Ho-Chunk makes its case on cigarettes before the U.S. Court of Appeals

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s dispute with the federal government over documents related to cigarette manufacturing is now being deliberated by an appeals court.Attorneys for Ho-Chunk Inc., the tribe’s economic development arm, and the U.S. Justice Department argued their cases Thursday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.Attorney Ben Fenner, a former Omahan, made remarks on behalf of Ho-Chunk, said Joseph Zebrowski, Ho-Chunk’s legal director, who attended the hearing. Senior Judge Raymond Randolph asked Fenner to explain Ho-Chunk’s status as an instrument of the tribe instead of a traditional corporation.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has tried since 2016 to inspect certain tribal records. Ho-Chunk is fighting the attempt, saying the sovereign tribe is not required to produce certain cigarette production and sales documents to the federal government. The tribe owns Ho-Chunk, and all profits return to the tribe.“Ho-Chunk is an entity of the tribe,’’ Zebrowski said. “We’re very confident that we will prevail on that issue.’’ATF officers raided Ho-Chunk offices in Winnebago in late January and seized documents relating to cigarette manufacturing. Ho-Chunk started selling cigarettes in 1999, then turned to manufacturing its own four years ago.Zebrowski said he expected that it would be two or three months before the court renders a decision. Continue Reading

Trump nominee for U.S. Court of Appeals once scolded him from the bench

President Donald Trump may have a reputation for demanding loyalty, but his latest nominee for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has the rare distinction of winning Trump’s approval after very publicly telling him to shut up. U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve memorably rebuked Trump several times during his testimony in a 2013 trial in Chicago’s federal court. Sued by an 87-year-old woman, Jacqueline Goldberg, who accused him of ripping her off over a deal for a Trump Tower condo, Trump repeatedly clashed on the stand with Goldberg’s attorney Shelly Kulwin. It all got to be too much for St. Eve, who brusquely scolded both men. “You have been dancing around and boxing each other,” she chided. “This is not a boxing match! You've got to stop it.” “Let's get control of ourselves.” A contrite Trump had scowled his way through his testimony but was temporarily cowed by St. Eve, who told him to answer the questions he was asked and not ramble on about whatever took his fancy. “Do you think the jury likes this?” she said. “If you do, I can tell you they don't." St. Eve’s magnificent tongue-lashing didn’t stop Trump from unleashing a few choice Trumpisms from the stand, however. “I don't want to be braggadocious,” he testified at one point. “I build great buildings.” At another point, placed in the awkward position of having to downplay the splendor of the ballroom at his Chicago hotel, he snapped at Kulwin, “You make it sound like it's Versailles! It's not Versailles — it's got columns in the middle.” Trump’s favorable impression of St. Eve may have been influenced by the trial’s outcome: The jury sided entirely with him. St. Eve — who also oversaw the high-profile trials of Tony Rezko and Conrad Black — is expected to face a straightforward confirmation process, in which her early career work as a Whitewater Continue Reading

Let’s confirm Brennan to the U.S. Court of Appeals

America’s legal tradition is based upon a commitment to the rule of law and the principle that every man, woman and child stands equal before the law. These abstract principles cannot exist unless they are adhered to by the men and women entrusted by citizens to preserve them. And no one is more important to the preservation of our judicial process than the judges who preside over it.That is why we urge the U.S. Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Michael Brennan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. RELATED: Baldwin says Trump ignored bipartisan panel by nominating Brennan RELATED: Brennan gets ABA committee nod for 7th Circuit RELATED: Wisconsin appeals court seat a symbol of partisan judicial wars Judge Brennan is committed to these principles. In his time as a well-respected Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, he exhibited the judicial virtues of humility, honesty and impartiality that are essential to equal justice and the rule of law. His qualifications for the Seventh Circuit are outstanding, which is why the American Bar Association gives his nomination a unanimous rating of “well-qualified” — the highest rating a nominated judge can receive.Each of us has had the honor to serve as the United States Attorney, or as a supervising attorney, for either the Eastern or Western federal districts of Wisconsin. As former attorneys for the United States in both civil and criminal matters, we know first-hand how important it is to have judges who are experienced, intelligent and fair, presiding over the various legal matters that come before them. When these qualities are absent, the judicial process fails. A judge’s arbitrary decision can undermine an accused’s rights or leave crime victims without a voice. Businesses can be lost and lives can be ruined if a judge fails to competently apply the law or relies on a preconceived notion of what is “right” in a particular case. Continue Reading

