U.S. court rejects bid to throw out Maryland electoral map

By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. court on Thursday rejected a bid by Republican voters to throw out congressional districts drawn by Democratic lawmakers in Maryland. The three-judge panel sitting in Baltimore, divided 2-1, also put any further action in the case on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming decision in a similar case from Wisconsin that could set a new test for how courts nationwide handle such claims. At the heart of the Maryland case was the decision to redraw the state's sixth congressional district, previously held by a Republican and now held by a Democrat. The challengers say the move was a partisan gerrymander in violation of the U.S. Constitution because it intentionally diluted the Republican vote. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to gain a political advantage. After the new map was introduced, Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett lost in the 2012 election to Democrat John Delaney. Democrats now hold seven of the state's eight congressional seats. The state's governor, Larry Hogan, is a Republican. "The widespread nature of gerrymandering in modern politics is matched by the almost universal absence of those who will defend its negative effect on our democracy," Judge Paul Niemeyer, a Republican appointee, wrote in his dissenting opinion. "Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans have decried it when wielded by their opponents but nonetheless continue to gerrymander in their own self interest when given the opportunity," he added. The other two judges are Democratic appointees. On Oct. 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over Republican line-drawing in Wisconsin, which Democrats say diluted their votes. The case gives the court an opportunity to issue a ruling saying whether or not challenges to gerrymandering can be brought over maps drawn solely on partisan grounds. The court has previously thrown out maps when there is evidence the state had sought to Continue Reading

What Would Edward Snowden Argue in a U.S. Court?

It's believed NSA leaker Edward Snowden is now in Moscow after leaving Hong Kong over the weekend. He was thought to be heading to Cuba, but he never boarded that flight. It was reported Sunday that Snowden would ultimately seek asylum in Ecuador. Now many are worried that Snowden is spilling harmful national security secrets to Russia and China. Martha MacCallum and Judge Andrew Napolitano went over the legal ramifications for Snowden in the event that he is apprehended and brought back to the United States to face espionage charges. Georgia School Sued for Use of Ex-Student's Facebook Bikini Photo Napolitano said he believes that Snowden is acting at this point solely to avoid prosecution in the United States, not to damage U.S. national security by giving classified intelligence to Russia and China. "We'll find out if and when he's caught," said Napolitano. He characterized the U.S. espionage law as being "constitutionally questionable" and "practically difficult for the government" to prove such a charge in court. Napolitano said if Snowden ever faces a U.S. court, he may try to argue that his oath to the Constitution is higher than his oath to the government to keep classified information secret. "If the court does let him make that argument, then we're in an area that's away from the law and into value judgments and what kind of value judgments can people make when they decide how to comport their lives. He will say, 'I revealed the greatest violation of Fourth Amendment rights by the federal government in the history of the country. The public has the right to know that the government is listening to all of its phone calls and capturing its emails.'" said Napolitano. Continue Reading

States must wait to challenge EPA greenhouse gas curbs, U.S. court rules

WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court Tuesday put the brakes on challenges by 15 states and coal companies to pending federal regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.Opponents of a centerpiece of the Obama administration's efforts to reduce pollution linked to global warming say they're preparing for their next move."We are obviously disappointed with the court's ruling today, but we still think we have a compelling case that the rule is unlawful," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who led the states' challenge to the pending rule. "As the court recognized, the rule will be final very soon, and we look forward to continuing to press the issue."A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the challengers have to wait until the Environmental Protection Agency completes the proposal, which is expected to happen this summer."Petitioners are champing at the bit to challenge EPA's anticipated rule restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh. "They want us to do something that they candidly acknowledge we have never done before: review the legality of a proposed rule."Since releasing a draft last June, the EPA has been reviewing millions of comments before finalizing the regulations.The proposal is intended to reduce nationwide carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. That's the equivalent of taking two-thirds of the nation's cars and trucks off the road, according to the EPA.Mike Duncan, head of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said states and industry are "already working to ensure that when the rule is final we are prepared to step in and stop the implementation of these devastating regulations."David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, predicted future challenges will also come up short."Climate change is a clear and present danger that Continue Reading

Attorneys explore bringing hacked 9/11 victims’ News Corp. lawsuit to U.S. courts

Two Manhattan lawyers are looking into whether British victims of a phone-hacking scandal can sue Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in a U.S. court.Norman Siegel and Steven Hyman are also exploring whether Murdoch's henchmen can be forced to give depositions here that would be used in a British lawsuit.Siegel and Hyman are already representing about 20 Sept. 11 family members who want to know if News Corp. journalists hacked into their phones or emails.They were approached by Mark Lewis, a London lawyer who represents the family of murdered teen Milly Dowler and others who allegedly had phones hacked by Murdoch's British papers."It's smart for him to explore whether there are other options," Siegel said of Lewis' transatlantic legal maneuvering."The allegations are serious and substantial."Revelations that News of the World journalists hacked into Dowler's phone while she was missing, and even deleted messages, triggered a massive scandal this summer.Murdoch was hauled before Parliament; his deal to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB was scuttled, and 16 people were arrested.Lewis scored a $4.7 million out-of-court settlement for Dowler's family, but he may be gambling that U.S. juries would award fatter damages than British courts.Siegel is waiting for the FBI and attorney general to conclude their probe into whether News Corp. infringed on 9/11 families' privacy before he decides whether there are grounds for them to sue.Meanwhile, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is suing Murdoch's company, claiming it reneged on an agreement to pay his legal bills.Coulson, a former spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, was arrested in the scandal.With News Wire Services 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

