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Legal News for August

JURIST – News – Legal News & Commentary
US circuit court rules House Judiciary Committee can sue to enforce subpoenas
Sat, 08 Aug 2020 21:33:04 +0000

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled Friday that House committees can sue to enforce their subpoenas.

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by the House Judiciary Committee against former White House counsel Donald McGahn. The Committee had subpoenaed McGahn’s testimony in April of 2019 as part of its inquiry into allegations that the Trump administration had interfered with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The administration had argued that senior staff were immune from such requests due to executive privilege, and McGahn had refused to testify. A three-judge panel of the DC Circuit had ruled against the Committee, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

The House committee filed a petition for a rehearing en banc which was granted, and the full panel ruled 7-2 in favor of enforcing the subpoena. In its decision, the court found that “the ordinary and effective functioning of the Legislative Branch critically depends on the legislative prerogative to obtain information, and constitutional structure and historical practice support judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary.”

Two judges on the court, Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both Trump appointees, had recused themselves from the case, both having worked for the administration before they became judges; Katsas served as deputy White House counsel under McGahn. Two other judges, Thomas Griffith and Karen Henderson, were the majority in the three judge panel that had originally ruled against the Judiciary Committee, and both judges authored dissents in Friday’s ruling. Henderson warned that the decision “enlarges the Judiciary’s power to intervene in battles that should be waged between the Legislature and the Executive and opens the door to future disputes between the political branches,” while Griffith warned that the decision risked placing the Judiciary in the middle of fights between the Executive and the Legislative branches and degrade the impartiality of the courts.

The decision will not lead to McGahn’s testimony before the Committee any time soon, however; the court remanded other matters, including the issue of whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction, back to the three judge panel for adjudication.

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Category: trump
Egypt approves anonymity bill to protect sexual assault survivors
Sat, 08 Aug 2020 04:26:06 +0000

The Egyptian cabinet has approved a draft bill protecting the identities of sexual assault and harassment victims as part of a national campaign to end sexual violence. The campaign aims to encourage women to report sexual crimes without fear of retaliation.

Cabinet members drafted the bill in July following the arrest of a man who raped and blackmailed multiple women, which prompted activists to push for harsher laws protecting women’s identities in sex crimes. Pending Parliament approval later this month, President Abdel Fattah al–Sisi will review the bill for final approval. If Sisi enacts the bill into law, perpetrators face up to six months in jail.

Lawmaker Magda Nasr told the Thompson-Reuters Foundation that the bill will help protect women’s rights because it will encourage women to “report cases of sexual assault.”

Attorney Reda Eldanoubki, Director of Egypt’s Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, also welcomed the legislation.

Despite constitutional amendments and voluminous laws criminalizing gender–based violence, Egyptian society is plagued by sexual violence. Though Egypt has not published any official sexual abuse statistics, the United Nations issued a 2013 report showing that 99.3% of respondents reported having suffered sexual harassment. To date, NGOs continue to receive sexual assault and rape cases that occurred during the 2011 and 2013 uprisings.

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Category: sexual assault
DC police union sues city to block part of police reform law
Fri, 07 Aug 2020 00:00:03 +0000

The Washington DC Police Union filed suit Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against the city, seeking to block part of an emergency police reform bill passed in July.

The Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Second Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 was approved by the District of Columbia (DC) Council on July 7, and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the act on July 27. The emergency act was passed in response to the killing of George Floyd and resulting protests throughout the nation.

Section 116 of the act amended Section 1708 of the DC government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (CMPA), removing the right of the DC Police Union to negotiate with management regarding discipline of its members. Under the CMPA, all DC government employees had the right to bargain with management concerning the discipline of members. Out of 45 labor unions representing DC government employees, the DC Police Union was the only union stripped of the right to negotiate.

In the complaint, the union alleged that Section 116 violated the Equal Protection requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because the government placed law enforcement into a distinct class and discriminated against them by stripping their rights to bargain. The complaint also alleged that the legislation violated the Bill of Attainder Clause, because it was “offered as a punishment of sworn law enforcement officers in the District of Columbia to quell rising tensions and protests in the District coming as a result of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.”

The union alleged that the law violated the Contracts Clause of the Constitution, because the government was impeding upon the DC Police Union’s contractual relationships. Finally, the union alleged that Section 116 violated substantive due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, because it “is an arbitrary, severe, and permanent infringement upon the rights of the District’s sworn law enforcement officers and the DC Police Union.”

Because of this, the union requested that the court declare Section 116 invalid and unconstitutional, and that the court permanently enjoin the approval, enactment, and enforcement of the section.

 

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Category: US District Court for the District of Columbia
EU launches investigation into proposed Fitbit acquisition by Google
Thu, 06 Aug 2020 18:28:23 +0000

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the proposed acquisition of wearable fitness accessory company Fitbit by search engine giant Google.

Google announced in November 2019 that it would seek to acquire Fitbit. The company noted at the time that for the deal to be successful, the privacy and security of Fitbit users would have to be considered. It therefore declared that Fitbit health and wellness data would not be used for Google ads. On Tuesday, however, the Commission said it was still concerned that the deal would not only provide Google a vast amount of data, but would also give Google access to Fitbit’s technology, enabling Google to launch a similar product in the future and that could further entrench the company’s dominant market position. EU merger regulations allow the Commission to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies valued above certain financial thresholds.

EC Executive Vice-President, Margrethe Vestager said:

The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This will go hand in hand with the exponential growth of data generated through these devices. This data provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices. Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.

In response to the investigation, Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Google, reiterated that Fitbit health and wellness data would not be used for Google ads. He insisted that “This deal is about devices, not data. We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data.” 

The Commission has until December 9th to decide if it will block the deal.

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Category: privacy
Cape Verde court approves US extradition of Maduro financier for money laundering
Thu, 06 Aug 2020 23:52:00 +0000

A Cape Verde court has approved the extradition of Columbian lawyer and businessman Alex Nain Saab Moran to the United States, where he faces charges for money laundering on behalf of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

Saab was arrested on 12th June 2020 on the island of Sal in Cape Verde when he was en route from Venezuela to Iran. The Venezuelan government protested Saab’s arrest, stating that the Interpol arrest notice was issued after the arrest, violating international norms as he was acting as an agent of the government and was on a humanitarian mission to buy food and medical supplies.

João do Rosário, an attorney on Saab’s legal team, told VOA’s Portuguese service that while the Court made its decision Friday, Saab’s legal team was not informed about it until Monday evening. He said that the team was considering an appeal to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court, and if the appeal failed, the team would approach the Constitutional Court.

According to the US Justice Department, Saab was indicted in July 2019 in the US federal court in Miami for participation in an alleged bribery scheme in a low-income housing project for the Maduro Regime from 2011 to 2015. Saab is alleged to have used an elaborate network of bank accounts in Venezuela and the United States that allowed him and Maduro to profit from state-run food subsidy programs.

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Category: Venezuela