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Legal news from Friday, September 16, 2005

Corporations and securities brief ~ SEC approves Katrina filing extensions
James Murdock on September 16, 2005 9:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's corporations and securities law news, the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] has formally set out its plans to alleviate corporate financial strain caused by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. In a press release, the agency announced that it will extend various filing deadlines for corporations affected by the hurricane. The agency's order also exempts corporations and other filers from some requirements for the current financial quarter. Earlier this month the SEC announced [SEC press release] that it was in contact with accounting firms and corporations in the Gulf Coast region to determine how best to react to the disaster.

In other corporations and securities law news...

  • Following Thursday's announcement that Mississippi will sue insurance companies [JURIST report] to enforce insurance policies in the wake of hurricane Katrina, a private attorney in Mississippi announced that he will file a class-action lawsuit against the companies. Richard Scruggs [PBS profile], who has had success in asbestos and tobacco litigation, said he plans to sue several major insurance companies. Though most policies explicitly do not cover flood damage, Scruggs plans to argue that the damage from Katrina does not qualify as "mere flooding." Reuters has more.

  • Following Delta's Wednesday bankruptcy filing [JURIST report], Judge Prudence Carter Beatty of the Southern District of New York has approved the airline's bankruptcy financing plan. The judge approved offers of $1.7 billion from GE and $ 350 million from American Express to finance Delta's restructuring and planned emergence from chapter 11. Reuters has more.. Meanwhile, as noted earlier today in JURIST's Paper Chase, a federal bankruptcy judge in Virginia has approved [JURIST report] US Airway's emergence from bankruptcy and merger with America West.

  • Also as reported earlier in JURIST's Paper Chase, US District Judge Inge Johnson in Alabama has ordered mediation in the SEC's civil suit against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [JURIST coverage]. The SEC filed a $785 million complaint against Scrushy in March 2003 for his alleged role in HealthSouth's accounting scandal but waited to pursue the case until his criminal trial ended in acquittal in June [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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UN summit adopts modest reform package
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 8:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN General Assembly High-level Plenary Friday evening approved a watered-down [JURIST report] 35-page package of modest institutional reforms and global policy initiatives in the culminating moment of the biggest summit [official World Summit 2005 website; JURIST news archive] of heads of state and government in UN history. Progress was made in condemning terrorism in all its forms, accepting clear responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing, renewing the battle against poverty, hunger and disease, and establishing a new Peacebuilding Commission [UN SG backgrounder]. UN member states did not, however, reach any new agreements in the critical areas of nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and Security Council reform. Delegates supported the creation of a new Human Rights Council [UN SG backgrounder], but its details have still to be worked out by the General Assembly and it's as yet unclear whether it will be able to avoid the political problems that have compromised [JURIST report] the current Human Rights Commission. Addressing concerns over management failures and allegations of corruption at the UN, leaders urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan to create an internal ethics office and develop a new set of ethics guidelines, but did not give him the sweeping managerial authority he had sought. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson [Wikipedia profile] said earlier that Annan had asked him to lead a group of world leaders to keep momentum behind reform efforts going in the wake of the summit. Review the draft summit outcome document [PDF text, approved with corrections; UN summary, PDF] and read a background news release. AP has more.

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Hollinger reaches $20 million settlement in newspaper circulation suit
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 4:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Newspaper publishing giant Hollinger International Inc. [corporate website; Wikipedia backgrounder] announced Friday that it had reached a $20 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by advertisers over claims that it inflated circulation figures for the Chicago Sun-Times [media website]. Under the settlement reached after six months of negotiations, Hollinger will pay $7.7 million in cash and $5.6 million in legal fees and provide $7.3 million in free advertising. The settlement does not cover separate claims of certain advertisers. The parties still need to obtain court approval for the settlement, with a hearing scheduled for December. Hollinger has a news release on the settlement. AP has more.

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Judge orders mediation in SEC case against Scrushy
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 4:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A US district judge Friday ordered mediation in a civil suit brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] against former HealthSouth [corporate website] CEO Richard Scrushy [official website], raising the possibility of settlement in the $800 million suit [SEC news release]. US District Judge Inge Johnson said in a short order that mediation was appropriate since it had been used in separate suits against Scrushy by investors. Although details of the negotiations have not been worked out, Scrushy's spokesman said the order was a positive development. Scrushy was acquitted of criminal charges [JURIST report] earlier this summer over his involvement in the $2.7 billion fraud scandal that came to light in 2003. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...

