January 2011 Archives

US Senate voted to confirm Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito

On January 31, 2006, the US Senate voted 58-42 to approve the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to serve as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had announced her retirement the previous July. The confirmation followed an attempted filibuster by Democratic Senators opposing his nomination.



Learn more about Samuel Alito and the US Supreme Court from the JURIST news archive.




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Venezuelan president granted power to rule by decree

On January 31, 2007, the Venezuelan legislature unanimously approved a bill granting President Hugo Chavez authority to enact laws by presidential decree without legislative approval for 18 months. The same measure received initial approval by the Venezuelan National Assembly earlier that week. Since winning his third re-election that December, Chavez called for "revolutionary laws" to transform Venezuela into a socialist state, including plans to nationalize important sectors of the economy, including mining, telecommunications, natural gas and electricity.


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Learn more about Venezuela under Hugo Chavez from the JURIST news archive.




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President Obama signed pro-labor executive orders

On January 30, 2009, US President Barack Obama issued three executive orders favoring organized labor and departing from the pro-employer labor policies of the previous administration of President George W. Bush. Notification of employee rights under federal labor law requires employers working under government contracts to clearly notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The second order, Economy in government contracting, prohibits government contractors from assigning costs associated with dissuading employees from participating in collective bargaining agreements to the government contract. The third order, Nondisplacement of qualified workers under service contracts, requires government contractors who take over a service contract from an existing provider to retain qualified employees of the previous provider. The orders were issued in conjunction with the establishment of a Middle Class Task Force led by Vice President Joe Biden.



Learn more about US labor relations law and the presidency of Barack Obama from the JURIST news archive.




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Israeli high court upheld Gaza supply cuts

On January 30, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli government can continue to cut supplies of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip, rejecting legal challenges by human rights groups claiming that the blockade deprived Gaza residents of basic humanitarian needs in violation of international law. Israeli officials say that withholding fuel and energy supplies is the only option open to the Israeli government aside from a full-scale military operation against Hamas, which has refused to halt indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli positions from Gaza. In its ruling, the court held that Israel is required to act against terror organizations in accordance with the norms of international law but that the reduced supplies currently allowed into Gaza "fulfill the vital humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip at this time."


Israeli coat of arms

Learn more about Israeli policy in Gaza from the JURIST news archive, and consider the situation of Gaza in light of analysis by Guest Columnists Victor Kattan and Amos Guiora on JURIST Forum, and that of Marc D. Stern on JURIST Hotline.




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Illinois Senate removed Blagojevich from office

On January 29, 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously to convict Governor Rod Blagojevich of abuse of power, removing him from office. Blagojevich, who had been boycotting the impeachment proceedings, arrived on the Senate floor to make a final plea to remain in office. Although Blagojevich claimed innocence, the senators were unconvinced, voting 59-0 for removal. Blagojevich is the first governor in Illinois history to be impeached and removed from office. Blagojevich was later convicted by a federal jury on one count of making false statements to the FBI.



Learn more about legal action against Rod Blagojevich from the JURIST news archive.




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Canadian court refused to order Khadr repatriation

On January 29, 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that while the treatment of Canadian Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr violated his rights, the government does not have to press for his return to Canada. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the interrogation of Khadr by Canadian officials while in detention violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the ruling, Canadian officials questioned Khadr, who was captured at age 15, even though they knew he was being indefinitely detained. The court said that forcing the government to press for his return was not an appropriate remedy, finding that the court would overreach its authority by not respecting the power of the executive to act on issues of foreign affairs.



Learn more about Omar Khadr and Guantanamo Bay from the JURIST news archive.




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Federal judge ordered property owners to open land for border fence

On January 28, 2008, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas ordered 10 property owners in Cameron County, Texas to provide the federal government access to their land for 180 days so it can begin surveying for a 670-mile fence along the US-Mexico border. The federal government had asked the judge to rule on the case without informing the property owners, a permissible move under eminent domain law, but the judge ordered that the owners to be alerted before the hearing. Earlier that month, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials announced they were preparing over 100 court cases against landowners along the US-Mexico border who have refused to allow construction of the border fence on their properties.



