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Legal news from Wednesday, February 22, 2012




Egypt judge sets Mubarak verdict date
Sarah Posner on February 22, 2012 3:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] An Egyptian judge on Wednesday scheduled the verdict date for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] for June 2, with Mubarak declining to address the court before the sentencing and verdict are set to take place. Mubarak could be put to death if convicted in what could be the first guilty verdict [AP report] by the leader's own country in Arab Spring uprisings. Mubarak, who spent almost 30 years in power, is accused of assisting in the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising that led to over 800 people being killed, mostly by security forces. The prosecution began presenting its case [JURIST report] against Mubarak last month. Mubarak faces charges of complicity by ordering the killings of at least 840 protesters [JURIST report] early last year during the Egyptian revolution [JURIST news archive] that led to Mubarak stepping down from office [JURIST report].

The chief prosecutor in the case against Mubarak in his closing remarks [JURIST report] on Monday again asked the presiding judge, Ahmed Refaat, to give the death penalty [JURIST report] to Mubarak, former interior minister Habib El Adly and four of his aides accused of ordering the killing of anti-government protesters [JURIST news archive] last year. Mustapha Suleiman, the head of the five-person prosecution team, said that Mubarak was responsible for the killings because he was president at the time and failed to use his power to protect the Egyptian people. Mubarak's trial started [JURIST report] in August 2011 and has been making slow progress. The trial resumed in December in the Egyptian court after a two-month adjournment [JURIST reports] allowing the court time to rule on a motion made by lawyers representing the victims' families to have the three-judge panel in the case removed.




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Supreme Court overrules Montana high court riverbed title decision
Maureen Cosgrove on February 22, 2012 3:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously [opinion, PDF] Thursday in PPL Montana v. Montana [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that the Montana Supreme Court erred in failing to use a well-settled approach to determine whether the water beds at issue could be considered navigable. PPL Montana (PPL) [corporate website], which owns a hydroelectric power dam on the Missouri River, brought the challenge after the state Supreme Court held [opinion, PDF] that the title to the riverbeds passed to Montana when it became a state in 1889 and that the riverbeds are public trust lands under Article X, Section 11 [text] of the Montana Constitution. The Supreme Court of Montana ordered PPL to pay $41 million in back rent and more in future rent for use of the riverbeds. Petitioner PPL argued that the Montana Supreme Court "deviat[ed] from well-settled principles of Federal navigability law" by failing to focus on specific river segments and considering modern instead of historical use of the river. The US Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners. Pursuant to the "equal footing" doctrine, a state gains title to the navigable water beds within its borders and may "allocate and govern those lands according to state law." The court held that, in failing to implement the "segment-by-segment" approach to determining navigability of riverbeds, the Montana Supreme Court reached a decision inconsistent with well-established law.

JURIST Guest Columnist Richard Ausness recently argued [JURIST op-ed] that the segmentation approach to navigability adopted by the Supreme Court in United States v. Utah, and ultimately applied in PPL Montana v. Montana, "strikes a better balance between the interests of riparian owners and that of the states than the "highway of commerce" approach advocated by the State of Montana."




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Rights commission urges Ecuador president to suspend sentencing in libel suit
Sarah Posner on February 22, 2012 2:21 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] urged Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] and his administration on Tuesday to postpone the sentencing of El Universo [official website, in Spanish] managers convicted of libel until after a hearing between the parties in March. The IACHR issued an injunction urging the Ecuador government to suspend sentencing [WSJ report] until arguments are made by both parties on March 28. El Universo is the second largest newspaper in Ecuador. Two of the four men, Cesar and Nicolas Perez, have already fled to Miami. The lawsuit has been heavily criticized by Correa's opposition.

Last week, Carlos Perez, one of four El Universo managers convicted of libel [JURIST report] against Correa, was granted asylum by Panama. The announcement that Carlos Perez had been granted asylum came shortly after Ecuador's highest court, the National Court of Justice, upheld the conviction against the four El Universo managers. The men were sentenced to three years in prison each and fined USD $40 million in total. Correa indicated that he was surprised that Panama granted the men asylum because, in his view, they were common criminals and not persecuted political activists. He also stated on Thursday that he was considering pardoning the men. The El Universo officials stated that they would bring an appeal to the IACHR to fight the verdict.




