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States brief ~ Nebraska high court rules state cannot regulate groundwater

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld [decision text] a lower court decision today that found the state's Department of Natural Resources [official website] cannot regulate groundwater unless the legislature confers such authority. Judge John Wright, writing for the majority, stated "The department has no common-law duty to regulate the use of groundwater in order to protect" surface water appropriations. Nebraska law treats groundwater irrigators, which are controlled by area natural resources districts, and surface water irrigators, which are controlled by the state, differently. Spear T. Ranch was granted surface-water rights to Pumpkin Creek in 1954, and sued the state for failing to stop groundwater irrigators. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • A Kentucky circuit judge [state court website] ruled Friday that the state's execution method of lethal injection does not violate the constitutional requirements against cruel and unusual punishment, but did rule that the drugs can not be injected directly into the carotid artery. Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden wrote, "The plaintiffs have not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Kentucky's method of execution by lethal injection deviates from contemporary norms and societal standards in capital punishment." Two condemned prisoners challenged the procedure alleging it violated their eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Kentucky's Herald-Leader has local coverage.

  • Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco [official website] has signed into law a bill that sets forth specific penalties for looting during a declared state of emergency, and a bill that deals with price gouging when a tropical storm or hurricane is threatening the Gulf of Mexico. The first bill [PDF text] changes existing law by setting a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for looting during a declared state of emergency. The second bill [PDF text] expands the current prohibition on price gouging during a declared state of emergency to include the prohibition when a tropical storm or hurricane is threatening the Gulf of Mexico. Both bills are to become effective on August 15. Louisiana's Times-Picayune has local coverage.

  • The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] Friday upheld the death sentence of a convicted murder, even though the jury recommended life in prison without parole. In an unanimous decision, the appeals court upheld the trial judge's sentence and found it appropriate given the "especially heinous" crime. An attorney for the convicted murder said that Alabama is the only state in the nation that allows an elected judge to override the recommendation of the jury without clearly specified standards. In 2003, the appeals court upheld the capital-murder conviction, but sent the case back to the lower court for a new sentencing order explanation. AP has more.

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