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Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction overturned by court
Court News | 2021/06/30 13:22
Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction Wednesday after finding an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case.

Cosby has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia. He had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.

The 83-year-old Cosby, who was once beloved as “America’s Dad,” was convicted of drugging and molesting the Temple University employee at his suburban estate.

He was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — Cosby’s damaging deposition from her lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

The trial judge had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby’s first trial, when the jury deadlocked. However, he then allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial about their experiences with Cosby in the 1980s.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that testimony tainted the trial, even though a lower appeals court had found it appropriate to show a signature pattern of drugging and molesting women.

Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era, so the reversal could make prosecutors wary of calling other accusers in similar cases. The law on prior bad act testimony varies by state, though, and the ruling only holds sway in Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors did not immediately say if they would appeal or seek to try Cosby for a third time.

The justices voiced concern not just about sex assault cases, but what they saw as the judiciary’s increasing tendency to allow testimony that crosses the line into character attacks. The law allows the testimony only in limited cases, including to show a crime pattern so specific it serves to identify the perpetrator.

In New York, the judge presiding over last year’s trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose case had sparked the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017, let four other accusers testify. Weinstein was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He is now facing separate charges in California.


Supreme Court won’t revive school’s transgender bathroom ban
Court News | 2021/06/28 10:37
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban.

Over two dissenting votes, the justices left in place lower court rulings that found the policy unconstitutional. The case involved former high school student Gavin Grimm, who filed a federal lawsuit after he was told he could not use the boys bathroom at his public high school. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the board’s appeal.

The Gloucester County, Virginia, school board’s policy required Grimm to use restrooms that corresponded with his biological sex — female — or private bathrooms.

Seven years ago, Grimm was barred from using the boys restroom when he was a 15-year-old student at Gloucester High School. He sued a year later, and his case has worked its way through the courts ever since.

After learning that the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, Grimm, now 22, said that his long court battle is over. “We won,” he tweeted. “Honored to have been part of this victory,” he added.

David Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, did not immediately respond to email and voice mail messages seeking comment.

In its petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, the school board argued that its bathroom policy poses a “pressing federal question of national importance.”

The board argued previously that federal laws protect against discrimination based on sex, not gender identity. Because Grimm had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery and still had female genitalia, the board’s position has been that he remained anatomically a female.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Grimm in his years long lawsuit against Gloucester, argued that federal law makes it clear transgender students are protected from discrimination.


High court to rule whether to hear Maine school choice case
Court News | 2021/06/25 10:19
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are set to decide whether to hear a case filed by Maine families who want to use a state tuition program to send their children to religious schools.

The case concerns a Maine Department of Education rule that allows families who live in towns that don’t have public schools to receive public tuition dollars to send their children to the public or private school of their choosing. The program excludes religious schools, and families who want to send their children to Christian schools in Bangor and Waterville sued to try to change that.

The justices were slated to meet Thursday to consider whether to hear the case. It was unclear when they would issue a decision about whether the case can go forward.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the lawsuit last year, and the families appealed to the high court. They face the possibility of taking their case to a Supreme Court that has shifted in a conservative direction since they first filed in federal court three years ago.

Conflicting rules about the subject of public tuition assistance have led to confusion in lower courts, so the Supreme Court should take up the case, said Michael Bindas, the lead attorney for the families and a lawyer with the libertarian public interest firm Institute for Justice.

“Only the Supreme Court can provide that clarity, and make sure students aren’t being treated differently based on where they reside,” Bindas said. “The government shouldn’t be able to deny those parents the ability to send their children to the best available education for them.”

The lawsuit was first filed after the Supreme Court ruled that a Missouri program was wrong to deny a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing. The issue of public funding for religious schools has also come up in other states.

The Supreme Court ruled in a Montana case last year that states have to give religious schools the same access to public money that other private schools benefit from. Vermont has also faced lawsuits over a voucher program for students who live in locales that don’t have their own schools. The issue has also been raised in New Hampshire.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has filed court papers in support of Maine’s law that excludes religious schools from the tuition program. States aren’t obligated to fund religious schools, ACLU of Maine legal director Zachary Heiden said.

“Religious views infuse everything, as part of their curriculum and how they are dedicated to training future religious leaders,” Heiden said. “Which is absolutely something they can do, but it’s not something the government should be required to fund.”



Bankruptcy is Just Filling Out Some Forms, Right?
Court News | 2021/06/22 14:20
Nothing could be further from the truth! My job as a Bankruptcy Attorney is to help clients understand the process, and how to navigate all of the complexities of Bankruptcy Law. My job is also to educate the public about common misconceptions of the Bankruptcy Process, and how it works. You may think, well, if the client is broke, how can they afford to hire a lawyer? That is a legitimate question. But, in reality, if you are having financial troubles, as a business owner, or as a consumer, you can’t afford NOT to hire an attorney. Many people might do a google search “how to file Bankruptcy”, and get some results, and with a bit of hunting, find some forms to fill out. What are the forms exactly? When a person or business files for Bankruptcy Protection, they are required to file a “Petition for Bankruptcy Relief”. They are literally asking the Court for Relief from their Creditors (companies they owe). Even if you think your case is simple, what you don’t know can hurt you. When you Petition the Court for Relief, you are required to tell the Court in the Forms all about your financial life. The Petition asks you to list everything in the world that they own (Yes, the world!). So, if you own a timeshare in Florida, that goes on the list. If you own a plot of land in Europe, that goes on the list too! And, you have to list what you own such as cars and valuable items in your house. You also have to list EVERYONE YOU OWE. Every company, every person, no exceptions! These are just some examples. There are approximately 60 pages of questions that every person or business owner has to answer UNDER THE PENALTY OF PERJURY. Full, accurate disclosure is the only way you can get relief from the Court. And how you disclose everything on the Petition is very important! This means that if anything is left off, you could be denied your Bankruptcy Discharge (completion document) or worse, be sentenced to Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud.


High court sides with ex-athletes in NCAA compensation case
Court News | 2021/06/21 10:37
The Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that the NCAA can’t enforce rules limiting education-related benefits — like computers and paid internships — that colleges offer to student athletes.

The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether schools decide to offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in those benefits for things including tutoring, study abroad programs and graduate scholarships.

The high court agreed with a group of former college athletes that NCAA limits on the education-related benefits that colleges can offer athletes who play Division I basketball and football are unenforceable.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws,” which the court declined to grant.

Under current NCAA rules, students cannot be paid, and the scholarship money colleges can offer is capped at the cost of attending the school. The NCAA had defended its rules as necessary to preserve the amateur nature of college sports.

But the former athletes who brought the case, including former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, argued that the NCAA’s rules on education-related compensation were unfair and violate federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing those rules.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football players with additional education-related benefits. But individual athletic conferences can still set limits if they choose.


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