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  Court Watch - Legal News


Lawyers for the two men charged in the Northern California warehouse fire that killed 36 people said Friday they are now preparing for a trial where they will try to shift blame for the blaze from their clients to others, including the building's owner and government officials.

Derick Almena, 48, and Max Harris, 28, on Friday appeared briefly in an Oakland courtroom for the first time since a judge scuttled a plea deal agreed to by prosecutors. They were ordered back to court in three weeks to schedule a trial.

Outside court, the men's lawyers say there's plenty of blame to share for the Dec. 2, 2016, fire in an Oakland warehouse illegally converted into an underground entertainment venue and live-work space for artists. The cause of the fire has never been determined, which the lawyers said is key part of the men's defense.

Serra also said numerous government officials visited the illegally converted warehouse before the fire, and they had a duty to report the building's condition to authorities. Almena lived in the warehouse with his wife and three children and were visited by Alameda County's Child Protective Services officials several times. Oakland police officers were also called to the warehouse on several occasions to investigate noise complaints and tenant disputes, among other issues.



Federal regulators recently abandoned a proposed survey of Native American cultural resources at a planned uranium mine site in the southwest part South Dakota, just days before a judge decided the survey is required by federal law.

The contradictory actions could further complicate and prolong a regulatory review process that is already nearly a decade old, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Powertech (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of Canada-based Azarga Uranium, wants to develop a mine 13 miles northwest of Edgemont, on the remote southwestern edge of the Black Hills. The project is named "Dewey-Burdock," for two old town sites in the area.

The uranium would be mined by the "in situ" method, which involves drilling dozens of wells across a wide area. A liquid solution is pumped underground to dissolve the uranium and bring it to the surface, so it can be processed for use in nuclear power plants.

Contention over the potential presence of Native American burial sites, artifacts and other cultural resources within the 17-square-mile area of the proposed mine has been ongoing since Powertech applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license in 2009. Nevertheless, the commission granted the license in 2014, even as a dispute about the lack of an adequate cultural resources survey was still pending before the commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

Nevada Supreme Court taking up execution case

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2018/08/10 16:13

The Nevada Supreme Court has stepped in to decide whether drug companies can try to stop the state from using their medications in a twice-postponed lethal injection of a condemned inmate who wants to die.

A state court judge in Las Vegas cancelled hearings Thursday following an order late Wednesday from six of the high court's seven justices.

Supreme Court intervention had been sought by the state attorney general's office regarding the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

The judge had planned to hear drugmaker Sandoz's request to join a bid by Alvogen and Hikma Pharmaceuticals to prevent Nevada from using their products in a three-drug combination never before tried in any state.

A Nevada death-row inmate whose execution has been postponed twice says the legal fight over his fate is taking a tortuous toll on him and his family and he wants his sentence carried out.

Scott Raymond Dozier told The Associated Press that the state should, in his words, "just get it done, just do it effectively and stop fighting about it."

Dozier's comments in a brief prison telephone call on Wednesday came a day before a third drug company is due to ask a state court judge in Las Vegas to let it join with two other firms suing to block the use of their products in executions.

The companies say they publicly declared they didn't want their products used in executions and allege that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs.



A federal appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit challenging a Virginia law that allows police to arrest and jail people designated by courts as "habitual drunkards" if they are caught with alcohol.

The unanimous ruling Thursday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court judge who dismissed the lawsuit last year. But one of the judges criticized the law, saying it "criminalizes the otherwise legal behavior of individuals suffering from a serious illness."

The Legal Aid Justice Center argued in its lawsuit that the law is used to punish homeless alcoholics who have nowhere else to drink but in public.

Virginia's attorney general argued that the state has a legitimate interest in discouraging alcohol and drug abuse.


Attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the looming execution of a convicted child killer after the Tennessee Supreme Court and governor decided against a delay.

In a filing Tuesday, federal public defender Kelley Henry and attorney Carl Gene Shiles Jr. wrote that Billy Ray Irick should get a stay of Thursday's scheduled lethal injection while a challenge of the state's protocol continues on appeal.

The state Supreme Court wrote Monday that Irick's attorney didn't meet the burden of proving the lawsuit challenging Tennessee's new three-drug cocktail is likely to succeed. Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he won't intervene.

Protesters demonstrated Tuesday, urging Haslam to stop the execution.



A U.S. judge determined Friday that a lawsuit the state of Oklahoma filed against the makers of opioids does not "necessarily rise" to a federal issue.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City sends the matter back to state court. Drugmakers had it moved to federal court in June.

Oklahoma, one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleges fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic in the lawsuit filed in June 2017. It is seeking unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

Opioid manufacturers had argued the state was asking them to make different safety and efficacy disclosures to the public than required by federal law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but they deny wrongdoing.

An attorney for the companies did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ruling came just minutes after Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton joined Hunter and Michael Burrage, a private attorney representing the tribes and the state, in announcing that the tribes are joining the state in suing the opioid manufacturers in state courts for unspecified damages.

Hunter did not immediately return a phone call for comment, but Burrage said during the news conference that the effort to return to lawsuit to state court was to keep it from potentially being folded into more than 800 similar lawsuit pending in Ohio.


North Dakota's Supreme Court on Monday rejected several of Gov. Doug Burgum's vetoes but sided with the governor in other portions of a dispute with the Legislature that revolved around overreach on both sides.

The high court ruled that Burgum was out of line in four out of five line-item vetoes that the Legislature had challenged. In the vetoes — which included appropriations for the State Water Commission and for information technology spending, among others — the Supreme Court said Burgum had gone too far with vetoes that would have changed legislators' intent.

The Supreme Court sided with Burgum's challenge that lawmakers had improperly delegated authority to a subset of legislators — known as the Budget Section — for how some $299 million for the Water Commission could be shifted among several identified needs.

Burgum made the same successful argument for the Legislature's attempt to have the budget section direct where half of $3.6 million appropriated for information technology would be spent.

"Convenience is no substitute for the mandatory legislative process," Judge Jerod Tufte wrote. He said the Legislature encroached on the executive branch by giving a committee of its members the power to administer appropriations.

Burgum had earlier conceded most of the vetoes would fail. He said in a statement late Monday he was pleased with the court's ruling.


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