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Australia’s High Court hears what may be Pell’s last appeal
Legal Network | 2020/03/13 19:54
The most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse took his appeal to Australia’s highest court Wednesday in potentially his last bid to clear his name.

Cardinal George Pell was sentenced a year ago to six years in prison for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop in the late 1990s.

He was convicted by the unanimous verdict of a Victoria state County Court jury in December 2018 after a jury in an earlier trial was deadlocked.

A Victoria Court of Appeal rejected his appeal against his convictions in a 2-1 majority decision in August last year.

Pope Francis’ 78-year-old former finance minister is arguing before the High Court that the guilty verdicts were unreasonable and could not be supported by the whole of the evidence from more than 20 prosecution witnesses who include priests, altar servers and former choirboys.

Seven judges are hearing the case over two days.

Pell’s lawyer Bret Walker told the judges that there had been a “reversal of onus” in which Pell was expected to prove the offending didn’t happen instead of prosecutors proving the crimes were committed beyond reasonable doubt.

“That is a wrong question which sends the inquiry onto a terribly damaging wrong route,” Walker said.

Walker said the allegations that Pell had molested the two boys in a priests’ sacristy moments after a Mass could not be proved if the jury had accepted the evidence of sacristan Maxwell Potter and Monsignor Charles Portelli.

Potter had testified that the sacristy was kept locked during Masses and Portelli had given evidence that he was always with Pell while he was dressed in his archbishop’s robes.


Supreme Court considering whether Trump must open tax returns
Legal Network | 2019/11/06 10:14
California’s Supreme Court is considering Wednesday whether President Donald Trump must disclose his tax returns if he wants to be a candidate in the state’s primary election next spring.

The high court is hearing arguments even though a federal judge already temporarily blocked the state law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to be included in the state’s primary.

The justices’ consideration comes the same week that a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump’s tax returns can be turned over to state criminal investigators there, although that ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The California Republican Party and chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson filed the state lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing in July of the law aimed at the Republican president.

It’s a clear violation of the California Constitution, opponents argued, citing a 1972 voter-approved amendment they said guarantees that all recognized candidates must be on the ballot.

Previously, “California politicians rigged the primary election, putting up ‘favorite son’ nominees for partisan political advantage,” they wrote, suggesting that Democratic lawmakers are doing the same thing now by different means.


Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Legal Network | 2019/08/09 08:35
Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.


Feds: US Supreme Court should turn down 'Bridgegate' appeal
Legal Network | 2019/05/16 16:00
The U.S. solicitor general's office has recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court not hear the appeal of two convicted defendants in the "Bridgegate" case, nudging the four-year legal saga of New Jersey's most famous traffic jam toward a conclusion.

"Further review is not warranted," the brief filed late Wednesday said. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of its term next month.

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni want the court to hear the appeal of their 2016 convictions for causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor for not endorsing their boss, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie wasn't charged, but the revelations from the scandal and conflicting accounts of when he knew about the plot combined to sabotage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff at the time of the 2013 lane realignments in the town of Fort Lee, and Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had their sentences reduced this spring after a federal appeals court tossed some convictions last fall. Kelly petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the rest of the convictions, and Baroni joined in the appeal.

They argued that while their actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the Port Authority, which operated the bridge, wasn't deprived of tangible benefits as a result of the scheme.


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