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Legal news from Saturday, April 9, 2005




UPDATE ~ Mexican presidential hopeful will surrender to authorities
Alexandria Samuel on April 9, 2005 3:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Following up a story reported Friday on JURIST's Paper Chase, Mexico City mayor and presidential hopeful Manuel Lopez Obrador [World Mayor profile] announced to reporters outside of his home Saturday that he will surrender to authorities as soon as an arrest warrant is issued. Late Thursday, Mexico's Congress striped the mayor of immunity so he could be charged with contempt of court related to his alleged involvement in a land expropriation dispute. Obrador's leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution [official website in Spanish] is expected to organize massive rallies and disrupt Congressional proceedings in protest. An arrest warrant could be issued as early as Monday. Obrador's has vowed to continue his campaign for president from jail. Reuters has more.






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Former general says Abu Ghraib abuse approved by top officials
Alexandria Samuel on April 9, 2005 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] In an address [notice] to the San Francisco Commonwealth Club public affairs forum Friday, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski said that ample evidence exists to prove the use of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] was authorized by the highest levels of the US government. Karpinski served as commander of military prisons in Iraq when the abuse scandal broke in 2003 and contends that reservists jailed to date did not devise the techniques used to interrogate prisoners. Karpinski notes that the humiliation techniques used required a detailed knowledge of Arab culture, a knowledge most reservists charged did not possess. Last month the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First sued [JURIST report] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and several other top US military officials on behalf of eight former detainees who claim they were tortured and abused by US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reuters has more.






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Democratic leader defends fight over judicial confirmations
Alexandria Samuel on April 9, 2005 2:33 PM ET

[JURIST] During the weekly Democratic radio address [WTOP audio] Saturday, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid [official website] defended his party's position in the current battle between Democrats and Republicans over President Bush's judicial nominees [JURIST news archive] and procedures used to consider them, the second time in two weeks [JURIST report] that major Democrats have used Saturday radio airtime to press their points. Republicans have threatened to ban Senate filibusters of judicial nominees. Coined the “nuclear option” [Center for Information Freedom report], Republicans want to eliminate the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster over presidential appointees. Reid referred to the a battle as a fight between Democrats who believe in checks and balances and Republicans who do not, and stated that without the judicial filibuster, "the U.S. Senate becomes merely a rubber stamp for the president". Ten of President Bush’s 214 nominations have been stalled by filibusters. Reid also lashed out at remarks [JURIST report] made by Republican leader Tom DeLay referring to the comments as threats against judges who protect our rights. AP has more.






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US Chamber calls for asbestos litigation investigation
Alexandria Samuel on April 9, 2005 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce [official website] Friday called for the US Department of Justice to investigate allegations of widespread fraud in asbestos lawsuits. The letter [press release] sent by Thomas Donohue alleges that lawyers and doctors across the country are engaged in systematic diagnostic fraud, and are bringing hundreds of meritless asbestos claims that are forcing companies into bankruptcy. Donohue made reference to a series of silica lawsuits currently being litigated in Texas. According the letter, investigations in the cases have revealed suspect diagnostic techniques by doctors, some of which are involved in a number of asbestos cases. Donohue also cited a 2004 academic study [PDF] that questioned whether hundreds of chest X-rays offered as evidence in asbestos injury lawsuits were properly interpreted by radiologists. The issue of asbestos lawsuit reform is not new. The FAIR Act of 2005 [PDF] was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier last month. Under the bill, Congress would establish an Office of Asbestos Disease Compensation to review asbestos claims and distribute awards on an individual basis. The amount of the award would be determined by the severity of the claim and would not exceed $950,000. Reuters has more.






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Anglican vicar makes last-minute legal challenge to UK royal wedding
Tom Henry on April 9, 2005 11:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Anglican cleric Father Paul Williamson filed a last-minute legal objection to the marriage of Prince Charles [official website] to Camilla Parker Bowles [official website] at the civic offices in Windsor Saturday just before the couple's civil marriage ceremony [British monarchy wedding notice; official royal wedding press pack] in the Guildhall. Williamson claimed that Prince Charles could not remarry while heir to the British throne primarily because Queen Elizabeth II [official website] had broken her coronation oath [background and text] to uphold the doctrine of the Church of England [official website] by consenting to the wedding of two divorcees outside the Anglican church. His objection and two others were later rejected by Dennis Roberts, deputy registrar general of the local council of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead; similar legal challenges to the nuptials were rejected last month [JURIST report; JURIST royal wedding news archive]. The wedding [BBC updates, backgrounder] went ahead as scheduled. AFP has more.






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Transcripts reveal names, details of Guantanamo detainees
Tom Henry on April 9, 2005 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Identities and details concerning the cases and treatment of some 60 Guantanamo detainees [AP names list] have emerged from thousands of pages of transcribed documentation filed by detainees' lawyers in US District Court in Washington, where lawsuits challenging the detentions of terror suspects are now being heard. In a pivotal case last June [Hamdi opinion], the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled that detainees could challenge their detention in federal court. The transcripts were made during hearings of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD backgrounder; background briefing] set up by the US military after ruling to determine which detainees were properly classified as "enemy combatants" who could be detained indefinitely. Some of the transcripts reflect co-operation, and others defiance. Review the transcripts and other legal papers filed by the 60 detainees who have now been named. AP has more.






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EPA cancels planned pesticide study involving children
Tom Henry on April 9, 2005 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] In a turnaround from its position just a day earlier, the Environmental Protection Agency [official website] canceled a controversial study Friday involving the effects of pesticides on children. The EPA had planned to seek the advice of outside scientific experts before making a final determination on the suspended CHEERS [EPA study website] study, but mounting pressure from Democrats willing to block the confimation of the agency's new head Stephen Johnson [EPA profile] helped to end the study before it began. Johnson, nominated last month [JURIST report], is the first person with a science background to be picked to lead the agency. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee [Official website] announced Friday it would meet again next week to consider his nomination. JURIST's Paper Chase has background here. The CHEERS website now carries a cancellation notice from Johnson. AP has more details on the cancellation.






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