Thursday, February 1, 2018

Malaysia's top court annuls unilateral conversions of minors

Malaysia's top court in a landmark decision says both parents must consent to the religious conversion of a minor, ruling in favor of a Hindu woman whose ex-husband converted their three children to Islam.

M.Indira Gandhi became caught in a high-profile dispute after her former husband became a Muslim and converted their three children without telling her in 2009. He also snatched their daughter, then 11 months old, from the family home.

Malaysia has a dual court system, secular and religious. Gandhi challenged her children's conversions through the civil courts.

The Court of Appeal ruled that civil courts had no jurisdiction over Islamic conversions, but that decision was appealed to the nation's highest court.

The Federal Court on Monday annulled the children's conversions as they were done without Gandhi's consent.

Officials ask court to send Kennedy cousin back to prison

Connecticut officials are asking the state's highest court to revoke Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's bail and send him back to prison, reminding justices it has been more than a year since they reinstated his murder conviction.

The chief state's attorney's office filed the request Monday with the state Supreme Court.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy and his widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were both teenagers.

He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. But another judge granted him a new trial in 2013, citing mistakes by his lawyer. Skakel was then freed after being allowed to post $1.2 million bail while he awaited the new trial.

Prosecutors appealed the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which reinstated the conviction in December 2016 in a 4-3 ruling. Skakel's lawyers asked the high court to reconsider the decision — a request that remains pending. Skakel has been allowed to remain free on bail pending that ruling.

In Monday's petition to the Supreme Court, prosecutor James Killen wrote the court's usual practice is to rule on a request to reconsider a decision within weeks, and it's not clear why it is taking so long.

Texas executes Dallas man for killing ex-girlfriend in 1999

A Dallas man was executed Tuesday for the 1999 slaying of his ex-girlfriend while he already was on parole for killing his estranged wife.

William Rayford, 64, became the nation's second inmate put to death this year, both in Texas, when he received lethal injection for beating, stabbing and strangling 44-year-old Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. Her body was found about 300 feet (91 meters) inside a drainage pipe behind her home in South Dallas' Oak Cliff area. Hall's 11-year-old son, Benjamin, also was stabbed in the attack but survived. He testified against Rayford.

Asked by the warden at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit if he had a final statement, Rayford apologized repeatedly to his victim's four children who watched through a window a few feet from him.

"Carol didn't deserve what I done," he said. "Please try to find it in your heart to forgive me. I am sorry. It has bothered me for a long time what I have done."

He said he has made mistakes and asked God to forgive him. "If this gives you closure and makes you feel better, I have no problem with this taking place," Rayford said.

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he lifted his head from the pillow on the death chamber gurney, repeated that he was sorry and then said he was "going home."

He began to snore. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 8:48 p.m., 13 minutes after the powerful sedative was injected.

Among the four witnesses present was the victim's son who was also stabbed in the attack. He and three siblings showed no emotion as they watched Rayford die. They declined interviews afterward.

Monday, November 20, 2017

German Court: Kuwait Airways Can Refuse Israeli Passengers

A German court ruled Thursday that Kuwait's national airline didn't have to transport an Israeli citizen because the carrier would face legal repercussions at home if it did.

The Frankfurt state court noted in its decision that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to have contracts with Israelis under Kuwaiti law because of the Middle Eastern country's boycott of Israel.

The court said it didn't evaluate whether "this law make sense," but that the airline risked repercussions that were "not reasonable" for violating it, such as fines or prison time for employees.

An Israeli citizen, who was identified in court papers as Adar M., a student living in Germany, sued Kuwait Airways after it canceled his booking for a flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok that included a stop-over in Kuwait City.

The cancellation came a few days before M.'s scheduled departure in August 2016 when he revealed he had an Israeli passport. The airline offered to book him on a nonstop flight to Bangkok with another carrier.

The man refused the offer and filed the lawsuit, seeking compensation for alleged discrimination. He also insisted the airline should have to accept him as a passenger.

The court rejected his discrimination claim ruling that German law covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, but not nationality.

Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned the ruling, calling it "unbearable that a foreign company operating based on deeply anti-Semitic national laws is allowed to be active in Germany."

Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker expressed a similar view. "An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt," Becker said.

Courts in the United States and Switzerland previously have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in comparable cases, the German news agency dpa reported.

Steve Mostyn, Houston attorney and major Dem donor, dies

Steve Mostyn, a prominent Houston trial attorney and a top Democratic Party donor, has died. He was 46.

In a statement, his family confirmed Thursday his death on Wednesday "after a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue."

"Steve was a beloved husband and devoted father who adored his children and never missed any of their sporting events," the statement reads. "He was a true friend, and a faithful fighter for those who did not have a voice."

"Steve touched countless lives. Many friends and colleagues in Texas and throughout the country have reached out during this painful time. Our family is requesting privacy . . . The details of a celebration of Steve's life will be announced at a later date."

"In honor of Steve's life and legacy,  please consider supporting the important work of the Mostyn Moreno Foundation or the Special Olympics of Texas. If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide, or experiencing a health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now."

Born John Steven Mostyn  in Whitehouse, a small town in East Texas, just southeast of Tyler, Mostyn graduated from the South Texas College of Law in 1996 and joined a Houston firm. Soon, he went on his own to create what he called "a uniquely different Texas law firm" -- Mostyn Law -- that focused on corporate negligence and wrongdoing.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Court gives government a win in young immigrants' cases

A federal appeals court handed the U.S. government a victory Tuesday in its fight against lawsuits opposing a decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan directed Brooklyn judges to expeditiously decide if a court can properly review the decision to end in March the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The government insists it cannot.

Activists are suing the government in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland. DACA has protected about 800,000 people, many of them currently in college, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas.

A three-judge 2nd Circuit panel issued a brief order after hearing oral arguments. It said the government will not have to continue to produce documents or submit to depositions before the lower court decides whether the cases can proceed. It also said it will only decide the issue of whether to order the lower court to limit document production once those issues are addressed.

Attorney Michael Wishnie, who argued for plaintiffs suing the government, praised the appeals court for having "moved swiftly to address the government filings in this case."

And he noted that a Brooklyn judge gave the government until Friday to submit written arguments on the legal issues the appeals court said must be resolved before the case proceeds. The plaintiffs must submit their arguments by Nov. 1.

Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim M. Mooppan told the appeals court panel the government planned to ask the Brooklyn federal court by early next week to dismiss the lawsuits.

He said lawyers fighting the government were engaging in a "massive fishing expedition" for documents and testimony that would reveal the deliberative processes at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. He called it "wholly improper."

Mooppan seemed to get a sympathetic ear from appeals judges, with one of them saying the government's opponents seemed to be pursuing "a disguised application under the Freedom of Information Act."

"There are a lot of different ways this is very wrong, your honor. That might be one of them," Mooppan said.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wisconsin panel changes court rules for Foxconn plant

Foxconn Technology Group could appeal lawsuits directly to the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, skipping the state appeals court, under changes to a $3 billion incentive package the Legislature's budget-writing committee approved Tuesday.

The unprecedented change to the usual judicial process drew criticism from Democrats, who also blasted the $3 billion incentives as a corporate welfare giveaway. But they didn't have the votes needed to stop the proposal.

The Republican-controlled committee approved the bill on a party line 12-4 vote. The state Senate planned to vote on it Sept. 12, with the Assembly expected to quickly follow. Both are under GOP control.

The Assembly approved it last month, but will have to vote again since the committee changed the measure which amounts to the largest state tax break to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. It must pass both houses of the Legislature in the same form before going to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

Taiwan-based Foxconn signed a deal with Wisconsin to invest up to $10 billion in the state on a massive flat-screen manufacturing campus that could employ up to 13,000 people. The plant is to be built in southeastern Wisconsin and be open as soon as 2020, although Foxconn has not identified its exact location yet.

"This is probably the biggest thing to happen to Wisconsin since the cow," Republican budget committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren said Tuesday.

Proponents say the plant offers a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the state, while critics say the state is giving away too much with the $3 billion incentive package. The bill also waives environmental regulations that will allow Foxconn to build in wetland and waterways and construct its 20-million-square-foot campus without first doing an environmental impact statement.