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A Supreme Court with a new conservative majority takes the bench as Brett Kavanaugh, narrowly confirmed after a bitter Senate battle, joins his new colleagues to hear his first arguments as a justice.

Kavanaugh will emerge Tuesday morning from behind the courtroom's red velvet curtains and take his seat alongside his eight colleagues. It will be a moment that conservatives have dreamed of for decades, with five solidly conservative justices on the bench.

Kavanaugh's predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in June, was a more moderate conservative and sometimes sided with the court's four liberal justices. Kavanaugh, in contrast, is expected to be a more decidedly conservative vote, tilting the court right for decades and leaving Chief Justice John Roberts as the justice closest to the ideological middle.

With justices seated by seniority, President Donald Trump's two appointees will flank the Supreme Court bench, Justice Neil Gorsuch at one end and Kavanaugh at the other. Court watchers will be looking to see whether the new justice asks questions at arguments and, if so, what he asks. There will also be those looking for any lingering signs of Kavanaugh's heated, partisan confirmation fight. But the justices, who often highlight their efforts to work together as a collegial body, are likely to focus on the cases before them.

Republicans had hoped to confirm Kavanaugh in time for him to join the court on Oct. 1, the start of the new term. Instead, the former D.C. Circuit judge missed the first week of arguments as the Senate considered an allegation that he had sexually assaulted a woman in high school, an allegation he adamantly denied.

Kavanaugh was confirmed 50-48 Saturday, the closest vote to confirm a justice since 1881, and has had a busy three days since then. On Saturday evening, Kavanaugh took his oaths of office in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court while protesters chanted outside the court building.



A group of judicial stand-ins representing West Virginia's Supreme Court was hearing challenges Monday to GOP Gov. Jim Justice's appointments of two Republican politicians to replace two departed justices.

Democrats have called the impeachments that imploded the state's highest court an unprecedented power grab by the West Virginia GOP. One of the petitions being heard on Monday says the choice of U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and ex-House speaker Tim Armstead violates "the clear will of the voters" who elected Democrats to their spots on the bench.

Justice appointed Jenkins and Armstead — who resigned as speaker of the House of Delegates in anticipation of his move to the court — to serve until a Nov. 6 special election in which both men are candidates.

Also on the November ballot is attorney William Schwartz, whose petition seeks to stop Jenkins and Armstead from temporarily serving on the court. His petition also accuses Jenkins of being ineligible because he hasn't actively practiced law recently. The state constitution requires justices to be admitted to practice law for at least 10 years prior to their election.

Jenkins and Schwartz are seeking to serve the remainder of retired Justice Robin Davis' term through 2024, while Armstead hopes to finish the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum through 2020. Both Davis and Ketchum were elected as Democrats.

Ketchum resigned before the Republican-led House voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. The others await Senate impeachment trials next month, including Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker, who recused themselves from hearing these petitions. Temporary Chief Justice Paul T. Farrell then appointed four circuit judges to hear the challenges.

According to Schwartz's petition, Jenkins voluntarily placed his West Virginia law license on inactive status in 2014 after he was elected to the U.S. House. But Jenkins said he's been admitted to practice law in the state for more than three decades. According to the bylaws of the State Bar, an inactive status means members are admitted to practice law but aren't taking clients or providing legal counseling.



The United States is pledging to use "any means necessary" to protect American citizens and allies from International Criminal Court prosecution.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says the court is "illegitimate" and "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

Bolton delivered his remarks Monday to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington. He says that the court threatens the "constitutional rights" of Americans and U.S. sovereignty.

The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.

The State Department is announcing the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

The department says that the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

It accuses the Palestinian leadership of condemning a yet-to-be-released Trump administration plan to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It also contends that the PLO is refusing to engage with the U.S. government on peace efforts.

In its statement Monday, the department says its decision is also consistent with administration and congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.


Facing a growing threat to his presidency, President Donald Trump lashed at his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a day after the onetime "fixer" implicated Trump in a campaign cover-up to buy the silence of women who said they had sexual relationships with him.

Trump on Wednesday accused Cohen of making up "stories in order to get a 'deal'" from federal prosecutors. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations that the lawyer said he carried out in coordination with Trump.

"If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!" Trump tweeted Wednesday.

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, said Wednesday that Cohen has information "that would be of interest" to the special counsel. Davis said Cohen is not looking for a presidential pardon.

