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Assembly OKs adding bank settlement into Calif law
Legal Interview | 2012/07/02 22:07
California would become the first state to write into law much of the national mortgage settlement negotiated this year with the nation's top five banks, and expand it to all lenders, under wide-ranging legislation state lawmakers approved Monday.

Majority Democrats sent the homeowner protection package to Gov. Jerry Brown despite opposition from business and lending organizations and most Republican legislators.

The Assembly approved the legislation on a 53-25 vote, and the Senate followed by voting 25-13.

The legislation would require large lenders to provide a single point of contact for homeowners who want to discuss loan modifications. It would prohibit lenders from foreclosing while the lenders consider homeowners' request for alternatives to foreclosure. And it would let California homeowners sue lenders to stop foreclosures or seek monetary damages if the lender violates state law.


Appeals court rejects waste storage at nuke plants
Legal Interview | 2012/06/08 18:04
A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a rule that allows nuclear power plants to store radioactive waste at reactor sites for up to 60 years after a plant shuts down.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not fully evaluate the risks associated with long-term storage of nuclear waste. The court said on-site storage has been "optimistically labeled" as temporary, but has stretched on for decades.

The decision puts the Obama administration in a bind, since the White House directed the Energy Department to rescind its application to build a final resting place for the nation's nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain and cut off funding two years ago. An alternative site has not yet been identified.


Justice Dept opposes Texas voter ID law
Legal Interview | 2012/03/12 19:48
The Justice Department's civil rights division on Monday objected to a new photo ID requirement for voters in Texas because many Hispanic voters lack state-issued identification.

Texas follows South Carolina as the second state in recent months to become embroiled in a court battle with the Justice Department over new photo ID requirements for voters.

Photo ID laws have become a point of contention in the 2012 elections. Liberal groups have said the requirements are the product of Republican-controlled state governments and are aimed at disenfranchising people who tend to vote Democratic — African-Americans, Hispanics, people of low-income and college students.

Proponents of such legislation say the measures are aimed at combating voter fraud. But advocacy groups for minorities and the poor dispute that and argue there is no evidence of significant voter fraud.

In regard to Texas, "I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden" of showing that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect, Thomas E. Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a letter to the Texas secretary of state.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot has said the Obama administration is hostile to laws like the one passed last year in Texas.


Ill. gov's legal woes worsen as fundraisers defect
Legal Interview | 2008/12/17 17:12
Jailed political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko's attorneys sent a strong signal Tuesday that he has resumed his on-again, off-again cooperation with federal prosecutors in the criminal case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and another one-time adviser to the governor served notice that he intends to plead guilty to tax charges.

Rezko has been among the Democratic governor's top fundraisers and advisers and can provide prosecutors with a penetrating glimpse into the workings of Blagojevich's inner circle. He was convicted in June of scheming to squeeze companies seeking state business for payoffs.

There were signs that Rezko's relationship with prosecutors had soured in recent weeks. But on Tuesday, both sides agreed to postpone his sentence indefinitely, a sign that prosecutors think their sometimes reluctant witness has more to tell them.

While Rezko squared things with federal prosecutors, attorneys for former Blagojevich campaign chairman Christopher Kelly said he intends to plead guilty to tax charges next month. Among other things, Kelly, a roofing contractor and consultant, is charged with using company funds to pay gambling debts and in at least one case writing the payment off as a business expense.

Kelly could also give the government an inside look at the workings of the Blagojevich administration. But chief defense counsel Michael Monico said Tuesday that "cooperation isn't part of the agreement" under which Kelly will plead guilty.



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