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LA Supreme Court considers teen robber’s 99-year sentence
Court News | 2016/09/18 15:08
Louisiana’s Supreme Court is considering whether recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings about juveniles convicted of murder mean a juvenile robber’s 99-year sentence is unconstitutional.

Alden Morgan is now 35. He was 17 years old when he held up a couple with their baby daughter.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that several justices noted that his punishment is much higher than the nation’s highest court would have allowed for second-degree murder.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional to execute juveniles, to give them life sentences for most crimes, and — except in rare cases — to deny them a chance at parole for most killings.

Morgan’s case appears to be the first time that Louisiana’s high court has considered how those rulings may affect sentences for lesser offenses.



Court rules man treated for mental illness can have a gun
Court Watch | 2016/09/17 15:08
A Michigan man who can't buy a gun because he was briefly treated for mental health problems in the 1980s has won a key decision from a federal appeals court, which says the burden is on the government to justify a lifetime ban against him.

The Second Amendment case was significant enough for 16 judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to participate. Cases usually are heard only by three-judge panels.

Clifford Tyler, 74, of Hillsdale said his constitutional right to bear arms is violated by a federal law that prohibits gun ownership if someone has been admitted to a mental hospital.

In 1985, Tyler's wife ran away with another man, depleted his finances and filed for divorce. He was deeply upset, and his daughters feared he was a danger to himself.

Tyler was ordered to a hospital for at least two weeks. He subsequently recovered, continued working for another two decades and remarried in 1999.

"There is no indication of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed many years ago and who have no history of intervening mental illness, criminal activity or substance abuse," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in the lead opinion.

The court on Thursday sent the case back to the federal court in Grand Rapids where the government must argue the merits of a lifetime ban or the risks of Tyler having a gun.

Gibbons suggests Tyler should prevail, based on his years of good mental health.



Court halts construction of another section of pipeline
Topics in Legal News | 2016/09/16 15:09
A federal appeals court has ordered a halt to construction of another section of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a ruling late Friday that it needs more time to consider the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request for an emergency injunction. It said it will issue another order setting a date for oral arguments on the motion.  

The order "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the panel said. The ruling stops construction within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. The federal government on Sept. 9 ordered a halt to construction on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land under and around the lake after a U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected the tribe's request for a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the $3.8 billion four-state pipeline. That led the tribe to ask for an emergency injunction.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for Dakota Access LLC, said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, called the ruling disappointing but said his group respects the panel's decision.

"Judge Boasberg, in his thoughtful and thorough opinion last week, confirmed that the Army Corps of Engineers did their jobs expertly and in accordance with the law," Stevens said in a statement. "We are confident that another fair review of the corps' work will render the same decision."

The corps also issued a ruling on Friday granting the tribes a temporary permit that allows demonstrators to legally protest on federal lands managed by the agency. In turn, the tribe assumes responsibility for maintenance, damage and restoration costs, the security and safety of protesters, and liability insurance.


Court to weigh appeal on Indiana's block on Syrian refugees
Court News | 2016/09/14 15:08
A federal appeals court in Chicago is set to hear arguments in Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's appeal of a ruling that blocked his order to bar state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.

The appeals court is considering the case Wednesday, about two months before voters decide if Pence will be the nation's next vice president.

After the November Paris attacks, Pence said he didn't believe the federal government was adequately screening refugees from war-torn Syria. In February, a federal judge found Pence's order discriminatory against refugees.

Pence administration attorneys say the directive is "narrowly tailored" in the interest of public safety. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argues refugees are extensively vetted and the state's argument is "built on fear."



Court rejects challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law
Legal Interview | 2016/09/12 15:08
An appeals court on Monday rejected a challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law, saying Gov. Rick Snyder's remedy for distressed communities doesn't violate the constitutional rights of residents.

Emergency managers have exceptional power to run city halls and school districts, while elected officials typically are pushed aside for 18 months or more while finances are fixed. The most significant use of emergency management occurred in Detroit, where Snyder appointed bankruptcy expert Kevyn Orr in 2013. Orr seved for two years.

Critics who sued argued that the law violated a variety of rights — free speech, voting, even protections against slavery — especially in cities with large black populations.

The law might not be the "perfect remedy" but it's "rationally related" to turning around local governments, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 decision.

"The emergency manager's powers may be vast, but so are the problems in financially distressed localities, and the elected officials of those localities are most often the ones who ... led the localities into their difficult situations," the court said in upholding a decision by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.



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