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Legal news from Monday, March 21, 2005




France ending 35-hour work week
Russell Adkins on March 21, 2005 9:47 PM ET

[JURIST] French lawmakers are expected on Tuesday to strike the final blow to the nation's maligned 35-hour work week [JURIST report], ending the national experiment lauded by workers but criticized as a drain on the country's economy. With national unemployment at 10 percent [Wikipedia entry], lawmakers say that the legislation, which was originally intended to force mass hiring, has failed in its goals and may have actually hurt living standards by leading to a wage freeze as a result of lost labor. A bill restoring a 39-hour work week is expected to be approved, even garnering support from labor interests and factory workers despite massive protests and outcry from now-deposed Socialist politicians who ushered in the shorter labor period. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Federal judge puts Schiavo tube re-insertion on hold
Bernard Hibbitts on March 21, 2005 5:01 PM ET

[JURIST] CBS-10 TV in Tampa is reporting that US District Judge James Whittemore has ended this afternoon's hearing on Terri Schiavo's parents' petition for the re-insertion of her feeding tube pending a federal hearing of her case without making a ruling or even setting a timeframe for a ruling. Attorneys appearing before Judge Whittemore made impassioned arguments both about the likelihood of the Schindlers' success on the merits in any federal case involving Schiavo and the constitutionality of legislation passed early this morning in Congress and signed by the President which purported to give the federal courts jurisdiction to review the matter.

5:17 PM - Michael Schiavo attorney George Felos told reporters outside the courtroom that he was very pleased with the arguments, that the judge was taking the arguments presented to him very carefully, and that he would rule in the very near future. He said Judge Whittemore had been given materials to consider and he praised the constitutional system for allowing judges to consider the law immune from public pressure. He indicated he was hopeful that judge would recognize there was no possiblitity that the Schindlers could prevail, and claimed it was obvious from the judge's questioning that there was no federal right for the parents to invoke.

A lawyer for the Schindlers said that they expected the judge to take some time to review materials and that he was sensitive to the time limitations involved.

7:15 PM - Bloomberg has a fully-updated story here.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ Ex-HealthSouth CFO says Scrushy made all decisions
Bernard Hibbitts on March 21, 2005 4:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's corporations and securities law news, former HealthSouth Corp. [corporate website] chief financial officer Weston Smith has testified that former CEO Richard Scrushy [official website] made all decisions at the company. The testimony undermines Scrushy's defense that he was unaware of the massive accounting fraud at the company. Read the Scrushy indictment [PDF]. Reuters has more.

In other news...

  • As previously reported on JURIST's Paper Chase, Time Warner Inc. [corporate website], the world's largest media company, and the SEC [official website] have agreed on a settlement related to fraud charges for overstating online advertising revenues and the number of its Internet subscribers. Time Warner will pay a fine of $300 million and will restate its financial results to reduce its revenues by $500 million from 2000 through 2002. Time Warner did not admit or deny any wrongdoing but will appoint an independent examiner to review the company's accounting practices. Read the Time Warner press release. Read the SEC press release, litigation release, and complaint [PDF]. AP has more.

  • Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActive [corporate website] announced it will buy Internet search provider Ask Jeeves [corporate website] for $1.85 billion. The move is seen as the beginning of further consolidation in the internet search provider area. Read the IAC/InterActive press release. CNN has more.

  • The United States has threatened the EU with a new lawsuit over European aid for plane maker Airbus [corporate website] as the EU said it would not budge from its position without further concession by the US on its support for Boeing [corporate website]. The negotiations come after the US and EU launched competing litigation at the WTO [official website] over subsidies in the aviation industry. The negotiations broke down last week as the US accused the EU of backsliding on its commitment to stop state aid to aircraft manufacturers. Reuters has more.

  • Rambus Inc. [corporate website], a US technology licensing company, has settled its patent case against Germany's Infineon Technologies [corporate website]. Infineon will pay Rambus royalties to settle all outstanding issues. Read the Rambus press release. Read the Infineon press release. Also Monday, Hynix Semiconductor [corporate website] of South Korea announced it has set aside money which would be used to settle a related antitrust case. Reuters has more.
Click for previous corporations and securities law news.





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Environmental brief ~ India PM imposes ban on tiger gifts to foreign dignitaries
Tom Henry on March 21, 2005 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] In Monday's environmental law news, facing a declining tiger population, India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] has banned gifts of live tigers to foreign dignitaries, established a wildlife crime prevention bureau, and created a taskforce of forest officials, wildlife experts and community leaders to report on the status of the tiger population. There are an estimated 2,000-4,000 tigers left in India, which account for about half of the world's tiger population. There had been over 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but they have been killed largely for trophies and their supposed medicinal qualities. Reuters has the full story.