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States brief ~ KY appeals court rules religious school must comply with health regulations
Rachel Felton on September 16, 2005 3:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, the Kentucky Court of Appeals [official website] ruled today that a one-room religious school must comply with health and plumbing regulations even if doing so would infringe on their sectarian beliefs. The school was closed by the Todd County Health Department after the department determined the school did not have a proper water system for drinking and hand-washing or an approved toilet system. Church members claimed that the sanitation rules infringed on their religious practices, but the court found the rules are neutral in regard to religion and that they do not place a special burden on the church. The case is Liberty Road Christian School v. Todd County Health Department. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • The Washington Supreme Court has ruled [opinion text] that a man who fathered his girlfriend's two children through in vitro fertilization must pay child support. The father, Michael J. Kepl, signed a paternity affidavit after the first child's birth, but argued that he was not the "natural" father anyway because of a state law requiring both the mother and sperm donor of an artificial insemination to agree in writing that the donor is the child's father. The Supreme Court found that in signing the paternity affidavit for the first child, Kepl acknowledged his parental responsibilities, and for the second child the statute at issue was not relevant because it applied to artificial insemination. A number of the issues were made moot by the 2002 passage of the Uniform Parentage Act [text]. The Seattle Times has local coverage.

  • The Washington Supreme Court has ruled [PDF text] that the state could be liable for "lapses of care" in its supervision of felons as the supervision of such offenders includes "a duty to prevent foreseeable injury." The ruling came in a case in which the jury awarded the family of a woman killed when her car was hit by a felon under the supervision of the Department of Corrections [official website] $22.4 million. While the Supreme Court tossed out the award for faulty jury instructions, the decision affirmed the DOC's responsibility to monitor offenders. In dissent, Justice Mary Fairhurst said it was "nonsensical" to hold the DOC responsible for the behavior of the offenders it supervises. Attorney General Rob McKenna criticized the decision [press release], saying "the state's taxpayers face virtually unlimited exposure for injuries caused by offenders on supervision." The Seattle Times has local coverage.

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Nepal arrests 87 journalists, others as pro-democracy protests continue
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 3:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Police in Nepal [JURIST news archive] Friday arrested 87 journalists protesting restrictions placed on the media since King Gyanendra [BBC profile] seized power [JURIST report] in February. Police also arrested 200 other protestors at a pro-democracy demonstration in Kathmandu attended by thousands. Protests have continued [JURIST report] throughout the country since King Gyanendra lifted a state of emergency but left heavy restrictions on the media and retained absolute power. Journalists gathered at a Kathmandu park Friday to protest the restrictions and a previous spate of arrests of journalists, six of whom reportedly remain in detention. The journalists taken into custody Friday were reportedly released [Kantipur Online report] hours after being detained. Gyanendra has maintained that the strict measures are necessary to battle a Maoist rebellion that has troubled the country since 1996 and to fight corruption. Kantipur Online has local coverage of events in Nepal. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...

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ICTY takes custody of long-sought war crimes suspect
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive] announced Friday that it had taken Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Sredoje Lukic [ICTY case backgrounder] into custody almost seven years after he was originally indicted. Lukic, a former policeman, is alleged to have been a member of "The White Eagles," a paramilitary group led by his cousin that has been accused of killing Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan conflict. Lukic reportedly fled to Russia in the late 1990s before surrendering [JURIST report] to Bosnian Serb authorities on Tuesday. Six war crimes suspects remain at large as the tribunal seeks to complete its work by 2010. The ICTY has a news release. Reuters has more.

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Annan calls for more transparent, inclusive constitutional process in Iraq
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] has called on Iraq to make its constitutional process [JURIST news archive] more transparent and inclusive. Such an approach would create a broader consensus leading up to the planned Oct. 15 referendum [JURIST report], Annan told the UN Security Council [official website] Thursday in his regular progress report on UN operations in Iraq. Annan also warned that Iraqi citizens' lives are increasingly threatened by terrorism, violent crime and military excess. More than 80 percent of the 1,100 bodies studied in July at the Baghdad Forensic Institute showed evidence of violent deaths, which was a major increase from previous months. Annan said the evidence suggested that Iraqi citizens' right to life was threatened as violence surged [BBC News report] in the country even more over the past week. The UN has a news release on Annan's report. Reuters has more.

