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.

France: Court finds topless photos violated royal’s privacy

A French court ruled Tuesday that photographers and gossip magazine executives violated the privacy of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge by taking and publishing photographs of the former Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.

The court in a Paris suburb fined two executives of French gossip magazine Closer — owner Ernesto Mauri and executive editor Laurence Pieau — each the maximum of 45,000 euros ($53,500) for such an offense.

The Closer executives, along with two photographers for a celebrity photo agency, were collectively ordered to pay 50,000 euros ($59,500) in damages to Kate and the same amount to her husband, Prince William.

The damage award was substantially below the figure that the magazine’s lawyer said the royals had requested, but the timing of the court’s finding of privacy invasion had particular resonance in Britain.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the death of William’s mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car accident that occurred while she was being pursued by paparazzi.

The royal couple did not attend the hearing where the verdict was announced. Their office at Kensington Palace said they were pleased the court ruled in their favor and now consider the matter closed.

Kate and William “wished to make the point strongly that this kind of unjustified intrusion should not happen,” the palace said in a statement.

Trump nominates White House lawyer to important court seat

President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the most important federal appeals courts, opening the door for confirmation hearing questions about the legal controversies that dominated the first seven months of Trump's presidency.

Gregory Katsas was nominated Thursday to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Katsas, the deputy White House counsel, was a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. A biography on the White House's website says he has argued more than 75 appeals, including the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court.

He would replace the libertarian-leaning Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who retired this summer. The court is influential, in part because of its role in adjudicating many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration. It is sometimes called America's second highest court because it can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court just a few blocks away.

Katsas, once a law clerk to Justice Thomas, has served in high-ranking Justice Department roles, including as head of the civil division that has responsibility for defending the administration's policies against court challenges. He is part of the steady stream of Jones Day law firm partners who have flowed into the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn.

So many Jones Day attorneys work in the White House that the counsel's office issued a blanket ethics waiver for them so that they can maintain contact with their former colleagues without running afoul of ethics provisions. The firm's lawyers continue to represent members of the Trump campaign outside the White House.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mizzou's Howard arrested again for failing to appear in court

Missouri defensive end Nate Howard, already suspended and facing a felony drug charge, was arrested again Monday night by UMPD for an out-of-county warrant for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket in Montgomery County.

Howard had a ticket arraignment scheduled for last Thursday in Montgomery Circuit Court for a misdemeanor speeding ticket filed March 28. Howard didn't pay the ticket for $121 or appear in court to contest the charge, according to online court records.

Howard was contacted during a traffic stop Monday when MU police discovered the warrant, MUPD Lt. Buddy Anliker said in an email.

Howard's next court date in his felony drug possession case is Aug. 24. Howard, a former All-Metro standout at Ladue High School, was arrested June 14 in Columbia on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and suspicion of marijuana possession when police found illegal mushrooms and marijuana in the vehicle he was driving. Howard has been charged with a class D felony for possession of a controlled substance. All MU athletes charged with a felony are suspended indefinitely until their case is resolved.

Howard has not practiced with the Tigers since the spring and is not on the current 105-man roster. Howard has 15 tackles in 15 career games.



Former Pakistan PM challenges disqualification by court

A Pakistani official says former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification and removal from office.

Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, who is in Sharif's party, said Tuesday that the former prime minister's lawyers filed three petitions to review the verdict.

The court disqualified Sharif after documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm showed that his family held previously undisclosed overseas assets. A five-judge panel last month disqualified Sharif, accusing him of concealing assets.

Last week Sharif held a series of rallies across the country, criticizing the court ruling and seeking to whip up popular support.

German court sends ECB challenge to European court

Germany's top court has declined to hear a series of challenges to the European Central Bank's bond-buying stimulus program, referring them instead to the European Court of Justice.

The dpa news agency reports Tuesday that those against the program claimed it constituted illegal budget financing and that Germany's central bank should not be participating.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that because the challenge was about European Union regulations, it was up to the European court to decide.

The ECB's 2.28 trillion euro ($2.7 trillion) bond-purchasing program is only due to run through 2017, raising the question of whether the case can be heard before the program has already ended.

Missouri Supreme Court rejects request to stop execution

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion from attorneys seeking to halt the execution of a man scheduled to die next week but did not explain its decision.

Attorneys for Marcellus Williams had asked the state Supreme Court and Gov. Eric Greitens to stop the punishment, citing DNA evidence that they say exonerates him. Williams, 48, is scheduled to die by injection Aug. 22 for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle in 1998 during a robbery at her University City home.

In a filing to the Missouri Supreme Court and a clemency request to the Republican governor, Williams' attorneys said testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing shows DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

"That means in our mind the actual killer is not him," one of Williams' lawyers, Kent Gipson, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday ahead of the court's decision. "It certainly would give most reasonable people pause to say, 'Should you be executing somebody when you've got reasonable evidence suggesting another man did it?'"

After the ruling, Gipson told St. Louis Public Radio that he was surprised by the quick decision and planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Certainly something involving a claim of innocence that is this substantial, you would think they would at least write an opinion or at least a short opinion giving the reasons why they denied it," Gipson said, "because that makes it more difficult to take it up to a higher court because they don't know exactly on what basis the ruling was made."

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains confident that Williams is guilty based on other evidence in the case. Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, declined comment, saying only that the claim will need further review.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Supreme Court deadline nears for suit over wetland loss

A Louisiana flood board is nearing a deadline for asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review its lawsuit seeking to make oil and gas companies pay for decades of damage to coastal wetlands.

Federal district and appeals courts have rejected the lawsuit, which was met by fierce opposition from the energy industry and many in state government when it was filed in 2013. The suit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East said drilling and dredging activity contributed to loss of wetlands that form a hurricane buffer for New Orleans.

Oil industry supporters have labeled the lawsuit an attack on a vital industry. Tuesday marks the deadline for the flood board attorneys to seek Supreme Court review after their last defeat in April.

A federal district judge's 2015 ruling held that federal and state law provided no avenue by which the board could bring the suit.

A three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in March and the full 15-member court refused a rehearing in April. Lawyers for the flood board had a 90-day window to seek Supreme Court review.

Flood authority lawyers have argued that the flood board has the right to seek compensation for levee damage under the federal Rivers and Harbors Act. They also argued that federal judges should not have allowed the case to be moved to federal court from the state court where it originally was filed.

Meanwhile, some coastal parishes are pursuing coastal damage suits in state courts on different legal grounds. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has urged the energy companies to work toward a settlement. Industry leaders have resisted, saying the suits are meritless.