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Legal news from Monday, December 12, 2011




Philippines chief justice impeached
Matthew Pomy on December 12, 2011 2:59 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Philippine Congress voted Monday to impeach [press release] Chief Justice Renato Corona [official profile] for violating the constitution and the public trust in connection with the trial of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who originally appointed Corona to the Supreme Court. The impeachment proceedings required at least 95 signatures to move forward and, in the end, 188 of the 284 members of congress voted to impeach Corona. There are eight charges [text] brought against Corona, including failure to disclose his personal finances and several allegations of partiality. The most high profile of the allegations includes a charge of partiality when it comes to the trial of Arroyo. It is alleged Corona granted temporary restraining order on the travel restriction of Arroyo without legal grounds in order to give her a chance to escape. The charges will now be brought to trial. If found guilty, Corona will likely be forced out of office.

Former president Arroyo has been a target of anti-corruption efforts by President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile]. Arroyo was recently arrested [JURIST report] in the hospital before she was able to leave the country to seek medical treatment. Corona presided over the court that voted to allow Arroyo to travel [JURIST report] to receive medical care, temporarily restraining the restrictions on Arroyo's travel in connection with several pending charges against her. Arroyo was president of the Philippines from 2001-2010. She left office after the Philippine Department of Justice (PDOJ) [official website] brought allegations of corruption against her. Arroyo was elected to the House of Representatives last year after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled her eligible to run [JURIST report], despite protests that she had an unfair advantage. In July 2010, Aquino signed an executive order [JURIST report] to set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations.




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Russia president orders probe into election fraud allegations
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 12, 2011 12:00 PM ET

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[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] has ordered an investigation into allegations of fraud in the recent parliamentary elections. Medvedev posted a message to his Facebook page [website, in Russian] Sunday following massive protests [RIA Novosti] across Russia on Saturday. Medvedev said:
Under the Constitution, Russian citizens enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. People have a right to express their position, and they did that yesterday. Fortunately, everything proceeded within the bounds of the law. I do not agree with any slogans or statements made at the rallies. Nevertheless, I have given instructions to check all the complaints from the polling stations for compliance with the electoral legislation.
Protests are also planned for the next two weekends [Bloomberg report].

Despite the alleged voting fraud, the ruling United Russia [party website, in Russian] party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] lost 77 seats in the State Duma [official website, in Russian], Russia's parliament, barely maintaining its majority. Last week, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] issued preliminary findings [JURIST report] that the Russian election was "characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation." The US State Department [official website] and other world leaders have also called for an investigation into the allegations of election fraud and expressed concern over "harassment" of election monitoring groups.




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Supreme Court strikes down deportation discretionary waiver policy
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 12, 2011 11:09 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday in Judulang v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [official website] policy for deciding when resident aliens may apply to the Attorney General for relief from deportation under a now-repealed provision of the immigration laws is arbitrary and capricious. Joel Judulang, the son of immigrants from the Philippines, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 1989 and later claimed that he could seek a discretionary waiver of deportation under 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) [text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that Judulang's aggravated felony crime of violence was not a ground for exclusion under the statute. In an unanimous opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the court concluded:
We must reverse an agency policy when we cannot discern a reason for it. That is the trouble in this case. The BIA's comparable-grounds rule is unmoored from the purposes and concerns of the immigration laws. It allows an irrelevant comparison between statutory provisions to govern a matter of the utmost importance—whether lawful resident aliens with longstanding ties to this country may stay here. And contrary to the Government's protestations, it is not supported by text or practice or cost considerations. The BIA's approach therefore cannot pass muster under ordinary principles of administrative law.
The court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Also Monday, the court issued a per curiam opinion [text, PDF] in Hardy v. Cross [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) [Cornell LII backgrounder] "imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." The court found that the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit departed from this standard when it reversed a district court's denial of Irving Cross' habeas corpus petition.