Learn more about US-Mexico border fence from the JURIST news archive.




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UK High Court upheld hunting ban, Parliament Act

On January 28, 2005, the UK High Court upheld a law banning the use of hunting with dogs in England and Wales. Challenging the law, the Countryside Alliance had argued that the 1949 Parliament Act, which amended a 1911 version of the statute and permitted the hunting law to be passed, was itself invalid. The act permits the House of Commons to overrule the House of Lords and essentially force legislation to become law over its objection. A contrary ruling would have called into question several other controversial laws enacted under the authority of the 1949 act.


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Learn more about the laws of the UK from the JURIST news archive.




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Washington state senate approved gay rights legislation

On January 27, 2006, the Washington State Senate passed landmark gay rights legislation that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, lending and employment. The legislation was approved by the House the week before. Governor Christine Gregoire later signed the legislation. Supporters of the measure had been trying to get a version of the bill passed for almost 30 years. Opponents said that the legislation is unnecessary and could lead to same-sex marriage. The legislation made Washington the seventeenth state in the nation with an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation.



Learn more about gay rights laws and same-sex marriage from the JURIST news archive.




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Chinese high court announced anti-corruption rules for judges

On January 27, 2010, the Chinese Supreme People's Court (SPC) announced new anti-corruption rules in an effort to increase public confidence in the rule of law. The new regulations prohibited various activities including accepting bribes, having sex with litigants, intimidation and intentionally prolonging court proceedings, with punishments ranging from demerits to removal.


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Learn more about efforts to combat corruption in China from the JURIST news archive.




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Arizona lawmaker removed for campaign finance violations

On January 26, 2006, Arizona state legislator David Burnell Smith became the first US lawmaker removed from office for violating a state's public campaign financing rules when the Arizona Supreme Court declined to stay a court order directing him to step down. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission voted to remove Smith in March 2005. Smith overspent during his 2004 primary race, exceeding Arizona's then $25,000 spending limit by $6,000. Arizona's 1998 Citizens Clean Elections Act made candidates who voluntarily participate collect a set number of $5 contributions from voters to qualify for public funding, and in return, candidates must follow the spending limits set by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina have similar campaign finance systems.



Learn more about campaign finance laws from the JURIST news archive.




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WTO ruled China violated international intellectual property rights

On January 26, 2009, a dispute settlement panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that large parts of China's intellectual property scheme were inconsistent with its obligations under several international treaties, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The panel's findings came as the result of a process initiated against China by the US in August 2007 for alleged lax enforcement of copyright and trademark violations. The panel's report concluded that certain provisions of China's copyright law as well as certain Chinese customs measures are inconsistent with TRIPS because they "nullify or impair benefits accruing to the United States."



Learn more about the WTO and copyright laws from the JURIST news archive.




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California Supreme Court authorized anonymous DNA warrants

On January 25, 2010, the Supreme Court of California ruled 5-2 to authorize the use of "John Doe" arrest warrants, which replace an unknown suspect's name with his or her DNA profile as the unique identifier. Prosecutors used these warrants as a means of satisfying the statute of limitations in criminal cases. California law, which mirrors the language of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, holds that prosecution for an offense commences when an arrest warrant is issued which "names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for [a] complaint." Focusing on the point of particularity, the court held that DNA profiles describe the suspect sufficiently for identification.



Learn more about the use of DNA evidence from the JURIST news archive.




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Bolivia approved new constitution

On January 25, 2009, Bolivian voters approved a new constitution placing more power in the hands of the country's indigenous majority. The constitution, which passed by a 59 percent majority, is said by President Evo Morales to be the start of the new Bolivia. The constitution serves to remove traditional colonial elites from power, and to challenge US influence. It also redistributes land and creates seats in Congress for minority indigenous groups. The constitution was strongly opposed in the conservative eastern lowlands, a stronghold of European descendants.


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Learn more about Bolivia from the JURIST news archive.




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US House allowed territorial delegates limited voting rights

On January 24, 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution amending House rules to grant limited voting rights to federal lawmakers from US territories. The resolution introduced extended certain Congressional voting rights to delegates from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. It allowed them to serve on House committees in the same capacity as other representatives, and to vote in the Committee of the Whole on the final disposition of legislation unless they cast the decisive vote, in which case the vote must be held again. The House later voted to seat a delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, taking office in the 111th Congress.



