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UK Supreme Court hears landmark challenge to Brexit plans
Legal Focuses | 2016/12/06 08:44
Britain's Supreme Court began hearing a landmark case Monday that will decide who has the power to trigger the U.K.'s exit from the European Union — the government or Parliament.

The legal battle has major constitutional implications for the balance of power between the legislature and the executive, and has inflamed Britain's already raw wound over how and whether to leave the EU.

The court's most senior justice, David Neuberger, opened the four-day hearing by condemning the "threats of serious violence and unpleasant abuse" directed at Gina Miller, one of the claimants trying to ensure Parliament gets a say.

"Threatening and abusing people because they are exercising their fundamental right to go to court undermines the rule of law," Neuberger said, banning publication of the addresses of Miller and other parties in the case.

Neuberger and 10 other justices at the country's top court must decide whether Prime Minister Theresa May's government can invoke Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, the trigger for two years of divorce talks, without the approval of lawmakers.

May plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, using centuries-old government powers known as royal prerogative. The powers — traditionally held by the monarch but now used by politicians — enable decisions about joining or leaving international treaties to be made without a parliamentary vote.

Financial entrepreneur Miller and another claimant, hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, went to court to argue that leaving the EU would remove some of their rights, including free movement within the bloc, and that shouldn't be done without Parliament's approval.




Court blocks federal plan to extend overtime pay to many
Topics in Legal News | 2016/12/05 08:43
In a blow to the Obama administration's labor-law plans, a federal court has blocked the start of a rule that would have made an estimated 4 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay heading into the holiday season.

As a result of Tuesday's ruling, overtime changes set to take effect Dec. 1 are now unlikely be in play before vast power shifts to a Donald Trump administration, which has spoken out against Obama-backed government regulation and generally aligns with the business groups that stridently opposed the overtime rule.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide preliminary injunction, saying the Department of Labor's rule exceeds the authority the agency was delegated by Congress.

"Businesses and state and local governments across the country can breathe a sigh of relief now that this rule has been halted," said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who led the coalition of 21 states and governors fighting the rule and has been a frequent critic of what he characterized as Obama administration overreach. "Today's preliminary injunction reinforces the importance of the rule of law and constitutional government."

The regulation sought to shrink the so-called "white collar exemption" that allows employers to skip overtime pay for salaried administrative or professional workers who make more than about $23,660 per year. Critics say it's wrong that some retail and restaurant chains pay low-level managers as little as $25,000 a year and no overtime — even if they work 60 hours a week.




Lawyers for Egypt's Islamists see high court as last refuge
Headline Legal News | 2016/12/04 08:43
Twice this month, Egypt's highest appeals court has struck down harsh sentences against Mohammed Morsi, the elected Islamist president overthrown by the military in 2013, giving some hope to thousands of his supporters, who were jailed or sentenced to death by hasty verdicts following mass trials.

Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed as a terrorist group, and the court has upheld heavy sentences against its members. But its quashing of some of the faultiest rulings has led lawyers to see the appeals court as a last refuge for justice.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and other top officials have long insisted that Egypt's judiciary is independent of the government and does not engage in show trials.

But a series of swift, mass verdicts issued in the tumultuous months after Morsi's ouster, as security forces were cracking down on his supporters and violently dispersing protests, raised the possibility that Egypt might execute the Brotherhood's leadership.

Many judges on the lower courts openly expressed their disdain for the Islamists and their desire to impose order after the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising. Defense lawyers say they often relied on faulty police reports citing anonymous security sources.

Among the most notorious rulings were those by a court in the southern city of Minya, which sentenced more than 1,000 alleged Morsi supporters to death in two mass trials that each lasted only a few days. Some of those death sentences were later rescinded by a religious authority, and many of the defendants appealed the rulings and were granted retrials. None were executed.

Scores of other cases were reversed by the Court of Cassation, whose members are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, a panel of the country's most experienced and well-respected judges.

Rights lawyers see it as a refuge for those who have been tried, convicted and condemned by the lower courts, as well as public opinion.



ICC prosecutor: African states leaving court is 'regression'
Court News | 2016/12/03 08:42
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor said Tuesday that it is a "regression" for African nations — including her home country of Gambia — to quit the court and said the continent should work with her office to end impunity for atrocities.

Speaking to The Associated Press at the court's headquarters overlooking the North Sea on the edge of The Hague, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said regional and local courts in Africa can also play a key role in bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice.

Bensouda's comments came as the court's governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, met nearby with the issue of departing African states figuring prominently in its discussions.

South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have announced plans to leave the court, which has 124 member states, sparking fears of a domino effect among other African nations.

"I think it's a setback for the continent, it's a regression for the continent that there are some African states that are deciding to withdraw from the ICC," Bensouda said.

However, she said that the announced withdrawals have galvanized support for the court among other African countries attending the annual gathering of member states.

"I wanted to emphasize that today during this Assembly of States Parties you have the vast majority of African states recommitting to the ICC and renewing ... support for the ICC," Bensouda said.

One way of the international court engaging with Africa is by supporting local and regional courts, Bensouda said. Her office is working with authorities in Central African Republic to help establish a court to prosecute atrocities in that conflict-torn country.



US Supreme Court could hear Charleston company, Lexmark case
Attorney News | 2016/12/03 08:42
A small Charleston company that refills and resells empty toner cartridges could soon be defending itself before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute that could affect huge tech companies and pharmaceutical firms.

Lexmark, a Lexington, Kentucky-based printing corporation, sued Impression Products, accusing the company of patent infringement for selling its cartridges, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

At issue is what is known as the first-sale doctrine, a principle limiting a patent holder's rights after a product has been sold once.

Impression Products argued Lexmark's patents on its cartridges are no longer effective after the cartridges are sold, allowing the smaller company to sell them freely. Lexmark cartridges can cost up to hundreds of dollars, and Impression Products sells used ones at a lower price.

In February, a federal court sided with Lexmark, saying the corporation's patent rights weren't exhausted, regardless of whether the cartridges were being purchased from U.S. or foreign suppliers — Impression Products has purchased toner cartridges from Canadian suppliers in the past.

Last month, the federal government recommended the Supreme Court review the case.

Impression Products President Eric Smith explained that while this doesn't guarantee that the justices will review the case, it sharply increases the probability of it happening.

The implications of the case go beyond ink cartridges, as Samsung and Google have backed Impression Products' argument. The tech giants operate foreign supply chains that would have to jump through additional hoops if the first-sale doctrine did not apply for foreign purchases. Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer have supported Lexmark, with a Lexmark victory likely giving their own patents greater protection.



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