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US moves to cut backlog of asylum cases at US-Mexico border
Breaking Legal News | 2021/08/20 10:28
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed changing how asylum claims are handled, aiming to reduce a huge backlog of cases from the U.S.-Mexico border that has left people waiting years to find out whether they will be allowed to stay in America.

Under the proposal, routine asylum cases no longer would automatically be referred to the overwhelmed immigration court system managed by the Justice Department but would be overseen by asylum officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of Homeland Security Department.

Advocates for the change see it as a way to help those with legitimate claims for protection while allowing officials to more quickly deal with people who do not qualify for asylum or are taking advantage of the long delay to stay in the United States.

“Individuals who are eligible will receive relief more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be expeditiously removed,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

The proposal must go through a public comment period before it can be adopted as a new policy.

The immigration court system has an all-time high backlog of about 1.3 million cases. The Trump administration tried to deal with the issue in part by imposing stricter criteria for asylum and forcing people to seek protection in Mexico and Central America. President Joe Biden’s proposal would streamline the system.

The reason for the change is that more people have been seeking asylum under U.S. law, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

As the system works now, people who present themselves at the border or are apprehended by the Border Patrol and identify themselves as asylum-seekers must pass what is known as a “credible fear” interview. A USCIS asylum officer determines whether they meet the criteria of someone facing persecution in their homeland because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.


Order: Mississippi judges have discretion for COVID safety
Breaking Legal News | 2021/08/09 11:49
Mississippi judges have the power to delay trials, limit the number of spectators in courtrooms or take other steps to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the leader of the state Supreme Court says in an emergency order.

Chief Justice Michael Randolph issued the order Thursday in response to the rapid spread of illness caused by highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Friday that 97% of new cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi are among people who are unvaccinated.

Randolph’s order said judges may postpone jury trials that are scheduled through Sept. 10. In addition to limiting the number of spectators in courtrooms, judges may require people to wear masks and maintain distance between each other. The order encouraged courts to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing, when possible.

Plea hearings in felony cases must still take place in person, but defendants and others in the courtrooms should wear masks and maintain social distancing.

“Any in-person proceedings shall be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, members of the press and other necessary persons, as determined by the trial judge,” Randolph wrote.


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Breaking Legal News | 2021/07/26 09:55
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40-year sentence upheld for man who killed his roommate
Breaking Legal News | 2021/07/24 10:21
Maine’s supreme court has upheld a 40-year prison sentence imposed on a man who killed his roommate in Old Orchard Beach.

Dustan Bentley pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 65-year-old William Popplewell, who was beaten, stabbed, and strangled with a ligature.

Police arrested Bentley as he was attempting to use a ratchet and strap to pull the body into the trunk of his car, which was lined with a shower curtain. An autopsy revealed the victim suffered multiple broken bones and had been stabbed up to 30 times.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the judge made a mistake.

“At no point did the court depart from sentencing principles or abuse its discretion in coming to or issuing its sentence,” the court said.

Bentley and Popplewell met at a Portland homeless shelter, and Bentley later moved into Popplewell’s apartment in Old Orchard Beach in December 2018. Popplewell was killed in March 2019.


Nepal’s Supreme Court reinstates dissolved lower house
Breaking Legal News | 2021/07/12 10:23
Nepal’s Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives on Monday and upheld the leader of the opposition’s claim to be the new prime minister.

The 167-page court order removes Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, who had been running a caretaker government until planned elections.

In May, Oli directed the president to dissolve the House of Representatives, Parliament’s lower house, and announce new elections later this year. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court by a coalition of opposition parties that said they had the support of a majority in Parliament to form a new government.

The Supreme Court also ruled Monday that the reinstated House of Representatives should meet within a week, when the leader of the main opposition party, Sher Bahadur Deuba, is expected to call a vote of confidence.

There was no immediate comment from Oli’s office or his aides.

Hundreds of Oli’s supporters gathered outside the Supreme Court to oppose the court decision.

