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War Crimes Court Winds Down With Defendant's Stunning Death
Court Watch | 2017/11/29 11:34
A convicted war criminal from Croatia swallowed what he said was poison and died Wednesday after a United Nations court in the Netherlands upheld his 20-year sentence for committing crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.'s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, former Croatian general Slobodan Praljak yelled, "I am not a war criminal!" in a courtroom and appeared to drink from a small bottle.

Medical staff at the tribunal in The Hague rushed to Praljak's side before he was taken to a local hospital, where he died, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski told reporters at the court.

The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a "crime scene" and that Dutch police could investigate. Police in The Hague declined to comment on the case.

Dutch police, an ambulance and a firetruck quickly arrived outside the court's headquarters and emergency service workers, some of them wearing helmets and with oxygen tanks on their backs, went into the court shortly after the incident.

Praljak and five other former Bosnian Croat officials were convicted as part of a criminal plan to carve out a Bosnian Croat mini-state inside Bosnia in the early 1990s. All had their guilty verdicts sustained by the U.N.'s war crimes court Wednesday.


Supreme Court rejects case over Mississippi Confederate emblem
Law Center | 2017/11/28 11:34
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected hearing a case that challenges the use of Confederate imagery in the Mississippi state flag.

Carlos Moore, an African-American attorney from Mississippi, argued that the flag represents "an official endorsement of white supremacy."

"The message in Mississippi's flag has always been one of racial hostility and insult and it is pervasive and unavoidable by both children and adults," Moore said in his court appeal.

"The state's continued expression of its message of racial disparagement sends a message to African-American citizens of Mississippi that they are second-class citizens."

The justices did not comment on their decision to decline Moore's appeal to have the flag ruled as an unconstitutional symbol of slavery, The Associated Press reported.

"We always knew it was a long shot," Moore told the news wire.

After a lower court rejected the lawsuit for lack of standing in April, Moore appealed the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had given the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause too narrow of an interpretation.



Walker signs bill inspired by cabin-owners' court fight
Law Center | 2017/11/27 11:34
Just five months after an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court had her in tears, Donna Murr was celebrating Monday after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that gives Wisconsin property owners more rights.

The Murr family fought for more than a dozen years, and all the way to the Supreme Court, for the ability to sell undeveloped land next to their cottage along scenic Lake St. Croix in western Wisconsin.

One of two property rights bills Walker signed Monday will give the family the right to sell or build on substandard lots if the lots were legal when they were created.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Murrs in June, but hours later state Rep. Adam Jarchow was on the phone with Donna Murr promising her he would take the fight to the Legislature.

"It's been a long road," Murr said after she and six other family members came to Walker's Capitol office for his signing of the bill Jarchow and Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, introduced. "It just felt like a culmination of everything we've worked for, coming to a head today after so many years of struggling and battling."

Donna Murr's parents bought two adjacent lots in the early 1960s and built a cottage on one but left the other vacant as an investment. In 2004, Donna Murr and her siblings wanted to sell the undeveloped lot to help pay for renovations to the cottage, but county officials barred the sale because conservation rules from the 1970s treat the two lots as a single property that can't be divided.

The regulations were intended to prevent overcrowding, soil erosion and water pollution. The county argued before the Supreme Court that not enforcing the rules would undermine its ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area.

But the family claimed those rules essentially stripped the land of its value and amounted to an uncompensated seizure of the property. They sought compensation for the vacant property they were forbidden to sell. The government argued, and the Supreme Court agreed in June, that it's fair to view the property as a whole and said the family is owed nothing.

Now with the law changed in Wisconsin, the Murr family can sell the vacant section. Donna Murr said she and her siblings will take some time to decide what to do next.


Court: Colorado county wrongly OK’d asphalt plant near homes
Labor & Employment | 2017/11/24 11:35
A Colorado court has overturned Weld County’s approval of a $20 million concrete and asphalt plant currently under construction, saying the county had evidence the plant would violate noise standards.

The Greeley Tribune reports the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday the county commissioners improperly approved the Martin Marietta Materials plant near a residential neighborhood.

The site is also near an organic farm and a planned wedding venue along U.S. 34 between Greeley and Loveland.

Officials for Martin Marietta and Weld County said they were reviewing the decision before deciding their next steps. County commissioners approved the plant in August 2015 and neighbors filed suit a month later.

Construction began in October of 2015, and Martin Marietta regional vice president David Hagerman says the plant is nearly complete.



Court: Stress no grounds for rescinding guilty pleas
Criminal Law | 2017/11/23 11:35
An appeals court in Chicago says a lower court in Indiana was right to refuse to permit a couple to rescind their guilty pleas in a tax case on grounds their prosecution caused them severe stress.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said stress was common to anyone facing prosecution and wasn't sufficient reason to take back pleas. It added that neither George nor Barbara Gasich could claim they were under some "Napoleonic delusions" when they chose to plead guilty.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports the Gasiches were indicted in 2014 for making fraudulent claims. Prosecutors said they'd asked for $475,000 in refunds when they owed the IRS far more than that.

The Gasiches were formerly from St. John, Indiana, but lived in Florida when they were arrested.


Trappers ask court to throw out lawsuit over US fur exports
Business | 2017/11/21 11:35
Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.

Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.

The plaintiffs in the case allege the government's export program doesn't protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.

More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.

Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.

The advocates' lawsuit would "do away with the CITES export program," according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.

"They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted," attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.

Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are "look-alikes" for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.


Court case exposes rift in Germany's secretive Aldi family
Litigation | 2017/11/19 11:35
A court deferred ruling Thursday in a case that has exposed a rift within Germany's secretive Albrecht family, owners of the discount supermarket chain Aldi.

The dispute centers on the control over Aldi Nord, which operates in northern Germany and at least eight other European countries.

The widow of late patriarch Berthold Albrecht is contesting changes her husband made before his death in 2012 to the statutes of a family foundation that owns 19.5 percent of Aldi Nord.

A lower court sided with Babette Albrecht and her children, who are pitted against Berthold's brother, Theo Jr., and mother Caecilie Albrecht.

Germany's Manager Magazin recently estimated the Aldi Nord branch of the family's wealth at about 18 billion euros ($21 billion). The Schleswig court said the case would continue Dec. 7.



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