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UN evacuates 11 Uzbek refugees to London
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN on Friday evacuated 11 Uzbek refugees to London after they fled to Kyrgyzstan [JURIST news archive] following deadly riots [JURIST report] that erupted in Andijan last spring. The 11 refugees were accused of terrorism by the Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] government, but the UN plans to relocate them to Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. Human rights groups have said that as many as 500 people were killed [JURIST report] in the riots that led to Uzbek security forces shooting into crowds of protesters. The Uzbek government has said that only 187 were killed in the violence and that many involved were criminals. Refugees fleeing to Kyrgyzstan following the riots created tension in the central Asian region, as Kyrgyzstan cooperated in UN efforts to evacuate the refugees and refused to hand over suspects that it held. The UN evacuated 439 refugees from Kyrgyzstan following the riots, enraging the Uzbek government. Four refugees remain held in Kyrgyzstan on suspicion that they are criminals, but the Kyrgyz government has pledged to the UN not to deport them [JURIST report] to Uzbekistan, which is suspected of torturing prisoners. Reuters has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...

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New Jersey Republicans allege election fraud, call for investigation
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The New Jersey Republican Party [official website] has called on NJ Attorney General Peter Harvey [official profile] to investigate widespread election irregularities it said it discovered in its own four-month probe. According to Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson, more than 6,500 voters cast ballots in New Jersey and another state and 4,755 votes were cast by deceased people during last year's elections. Wilson also alleged on Thursday that more than 50,000 voters were registered in multiple counties and several thousand of them voted in both counties last year. In a letter to Harvey, the party called for an investigation prior to this year's gubernatorial elections, particularly in light of voting irregularities seen in Florida, Ohio and Washington in recent elections [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

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Nepal army guilty of systematic torture, UN investigator says
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 12:46 PM ET

[JURIST] The Nepalese army has resorted to systematic torture to gain intelligence and confessions in its continuing fight against Maoist rebels in the country, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights [official website] said Friday. Special Rapporteur Manfred Nowak, who has been investigating claims of abuse for the past week in the country, said there also existed "shocking evidence" of torture by rebel forces as well. Nepal [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] has increasingly come under scrutiny by human rights advocates as violence between the government and rebels has increased over the past several years. Violence between the factions broke out in 1996 [Wikipedia backgrounder] as the Maoist rebels have sought to overthrow the government. The Royal Nepalese Army has denied the accusations in the report. Nowak is expected to present the results of his investigation to the full Commission in 2006. The Special Rapporteur has a news release on the investigation. AP has more.

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Federal judge approves US Airways emergence from Chapter 11
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 12:29 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday gave US Airways [corporate website] the green light to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy [SEC backgrounder], a little more than a year after the beleaguered airline sought protection. The approval clears the way for the airline to complete its merger [JURIST report] with America West [corporate website] by late this month or early October. The bankruptcy was US Airways' second since August 2002, as the country's seventh-largest airline has struggled to overcome rising fuel costs and the success of low-cost competitors like Southwest. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell gave clearance for the airline after approving the last major hang-up over $12 million in severance pay for former executives with the airline. US Airways must wait a week before formally emerging from bankruptcy, but even as it does, three other of the nation's largest air carriers remain under bankruptcy protection [JURIST report]. US Airways has a news release on the approval. AP has more.

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Environmental brief ~ States sue USDA over invasive beetle control
Tom Henry on September 16, 2005 12:12 PM ET

[JURIST] In Friday's environmental law news, four states have sued [press release] the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] for failing to impose effective controls against invasive wood-eating beetles. New York, California, Connecticut and Illinois filed a lawsuit [PDF complaint] which alleges that the USDA does not do enough to prevent the Asian long-horned beetle [profile], emerald ash borer [profile], and pine shoot beetle [profile] from entering the country. It is generally believed that the beetles enter the US on or within wooden shipping pallets. New regulations [text] for wood packaging material, which were finalized a year ago, take effect Friday [press release].

In other environmental law news...

