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EU court says Poland's Supreme Court reforms unlawful
Law Firm News | 2019/06/22 00:52
The European Union's top court ruled Monday that a Polish law that pushed Supreme Court judges into early retirement violates EU law, a setback for Poland's right-wing government but a move welcomed by critics who worried the measure would cause a serious erosion of democratic standards.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice said the measures breach judicial independence. An interim decision from the Luxembourg-based court in November ordered the Polish government to reinstate judges who were forced to retire early and to amend the law to remove the provisions that took about one-third of the court off the bench.

The court said the law "undermines the principle of the irremovability of judges, that principle being essential to their independence."

There was no immediate reaction from Poland's government, but the decision is a blow to the ruling authorities, who since winning power in 2015 have increasingly taken control of the judicial system.

The government and president have said they wanted to force the early retirement of the Supreme Court judges as part of a larger effort to purge communist-era judges.

But legal experts say that argument holds no water because most communist-era judges are long gone from the judicial system 30 years after the fall of communism. Many critics believe the true aim is to destroy the independence of the Polish judiciary.

The biggest fear is that the judiciary could become so politicized that those not favored by the ruling authorities could be unfairly charged with crimes and sentenced, essentially deprived of fair hearings. Though a separate court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and other bodies are already under the ruling party's control, many judges have continued to show independence, ruling against the authorities, even the justice minister, in recent cases.


Option to undo some DUI convictions yet to be widely sought
Law Firm News | 2019/06/18 00:45
Court officials and lawyers in North Dakota say few people have tried to undo convictions for refusing DUI blood tests in the year since a state Supreme Court opinion offered a narrow pathway for doing so.

The North Dakota high court ruled in 2018 that a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision found it unconstitutional to criminalize refusal of a warrantless blood draw applies retroactively. The 2016 decision was based on cases in North Dakota and Minnesota involving alcohol testing.

The North Dakota justices said in their ruling that any post-conviction relief applies "in very limited circumstances" such as time of the conviction and the "legal landscape" as it existed at the time of each case. Even so, Bismarck attorney Dan Herbel, who argued in both the 2016 and 2018 cases, said it doesn't appear many people are taking advantage of the state ruling.

"I don't know if a lot of people are even aware that they have the option of vacating a prior conviction based upon these cases," Herbel told The Bismarck Tribune.

The Minnesota Supreme Court in late 2018 also ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court case applies retroactively.

Attorney Jonathan Green, of Wahpeton, said he's sent letters to people he can find who have convictions for refusing warrantless blood draws. He's received phone calls from about a dozen people and has filed petitions for about half. Judges earlier this month vacated Burleigh County convictions for a Fargo woman and a Bismarck man for whom Green sought relief under the state Supreme Court ruling.


Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime
Law Firm News | 2019/06/14 16:28
Brazil's supreme court officially made homophobia and transphobia crimes similar to racism on Thursday, with the final justices casting their votes in a ruling that comes amid fears the country's far-right administration is seeking to roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges had already voted in favor of the measure in late May, giving the ruling a majority. The final justices voted Thursday for a tally of eight votes for and three against.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

The court's judges have said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.

"In a discriminatory society like the one we live in, the homosexual is different and the transsexual is different. Every preconception is violence, but some impose more suffering than others," said justice Carmen Lucia.

Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, one of the judges who voted against the measure, recognized the lack of congressional legislation on the issue but said he voted against putting homophobia inside the framework of the racism legislation because only the legislature has the power to create "types of crimes" and set punishments.



Estranged husband, girlfriend in court for missing mom case
Law Firm News | 2019/06/01 23:44
A missing mother of five's estranged husband and his girlfriend are set to make their first court appearances in Connecticut after being charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution .

Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis are scheduled to be arraigned Monday at Norwalk Superior Court.

Both were arrested Saturday night in connection with the investigation into the May 24 disappearance of 50-year-old Jennifer Dulos in New Canaan. She was last seen dropping off her children at school and is still missing.
Details of the charges have not been released.

Jennifer and Fotis Dulos have been embroiled in a contentious divorce and child custody case for the past two years. It wasn't clear if Dulos and Troconis have criminal court lawyers who could respond to the allegations.


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