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Court rules that Kushner firm must disclose partners' names
Headline Legal News | 2018/01/26 10:38
A federal judge ruled Friday that the family company once run by Jared Kushner isn't allowed to keep secret the identity of its business partners in several Maryland properties.

A U.S. district judge in the state rejected the argument that the privacy rights of the Kushner Cos. partners outweigh the public interest in obtaining judicial records in a lawsuit before the court. The decision means the company tied to President Donald Trump's son-in-law might be forced to provide a rare glimpse into how it finances its real estate ventures.

The ruling backed the argument by The Associated Press and other news organizations that the media has a "presumptive right" to see such court documents and the Kushner Cos. had not raised a "compelling government interest" needed by law to block access.

U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled that Westminster Management, a Kushner Cos. subsidiary, must file an unsealed document with the identity of its partners by Feb. 9.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by tenants last year alleging Westminster charges excessive and illegal rent for apartments in the state. The lawsuit seeks class-action status for tenants in 17 apartment complexes owned by the company.

Westminster has said it has broken no laws and denies the charges.

In addition to its privacy argument, the Kushner subsidiary had said media reports of the Maryland dispute were "politically motivated" and marked by "unfair sensationalism." Disclosure of its partners' names would trigger even more coverage and hurt its chances of getting an impartial decision in the case, it had said.

In Friday's ruling, the judge said these are not "frivolous concerns," but the public's right to know is more important.



Warrant dropped for professor who spoke Hawaiian in court
Court Press News | 2018/01/23 10:38
A judge dropped an arrest warrant Thursday for a University of Hawaii professor who refused to respond in court to English and spoke Hawaiian instead.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo was in court Wednesday facing a trial for charges connected to his participation in a 2017 protest against the construction of a solar telescope on top of Haleakala, a volcano on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported .

When Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked Kaeo to confirm his identity, he repeatedly responded in Hawaiian instead of English.

Kobayashi said he couldn't understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for Kaeo's arrest, saying "the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo."

Kaeo, an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, said he has appeared before the judge before and complained that "it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn't like."

Kobayashi recalled the bench warrant Thursday, the state Judiciary said in a statement. Judiciary spokesman Andrew Laurence declined to answer questions about the recall, including what prompted it.

Kaeo faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. Kaeo, who also speaks English, requested a Hawaiian interpreter in the courtroom but prosecutors had objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense that would have caused delays.


Supreme Court sides with police over partygoers in wild bash
Legal News Digest | 2018/01/21 10:40
The Supreme Court sided Monday with police over partygoers in a dispute about arrests at a 2008 bash at a vacant home that had been turned into a makeshift strip club.

The high court ruled that police had sufficient reason to make arrests at the raucous party, which took place in a District of Columbia duplex furnished only with a few metal chairs and a mattress. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion that police reasonably concluded that the revelers "were knowingly taking advantage of a vacant house as a venue for their late night party."

"Most homeowners do not live in near-barren houses. And most homeowners do not invite people over to use their living room as a strip club, to have sex in their bedroom, to smoke marijuana inside, and to leave their floors filthy. The officers could thus infer that the partygoers knew their party was not authorized," he wrote.

Police officers arrived after receiving a complaint about loud music and illegal activities at a home that had been vacant for months. Arriving officers found loud music playing. Inside the home, they smelled marijuana and saw beer bottles and cups of liquor on the floor. Scantily clad women were performing lap dances while wearing cash-stuffed garter belts. Upstairs, officers found a naked woman, several men, open condom wrappers and a bare mattress.

The partiers provided police with inconsistent stories about the bash. Many said it was a bachelor party, but no one could identify the bachelor. Partygoers claimed they'd been invited to the home but could not say by whom. Two people said that a woman named "Peaches" was the party's host, but she wasn't there when police arrived. Reached by phone, Peaches eventually told police she had invited people to the house but didn't have the homeowner's approval to use the place.


Court halts execution of Alabama inmate with dementia
Headline Legal News | 2018/01/21 10:38
The U.S. Supreme Court has halted the execution of an Alabama inmate whose attorneys argue that dementia has left the 67-year-old unable to remember killing a police officer three decades ago.

Justices issued a stay Thursday night, the same evening that Vernon Madison was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison. The court delayed the execution to consider whether to further review the case.

Madison was sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a call about a missing child made by Madison's then-girlfriend. Prosecutors have said that Madison crept up and shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Madison's attorneys argued that strokes and dementia have left Madison unable to remember killing Schulte or fully understand his looming execution. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that condemned inmates must have a "rational understanding" that they are about to be executed and why.

"We are thrilled that the court stopped this execution tonight. Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel," attorney Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative, said Thursday after the stay was granted.

The Alabama attorney general's office opposed the stay, arguing that a state court has ruled Madison competent and Madison has presented nothing that would reverse the finding.



Attorney general applauds high court decision on water rule
Legal Business | 2018/01/18 10:40
North Dakota's attorney general is applauding a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that recognizes federal district courts as the forum to hear legal challenges to an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem led a coalition of 12 states that obtained the first preliminary injunction against the "Waters of the U.S. Rule" in 2015 in North Dakota, arguing it would greatly and unlawfully expand the federal government's authority over states' land and water and the ability to control pollution.

The rule has never taken effect because of lawsuits and is now under review by President Donald Trump's administration.

Stenehjem says he'll ask the federal district court to resume North Dakota's case as soon as possible now that the jurisdiction issue has been resolved.



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