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Russia's Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah's Witnesses from operating in the country, accepting a request from the justice ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.

The court ordered the closure of the group's Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property.

The Interfax news agency on Thursday quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying that the Jehovah's Witnesses "pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security."

The Jehovah's Witnesses claim more than 170,000 adherents in Russia. The group has come under increasing pressure over the past year, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws.


Under tight security, Pakistan's top court is to deliver a much-awaited decision on Thursday on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family which could determine his political future.

If the Supreme Court announces punitive measures against Sharif or his family members as part of the decision, it may lead to a crisis in government. In 2012, the same court convicted then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Thursday's decision will be the outcome of petitions from opposition lawmakers dating back to documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm that indicated Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif's family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.

The opposition wants Sharif, in power since 2013, to resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment. Sharif has defended his financial record.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters the government will "accept the court decision."

Naeemul Haq, a spokesman for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party is leading the petition, said the decision will be an "historic one."

Lawyer A.K. Dogar, who is not involved in the probe by the Supreme Court or the petition, said the decision could determine the political fate of Sharif.

Senior opposition politician Mehnaz Rafi, from Khan's party, told The Associated Press she hopes the decision will help recover tax money from Sharif's family and others who set up offshore companies to evade taxes. If the court finds Sharif's family evaded paying taxes, she said he should resign as he will no longer have "moral authority to remain in power."

The prime minister has insisted his father built up the family business before Sharif entered politics in the 1980s. Sharif says he established a steel mill abroad while he was exiled to Saudi Arabia by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999.



Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking the start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review," Hutchinson said in a statement after the Wednesday ruling.

Since the last execution in 2005, the state Supreme Court has at least twice forced Arkansas to rewrite its death penalty law. One of those cases spared Don Davis, who again received a stay Monday night. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken."

But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million last year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.


The Ohio Supreme Court wants to see unredacted autopsy reports from eight slayings in one family as justices consider media lawsuits seeking access to those full reports from the year-old, unsolved case.

The court on Wednesday ordered the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio to submit the reports within two weeks for justices to review outside of public view.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon last April.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full autopsies.

Authorities want to shield information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation. The coroner also says victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of how their loved ones died.



The trial of two Canadian men from a fundamentalist sect that allows men to have multiple wives opened Tuesday with not guilty pleas being entered on charges of practicing polygamy.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler each face one count of polygamy. Both men have served as bishops for the religious settlement of Bountiful, British Columbia which follows the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, often referred to as the FLDS.

Oler is accused of having four wives. He pleaded not guilty. Blackmore remained mute and Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf. Blackmore is accused of marrying 24 women over 25 years.

Blackmore's lawyer, Blair Suffredine, said outside court his client chose to say nothing for religious reasons.

"He doesn't want to deny his faith. He doesn't feel guilty," Suffredine said. "The technical way around that is don't say anything and they'll enter the plea not guilty."

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson told the court his case includes marriage records seized from the church's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, which were used in 2010 to sentence leader Warren Jeffs to life in a U.S. prison for sexually assaulting two young girls.



An Austrian court has found a former Croatian general guilty of embezzling millions of euros and sentenced him and an associate to two years in prison.

The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt determined Wednesday that the ex-general, Vladimir Zagorec, and Guenter Striedinger were involved in diverting loans from the now-defunct Hypo Alpe Adria Bank. Striedinger was a bank board member.

Judge Michaele Sanin said the damages caused by the two amounted to over 17 million euros ( $18 million.)

The bank was nationalized to prevent bankruptcy in 2009 and its assets are being sold to pay off creditors.

Lawyers for both men say they are appealing the verdict and sentence.

A third man whom the court did not name also was found guilty and given a suspended prison term.


On the eve of what Arkansas officials hoped will be the state's first executions in more than a decade, they faced off with death-row inmates in multiple legal battles over whether these lethal injections would take place as scheduled.

At the heart of the fight is an unprecedented flurry of executions that have pushed Arkansas to the forefront of the American death penalty at a time when states are increasingly retreating from the practice. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) scheduled eight lethal injections to take place over an 11-day window, a pace unmatched in the modern era, which he defended as needed because one of the state's drugs is expiring this month and no replacement could be guaranteed amid an ongoing shortage.

Hours before the first execution was scheduled to begin, fights continued on several fronts in state and federal court, and Arkansas and death-row inmates both notched legal victories Monday -- one halting the executions, another removing a roadblock to carrying them out at a later time.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday afternoon narrowly stayed the two executions scheduled to take place later that night, which came after a federal judge had previously issued an order over Easter weekend staying all the executions. Other court orders had also blocked individual executions and barred the state from using one of its lethal-injection drugs.

After the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday afternoon stayed two scheduled executions without explanation, Leslie Rutledge (R), the state's attorney general, promised to quickly seek a review of what she described as a flawed decision.

Rutledge filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to vacate one of the two stays. Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said she decided not to appeal the other lethal injection, which the Arkansas Supreme Court had previously stayed last week, because the state rejected her appeal against that first stay and then handed down a second one.

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