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West Virginia high court excludes inmates from workers' comp
Legal Interview | 2017/06/13 13:45
Inmates participating in work-release programs do not quality for workers' compensation benefits, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled has ruled.

The court on Thursday unanimously affirmed a Workers' Compensation Board of Review's 2015 decision to not grant workers' compensation to a work release inmate named William F. Crawford, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Crawford's hand was severely injured in a wood chipper in 2013 while he was working on a road crew for the state Division of Highways.

He was employed by the Charleston Work Release Center, now called the Charleston Correctional Center. Inmates live and work there as they prepare to re-enter society after leaving prison.

Crawford's injury required hospitalization and surgery, and his ring and pinky fingers were partially amputated. The state Department of Corrections covered his medical expenses, which exceeded $90,000. He was released on parole shortly after his hospitalization.

Court documents say Crawford sought workers' compensation benefits because "lack of treatment has put him at a significant disadvantage in re-entering society." He had appealed the board of review's decision, saying state law didn't clarify coverage exclusion for work-release inmates. He also said his equal protection rights had been violated, arguing that inmates working for private businesses would receive the benefits, while inmates working for a state agency would not.

Official: Man accused in store attack misses court hearing
Legal Interview | 2017/04/12 15:08
Authorities say a jailed North Carolina man facing accused of an arson attack on an immigrant-owned store didn't appear in court as planned because he's being disciplined.

An appearance scheduled Tuesday for 32-year-old Curtis Flournoy has been reset for April 21, when the suspect will have a bond hearing.

Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Alana Byrnes said he didn't know what led to Flournoy's being placed on disciplinary detention.

Flournoy remains jailed on a $35,000 bond on charges, including ethnic intimidation and burning a commercial building. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Authorities say a fire was set Thursday but burned itself out at a market selling goods from the Indian subcontinent. No one was hurt, and authorities said a threatening note was left on the scene.

Oklahoma tribe sues oil companies in tribal court over quake
Legal Interview | 2017/03/06 17:47
An Oklahoma-based Native American tribe filed a lawsuit in its own tribal court system Friday accusing several oil companies of triggering the state's largest earthquake that caused extensive damage to some near-century-old tribal buildings.

The Pawnee Nation alleges in the suit that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the 5.8-magnitude quake in September and is seeking physical damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The case will be heard in the tribe's district court with a jury composed of Pawnee Nation members.
"We are a sovereign nation and we have the rule of law here," said Andrew Knife Chief, the Pawnee Nation's executive director. "We're using our tribal laws, our tribal processes to hold these guys accountable."

Attorneys representing the 3,200-member tribe in north-central Oklahoma say the lawsuit is the first earthquake-related litigation filed in a tribal court. If an appeal were filed in a jury decision, it could be heard by a five-member tribal Supreme Court, and that decision would be final.

"Usually tribes have their own appellate process, and then, and this surprises a lot of people, there is no appeal from a tribal supreme court," said Lindsay Robertson, a University of Oklahoma law professor who specializes in Federal Indian Law.

Appeals court rules against Kansas in voting rights case
Legal Interview | 2016/10/01 19:32
Thousands of prospective voters in Kansas who did not provide citizenship documents will be able to vote in the November election under a federal appeals court ruling late Friday that upheld a judge's order.
The decision from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms lower court's May order forcing Kansas to register more than 20,000 voters, a number that is expected to swell to 50,000 by the time of the November elections. It noted that the preliminary injunction serves the public interest.

The 10th Circuit ruled "no constitutional doubt arises" that federal law prohibits Kansas from requiring citizenship documents from people who register to vote at motor vehicle office. It added that its reasoning would be more fully explained in a forthcoming order.

The court had previously refused to issue an emergency stay of U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson's order, and this latest comes after a three-judge panel heard oral arguments last month in the case.

Its decision is the latest setback for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. It comes just a day after the Kansas Republican avoided contempt proceedings by striking a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to fully register and clearly inform affected voters that they could vote in the November election.

Kobach did not immediately return a cell phone message seeking comment, but his spokeswoman said his office would issue a statement later.

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