"My observation is that the topics relating to hacking and the crime of hacking ... that there are subjects that Michael Cohen could address that would be of interest to the special counsel," Davis said in a series of television interviews.

Trump soon weighed in on Twitter, taking his shot at Cohen and praising Manafort, saying he has "such respect for a brave man!"

Manafort, Trump wrote, had "tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break.'"

But there was no doubt that Cohen's acknowledgement of a coordinated payoff scheme puts Trump's presidency on the defensive.

"It's going to be hard for the president to try to discredit all this. It's circling him," said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the case.

Cohen and Manafort played prominent roles in Trump's political rise in 2016.

Cohen said once he'd take a bullet for Trump, and was intimately familiar with Trump's personal, business and political dealing for more than a decade. Cohen released a secretly recorded audio of Trump discussing a payout made via a third party to model Karen McDougal who says she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.


A federal appeals court in Washington is siding with transportation officials in a dispute about the transit agency's decision to reject an ad from the Roman Catholic Church.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Washington sued in 2017 after Metro rejected an ad for its Christmas fundraising effort, which showed a biblical scene. The archdiocese argued Metro's decision violated the First Amendment. Metro pointed to its blanket policy of refusing to accept issue-oriented ads including political, religious and advocacy ads.

A lower federal court judge had also sided with Metro. The Trump administration supported the archdiocese.

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was on the three-judge panel deciding the case but recused himself, so Tuesday's decision was 2-0.



A dozen audio recordings seized by the FBI from President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, were forwarded to federal prosecutors after lawyers dropped challenges on attorney-client privilege grounds, a former judge revealed Monday.

The recordings were among millions of files taken from Cohen in April as part of a criminal probe of his business practices.

Barbara Jones, a court-appointed lawyer and former Manhattan federal judge helping to decide which of the seized files are protected by privilege, said in a court filing that prosecutors received the recordings on Friday after attorneys for Trump, Cohen and the Trump Organization dropped privilege claims.

The same day, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Cohen had recorded a conversation in which the president had discussed a potential payment to squash the story of a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump.

Giuliani said the brief recording shows Trump did nothing wrong.

"The transaction that Michael is talking about on the tape never took place, but what's important is: If it did take place, the president said it has to be done correctly and it has to be done by check" to keep a proper record of it, Giuliani said.

In a weekend tweet, Trump called Cohen's practice of recording conversations "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal."

Attorney Lanny Davis, speaking on Cohen's behalf, has said what is on the tape will not harm Cohen.

Jones has been providing periodic updates on the privilege review of over four million items, mostly electronic, that were found on numerous computer storage devices and cellular phones seized from Cohen.


Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies warned could be used to silence online speech.

In a 4-3 opinion, justices agreed, saying removal orders such as the one attorney Dawn Hassell obtained against Yelp "could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform."

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that Yelp had said could lead to the removal of negative reviews from the popular website.

Hassell said Yelp was exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. Her attorney, Monique Olivier, said in a statement that the ruling "stands as an invitation to spread falsehoods on the internet without consequence."

She said her client was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hassell's 2013 lawsuit accused a client she briefly represented in a personal injury case of defaming her on Yelp by falsely claiming that her firm failed to communicate with the client, among other things.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan found the online statements defamatory and ordered the client and Yelp to remove them. Hassell said the client failed to answer her lawsuit or remove the posts, so she had to seek a court order demanding that Yelp do it.

A second judge and a state appeals court upheld Sullivan's order.

"Ms. Hassell did exactly what she should have done," Olivier said Monday. "After both the defamer and Yelp refused to remove untrue and damaging statements, she obtained a judgment against the defamer, and sought to enforce that judgment by requiring Yelp to remove the defamation."

Yelp said the lower court ruling would give businesses unhappy about negative reviews a new legal pathway for getting them removed.

Yelp said the removal order violated a 1996 federal law that courts have widely interpreted as protecting internet companies from liability for posts by third-party users and prohibiting the companies from being treated as the speaker or publisher of users' posts.

Three of the California Supreme Court justices agreed.

"In substance, Yelp is being held to account for nothing more than its ongoing decision to publish the challenged reviews," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in an opinion joined by associate justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger said in a separate opinion that she agreed that the removal order against Yelp was invalid, but for a different reason. Hassell did not name Yelp as a defendant, so the company did not get its "own day in court," Kruger said.

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