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Veteran Alabama law enforcement officer Mark Pettway grew up in a black neighborhood called “Dynamite Hill” because the Ku Klux Klan bombed so many houses there in the 1950s and ’60s.

Now, after becoming the first black person elected sheriff in Birmingham - on the same day voters elected the community’s first black district attorney - Pettway sees himself as part of a new wave of officers and court officials tasked with enforcing laws and rebuilding community trust fractured by police shootings, mass incarceration, and uneven enforcement that critics call racist.

In a state where conservative politicians typically preach about getting tough on crime, Jefferson County’s new sheriff ran and won on an alternative message. He favors decriminalizing marijuana, opposes arming school employees, supports additional jailhouse education programs to reduce recidivism and plans for deputies to go out and talk to people more often, rather than just patrolling.

“Going forward we need to think about being smarter and not being harder,” said the Democrat Pettway, 54.

While the nation’s law enforcement officers are still mostly white men, and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter call for sweeping changes in the criminal justice system, minorities appear to be making gains nationwide.

In Pettway’s case, strong turnout by African-American voters, combined with national concern over police shootings of unarmed people of color, helped him defeat longtime Sheriff Mike Hale, a white Republican, said professor Angela K. Lewis, interim chair of political science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Winners in other cities attributed their success to similar factors.

Houston voters elected 17 black women as judges in the midterms. Even before the election, nearly the entire criminal justice system in the Georgia city of South Fulton, near Atlanta was run by black women, including the chief judge, prosecutor, chief clerk and public defender. They’re offering more chances for criminal defendants to avoid convictions through pre-trial programs and increased use of taxpayer-funded lawyers to protect the rights of the accused.

Chief Judge Tiffany C. Sellers of South Fulton’s municipal court said officials also explain court procedures in detail to defendants, many of whom haven’t been in court before and are scared.



Eighty-five-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs in a fall in her office at the court and is in the hospital, the court said Thursday.

The court’s oldest justice fell Wednesday evening, the court said. She called Supreme Court police to take her to George Washington University Hospital in Washington early Thursday after experiencing discomfort overnight, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

She was admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation after tests showed she fractured three ribs.

In her absence, the court went ahead Thursday with a courtroom ceremony welcoming new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the court last month. President Donald Trump and new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker were on hand.

Ginsburg has had a series of health problems. She broke two ribs in a fall in 2012. She has had two prior bouts with cancer and had a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. She also was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009.

But she has never missed Supreme Court arguments. The court won’t hear arguments again until Nov. 26.

Rib fractures are common among older adults, particularly after falls. The severity depends in part on whether the ribs are cracked or broken all the way through, and how many are broken. The extent of Ginsburg’s injury was not clear.

A complete break requires making sure the two ends are in alignment, so that a sharp piece of bone doesn’t puncture nearby blood vessels or organs. Broken ribs typically heal on their own in six weeks to a month, and patients are advised to limit strenuous activity. But they can be very painful and controlling pain is key. A chief complication is pneumonia, when patients don’t breathe deeply enough or cough enough because of the rib pain.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg rebuffed suggestions from some liberals that she should step down in the first two years of President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats also controlled the Senate and would have been likely to confirm her successor.

She already has hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire. Ginsburg leads the court’s liberal wing.



A Shiite cleric who was a central figure in Bahrain's 2011 Arab Spring protests was sentenced to life in prison Sunday on spying charges.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals came after Sheikh Ali Salman was acquitted of the charges by a lower court in June. Human rights groups and activists say the charges against him are politically-motivated and related to his work as a leading opposition figure.

The verdict was issued just weeks before parliamentary elections are set to take place without the Al-Wefaq political group Salman once led. Al-Wefaq, which was the tiny Gulf nation's largest Shiite opposition bloc, was ordered dissolved in 2016 as part of a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom, which has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported the appellate court's decision Sunday without naming the defendants, saying three individuals were found guilty of the spying charges.

Human Rights First, an activist group, confirmed the ruling refers to Salman. His co-defendants in the case— Sheikh Hassan Ali Juma Sultan and Ali Mahdi Ali al-Aswad— are also former al-Wefaq officials.

The three faced charges of disclosing sensitive information to Qatar that could harm Bahrain's security in exchange for financial compensation. The state-run news agency said prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations as evidence.

Last year, Bahrain state television aired the recorded calls between Salman and Qatar's then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani during the 2011 protests.



A New York judge on Thursday mothballed a lawsuit over President Donald Trump's charitable foundation until a higher court rules in an unrelated case whether a sitting president can be sued in state court.

State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla commented after hearing arguments from a Trump attorney who wants her to dismiss the lawsuit brought by New York state's Democratic attorney general.

She said she'll wait to decide whether the lawsuit proceeds after an intermediate state appeals court rules whether Trump must face a defamation lawsuit brought by a 2006 contestant on "The Apprentice."

Supreme Court Appellate Division justices did not immediately rule after hearing arguments last week on claims by ex-contestant Summer Zervos, a California restaurateur, who says Trump defamed her when he called her a liar for accusing him of unwanted kissing and groping in two 2007 incidents.

Trump's lawyers, seeking to dismiss the lawsuit or delay it until he is no longer in office, say a sitting president can't be sued in state court over conduct outside official duties.

A key question will be whether a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling forcing then-President Bill Clinton to face a federal sexual harassment lawsuit concerning an alleged encounter with an Arkansas state employee while he was governor applies to state courts as well.

Scarpulla said that if the state appeals judges decide that the Clinton ruling is "good law, then I think this case will continue."

The lawsuit alleged Trump and his foundation used his charity's money to settle business disputes and to boost his 2016 presidential campaign.

Brought against Trump and three of his children who serve as the foundation's directors, the lawsuit seeks $2.8 million in restitution and the dissolution of the foundation.

On Thursday, Scarpulla seemed sympathetic to some of the New York state arguments, but she repeatedly said she was required at this stage of the litigation to accept its claims as true.

Attorney Yael Fuchs, arguing for New York state, said the foundation "broke some of the most basic laws that apply" to charitable foundations when it took actions in 2016 at the direction and for the benefit of the Trump presidential campaign.

Representing Trump and his children, attorney Alan Futerfas said the state's claims were exaggerated and distorted. He suggested that even magnanimous steps taken by Trump for charitable purposes were being recast in a negative light.



The Supreme Court is siding with the Trump administration to block the questioning of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The unsigned order Monday overrides lower federal courts in New York that would have allowed the questioning of Ross to proceed in lawsuits challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the decennial census for the first time since 1950.

The suits by a dozen states and big cities, among others, say the citizenship question will discourage immigrants from participating, diluting political representation and federal dollars for states that tend to vote Democratic.

But the court is allowing the deposition of acting assistant attorney general John Gore to go forward, over the dissent of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas.

A trial is scheduled to begin in New York on Nov. 5, although Gorsuch suggested in a four-page opinion that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman could delay the proceedings. Gorsuch said he "sees no reason to distinguish between Secretary Ross' deposition and those of other senior executive officials."

Furman based his ruling requiring Ross' deposition on concerns about Ross' truthfulness in relating how the decision to add the citizenship question came about. The judge noted that Ross claimed in March, when the decision to add the citizenship question was announced, that he considered adding it after a request to do so last December from the Justice Department.


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