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Case of gay couple's wedding cake heads to Supreme Court
Lawyer Blog Updates | 2017/06/30 08:52
A Colorado clash between gay rights and religion started as an angry Facebook posting about a wedding cake but now has big implications for anti-discrimination laws in 22 states.

Baker Jack Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away a same-sex couple who wanted a cake to celebrate their 2012 wedding.

The justices said Monday they will consider Phillips' case, which could affect all states. Twenty-two states include sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws that bar discrimination in public accommodations.

Phillips argues that he turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins not because they are gay, but because their wedding violated Phillips' religious belief.

After the couple was turned away in 2012, they complained about Masterpiece Cakeshop on Facebook, then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The state sided with the couple.

"It solidified the right of our community to have a right to public accommodations, so future couples are not turned away from a business because of who they are," Mullins said Monday.

Phillips says that artisans cannot be compelled to produce works celebrating an event that violates the artist's religion. A lawyer for Phillips pointed out that another Denver-area baker was not fined for declining to bake a cake with an anti-gay message.

"The government in Colorado is picking and choosing which messages they'll support and which artistic messages they'll protect," said Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which took the baker's case.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the high court's conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

The Colorado case could settle challenges from at least a half-dozen other artists in the wedding industry who are challenging laws in other states requiring them to produce work for same-sex ceremonies.


Mom sentenced in Australian court for drowning 3 children
Lawyer Blog Updates | 2017/06/02 11:42
A mother who drowned three of her children and attempted to kill a fourth by driving the family car into an Australian lake was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and six months in prison.

Akon Guode, 37, drove a SUV carrying four of her seven children into the lake in Melbourne in April 2015. Her 5-year-old daughter Alual survived after passersby pulled her from the partially submerged car.

But Guodes' 16-month-old son Bol and 4-year-old twins, Hanger and her brother Madit, died.

Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said he would have sentenced Goude to life in prison if she had not pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder.

"People don't understand why you did what you did," the judge said. "In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation," he added.

Goude wept and wailed through her sentencing hearing as the judge outlined her crimes and her troubled life that led to it.

Born one of 16 children in 1979, she fled Sudan's civil war in which her husband died and arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2006.

The judge set a non-parole period of 20 years and said she will likely be deported on release. Her hometown, the city of Wau, is now in South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011. It's not clear to which country she will be deported.


Court: Russian hacker can be extradited to US or Russia
Lawyer Blog Updates | 2017/05/28 11:43
A Czech court ruled Tuesday that a Russian man who faces charges of hacking computers at American companies can be extradited either to the United States or Russia — and the suspect immediately appealed his possible extradition to the United States.

Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague on Oct. 5 in cooperation with the FBI after Interpol issued an international warrant. He is accused of hacking computers and stealing information from LinkedIn, Dropbox and other companies.

Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of internet theft in 2009. Russian officials had previously said they were working to prevent his extradition to the U.S.

Judge Jaroslav Pytloun ruled Tuesday that the extradition requests from both countries meet all the necessary legal conditions.

The 29-year-old has denied wrongdoing.

"I'm innocent," Nikulin said through a translator at the hearing Tuesday. "I haven't done anything illegal. I have nothing to do with that."

Nikulin appealed his extradition to the United States. He has three days to decide if he will agree to being extradited to Russia.

Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will have the final say on where Nikulin goes after Prague's High Court decides on his appeal.

Nikulin's defense lawyers have rejected the U.S. charges, saying they are based on one FBI agent, and suggested the U.S. was seeking him for political reasons — to use him as a pawn in the investigation into alleged Russian hacking in the U.S. election.


Supreme Court says cities can sue banks under anti-bias law
Lawyer Blog Updates | 2017/05/03 20:45
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that cities may sue banks under the federal anti-discrimination in housing law, but said those lawsuits must tie claims about predatory lending practices among minority customers directly to declines in property taxes.

The justices' 5-3 ruling partly validated a novel approach by Miami and other cities to try to hold banks accountable under the federal Fair Housing Act for the wave of foreclosures during the housing crisis a decade ago.

But the court still threw out an appellate ruling in Miami's favor and ordered a lower court to re-examine the city's lawsuit against Wells Fargo and Bank of America to be sure that there is a direct connection between the lending practices and the city's losses.

Miami claimed that Wells Fargo and Bank of America, as well as Citigroup, pursued a decade-long pattern of targeting African-American and Hispanic borrowers for costlier and riskier loans than those offered to white customers. The loans to minority homeowners went into default more quickly as well, the city said.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America appealed the ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, arguing that cities can't use the Fair Housing Act to sue over reductions in tax revenues. The banks said the connection between a loan and the tax consequences is too tenuous. Citigroup did not appeal, though its lawsuit also would be affected by what the appeals court does in response to Monday's ruling.


Idaho Judicial Council accepting applications for high court
Lawyer Blog Updates | 2017/05/01 23:37
An opening on the Idaho Supreme Court won't be filled through an election but through an application process.

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann announced earlier this year he will retire in August — 16 months before the end of his current six-year term.

Because Eismann is stepping down early, the Idaho Judicial Council will solicit applications and recommend up to four names to the governor for appointment instead of waiting until the 2018 election, The Spokesman-Review reported. Idaho's Supreme Court positions are nonpartisan.

It's a merit-based process that had been used primarily to replace outgoing justices until this past year when former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones announced he would retire at the end of his term.

"I would never have been on the court if the only avenue was to go through the Judicial Council and be appointed by the governor," said Jones, 74, who was twice elected Idaho attorney general. "It just didn't even occur to me as a possibility, because if you've been involved in the political arena, you probably at one time or another have stepped on the toes of whoever ends up being governor."

Eismann joined the state's highest court in 2001 after successfully running against incumbent Justice Cathy Silak. That election was the first time in 68 years that a sitting supreme court justice had been ousted in an election.

He caused a stir when he decided to announce his election campaign at a Republican Party event in eastern Idaho. He has since become one of the most outspoken justices, known for his tough questioning and advocating for specialty courts throughout Idaho.





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