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Supreme Court skeptical of man who offered adult adoptions
Law Firm News | 2023/03/28 21:21
The Supreme Court seemed inclined Monday to rule against a man convicted of violating immigration law for offering adult adoptions he falsely claimed would lead to citizenship.

Attorneys for Helaman Hansen told the justices during approximately 90 minutes of arguments that the law he was convicted of violating was too broad. But the court’s conservative majority in particular seemed willing to side with the government and conclude that it is not.

Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that the law “has been on the books for 70 years” without some of the issues Hansen’s lawyers worried about. He also expressed no sympathy for Hansen himself, who he said was “taking advantage of very vulnerable people.”

“He had every intent in the world to keep these people here to take their money with no prospect they’d ever” actually get citizenship, Gorsuch said.

The case involves a section of federal immigration law that says a person such as Hansen who “encourages or induces” a non-citizen to come to or remain in the United States illegally can be punished by up to five years in prison. That’s increased to up to 10 years if the person doing the encouraging is doing so for their own financial gain.

The federal government says that from 2012 to 2016 Hansen — who lived in Elk Grove, California, near Sacramento — deceived hundreds of non-citizens into believing that he could guarantee them a path to citizenship through adult adoption.

Based on Hansen’s promises, officials say, people either came to or stayed in the United States in violation of the law, even though Hansen knew that the adult adoptions he was arranging would not lead to citizenship. The government says at least 471 people paid him between $550 and $10,000 and that in total he collected more than $1.8 million.

Hansen was ultimately convicted of encouragement charges as well as fraud charges. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the encouragement charges and another 20 years on the fraud charges. But a federal appeals court ruled that the law on encouragement is overbroad and violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment and overturned just those convictions.

The court’s three liberal justices seemed more concerned about the reach of the law. Justice Elena Kagan asked “what happens to all the cases” where a lawyer, doctor, neighbor, friend or teacher “says to a non-citizen: ‘I really think you should stay.’” Kagan wanted to know whether those people could or would be prosecuted under the law.


North Carolina Supreme Court to revisit school funding
Law Firm News | 2023/03/06 17:02
A ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday siding with the state controller means the court will revisit a school funding case in which an earlier lineup of justices issued a landmark opinion just four months ago.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court restored enforcement of a 2021 order by the Court of Appeals that stopped the controller from transferring money from state coffers to agencies for education purposes without the General Assembly’s express approval. A trial judge had directed the controller’s predecessor to transfer the funds — an action the Supreme Court upheld in November. Two new justices joined the bench in January, altering the court’s partisan makeup.

A lawyer for current Controller Nels Roseland told the Supreme Court last month that Roseland remained worried that he or his staff could face criminal and civil penalties for making the transfer with several issues unaddressed. The controller keeps the state’s books and manages cash flow.

A lawyer for current Controller Nels Roseland told the Supreme Court last month that Roseland remained worried that he or his staff could face criminal and civil penalties for making the transfer with several issues unaddressed. The controller keeps the state’s books and manages cash flow.


Appeals ruling leaves Trump fate in defamation suit in flux
Law Firm News | 2022/09/28 16:38
A federal appeals court asked a Washington D.C. appeals court Tuesday to help it decide whether the United States should be substituted for former President Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her over a quarter century ago.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in a 2-to-1 decision reversed a lower court ruling that had concluded Trump must face the lawsuit brought in Manhattan federal court by columnist E. Jean Carroll.

But it stopped short of saying the U.S. can be substituted for Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit. Instead, it asked The D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest court in the District of Columbia, to decide whether Trump’s public statements denying Carroll’s rape claims occurred within the scope of his employment as president.

Carroll maintains Trump defamed her with public comments he made after she wrote in a 2019 book that Trump raped her during a chance encounter in the mid-1990s in a Manhattan department store. Trump denied the rape and questioned Carroll’s credibility and motivations.

The 2nd Circuit said Trump would be entitled to immunity by having the U.S. substituted as the defendant in the lawsuit if it was decided that his statements came within the scope of his employment.


Utah-based company wins auction to buy Jay Peak in Vermont
Law Firm News | 2022/09/08 19:57
Utah-based Pacific Group Resorts, Inc., which owns five ski resorts, has won the auction to buy Jay Peak Resort, the Vermont ski area that was shaken by a massive fraud case involving its former owner and president.

The court-appointed receiver who has been overseeing Jay Peak for more than six years announced Thursday the results of Wednesday’s auction, with Pacific Group Resorts making the highest and best bid among the multiple bidders. The offer was not disclosed.

“We are pleased an experienced operating company like Pacific Group Resorts ended up with this great asset,” receiver Michael Goldberg said in a statement.

A federal court must approve the bid and a hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16, according to Goldberg. The sale is expected to close before the upcoming ski season, Goldberg said.

Pacific Groups Resorts, which owns Ragged Mountain Resort in New Hampshire and Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Colorado, as well as properties in British Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, had originally offered to buy Jay Peak for $58 million. Goldberg wanted to be able to continue to market the resort, and if there were qualified bids to hold an auction “in order to assure the highest and best offer,” according a court filing last month.

Vern Greco, PGRI’s president and CEO, said the company started pursuing the acquisition over three years ago.

“Jay has a high quality team of dedicated employees who have weathered the uncertainty of the receivership for a long time,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing renewed stability to the property and its staff, we’re enthusiastic about the prospects for the resort, and we are delighted to be in Vermont which is an important market for any mountain resort operator.”

Former Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros, former president William Stenger and Quiros’ adviser William Kelly were sentenced this spring to federal prison for their roles in a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors’ money raised through a special visa program.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Vermont also alleged in 2016 that Quiros and Stenger took part in a “massive eight-year fraudulent scheme” that involved misusing more than $200 million of about $400 million raised from foreign investors for various ski area developments through the same visa program.

They settled civil charges with the SEC, with Quiros surrendering more than $80 million in assets, including Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts.


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