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Supreme Court remands case challenging California Medicaid law
Maureen Cosgrove on February 22, 2012 2:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 on Thursday in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that the parties to the suit could return to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to argue in the first instance whether Medicaid recipients and providers could maintain Supremacy Clause actions challenging a California state law that reduces reimbursement rates. The court initially heard arguments [JURIST report] on whether the Supremacy Clause preempts Medicaid recipients and providers from bringing a suit challenging the California statute. Medicaid providers—doctors, hospitals and pharmacies—were angered by a series of cutbacks by the California legislature reducing reimbursement payments in an attempt to handle the state's financial crisis. A month after the court heard oral arguments in the case, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) [official website], the federal agency in charge of administering Medicaid, approved the state statutes as consistent with the federal law. The court indicated that proceeding with a Supremacy Clause action could undermine the review processes delegated to federal administrative agencies under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) [text].

Chief Justice John Roberts authored a dissenting opinion, in which he was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia, saying the Supremacy Clause challenges should have been barred because "[n]othing in the Medicaid Act allows providers or beneficiaries (or anyone else, for that matter) to sue to enforce" the reimbursement provision. The responsibility for enforcing the provision, he concluded, is vested in the CMS. The case is consolidated with Douglas v. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Douglas v. California Pharmacists Association.




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EU to ask high court to evaluate anti-piracy agreement
Rebecca DiLeonardo on February 22, 2012 1:47 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] said Wednesday that they will seek guidance [press release] from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] before moving forward with the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [text, PDF], a controversial international anti-piracy agreement. Commissioner Karel De Gucht said she hoped the guidance of the ECJ would ease the concerns of European citizens who worry the agreement could lead to censorship. The decision to put ratification on hold comes after a number of European groups expressed opposition [AP report]. De Gucht is confident that the ruling of the ECJ will calm these fears:
In recent weeks, the ratification process of ACTA has triggered a Europe-wide debate on ACTA, the freedom of the internet and the importance of protecting Europe's Intellectual Property for our economies. ... [L]et me be clear: ACTA will change nothing about how we use the internet and social websites today—since it does not introduce any new rules. ACTA only helps to enforce what is already law today. ACTA will not censor websites or shut them down; ACTA will not hinder freedom of the internet or freedom of speech. Let's cut through this fog of uncertainty and put ACTA in the spotlight of our highest independent judicial authority: the European Court of Justice.
The European Commission unanimously passed the ACTA in December 2011. It must be ratified by the EU national governments to go into effect.

Recently, there has been a surge in government attention to copyright issues. Last month, the US House of Representatives [official website] announced it will postpone hearings [JURIST report] on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) [text, PDF] in the midst of national protest. Also last month, the Spanish government approved a new law [JURIST report] that creates a government agency with the authority to force Internet service providers to block certain websites that are involved in pirating copyrighted material. The ECJ ruled in November that ISPs cannot be required by law to monitor [JURIST report] their customers' activities as an attempt to combat illegal sharing of copyrighted material. In October, the US Supreme Court considered the issue of foreign copyrights in the case of Golan v. Holder when it considered arguments to determine the copyright status of foreign works [JURIST report] that used to be in the public domain. A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that a music file-sharing site could be held liable for contributory copyright infringement [JURIST report] in August.




