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Legal news from Tuesday, August 23, 2005




Corporations and securities brief ~ Northwest continues flying through strikes
James Murdock on August 23, 2005 8:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's corporations and securities law news, Northwest Airlines continued service today, the second full business day of strikes by their mechanics' union. In what some are seeing as a serious blow to organized labor [Reuters report], the airline completed 98% of its scheduled flights, though many have been delayed. Northwest's other unions have not showed solidarity with the mechanics by walking off the job, unlike recent wide-spread wildcat strikes at British Airways [JURIST report] in support of that airline's caterers. Northwest has prepared for the strike by training replacement mechanics during the months leading up to the strikes. Northwest says that it must cost costs, and says it needed $176 million in cuts from the mechanics. The union says the airline was actually trying to break up the union, and points to the $102 million spent on training the replacement workers as proof. The New York Times has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...

  • The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] has announced an administration plan to require truck and van manufacturers to meet higher gas mileage standards starting in 2011. The plan is part of a proposal designed to reform Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) legislation [NHTSA website]. In a press release, the agency said that the proposed plan provides manufacturers a transition period between 2008 and 2010. Critics of the plan argue that the changes will mostly affect struggling US manufacturers GM and Ford. Bloomberg has more.

  • As reported earlier on JURIST's Paper Chase, the SEC has sued two former high-ranking Kmart executives. The SEC charged former CEO Charles Conaway and former CFO John McDonald with making fraudulent statements on the company's third quarter statements for 2001 [Kmart's form 10-Q] and for lying in a conference call with forecasters and analysts. The alleged fraud took place in the months leading up to Kmart's January 2002 bankruptcy. In a press release Tuesday the SEC said that the men lied about $850 million in excess inventory and about why vendors were not being paid in time. Reuters has more.





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SEC to investigate leaks to investors of medical research results
Elana Kornblit on August 23, 2005 7:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] is examining whether investors paid researchers to reveal information about ongoing drug studies in order to profit from the results before they were available to the public. Earlier this month, The Seattle Times [newspaper website] said it found 26 cases [ST report] in which medical researchers "leaked confidential and critical details" to brokerage firms and hedge funds for profit. "The latest revelations have been added to the ongoing review of possible insider trading involving potential blockbuster drugs in advance of FDA decisions," an SEC official said. The FDA will assist the SEC in its investigation under an interagency cooperation agreement. Reuters has more.






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New Hampshire AG not appealing dismissal of trespass charges against illegal immigrants
Elana Kornblit on August 23, 2005 7:23 PM ET

[JURIST] New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has determined that there is "an insufficient basis for appeal" against the recent dismissal of trespassing charges against two illegal immigrants brought by state officials. Judge L. Phillips Runyon dismissed the trespassing violations [AP report] against the immigrants earlier this month and stated that state trespass laws cannot constitutionally be used to curb illegal immigration. AP has more.






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States brief ~ NC wraps up country's last undecided race from 2004 election
Rachel Felton on August 23, 2005 5:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, North Carolina lawmakers have selected Democrat June Atkinson as the State Superintendent of Public Schools [official website], resolving the country's last undecided statewide election from 2004. After Atkinson beat Bill Fletcher in the 2004 election, the state Supreme Court ruled [text] that at least 11,000 ballots cast outside of voters' home precincts were unlawful. The North Carolina Constitution [text] directs contested statewide elections to be finalized "by joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly [official website] in a manner prescribed by law" and Democrats pushed through a bill this year that took the case out of the courts and established the process leading to today's result. Atkinson was selected by a 93-21 vote. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • A lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania's Governor against the federal government, aimed at preventing the federal government from moving Air National Guard [website] Facilities, had its first official hearing in federal court. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has sued the Pentagon [Governor's press release], arguing that governors must have a say in the closing or movement of bases because the Guard is under their control for peacetime domestic purposes. Illinois has also filed suit and Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell [Governor's press release] is deciding whether to sue. District Court Judge John Padova has promised to rule before September 8. Scripps Howard News Service has more.

  • An Indiana businessman has been ordered [PDF text] to pay $100,000 for violating the state's do-not-call list, and state Attorney General Steve Carter has called the fine [AG's press release] a major victory for state consumers. Under state law [PDF text], most telemarketers who call phone numbers on the do-not-call list face civil penalties of $10,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent offense. This was the first do-not-call case to end up in court as the attorney general's office previously reached out-of-court settlements in 157 cases for approximately $438,000 in fines. Indiana's The Indianapolis Star has local coverage.