  • China's Guangdong provincial government [official website] has announced that it will permanently shutdown all of its mines. The shutdowns began earlier this year as it closed 112 mines because they lacked the required production or work safety licenses. The government will soon close the remaining 141 mines, located in Meizhou, Qingyuan and Shaoguan, citing safety and environmental health concerns. The China Daily has more.

  • The Supreme Court of India [official website] will hear a case in which the government of India's state of Kerala is challenging the use of groundwater by the Coca-Cola India company [corporate website]. The High Court of Kerala [official website] had ruled that the company could extract 500,000 liters of water per day, under normal rainfall conditions. The state argues that the company's water usage deprives poor villages of water and violates the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of India's constitution. The company argues that the groundwater usage claims are without scientific basis [company backgrounder, case documents]. The New Kerala has more.

  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) [official website] seeks comments on a proposed rule [text] that would reintroduce a population of northern aplomado falcons (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) [profile] into their historic habitat in southern New Mexico and Arizona, under the authority of the Endangered Species Act [text]. If the rule is finalized, the FWS could release up to 150 captive-raised northern aplomado falcons annually for 10 or more years, until a self-sustaining population is established. Comments can be made here until November 15, 2005.

  • The US FWS also seeks comments [press release] regarding the regulations for humane and healthful transport of wild mammals and birds to the United States. The current regulations [text] are in accordance with the Live Animal Regulations (LAR) [factpage] published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) [official website] in 1993 (20th edition). Since the regulations are 12 years old, the FWS wants to update the federal regulations to comply with the current edition of the LAR, which has been adopted by the European Union, a number of other governments, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) [official website], of which the US is a member. Comments can be made here until December 15, 2005.

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US educational institutions celebrate first Constitution Day
Chris Buell on September 16, 2005 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Educational institutions across the United States took up the subject of the US Constitution [Library of Congress backgrounder and documents] for a day Friday, each with their own twist. The nationwide history lesson for students in schools and universities marks the first Constitution Day [official website; National Archives materials] held as required by an amendment added to a 2004 spending bill by Sen. Robert Byrd [official website], D-WV. The amendment requires that all educational institutions receiving federal aid offer students some form of instruction on the historic text every Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787. Because Sept. 17 falls on a weekend this year, institutions have the option to observe the day on the Friday before or Monday after. They also have discretion on how to observe the day, with the University of California simply posting a Constitution website, Michigan University holding a reading of the text and a speech by Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, and Columbia University offering an exhibit on John Jay and the Constitution. US Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer talked with high school students at the Supreme Court Friday about the Constitution; watch recorded video. AP has more.

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German court affirms dismissal of war crimes complaint against Rumsfeld
David Shucosky on September 16, 2005 11:34 AM ET

[JURIST] A German state court in Stuttgart ruled Thursday that a federal prosecutor is not required to bring war crimes charges against US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in connection with abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in 2003 and 2004. Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm [official profile in German] dismissed the complaint in February [JURIST report] on the grounds that law only allows such a prosecution if the US fails to act. Rumsfeld cancelled a planned trip to Germany [JURIST report] in January while the case was pending. The suit [PDF complaint] was originally brought by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] and four Iraqi citizens in November 2004 under the German court's doctrine of universal jurisdiction [JURIST report]. Deutsche Welle has more.

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Switzerland pushes for new Geneva-based human rights body
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 9:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Swiss President Samuel Schmid [official website; Wikipedia profile] joined other world leaders calling for UN reform [JURIST news archive] Thursday, saying in his address [PDF statement] to the UN's 2005 World Summit [official website] that the UN must prioritize the creation of a new Human Rights Council. Schmid called for the Council to be based in Geneva and said its purpose should be to make human rights as much of a priority as development, peace and security. The Council would replace the current Human Rights Commission [official website], which has suffered from declining credibility [JURIST report] that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said has "cast a shadow" over the whole UN. Swissinfo has more.

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Blair spars with rights groups over tougher UK anti-terror laws
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday defended his decision to toughen Britain's anti-terror laws a day after Home Secretary Chatles Clarke released the text of new draft legislation [JURIST report] providing for extended detention without trial and making the "glorification" of terrorism an offense. Blair told BBC Radio [Radio 4 recorded audio] that if people wanted to come and live in the UK from abroad, they had do so without inciting people to kill others, and he denied that the anti-terror laws were any abrogation of civil liberties, as "people have always accepted that with rights come responsibilities." Opposition politicians and civil rights groups have, however, savaged the latest proposals. Human Rights Watch said [HRW press release] Friday that they undermined the rule of law and would punish people who had never been tried or even charged with any offence. Liberty UK has meanwhile called the proposed legislation "frighteningly broad" and "as dangerous to our freedoms as to our safety." Read the Liberty press release. Reuters has more. BBC News has local coverage.

