Archive for January, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court gave multinational companies a stronger shield against lawsuits,

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court gave multinational companies a stronger shield against lawsuits, throwing out a case against Daimler AG over a company unit’s alleged collaboration in torture and killings in Argentina.

The justices unanimously said the parent company didn’t have enough ties to California to give courts there the authority to hear the case.

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“Daimler’s slim contacts with the state hardly render it at home there,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court. The ruling reversed a federal appeals court decision that had let the case go forward.

The ruling adds to a line of Supreme Court decisions that have reduced the options available to people trying to sue multinational corporations in American courts.

Daimler’s Argentine Mercedes-Benz unit was accused of collaborating with state security forces during the “Dirty War” from 1976 to 1983. Mercedes-Benz Argentina allegedly identified workers seen as union agitators, knowing security forces would then kidnap, torture and in some cases kill the people. The company denies the allegations.

Daimler, based in Stuttgart, Germany, contended the courts in California lack “personal jurisdiction” over the company. Under that legal concept, a defendant doesn’t have to face lawsuits in a state unless it has a certain minimum level of contact with the jurisdiction.

Former Employees
Daimler was sued by a group of former employees and representatives of deceased workers. They argued that Daimler had sufficient contacts with California because of billions of dollars in sales through its Mercedes-Benz USA unit.

Last year the Supreme Court scaled back a favorite legal tool of human-rights activists, the 1789 Alien Tort Statute. The majority said the Alien Tort Statute generally doesn’t apply to conduct beyond U.S. borders.

The people suing Daimler were invoking the Alien Tort Statute along with state and Argentine law in their suit.

In 2011, the court said three overseas units of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. couldn’t be sued in a North Carolina court over a bus wreck in France.

The case is DaimlerChrysler v. Bauman, 11-965.

–Editors: Laurie Asseo, Mark McQuilla

SCOTUS Sides with Mississippi AG Hood – States lawsuits can proceed in state courts…

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

By R.L. Nave January 14, 2014
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is touting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that he says affirms the rights of state attorneys general to file lawsuits in state court.

Here’s the full release from Hood’s office:

Jackson, MS – In a case brought by Attorney General Jim Hood, the U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the right of attorneys general across the country to enforce their state’s laws in state court. The Supreme Court ruled in Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. that a state attorney general asserting state law claims for damages incurred by its citizens can have that case resolved by its state court, and is not required to be removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).

All nine Justices agreed to reverse the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the State’s antitrust and consumer protection enforcement suit could not proceed in Mississippi state court. The Fifth Circuit had encroached on state courts’ rights to hear important public matters by significantly broadening the interpretation of what can constitute a federal “mass action.” Under CAFA, that requires the presence of 100 or more individual “plaintiffs.” The Fifth Circuit had ruled that, despite the State Attorney General being the only plaintiff in the case, the court would treat all Mississippi residents as “plaintiffs” so that CAFA’s 100 person requirement could be considered satisfied, depriving the state courts of the right to interpret their own laws.

Having recognized the important state sovereignty issues at stake, all U.S. Courts of Appeals that had addressed the issue – except the Fifth Circuit – had flatly rejected this analysis. The Supreme Court has now corrected the Fifth Circuit’s error, and Mississippi’s case will properly be returned to Mississippi Chancery Court.

Attorney General Jim Hood stated, ” The United States Supreme Court was crystal clear that federal courts have no jurisdiction under the so-called Class Action Fairness Act over actions brought by state Attorneys General for consumer and anti-trust violations. For far too long, large corporations have abused the federal judiciary by trying to drag every action filed by an Attorney General in state court into federal courts. The working people of Mississippi and other states won one this time.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that an action by an attorney general on behalf of the state’s citizens does not fit within CAFA’s language. The Court held that, because the State of Mississippi, through its attorney general, is the only plaintiff, this suit does not constitute a mass action.