In other news,

  • Japan has again refused to establish a timetable for the resumption of US beef imports. US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice brought up the issue Saturday during a visit to Tokyo. The ban has been in effect since late 2003, and in October 2004 Japan had agreed to allow beef imports once the technical details were worked out. The Japan Food Safety Commission [official website] hopes to have a final report ready for government approval in May. Reuters has the full story.

  • The European Commission [official website] has demanded that Poland reduce its plans [text PDF] for 2005-2007 CO2 emissions by 16.5 percent. Poland Ministry of Environment [official website] deputy minister, Tomasz Podgajniak, has responded by calling for the development of nuclear power plants. Poland is primarily powered by coal-fired power plants, and had planned to open a nuclear plant by 2022. The EC demand forces Poland to take immediate action to produce a clean energy supply. The Warsaw Business Journal has the full story.





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UK government says Parker Bowles can become queen
Amit Patel on March 21, 2005 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] A UK government minister said Monday that Camilla Parker Bowles [BBC profile] can become queen after Prince Charles [official website] ascends to the British throne. Christopher Leslie, minister responsible for the UK Department for Constitutional Affairs [official website] answered a lawmaker's written question about Parker Bowles' status by saying the marriage of Charles and Parker Bowles would not be "morganatic" where a spouse of inferior status has no claim to the standing of the other, and that legislation would be needed to deny Parker Bowles the title of queen. Indeed, such legislation would have to be passed in every country, including Australia and Canada, where the British sovereign is the head of state. When the royal marriage was announced, Prince Charles indicated Parker Bowles would only receive the title of "Princess Consort" if he succeeded to the throne. Until then, Parker Bowles will be known as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. AP has more.






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Estonia PM resigns after justice minister gets no-confidence vote
Amit Patel on March 21, 2005 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Estonian prime minister Juhan Parts [official profile] dissolved his government and announced his resignation Monday after parliament voted no-confidence in Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher [official profile] and a controversial new anti-corruption plan. Vaher's plan had called for a system of quotas for the number of corruption cases regional prosecutors would have to hear every year. Parliament felt Vaher's proposed quota system was similar to Soviet-era politics. Estonian President Arnold Ruutel now has two weeks to nominate a new prime minister. Parts indicated he would attempt to form and lead a new government. Read Parts' speech dissolving the government. AP has more.






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Senate bill would discourage US courts from citing foreign precedent
Amit Patel on March 21, 2005 2:05 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senator John Cornyn [official website], a senior Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sunday introduced a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that judicial decisions regarding the US Constitution should not be influenced by foreign law. The purpose of SR 92 [text, PDF] would be to discourage the use of foreign precedent in deciding constitutional issues unless the foreign decision cited to the original meaning of the Constitution of the United States. Read the Cornyn press release. The use of foreign precedent, especially in the US Supreme Court, has in recent years became a source of controversy, with leading justices taking different sides on the issue [transcript of Scalia-Breyer conversation, January 2005]. International precedents and trends recently played a role in the Court's ruling in Roper v. Simmons, which struck down the death penalty for juveniles [JURIST report]. Cornyn's resolution has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further study.






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Iceland grants citizenship to chess champ Fischer
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 1:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Iceland's parliament [official website, English version] voted unanimously Monday to grant citizenship to US chess champion Bobby Fischer [Wikepedia profile]. Fischer is currently being detained in Japan, and faced possible deportation to the US, where he is wanted for violating international sanctions by playing a chess match in Yugoslavia. Attaining Icelandic citizenship means that Fischer may avoid prosecution by being deported to Iceland instead of the United States. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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White House insists Schiavo bill no precedent
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 1:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House on Monday insisted that the special legislation [PDF text] passed by Congress in a matter of hours over the weekend regarding review of Terri Schiavo's case [JURIST news archive] was not intended as a precedent for Congress to step into future battles over the fate of simiilarly disabled or ill patients. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [official website] had previously said the law would not affect state assisted suicide laws (as provided for in s. 6 of the legislation) nor serve as a precedent for future legislation (as provided for in s. 7). White House press secretary Scott McClellan commented that it was unclear if President Bush would be willing to sign a broader bill covering right-to-die issues. McClellan's comments to the press this morning on the Schiavo case are available here. AP has more.