  • The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] has granted an expedited appeal of a federal court ruling last month that struck down Washington state's "Top Two" primary system. Under that system, which was approved by voter initiative [Washington Office of Financial Management overview] last year, the top two vote-getters for each office advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. A district court judge determined the state could not allow voters to skip back and forth among parties nor could it allow candidates to identify themselves with a party on the ballot without that party's approval. The lawsuit was filed by the state Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. AP has more.





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Khodorkovsky begins prison hunger strike
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 4:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Jailed Russian oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archives, defense website], announced in a statement [text] Tuesday that he will go on a hunger strike in support of his jailed business partner, Platon Lebedev. Lebedev was placed in an isolation cell after refusing to take his required daily walk. Khodorkovsky believes the Kremlin is attempting to get revenge on him for recent critical articles [JURIST report] he published as well as for the recent announcement that he plans to run for Parliament [JURIST report] from jail. AP has more. MosNews has local coverage.






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Bush urges Sunnis to embrace draft Iraq constitution
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 3:48 PM ET

[JURIST] President Bush urged Sunni Arabs on Tuesday to embrace the proposed Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] in an effort to bring peace to a country on the verge of civil war. When asked about a Sunni negotiator's warning that the constitution may lead to a Sunni revolt, Bush replied [White House press briefing] that "There is more than one Sunni involved in the process. Reaching an accord on a constitution, after years of dictatorship, is not easy." Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said earlier Tuesday that almost all of the draft's problems have been resolved, but Sunni leaders have not corroborated his statement and have reportedly said that the draft will fail when the nation votes on it. Iraq's constitutional drafting committee postponed a vote [JURIST report] on the proposed constitution Monday in an attempt to resolve some of the issues plaguing the Sunni minority. AFP has more.






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Saudi minister satisfied with negotiations over Gitmo detainees
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 3:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Negotiations for the return of Saudi Arabian detainees from US custody at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] have reached "an advanced stage", according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal speaking at a press conference in Jeddah Tuesday. There are currently 121 Saudis among the 505 detainees remaining [JUROST report] at Gitmo. Five Saudi detainees were released [JURIST report] earlier this month, three were released in July, and five were repatriated in May 2003. APF has more; the Saudi Press Agency has local coverage.






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Venezuela says Robertson call for Chavez assassination 'criminal'
Jeannie Shawl on August 23, 2005 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel Tuesday called a televised statement by Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson [personal website] calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] "criminal" and said that Robertson's comments were "terrorist statements." Speaking Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's The 700 Club [program website], Robertson suggested that US agents assassinate Chavez [AP report] in order to stop Venezuela from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism" and said that the US should exercise its "ability to take him out." Watch recorded video from CBN. Rangel has called on the US to take action and also said that Venezuela was considering its legal options. A spokesman for the US State Department said Tuesday that Robertson's comments were inappropriate [AP report], and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that "Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law." AP has more. The Harvard International Review offers a perspective on assassination policy under international law [article text]. From Caracas, El Nacional has local coverage, in Spanish.






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Saddam Hussein confirms sacking of legal team
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] In a meeting Tuesday with his lawyer and the judge investigating charges against him, ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] confirmed that he has reduced his legal team to one lawyer. As previously claimed in a statement by Hussein's family [JURIST report], Hussein said that he will now be represented by Iraqi Khalil Dulaimi, formerly a member of his large Jordan-based legal team. The Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] had initially blocked the Hussein family's attempt to disband his legal team [JURIST report], saying that only Hussein himself has the authority to do so. Hussein's family is expected to select a new group of lawyers to represent him before his trial is expected to begin within the next two months. Reuters has more.






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Military interrogator pleads guilty to Afghan detainee assault
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 2:16 PM ET

[JURIST] A US Army interrogator pleaded guilty Tuesday to dereliction of duty and assault of 22-year old Afghan detainee [JURIST report] Dilawar [Wikipedia profile], who died in December 2002 at Bagram Control Point [Global Security profile] near Kabul. Spc. Glendale C. Walls admitted to pushing Dilawar during interrogation and watching former Sgt. Selena M. Salcedo [JURIST report] and former Spc. Joshua R. Claus abuse Dilawar. Last week Pfc. Willie V. Brand was convicted by a military jury [JURIST report] for assault, maltreatment, false official swearing and maiming of Dilawar. AP has more.