The State sued makers of liquid crystal displays (LCD) in Mississippi state court in January 2011, alleging that these manufacturers had formed an international cartel to restrict competition and boost prices in the LCD market. Several of the defendants in the State’s case pled guilty to charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and paid criminal fines to the U.S. Government. The Mississippi Attorney General sued to recover for the economic harm to the State and its citizens.

The LCD manufacturers removed the case to federal court and the Fifth Circuit affirmed that removal. The Mississippi Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 46 other state attorneys general, supported Mississippi’s appeal, filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court contending the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, “forces States to litigate in federal court cases they bring in their own courts, under their own

US Supreme Court Affirms State AGs Can File Lawsuits In State Courts

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Posted: Jan 14, 2014 3:50 PM EST
Updated: Jan 14, 2014 3:50 PM EST

In a case brought by Attorney General Jim Hood, the U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the right of attorneys general across the country to enforce their state’s laws in state court. The Supreme Court ruled in Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. that a state attorney general asserting state law claims for damages incurred by its citizens can have that case resolved by its state court, and is not required to be removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).

All nine Justices agreed to reverse the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the State’s antitrust and consumer protection enforcement suit could not proceed in Mississippi state court. The Fifth Circuit had encroached on state courts’ rights to hear important public matters by significantly broadening the interpretation of what can constitute a federal “mass action.” Under CAFA, that requires the presence of 100 or more individual “plaintiffs.” The Fifth Circuit had ruled that, despite the State Attorney General being the only plaintiff in the case, the court would treat all Mississippi residents as “plaintiffs” so that CAFA’s 100 person requirement could be considered satisfied, depriving the state courts of the right to interpret their own laws.

Having recognized the important state sovereignty issues at stake, all U.S. Courts of Appeals that had addressed the issue – except the Fifth Circuit – had flatly rejected this analysis. The Supreme Court has now corrected the Fifth Circuit’s error, and Mississippi’s case will properly be returned to Mississippi Chancery Court.

Attorney General Jim Hood stated, ” The United States Supreme Court was crystal clear that federal courts have no jurisdiction under the so-called Class Action Fairness Act over actions brought by state Attorneys General for consumer and anti-trust violations. For far too long, large corporations have abused the federal judiciary by trying to drag every action filed by an Attorney General in state court into federal courts. The working people of Mississippi and other states won one this time.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that an action by an attorney general on behalf of the state’s citizens does not fit within CAFA’s language. The Court held that, because the State of Mississippi, through its attorney general, is the only plaintiff, this suit does not constitute a mass action.

The State sued makers of liquid crystal displays (LCD) in Mississippi state court in January 2011, alleging that these manufacturers had formed an international cartel to restrict competition and boost prices in the LCD market. Several of the defendants in the State’s case pled guilty to charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and paid criminal fines to the U.S. Government. The Mississippi Attorney General sued to recover for the economic harm to the State and its citizens.

The LCD manufacturers removed the case to federal court and the Fifth Circuit affirmed that removal. The Mississippi Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 46 other state attorneys general, supported Mississippi’s appeal, filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court contending the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, “forces States to litigate in federal court cases they bring in their own courts, under their own laws, for conduct occurring within their own borders. Worse, this approach encourages federal courts to override a State’s determination that a particular action and mode of relief will serve the public interest.”

Former University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

FRANKFORT —
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ordered Farmer to pay $120,500 in restitution.

Farmer, 44, a guard for the 1991-92 UK team dubbed “The Unforgettables” for their gutsy play, had pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources while overseeing the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Farmer, a Republican, was agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2011.

“Certainly, I made some mistakes and I made some poor judgments, and for that I’m truly sorry,” Farmer said in a brief statement in court. “I just want to say publicly I am sorry for all those things. … I am truly, truly sorry for what I’ve done.”

Farmer also scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Franklin Circuit Court to a one-year concurrent sentence. He pleaded guilty in a separate case to one count of violating state finance law, relating to 2008 campaign expenditures.