5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reinstate $107,000 judgment against Jackson State

The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has reinstated a $107,000 jury award against Jackson State University.In October 2016, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate threw out the January 2015 jury award in favor of former JSU head trainer Fredrick Robinson. Wingate also denied Robinson's motion for attorney fees and expenses and said JSU could recoup its costs from Robinson.Wingate threw out the jury award after Robinson's attorney, Jim Waide, filed a motion last year to transfer the case to another judge, citing as grounds Wingate's delay in ruling on motions filed after the judgment.The 5th Circuit ruling Monday came the same day Wingate upheld a $382,000 judgment against JSU in a separate case. Robinson had brought a Title VII and First Amendment retaliation lawsuit against JSU and its then-athletic director Vivian Fuller.The lawsuit said he was fired in May 2012 in retaliation for speaking with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was investigating a sexual harassment complaint against Fuller by a female employee. A lawsuit filed by the employee was eventually thrown out. Jackson State argued Fuller fired Robinson for his work ethic and didn't like that he had referred to her as his "African Nubian queen" instead of using her proper title.A jury found retaliation and awarded damages to Robinson.The 5th Circuit, in reversing Wingate's decision, said there was sufficient evidence for the jury award and that Wingate erred in overturning the jury's verdict.      Continue Reading

U.S. Court of Appeals overturns convictions of two hedge-funders accused of insider trading in Dell, Nvidia stock

Two former hedge fund managers were cleared of insider trading charges Wednesday in a federal appeals court decision. Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson were convicted in 2013 after prosecutors argued successfully that they were part of a “cohort of analysts” using inside information to trade stock in two tech companies, Dell and Nvidia. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the convictions should be overturned and the indictment tossed entirely because the two men did not know the origin of insider information about those companies’ earnings. Newman had been a portfolio manager at Diamondback Capital Management and Chiasson at Level Global Investors. They had been sentenced to 54 and 78 months in prison, respectively, but have been free pending appeal. The court’s decision was a blow to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s winning record of more than 80 insider trading convictions. “The government presented no evidence that Newman and Chiasson knew that they were trading on information obtained from insiders in violation of those insiders’ fiduciary duties,” one judge wrote in a decision, released Wednesday. The court also said there was no evidence that the person giving them the tip benefited personally from it. “To sustain a conviction for insider trading, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the tippee knew that an insider disclosed confidential information and that he did so in exchange for a personal benefit,” the decision says. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has proved an able monitor of the cases of dangerous terorists

When the U.S. Supreme Court blundered by granting detained terrorism suspects the right to seek freedom in federal courts, there was every reason to fear that judges would impose their own opinions as to whom should be held and whom let go. And for a time, that's exactly what happened as lawyers bombarded the courts with habeas corpus petitions, alleging that the military lacked sufficient evidence to confine pickups from the battlefields of Afghanistan and elsewhere at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. An amazing 38 detainees won their arguments before district court judges based on findings that the government had failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the captives were "a part of or substantially supported Al Qaeda." One such fellow was Hussain Salem Mohammed Almerfedi, a Yemeni grabbed in Iran. He contended he was merely an economic refugee who had been headed for Western Europe in search of a better life. Judge Paul Friedman concluded that the evidence against Almerfedi amounted to a hill of sand. Almerfedi stayed in custody because the government appealed - and a good thing it did, because the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington has proven to be a bulwark against the dangerous inclinations of fellow jurists. According to an eye-opening analysis by The Washington Post, the panel has knocked back every case while, in effect, directing lower courts to take the government more seriously. Judge Brett Kavanaugh expressed the clear-eyed outlook in the case of Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, who was captured near the Afghan-Pakistani border. Kavanuagh ruled that Uthman's explanation for why he was there "piles coincidence upon coincidence," adding: "Here, as with the liable or guilty party in any civil or criminal case, it remains possible that Uthman was innocently going about his business and just happened to show up in a variety of extraordinary places - a kind of Forrest Gump in the war against Al Qaeda." These appeals judges Continue Reading

