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Illinois to require veterans courts across the state in 2018
Legal Business | 2017/10/29 23:51
A law passed last year requires every judicial circuit in Illinois to have a veterans treatment court starting Jan. 1.

The courts allow veterans who were honorably discharged to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a probation sentence, The Chicago Tribune reported. The sentence requires frequent court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Veterans can also apply to have their records expunged upon completing the sentence. Those who use the courts typically face lower level felonies.

Supporters say the program will help those who risked their lives for their country.

Army veteran Gregory Parker enrolled in the Lake County Veterans Treatment and Assistance Court after his fourth drunken driving arrest resulted in a felony reckless driving charge. Parker graduated from the program in about 18 months. He's quit drinking and continues to go to therapy.

"I finally find myself enjoying things in life I've never enjoyed before," he said.

But some wonder if every community has the resources or the need for a court dedicated to veterans.

Some rural communities may only have a few veterans moving through the court system, said Michelle Rock, executive director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, which provides support for treatment courts statewide.

"We know that it may not be cost-effective for every county in the state to have one," she said.

Before the new law, Kane County officials weighed the need for a veterans court with the availability of resources and decided against offering the court, said Court Administrator Doug Naughton.

The overall court system should be improved, instead of offering one group more options, said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois.


Court, for now, blocks immigrant teen's access to abortion
Legal Business | 2017/10/24 23:51
An appeals court is blocking, for now, an abortion sought by a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant being held in a Texas facility, ruling that the government should have time to try to release her so she can obtain the abortion outside of federal custody.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its ruling Friday hours after arguments from lawyers for the Trump administration and the teenager. The court ruled 2-1 that the government should have until Oct. 31 to release the girl into the custody of a sponsor, such as an adult relative in the United States. If that happens, she could obtain an abortion if she chooses. If she isn't released, the case can go back to court.

The judge who dissented wrote that the court's ruling means the teen will be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy for "multiple more weeks."

The teen, whose name and country of origin have been withheld because she's a minor, is 15 weeks pregnant. She entered the U.S. in September and learned she was pregnant while in custody in Texas.

She obtained a court order Sept. 25 permitting her to have an abortion. But federal officials have refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others may take her to have an abortion. A lower federal court ruled that she should be able to obtain an abortion Friday or Saturday, but the government appealed.

Federal health officials said in a statement that for "however much time" they are given they "will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies" in their facilities.




Businesses ask Supreme Court to take gay rights case
Legal Business | 2017/10/18 23:53
Some of America's most well-known companies are urging the Supreme Court to rule that a federal employment discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation, a position opposite of the one taken by the Trump administration.

The 76 businesses and organizations — including American Airlines, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Starbucks and Microsoft — filed a brief Wednesday encouraging the high court to take up the issue. They want the court to take a case out of Georgia in which a gay woman who worked as a hospital security officer says she was harassed and punished for dressing in a male uniform and wearing her hair short. Jameka Evans, who worked at Georgia Regional Hospital at Savannah from 2012 to 2013, ultimately left her job and sued.

The question in her case is whether a federal law barring workplace discrimination "because of...sex" covers discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Barack Obama took the view that it does. But President Donald Trump's administration has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on gender but doesn't cover sexual orientation.

The businesses' court filing says they and their employees would benefit if the court agreed to take the case and rule that Title VII covers sexual orientation discrimination.

"Businesses' first-hand experiences — supported by extensive social-science research — confirm the significant costs for employers and employees when sexual orientation discrimination is not forbidden by a uniform law, even where other policies exist against such discrimination," the businesses wrote in their brief. The organizations that joined the brief also include two sports teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Heat.

The case out of Georgia is not unique. Most federal appeals courts in the past have ruled that "sex" means biological gender, not sexual orientation. But a federal appeals court in Chicago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, ruled earlier this year that the law covers sexual orientation. In that case, a gay part-time community college instructor sued after she was repeatedly turned down for a full-time job and her part-time contract was not renewed.

The New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit is also weighing the issue. Last month, the full court heard arguments in a case in which a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, claimed he was fired from his job after telling a client he was gay. He sued under the Civil Rights Act, but previous rulings have gone against Zarda, who died in an accident in Switzerland three years ago. A ruling in his case isn't expected for some time.



Indiana courts see changes with new e-filing system
Legal Business | 2017/10/02 23:55
Electronic filing is transforming the way Indiana's judicial system works.

Fifty-five of the state's 92 counties have adopted mandatory electronic filing for most new criminal and civil lawsuits over the past 15 months, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. The state's appellate division has also adopted the electronic system.

The Supreme Court's Office of Court Technology says more than 2.1 million documents have been electronically filed in the state since July 1, 2016.

E-filing makes judges and lawyers more efficient and improves court services for Indiana residents, said Justice Steven David. Non-confidential court documents are also available online.

E-filing has been adopted quickly through the state because may counties are using the same case management system called Odyssey, said Justice Mark Massa.

The system is paid for by a $20 automated record keeping fee that's attached to every case filed in Indiana court.

"It's the best deal for counties," Massa said. "It carries with it state funding of that technology and that support, and we're getting closer and closer to that complete statewide coverage with each passing year."

The system also allows the judicial branch to generate comprehensive data about crimes, courts, dispositions, children in need of services, protection orders and other information that the legislative and executive branches need when enacting new laws, David said.

"In the old days, you might get data from one court and try to extrapolate, or determine if that court is representative of the rest of the state or not, and that's no longer the case," David said.



Pakistan's opposition calls on court to oust prime minister
Legal Business | 2017/07/18 22:29
Opposition parties in Pakistan on Monday called on the Supreme Court to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after an investigation found that he and his family possess wealth exceeding their known sources of income.

The investigation is linked to the mass leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm in 2016, which revealed that Sharif and his family have offshore accounts.

Naeem Bukhari, a lawyer for opposition leader Imran Khan, submitted the request to the court. The court has the constitutional power to disqualify someone from serving as prime minister, and is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

The Sharifs have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorney, Khawaja Haris, argued Monday that the probe was flawed. The court will resume hearing the case Tuesday.




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