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High court limits seizure of assets from drug conspiracies
Attorney News | 2017/06/05 23:32
The Supreme Court is limiting the government's ability to seize assets from people who are convicted of drug crimes but receive little of the illegal proceeds.

The justices ruled Monday that a Tennessee man convicted for his role selling iodine water purification filters to methamphetamine makers does not have to forfeit nearly $70,000 in profits.

Terry Honeycutt helped sell more than 20,000 filters at his brother's hardware store. Prosecutors said the brothers knew the iodine was used by local meth cooks.

Honeycutt's brother pleaded guilty and forfeited $200,000 of the $270,000 in profits. But Honeycutt argued he wasn't responsible for the rest since he didn't personally see any profits.

A federal appeals court ruled against Honeycutt, saying everyone who joins a drug conspiracy can be required to give up profits.



Court filing questions innocence panel insistence on secrecy
Lawyer Blog Post | 2017/06/04 23:33
As a man convicted of murder tries to prove to the North Carolina's innocence commission that he didn't commit the crime, his attorney says the commission has misled a judge in order to keep its files secret, causing delays in the case.

Attorney Chris Mumma represents Robert Bragg, who's serving a sentence of life without parole for a 1994 slaying. Bragg contends he's innocent. Last September his case came before the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency established to investigate and evaluate post-conviction innocence claims. The commission referred it to a three-judge panel, which is scheduled to hold a hearing in July — 10 months after the original commission hearing and two months after the original May hearing date.

The delay came, in part, as Bragg's attorney fought a protective order that the commission said was necessary to shield a confidential investigative file. The commission said evidence in the file was obtained through methods that require it to be kept under a stricter level of judicial protection than other criminal investigative files.

But in a court filing, Mumma says the commission misrepresented the file's contents. In fact, only one protective order was found in the documents, and defense attorneys already had received that file, Mumma said in the court filing last month in Bragg's case.

While Mumma now has the full commission file and can use it in this appeal, the protective order means she can't use it again in the future without seeking a judge's permission.


Philippine lawmakers ask top court to nullify martial law
Court News | 2017/06/03 23:32
Philippine opposition lawmakers petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to review and nullify President Rodrigo Duterte's imposition of martial law in the southern third of the country.

The petition filed by six House lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel Lagman said there was no revolution or invasion where public safety required the declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. It said the proclamation contained "fatal inaccuracies and falsities."

The petitioners said congressional leaders and the majority of lawmakers allied with Duterte were derelict in their constitutional duty by refusing to convene a joint session of Congress to vote whether to revoke the martial law proclamation.

Duterte made the declaration May 23 after extremists allied with the Islamic State group laid siege to Marawi city. The declaration lasts through mid-July but could be extended with the consent of Congress.

The martial law proclamation said the militants openly attempted to remove that part of the country from its allegiance to the Philippine government by taking over a hospital, establishing several checkpoints in the city, burning down certain government and private facilities, and flying the flag of the Islamic State group in several areas.

But the petitioners said the military acknowledged the conflict in Marawi was precipitated by an attempt by troops to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a high-profile militant commander. They also said the claim that militants took over a hospital and Duterte's claim that a local police chief was decapitated both turned out to be wrong.


Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch: Rule of law 'a blessing'
Court News | 2017/06/02 23:33
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged Friday that there is "a lot of skepticism about the rule of law" in the country but defended the United States judicial system as "a blessing" and "a remarkable gift" during a talk at Harvard University.

The court's newest justice marveled that in America "nine old people in polyester black robes" and other judges can safely decide cases according to their conscience and that the government can lose cases without resorting to the use of armed force to impose its will.

"That is a heritage that is very, very special," he said. "It's a remarkable gift. Travel elsewhere. See how judges live. See whether they feel free to express themselves."

Gorsuch, made the comments during his first public appearance since joining the high court in a conversation with fellow Justice Stephen Breyer at Harvard University.

Gorsuch said that particularly in tumultuous times it's important to convince the next generation "that the project (of justice) is worth it because many of them have grave doubts."

"I think there is a lot of skepticism about the rule of law, but I see it day in and day out in the trenches — the adversarial process of lawyers coming to court and shaking hands before and after, the judges shaking hands as we do, before we ascend to the bench," he said. "That's how we resolve our differences in this society."

Gorsuch, who was nominated to the high court earlier this year by Republican President Donald Trump, said he believes there is still confidence in the judicial system. He said that 95 percent of all cases are decided in the trial court, while only 5 percent are appealed, and the Supreme Court hears about 80 cases in a good year.



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