In April 2013, Farmer was charged by a federal grand jury with four counts of misappropriating money and property and one count of soliciting property in exchange for a state grant. Each charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Farmer had created political jobs for close friends who performed little or no work. Those employees allegedly ran personal errands for Farmer, including building a basketball court at his home in Frankfort and chauffeuring his dog, while being paid by the state.

The indictment alleged that Farmer took a variety of state property, including electronic equipment, guns, knives, refrigerators and filing cabinets. Farmer’s extended family stayed in hotel rooms that were paid for by the state during the Kentucky State Fair in 2009 and 2010, the indictment alleged.

Farmer also faced a 42-count charge brought by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Those charges included misuse of state employees, misuse of state resources, improper use if grants and improper use of Kentucky Proud marketing funds.

Much of the information in the indictment and in the ethics charges stemmed from state Auditor Adam Edelen’s review of the agriculture department after Farmer left office in 2012. The audit found that a “toxic culture of entitlement” permeated the department under Farmer.

Van Tatenhove said he would recommend that Farmer serve his sentence at a federal camp at Manchester in Clay County, Farmer’s home county. The decision of where he serves the sentence is made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Farmer will be free until March 18, when he must report to wherever the Bureau of Prisons decides he will serve his sentence.

Defense attorney J. Guthrie True had argued that a 21-month sentence would be sufficient, but Van Tatenhove chose to go with the greater sentence sought by prosecutors.

“Breach of the public trust is a really serious crime,” Van Tatenhove said. “Part of my job is to hold you accountable for that.”

The judge took note of Farmer’s basketball triumphs and said: “Nothing I’m saying today should take away from those accomplishments.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said reaction in Clay County about Farmer is “one of quite mixed emotions.”

“We’re very sad that this occurred, but we hope that this is a chapter in his life that he can get behind him and move forward.

“He has three small children, parents and relatives who have all been affected by this. We hope this brings to a conclusion this matter.”

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/01/14/3033479/farmer-sentenced-to-more-than.html#emlnl=Breaking_news#storylink=cpy

Federal Judges in U.S. See $25,000 More as Salary Freeze Falls

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Bloomberg News

By James Rowley January 13, 2014

All federal court judges — from U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts down to bankruptcy court judges — got five-figure raises because of a court ruling that erased pay freezes going back to 1995.

Their salaries rose by 14 percent on Jan. 1, as years of catch-up cost-of-living adjustments were added to their paychecks.

“The law had promised them they would get these adjustments in the years all federal employees got them and Congress blocked them,” Washington lawyer Christopher Landau said in a telephone interview. Landau represented six judges who filed a 2009 lawsuit challenging the denial of pay raises.

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During the 1990s, as the size of congressional paychecks became a political issue, lawmakers canceled four automatic cost-of-living bumps for themselves and the judiciary. That led to lawsuits, including a class action that the judges won.

The Court of Federal Claims in Washington issued the final order last month.

In letters to Congress on Oct. 29, 2013 and Dec. 4, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder informed lawmakers that the Justice Department was no longer contesting the court cases and would consent to applying pay adjustments to all members of the federal judiciary.

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There are 781 members of the federal judiciary and 93 vacant judgeships, according to the U.S. Courts website. That figure doesn’t include senior judges — who take a reduced work load and continue working part time.

New Salaries

The chief justice is being paid $255,500, up from $223,500, according to court documents and data compiled by Bloomberg. Associate Supreme Court justices now have a $244,400 salary, up from $213,900. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges are getting $211,200 a year, up from $184,500. The annual salary of a U.S. District Court judge increased to $199,100 from $174,000.

This all goes back to the 1989 Ethics Reform Act, Public Law 101-94. It limited outside earnings of judges in exchange for giving them the cost-of-living raises received by other federal employees.

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Later, when lawmakers took those pay adjustments away from themselves, they also denied raises to the judges.

In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in the case of six district and appellate court judges that Congress had unconstitutionally cut the compensation to which federal jurists were entitled under the 1989 ethics law.