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Japan calls for changes to Security Council at UN reform summit
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura [official profile] and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official website] are continuing their bid for Japan [JURIST news archive] to become a member of the UN Security Council [official website] as part of ongoing discussion on UN reform [JURIST news archive]. Koizumi addressed [PDF statement] the UN's 2005 World Summit [official website] on Thursday and argued that Asia and Africa, no longer colonized, should be recognized as significant players in the global community. He also pushed for "long obsolete 'enemy state' clauses" to be removed from the UN charter. Japan's push to become part of the council comes shortly after the death of the G4 draft proposal [JURIST report] which tried to boost the Council's membership to 25 with Brazil, Germany, India and Japan as new members. The G4 proposal was opposed by China and US and failed to get enough support from other permanent member states, who have the right to veto any resolution. Other heads of state also used the UN summit as an opportunity to call for Security Council reform. Chinese President Hu Jintao [BBC profile] asserted that developing countries are underrepresesented [PDF statement] in the Security Council. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Wikipedia profile] said that the goal of the Council should be to expand membership [PDF statement] by reflecting the entire spectrum of the UNÂ?s membership. AFP has more.

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Gonzales says Justice Department will fight Pledge ruling
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 8:24 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official website; DOJ press release] said Thursday that the Department of Justice will fight to overturn Wednesday's federal court ruling [JURIST report] that the Pledge of Allegiance [JURIST news archive] with the words "under God" cannot be recited in public schools. Gonzales said that the Pledge is an expression of national identity and patriotism that does not violate the Constitution's ban on the endorsement of religion by states, and submitted that the US Supreme Court "has affirmed time and again that such official acknowledgments of our nation's religious heritage, foundation and character are constitutional." Last year, the high court dismissed an appeal [JURIST report] by atheist Michael Newdow contesting the constitutionality of the Pledge but did so on technical grounds without specifically addressing the constitutionality issue. AP has more.

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Roberts hearings end; vote expected soon
David Shucosky on September 16, 2005 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] concluded its four days of confirmation hearings for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts [JURIST news archive] late Thursday, with closing remarks [SCOTUSblog report] from committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and ranking Democrat Pat Leahy (D-VT). Following the conclusion of Roberts' own testimony [JURIST report] earlier in the day, the committee heard from a wide range of other witnesses [witness list and prepared testimony] on the nomination, including Stephen Tober, chairman of the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary. The American Bar Association had previously rated Roberts as "well qualified" [JURIST report], its top grade, upon his nomination as associate justice. Tober testified [prepared statement] that the ABA rated Roberts as "well qualified" for the position of Chief Justice, saying the ABA is "fully satisfied" that "Judge Roberts meets the highest standards required for service on the United States Supreme Court as its Chief Justice."

In other testimony Thursday, Peter Kirsanow [official profile], a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights [official website], defended Roberts from criticism on civil rights issues [JURIST report]. Kirsanow said [prepared statement] "Our examination reveals that Judge Roberts' approach to civil rights issues is consistent with generally accepted textual interpretation of the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions as well as governing precedent... Some aspects of Judge Roberts' record on civil rights have been mischaracterized and many of the criticisms are misplaced." Other witnesses took issue with the administration's refusals to turn over certain documents relating to Roberts' prior work experience and complained that Roberts was too vague on the abortion issue. Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center [official website], testified [prepared statement; supplemental report, PDF] that while "Roberts followed an unmistakable pattern of developing, advancing and embracing legal arguments and positions that would undermine women's most basic legal rights." During the hearings, Roberts refused to say [JURIST report] if he would reverse Roe v. Wade, following prior nominees' precedent of declining to prejudge cases, though he did call the ruling "settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis."