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Report shows 23 percent increase in US illegal immigrant population
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Pew Hispanic Center [official site], a private research group, released a report [text] Monday documenting recent massive growth of the illegal immigrant population in the United States. A 23 percent increase was reported in the population of undocumented residents over the past four years, from 8.4 to 10.3 million people. The report largely attributes the increase to the rising numbers of unauthorized Mexicans entering the US. AP has more.






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Rights group says 'disappearances' in Chechnya constitute crime against humanity
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy site] alleged Monday in a new report that Russian kidnappings of civilians in Chechnya have become so widespread as to constitute a "crime against humanity." The report says that thousands of people have "disappeared" since the 1999 start of the Chechnyan conflict with the full knowledge of Russian authorities. Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Alu Alkhanov [BBC profile], responded in an address to the Council of Europe, saying that the reports of kidnappings were exaggerated and that "the republic's leadership has been working really hard to improve the situation. And the situation has been improving." Part of the Human Rights Watch report chastises the EU for failing to introduce a resolution on Chechnya at the UN Commission on Human Rights [official site] this year. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner defended the EU's position, stating that the EU was deeply concerned about the abuses, but preferred to resolve the conflict through economic assistance. AP has more.






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Annan outlines plan for major UN reforms
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [JURIST Newsmaker news archive] addressed the General Assembly Monday on his plans for UN and international reform. Annan stressed that the proposals in his report entitled In Larger Freedom [official text], released Sunday, were a complete package and that other reforms should not be added piecemeal. Institutionally, Annan called for expanding the membership of the Security Council from 15 to 24 members, and establishing a new Human Rights Council to replace the current Commission on Human Rights [official site], which Annan characterized as an organization of "declining credibility and professionalism." He also emphasized the importance of greater transparency in Secretariat operations. The UN News Service has more.






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Judge orders 3 PM hearing on Schiavo feeding tube re-insertion
Matt Lubniewski on March 21, 2005 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge James Whittemore of the Middle District of Florida has scheduled a hearing for 3 PM Monday afternoon [PDF order] to consider a request to have feeding resumed for Terri Schiavo [JURIST news archive]. President Bush signed congressional legislation [JURIST report] early Monday morning to move her case into federal court. Terri Schiavo's parents have asked the court to have the feeding tube re-inserted while federal review is pending. Reuters has more.






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Australian police push for separate terrorism court
Liza Hall on March 21, 2005 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Senior anti-terrorism experts in the Australian police are lobbying for the establishment of a court that would deal exclusively with terrorist trials and include such elements of a French-style civil law system [overview of French anti-terrorism law and procedure, in French] as judicial interrogation in order to handle terrorism cases more effectively. Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock [official homepage] confirmed Sunday that the Government was aware of the proposal for a "separate judicial stream," but he noted that "the only way we could do it would be to establish a separate commonwealth criminal court," which would need to address matters broader than terrorism alone in order to justify the additional cost. Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty [official profile], who has backed the proposal, also recently argued that a terrorist court should be taken offshore and administered by an international body. The Australian has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Time Warner to pay $300M in SEC fraud settlement
Bernard Hibbitts on March 21, 2005 11:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission has announced that communications and media giant Time Warner [corporate website] has agreed to pay $300 million to settle charges alleging that it overstated online advertising revenue and the number of its AOL Internet subscribers and committed other securities frauds. The Commission's AOL complaint asserted that

The company artificially inflated the number of AOL subscribers in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2001 so it could report to the investment community that it had met its new subscriber targets, an important metric the market used to evaluate AOL (both before and after its merger with Time Warner).
Read the full SEC press release.





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Gitmo tapes "as explosive as anything from Abu Ghraib"
Russell Adkins on March 21, 2005 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] A former lawyer for Australian terror suspect David Hicks [defense advocacy website] told a major law conference in Australia Monday that US military videotapes from the terror detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be "as explosive as anything from Abu Ghraib" if they were ever released. In his address to LawAsia Downunder 2005 [conference website] Stephen Kenny said that there are some 500 hours of video of actions by the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) at the camp who were responsible for prisoner control, and that the ACLU was pressing for release of the tapes after a journalist broke the story that a secret review of 20 hours of recordings by a military panel found 10 instances of substantive prisoner abuse. AAP has more. The existence of the tapes first came to light in news reports [AP report] in February; the military panel claimed in a summary report, however, that despite having questions about mistreatment of detainees it had found no evidence of systemic detainee abuse [JURIST report].






