Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Turkish protesters denounce alleged coup plotters at court

Turkish protesters on Monday demanded the death penalty, abolished in Turkey more than a decade ago, for 18 alleged coup plotters on trial for the killing of a military officer who resisted an effort to overthrow the government.

The demonstrators jeered as security forces escorted the defendants into a courthouse in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The crowd also displayed an effigy of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania who is blamed by Turkey for the failed coup attempt on July 15. The effigy had a noose around its neck. Gulen has denied involvement in the uprising.

Turkey abolished the death penalty as a campaign to join the European Union gained momentum, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said since the coup attempt that Turkey could hold a referendum on reinstating it if parliament fails to pass such a measure. European leaders say any talks on Turkey's bid to join the EU, which faltered years ago, would end if Ankara restores the death penalty.

Relations reached a new low this month because of Turkey's anger over the refusal of some European countries to let Turkish Cabinet ministers campaign for diaspora votes ahead of an April 16 constitutional referendum on increasing the powers of the Turkish president. Supporters of the measure say a more centralized leadership would help Turkey deal with security, economic and other challenges; critics say its approval would fit a pattern of increasingly authoritarian behavior by Erdogan.

The suspects who appeared in court in Ankara are accused of involvement in the shooting of Omer Halisdemir, an officer who was killed after he shot dead Semih Terzi, a renegade military commander who allegedly tried to take over the special forces headquarters in the capital during last year's uprising by some military units.

Suspect Ahmet Kara, who was Terzi's military aide, testified last month that he was duped into participating in the rogue operation without understanding that it was an attempt to overthrow the government. The defendants, whose trial began in February, face life imprisonment if convicted of murder and other crimes.

High court limits president's power to fill temporary posts

The Supreme Court says a former top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board served in violation of a federal law governing temporary appointments.

The 6-2 ruling on Tuesday limits the president's power to fill vacant government posts while nominations are tied up in partisan political fights.

The justices said that Lafe Solomon was not allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the agency that enforces labor laws while he was at the same time nominated to fill that role permanently.

President Barack Obama named Solomon acting general counsel in June 2010 and he held the office until Nov. 4, 2013. But he never won Senate confirmation because Republicans viewed him as too favorable to labor unions.

Court: Student prayers OK at school board meetings

A Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led public prayers without running afoul of the Constitution's prohibition against government-established religion, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against the Birdville Independent School District. The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association and a graduate of Birdville High School.

The panel said student-led prayers for legislative bodies differ from unconstitutional prayers in public schools.

The panel noted a 2014 Supreme Court ruling allowing prayers at a town council meeting in Greece, New York, and said the prayers at the Birdville school board fall under that "legislative prayer exception."

"It would be nonsensical to permit legislative prayers but bar the legislative officers for whom they are being primarily recited from participating in the prayers in any way," Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote for the panel. "Indeed, the Supreme Court did not take issue with the fact that Town of Greece board members bowed their heads during invocations."

The opinion noted that the Birdville school board meetings are held in an administration building — not in a school. People attending can enter and leave at any time, including during the prayer. It said the board meetings open with a student-led Pledge of Allegiance and a statement that can include a prayer, although the statements are sometimes secular.

Friday, February 24, 2017

High court ruling limits international reach of patent laws

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with California-based Life Technologies Corp. in a patent infringement case that limits the international reach of U.S. patent laws.

The justices ruled unanimously that the company's shipment of a single part of a patented invention for assembly in another country did not violate patent laws.

Life Technologies supplied an enzyme used in DNA analysis kits to a plant in London and combined it with several other components to make kits sold worldwide. Wisconsin-based Promega Corp. sued, arguing that the kits infringed a U.S. patent.

A jury awarded $52 million in damages to Promega. A federal judge set aside the verdict and said the law did not cover export of a single component.

The federal appeals specializing in patent cases reversed and reinstated the verdict.

