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Australia's High Court to consider fate of 7 lawmakers
Headline Legal News | 2017/10/10 09:32
Australia's prime minister said Monday that he was confident that government lawmakers would win a court challenge this week that threatens his administration's slender majority.

Seven High Court judges will decide whether seven lawmakers should be disqualified from Parliament because of a constitutional ban on dual citizens being elected. The three-day hearing begins Tuesday.

The fate of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is most crucial to the government in an unprecedented political crisis.

If the court rules that he was illegally elected in July last year due to New Zealand citizenship he unknowingly inherited from his father, the ruling conservative coalition could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, where governments are formed.

Joyce could stand in a by-election, having renounced his Kiwi citizenship. But with the government unpopular in opinion polls, voters in his rural electoral division could take the opportunity to throw both the deputy prime minister and his administration out of office.

Two of the six senators under a cloud are government ministers. Fiona Nash inherited British citizenship from her father and Matt Canavan became an Italian through an Australian-born mother with Italian parents. Disqualified senators can be replaced by members of the same party without need for an election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given no indication of what his government would do if the court rules against any of the three ministers.


Bosnian court acquits ex-Srebrenica commander of war crimes
Court News | 2017/10/10 09:31
Bosnia's war crimes court on Monday acquitted the wartime commander of Srebrenica, who was accused of committing atrocities against Serbs during the 1992-95 Balkan conflict.

The acquittal of Naser Oric immediately prompted anger from Serbian leaders, with Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin saying the court ruling "threatens security, trust and reconciliation in the whole of the Balkans."

Oric was accused of war crimes against three Serb prisoners of war who were slain in villages around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the early days of the conflict. A panel of judges presiding over the trial ruled Monday the prosecution did not present evidence proving the case against Oric.
 
Oric had previously been tried by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he was also acquitted in 2008.


NC high court reviews death penalty of man who beheaded wife
Legal Focuses | 2017/10/09 09:31
North Carolina's highest court is reviewing whether justice means the death penalty for a survivor of El Salvador's blood-soaked civil war of the 1980s who strangled and then decapitated his estranged wife.

The state's Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on whether the state can execute 41-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 murder of his wife, Maria. The high court automatically reviews death cases.

North Carolina is rare among southern states in that it hasn't had an execution in more than a decade because of various legal challenges. While the state has continued to suffer 500 to 600 murders a year, prosecutors have sought the death penalty only a handful of times each year and juries have condemned killers in only a fraction of those cases.

Rodriguez's children told investigators their father beat and bloodied Maria Rodriguez after she told them she was leaving in November 2010. He tossed the woman's still-breathing body over his shoulder, placed her in his vehicle, and said he was taking her to a hospital. Maria's body and severed head were found at different locations three weeks later, after Juan was already jailed for her kidnapping.

Justices are holding hearings in the case for the second time in almost exactly a year. Monday's hearing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this spring that states needed to use current medical standards in deciding whether a killer is so mentally disabled he can't be executed. The U.S. constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments," and that has been interpreted to prohibit executing people with severe mental shortcomings.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental handicaps were evident before adulthood.



Court nixes class-action status for TGI Friday's drink suit
Court Watch | 2017/10/07 09:30
A lawsuit accusing restaurant chain TGI Friday's violated consumer fraud laws with its drink pricing can't go ahead as a class action that could have included millions of members, but a similar case involving Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants can, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Debra Dugan sued TGI Friday's after she was charged one price for a drink at the bar and a higher price at a table in 2008. The restaurant didn't list drink prices on its menus, according to the lawsuit.

A lower court in 2012 granted class-action status to anyone who ordered unpriced drinks at 14 of the company's restaurants in New Jersey from 2004 through 2014. TGI Friday's had estimated that could have amounted to as many as 14 million customers, according to court filings. But the plaintiffs disputed that figure.

According to the lawsuit, TGI Friday's conducted research that showed that customers spent an average of $1.72 less on drinks if the prices were displayed than if the prices weren't displayed. The lawsuit sought to prove that that amount could be considered a loss for anyone who had ordered a drink at the restaurants. Wednesday's 5-1 ruling rejected that argument, but said individual claims could still proceed.


Indiana courts see changes with new e-filing system
Attorney News | 2017/10/06 09:30
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.


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