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Dozens of high-profile Australian journalists and major media organizations were represented by lawyers in a court on Monday on charges relating to breaches of a gag order on reporting about Cardinal George Pell's convictions for sexually molesting two choirboys.

Reporting in any format accessible from Australia about the former Vatican economy chief's convictions in a Melbourne court in December was banned by a judge's suppression order that was not lifted until February.

Such suppression orders are common in the Australian and British judicial systems, and breaches can result in jail terms. But the enormous international interest in a criminal trial with global ramifications has highlighted the difficulty in enforcing such orders in the digital world.

Lawyers representing 23 journalists, producers and broadcasters as well as 13 media organizations that employ them appeared in the Victoria state Supreme Court for the first time on charges including breaching the suppression order and sub judice contempt, which is the publishing of material that could interfere with the administration of justice. Some are also charged with scandalizing the court by undermining public confidence in the judiciary as well as aiding and abetting foreign media outlets in breaching the suppression order.

Media lawyer Matthew Collins told the court that convictions could have a chilling effect on open justice in Australia. He described the prosecutions as unprecedented under Australian law.

"This is as serious as it gets in terms of convictions, fines and jail time," Collins said. Justice John Dixon urged lawyers to consider whether all 36 people and companies would face a single trial or whether there should be 36 trials.

He ordered prosecutors to file detailed statements of claim against all those charged by May 20 and defense lawyers to file responses by June 21.


The Supreme Court is declining to take the case of a Pennsylvania rapper who was convicted of threatening police officers in one of his songs.

The high court declined on Monday to take the case of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal. In 2012, he and rapper Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police on gun and drug charges. A song they later wrote about the arrest contains phrases including “Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”

Both were charged with terroristic threats and other crimes.

Knox argued that the song was protected by the First Amendment, but he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Pennsylvania’s highest court upheld his convictions.



A supplier of Texas’ execution drugs can remain secret under a court ruling Friday that upheld risks of “physical harm” to the pharmacy, ending what state officials called a threat to the entire U.S. death penalty system.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, where Republicans hold every seat on the bench, doesn’t change operations at the nation’s busiest death chamber because state lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015.

A lawsuit filed a year earlier by condemned Texas inmates argued that the supplier’s identity was needed to verify the quality of the drugs and spare them from unconstitutional pain and suffering. Lower courts went on to reject Texas’ claims that releasing the name would physically endanger pharmacy employees at the hands of death-penalty opponents.

Now, however, the state’s highest court has found the risks valid and ordered the identity of the supplier to stay under wraps.

“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

The court deciding that a “substantial” risk of harm exists appeared to largely hinge on an email sent to an Oklahoma pharmacy in which the sender suggested they enhance security and referenced the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

“I’m speechless with the absurdity of them relying on that singular fact to close, to keep in secret how Texas essentially carries out its execution,” said Maurie Levin, a defense attorney who helped bring the original lawsuit.

The availability of execution drugs has become an issue in many death penalty states after traditional pharmaceutical makers refused to sell their products to prison agencies for execution use. Similar lawsuits about drug provider identities have been argued in other capital punishment states.


A court in Moscow has commissioned a new expert study in the case of an acclaimed theater and film director accused of embezzlement, and adjourned the hearings for two months.

The court on Monday upheld a motion by Kirill Serebrennikov’s defense that claimed that the charges against him are based on the flimsy conclusions of a previous study of his theater’s finances.

Monday’s ruling came a week after Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s most prominent directors, was released from house arrest after 20 months in custody.

He and several of his associates are facing charges of embezzling state funding for a theater project. Serebrennikov has rejected the accusations as absurd, and many in Russia see the charges as punishment for his anti-establishment views.


An appeals court in Waco has ruled that a district judge in Gatesville abused his discretion in rulings he made in a lawsuit related to the June 2018 explosion at the Coryell County Memorial Hospital.

In a five-page opinion written by 10th Court of Appeals Justice Rex Davis and released Wednesday evening, the three-judge court granted a writ of mandamus requested by AP Gulf States, the general contractor overseeing the hospital renovation and expansion project.

The court ruled that 52nd State District Judge Trent Farrell’s pretrial order in February requiring AP Gulf States’ insurance carrier to deposit $6.8 million into the court’s registry was “a clear and prejudicial error of law and an abuse of discretion” and ordered him to remedy the error within 21 days.

Tenth Court Chief Justice Tom Gray concurred in part and dissented in part. Gray noted that he agrees with the court’s judgment ordering Farrell to withdraw his February registry order but he disagreed with the order compelling him to rule on other pretrial motions with a prescribed time frame.

AP Gulf States took out a builder’s risk insurance policy with Zurich American Insurance Co. when the project began. In December, five months after the explosion that killed three workers and injured more than a dozen, AP Gulf States initiated an arbitration proceeding against the hospital seeking to recover funds it alleged it was owed from the project.



In a decision decried as a "devastating blow for victims," International Criminal Court judges on Friday rejected a request by the court's prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and alleged crimes by U.S. forces linked to the conflict.

In a lengthy written ruling, judges said an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice" because an investigation and prosecution were unlikely to be successful, as those targeted, including the United States, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, are not expected to cooperate, the court said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch slammed the ruling, calling it "a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress."

The ICC decision does acknowledge that the November 2017 request from Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a probe "establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the Court."

In a written reaction, the court's prosecution office said it "will further analyze the decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies."

The decision comes a month after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.


Kentucky’s chief justice has unveiled a statewide initiative to help the judicial system respond to the opioid epidemic that has put a strain on courts.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said Thursday that the effort aims to better equip judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel to deal with the challenges caused by drug addiction.

Minton says the program will help judges as they steer drug offenders into recovery programs. He says the initiative will help provide evidence-based information on best court practices to support treatment of drug addiction.

Kentucky has been hard hit by the wave of addictions to opioid painkillers.

Judges and court officials from across the state attended the announcement at the state Capitol.

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