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Supreme Court refuses to hear Bush recess appointment case
Russell Adkins on March 21, 2005 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case on whether President Bush overstepped his authority when he appointed a federal judge while the Senate was on a short recess. Three appeals sought to challenge the temporary appointment of former Alaba,a Attorney General William Pryor [court profile] to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] while the Senate was on a brief break, a move which appellees claimed was an attempt by the President to avoid Senate confirmation hearings for his nominee. The Court's refusal to address presidential power in judicial appointments could be significant with potential openings on the Supreme Court looming. Justice John Paul Stevens [OYEZ profile], writing with respect to the denial of certiorari [PDF], said that the ruling should not be interpreted as bearing on the merits of the issues involved, and expressed his wish that the Court might be willing to hear the case once all appeals have been exhausted. The cases are Miller v. United States, 04-38, Franklin v. United States, 04-5858, and Evans v. Stephens, 04-828. AP has more.






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Supreme Court declines to hear Moussaoui case, setting stage for trial
Bernard Hibbitts on March 21, 2005 10:21 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal from alleged "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST Newsmaker news archive], the only person formally charged by the US government with criminal complicity in the September 11 terror attacks. Moussaoui had challenged a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling [PDF] that the government could insist on the death penalty in the case and could deny Moussaoui direct access to possible exculpatory evidence that might be provided by other high-value terror suspects in US custody. The holding clears the way for Moussaoui's trial in the US Eastern District of Virginia [Moussaoui case materials].

According to Goldstein & Howe's SCOTUSblog, the Court made no new certiorari grants in its Monday order list [not yet available online].






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Kyrgyzstan orders high court to investigate election fraud
D. Wes Rist on March 21, 2005 9:54 AM ET

[JURIST] President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan [official profile] ordered the country's Central Election Commission and Supreme Court Monday to investigate allegations of fraud in the country's recent parliamentary elections that have spawned weeks of protests from opposition groups. The original elections were held in late February and run-off elections were held March 13. Both sets of elections are alleged to have been rife with fraud and serious flaws according to international observers [OSCE observers report on February 27 poll; PDF]. Severe protests have been held since the announcement of the election results, culminating in the gathering of 17,000 people over the weekend in Jalal-Abad, who burned down the police headquarters, freed detained protestors, and occupied the Govenor's office. Akayev, facing strong calls for his resignation, has ordered the CEC and the Supreme Court to begin their investigations in areas with the strongest public outcry, and to ensure that all of the steps of their investgations are made public. BBC News has more.






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Rehnquist returning to bench for Monday arguments
D. Wes Rist on March 21, 2005 9:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist [JURIST Newsmakers archive] returns to the US Supreme Court bench Monday to hear arguments, according to a Court spokesperson. Rehnquist is planning to attend the two arguments scheduled for this morning [JURIST agenda] in his first public appearance at the Court in 5 months. He has been on a severely limited schedule since he was hospitalized in October; he announced shortly thereafter that he had thyroid cancer. Rehnquist presided over a 2-hour US Judicial Conference [official website] session last Monday, and attendees reported he was in good humor and was moving under his own power. Rehnquist's illness has raised the possibility of his imminent retirement and prompted rampant speculation on who President Bush might nominate to succeed him as Chief Justice and fill the vacant spot on the high court bench. AP has more.






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Indonesia to outlaw Jemaah Islamiyah group implicated in Bali bombings
D. Wes Rist on March 21, 2005 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Ansyaad Mbai, the head of the Counterterrorism division of Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Political and Security Affairs, announced Monday that the Indonesian government [official website in Bahasa Indonesian] plans to outlaw the al-Qaida-linked radical Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah [MIPT profile] implicated in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks. Mbai said that sensitive political considerations meant that the actual banning of the group - whose name roughly translates to "Islamic Community" - will not occur immediately, but he said that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [official profile in Bahasa Indonesian] was very concerned about the damaged caused by the alleged terrorist group and that their outlawing would give Indonesian police the tools they needed to capture members of the organization. Some pro-Islamic state groups in Indonesia have expressed concern that the targeting of Jemaah Islamiyah may lead to the criminalization of anyone seeking to create an Islamic state in Indonesia. Jemaah Islamiyah's alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir [BBC profile], was recently sentenced to 30 months incarceration [JURIST report] for his role in the conspiracy to commit the Bali bombings. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Indonesia [JURIST Country news archive]. The Jakarta Post has local coverage.






