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Brazil's top court: Lula can be jailed for upheld conviction
Legal News | 2018/04/01 23:14
A sharply divided top court voted early Thursday to reject an attempt by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva to stay out of jail while he appeals a corruption conviction, delivering a hard blow to the front-running candidate in this year's presidential election in Latin America's largest nation.

After nearly 11 hours of often heated debate, the Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 6-5 to deny da Silva's request to stave off a 12-year prison sentence while he fights a conviction that he has always argued was nothing more than a ploy to keep him off of the October ballot.

Despite the conviction and several other corruption charges against him, da Silva leads all preference polls for the election.

The decision means that da Silva will likely be jailed soon, though probably not until at least next week thanks to various technicalities.

Chief Justice Carmen Lucia, who was sharply criticized during the session by various colleagues, cast the deciding vote after the court was tied at 5 to 5.

"The constitution secures individual rights, which are fundamental to democracy, but it also assures the exercise of criminal law," she said.

The debate at the Supreme Federal Tribunal underscored how fraught the matter is at a time of high tension and angst in Brazil.

Justice Gilmar Mendes, traditionally a critic of da Silva, voted in favor of da Silva's petition to stay out of jail, challenging his colleagues to buck pressure from society.

"If a court bows (to pressure), it might as well not exist," said Mendes.

Justice Luis Roberto Barroso argued that the integrity of the justice system was at stake.

"A penal system that doesn't work with minimal effectiveness leads to an instinct for taking justice into one's own hands," Barroso said in voting against da Silva.


Appeals court weighs resuming pipeline project in Louisiana
Legal News | 2018/03/12 21:19
A company building a crude oil pipeline in Louisiana is asking a federal appeals court to allow it to resume construction work in an environmentally fragile swamp.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC's request. The company is seeking an "emergency stay" that would lift a court-ordered halt in pipeline construction in the Atchafalaya Basin.

On Feb. 23, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick sided with environmental groups and issued a preliminary injunction that suspended work in the basin until the groups' lawsuit is resolved. The judge concluded the project's irreversible environmental damage outweighs the economic harm that a delay brings to the company. And on Thursday, she refused to suspend her own ruling while the company appeals it.

In court filings, company attorneys claim Dick's ruling "fails the basic requirements" for issuing such an order. The basin accounts for approximately 23 miles (37 kilometers) of the pipeline's 162-mile-long (261-kilometer) path from Lake Charles to St. James Parish.

Dick's order only applies to the basin and doesn't prevent the company from working elsewhere along the route. The company said the work stoppage is costing it up to $500,000 per day in labor expenses and $6 million per month in lost revenue. The judge said the company's estimated losses aren't supported by the "underlying data."

Sierra Club and other environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January, saying it violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for the project.


TransCanada doesn't have to pay landowner attorneys
Legal News | 2018/03/10 21:20
The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't have to reimburse attorneys who defended Nebraska landowners against the company's efforts to gain access to their land, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court's ruling resolves a dispute that was triggered when TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain lawsuits against 71 Nebraska landowners in 2015, only to drop them later amid uncertainty over whether the process it used was constitutional.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina argued that TransCanada owes his clients about $350,000 to cover their attorney fees. Domina said the landowners clearly asked for representation in the eminent domain cases, and TransCanada should pay their attorney fees because the company effectively lost those cases.

A TransCanada attorney, James Powers, argued that the landowners failed to prove that they actually paid or were legally indebted to Domina or his law partner, Brian Jorde.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday. Domina said he respected the decision but was disappointed for his clients.


Beleaguered gunmaker Remington points to bankruptcy court
Legal News | 2018/02/13 22:49
Remington, the gunmaker beset by falling sales and lawsuits tied to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, has reached a financing deal that would allow it to continue operating as it files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The maker of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used in the Connecticut shooting that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead in 2012, said Monday that the agreement with lenders will reduce its debt by about $700 million and add about $145 million in new capital.

The company will attempt to file a prepackaged reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

Remington Outdoor Co., based in Madison, North Carolina, said that business won't be disrupted as it restructures its finances.

Ohio court to hear online charter school's funding case

The survival of one of the nation's largest virtual charter schools is on the line when the Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that could have broader impact on accountability for other e-schools.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow challenges how Ohio tallied students' participation to determine the online school should repay $60 million or more.

The state says ECOT didn't provide data from students' online work to justify the school's full public funding in recent years.

ECOT argues that state law calls for calculating charter-school funding based on enrollment, not participation, and that Ohio's Department of Education effectively changed the criteria without legal authority.

After the state started recouping funding, the e-school of some 12,000 students was abruptly closed last month as it ran out of money.



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