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UN climate change conference yields commitment to negotiate legally-binding initiatives
Brandon Gatto on December 12, 2011 10:35 AM ET

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[JURIST] Delegates from 194 countries at the Durban UN Climate Change Conference [official website] in South Africa agreed on Sunday to negotiate global initiatives that would eventually force countries to take legally-binding action in order to slow the pace of climate change. After two weeks of debate, the delegates agreed on four major proposals. First, the countries decided to extend the Kyoto Protocol [text, PDF; UN backgrounder], whose first phase of emissions cuts runs from 2008 to the end of 2012. Under Sunday's proposal, the second commitment to Kyoto will extend from the beginning of 2012 until the end of 2017. Second, in light of a failure to create a new, internationally-binding treaty at a climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the delegates agreed to form a process known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action [proposal text, PDF] which entails negotiations to form a legally-binding climate change agreement by 2015 to be enacted by 2020. Third, although poor nations have consistently needed help to finance the adaptations to climate change, the debt crisis has forced developed nations to also limit their contributions to the initiative. The delegates broke ground in agreeing to design a Green Climate Fund [proposal text, PDF] to pool up to $100 billion a year by 2020 for poor countries, but they did not establish how they would reach this number, nor who would contribute to it. Finally, the delegates agreed that implementing a new internationally-binding instrument would raise ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As such, they decided to launch a work plan to close the "ambition gap" between countries' current emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. Other proposals that were raised but not agreed upon include mechanisms for national adaptation plans [proposal text] and an extension of emissions cut pledges made in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancun in 2010.

The negotiations at Durban came shortly after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC [official website], a UN-led scientific panel, released [JURIST report] its summary for policymakers [text, PDF] regarding risk management for disasters related to climate change. In July, the UN Security Council [official website] made its first official statement [JURIST report] implicating climate change as a serious threat to world peace and security. At the urging of Germany, which released a Concept Note [text] to lead the discussion, the Security Council debated global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive] for the first time since 2007. Though Germany took the initiative, its attempt was reportedly not as strong as some of the nations wanted [BBC report], including Russia's push for "possible security implications," and other countries' urging to create a "green helmets" peacekeeping force [Guardian report] that would intervene in conflicts where environmental resources became scarce. UN delegates have met several times to discuss an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. Notably, the delegates met in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 to negotiate the Protocol's replacement following its expiration. There, members agreed to the Copenhagen Accord [text, PDF] which was not legally-binding nor a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, but nonetheless endorsed its continuation.




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Supreme Court to hear Arizona immigration law challenge
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 12, 2011 10:04 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari order list, PDF] Monday in Arizona v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] is preempted by federal law. SB 1070 criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction in April before the law ever took effect, and Arizona asked the high court to weigh in [JURIST reports]. Last month, the US Department of Justice [official website] urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal [JURIST report].

Also Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to rule in RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether a debtor may pursue a chapter 11 [text] plan that proposes to sell assets free of liens without allowing the secured creditor to credit bid, but instead providing it with the indubitable equivalent of its claim under § 1129(b)(2)(A)(iii) [text] of the Bankruptcy Code. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] a bankruptcy court's ruling that denied debtors' bid procedures motions.

Finally, the court consolidated the cases of Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Salazar v. Patchak [docket; cert. petition, PDF], which deal with US sovereign immunity in suits involving "trust or restricted Indian lands." David Patchak filed suit to prevent the Secretary of the Interior from holding land in trust for a Michigan Indian tribe. The district court dismissed his suit for lack of standing. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that he had standing but found that the US was immune from suit.




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Noriega extradited to Panama
Jaclyn Belczyk on December 12, 2011 8:38 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] was extradited from France to Panama Sunday to face charges of human rights violations for crimes allegedly committed during his 1981-1989 rule. He was already convicted on three counts of human rights violations in absentia, and each count carries a 20-year prison sentence. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] and Panamanian authorities have been seeking Noriega's extradition [JURIST report] to face charges of human rights violations in Panama since April 2010. French authorities ordered his extradition earlier this year, and it was given final approval [JURIST reports] by a French appeals court last month. Noriega was immediately taken to El Renacer prison upon his arrival in Panama.

A French criminal court sentenced Noriega [JURIST report] to seven years in jail for money laundering in July 2010. He was convicted of laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. In April 2010, Noriega was extradited to France from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges, after fighting extradition [JURIST reports] since 2007. The US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February 2010 after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case a month earlier. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, sought to enforce a provision of the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder] that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.




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