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Alabama must disclose status of nitrogen hypoxia executions
Court News | 2022/09/14 13:21
A federal judge told Alabama to stop being vague and give a firm answer by Thursday evening on if the prison system is ready to use the untested execution method of nitrogen hypoxia at an execution next week.

U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. gave the state the deadline to file an affidavit, or declaration, on whether the state could try to execute inmate Alan Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on Sept. 22 if the use of lethal injection is blocked. The order came after the state dangled the possibility during a Monday court hearing of being ready to become the first state to attempt an execution with nitrogen hypoxia.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. It’s authorized as an execution method in three states — Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi — but has never been used.

The state provided “vague and imprecise statements regarding the readiness and intent to move forward with an execution on September 22, 2022, by nitrogen hypoxia,” Huffaker said.

The judge asked the state Monday whether it was ready to use the method at Miller’s execution. A state attorney replied that it was “very likely” it could use nitrogen hypoxia next week, but said the state prison commissioner has the final decision.

“On or before September 15, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. CDT, the defendants shall file an affidavit or declaration of Commissioner John Q. Hamm, Attorney General Steve Marshall, or other appropriate official with personal knowledge, definitively setting forth whether or not the Defendants can execute the Plaintiff by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022,” the judge wrote in a Tuesday order.

Miller is seeking to block his scheduled execution by lethal injection, claiming prison staff lost paperwork he returned in 2018 choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method.

Miller testified Monday that he is scared of needles so he signed a form selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method. He said he left the form in his cell door tray for an prison officer to pick up. The state said there is no evidence to corroborate his claim.


Appeals court puts Georgia PSC elections back on ballot
Court News | 2022/08/18 14:59
A federal appeals court on Friday ordered that statewide elections for two Georgia public service commissioners be put back on the November ballot, only a week after a federal judge postponed the elections after finding that electing the five commissioners statewide illegally diluted Black votes.

A three judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the lower court’s order after an appeal by the state, which follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying judges shouldn’t order changes close to elections.

The 2-1 split decision came at the state’s deadline for finalizing ballots ahead of the election, so there is enough time to print ballots before the first ballots are mailed to voters living outside the country in late September.

District 3 Commissioner Fitz Johnson and District 2 Commissioner Tim Echols, both Republicans, are seeking reelection to six-year terms. Johnson is being challenged by Democrat Shelia Edwards while Echols faces Democrat Patty Durand and Libertarian Colin McKinney.

Circuit Judges Robert Luck and Adalberto Jordan found that U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg’s decision came too close to the election, that having Johnson and Echols remain on the commission past the end of their terms is an improper fundamental alteration of the state’s election system, and that not only did Grimberg need to issue his decision before the ballot printing deadline but far enough in advance “to allow for meaningful appellate review.”

Friday’s decision is not the 11th Circuit’s final word on Grimberg’s decision, but only a stay. Luck and Jordan clearly anticipate the plaintiffs will appeal to the nation’s highest court, writing in a short opinion that “if we are mistaken on this point, the Supreme Court can tell us.”

Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum dissented, saying the other judges were extending the doctrine barring changes close to an election to a whole new category of cases without “a sufficient explanation.” She said the majority is, in effect, letting the state conduct an election under a system that a judge already determined is illegally discriminatory.


Probation for woman who wiped up blood after killing spouse
Court News | 2022/08/07 19:34
A Florida woman who was acquitted of murdering her husband, a prominent official at the University of Central Florida, was sentenced Friday to a year of probation for tampering with evidence.

A judge sentenced Danielle Redlick in state court in Orlando.

Last month, a jury acquitted Danielle Redlick of second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Michael Redlick. Danielle Redlick said she had killed her husband out out of self-defense during a fight inside their home in which he had tried to “smother her to death.”

Jurors found Danielle Redlick guilty of evidence tampering for cleaning up her husband’s blood after stabbing him. Detectives found a pile of bloody towels, a bloody mop, bloody footprints and the strong smell of bleach in the house. She spent three years in jail prior to the trial.

Michael Redlick was the director of external affairs and partnership relations for the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. He had previously worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Cleveland Browns and Memphis Grizzlies.

Court records showed that the Redlicks had been going through a divorce before the case was dismissed from a lack of action by Danielle Redlick, who initiated the court proceeding.

In a divorce petition, Danielle Redlick said the marriage was “irretrievably broken” and she was asking for alimony because she said she was unable to support herself without assistance. She listed herself as an unemployed photographer and multimedia professional.


Massachusetts governor signs bill protecting abortion access
Court News | 2022/07/29 10:41
A sweeping abortion bill designed to protect access to the procedure in Massachusetts at a time when many other states are restricting or outlawing abortions was signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

The new law attempts in part to build a firewall around abortion services in the state after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v. Wade last month.

The law protects abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states, including blocking the governor from extraditing anyone charged in another state unless the acts for which extradition is sought would be punishable by Massachusetts law.

The bill also states that access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services is a right protected by the Massachusetts Constitution; requires the state’s Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, to cover abortions; allows over-the-counter emergency contraception to be sold in vending machines; and requires public colleges and universities to create medication abortion readiness plans for students.

A unique Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks is enforceable through lawsuits filed by private citizens against doctors or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.


Louisiana Supreme Court’s chief justice reelected
Court News | 2022/07/25 10:16
The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court has won re-election to another 10-year term.

Chief Justice John Weimer was automatically reelected when nobody signed up to challenge him by Friday’s qualifying deadline for the Nov. 8 ballot, The Advocate reported.

Weimer, 67, a former professor at Nicholls State University, first won election to the state’s high court in 2001. He won reelection in 2002 and 2012. In the latter race, he ran unopposed and returned campaign checks to contributors to his campaign.

On Wednesday, he was one of the first candidates to pay the qualifying fees and file the paperwork for the fall election. Weimer’s current term ends Dec. 31.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles of Baton Rouge lifted a stay July 13 that had blocked the November election for the state Supreme Court’s 6th District, which Weimer represents. The stay arose out of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the NAACP.

The lawsuit contends that two of the seven Supreme Court districts should have a Black majority in a state where about one-third of the state’s residents are African American. Only one Supreme Court district currently has a Black majority, the one represented by Justice Piper Griffin in New Orleans.

The 6th District, with about 600,000 residents, consists of 12 coastal parishes: Assumption, Iberia, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and a portion of the west bank of Jefferson.

The federal court had stopped all Supreme Court races in May. Only Weimer was up for reelection this year. Justices run in staggered terms every two years. The next justice is not on the ballot until 2024.


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