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Rights group urges US to investigate Yemen ex-president Saleh
Max Slater on February 22, 2012 1:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to US officials Tuesday urging an investigation into the crackdown against protesters by forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive]. In a deal brokered by Middle Eastern leaders in November, Saleh agreed to give up power in exchange for receiving immunity from prosecution. Saleh has been in the US since January 29 receiving medical treatment, during which the US has given him diplomatic immunity. In a press release [text] on Tuesday, FIDH argued that because Saleh's forces have committed serious human rights violations, Saleh should not be shielded by immunity:
International law and conventions stipulate that immunity cannot be granted to perpetrators of grave human rights violations such as torture. As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and War Crimes Statute, and as a key member of the UN Security Council, the United States has an obligation to investigate the serious and credible allegations of torture and other widespread violations brought against Saleh.
The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] did not respond directly to FIDH's request to investigate Saleh but did issue a statement [text] on Tuesday praising the Yemeni people for electing a new president.

Saleh has been at the center of controversy over the past year. Two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] declared that the US and Arab states are not bound [JURIST report] by a decision to grant Saleh immunity. In January, Yemeni officials amended a law [JURIST report] that would have granted full immunity to Saleh and his aides to limit his aides' immunity to politically motivated crimes. In April, Saleh agreed to step down from power [JURIST report] and give control of Yemen's government to his deputies. Last March, the Yemeni parliament, at Saleh's request, enacted emergency laws [JURIST report] designed to end anti-government protests. Earlier in March, Saleh attempted to placate protesters by promising to create a new constitution [JURIST report] guaranteeing parliamentary and judicial freedoms.




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Journalist rights group concerned about press freedom
Rebecca DiLeonardo on February 22, 2012 12:53 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] has released its annual Attacks on the Press report [text], expressing concern about increased censorship of journalists worldwide in 2011. The CPJ criticized the growing trend of government censorship, especially Internet censorship. It indicated that imprisonment of journalists has gone up 20 percent worldwide in the last year, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Among the imprisoned, most face anti-state or censorship charges. The group called for a global movement to end censorship, which it argues threatens the safety of individuals within a country, and strengthens authoritarian governments and criminal enterprises.

Last May, journalism rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] its annual list of predators of press freedom [materials; press release], which included the heads of state of several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In April 2011, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials]. The reports cited many of the same leaders and organizations [JURIST report] as the RSF for violating freedom of the press. RSF's 2010 report [JURIST report] also listed many of the same offenders.




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New Jersey court reverses partial dismissal of same-sex marriage suit
Dan Taglioli on February 22, 2012 12:20 PM ET

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[JURIST] The New Jersey Superior Court [official website] on Tuesday reinstated one count [opinion, PDF] of a marriage equality lawsuit [complaint text, PDF; case materials] against the state's civil union system, reversing the court's own decision to dismiss the count on a motion by the state Attorney General [official website]. Judge Linda Feinberg in November had allowed the case to continue on the premise that civil unions were unconstitutional under state law [state constitution, text], but dismissed three counts [JURIST report] that claimed violations of federal guarantees of due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Feinberg reversed her dismissal of one count [AP report] after the plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration:
Defendants challenge the premise that alleged unequal treatment of same-sex couples, under the Civil Union Act, constitutes state action under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause ... Plaintiffs allege the Civil Union Act and its enforcement by certain state officials, who are named defendants, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. At this juncture, the court is satisfied there is sufficient state action to permit the claim under the Federal Equal Protection Clause to proceed.
The lawsuit was filed by seven same-sex couples and several of their children, and is expected to ultimately decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The court's ruling came four days after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] conditionally vetoed [JURIST report] a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act [bill, PDF] was passed by the New Jersey State Assembly [official website] by a vote of 42-33, and was subsequently approved by the State Senate [JURIST report] 24-16. Approval of the legislation marks a shift from the legislature's previous position concerning same-sex marriage, as a similar bill was defeated [JURIST report] in the state Senate last year. Last week the State of Washington became the eighth US jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage, which is also legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports]. Civil unions or domestic partnerships are currently legal in Maine, Illinois, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Wisconsin, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and await ratification in Rhode Island [JURIST reports].




