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In a legal decision with wide implications for strip clubs in Sin City, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that dancers at one Las Vegas club are employees, not independent contractors, and are entitled to be paid minimum wage.
 
The unanimous ruling Thursday in a 2009 class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of six dancers at Sapphire Gentlemen's Club could change the landscape statewide in a business where dancers have for decades depended on tips and even paid "house fees" to establishments that allowed them to work.

"Given that Sapphire bills itself as the 'World's Largest Strip Club,' and not, say, a sports bar or nightclub," the high court said, "we are confident that the women strip-dancing there are useful and indeed necessary to its operation."

Mick Rusing, the Tucson, Arizona, attorney who represented plaintiff Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry and five other dancers in the initial case, said the ruling might directly effect more than 6,500 current and former members of the affected class, dating to about 2006.

Rusing said they could be entitled to a combined $40 million in back wages, plus the return of house fees.

"And it keeps going up every month," Rusing said. "As employees, you get a lot of rights. The girls are entitled to be paid. At very least, minimum wage."

Sapphire officials and the attorneys who represented the company before the Supreme Court didn't immediately respond to messages.

The Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Kristina Pickering, declared clubs are not exempt from provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

That includes worker compensation and sexual harassment rules, Rusing said.



The Marine Corps should not be retrying a sergeant whose murder conviction in a major Iraq war crime case was overturned by the military's highest court after he served half of his 11-year sentence, his defense attorneys say.
 
Civilian defense attorney Chris Oprison said he has filed nine motions that he will present during a two-day hearing for Lawrence Hutchins III that starts Thursday at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, north of San Diego.

"We think all these charges should be dismissed," Oprison said. "What are they trying to get out of this Marine? He served seven years locked up, away from his wife and family. Why are they putting him through this again after he served that much time?"

The military prosecution declined to comment.

The Marine Corps ordered a retrial for Hutchins last year shortly after the ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that found his rights were violated by interrogators in 2006 when he was detained in Iraq and held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for a week.

The new defense team is asking the judge to let them go to Iraq to interview witnesses in the village of Hamdania, where Hutchins led an eight-man squad accused of kidnapping an Iraqi man from his home in April 2006, marching him to a ditch and shooting him to death. Hutchins has said he thought the man was an insurgent.

Before his release, the Marine, from Plymouth, Massachusetts, had served seven years in the brig for one of the biggest war crime cases against U.S. troops to emerge from the war. None of the other seven squad members served more than 18 months.

The military last summer re-charged Hutchins. Among the charges is conspiracy to commit murder, which Oprison said is double jeopardy. Hutchins was convicted of murder at his original trial and acquitted of murder with premeditation.

Hutchins' defense attorneys also say the military compromised his case when its investigators raided defense attorneys' offices at Camp Pendleton in May. Oprison said investigators rifled through privileged files that held "the crown jewels" of Hutchins' defense case.


Supreme Court justices have their first chance this week to decide whether they have the appetite for another major fight over President Barack Obama's health care law.

Some of the same players who mounted the first failed effort to kill the law altogether now want the justices to rule that subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the law are illegal.

The challengers are appealing a unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, that upheld Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. The appeal is on the agenda for the justices' private conference on Friday, and word of their action could come as early as Monday.

The fight over subsidies is part of a long-running political and legal campaign to overturn Obama's signature domestic legislation by Republicans and other opponents of the law. Republican candidates have relentlessly attacked Democrats who voted for it, and the partisanship has continued on the federal bench. Every judge who has voted to strike down the subsidies was appointed by a Republican president.

The appeal has arrived at the Supreme Court at a curious time; there is no conflicting appeals court ruling that the justices often say is a virtual requirement for them to take on an issue. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited that practice, for example, as a reason she and her colleagues decided not to take on the same-sex marriage issue. And in the gay marriage cases, both sides were urging the court to step in.


Appeals court in Va. reviewing NC abortion law

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2014/10/28 10:50

North Carolina's solicitor general on Wednesday urged a federal appeals court to revive a state law that would require abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound of the fetus to the pregnant woman, even if the patient refuses to look or listen.

John Maddrey told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the provision adds "relevant, truthful, real-time information" to North Carolina's informed consent law. The state is appealing U.S. District Judge Catharine Eagles' ruling in January that the mandate violates abortion providers' free-speech rights.

North Carolina's solicitor general on Wednesday urged a federal appeals court to revive a state law that would require abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound of the fetus to the pregnant woman, even if the patient refuses to look or listen.

John Maddrey told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the provision adds "relevant, truthful, real-time information" to North Carolina's informed consent law. The state is appealing U.S. District Judge Catharine Eagles' ruling in January that the mandate violates abortion providers' free-speech rights.



Virginia's practice of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement will be reviewed by a federal appeals court in a case that experts say could have repercussions beyond the state's borders.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria ruled last year that around-the-clock isolation of condemned inmates is so onerous that the Virginia Department of Corrections must assess its necessity on a case-by-case basis. Failure to do so, she said, violates the inmates' due process rights.

The state appealed, arguing that the courts should defer to the judgment of prison officials on safety issues. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Alfredo Prieto, who was on California's death row for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl when a DNA sample connected him to the 1988 slayings of George Washington University students Rachel Raver and Warren Fulton III in Reston. He also was sentenced to death in Virginia, where he has spent most of the last six years alone in a 71-square-foot cell at the Sussex I State Prison.

Some capital punishment experts say a victory by Prieto could prompt similar lawsuits by death row inmates elsewhere.

"It gives them a road map," said northern Virginia defense attorney Jonathan Sheldon, who noted that the due process claim succeeded where allegations of cruel and unusual punishment have routinely failed. "It's not that common to challenge conditions of confinement on due process grounds."


The Washington Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Tuesday about whether the voter-approved charter school law violates the state constitution.

King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel found in December that parts of the new law were unconstitutional. Her decision focused on whether certain taxpayer dollars can be used to pay for the operation of charter schools.

Those dollars are essential to the success of these new schools, according to the people who want to open nine charter schools in Washington state next fall. The state's first charter school, First Place Scholars, opened in Seattle this fall.

Both sides asked the state Supreme Court to skip the appeals court process and directly review the case.

Supreme Court justices: Court needs diversity

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2014/10/24 08:32

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern Saturday about the lack of diverse legal and life experience among those who sit on the country's highest court.

Both are Yale University alumni and Thomas noted that all nine Supreme Court justices attended either Yale or Harvard University. He said everyone should be concerned that the nation's highest court has "such a strong Northeastern orientation."

Thomas, Sotomayor and Justice Samuel Alito, also a Yale alumnus, shared the stage Saturday when they were honored at the Connecticut school's alumni weekend. They were awarded the Yale Law School Association Award of Merit at the event. The six other Supreme Court justices all attended Harvard's law school.

"I do think we should be concerned that virtually all of us are from two law schools," Thomas said to an audience of Yale alumni and students. "I'm sure Harvard and Yale are happy, but I think we should be concerned about that. I think we should also be concerned that we have such a strong Northeastern orientation ... But I couldn't say that somebody who's a colleague of mine shouldn't be there."

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