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Kenya releases final draft of new constitution
Jamie Sterling on August 23, 2005 1:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The Kenyan government released the final draft of the country's new constitution Tuesday, amidst protests from those upset with President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] for his failure to limit any of his over-reaching presidential powers [JURIST report] in the new constitution. The Kenyan Electoral Commission [official website] will set a national referendum for November in which the 197 page draft will be up for a citizen's vote. The opposition party Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will continue to campaign against the new constitution and recently took Kibaki to court [JURIST report] for attempting to extend his powers in the final draft. Reuters has more. Kenya's Daily Nation has local coverage [registration required].






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Indonesia, Aceh rebels disagree on jurisdiction of human rights tribunal
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 12:14 PM ET

[JURIST] The Indonesian government and separatist rebels in the province of Aceh are disputing the jurisdiction of the human rights tribunal to be established under their newly signed peace accord [JURIST report]. The Indonesian government believes the tribunal is being created for "future needs, not for the past," and does not want the court to try cases that occurred before last week, when the accord was signed. A spokesman for the Free Aceh Movement [Wikipedia backgrounder], Bahtiar Abdulah, said the parties signed the Memorandum of Understanding [PDF text] with the intent to make it retroactive. The Aceh Monitoring Mission [AFP report], which will be composed of officials from the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, will help to resolve dispute when it begins operations on September 15. VOA has more.






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9/11 terrorist convicted in Germany files appeal
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Moroccan-born Mounir al-Motassadeq [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was convicted by a German court [JURIST report] last week for his involvement with the 9/11 attacks, said Tuesday that they have appealed the conviction. Motassadeq's lawyers claim the evidence linking him to the attacks was circumstantial and that he was not involved in the Hamburg-based terror cell of hijacker Mohammed Atta [Wikipedia profile]. In his first trial in 2003, Motassadeq was convicted on 3,000 charges of aiding and abetting murder and sentenced to 15-years in prison, but the decision was overturned and a new trial was ordered [JURIST report]. In his second trial, the court cleared Motassadeq of his direct involvement in the attacks, but sentenced him to seven years for membership in a terrorist organization. Deutsche Press Agentur has more.






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Former Kyrgyz prime minister denies corruption allegations
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev [official bio] on Tuesday denied corruption allegations that were made during the March uprisings that ousted him and former President Askar Akayev from office [JURIST report]. Tanayev has been accused of using government money improperly, including buying expensive cars for government officials and funding Akayev's presidential library. An arrest warrant was issued for Tanayev [JURIST report] in June, but it was cancelled Monday when he agreed to remain in the country while the investigation is pending. Also under investigation are the son and son-in-law of former President Akayev [Wikipedia profile], who are accused of fraud, money laundering and extortion. AP has more.






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SEC charges former Kmart executives with fraud
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 10:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday filed fraud charges [PDF complaint; SEC press release] against two former Kmart [corporate website] executives for misleading investors about Kmart's financial future before the company filed for bankruptcy in January 2002. Former Chief Executive Officer Charles C. Conaway and former Chief Financial Officer John T. McDonald allegedly disclosed "materially false and misleading" information about the company's liquidity in the company's Form 10-Q and in an earnings conference call with analysts and investors. Tuesday's SEC charges follow an arbitration panel clearing Conaway on civil charges [AP report] of fraud, mismanagement and corporate looting. Read the SEC litigation release. Bloomberg has more.






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Khodorkovsky may run for Russian parliament from jail
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 10:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archives, trial website], the former head of Russian oil company Yukos who is currently serving a 9-year prison sentence for fraud and tax evasion, plans to run for the State Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of the Russian Parliament, his lawyer said Tuesday. Ivan Starikov, a senior member of the liberal Union of the Right Forces [Wikipedia profile], said a group was being formed to nominate Khodorkovsky as a candidate and Irina Khakamada, a top liberal politician, said she would support his candidacy. The deputy head of the Central Election Commission [official website] said Khodorkovsky had the right to run for office because his sentence was currently under appeal and had not yet come into force. MosNews has local coverage.






