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Agency: School boards, counties should stay out of court
Court Watch News | 2018/03/21 16:08
School districts across North Carolina will present fall funding requests in the coming weeks, with the threat of costly and lengthy litigation if local county commissioners can't see eye-to-eye with school board members on spending.

The General Assembly's government watchdog agency told legislators Monday they should pass a law barring school districts from suing when funding disagreements can't be settled through formal mediation.

The Program Evaluation Division recommended the new law instead direct a county fund a district when mediation is exhausted through a formula based on student membership and inflation.

Some committee members hearing the agency report questioned whether it was worth changing the law since school funding impasses reached the courts just four times between 1997 and 2015. It took 21 months on average to resolve them.



Stephen Reinhardt, liberal circuit court judge, dies at 87
Court Watch News | 2018/03/15 16:07
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a liberal stalwart on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly four decades, died Thursday in Southern California. He was 87.

Reinhardt died of a heart attack during a visit to a dermatologist in Los Angeles, court spokesman David Madden said.

"As a judge, he was deeply principled, fiercely passionate about the law and fearless in his decisions," 9th Circuit Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said in a statement. "He will be remembered as one of the giants of the federal bench."

Reinhardt was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and went on to become the sixth longest-serving judge on the court.

He was considered to be one of the most liberal judges on the 9th Circuit and his rulings often placed him on the side of immigrants and prisoners. Reinhardt wrote a 2012 opinion striking down California's gay marriage ban.

He also wrote a 1996 opinion that struck down a Washington state law that prohibited doctors from prescribing medication to help terminally ill patients die.

Last year he wrote in an opinion that a Trump administration order to deport a man who entered the country illegally nearly three decades ago and became a respected businessman in Hawaii was "inhumane" and "contrary to the values of the country and its legal system."

Reinhardt was "brilliant - a great legal mind and writer - but he was equally hard working," said Hector Villagra, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

Villagra, who clerked for Reinhardt in 1995, said he once found the judge in his chambers at 11 p.m. on a Saturday writing a dissent to the court's decision not to rehear a death penalty appeal.


TransCanada doesn't have to pay landowner attorneys
Court Watch News | 2018/03/10 20:53
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.


Officials ask court to send Kennedy cousin back to prison
Court Watch News | 2018/01/30 09:34
Connecticut officials are asking the state's highest court to revoke Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's bail and send him back to prison, reminding justices it has been more than a year since they reinstated his murder conviction.

The chief state's attorney's office filed the request Monday with the state Supreme Court.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy and his widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were both teenagers.

He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. But another judge granted him a new trial in 2013, citing mistakes by his lawyer. Skakel was then freed after being allowed to post $1.2 million bail while he awaited the new trial.

Prosecutors appealed the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court, which reinstated the conviction in December 2016 in a 4-3 ruling. Skakel's lawyers asked the high court to reconsider the decision — a request that remains pending. Skakel has been allowed to remain free on bail pending that ruling.

In Monday's petition to the Supreme Court, prosecutor James Killen wrote the court's usual practice is to rule on a request to reconsider a decision within weeks, and it's not clear why it is taking so long.


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