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on whether to recommend Roberts as Chief Justice next Thursday, with a vote by the full Senate planned for the week of September 26. Democrats seemed to remain undecided on how they will vote. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said he was "more confused" about the nomination, but stopped short of announcing a vote against Roberts. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said he doubted if Roberts "really recognizes in his heart and his soul the extraordinary march to progress in the last 50 years", referring to the civil rights questions surrounding his nomination, but also didn't formally announce a position. AP has more.

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Missouri governor signs bill limiting abortions; lawsuits filed
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 7:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Missouri Governor Matt Blunt [official website] signed legislation [SB 1 text] Thursday authorizing lawsuits against anyone who helps teenagers get abortions in violation of Missouri's parental consent law. The law is aimed partly at preventing teens from getting abortions in neighboring Illinois, which does not have a parental consent law. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri [advocacy website] has already filed a lawsuit [press release] challenging the new restrictions, saying the new law violates the First Amendment and individuals' rights to information and is bad public policy. Governor Blunt has called the legislation "a good pro-life piece of legislation that will reduce the number of abortions in our state" and said the state will be "cultivating a culture that values human life and the rights of the unborn." Also Thursday, the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website], filed suit [press release] on behalf of an abortion clinic, arguing that the clinic will be forced to close because it will not be authorized to perform abortions under the new law. AP has more. The St. Louis Post Dispatch has local coverage.

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Congress retaining UN Oil-for-Food documents for own investigations
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 7:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Robert Parton, a former investigator for the Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] into the now defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive], has reached a deal with the United Nations and the US Congress under which Congress will retain thousands of pages of UN documents for review in its own examination of the humanitarian program. Parton resigned from the independent committee earlier this year, accusing the committee of covering up evidence [JURIST report] thought to be critical of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive]. After his resignation, three Congressional committees filed subpoenas for Parton and the 16,000 pages of documents he took with him. The deal between the UN, Congress, and Parton announced Thursday requires Parton to give interviews to all three Congressional committees in exchange for Congress returning the materials to the UN when its inquiries are completed and the UN dropping charges against Parton that he violated a confidentiality agreement [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, the UN-backed IIC released its final report [text; JURIST report], concluding that several parties shared responsibility for the Oil-for-Food program's mismanagement - including the UN Secretariat, the UN Security Council, UN agencies, national governments and private companies and individuals. The US investigations will focus on the substantive allegations surrounding the program and the UN's ability to investigate itself, according to a spokesman for the House International Relations Committee [official website]. AP has more.

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More detainees join Guantanamo Bay hunger strike
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 7:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The latest Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] hunger strike has expanded to include 131 participants and is now at its largest point since the protest began a month ago, a military official said Thursday. According to the military, the latest strike began on August 8 with 76 detainees protesting poor conditions and abusive treatment at the detention facility. A total of twenty-one detainees are now hospitalized [JURIST report] with twenty being force fed via feeding tubes. The detainees are accused of having ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban regime and most have been held in the prison for three years without being formally charged. The Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website], a New York-based human rights group, has said that as many as 210 detainees are participating in the hunger strike [CCR report, PDF], which is motivated by the military's non-compliance with promises to bring the prison in line with standards [JURIST report] required by the Geneva Conventions [ICRC backgrounder] if prisoners agreed to end a first hunger strike that began in June. AP has more.

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Documents show US interrogators' techniques 'remembered from movies' in Iraq
Sara R. Parsowith on September 16, 2005 6:50 AM ET

[JURIST] US soldiers serving in Iraq relied on techniques they remembered from movies to interrogate prisoners, according to documents released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] as part of its ongoing Freedom of Information Act requests [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive] regarding treatment of US-held detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. The newly-released documents [ACLU materials; press release], reports made during the investigation of Army Inspector General Paul Mikolashek, show that some of the soldiers involved in detainee abuse in Iraq were "engaged in interrogations using techniques they literally remembered from the movies." The ACLU asserts that the reports show that there was no specific training on the treatment of detainees and ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said "[t]he Mikolashek report [PDF text] concluded that the prisoner abuses were not a result of systematic failures" and the documents therefore "flatly contradict that conclusion, and point to the failure to adequately train soldiers and a failure to require that abuse be reported." Jaffer said that all records released to the ACLU related to detainee abuse "show that the abuse was widespread and that the Mikolashek investigation, like the other military investigations, simply ignored the evidence." Reuters has more.

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Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law

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