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West Africa stability threatened by organized crime, drug trafficking: UN
Jennie Ryan on February 22, 2012 12:07 PM ET

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[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called Tuesday for an increase in efforts to curb transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy in West Africa. In an address [UN News Centre report] to the UN Security Council [official website], the Secretary-General said he was "particularly concerned about reports stating that terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, have formed alliances with drug traffickers." Additionally, the Secretary-General expressed concern that instability in Libya, a growing food crisis, and other conflicts throughout the region could worsen the situation. According to the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website], "multi-dimensional and strategic approach that works at the local, national and regional levels" is necessary to combat these forces [press release] and preserve stability in the region.

The UN has been involved in efforts to stabilize the West African region following the recent unrest in Libya and the Middle East. Earlier this month, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) [official website] welcomed the new electoral law [JURIST report] adopted by the National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive]. The draft of the electoral law sets out procedures for the upcoming election to choose a national assembly. This finalization and adoption of the new electoral law is a significant step for Libya in establishing a democratic system after the end of the Muammar Gaddafi [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] regime and the Libyan conflict [JURIST backgrounder]. Last month, Libya was criticized for the allegations of torture and human rights violations [JURIST report]. Although the NTC expressed its commitment to human rights and legal reformation, UN Security Council was still concerned due to the lack of NTC's control over the revolutionary brigades.




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Egypt court rules parliamentary election process unconstitutional
Dan Taglioli on February 22, 2012 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] The High Administrative Court of Egypt [JURIST news archive] ruled Monday that the voting system used in the recent parliamentary election was unconstitutional. The election was held over three stages from late November to January, and its the elaborate voting system apportioned parliamentary seats between political parties and individuals, with two thirds of the seats going to political parties. Judge Magdy el-Agaty determined the ratio to be in violation of the constitution [Reuters report], that half of the seats should have been held for individuals. Additionally, Agaty stated that political parties should not have been permitted to field candidates for the seats reserved for individuals. During the elections the political parties reportedly haggled over how many candidates they would field for those seats. It is not clear whether the ruling will lead courts to invalidate the results of the elections, widely viewed as Egypt's freest vote in decades. Agaty has referred parts of the country's election law to the Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] for a final judgment.

Egypt has been ruled by the military since the overthrow [JURIST report] of former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] last February. The new parliament is supposed to name a 100-member council to draw up a constitution, paving the way for presidential elections, but the court's ruling could mire that process and other parliament functions. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the newly elected parliament to pursue an agenda to reform nine areas of Egyptian law [JURIST report] that impede freedom and restrict rights. Meanwhile the prosecution in the case against Mubarak is seeking the death penalty for the former president, whose trial resumed in December in an Egyptian court after a two-month adjournment [JURIST reports] allowing the court time to rule on a motion made by lawyers representing the victims' families to have the three-judge panel in the case removed. The defense is scheduled to give closing remarks this week, after which the judge will set the date [JURIST report] to announce his verdict.




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Maldives president orders probe into violence accompanying rise to power
Jennie Ryan on February 22, 2012 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] Maldives President Mohammed Waheed Hassan [official profile] appointed a commission on Wednesday to investigate the violence that accompanied his rise to power. Hassan assumed power of Maldives when former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned [JURIST report] on February 7 following weeks of protests. Nasheed claims he was forced from office in a coup. Supporters of Nasheed took to the streets after his ouster and burned down government buildings in violent demonstrations. The three-member commission was appointed [AP report] by Hassan following criticism from international organizations including the UN. The UN Development Program [official website] called for an investigation [press release] into the violence after a visit to the country by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco early this month.

The Maldives has faced ongoing unrest since January when the military arrested the chief justice [JURIST report] of the nation's criminal court, Judge Abdulla Mohamed, after he released a detained opposition leader. Last month, the UN called for Mohamed's release [JURIST report] days after the Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs [official website] asked the UN to help them resolve [JURIST report] what they called a judicial system failure. The same week, a group of Maldives lawyers submitted [JURIST report] the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], calling Mohamed's continued detention a violation of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance [text]. In the country's first democratic elections in 2008, Nasheed defeated longtime political opponent Maumoon Abdul Gayoon [BBC profile], ending his 30-year rule. During street protests, some worried that the violence may have been a coup attempt by Gayoon, but the government has denied such claims [Reuters report].




