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Marijuana opponents using racketeering law to fight industry
Court Watch | 2015/07/17 08:55
A federal law crafted to fight the mob is giving marijuana opponents a new strategy in their battle to stop the expanding industry: racketeering lawsuits.

A Colorado pot shop recently closed after a Washington-based group opposed to legal marijuana sued not just the pot shop but a laundry list of firms doing business with it — from its landlord and accountant to the Iowa bonding company guaranteeing its tax payments. One by one, many of the defendants agreed to stop doing business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, until the mountain shop closed its doors and had to sell off its pot at fire-sale prices.

With another lawsuit pending in southern Colorado, the cases represent a new approach to fighting marijuana. If the federal government won't stop its expansion, pot opponents say, federal racketeering lawsuits could. Marijuana may be legal under state law, but federal drug law still considers any marijuana business organized crime.

"It is still illegal to cultivate, sell or possess marijuana under federal law," said Brian Barnes, lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington-based anti-crime group that brought the lawsuits on behalf of neighbors of the two Colorado pot businesses.



Wisconsin court ends probe of presidential hopeful Walker
Criminal Law | 2015/07/16 08:54
Presidential candidate Scott Walker won a major legal victory Thursday when Wisconsin's Supreme Court ended a secret investigation into whether the Republican's gubernatorial campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups during the 2012 recall election.
 
No one has been charged in the so-called John Doe probe, Wisconsin's version of a grand jury investigation in which information is tightly controlled, but questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months.

Barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling makes Walker's campaign that much smoother as he courts voters in early primary states.

"Today's ruling confirmed no laws were broken, a ruling that was previously stated by both a state and federal judge," said Walker's spokeswoman Ashlee Strong. "It is time to move past this unwarranted investigation that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The case centers on political activity conducted by Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative organizations during the 2012 recall, which was spurred by Democrats' anger over a Walker-authored law that effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.

The justices cited free speech in effectively tossing out the case, ruling state election law is overbroad and vague in defining what amounts to "political purposes."

Justice Michael Gableman, part of the court's conservative majority, praised the groups for challenging the investigation.

"It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution," Gableman wrote in the majority opinion.



Silicon Valley company starts to take court disputes online
Law Center | 2015/07/14 15:35
Imagine working out a divorce without hiring an attorney or stepping into court or disputing the tax assessment on your home completely online.
 
A Silicon Valley company is starting to make both possibilities a reality with software that experts say represents the next wave of technology in which the law is turned into computer code that can solve legal battles without the need for a judge or attorney.

"We're not quite at the Google car stage in law, but there are no conceptual or technical barriers to what we're talking about," said Oliver Goodenough, director of the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School, referring to Google's self-driving car.

The computer programs, at least initially, have the ability to relieve overburdened courts of small claims cases, traffic fines and some family law matters. But Goodenough and other experts envision a future in which even more complicated disputes are resolved online, and they say San Jose, California-based Modria has gone far in developing software to realize that.

"There is a version of the future when computers get so good that we trust them to play this role in our society, and it lets us get justice to more people because it's cheaper and more transparent," said Colin Rule, Modria's co-founder.

Officials in Ohio are using Modria's software to resolve disputes over tax assessments and keep them out of court, and a New York-based arbitration association has deployed it to settle medical claims arising from certain types of car crashes.

In the Netherlands, Modria software is being used to guide people through their divorces.


Court stops prosecution of white police in black suburb
Breaking Legal News | 2015/07/13 15:34
A federal jury says the death of a woman who was shot by her former father-in-law a Delaware courthouse in 2013 was the result of cyberstalking by the gunman's widow and children.
 
Jurors on Friday found former optometrist David Matusiewicz; his mother, Lenore; and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, guilty of conspiracy and stalking resulting in the death of David's ex-wife, Christine Belford.
 
Justice Department officials have said they believe there is no precedent for a person being convicted on federal charges of cyberstalking resulting in death, which carries a possible life sentence.

Belford and a friend were killed by David's father, Thomas Matusiewicz, who then exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.

The defendants will remain in custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 15.


Religious beliefs, gay rights clash in court case over cake
Breaking Legal News | 2015/07/09 14:20
A suburban Denver baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple will argue in court Tuesday that his religious beliefs should protect him from sanctions against his business.

The case underscores how the already simmering tension between religious-freedom advocates and gay-rights supporters is likely to become more heated in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

"What the relationship is between that reality and sort of what that will mean for things like service provisions is where I think the battles will really be fought now," said Melissa Hart, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

The 2012 case before the Colorado Court of Appeals has ignited a passionate debate over whether individuals can cite their beliefs as a basis for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony or if such refusals on religious grounds can lead to discrimination allegations.

Gay couples have won battles in other states.

Last week, the owners of a Portland, Oregon-area bakery that declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple two years ago were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages. Two years ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a photographer who wouldn't take pictures of a gay couple's 2006 commitment ceremony violated the state's discrimination law.



Appeals court upholds parts of Arizona ethnic studies ban
Breaking Legal News | 2015/07/08 14:20
A federal appeals court on Tuesday kept alive a legal challenge brought by former students who sued Arizona over a ban on ethnic studies in public schools and who will have a new chance to argue the law discriminates against Mexican Americans.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld most of a lower court's decision. But it sent the case back to a federal court in Tucson, where a judge will decide whether the ban was enacted with discriminatory intent in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorneys for the students claimed victory based on the part of the ruling that provides them new opportunity to go before a judge and make their case on a key provision of their argument. A spokesman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office said the agency was still reviewing the ruling and did not have immediate comment.

The law was passed by the Arizona Legislature in the same session that lawmakers enacted the landmark immigration legislation known as SB1070. It shuttered the Tucson Unified School District's popular Mexican-American studies program, sparking protests from students who they benefited from the courses. The majority of students in the district are Hispanic. The program taught them about historic events relating to the Mexican-American experience such as their indigenous roots and the Mexican Revolution.



Peterson returns to court in murder-for-hire trial
Business | 2015/07/07 14:19
Former suburban Chicago police sergeant Drew Peterson is due back in court as his trial on charges of plotting to kill a prosecutor approaches.
   
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday in the southern Illinois county where Peterson is imprisoned.

He's pleaded not guilty to charges of soliciting an unidentified prison inmate to kill Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow.

Glasgow prosecuted the 2012 case in which Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the bathtub drowning death of his ex-wife Kathleen Savio eight years earlier. Her death was initially ruled an accident, but the case was re-opened after the 2007 disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife.

The Randolph County trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but has been rescheduled to start on August 28.Peterson returns to court in murder-for-hire trial.



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Class action or a representative action is a form of lawsuit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court and/or in which a class of defendants is being sued. This form of collective lawsuit originated in the United States and is still predominantly a U.S. phenomenon, at least the U.S. variant of it. In the United States federal courts, class actions are governed by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule. Since 1938, many states have adopted rules similar to the FRCP. However, some states like California have civil procedure systems which deviate significantly from the federal rules; the California Codes provide for four separate types of class actions. As a result, there are two separate treatises devoted solely to the complex topic of California class actions. Some states, such as Virginia, do not provide for any class actions, while others, such as New York, limit the types of claims that may be brought as class actions. Medicare fraud advanced prosthetic devices
 
 
 
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