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A Finnish court has thrown out charges against Iraqi twin brothers of taking part in Islamic State-related killings of at least 11 unarmed soldiers.

The Pirkanmaa District Court says the two who were not identified, were set free on Wednesday.

The court in Tampere, southern Finland, said the evidence against them was too weak. It included testimonies from other asylum-seekers, a video footage of the massacre by IS militants and information from an Iraqi investigative commission.

State prosecutors had demanded life sentences and claimed the brothers took part in atrocities committed by IS militants at a military base outside Tikrit in June 2014 when some 1,700 Iraqi army soldiers were slain.

The brothers arrived in Finland in September 2015 and were arrested three months later.


A federal appeals court will consider whether three North Carolina couples have legal standing to challenge a law allowing magistrates with religious objections to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

The couples want the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, to revive the lawsuit because they say the state is spending tax dollars to accommodate magistrates’ religious views. The couples argue those expenditures give them the right to sue, despite a district court ruling to the contrary. Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.

Lawyers from the North Carolina Attorney General’s office argue in legal filings that SB2 isn’t a true spending program, and it doesn’t require substantial outlays of tax money.

Further, they say the law is consistent with the government’s obligation not to interfere with the religious beliefs of state workers.




Five protesters have pleaded guilty to causing disruptions in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Online court records show the pleas were entered Thursday in federal court in Washington. Sentencing is set for July 24.

The group had argued a law under which they were prosecuted was unconstitutionally vague for prohibiting "loud" language, or making a "harangue" or "oration."

A federal judge partially agreed in 2015, ruling that the words "harangue" and "oration" were too vague, while the word "loud" was clear. But earlier this year, an appeals court upheld the entire law, saying its intent was clear.

The demonstrators were seated in the courtroom on April 1, 2015. After the session began, they rose one-by-one to protest the court's campaign-finance rulings. They were all arrested.



An opening on the Idaho Supreme Court won't be filled through an election but through an application process.

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann announced earlier this year he will retire in August — 16 months before the end of his current six-year term.

Because Eismann is stepping down early, the Idaho Judicial Council will solicit applications and recommend up to four names to the governor for appointment instead of waiting until the 2018 election, The Spokesman-Review reported. Idaho's Supreme Court positions are nonpartisan.

It's a merit-based process that had been used primarily to replace outgoing justices until this past year when former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones announced he would retire at the end of his term.

"I would never have been on the court if the only avenue was to go through the Judicial Council and be appointed by the governor," said Jones, 74, who was twice elected Idaho attorney general. "It just didn't even occur to me as a possibility, because if you've been involved in the political arena, you probably at one time or another have stepped on the toes of whoever ends up being governor."

Eismann joined the state's highest court in 2001 after successfully running against incumbent Justice Cathy Silak. That election was the first time in 68 years that a sitting supreme court justice had been ousted in an election.

He caused a stir when he decided to announce his election campaign at a Republican Party event in eastern Idaho. He has since become one of the most outspoken justices, known for his tough questioning and advocating for specialty courts throughout Idaho.


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.



Republicans invoked the "nuclear option" in the Senate Thursday, unilaterally rewriting the chamber's rules to allow President Donald Trump's nominee to ascend to the Supreme Court.

Furious Democrats objected until the end, but their efforts to block Judge Neil Gorsuch failed as expected. Lawmakers of both parties bemoaned the long-term implications for the Senate, the court and the country.

"We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court," said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

The maneuvering played out in an atmosphere of tension in the Senate chamber with most senators in their seats, a rare and theatrical occurrence.

First Democrats mounted a filibuster in an effort to block Gorsuch by denying him the 60 votes needed to advance to a final vote. Then Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.

McConnell was overruled, but appealed the ruling. And on that he prevailed on a 52-48 party line vote. The 60-vote filibuster requirement on Supreme Court nominees was effectively gone, and with it the last vestige of bipartisanship on presidential nominees in an increasingly polarized Senate.

A final confirmation vote on Gorsuch is expected Friday and he could then be sworn in in time to take his seat on the court later this month and hear the final cases of the term.

The maneuvering played out with much hand-wringing from all sides about the future of the Senate, as well as unusually bitter accusations and counter-accusations as each side blamed the other. The rules change is known as the "nuclear option" because of its far-reaching implications.


A small protest by liberals outside Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly's downtown Indianapolis office this week could signal trouble for his 2018 re-election hopes.

Some of those who protested against Donnelly's decision to break with his party and to support Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court said they were uneasy about voting for him next year. That liberal pushback against the moderate Donnelly comes as he's already being targeted by national Republicans in a state that President Donald Trump carried by 19 percentage points.

Pamela Griffin, a retired Indianapolis elementary school teacher, said she was going to think "long and hard" about supporting Donnelly in next year's election, while acknowledging it was "kind of a fluke" he was elected in the Republican-dominated state in 2012.

"He's rubber-stamped some stuff that he shouldn't have for Trump," Griffin said. "I'm disappointed in him that he's not really doing what his party would want him to do."

Donnelly won his first Senate term in 2012 with just over 50 percent of the vote and is now the sole Indiana Democrat holding statewide office.

The National Rifle Association ran campaign-style ads in the past week questioning Donnelly's pro-gun stance if he wasn't willing to support Gorsuch, which he did on Thursday, joining three other Democrats who voted to end his party's filibuster. Two Republican U.S. House members, Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, have signaled they may challenge Donnelly for his seat next year.

Donnelly has tried to cultivate an independent image, highlighting his work on veterans issues and trying to stop the loss of Indiana factory jobs. He has supported some of Trump's Cabinet picks but he's also spoken out against the failed Republican health care bill.

Donnelly said Sunday that he would vote to confirm Gorsuch, whom he described as qualified and well respected. He and two of the other Democratic senators who support Gorsuch — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — are moderates from states that Trump won by big margins last November. The fourth, Sen. Michael Bennet from Gorsuch's home state of Colorado, said he wouldn't join the filibuster but hasn't said how he would vote on Gorsuch's confirmation.

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