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Proposition 8 supporters ask for new hearing before entire Ninth Circuit
Katherine Getty on February 22, 2012 10:43 AM ET

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[JURIST] Proponents of Proposition 8 [text; JURIST news archive], California's same-sex marriage ban, on Tuesday requested a new hearing [petition, PDF] before the full US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. The request comes after a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the law [JURIST report], finding that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell II backgrounder]. The Protect Marriage Coalition [advocacy website] has alleged [news release] that the decision was at odds with other jurisdictions throughout the country. Asking for the reconsideration blocks the decision from taking effect immediately. The coalition believes that the ruling violates the United States Constitution:
The panel majority's ruling that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also contravenes binding Supreme Court precedent holding that the traditional definition of marriage does not violate that Amendment. In Baker v. Nelson, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed, "for want of substantial federal question," an appeal presenting the same question decided by the panel: whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.
The appeal will only be accepted if a majority of the 25 judges who sit on the Ninth Circuit agree to review the decision. The next step would be an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Some legal analysts say it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would take the case because the majority opinion focused mainly on California law, not the national standard.

The Ninth Circuit struck down Proposition 8 earlier this month, ruling that the voter-approved [JURIST report] constitutional amendment violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The Ninth Circuit initially heard arguments on Proposition 8's constitutionality in December 2010, but then asked the California Supreme Court [JURIST reports] to rule on whether defendants had standing to appeal. The high court ruled in November that they did have standing [JURIST report].




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Federal judge delays Utah immigration ruling until Supreme Court rules on Arizona law
Katherine Getty on February 22, 2012 10:15 AM ET

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[JURIST] Judge Clark Waddoups of the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] said Tuesday that he would delay his ruling [order, PDF] on Utah's immigration law [HB 497, PDF] until the US Supreme Court rules on the similar Arizona Immigration Law. Waddoups believes that it is in the best interest of the state and the court to wait until the Supreme Court offers more guidance [Salt Lake Tribune report] on the issue. The immigration bill was originally signed into law [JURIST report] by Governor Gary Herbert [official website] last March. The law has been likened to an Arizona Immigration law [SB 1070 materials, JURIST news archive], which requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor. Waddoups stated that while there were differences between the Arizona and the Utah laws, there are enough similarities to warrant waiting for that ruling to come down:
Although Arizona's law is different from Utah's law in several respects, some aspects are sufficiently similar that the Supreme Court's ruling likely will inform this court in its decision. Because this case addresses significant constitutional issues, the court does not believe it would be helpful to the parties for the court to rule on the present motions before it receives the additional guidance from the Supreme Court. It therefore will reserve ruling until the Supreme Court has issued its decision.
The Supreme Court's decision on the Arizona law is expected later this spring.

Waddoups temporarily blocked the Utah law in May, less than 24 hours after it took effect, following a challenge [JURIST reports] by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy websites] and other plaintiffs. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has also filed suit [complaint, PDF; press release] alleging that clauses in the law are preempted by the federal government's jurisdiction over immigration. The DOJ has filed similar suits challenging immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina [JURIST reports]. Federal judges have enjoined portions of each of those laws, and an appeal of the Arizona law is currently pending before the Supreme Court [JURIST report]. The DOJ is reviewing similar immigration legislation passed recently in Indiana and Georgia [JURIST reports].




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DC Circuit affirms dismissal of Guantanamo detainee wrongful death suit
Jerry Votava on February 22, 2012 9:42 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Tuesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of wrongful death claims by the families of two former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detainees, Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen, who committed suicide while in detention in 2006. The families filed a civil lawsuit against the US and 24 government officials, including former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive], claiming they were responsible for arbitrary detention, torture and the death of Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami. Ruling on an appeal [JURIST report] brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website], the court held that they lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to the jurisdictional bar created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF]. The court held:
that [MCA] deprives this court of jurisdiction over appellants' claims. We further hold that the Supreme Court did not declare [MCA] unconstitutional in Boumediene and the provision retains vitality to bar those claims. We therefore conclude that the decision of the District Court dismissing the claims should be affirmed, although for a lack of jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) rather than for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).
Al-Zahrani was said to have hung himself [JURIST report] with his bed sheets and clothing.