Anthony Galea’s U.S. court appearance delayed by separate criminal charges in Canada, attorney says

The U.S. attorney in Buffalo has a lot of power, but right now he can't get a date - not with Anthony Galea, anyway.Nearly two months after the feds charged the Canadian sports medicine guru with five felonies, including the smuggling of performance-enhancing drugs, Galea has yet to appear in an American court to enter a plea, a step that usually follows soon after an indictment. Galea, who treated Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and many other pro athletes, continues to practice medicine at his clinic near Toronto.Galea's attorney in Buffalo, Mark Mahoney, says the judicial delay is because of separate criminal charges his client faces in his native land."If you have a case pending in Canada you can't leave," Mahoney said. "Until the Canadian case is resolved, I wouldn't expect it to happen."When the time comes, the Americans are prepared to do what it takes to get Galea into the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York - even extradition, if he doesn't come voluntarily. Galea is accused of making more than 70 trips across the border between 2007 and 2009, and billing his patients more than half a million dollars for treatments he conducted without a valid work visa or a license to practice medicine in the U.S. Court papers say he injected some of his patients with human growth hormone and Actovegin, a calf-blood derivative not approved for use in the U.S.Galea's attorney in Canada, Brian Greenspan, did not return a call for comment. Galea faces four drug charges in that country.The star witness for authorities on both sides of the border is Mary Anne Catalano, Galea's personal assistant, who was stopped at the border near Buffalo on Sept. 14, 2009. In her car, border agents found drugs and medical equipment, which she eventually said belonged to her boss. Catalano later pleaded guilty to initially lying to the agents, and has been cooperating with authorities in both countries. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Battlefield win: Judges were right to keep enemy combatants out of U.S. courts

A three-judge federal appeals panel has ruled that three designated enemy combatants held since 2002 and 2003 at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan do not have a U.S. constitutional right to challenge their captivity in American civilian courts.That this was a close question dramatizes how wrong the Supreme Court was to grant habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees - and to do so through hairsplitting on such matters as how much control the military has over a particular prison's real estate on foreign soil.Jurists David Sentelle, Harry Edwards and David Tatel clearly believe the Supreme Court made a permissive muddle of what should be the extraordinarily limited circumstances in which an enemy combatant abroad can file suit against his American captors in U.S. courts.The judges engaged in a minute analysis of the twists of logic that the high court applied to precedents, dating back to World War II, as it granted constitutional rights to Guantanamo prisoners.Then the judges applied the Supreme Court's standards to the three Bagram detainees, finding, hmm, maybe this standard says Fadi al-Maqaleh, Redha al-Najar and Amin al-Bakri should be able to march into federal court and, hmm, maybe that standard says they should be barred.Finally, in closing the courts to men held on a battlefield, the judges went out of their way to quote from a 1950 Supreme Court case filed by Germans who were imprisoned as unlawful enemy combatants after the Second World War.Back then, the high court applied simple wisdom in ruling that enemy prisoners abroad cannot seek freedom by filing court cases. It wrote:"Such trials would hamper the war effort and bring aid and comfort to the enemy. They would diminish the prestige of our commanders, not only with enemies but with wavering neutrals. It would be difficult to devise more effective fettering of a field commander than to allow the very enemies he is ordered to reduce to submission to call him to account in his own civil courts and Continue Reading

U.S. court takes case on immigrant defendants

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a frequently recurring question involving immigrants: whether they must be told by their lawyers that they face deportation if they plead guilty to serious crimes. The justices stepped into a case from the state of Kentucky involving a Honduran national who pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana after his lawyer assured him he would not face deportation.  Jose Padilla is a Vietnam-era veteran who has lived in the United States for decades, although he never became a U.S. citizen. Padilla's lawyer was mistaken and the federal government began proceedings to deport Padilla because trafficking is regarded as an "aggravated felony," for which deportation is mandatory. When he realized the consequences of his plea, Padilla sought to withdraw it. A Kentucky appeals court ruled in his favor, but the state Supreme Court said criminal lawyers have no duty to advise their clients about immigration issues. State and federal courts around the U.S. have come to differing conclusions about immigrants' constitutional rights to effective legal representation. But the issue arises often in U.S. courts, particularly since Congress tightened the rules in the mid-1990s to make deportation automatic for many crimes. The U.S. high court will hear arguments later this 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