“We are here to protest the unconstitutional decision by the Supreme Court, which was interfering with the affairs of the Parliament and its rights,” said one of the protesters, Ramesh Acharya.

The protesters briefly scuffled with riot police who were able to push them back. There were no injuries or arrests.

More protests are likely later in the week because Oli still has significant support among the public.

It is the second time the Supreme Court has reinstated the House of Representatives this year after it was dissolved by Oli.

He had the House of Representatives dissolved in December and called for new elections in April, but that was rejected by the Supreme Court and the lower house was reinstated in February. Oli again had the president dissolve the House of Representatives in May with elections planned for November.

Oli became prime minister in 2018 after the Communist Party of Nepal won a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives. The party, however, has had two splits this year, weakening Oli’s hold on power.


Ruling is final blow to New Hampshire voter registration law
Breaking Legal News | 2021/07/02 15:25
The New Hampshire Supreme Court struck a final blow Friday to a 2017 voter registration law that faced repeated legislative and court challenges, upholding a previous ruling that it’s unconstitutional.

The law required additional documentation from voters who register within 30 days of an election. It was passed by the Republican Legislature after President Donald Trump alleged that widespread voter fraud led to his loss in the state in 2016, though there is no evidence to support that and voter fraud cases are rare. Supporters said the law would increase trust in elections by requiring people to prove they live where they vote, but opponents argued it was confusing, unnecessary and intimidating.

After the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters sued, a judge allowed the law to take effect in 2018 but blocked penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for fraud. In 2019, after Democrats won control of the Legislature, lawmakers passed a bill to repeal the law, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

The case went to trial in late 2019, and a judge ruled in April 2020 that the law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld that decision Friday.

“We acknowledge that the interests identified by the state are important, if not vital,” Justice Patrick Donovan wrote in the unanimous order. But the law failed to further those objectives while imposing unreasonable burdens on the right to vote, the court concluded.

Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said the ruling “sends a clear message to Chris Sununu and NH Republicans that their insidious voter suppression schemes will not stand in New Hampshire.”

“Today, we celebrate this incredible victory for voting rights. Tomorrow, we will continue to work to protect voting rights in the Granite State,” he said in a statement.

Sununu encouraged the Legislature to propose new legislation taking the court order into account.

“It’s disappointing that these commonsense reforms were not supported by our Supreme Court, but we have to respect their decision,” he said.

In its ruling, the court rejected the state’s argument that the law could only be struck down if it was unconstitutional in every set of circumstances. Similarly, it disagreed with the state’s claim that the law shouldn’t be deemed unconstitutional because only some, but not all, voters are burdened by it.



Brazil police probe environment minister over timber exports
Breaking Legal News | 2021/05/19 17:33
Brazil’s Federal Police on Wednesday carried out searches to investigate whether Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and other key figures within the ministry facilitated illegal timber exports to the U.S. and Europe.

The Supreme Court authorized the search of nearly three dozen locations in Sao Paulo state, the Amazonian state of Para and Brazil’s federal district, according to a police statement.

The operation stems from a decision of the court’s Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who ordered the investigation of 10 officials at the ministry and the regulatory agency.

Nine of them were preventatively suspended from working, including agency President Eduardo Bim — but not Salles — according to a copy of de Moraes’ May 13 decision made public on Wednesday. He wrote that there appeared to be a contraband scheme with Salles’ involvement.

Local media G1 reported Salles told reporters in capital Brasilia that he understood the police operation to be overblown and unnecessary, and said his ministry always acts in accordance with laws. The ministry and regulator didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The justice’s decision alleged that officials issued several certificates retroactively authorizing specific timber shipments after their seizure abroad and that subsequently, in February 2020, Salles and Bim met with lumber companies and lawmakers about exports from Para state.

Bim soon issued an order retroactively loosening requirements for “thousands of loads exported between 2019 and 2020 without respective documentaion,” de Moraes wrote. The judge’s decision also suspended Bim’s order.



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