That law “reduced judges’ income by banning outside income,” such as honoraria for speeches, “but promised in exchange automatic maintenance of compensation – a classic legislative quid pro quo,” the court found.

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The law pegged the salaries of district court judges to the pay of House members and senators.

Political Point

During the 1990s, as congressional pay became a political issue, lawmakers passed legislation that canceled four automatic cost-of-living raises for themselves and the judiciary.

Laws that Congress passed in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999 violated the Constitution’s compensation clause that bars a “diminution in judicial compensation,” the appeals court said. Congress erroneously applied another law to withhold two other COLAS from judges in 2007 and 2010, the court ruled.

KBA ANNUAL STUDENT WRITING COMPETITION

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Know of an aspiring young legal writer? Then please encourage their participation in the KBA’s annual Student Writing Competition! The KBA invites and encourages students currently enrolled at the University of Kentucky College of Law, the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, and the Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law to enter the KBA Annual Student Writing Competition. This competition offers these Kentucky legal scholars the opportunity to earn recognition and a cash award. First ($1,000); second ($300), and third place ($200) prizes may be awarded. Entries must be received by June 1, 2014. The first place prize also includes possible publication in the Bench & Bar.

Students may enter their previously unpublished articles. Articles entered should be of interest to Kentucky practitioners and follow the suggested guidelines and requirements found in the “General Format” section of the Bench & Bar Editorial Guidelines at www.kybar.org/103. For inquiries concerning the KBA Annual Student Writing Competition, contact Shannon H. Roberts at sroberts@kybar.org or call (502) 564-3795 ext. 224. Submit entries with contact information to Shannon H. Roberts, Communications Department, Kentucky Bar Association, 514 W. Main Street, Frankfort, KY 40601-1812.