Learn more about laws governing US territories from the US Department of Interior.




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Turkish lawmakers agreed to lift headscarf ban

On January 24, 2008, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey and the key opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) agreed to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves in universities and public offices. The agreement was in response to recent calls from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the government to lift the ban immediately and not wait for a proposed amendment to the constitution. Erdogan has repeatedly called for an end to the ban, saying it effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education, but Turkish secularists believe that his insistence on ending the ban is a political statement against secular principles.


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Learn more about laws regulating Islamic headscarves from the JURIST news archive.




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Federal judge held California prison health care system unconstitutional

On January 23, 2008, a federal judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the healthcare provided in California prisons does not meet constitutional standards even though medical services have improved significantly since the court assumed oversight of the system in 2005. Judge Thelton Henderson said that the prison system needs new oversight to help implement planned improvements and to reintegrate prison leadership into the prison system, and he appointed law professor J. Clark Kelso as receiver effective immediately to achieve those goals.



Learn more about the judicial oversight of the California prison system and health care from the JURIST news archive.




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ICJ rejected Uruguay bid to end paper mill protest blockades

On January 23, 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) denied a request by Uruguay to force Argentina to put a stop to protestors blocking major roads and bridges between the two nations in an effort to halt Uruguay's construction of two paper mills along the river that separates the states. The court, voting 14-1, ruled that the blockades have not caused an "imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights of Uruguay." Uruguay, however, says its tourism and trade industries will suffer drastically if the blockades remain in place.


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Learn more about the paper mill dispute and the ICJ from the JURIST news archive.




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Seventh Circuit found Indiana curfew law unconstitutional

On January 22, 2004, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that an Indiana curfew law was unconstitutional because it interfered with minors' rights to free speech. The court held that "the new curfew leaves minors on their way to or from protected First Amendment activity vulnerable to arrest and thus creates a chill that unconstitutionally imposes on their First Amendment rights." The Indiana law had required minors to be indoors between the hours of 11PM and 5AM on weekdays, and 1 and 5AM on weekends. The court found that the law was "not narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest and fails to allow for ample alternative channels for expression."



Learn more about the First Amendment from the JURIST news archive.




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Chinese court sentenced 2 to death over tainted milk scandal

On January 22, 2009, a Chinese court sentenced two people to death and several to life imprisonment for their involvement in the melamine-tainted milk scandal that sickened almost 300,000 children and killed at least six. Tian Wenhua, Chairwoman of the now-bankrupt Sanlu Group, pleaded guilty in December 2008 and received a life sentence. The Shijiazhuang court ordered the death penalty for Zhang Yujun for producing the supposed protein additive that contained melamine. Geng Jinping, a Sanlu employee, was also ordered to receive the death penalty for his involvement in the scandal.


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Learn more about the tainted milk scandal from the JURIST news archive.




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Supreme Court struck down restrictions on corporate campaign spending

On January 21, 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations had a First Amendment right to expend general treasury funds in political campaigns. The court was asked to consider Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The court overturned its 1989 decision in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld the facial validity of Section 203, and partially overturned McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that "[t]he Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether."



Learn more about campaign finance regulations from the JURIST news archive.




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Turkish high court overturned civil prosecution of military personnel

On January 21, 2010, the Constitutional Court of Turkey overturned a law allowing the prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts and prevented military prosecution of civilians during peacetime. The court was unanimous in its decision to overturn the law, which was seen as necessary for Turkish accession to the EU. The law would have allowed civilian courts to prosecute members of the military for attempting to overthrow the government, threats to national security and violations of the constitution. The decision was seen as a hindrance to investigations concerning an alleged plot by the secular Ergenekon group to overthrow the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP).


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Learn more about Turkey's EU accession bid and alleged coup plots to overthrown the AKP from the JURIST news archive.




