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Brazil court largely upholds law that some fear hurts Amazon
Law Opinions | 2018/03/05 20:54
Brazil's Supreme Court has batted down challenges to key parts of a law that environmentalists say has contributed to increasing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

The 2012 law included an amnesty for illegal deforestation that occurred before July 2008, including releasing perpetrators from the obligation to replant areas in compensation. It also weakened protections for some preservation areas by expanding the sorts of activity allowed in them. It was backed by farming interests.

Wednesday's court ruling rejected most of the challenges to the law.

Brazil's non-governmental Socio-environmental Institute says researchers believe the law contributed to rising rates of Amazon deforestation starting in 2012 after years of decreases. However, the rate fell in 2017 as compared to 2016, which saw an exceptionally large swath of forest cut.

Court: Nike logo of Michael Jordan didn't violate copyright
Law Opinions | 2018/03/02 20:54
A U.S. appeals court says an iconic Nike logo of a leaping Michael Jordan didn't violate the copyright of an earlier photograph of the basketball star.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the logo was based on a photograph of Jordan by Nike that was inspired by a 1984 photo by Jacobus Rentmeester.

They both show Jordan leaping with his legs extended outward toward a basketball hoop with a ball above his head. But the court says the photos are unmistakably different in key elements.

Nike used its photo for the "Jumpman" logo — a silhouetted image of Jordan in the pose that the company has used to market billions of dollars of merchandise.

An email to a law firm representing Rentmeester wasn't immediately returned.

Trappers ask court to throw out lawsuit over US fur exports
Law Opinions | 2017/11/23 14:06
Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.

Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.

The plaintiffs in the case allege the government's export program doesn't protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.

More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.

Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.

The advocates' lawsuit would "do away with the CITES export program," according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.

"They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted," attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.

Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are "look-alikes" for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.

NC high court reviews death penalty of man who beheaded wife
Law Opinions | 2017/10/21 11:45
North Carolina's highest court is reviewing whether justice means the death penalty for a survivor of El Salvador's blood-soaked civil war of the 1980s who strangled and then decapitated his estranged wife.

The state's Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on whether the state can execute 41-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 murder of his wife, Maria. The high court automatically reviews death cases.

North Carolina is rare among southern states in that it hasn't had an execution in more than a decade because of various legal challenges. While the state has continued to suffer 500 to 600 murders a year, prosecutors have sought the death penalty only a handful of times each year and juries have condemned killers in only a fraction of those cases.

Rodriguez's children told investigators their father beat and bloodied Maria Rodriguez after she told them she was leaving in November 2010. He tossed the woman's still-breathing body over his shoulder, placed her in his vehicle, and said he was taking her to a hospital. Maria's body and severed head were found at different locations three weeks later, after Juan was already jailed for her kidnapping.

Justices are holding hearings in the case for the second time in almost exactly a year. Monday's hearing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this spring that states needed to use current medical standards in deciding whether a killer is so mentally disabled he can't be executed. The U.S. constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishments," and that has been interpreted to prohibit executing people with severe mental shortcomings.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental handicaps were evident before adulthood.

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