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Legal News for July

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Supreme Court denies Congress access to Trump finance records but rules Manhattan DA can pursue them
Thu, 09 Jul 2020 20:12:35 +0000

In two decisions issued on Thursday, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot access US President Donald Trump’s financial records, but the Manhattan District Attorney (DA) can pursue the records.

In Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, the Supreme Court stated that the subpoenas issued by Congress for Trump’s financial records posed separation of powers concerns. Congressional committees wanted access to the records to guide legislative reform in areas concerning money laundering, terrorism, and foreign interference in United States elections. The Supreme Court stated that, when Congress seeks information that it needs to legislative action, citizens have a duty to cooperate. However, when Congress issues subpoenas for information from the president, there are “special concerns regarding the separation of powers.” The courts below did not adequately take this into account.

In Trump v. Vance, the case between Trump and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, the Supreme Court stated that the court established two hundred years ago that “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” The court reaffirmed that principle, holding that the president is not absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers. The president is also not entitled to a heightened standard of need.

The court vacated the decision of the lower court in Trump v. Mazars USA LLP and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. In Trump v. Vance, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeals, remanding the case for proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion. The case will be returned to the district court, where Trump can raise further arguments.

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Category: US Supreme Court
United Kingdom domestic violence bill approved by House of Commons
Wed, 08 Jul 2020 19:01:45 +0000

The UK Domestic Abuse Bill was approved by the House of Commons on Monday. The bill introduces new clauses to better protect domestic violence victims in the UK.

The bill which was first introduced a year ago has moved onto the second reading in the House of Lords. The bill will include a clause banning the “rough sex defence” which has been controversially used as a defense for serious harm. The catalyst for change came from the case of Natalie Connolley, whose partner was cleared of murder after using the rough sex defense in court.

The Domestic Abuse Bill will further introduce the first legal definition of domestic violence in the UK, recognizing children as domestic abuse victims, as well as including non-physical behavior such as coercive and controlling behavior. However, campaigners have cautioned that the definition of domestic violence included in the bill could lead to the omission of protection for migrant women who are victims of domestic violence.

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Category: United Kingdom
US Supreme Court rules land in eastern Oklahoma remains Native American reservation
Thu, 09 Jul 2020 16:25:18 +0000

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 5-4 vote that a large part of Oklahoma remains a Native American reservation, with Justice Gorsuch authoring the majority opinion.

The issue before the court was whether the eastern half of Oklahoma is a Native American reservation, which would be exempt from local and state control.

Jimcy McGirt, a Native American man who was convicted of sex crimes against a child in Oklahoma state court, went before the Court. He argued that because he is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the alleged crime took place on tribal land, he is not subject to the jurisdiction of local and state courts. Instead, he claimed to be subject to Creek Nation’s jurisdiction and federal jurisdiction.

Oklahoma argued that land must be “reserved from sale” to be considered a reservation. The Court disagreed, relying on the 1833 treaty that promised a permanent home for the Creek Nation, “so long as they shall exist as a nation, and continue to occupy the country hereby assigned to them.” An 1856 treaty later promised the Creek Nation the right of self-government.

Once a treaty establishes a reservation, only Congress can alter it. The Court found that Congress did not eliminate the reservation.

Justice Gorsuch wrote:

The federal government promised the Creek a reservation in perpetuity. Over time, Congress has diminished that reservation. It has sometimes restricted and other times expanded the Tribe’s authority. But Congress has never withdrawn the promised reservation. As a result, many of the arguments before us today follow a sadly familiar pattern.

Continuing, Justice Gorsuch claimed the pattern of unkept promises needs to end and reminded the court, “If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so.”

Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.

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Category: supreme court of the united states
Federal court denies motion to reconsider emptying of Dakota Access Pipeline
Wed, 08 Jul 2020 18:20:21 +0000

Judge James E. Boasberg, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, denied an emergency motion by Dakota Access, LLC on Tuesday to stay his July 6 order directing the company to empty the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) within 30-days.

Since July 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes, along with several environmental groups, have challenged the validity of the federal permits which allowed the DAPL to carry oil under Lake Oahe, the main source of drinking water for the nearby tribes. Judge Boasberg’s July 6 opinion noted that the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] when it granted an easement to Defendant-Intervenor Dakota Access, LLC to construct and operate a segment of that crude-oil pipeline running beneath the lake.” The violation occurred “because the Corps had failed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] despite conditions that triggered such a requirement.” This failure resulted in the matter being remanded to the Corps back on June 14, 2017 for the preparation of an EIS and a separate briefing on the appropriate interim remedy.

However, over the years following the remand, the parties continued to battle over whether an EIS was required, each side moving for summary judgment. Ultimately, Judge Boasberg held in his July 6, 2020 opinion that the permits should be vacated pending the remand to the Corps. Under the test articulated in Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Director, Division of Taxation, the court reasoned that vacatur was the only appropriate remedy “given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm [to nearby Tribes] each day the pipeline operates.”

Dakota Access filed a notice of appeal immediately following the July 6 order and according to the latest docket updates, “the Court will set a status hearing to discuss scheduling as soon as it receives Dakota Access’s motion for a stay pending appeal.”

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Category: South Dakota
US Supreme Court rules Catholic schools cannot be sued for employment discrimination
Wed, 08 Jul 2020 19:07:28 +0000

The Supreme Court announced its opinion in the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v Morrissey-Berru on Wednesday. The Court ruled in favor of the Catholic schools, shielding them from employment discrimination suits under the First Amendment’s “ministerial exception.”

The lawsuit concerned two women who filed for employment discrimination from two Californian Catholic schools after their contracts were terminated. The Catholic schools used the 2012 Supreme Court’s “ministerial exception” precedent to argue that they were protected from employment discrimination suits, in order to “protect religious freedoms.” The legal issue justices ruled on was whether the termination of Biel and Morrisey-Berru’s employment qualified as ministers under the 2012 rule.

The 7-2 ruling deciding in favor of the schools reiterated that federal employment discrimination law did not apply to teachers in religion at church-run schools. The decision thus concluded that “the constitutional language that protects religious freedom barred [employees] from suing their religious schools for employment discrimination.”

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Category: Supreme Court