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Wisconsin Supreme Court says COVID records can be released
Legal Opinions | 2022/06/07 22:44
A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday said the state health department can release data on coronavirus outbreak cases, information sought two years ago near the beginning of the pandemic.

The court ruled 4-3 against Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobbying group, which had wanted to block release of the records requested in June 2020 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other news outlets.

The state health department in the early months of the pandemic in 2020 had planned to release the names of more than 1,000 businesses with more than 25 employees where at least two workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, along with the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce and the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce, sued to block the release of the records, saying it would “irreparably harm” the reputations of their members. It argued that the information being sought is derived from diagnostic test results and the records of contact tracers, and that such information constitutes private medical records that can’t be released without the consent of each individual.

Attorneys for the state argued that the information contained aggregate numbers only, not personal information, and could be released. A Waukesha County circuit judge sided with the business group and blocked release of the records. A state appeals court in 2021 reversed the lower court’s ruling and ordered the case dismissed, saying WMC failed to show a justifiable reason for concealing the records.


Nepal Parliament, reinstated by high court, begins session
Legal Opinions | 2021/03/07 08:17
After being reinstated by the nation’s Supreme Court, Nepal’s Parliament began a session on Sunday that will likely determine the future of the prime minister and the government.

The split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party has left Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli without the majority of votes in Parliament required for him to continue in office. Oli so far has refused to step down and is determined to continue.

A vote of no confidence against Oli is likely to be brought by the splinter group from his own party, which would force him to step down. The group has not yet made a formal decision.

Oli would have to get the support of other political parties in Parliament in order to stay in power. The process could take days, leaving an unstable political situation in the country.

Oli had the president dissolve Parliament in December and announce fresh elections after the rift in the party. Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of Parliament in response to several cases filed with the court charging that Oli’s decision to dissolve the legislature was unconstitutional.

Since Parliament’s dissolution, there have been regular street protests against Oli by tens of thousands of people in Kathmandu and other cities.

Oli became prime minister after the party won elections three years ago. His party and that of former Maoist rebels had merged to form a strong Communist party to win the elections.

However, there has been a power struggle between Oli and the leader of the former Maoists rebels, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also co-chair of the party. The two had previously agreed that they would split the five-year prime minister’s term, but Oli has refused to allow Dahal to take over.



Texas court delays 2nd execution due to virus outbreak
Legal Opinions | 2020/03/21 07:24
Texas’ highest criminal court on Thursday delayed the scheduled execution of a second death row inmate as the state tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a 60-day delay of Tracy Beatty’s scheduled March 25 execution “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency.”

Beatty was sentenced to death for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, near Tyler, in East Texas. The ruling noted that the court previously upheld Beatty’s conviction and sentence.

The court on Monday ordered a 60-day delay in the execution of John William Hummel, who had been scheduled to die on Wednesday for the 2009 stabbing of his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, 45, and fatal bludgeoning of his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, 57, with a baseball bat.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday declared a state of emergency, ordering schools closed until April 3, banning dine-in eating at restaurants, and ordering bars and gyms to close. Abbott said state government would remain open.

The order also banned public gatherings of 10 or more people, which could have affected the state’s ability to carry out executions, which involve a number of people, including correctional officers, attorneys, physicians, and family members or friends of the inmates and victims.


Mississippi man freed months after court rules racial bias
Legal Opinions | 2019/12/16 01:16
A Mississippi man whose murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court for racial bias was released from custody Monday for the first time in 22 years.

Curtis Flowers walked out of the regional jail in the central town of Louisville hours after a judge set his bond at $250,000. A person who wanted to remain anonymous posted $25,000, the 10% needed to secure Flowers’ release, said his attorney Rob McDuff.

At the bond hearing earlier Monday in the city of Winona, Circuit Judge Joseph Loper ordered Flowers to wear an electronic monitor while waiting for the district attorney’s office to decide whether to try him a seventh time or drop the charges. Flowers also must check in once a week with a court clerk, McDuff said. He said attorneys would file papers asking the judge to dismiss the charges.

Flowers was accompanied from the jail Monday by his attorneys and two sisters, Priscilla Ward and Charita Baskin. The siblings said they were going home to fry some fish for dinner and hang out together.

“It’s been rough,” Flowers said. “Taking it one day at a time, keeping God first ? that’s how I got through it.”

When asked another question, Flowers sighed, smiled and tossed his hands in the air.  “I’m so excited right now, I can’t even think straight,” he said with a laugh.


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