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President Obama inaugurated

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated following his successful campaign in the 2008 presidential election. Delivering his inaugural address in Washington, DC, shortly after taking the oath of office as the 44th US president, Obama insisted that his administration would pursue US national interests without sacrificing basic legal principles enshrined in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. During the campaign, Obama pledged to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay and opposing many of the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Since taking office, Obama has signed several major pieces of legislation, including health care and financial reform and the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and has appointed two justices to the US Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.



Learn more about the presidency of Barack Obama from the JURIST news archive.




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Karadzic appealed imposition of court appointed lawyer

On January 20, 2010, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic filed an appeal with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) challenging the imposition of a court-appointed lawyer. Karadzic argued that the trial court erred by not allowing him to choose standby counsel in violation of his right to "legal assistance of his own choosing" under Article 21(4)(d) of the Statute of the ICTY and the Appeals Chamber ruling in Prosecutor v. Seselj. Karadzic alleged that by not removing the court-appointed counsel, the trial chamber sanctioned the "unreasonable and arbitrary selection procedure which resulted in the exclusion of all lawyers from the Balkans" and the "imposition of a lawyer on the accused that the accused did not want and cannot trust."


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Learn more about the ICTY and Radovan Karadzic from the JURIST news archive.




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DOJ defended legality of NSA warrantless wiretaps

On January 19, 2006, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a white paper laying out a legal basis for the domestic surveillance program run by the National Security Agency (NSA). The paper argued that the NSA activities were supported by the president's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and congressional authorization for the war on al Qaeda under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. Additionally, it argued that the wiretaps "fall within a well-established exception to the warrant requirement and [satisfy] the Fourth Amendment's fundamental requirement of reasonableness."



Learn more about President George W. Bush's domestic surveillance program from the JURIST news archive.




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ICJ ruled US violated court order by executing Mexican national

On January 19, 2009, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the US had violated the court's March 2004 order when the state of Texas executed Jose Ernesto Medellin Rojas. The ICJ held in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America) that the US had breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in denying 51 Mexican nationals, including Medellin, access to legal assistance from their consulate and that the US was obligated to "review and reconsider" the cases in light of this violation "by means of its choosing." The decision reaffirmed the "continuing binding character" of the previous order and declared that the US was in violation when it failed to review Medellin's case prior to his execution.


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Learn more about the ICJ and the case of Jose Ernesto Medellin Rojas from the JURIST news archive, and read the reactions of Richard C. Dieter and Bryan McCann from JURIST Hotline.




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Senate approved ethics reform legislation

On January 18, 2007, the US Senate voted 96-2 to approve the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007. The measure regulated lobbying activities by preventing lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, requiring stricter reporting of lobbying activity, preventing spouses of lawmakers from lobbying the Senate and extending the period a former senator must wait before undertaking lobbying activities to two years. The legislation was later reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives and signed by President George W. Bush.



Learn more about ethics reform proposals from the JURIST news archive.




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ECJ allowed PKK suit against EU terror designation to proceed

On January 18, 2007, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that the militant Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) can appeal the 2002 decision of the Council of the European Union to include the PKK on its list of terrorist organizations. The court set aside a lower court ruling which held that Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, now serving a life prison sentence in Turkey, cannot proceed with the appeal since the PKK no longer existed. The ECJ found that an "organization cannot, simultaneously, have an existence sufficient for it to be subject to restrictive measures laid down by the Community legislature and not have an existence sufficient to contest those measures."


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Learn more about the PKK from the JURIST news archive.




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House speaker introduced overhaul of ethics rules

On January 17, 2006, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) of the US House of Representatives introduced a proposal which would have restricted the gifts members of Congress could receive from lobbyists. The ethics reform plan was in response to the ethics scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX). The legislative package included the banning of privately sponsored travel, a virtual ban on gifts, including meals, tickets to sporting events and related travel, and the elimination of pensions of members of Congress convicted of a felony related to official duties.



Learn more about Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay from the JURIST news archive.




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UK anti-terror proposal suffered defeated in House of Lords

On January 17, 2006, the UK Terrorism Bill, introduced following the July 7, 2005 London bombings, was defeated in the House of Lords as peers voted 270-144 against introducing a "glorification" of terrorism offense and called for more safeguards for provisions that would outlaw the spreading of terrorist publications. The bill proposed outlawing the "glorification of terrorism" as part of the more general "indirect encouragement of terrorism" offense. Critics called the proposal unworkable and "not sufficiently legally certain."