Trump to nominate Thapar to serve on U.S. Court of Appeals

President Donald Trump intends to nominate U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar of Covington to serve as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, according to a statement from the Office of the Press Secretary.Thapar, once considered a potential replacement for former Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, is the son of Indian-American immigrants and currently serves on the U.S. District Court for Kentucky's Eastern District. He has spent time as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky as well an assistant U.S. attorney in Ohio and Washington D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement Monday in support of the decision to nominate Thapar."Throughout his already impressive career of public service, Amul has shown an incredible intellect and an unshakable dedication to the law," the statement read in part. "He has earned the respect of his colleagues, and I know that he will bring to the Sixth Circuit the same wisdom, fairness, and ability that he has shown on the District Court. President Trump made an outstanding choice and I look forward to the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Thapar.” Continue Reading

Chippendales can’t trademark ‘Cuffs and Collar’ costume: Court of appeal ruling

The male erotic dancer company Chippendales stumbled on Friday when an appeals court ruled that it could not trademark the bow tie and shirt cuffs that the men wear.U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in a ruling -- which included a sketch of a fit gentleman shown from the waist up wearing only a bow tie and shirt cuffs -- that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was correct in refusing to trademark the "Cuffs and Collar" costume.New York-based Chippendales, which filed the original trademark application in 2000, failed to prove that the bow tie and cuffs costume was distinctive, the court said.Playboy bunny suit was trademarked in 1964 and expired in 2004, the court said. That costume is shirt cuffs, corset, tie, bunny ears and bunny tail. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Court of Appeals to hear Mafia ex-cops legal arguments

Today marks Round 2 for the feds versus the Mafia cops: The U.S. Court of Appeals will hear new legal arguments on the ex-cops' murder convictions, overturned last year by a Brooklyn judge."I will be praying for my husband," said Monica Caracappa, wife of retired Detective Stephen Caracappa, who has been jailed since April 2006, when he and his NYPD partner Louis Eppolito were convicted of being hit men for the mob.Federal Judge Jack Weinstein threw out their convictions, which carried life sentences, on a legal technicality, but left no doubt of their guilt and refused to grant bail. "I'm flabbergasted that no one has sympathy," Monica Caracappa added.The three-judge panel has granted defense attorneys 10 minutes each to convince them Weinstein was right, and prosecutor Mitra Hormozi 20 minutes to argue the government did not overreach on the racketeering indictment."I believe the law is with us," said Eppolito's lawyer Joseph Bondy. Eppolito, 59, and Caracappa, 65, were cops corrupted by gangster Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, who paid them to kill and leak confidential information, prosecutors say.Even if the appeals court affirms the reversal, the ex-cops are likely to be retried on state murder charges by the Brooklyn district attorney's office. Eppolito and his wife also go on trial for tax fraud in Las Vegas early next year. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

U.S. court denies requests to block parts of net neutrality rules

WASHINGTON - A U.S. federal appeals court on Thursday declined to suspend new Internet traffic regulations, rejecting the telecom industry's request to partially block the implementation of the ``net neutrality'' rules while they're being litigated. The ruling marks an early win for the Federal Communications Commission, whose assertion of a broader enforcement authority over Internet services providers is being challenged in court by AT&T Inc and cable and wireless industry groups. The new regulations are slated to go into effect on Friday as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit takes on the issue of net neutrality for the third time. The industry specifically had sought to block the agency's move to reclassify broadband Internet as a more heavily regulated telecommunications service, and a new broad general conduct standard that prohibits Internet providers from "unreasonably interfering" with consumers' access to the web. Telecom companies say they do not object to the specific net neutrality rules that prohibit them from blocking and slowing down access to websites and applications or striking deals with content companies for prioritized delivery of their traffic. The case is U.S. Telecom Association, et al v. FCC, et al, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 15-1063. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading