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Suit seeks to overturn renewed Philadelphia mask mandate
Breaking Legal News | 2022/04/16 15:46
Several businesses and residents have filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania seeking to overturn Philadelphia’s renewed indoor mask mandate scheduled to be enforced beginning Monday in an effort to halt a surge in COVID-19 infections.

The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia lacks the authority to impose such a mandate.

Philadelphia earlier this week became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant.

Attorney Thomas W. King III, who was among those involved in last year’s successful challenge to the statewide mask mandate in schools, said the city’s emergency order went against recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “imposed a renegade standard unfound anywhere else in the world.”

The suit accuses city health officials of having “usurped the power and authority” of state lawmakers, the state department of health and the state advisory health board.

Kevin Lessard, communications director of the Philadelphia mayor’s office, said officials were “unable to comment on this particular case” but cited a court’s denial of an emergency motion by another plaintiff for a preliminary injunction against the mandate. Lessard said “the courts once again confirmed that city has both the legal authority and requisite flexibility to enact the precautionary measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19.”

Most states and cities dropped their masking requirements in February and early March following new guidelines from the CDC that put less focus on case counts and more on hospital capacity and said most Americans could safely take off their masks.

Philadelphia had ended its indoor mask mandate March 2. But on Monday Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the health commissioner, cited a more than 50% rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.




Arizona court won’t halt sex suits naming Boy Scouts, others
Corporate Governance | 2022/04/11 15:42
Arizona victims of long-ago child sex abuse can proceed with lawsuits against groups like the Boy Scouts of America after the state Supreme Court rejected claims that a state law extending victims’ right to sue was unconstitutional.

Arizona is among many states that have reacted to child sex abuse in recent years by allowing victims of even decades-old abuse to sue groups that didn’t protect them from predators. That has led to lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, Scouts and others.

The high court last week rejected appeals by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and its affiliates in central and southern Arizona of lower court rulings that found a 2019 law extending the statute of limitations was constitutional.

The rulings appear to be the first to directly address whether the Arizona law is legal, according to Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor, who represents victims in the two cases the high court considered.

Those lawsuits allege that the group that connects youth called “Littles” with adult mentors known as “Bigs” did not properly oversee the Bigs. The cases involved two men who abused boys, one in 1983 and one in the 1970s, court filings show. The men are not defendants.



2nd defendant pleads guilty in 2018 hate crime in Washington
Insurance | 2022/04/10 14:57
A second defendant has pleaded guilty in federal court to a hate crime and making false statements in connection with a 2018 racially-motivated assault in the Seattle area.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Jason DeSimas, 45, of Tacoma, Washington, is one of four men from across the Pacific Northwest being prosecuted for punching and kicking a Black man at a bar in Lynnwood, Washington.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones scheduled sentencing for July 8.

According to the plea agreement, DeSimas was a prospective member of a white supremacist group. DeSimas believed that he and his group could go into bars and initiate fights, so that the rest of the members of the group could join in.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the men went to a bar in Lynnwood, Washington and assaulted a Black man who was working as a DJ. The group also assaulted two other men who came to the DJ’s aid. The attackers shouted racial slurs and made Nazi salutes during the assault.

DeSimas also admitted making false statements to the FBI during the investigation of the case.

Under terms of the plea agreement, both sides will recommend a 37-month prison term. The judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Daniel Delbert Dorson, 24, of Corvallis, Oregon, has already pleaded guilty in the case and is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 19. Jason Stanley, 44, of Boise, Idaho, and Randy Smith, 39, of Eugene, Oregon, are also charged in the case and are in custody awaiting trial.


Mexico high court OKs preference for state power plants
Business | 2022/04/05 14:57
Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed constitutional Thursday a controversial energy law pushed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that gives government-owned power plants preference over private competitors.

The law took effect in March 2021, but a number of private energy companies sought injunctions blocking enforcement. With the law ruled constitutional, the injunctions will now have to be resolved.

The law establishes that electricity must be bought first from government power plants, which use primarily coal, oil and diesel to produce energy. If demand requires it, additional electricity could be purchased from private wind, solar and natural gas plants.

Jesús Ramírez, presidential spokesman, celebrated the court’s decision. “History will judge those who betray the country and the interests of Mexican people,” he said via Twitter.

Critics, including the United States government, maintain the law will undermine competition in the sector, hurt the environment and violate free trade agreements.




Judge won’t halt execution over intellectual disability
Biotech | 2022/03/29 16:13
A judge on Tuesday dismissed a motion to declare a Tennessee death row inmate intellectually disabled, a move that would have prohibited his upcoming execution.

Senior Judge Walter Kurtz wrote that federal courts had previously determined Byron Black was not intellectually disabled and therefore was ineligible to have the decision considered once again. The 45-page decision comes despite agreement between Nashville’s district attorney and Black’s lawyers that he is intellectually disabled and should not be put to death.

Black is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 18 for his murder convictions in the April 1988 killings of his girlfriend and her two young daughters.

Black’s attorneys had argued the 65-year-old should be spared under a 2021 law that made Tennessee’s prohibition against executing people with intellectual disability retroactive, pointing out there is a different standard in place now than in 2004 — when the court found that Black didn’t meet the now-obsolete definition of “mental retardation.” Previously, Tennessee had no mechanism for an inmate to reopen a case to press an intellectual disability claim.

However, Kurtz ultimately concluded that the new state law does not apply to death row inmates who had previously received a ruling from a prior court.

“This Court fails to see how the federal courts’ resolution of petitioner’s intellectual disability claim can be seen as anything other than an adjudication on the merits under the legal and medical principles which are embodied in the most recent version of (Tennessee law),”Kurtz wrote. “Given the above, the Court finds that Mr. Black had a full and fair previous adjudication on the merits of his intellectual disability claim.”

Black was convicted by a Nashville court in the deaths of girlfriend Angela Clay, 29, and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6. Prosecutors said he was in a jealous rage when he shot the three at their home. At the time, Black was on work release while serving time for shooting and wounding Clay’s estranged husband.

Earlier this month, District Attorney Glenn Funk — Nashville’s lead prosecutor — announced that he agreed with Black’s legal team that the inmate was intellectually disabled and should instead face a sentence of life in prison.



Retired judges will hear divorce cases to clear backlog
Business | 2022/03/27 16:13
The Maine court system will assign retired judges to divorce proceedings to clear a growing backlog of more than 6,000 cases that have been delayed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program began last week and will assign the former judges as referees to divorce cases where both sides involved have lawyers. The referees would work to resolve the cases without a trial, The Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday.

“The goal is to add capacity in the short term to allow us to address the backlog without adding work to existing personnel,” Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill said.

Judges who volunteer as referees will be paid the same full-day $350 stipend amount as other active retired judges who work in the court system.

According to Alyson Cummings, an employee for the administrative office of the courts, the cost of the program and the number of cases the judges will handle have not been determined yet.





Naturopathic doctor sentenced for selling misbranded drugs
Law Promo News | 2022/03/24 16:13
A former Port Angeles naturopathic physician was sentenced to eight months in prison and one year supervised release after being found guilty of selling products he claimed could prevent numerous serious diseases, including COVID-19.

Richard Marschall, 69, was convicted in 2021, after a four-day trial, of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, his third conviction, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The jury found that his marketing was false or misleading and because his products were not listed with the FDA.

At the sentencing hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said, “It is extremely dangerous during the COVID epidemic for people to be engaged in conduct that would lead other people to defer and wait to receive medical care.”

Marschall was convicted previously and sentenced in federal court for distributing misbranded drugs, both in 2011 and again in 2017.


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