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia District [official website] granted the motion for dismissal in Feburary 2010 and later denied a motion for reconsideration [JURIST reports] filed after new evidence of eye witness accounts from soldiers suggested the men died while being tortured. The judge denied the reconsideration despite the new evidence saying it does not change the reasoning for dismissal that the "special needs of foreign affairs must stay" the court's action. The claim was originally brought [JURIST report] under the Alien Tort Claims Act [text], which provides that district courts have original jurisdiction to hear claims for torts "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The defendants moved to dismiss the suit based on § 7 of the MCA, which removes the ability of federal courts to hear challenges to the treatment of aliens who have been "properly detained" as enemy combatants. In 2008, officials from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] said notes found in the clothes of two detainees indicated that they were seeking martyrdom. Military investigations of the suicides began [JURIST report] immediately after the men were found in their cells, and the military quickly rejected calls for independent civilian investigations. The military similarly rejected requests by the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia [JURIST reports] to reform the investigation process.




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Maryland Senate committee approves same-sex marriage bill
Jerry Votava on February 22, 2012 8:38 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Maryland State Senate [official website] Judicial Proceedings Committee [official website] approved a bill [SB241 text] on Tuesday that would permit the legal marriage of same-sex couples within the state. This bill is a cross-filing of HB438 which was approved [JURIST report] by the Maryland House of Delegates [official website] last week. The bill is expected to move to debate by the full Senate [WP report] after the Committee approved the measure with a vote of 7-4. A similar bill was proposed last year in Maryland but failed to pass the House [JURIST report] after it was approved by the Senate. If approved by all parties, Maryland would become the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriage. Governor Martin O'Malley [official website] has promised to sign the bill [WP report] once it passes the Senate.

Maryland joins a number of other states working to pass legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Earlier this week, Washington state legalized same-sex marriage [JURIST report] after Governor Christine Gregoire signed the legislation. New Jersey is also considering legalizing same-sex marriage soon, although it currently has a civil union system in place. Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a same-sex marriage bill [JURIST report] last week and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature. In November, a lawsuit [JURIST report] was allowed to continue in New Jersey, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the state civil union law as a contravention of both the Fourteenth Amendment and the New Jersey State Constitution. Same-sex marriage has also been legalized in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports].




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Israel to release Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike
Brandon Gatto on February 22, 2012 7:07 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Palestinian held without trial ended his 66-day hunger strike on Tuesday after Israeli authorities announced his release as part of a deal that avoids judicial review of the Israeli detention policy. The prisoner, Khader Adnan, is a 33-year-old member of the militant group Islamic Jihad who had been refusing food since his arrest in the West Bank in mid-December. He broke his hunger protest when he was promised to be released [Reuters report] in April if no new evidence is brought against him. A spokeswoman for the Israel Ministry of Justice [official website] confirmed that an agreement was reached and that Adnan will be released April 17. The deal came at a time shortly after Adnan had begun intravenous feeding and was believed to be in deteriorating health. This issue in particular has drawn concern from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which called the April release "insufficient" [press release] and urged Israeli authorities to release him immediately to allow proper medical treatment. Adnan's protest is the longest hunger strike by a Palestinian detainee in history.

On Monday the Israel Supreme Court [official website] announced that it would hear Adnan's hunger strike case [JURIST report] despite a military judge rejecting his appeal in early February. The strike began and continued as a protest of Israel's policy of detaining Palestinian prisoners without bringing formal charges or presenting evidence and without a trial. These policies have long been criticized by human rights groups, including AI, which just last week called for the end of administrative detention in Israel [press release]. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] similarly urged [JURIST report] Israel to amend its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank.




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