New Law Brings Changes to Uniform Code of Military Justice

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By David Vergun
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2014 – The National Defense Authorization Act passed last month requires sweeping changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, particularly in cases of rape and sexual assault.
“These are the most changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial that we’ve seen since a full committee studied it decades ago,” said Lt. Col. John L. Kiel Jr., the policy branch chief at the Army’s Criminal Law Division in the Office of the Judge Advocate General.
Key provisions of the UCMJ that were rewritten under the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2014 — signed Dec. 26, 2013, by President Barack Obama — are Articles 32, 60, 120 and 125.
Article 32
The law now requires the services to have judge advocates serve as Article 32 investigating officers. Previously, the Army was the only service in which judge advocates routinely did not serve as Article 32 investigating officers.
Article 32 hearings — roughly equivalent to grand jury proceedings in the civilian judicial system — are held to determine if there’s enough evidence to warrant a general court-martial — the most serious type of court-martial used for felony-level offenses such as rape and murder.
Congress decided that the services needed to have trained lawyers — judge advocates — consider the evidence, since in their view, trained lawyers often are in the best position to make determinations to go forward with general courts-martial, Kiel said. Judge advocates didn’t always serve as Article 32 investigating officers in the Army “largely because we try four times the number of cases of any of the other services,” he explained — an issue of not having enough judge advocates for the high volume of cases.
Army officials asked Congress to consider its resourcing issue, he said, so the legislators wrote an exception, stating that “where practicable, you will have a judge advocate conduct the Article 32 investigation.”
Kiel explained what “where practicable” means, citing a number of circumstances where it could apply.
Many courts-martial were conducted over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan where soldiers were deployed and some of those involved war crimes, he said. In these cases, the Army found it sometimes was best to have line officers be the Article 32 investigating officers, because they could best put themselves in the shoes of the accused.
Those line officers “understood what it’s like to make decisions in the heat of battle better than a lawyer without those experiences,” Kiel said. “They added a level of judgment that sometimes judge advocates could not.”
Another example, he said, might be travel fraud.
“In the case of complex [temporary duty] fraud, for instance, you might want to have a finance officer as the IO,” Kiel said.
Besides subject-matter experts being in the best position to be Article 32 investigating officers, he said, there simply might not be enough judge advocates in the area of the installation. For example, U.S. Army Forces Command would have enough judge advocates to do Article 32 hearings, Kiel said, but if a number of hearings came up at once at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command installations — a smaller major command — they might come up short.
That might jeopardize the right of an accused to a speedy trial if the clock runs out, he noted. And, if a judge advocate is flown in from another installation, travel costs would be incurred.
“Those are very real situations that could impact the ability to get it done expeditiously and cost effectively,” Kiel said.
Other attorneys on an installation cannot always be tapped for Article 32 investigating officer work, he said. On larger installations, “we have operational law attorneys that potentially could cover down on some of these areas, but we don’t have a lot of those,” he added.
On other installations, Kiel said, administrative law attorneys might have conflicts of interest if they’ve previously rendered some kind of legal review on a case.
“And, our administrative law attorneys are always busy reviewing various sorts of investigations and helping the command deal with such things as ethics and family readiness issues,” he continued.
“Then we have our criminal law advocates, trial counsels and defense counsels,” Kiel added. “They’re all conflicted out from being IOs, because they’re actually tasked with presenting evidence during the [Article 32 hearing] as they’re acting as counsel to the government or to the accused.”
The fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act gives the services one year to phase in this change to Article 32, stipulating that where practicable, judge advocates conduct the investigations. This one-year time period provides needed time for the staff judge advocates to figure out if they have enough judge advocates to fill the requirement to cover down on all the Article 32 hearings and determine which installations are struggling to meet the requirements, Kiel said.
Another impact to courts-martial practice is the new requirement for a special victims counsel to provide support and advice to the alleged victim, Kiel said. For example, the special victims counsel must inform the victim of any upcoming hearings — pretrial confinement, parole board, clemency and so on — and inform the victim that he or she can choose to attend any of those. The victim also will be notified in advance of trial dates and be informed of any delays.
Furthermore, Kiel said, the special victims counsels may represent the alleged victims during trial, ensuring their rights are not violated, as under the Rape Shield Rule, for example. The Rape Shield Rule, or Military Rule of Evidence 412, prevents admission of evidence concerning sexual predisposition and behavior of an alleged victim of sexual assault.
Kiel provided an aside regarding the Rape Shield Law and how a high-visibility case a few months ago involving football players at the U.S. Naval Academy influenced changes to Article 32 by Congress.
In that case, the defense counsel had the victim on the stand for three days of questioning about the alleged victim’s motivations, medical history, apparel, and so on during the Article 32 hearing, he related. The cross-examination was perceived by the public and Congress to be disgraceful and degrading, and potentially violating the federal Rape Shield Rule. With passage of the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, alleged rape and sexual assault victims are no longer subject to that kind of interrogation at the Article 32 hearing, he said.