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Poll shows British would sacrifice civil liberties for increased security
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The results of a new poll suggest that British citizens are receptive to tough new anti-terror laws [JURIST report] detailed by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official bio] earlier this month. The poll, conducted by ICM for the Guardian newspaper, reveals that 73 percent of British respondents are willing to lose some civil liberties to improve security, with only 17 percent rejecting the trade-off. Sixty-two percent were in favor of deporting foreign nationals who spread extremist views [JURIST report], even if they were returned to countries where they may face torture. On the controversial police request to hold terror suspects for up to three months, rather than the current 14 days, 68 percent supported the longer term, while only 19 percent opposed it. The Guardian has more.






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British police watchdog promises report on subway killing
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 9:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) [official website], Britain's police watchdog agency, promised Tuesday to release a report on the death of Brazilian citizen Jean Charles de Menezes [Wikipedia profile] by the end of the year. De Menezes was killed by police [JURIST report] on the London subway on July 22 after being mistaken for a suicide bomber. Richard Latham, an attorney representing the IPCC said the commission would not release its findings until any criminal or disciplinary proceedings were completed. Brazil has also sent two justice officials to investigate the matter [Brazil embassy press release]. Deputy Attorney General Wagner Goncalves and senior Brazilian Justice Ministry official Marcio Pereira Pinto Garcia arrived in London Monday. AP has more.

10:34 AM ET - AP is reporting that Brazil's ambassador to the UK has said that he believes that there has not been cover-up by British officials in the de Menezes shooting.






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Japanese court rules newspaper didn't fabricate 1937 Chinese killing game
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] A Tokyo court has ruled that a contest by Japanese soldiers in 1937 to behead Chinese soldiers did occur, and was not fabricated by the media, as claimed by families of the Japanese soldiers concerned. Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun [media website, in Japanese] ran a story in 1937 detailing a game between two army lieutenants, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda, as to who would be the first to decapitate 100 Chinese soldiers. The contest took place prior to the Nanjing massacre [BBC News backgrounder] where an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians were murdered by an invading Japanese army, though Japanese officials deny such a large-scale massacre occurred. Families of the lieutenants, who were later executed, sued Mainichi Shimbun and another newspaper, Asahi Shimbun [media website], for 36 million yen ($330,000) arguing that the contest was fabricated. Tokyo District Court Judge Akio Doi dismissed the case saying, "the lieutenants admitted the fact that they raced to kill 100 people. We cannot deny that the article included some false elements and exaggeration, but it is difficult to say the article was fiction not based on facts." AFP has more.






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Atlanta mayor signs panhandling ban
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin [official bio] has signed legislation banning verbal panhandling in popular downtown tourist destinations, including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site [official website]. The ordinance [PDF draft text] bans "commercial solicitation" and all verbal requests for money or other valuables in a public place "under circumstances where a reasonable person would understand that the purchase is a donation." The ordinance, which is effective immediately, was passed by Atlanta's city council [official website] on August 15 and has sparked heated debate between business people and homeless advocates. Tuesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution has local coverage.






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Philippine president Arroyo works to frustrate impeachment attempts
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [official bio] used her majority in Congress Tuesday to frustrate opposition attempts to impeach [JURIST report] her. The opposition is attempting to consolidate three separate impeachment complaints to one strong case, while the majority has pushed to eliminate all but one weak charge. The complaints center on the rigging of last year's presidential election, when Arroyo succeed former president Joseph Estrada [Wikipedia profile]. The opposition may still force a trial by gathering the votes of one-third of the House, resulting in a trial in the Senate. Despite difficulties with impeachment [Philippine Star backgrounder], political observers believe Arroyo is still vulnerable because of low popularity ratings and possible economic chill resulting from increased oil prices and rising taxes. Reuters has more. The Philippine Daily Inquirer has local coverage.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Delay in Iraq constitution vote unlikely to resolve differences
Kate Heneroty on August 23, 2005 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Humam Hammoudi, head of Iraq's constitutional drafting committee [official website], told reporters Tuesday that it was unlikely that the three additional days provided by the National Assembly to settle differences over the charter [JURIST news archive] would be sufficient to solve all the outstanding issues in the proposed draft [partial text, via the Guardian]. The committee deferred a vote on the draft [JURIST report] Monday in an attempt to iron out differences between Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds [AP backgrounder]. Main sources of conflict include federalism, eliminating Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and whether some officers of the assembly should be elected by a majority or two-thirds vote. The Sunni members of the drafting committee said Tuesday they were far from agreement and the government and the committee did not abide by an agreement for consensus. AP has more.






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