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Mixed rulings for Republicans from Kentucky Supreme Court
Legal Interview | 2018/11/17 05:02
In a pair of mixed rulings for Kentucky Republicans, the state Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a law requiring a panel of doctors to review medical malpractice cases before they go to court while upholding the state's law banning mandatory union dues for most employees.

Republicans celebrated when Gov. Matt Bevin signed both laws, made possible only after the GOP won control of the state House of Representatives in 2016 for the first time in nearly 100 years. Bevin has credited the union dues law, known as right-to-work, with boosting record levels of business investment in Kentucky. But the medical review panel law has been criticized for clogging the state's court system.

The medical review law gives a panel of doctors nine months to review medical malpractice lawsuits and issue an opinion about whether they are frivolous. A review of court records in August of this year by the Courier Journal found that in the first year the law was in effect, 11 percent of the 531 malpractice lawsuits filed had been assigned to a panel. Of those, findings had been issued in 3 percent.

The state legislature passed the law in 2017. Tonya Claycomb sued on behalf of her child, Ezra, who was born with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy she says was caused by medical malpractice. She argued the bill delayed her access to the courts, citing section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution. It says all courts shall be open and every person will have access "without ... delay."

Lawyers for Gov. Bevin argued the law is helpful because it gets the two sides talking before a lawsuit is filed, which could lead to an agreement to settle the case outside of court. They also pointed out the state has other laws that limit access to the courts, including requiring heirs to wait at least six months before suing the executor of an estate.



Supreme Court to hear Virginia GOP's districting appeal
Legal Interview | 2018/11/16 04:58
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal by Virginia Republicans who are trying to preserve state legislative districts that have been struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory.

The case involves 11 districts in the Virginia House of Delegates. Democratic voters accuse Republicans, who hold the majority, of packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.

A three-judge federal court in Virginia ruled 2-1 in June in favor of the Democratic voters and has appointed a redistricting expert to draw a new legislative map with a Dec. 7 deadline. Kirk Cox, the Republican speaker of the Virginia House, said he is weighing whether to ask the lower court to delay the issuance of a new map until after the Supreme Court rules.

Arguments probably will take place in late February, with a ruling likely by late June. The next round of elections for the state House is 2019, and candidates would normally have to register in the spring and run in primaries in the summer.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's office and House Democratic leader David Toscano did not immediately return requests for comment. Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the voters, predicted on Twitter that the justices would rule in his clients' favor.


US urges UN court to toss out Iranian case on frozen assets
Legal Interview | 2018/10/07 00:26
The U.S. on Monday urged the United Nations' highest court to toss out a case filed by Iran that seeks to recover around $2 billion worth of frozen assets the U.S. Supreme Court awarded to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran.

The case at the International Court of Justice is based on a bilateral treaty that the Trump administration terminated last week. Despite that, the United States sent a large legal delegation to the court's headquarters in The Hague to present their objections to the case, which Tehran filed in 2016.

U.S. State Department lawyer Richard Visek told the 15-judge panel that U.S. objections to the court's jurisdiction and admissibility "provide a clear basis for ruling that this case should not proceed to the merits."

Visek said the case is based on "malicious conduct" by Iran, a country Washington has long classified as a state sponsor of terrorism around the world. Iran denies that charge.

"At the outset we should be clear as to what this case is about," Visek said. "The actions at the root of this case center on Iran's support for international terrorism and its complaints about the U.S. legal framework that allows victims of that terrorism to hold Iran accountable to judicial proceedings and receive compensation for their tragic losses."

The attack at the heart of the case was a suicide truck bombing of a U.S. marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 that killed 241 military personnel and wounded many more. A U.S. court ruled that the attack was carried out by an Iranian agent supported by the Hezbollah militant group.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered some $2 billion in assets of Iran's state bank that had been frozen in the United States to be paid as compensation to relatives of victims of attacks including the Beirut bombing.

"Iran's effort to secure relief from the court in this case - to in effect deny terrorism victims justice - is wholly unfounded and its application should be rejected in its entirety as inadmissible," Visek told judges, saying that the dispute did not fall into the 1955 Treaty of Amity cited by Tehran as the basis for the court's jurisdiction.


The Latest: Bolton says international court 'dead to us'
Legal Interview | 2018/09/10 21:57
The United States is pledging to use "any means necessary" to protect American citizens and allies from International Criminal Court prosecution.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says the court is "illegitimate" and "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

Bolton delivered his remarks Monday to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington. He says that the court threatens the "constitutional rights" of Americans and U.S. sovereignty.

The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.

The State Department is announcing the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

The department says that the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

It accuses the Palestinian leadership of condemning a yet-to-be-released Trump administration plan to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It also contends that the PLO is refusing to engage with the U.S. government on peace efforts.

In its statement Monday, the department says its decision is also consistent with administration and congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.


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