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Learn more about the 7/7 bombings from the BBC.




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Former US Congressman indicted in terrorism funding case

On January 16, 2008, Mark Siljander, a former Republican US Congressman from Michigan and US representative to the UN, was indicted for conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and forfeiture. The charges stemmed from Siljander's association with the now defunct charity Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), which allegedly funneled funds to key Taliban and al-Qaeda ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. IARA was the American affiliate of the Islamic African Relief Agency, an organization based in Khartoum, Sudan and designated by the US Treasury Department as a supporter of global terrorism in October 2004. Siljander later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges.



Learn more about Mark Siljander from the The Washington Times.




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French lower house passed bill allowing presidential impeachment

On January 16, 2007, the French National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, passed by voice vote a constitutional amendment authorizing the impeachment of a French president but otherwise conferring legal immunity on the office holder. The bill had languished in parliament after being approved by the French cabinet three years before. It progressed forward as then president Jacques Chrirac approached the end of his second term with a number of corruption cases pending against him. The amendment was later approved by the full parliament.



Learn more about France from the JURIST news archive.




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Federal judge ordered Libya to pay $6B to US victims of 1989 air bombing

On January 15, 2008, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Libyan government and six Libyan officials to pay more than $6 billion in damages to families of seven Americans who died in the 1989 bombing of French passenger jet UTA Flight 772, which killed all 170 people on board. Judge Henry Kennedy ruled the year before in Pugh v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya that Libya was responsible for the bombing, and a trial to determine damages was held in August.


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Learn more about Libya and the more recent bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 from the JURIST news archive.




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Nepalese parliament ratified interim constitution

On January 15, 2007, the Nepalese House of Representatives adopted a draft interim constitution following its approval by the Nepalese cabinet. The interim constitution simultaneously provided for the dissolution of the current House of Representatives and the creation of an interim parliament which included 25 percent of seats held by former Maoist insurgents. The new representative body faced the tasks of drafting a permanent constitution and resolving the status of King Gyanendra and the Nepalese monarchy, which was later abolished.


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Learn more about Nepal from the JURIST news archive.




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Virginia Supreme Court invalidated 'singles sex law'

On January 14, 2005, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously struck down a state law prohibiting consensual sex between unmarried people. The justices based their decision on Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 US Supreme Court case voiding a state anti-sodomy law. As in that case, the Virginia Supreme Court found the state law unconstitutional as it infringed the due process rights of adults to engage in private sexual conduct. The law against sex between consensual non-married individuals - Virginia Code § 18.2-344 - had been on the books for over 200 years but had not been enforced since 1847.



Learn more about Lawrence v. Texas from Duke University School of Law.




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Mongolian president suspended death penalty

On January 14, 2010, Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia announced that he would suspend the death penalty and commute the sentences of all prisoners held on death row to 30 years in prison. In a speech to the Mongolian Parliament, Tsakhia called for a permanent ban on the death penalty, saying that many mistakes were made in its administration, and that the system has been abused. He cited statistics from Amnesty International (AI), showing that one in three death sentences were overturned by a court of appeals, as proof that oftentimes the sentence was wrongfully imposed.


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Learn more about the death penalty and Amnesty International from the JURIST news archive.




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Supreme Court ruled failure to report to prison not a 'violent felony'

On January 13, 2009, the US Supreme Court ruled in Chambers v. United States that failure to report to prison did not constitute a "violent felony" for purposes of sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) [18 USC § 924(e)]. Petitioner Deondery Chambers pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, the state of Illinois argued that he was subject to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence under the ACCA, based in part on a prior conviction for escape when he failed to report to prison. The ruling reversed the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and resolved a circuit split on the issue with the Ninth and DC Circuits having held that failure to report is not a violent felony and the other 10 circuits having held that it is.



Learn more about oral arguments in Chambers v. United States and the Supreme Court from the JURIST news archive.




