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Court rules in favor of fired transgender funeral director
Legal Opinions | 2018/03/10 21:25
A woman was illegally fired by a Detroit-area funeral home after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Garden City discriminated against director Aimee Stephens by firing her in 2013.

In a 3-0 decision, the court said "discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII" of federal civil rights law.

The court overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, who said the funeral home had met its burden to show that keeping Stephens "would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely held religious beliefs."

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"The unrefuted facts show that the funeral home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer's stereotypical conception of her sex," said judges Karen Nelson Moore, Helene White and Bernice Donald.

The EEOC learned that the funeral home, until fall 2014, provided clothing to male workers dealing with the public but not females. The court said it was reasonable for the EEOC to investigate and discover the "seemingly discriminatory clothing-allowance policy."

Stephens said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union that nobody "should be fired from their job just for being who they are," adding "I'm thrilled with the court's decision."



South Carolina court questions transportation tax spending
Law News | 2018/03/08 21:26
The South Carolina Supreme Court is questioning how a county is spending transportation tax money.

The court said Wednesday the state revenue department did not have the authority to withhold payments to Richland County.

But the justices also said the revenue department's request for an injunction preventing the county from spending the money should have been approved.

The Supreme Court said a lower court judge should require the county to establish safeguards to make sure the money is spent only on transportation-related projects and some administrative costs.

The high court said the lower court judge could also order the county to repay any previous improper spending.

A county spokeswoman said the ruling is being reviewed by its attorneys.


Cambodian court denies opposition leader release on bail
Legal & Political | 2018/03/07 21:26
Cambodia's Supreme Court has denied bail for an opposition leader charged with treason who is seeking to be released for medical treatment abroad.

The court ruled Friday that Kem Sokha must remain in pretrial detention for his own safety and because the investigation into his case is ongoing. His Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved last November by a court ruling on a complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Kem Sokha's case is widely regarded as a political setup by the government to cripple its opponents ahead of a general election this July. The party's dissolution was linked to the treason charge against Kem Sokha, for which he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Kem Sokha's lawyers say he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and has fallen sick in prison since being detained last September.

The court said if Kem Sokha is sick, the prison will arrange for a doctor to examine him inside the prison facility.

"If Kem Sokha is not allowed to have medical treatment at a hospital and in case he dies inside the prison, who will take responsibility? Are all of you responsible?" one of Kem Sokha's lawyers, Chea Cheng, asked the court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court this month granted a six-month extension for Kem Sokha's pre-trial detention period after the expiration of the initial six months. He has now been denied bail three times.

Kem Sokha was arrested last September on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from U.S. pro-democracy groups. The opposition party has denied the treason allegation, saying the charge is politically motivated.

In the past several years the opposition party has faced an onslaught of legal challenges from Hun Sen's government with the support of the courts, which are generally seen as favoring his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Court rulings forced Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha's predecessor as opposition leader, to remain in exile to avoid prison and pressured him into resigning from his party. Other top opposition party leaders fled Cambodia after Kem Sokha's jailing and the party's dissolution.



High court: Held immigrants can't get periodic bond hearings
Legal World News | 2018/03/07 21:25
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants the government has detained and is considering deporting aren't entitled by law to periodic bond hearings.

The case is a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants who've spent long periods in custody. The group includes some people facing deportation because they've committed a crime and others who arrived at the border seeking asylum.

The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had ruled for the immigrants, saying that under immigration law they had a right to periodic bond hearings. The court said the immigrants generally should get bond hearings after six months in detention, and then every six months if they continue to be held.

But the Supreme Court reversed that decision Tuesday and sided with the Trump administration, which had argued against the ruling, a position also taken by the Obama administration.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for five justices that immigration law doesn't require periodic bond hearings. But the justices sent the case back to the appeals court to consider whether the case should continue as a class action and the immigrants' arguments that the provisions of immigration law they are challenging are unconstitutional.

But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing a dissenting opinion joined by two other liberal-leaning justices on the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said he would have read the provisions of immigration law to require hearings for people detained for a prolonged period of time.

"The bail questions before us are technical but at heart they are simple," Breyer wrote. "We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, in particular its insistence that all men and women have 'certain unalienable Rights,' and that among them is the right to 'Liberty,'" he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on behalf of the immigrants, had previously said that about 34,000 immigrants are being detained on any given day in the United States, and 90 percent of immigrants' cases are resolved within six months. But some cases take much longer.

In the case before the justices, Mexican immigrant Alejandro Rodriguez was detained for more than three years without a bond hearing. He was fighting deportation after being convicted of misdemeanor drug possession and joyriding, and was ultimately released and allowed to stay in the United States.



Court: US anti-discrimination law covers sexual orientation
Law News | 2018/03/05 21:24
A New York federal appeals court says U.S. anti-discrimination law protects employees from being fired due to sexual orientation.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The decision stemmed from a rare meeting of the full appeals court, which decided to go against its precedents.

Three judges dissented. The ruling pertained to a skydiver instructor who said he was fired after telling a client he was gay.

The case led to two government agencies offering opposing views. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice had argued that it did not.

Donald Zarda was fired in 2010 from a skydiving job in Central Islip (EYEl-slihp), New York. He has since died.


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