Patent laws are designed to prevent U.S. companies from mostly copying a competitor's invention and simply completing the final phase overseas to skirt the law. A violation occurs when "all or a substantial portion of the components of a patent invention" are supplied from the United States to a foreign location.

Writing for the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the law addresses only the quantity of components, not the quality. That means the law "does not cover the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention," Sotomayor said.

Only seven justices took part in the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts heard arguments in the case, but later withdrew after discovering he owned shares in the parent company of Life Technologies.

Supreme Court Hears Case on Fatal Border Shooting

How a U.S. Border Patrol argent’s use of lethal force at the U.S-Mexican border implicates constitutional rights and foreign affairs dominated arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in Hernandez v. Mesa. The lawyer arguing that the agent should be held liable had a rough day in front of the justices.

Both sides agree that while standing on American soil at the border on June 7, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa fatally shot Sergio Hernandez, a 15-year-old Mexican national standing on the Mexican side. But then the factual accounts diverge.

According to Hernandez’s family, the teenager was playing with his friends near the border opposite El Paso, Texas, where the border runs through the middle of a concrete culvert. There is a fence on the U.S. side of the culvert.

According to Mesa and the federal government, Mesa was detaining one of Hernandez’s companions on the U.S. side of the border, when Hernandez and the other teenagers started throwing rocks at Hernandez. Mesa claims that the rocks posed a danger to his safety. He repeatedly ordered then to stop and back away, but they persisted. Finally Mesa fired in what he claims is self-defense, fatally striking Hernandez.

Hernandez’s family sued, and Mesa filed a motion to dismiss. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when considering a motion to dismiss, a federal court must consider the plaintiff’s allegations as true when deciding whether to throw out the lawsuit versus letting it continue. The parties later present evidence to prove their version of the facts if the lawsuit goes forward, but when deciding whether to end the case before it gets started, judges must consider only plaintiff’s version.

Supreme Court won't hear Ohio man's Amish hair-cutting case

The U.S. Supreme Court won't review the case of the Ohio leader of a breakaway group that was accused in hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish.

Defense lawyers challenged the constitutionality of the federal hate crimes law and how a kidnapping allegation was used to stiffen the sentence for 71-year-old Samuel Mullet Sr. He petitioned the Supreme Court after a federal court rejected his appeal last May.

Mullet's attorney, Ed Bryan, told Cleveland.com he is disappointed by the high court's decision this week not to take up the case.

Prosecutors said some of the victims in the 2011 attacks were awakened in the middle of the night and restrained as others cut their hair and beards, which have spiritual significance in the Amish faith. Prosecutors alleged the motive was religious, while the defense attributed it to family disputes.

Mullet, who led a group in the eastern Ohio community of Bergholz near the West Virginia panhandle, was accused of orchestrating the attacks. Despite arguments that he wasn't present during the hair-cuttings, he received an 11-year sentence.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Court orders Wisconsin Legislature to redraw voting maps

A panel of federal judges on Friday ordered the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw legislative boundaries by November, rejecting calls from those challenging the maps to have the judges do the work.

The ruling clears the way for the state to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an earlier decision declaring the current maps unconstitutional, but the judges rejected Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel’s request to delay any work until after the Supreme Court decides whether to hear an appeal.

Schimel’s spokesman, Johnny Koremenos, promised the decision would be swiftly appealed to the Supreme Court. Democrats hailed the ruling and called for public hearings on new maps, but Republicans still control the drawing of district boundaries.

“I hope that legislative Republicans are more competent with their second chance,” said Democratic state Sen. Mark Miller, of Monona.

A dozen voters sued in 2015 over the Republican-drawn maps, alleging they unconstitutionally consolidated GOP power and discriminated against Democrats. The three-judge panel agreed in a 2-1 ruling in November, but didn’t order any immediate action.

In its Friday ruling, the judges ordered the Legislature to redraw the maps by November so they could be in place for the 2018 elections. They forbid the current legislative boundaries from being in effect for any future election. They also declined to do the work themselves, as the Democrats who filed the lawsuit wanted.