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Appeals court upholds parts of Arizona ethnic studies ban
Press Release | 2015/07/09 20:55
A federal appeals court on Tuesday kept alive a legal challenge brought by former students who sued Arizona over a ban on ethnic studies in public schools and who will have a new chance to argue the law discriminates against Mexican Americans.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld most of a lower court's decision. But it sent the case back to a federal court in Tucson, where a judge will decide whether the ban was enacted with discriminatory intent in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorneys for the students claimed victory based on the part of the ruling that provides them new opportunity to go before a judge and make their case on a key provision of their argument. A spokesman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office said the agency was still reviewing the ruling and did not have immediate comment.

The law was passed by the Arizona Legislature in the same session that lawmakers enacted the landmark immigration legislation known as SB1070. It shuttered the Tucson Unified School District's popular Mexican-American studies program, sparking protests from students who they benefited from the courses. The majority of students in the district are Hispanic. The program taught them about historic events relating to the Mexican-American experience such as their indigenous roots and the Mexican Revolution.



Panama high court OKs corruption probe of ex-president
Press Release | 2015/01/30 10:54
Panama's Supreme Court voted Wednesday to open a corruption probe against former President Ricardo Martinelli, a move likely to rally popular support in a nation where the politically powerful rarely face justice for misdeeds.

A statement from the court said all nine judges voted to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Martinelli over allegations he inflated contracts worth $45 million to purchase dehydrated food for a government social program.

The accusation is based on the testimony of a political ally, Giacomo Tamburelli, the former head of the National Assistance Program who has said he was taking orders from the then president to inflate contracts. He is now under house arrest.

Martinelli, a billionaire supermarket magnate, has denied the charges and says he is the target of political persecution by his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, who broke with the government in 2011 while serving as Martinelli's vice president and foreign minister.


Court grants Texas prisoner execution reprieve
Press Release | 2014/12/05 15:18
A federal appeals court halted Wednesday's scheduled execution of a Texas killer whose attempt to subpoena Jesus Christ as a trial witness and other behavior led his attorneys to argue he is too mentally ill for capital punishment.

Scott Panetti, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia some 14 years before fatally shooting his estranged wife's parents in 1992, was granted the reprieve less than eight hours before he was set to receive a lethal injection. In stopping the execution, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged the legal complexity of putting a mentally ill inmate to death.

In a two-sentence ruling, the court said it needs time to "fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter" and that it will schedule briefings and hearings to consider arguments.

The Texas attorney general's office said it has no immediate plans to appeal and that state attorneys will present arguments to the 5th Circuit once the court sets a date for them.

Panetti's lawyers described him as delusional and argued that he was too mentally ill to qualify for capital punishment and they sought the delay so Panetti could undergo new competency examinations.

Panetti, who acted as his own trial lawyer, testified as an alternate personality he called "Sarge" to describe the slayings of Joe and Amanda Alvarado. He wore a purple cowboy outfit, including a big cowboy hat, during trial and largely ignored a standby attorney the judge appointed to assist him.

Appeals also were before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has said mentally ill people cannot be executed if they don't have a factual and rational understanding of why they're being punished. The high court took no action once the lower court stopped the punishment.


Brown appoints legal affairs aide to appeals court
Press Release | 2014/07/29 13:44

Gov. Jerry Brown has named a senior aide to become an associate justice on the Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeal.

Brown announced the appointment of Jonathan Renner on Friday.

The 44-year-old Democrat from Sacramento has been Brown's legal affairs secretary since 2011.

He was senior assistant attorney general at the California Department of Justice from 2009 to 2010, when Brown was the state's attorney general. Renner previously held other high-ranking positions within the attorney general's office.

The appointment requires confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. It includes the current attorney general, Kamala Harris, and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye ("TAWNY canTILL SOCK-a-OO-ay").

If confirmed, Renner will begin his term Jan. 5. He would fill the vacancy created when Cantil-Sakauye moved to the California Supreme Court.


German court: chronically ill could grow marijuana
Press Release | 2014/07/22 13:27
Some Germans may soon be able to grow their own marijuana to relieve chronic pain after a ruling from a court in Cologne.

The Cologne administrative court ruled Tuesday in favor of three plaintiffs who had sued for the right to grow marijuana for therapeutic purposes, sending the cases back to the government agency responsible for approving medical marijuana products.

The court says the three demonstrated they could not combat their pain any other way and could not afford to purchase medical marijuana, which is permitted in Germany but not usually covered by the country's health insurance system.

The court also stipulated that allowing marijuana cultivation should depend upon a "thorough and individual" examination of each case, and rejected two other claims.


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