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SEAL Iraqi prisoner abuse court-martial begins
D. Wes Rist on March 21, 2005 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] An unnamed lieutenant in the US Navy special forces SEALs [official military website] begins his court-martial Monday on charges of assault, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer stemming from the treatment of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi [Wikipedia profile], whose dead ice-packed body appeared in a number of Abu Ghraib [JURIST Hot Topic news archive] photos last year. Al-Jamadi was captured by SEALs on orders from the Central Intelligence Agency and allegedly knew the location of a large cache of explosives in Iraq. A few hours after they turned al-Jamadi him over to CIA handlers, he was dead. The unnamed SEAL officer is alleged to have directly participated in, and to have allowed his men to abuse al-Jamadi on the return trip from his abduction. The Navy is taking extraordinary steps to preserve the anonymity of the charged officer. He will be referred to in court only by the first letter of his last name. AP has more.






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200 rights protestors arrested in Nepal
D. Wes Rist on March 21, 2005 8:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Over 200 protestors were arrested in Nepal [government website] Sunday as two political activist groups held a national "Civil Disobedience Day" to protest the royal assumption of governmental power [JURIST report] on February 1. The Nepali Congress [advocacy website] and the Human Rights and Peace Society of Nepal [advocacy website] organized the protest to occur in all the major districts throughout Nepal. The protest in the capital district of Ason resulted in arrests that included former State Minister Suresh Malla. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of the Nepal [JURIST Country news archive] situation. Kantipur Online has local coverage.






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Bush signs Schiavo bill, parents go to court seeking tube reconnection
Bernard Hibbitts on March 21, 2005 6:46 AM ET

[JURIST] President Bush early Monday morning signed legislation [text] passed by the US Senate [JURIST report] and then the House [JURIST report] that would allow the federal courts to review the case of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo [JURIST news archive], whose feeding tube was removed under a court order Friday. The President said in a statement [White House press release]:

In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo who live at the mercy of others. I appreciate the bipartisan action by the Members of Congress to pass this bill. I will continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities.
Terri Schiavo's parents have already filed papers with a federal district judge in Florida to have her feeding tube reinserted pending the federal hearing of her case. AP has more.





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BREAKING NEWS ~ US House approves Schiavo bill
Jeannie Shawl on March 21, 2005 12:42 AM ET

[JURIST] After over three hours of debate ending after midnight Monday morning, the US House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST text of S. 686] that will allow a federal judge to conduct a de novo review of the Terri Schiavo case to determine whether the withholding of food, water or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life violates the US Constitution or any federal laws. The bill was passed by the Senate Sunday afternoon [JURIST report] and will now go to President Bush for his signature. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed Friday [JURIST report] by her husband. As soon as President Bush signs the bill, Schiavo's parents are expected to file a petition with the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida and ask the court to order that the tube be replaced. JURIST maintains a comprehensive news archive on the Schiavo right-to-die case.

12:55 AM ET - The measure passed in the House by a 203-58 vote [roll call results]. AP now has more.






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Legal agenda and live webcasts ~ Monday, March 21
Chris Buell on March 21, 2005 12:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Here's a run-down of law-related events, expected developments and live webcasts on JURIST's docket for Monday, March 21.

The US Supreme Court [official website] will hear oral arguments in two cases today beginning at 10 AM ET. In the first case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales [case backgrounder from Duke Law School], 04-278, the Court will review the 10th Circuit's decision to allow a procedural due process claim to proceed against a local government that allegedly failed to protect the holder of a partial restraining order against violence. The ABA has merit briefs for the case. In the second case, Cutter v. Wilkinson [case backgrounder from Duke Law School], 03-9877, the Court will decide whether the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act [text] violates the Establishment Clause. The ABA has merit briefs filed in the case.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will provide a briefing on the European Council [official website] meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Watch a live webcast of the briefing beginning at 3 PM local time [9 AM ET].

At the UN, the General Assembly [official website] will hear a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a follow-up to the outcome of the Millenium Summit. Watch a live webcast of the session beginning at 10 AM ET and Annan's speech beginning at 10:30 AM ET.

The 61st session of the UN Commission on Human Rights [official website] continues in Geneva today.

At the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Johan Tarculovski [initial indictment] will make an initial appearance before the tribunal at 8:30 AM local time [2:30 AM ET]. The Naser Oric [ICTY case backgrounder] trial will continue at 9:30 AM local time [3:30 AM ET]. The trial of Fatmir Limaj and others [ICTY case backgrounder] will continue at 2:45 PM local time [8:45 AM ET]. Watch a webcast of all proceedings.






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