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Somali parliament authorized martial law

On January 13, 2007, the Somali transitional parliament voted to authorize the government to declare martial law. The authorization and the accompanying declaration of a state of emergency followed Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi's call for the parliament to declare three months of martial law in hopes of reestablishing order following the capture of Somali capital Mogadishu from militias seeking to establish Islamic law. Ethiopian and Somali government forces had been fighting since December against the Islamic Courts Union, a fundamentalist movement, which has largely dispersed from urban areas. Somalia has been without a functioning central government since 1991.


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Learn more about Somalia from the JURIST news archive.




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Federal judges approved plan to reduce California prison overcrowding

On January 12, 2010, a special panel of three federal judges approved a revised plan filed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for reducing prison overcrowding in the state. The plan, approved by a panel of federal district court judges comprised under 28 USC § 2284, included summary parole for lower-level offenses to reduce the amount of inmates re-entering the prison system and credit earning enhancements to reduce time served. Action on the order was delayed because the Schwarzennger administration appealed the order to the US Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case this term.



Learn more about litigation related to California prison overcrowding from the JURIST news archive.




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Haitian earthquake crippled government, legal system

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, rendering the national legal system and government largely non-operational. The earthquake was estimated to have resulted in the death of 230,000 people, in the injury of 300,000 people and in the homelessness of over one million people. Among the destruction was that of Haiti's main prison, resulting in the escape of the prison's 4,000 inmates. Following the earthquake, local police struggled to maintain law and order while awaiting the deployment of 5,700 US troops. The troops were sent to assist the 3,000 police and international peacekeepers deployed to secure the airport, port and main buildings and quell incidents of looting and violence that had been on the rise.


Haitian seal

Learn more about the legal repercussions of the earthquake in Haiti from the JURIST news archive, and learn more about the affects of the earthquake on human rights in Haiti from Special Guest Columnist Amanda M. Klasing of Human Rights Watch on JURIST Forum.




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First detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay

On January 11, 2002, the first detainees were brought to the US military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The first detainees were captured in the course of the war on terror declared following the 9/11 terror attacks. The detainees were designated as unlawful enemy combatants by the administration of President George W. Bush, which argued that they were not subject to the Geneva Conventions because they were members of the Taliban and not a national military force. Additionally, the administration argued that by being held at Guantanamo Bay, the detainees were not subject to US law. The detention center has remained a point of intense controversy in the US and internationally. Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the center within a year. The deadline was missed, but the Obama administration has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to closing the facility.



Learn more about the legal controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay from the JURIST news archive.




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'Toronto 18' member pleaded not guilty to terror charges

On January 11, 2010, a member of the "Toronto 18" pleaded not guilty in a Canadian court for his alleged role in a failed 2006 terrorist plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange and government buildings. Shareef Abdelhaleem, the first adult of the group to be tried, allegedly planned to profit from the attacks by investing in and selling particular stock before the bombings. Abdelhaleem's lawyer argued that his client was entrapped by the key witness in the case, who was allegedly paid millions of dollars by Canadian authorities for his assistance in the investigation.


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Learn more about the Toronto 18 from the JURIST news archive.




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Fifth Circuit ordered removal of Bible display at local courthouse

On January 10, 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered the removal of a Bible from a display funded by the private homeless mission Star of Hope outside the courthouse in Harris County, Texas. The county had requested that the display be allowed to remain pending the outcome of an appeal to overturn a ruling that the Bible's placement violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.



Learn more about the Establishment Clause from Cornell University's Legal Information Institute.




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Peruvian electoral council rejected Fujimori presidential bid

On January 10, 2006, the Peruvian National Election Council announced that former president Alberto Fujimori could not participate in the presidential election. The decision came after Fujimori registered as a presidential candidate, despite a Constitutional Court decision barring Fujimori from running for office until 2010. Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000 amidst corruption and human rights allegations for activities during his presidency. He was later extradited and convicted for approving the killing of 15 people in Lima's Barrios Altos neighborhood and the kidnapping and murder of 10 people from Lima's La Cantuta University.


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Learn more about Alberto Fujimori from the JURIST news archive.