Before the new law, alleged victims of sexual assault were ordered to show up at Article 32 hearings and frequently were asked to testify during those hearings as well.
“Congress thought that wasn’t fair, since civilian victims of sexual assault didn’t have to show up or testify,” Kiel said.
“Now, any victim of a crime who suffers pecuniary, emotional or physical harm and is named in one of the charges as a victim does not have to testify at the hearing,” he added.
Article 60
Like Article 32 changes, modifications to Article 60 are to be phased in over the course of 12 months. Article 60 involves pretrial agreements and actions by the convening authority in modifying or setting aside findings of a case or reducing sentencing. A convening authority could do that in the past, and some did, though rarely.
Changes to Article 60 were influenced last year by a case involving Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general convicted of aggravated sexual assault, Kiel said. The convening authority, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, overturned the findings of guilt.
“That got Congress stirred up,” Kiel said.
In the new law, legislators said the convening authority can no longer adjust any findings of guilt for felony offenses where the sentence is longer than six months or contains a discharge. They cannot change findings for any sex crime, irrespective of sentencing time.
One way a commander still can modify a sentence is, “if the trial counsel comes forward and says, ‘This particular accused was very helpful in securing evidence or cooperating with the government in prosecuting someone who was accused of committing an offense under the UCMJ.’ That is a trigger for the convening authority to be able to modify a sentence,” Kiel said.
The other way a convening authority can modify a sentence, even involving rape and sexual assault, is if a pretrial agreement is in place, he said, meaning that the case could close, but the pretrial agreement would still take effect.
Congress realized that Article 60 was still needed to continue the option for pretrial agreements, Kiel said. Had Article 60 been done away with altogether, he added, that “would have likely meant all courts-martial would have gone to full contest, and that would have bottlenecked the entire process.”
Voiding Article 60 also would have meant that all alleged victims of sexual assault likely would have to testify.
“Sometimes, victims supported the pretrial agreement, supported the potential sentence and supported the fact that they didn’t have to testify — when it was in their best individual interest,” Kiel said.
Other changes to courts-martial practice were made.
Prior to the new law, the convening authority could consider the military character of the accused in considering how to dispose of a case, Kiel said. Congress decided that should have no bearing on whether or not the accused has committed a sexual assault or other type of felony.
Also, he said, previous to new law, “sometimes the [staff judge advocate] would say, ‘Take the case to a general court-martial,’ and the convening authority would disagree and say, ‘I’m not going forward.’” Now, he said, “if the convening authority disagrees, the case has to go to the secretary of the service concerned, [who] would have to decide whether to go forward or not.”
In the case of an alleged rape or sexual assault in which the staff judge advocate and the convening authority decide not to go forward because of a lack of evidence or for any other reason, that case has to go up to the next-highest general court-martial convening authority for an independent review, Kiel said.
So if the case occurred at the division level in the Army, for example, and a decision were made at that level not to go forward, then the division would need to take the victim’s statements, its own statements for declining the case, and forward them and the entire investigative file to the next level up — in this case, the corps.
At the corps level, the staff judge advocate and the corps commander would then review the file, look at the evidence and make a determination whether or not to go forward, Kiel explained.
If it’s decided to move forward the case would be referred at the corps level instead of sending it back down to the division, he added. This, he explained, avoids unlawful command influence on the case’s outcome.
Articles 120 and 125
The UCMJ’s Articles 120 and 125 now have mandatory minimum punishments: dishonorable discharge for enlisted service members and dismissal for officers, Kiel said. Article 120 deals with rape and sexual assault upon adults or children and other sex crimes, and Article 125 deals with forcible sodomy. In addition, the accused now must appear before a general court-martial with no opportunity to be tried at a summary or special court-martial, Kiel said.
A summary court-martial is for relatively minor misconduct, and a special court-martial is for an intermediate-level offense.
Furthermore, Congress highly encouraged the services not to dispose of sexual assault cases with adverse administrative action or an Article 15, which involves nonjudicial punishment usually reserved for minor disciplinary offenses, Kiel said.
Rather, Kiel said, Congress desires those cases to be tried at a general court-martial and has mandated that all sexual assault and rape cases be tried only by general court-martial.
Prior to the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, there was a five-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault on adults and children under Article 120 cases. Now, there’s no statute of limitations, he said.
Congress repealed the offense of consensual sodomy under Article 125 in keeping with previous Supreme Court precedent, Kiel said, and also barred anyone who has been convicted of rape, sexual assault, incest or forcible sodomy under state or federal law from enlisting or being commissioned into military service.
What’s Ahead
Congress could make even more changes that address sexual assaults in the military as early as this month, Kiel said. And later this year, changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial should be signed by the president after review by the services, the national security staff, the Defense Department and other agencies, he added. The updated manual would codify all the changes, although some already are in effect, he said.

