seems like it should be just doing what district courts do, since it was given the authority to do it,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

But the NLRB says that since 1947, the National Labor Relations Act — the law that governs the agency — has allowed courts to grant temporary injunctions if it finds a request “just and proper.” The agency says the law doesn’t require it to prove other factors and was intended to limit the role of the courts.

The case that made it to the high court began in February 2022, when Starbucks fired seven workers who were trying to unionize their Tennessee store. The NLRB obtained a court order forcing the company to rehire the workers while the case wound its way through the agency’s administrative proceedings. Such proceedings can take up to two years.

A district court judge agreed with the NLRB and issued a temporary injunction ordering Starbucks to rehire the workers in August 2022. After the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, Starbucks appealed to the Supreme Court.

Five of the seven workers are still employed at the Memphis store, while the other two remain involved with the organizing effort, according to Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks workers. The Memphis store voted to unionize in June 2022.

Starbucks asked the Supreme Court to intervene because it says federal appeals courts don’t agree on the standards the NLRB must meet when it requests a temporary injunction against a company.

In its review of what transpired at the Starbucks store in Memphis, the Sixth Circuit required the NLRB to establish two things: that it had reasonable cause to believe unfair labor practices occurred and that a restraining order would be a “just and proper” solution.

But other federal appeals courts have required the NLRB to meet a tougher, four-factor test used when other federal agencies seek restraining orders, including showing it was likely to prevail in the administrative case and that employees would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson appeared to agree with the NLRB’s argument that Congress meant for the agency to operate under a different standard.

She noted the NLRB has already determined it is likely to prevail in a case by the time it seeks an injunction. And she noted that injunctions are very rare. In the NLRB’s 2023 fiscal year, it received 19,869 charges of unfair labor practices but authorized the filing of just 14 cases seeking temporary injunctions.


The Man Charged in an Illinois Attack That Left 4 Dead Is Due Back in Court
Court Watch | 2024/04/02 23:25
A northern Illinois man charged with killing four people and injuring seven others by stabbing, beating and driving over them is expected back in court on Tuesday.

A judge in the city of Rockford is expected to consider prosecutors' request that Christian Soto remain jailed pending trial. The 22-year-old appeared briefly in court on Thursday, a day after the attacks in Rockford and his arrest. His defense asked for more time to prepare for the hearing.

The Winnebago County Public Defender's office, listed as Soto's representative in court documents, has not returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on his behalf.

The Winnebago County coroner on Thursday identified those killed as 63-year-old Romona Schupbach; 23-year-old Jacob Schupbach; 49-year-old Jay Larson; and 15-year-old Jenna Newcomb.

Authorities last week described a series of frenzied attacks within minutes at multiple addresses in a Rockford neighborhood, but said they had not determined a motive.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley said Soto told police after his arrest that he had smoked marijuana with Jacob Schupbach and believed the drugs “were laced with an unknown narcotic" that made him paranoid.

Authorities have said Soto first stabbed Schupbach and his mother then violently attacked other people in the area and inside other homes. They said he beat, stabbed and used a truck to run over Larson, who was working as a mail carrier; wounded three people inside one home; and beat Newcomb, her sister and a friend with a baseball bat inside another home.

Authorities said Winnebago County sheriff deputies arrested Soto as he fled from another home where he had stabbed a woman and had been slowed down by a man driving by who stopped to intervene.


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