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US House passed legislation to implement 9/11 recommendations

On January 9, 2007, the US House of Representatives voted 299-128 to pass legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remaining after the enactment of the Intelligence Reform bill in 2004. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 provided for additional intelligence oversight and set out a screening program for shipping cargo coming into the US. The legislation was later approved by the Senate and signed by President George W. Bush.



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UK House of Lords voted to maintain gay rights law in Northern Ireland

On January 9, 2007, the UK House of Lords voted 199-68 to keep legislation protecting gay rights in Northern Ireland in place. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 prohibits businesses from withholding goods and services, including accommodation, from same-sex couples. Critics of the legislation argued that it violated the religious freedoms of Christian business-owners who would be forced to accommodate same-sex couples despite believing such relationships are immoral.


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First Circuit upheld indefinite civil commitment of sex offenders

On January 8, 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the constitutionality of provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act [18 USC § 4248], which allows a person deemed "sexually dangerous" to be indefinitely civilly committed after the expiration of a federal criminal sentence. The court found that civil commitments were within the power granted to Congress under the Necessary and Proper Clause of the US Constitution as an extension of the government's custodial responsibility for federal inmates. The ruling came exactly one year following a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit striking down the statute as a violation of federal authority. The circuit split was later resolved by the US Supreme Court, which upheld the statute.



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Swiss court ruled UBS client information disclosure illegal

On January 8, 2010, the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland ruled that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) violated the law in February 2009 when it ordered UBS to disclose information to the US on more than 250 of the bank's clients. FINMA issued the order after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) accused UBS of assisting Americans in hiding accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The court stated that FINMA lacked the authority to authorize the release of information, and that the issue should have been addressed by the Federal Council. The Federal Council later approved a treaty allowing the disclosure of client information.


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US AG ruled deportation cannot be challenged for ineffective legal assistance

On January 7, 2009, US Attorney General Michael Mukasey ruled that aliens may no longer challenge deportation hearings based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Mukasey's opinion, which is binding on immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), held that immigrants have no constitutional right to a new deportation hearing if their lawyers make mistakes. The ruling overturned precedent set by the BIA in 1988 in Matter of Lozada, which held that although aliens have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel in deportation hearings, they do have a right to effective assistance of counsel under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The ruling was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Bar Association (ABA).



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ECHR ruled sex trafficking violated human rights convention

On January 7, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia and Cyprus were liable for not taking adequate efforts to prevent or investigate the death of a woman trafficked between the two countries. The court held that both countries had violated Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits slavery and forced labor. The ECHR ruled that Cyprus did not have a proper framework in place to prevent sex trafficking, and that authorities did not do enough to protect the woman. The court also ruled that Russia did not do enough to identify where the woman was recruited and punish the responsible parties. The court ordered Cyprus to pay the woman's father € 40,000 and Russia to pay € 2,000.



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Wisconsin governor vetoed legislation regulating abortions

On January 6, 2006, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle vetoed legislation that would have required doctors to inform women seeking abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy that their fetuses may feel pain. The bill passed the state Assembly 61-34 and the Senate 21-12. In a veto statement Doyle argued that the legislation would "intrude[] on the doctor patient relationship in a heavy handed manner and means doctors don't have to provide objective and accurate information to their patients."



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Honduran prosecutors charged military officials for Zelaya ouster

On January 6, 2010, Honduran prosecutors filed charges against three military chiefs in connection with the ouster of former president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. The attorney general's office filed abuse of power charges in the Honduran Supreme Court against armed forces commander Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, air force commander Venancio Cervantes, and naval commander Luis Javier Prince. According to the charges, the three violated the Honduran Constitution when they seized Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica because the constitution prohibits the forcible removal of a citizen.


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Ninth Circuit struck down felon voter disenfranchisement law

On January 5, 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a Washington law prohibiting felons from voting violates the Voting Rights Act. The Washington law, Article VI Section 3 of the state constitution, states that, "All persons convicted of infamous crime unless restored to their civil rights and all persons while they are judicially declared mentally incompetent are excluded from the elective franchise." The court held that the provision "does not protect minorities from being denied the right to vote upon conviction by a criminal justice system that Plaintiffs have demonstrated is materially tainted by discrimination and bias." The ruling was later overturned by an en banc hearing before the Ninth Circuit.