E-FILING HAS NOT YET BEEN FORMALLY INTRODUCED BUT A TEST RUN BY AGREEMENT OF THE PARTIES WAS SUCCESSFUL

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Jan. 7, 2014

LawReader has received a comment on a news story regarding the “first court to use e-filing in Kentucky.” We based the story on an AOC press release (see below).
Our commentator apparently suggests that the e-filing case in Franklin Circuit Court was done by “agreement of the parties”, and apparently was not actual introduction of the formal e-filing system.
The article saying the Franklin Circuit Court is now going to be the first court in Kentucky is slightly incorrect.
The Franklin Circuit Court just concluded a case where, by agreement of the parties, e filing was used through out the case. The case was Commonwealth of Kentucky v Merck & Co., Inc. E- filing worked very well.

I thought you would want to know

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:
LawReader News posted a story based on an AOC news release which stated:
“Kentucky Judicial Branch launches e-Filing with first electronic case filing in Franklin County”
Press Release Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Public Information Officer
502-573-2350, x50031
Cell 859-619-7916
lhiatt@kycourts.net

http://courts.ky.gov

“The Administrative Office of the Courts introduced eFiling to Kentucky state courts this week by accepting the first electronic case filings at its test site in the office of Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk Sally Jump in Frankfort. The first case was filed Monday, Dec. 16, with a total of six cases filed as of today.”

A Supreme Court justice has blocked implementation of portions of President Barack Obama’s health care law

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Washington — A Supreme Court justice has blocked implementation of portions of President Barack Obama’s health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s decision came Tuesday night after a different effort by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation. Those groups rushed to the federal courts to stop Wednesday’s start of portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Sotomayor acted on a request from an order of Catholic nuns in Colorado, whose request for a stay had been denied by the lower courts.

Sotomayor is giving the government until Friday morning to respond to her decision.

Catholic organizations made a last-minute effort Tuesday to get the Supreme Court to block portions of President Barack Obama’s health care law that will force them to provide health insurance for students and employees that includes birth control.

Several organizations, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, Catholic University and the Michigan Catholic Conference, asked justices to block the law until their arguments are heard. Parts of the Affordable Care Act go into effect on Wednesday.

On that day, “a regulatory mandate will expose numerous Catholic organizations to draconian fines unless they abandon their religious convictions and take actions that facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their employees and students,” lawyer Noel J. Francisco said in appeals to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan.

The law requires employers to provide insurance that covers a range of preventive care, free of charge, including contraception. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives.

The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the constitutionality of the core of the Affordable Care Act, saying its insurance mandate and the tax penalty enforcing it fell within the power of Congress to impose taxes.

The Obama administration crafted a compromise, or accommodations, that attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The law requires insurers or the health plan’s outside administrator to pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

That isn’t enough, Francisco said.

“In short, under the accommodation, applicants must authorize their third party administrators or insurance companies to provide the very products and services they find morally objectionable,” he said. “Suffice it to say, the `accommodation’ does not resolve applicants’ religious objection to participation in this regulatory scheme.”

Roberts and Kagan handle emergency requests for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Sixth Circuit. They can act by themselves or involve the rest of the court.

Francisco said that if Catholic organizations don’t comply with the law, they face “fines of $100 a day per affected beneficiary” and if they drop their health care coverage, “they will be subject to an annual fine of $2,000 per full-time employee after the first 30 employees, and/or face ruinous practical consequences due to their inability to offer a crucial health care benefit to employees.”

He added: “In short, applicants are faced with a stark choice: violate their religious beliefs or pay potentially crippling fines.”

It was not immediately known when the justices would act.

More than 90 million individuals participate in health plans excluded from the scope of the mandate, Francisco said. “The government, however, has steadfastly refused to create a broader religious exemption, either for individuals seeking to run their businesses in accordance with their faith or for nonprofit religious organizations beyond houses of worship,” he said.

The justices already have agreed to rule on whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. The court will consider two cases involving Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets.

Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts while Conestoga Wood Specialties lost. The combined cases probably will be argued in late March with a decision coming by summer.

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