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Court to rule on whether voters can decide 'millionaire tax'
Court Watch | 2018/06/17 09:22
Massachusetts' highest court is expected to rule on whether a proposed "millionaire tax" can go before state voters in November.

The Supreme Judicial Court is poised to issue its decision Monday after weighing the case for several months. The proposed constitutional amendment would impose a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual's annual income that exceeds $1 million. The measure calls for revenues from the tax to be used for transportation and education.

Several business groups sued to stop the proposed surtax from appearing on the ballot, claiming it violates constitutional restrictions on ballot questions.

The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition collected more than 150,000 signatures in support of the measure and estimates it would raise nearly $2 billion in additional taxes annually for the state.




Kansas Supreme Court sends DNA request back to lower court
Court Watch | 2018/06/11 15:05
The Kansas Supreme Court has remanded a convicted man's request for DNA testing back to Leavenworth County District Court for further review.

The court on Friday reversed earlier rulings by a district judge and the Kansas Court of Appeals that denied the request from 39-year-old Gregory Mark George Jr., who is serving time for rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated intimidation of a witness.

The Leavenworth Times reports George was convicted of raping a clerk during a robbery at a Lansing convenience store in 2004.

In 2013, George filed a petition for DNA testing of hairs that were collected as part of his case but were never tested.

The state Supreme Court ruling asks a district judge to determine whether the requested testing might produce evidence that could help exonerate George.



Top Texas court says condemned inmate not mentally disabled
Court Watch | 2018/06/07 19:39
Texas' highest criminal court narrowly ruled Wednesday that a death row inmate is mentally capable enough to execute, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that his intellectual capacity had been improperly assessed and agreement by his lawyer and prosecutors that he shouldn't qualify for the death penalty.

In a 5-3 ruling with one judge not participating, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said it reviewed the case of convicted killer Bobby James Moore under guidance from the Supreme Court's March 2017 decision and determined that Moore isn't intellectually disabled based on updated standards from the American Psychiatric Association.

"It remains true under our newly adopted framework that a vast array of evidence in this record is inconsistent with a finding of intellectual disability," the Texas court's majority wrote. "We conclude that he has failed to demonstrate adaptive deficits sufficient to support a diagnosis of intellectual disability."

The Supreme Court last year said the state court used outdated standards to reach its earlier decision on Moore. In a lengthy dissent joined by judges Bert Richardson and Scott Walker, Judge Elsa Alcala wrote that the majority got it wrong. "The majority opinion's assessment of the evidence in this record is wholly divorced from the diagnostic criteria that it claims to adhere to," she wrote.

The ruling came despite Harris County prosecutors telling the court they believed Moore is mentally disabled and shouldn't be found eligible for the death penalty. Cliff Sloan, who argued Moore's case before the Supreme Court, said Wednesday's ruling was "inconsistent" with the high court's decision.


UK Supreme Court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion laws
Court Watch | 2018/06/07 19:39
Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday criticized Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws but dismissed a legal challenge.

A majority of the court decided that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which initiated the case, did not have the standing to bring the challenge to the abortion law. The court dismissed the case without taking action.

The justices went on to say, however, that a majority finds Northern Ireland's abortion prohibitions "disproportionate" and that they violate European human rights laws.

That part of the ruling gave hope to abortion rights activists seeking to liberalize Northern Ireland's laws. Strict Northern Ireland laws that prohibit abortions in cases of pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, and in cases when the fetus has a likely fatal abnormality, have drawn scrutiny since the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to repeal its own strict laws.

When Ireland replaces the constitutional ban with more liberal legislation after a debate in parliament, Northern Ireland will be the only remaining region in Britain and Ireland to outlaw the procedure.

Rosa Curling, from the law firm Leigh Day that helped bring the legal challenge, called the court's ruling "a momentous day for women in Northern Ireland" and said it is now up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to take action to ease the laws.

She said May has an obligation to make sure the U.K. government is "now longer acting unlawfully by breaching the human rights of women across Northern Ireland."

However, the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case because of doubts about the Human Rights Commission's right to bring it means the judges' views on the anti-abortion laws do not have legal force, which is reassuring for abortion foes.


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