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French court began trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

On January 5, 2009, a Paris court began a trial in absentia for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks, for his alleged involvement in a suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue located in Djerba in April 2002. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, in which 21 people were killed. Mohammed was accused of "complicity in attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise" for their roles in the planning the attack. Among those killed were two French citizens, giving French courts jurisdiction under French law. Mohammed is currently being held by US authorities at Guantanamo Bay.



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Padilla sued author of 'torture memos'

On January 4, 2008, convicted terrorism conspirator Jose Padilla filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California against University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, the author of the so-called "torture memos," controversial US government memos arguing that detained enemy combatants could be denied Geneva Conventions protections against torture. The suit alleged that Yoo's memos, written while he was a senior lawyer in the US Justice Department, helped set the Bush administration's treatment of people detained as part of the war on terror. The court denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, a decision which has been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


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Serbia filed genocide suit against Croatia in ICJ

On January 4, 2010, the Serbian government filed a lawsuit against Croatia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing the Croatian government of committing genocide during the 1991-1995 Balkan War. The suit is in response to a similar suit filed by Croatia against Serbia in 1999. The ICJ ruled in 2009 that it has jurisdiction to hear that case. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said that Serbia had hoped to avoid filing suit but was left with no choice when Croatia refused to withdraw its case. In its suit, Serbia claims that Croatia committed genocide by expelling its Serb population in 1995.


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Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana

On January 3, 2006, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted 59-13 to override Governor Don Carcieri's (R) veto of legislation allowing the prescription of marijuana to seriously ill patients. The law allows critically ill people to grow as many as 12 plants or to purchase as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana with a doctor's permission as needed to treat their symptoms. Advocates argued that the bill would help AIDS and cancer patients. Carcieri argued that the bill fails to provide legal users with legal sources of the drug, and potentially exposes Rhode Islanders to federal convictions.



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Turkish parliament approved expanded smoking ban

On January 3, 2008, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed legislation prohibiting smoking in government buildings, offices, bars and restaurants, and imposes penalties for noncompliance. People caught smoking in designated non-smoking areas could be fined 50 Turkish lira, while companies that advertise or distribute tobacco could be fined 250,000 lira. The bill passed with strong backing from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


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New Jersey commission recommended abolishing death penalty

On January 2, 2007, the New Jersey Death Penalty Commission recommended that the state abolish the death penalty, replacing it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. A report endorsed by 12 of the 13 members of the commission concluded that there was "no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent," although there was "increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency." New Jersey later abolished the death penalty.



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Kenya media regulation legislation signed into law

On January 2, 2009, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki signed legislation giving power to a communication commission to regulate broadcasting with threats of fines or incarceration. The Communications Amendment Bill of 2008 allowed the minister of information to control aspects of broadcast content. Kibaki stated that his assent to the bill was based on the importance of Kenya's economic development and emphasized the importance of regulating all electronic transactions. Kibaki said that "while press freedom is a cardinal pillar of democracy, it is a right that carries with it special duties and responsibilities."


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US state laws took effect nationwide

On January 1, 2010, several state laws took effect seeking to regulate everything from social policy to highway safety. Texting while driving became illegal in Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire, joining the nearly twenty other prohibiting states and the federal government. North Carolina banned smoking in bars and restaurants, joining the nearly thirty other states with similar bans in place. Illinois extended an exemption on their indoor smoking ban to American Indians during religious practices. Oregon banned cigarette vending machines in places where minors are allowed. New Hampshire became the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage after passing legislation to that effect in 2009. California became the first state to ban the use of artificial transfats in restaurants, and gave celebrities greater legal remedy against paparazzi.


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Russian president ended jury trials for treason and terrorism

On January 1, 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law amendments to the Russian penal code ending jury trials for terrorism or treason suspects and giving prosecutors broader investigative authority on terrorism or treason related cases. The suspects will now be tried by a panel of three judges. The amendments easily passed both houses of the Russian parliament the month before. Proponents of the changes say they will strengthen the government's ability to combat terrorism. Critics of the changes say they will decrease transparency in the Russian judicial system.


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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