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The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled that a person doesn't need to pay alimony to a former spouse if the payee is in a new relationship with a member of the same sex.

The decision clarifies a section of Virginia's divorce law which states that alimony payments can be cut off if the payee remarries or has been cohabiting with another person for at least a year.

The case stemmed from the 2008 divorce of Michael Luttrell and Samantha Cucco. Luttrell had agreed to pay alimony to Cucco for eight years, but sought to end payments in 2014 because Cucco was engaged to a new partner.

Cucco had argued the situation didn't qualify as cohabitation because she was in a relationship with someone of the same sex.


The European Union's top court dealt a blow to the tobacco industry Wednesday by approving sweeping new rules that will require plain cigarette packs, ban menthol cigarettes and regulate the growing electronic cigarette market.

Tobacco companies had protested a 2014 EU directive on the new rules, calling it disproportionate. But the European Court of Justice on Wednesday upheld the directive, arguing it's in line with efforts to fight smoking and protect public health.

The court said it is OK to ban menthol and other flavorings that make tobacco more appealing. The directive also requires standardized, plain labels that cover at least 65 percent of all cigarette packs with health warnings.

The rules will require warnings for e-cigarettes, limit their nicotine levels to 20 grams and restrict advertising and sponsorship by their makers.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association said in a statement that it is disappointed by the ruling and argued it could push some e-cigarette smokers back to tobacco.

Poland, which appealed the 2014 tobacco directive, seemed to accept the verdict, but said in a statement issued by the ministry of Development it was able to postpone the ban on menthol cigarettes until Jan. 1, 2020.

According to the statement, Poland is EU's fourth-largest tobacco producer and second-largest producer of flavored cigarettes. Some 6.3 billion menthol cigarettes were produced in Poland in 2013.

Among those welcoming the decision was French Health Minister Marisol Touraine, who said plain cigarette packs will be required in France starting May 20.

"It's a victory for public health, a victory in the battle against lobbies, because in the fight against smoking ... the obstacles are numerous," she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.



Former judges and top legal officials are calling on the Florida Supreme Court to impose life sentences on nearly 400 people now awaiting execution on death row.

The group, which includes three former state Supreme Court justices and two former presidents of the American Bar Association, filed a legal brief Tuesday in a case that could determine the fate of Florida's death penalty.    

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional, prompting the state Supreme Court to halt two executions. The Florida Legislature responded by overhauling the law.

But the Florida Supreme Court still hasn't decided what should happen to those sentenced to death under the previous sentencing scheme. The court will hear arguments from lawyers this week on what should be done.


India and Italy should work toward an agreement to allow an Italian marine to return home while an arbitration process continues in the fatally shootings of two Indian fishermen in 2012, a tribunal said Tuesday.

The two countries should present their arguments over relaxing the marine's bail conditions to India's Supreme Court, the tribunal in The Hague said.

The case against Salvatore Girone and another Italian marine, Massimiliano Latorre, has strained relations between the two countries, which disagree on the facts of the case and who has jurisdiction. Italy has also complained bitterly about the fact that, in four years, India has never formally charged the two with a crime.

An arbitration tribunal is hearing the dispute over jurisdiction, and in the ruling announced Tuesday said the two countries should approach India's Supreme Court about changing Girone's bail terms to allow him to return to Italy. Latorre has been in his home country since September 2014 on medical treatment after suffering a stroke in India.

Both India and Italy welcomed the tribunal's ruling, which had been shared with officials from the two countries on Monday. India was happy that the ruling confirmed its jurisdiction to decide bail, while Italy found relief in the possibility of Girone's return.

"We see the tribunal's order not just as a recognition of India's consistent positions and key arguments but also as an affirmation of the authority of the Supreme Court of India," Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, speaking Tuesday in Parliament on behalf of the foreign affairs minister.

In Rome, the defense minister expressed confidence that Italy would be proven right through the arbitration process.



Two months, 31 arguments and 18 decisions since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, is the Supreme Court hopelessly deadlocked or coping as a party of eight?
 
The answer varies with the issue, but arguments last week in the corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell show there are high-profile cases on which justices from the left and the right agree more often than they don't.

There also is some indication, hazy though it may be, that the court is trying to avoid division in an era of stark political partisanship and during a rollicking presidential campaign.

"The court prides itself appropriately as being an institution that works," said Washington lawyer Andy Pincus, who argues regularly at the Supreme Court.

If the court can demonstrate an ability to get its work done, that could reinforce Republican opposition to confirming federal Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Scalia, who died in February.

At the same time, the court has split 4-4 in two cases and part of a third, and the justices could end up similarly divided over immigration, birth control and a couple of other issues. Scalia's death has deprived the court's conservatives of a fifth, majority-making vote on some high-profile issues.

In McDonnell's appeal of his corruption convictions, however, liberal and conservative justices seemed to share a deep skepticism of the government's case. They strongly suggested that the court eventually will set aside his criminal conviction.



The Supreme Court will resolve a patent dispute between companies that make adult diapers.

The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from SCA Hygiene Products AB, which argues that it did not wait too long to file a patent infringement lawsuit against rival First Quality Baby Products LLC.

The divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled last year that SCA's six-year delay in bringing the lawsuit was unreasonable.

SCA is relying on a 2014 Supreme Court case that said unreasonable delay is not a defense against claims of copyright infringement. The company says the same reasoning applies to patent cases.

The court will hear arguments in the case when its new term begins in the fall.



The Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that found advertising claims of the health benefits of POM Wonderful juices were deceptive.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from POM Wonderful LLC that argued that the ruling violated the company's speech rights. POM makes pomegranate-based products.

The Federal Trade Commission and the federal appeals court in Washington faulted POM for asserting that its products curb the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and are clinically proven to work.

Judge Sri Srinivasan said the First Amendment does not protect "deceptive and misleading advertisements."

The three-judge panel included Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Srinivasan also was considered for the high court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.



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