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Legal news from Saturday, June 6, 2009




Appeals court upholds Chrysler bankruptcy assets sale
Matt Glenn on June 6, 2009 8:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] Friday approved the sale of most of the assets of Chrysler Group [corporate website] to Italian automaker Fiat [corporate website; Chrysler/Fiat news release], but said the deal could not be completed until June 8 or until the Supreme Court declines to hear an appeal. The ruling upheld Monday's decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] by the US Bankruptcy Court for the Second District of New York [official website]. The deal is opposed by a group of Indiana pension funds that acquired $42.5 million in secured Chrysler debt last year. The funds argue that the agreement is unfairly biased toward unsecured creditors. Lawyers for the funds said they plan to appeal [NYT report].

Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection [case materials] in April under Chapter 11 [text; Chrysler factsheet, PDF] of the US Bankruptcy Code after failing to negotiate the return of $6.9 billion in debt for $2 billion in cash with secured debt holders. The other members of Detroit's "Big Three" automakers have also faced financial troubles recently. General Motors [corporate website] filed [JURIST report] for bankruptcy [petition, PDF] on Monday. Ford Motor Company [corporate website] is seeking to regain lost market share [WSJ report] while its domestic rivals are involved in bankruptcy proceedings.






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Federal appeals court rejects challenge to conviction of former Klansman
Ximena Marinero on June 6, 2009 10:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] upheld [DOJ press release] on Friday the 2007 conviction of former Ku Klux Klan [ADL backgrounder] member James Ford Seale [JURIST news archive; Clarion Ledger backgrounder] for the kidnapping and deaths of two African American 19-year-olds in 1964. The 18 judges of the court were asked to determine en banc whether an amended statute of limitations barred prosecuting the crimes, and their even split vote has the effect of upholding Seale's prior conviction. The prosecution [brief text] relied heavily on the court's 1986 ruling in Griffon v. United States Department of Health and Human Services [opinion text], arguing that any decision to vacate Seale's sentence would conflict "with this Court's precedent for applying conflicting canons of statutory construction" where the Court had already ruled against retroactive application of the procedural aspects of a law containing both procedural and substantive components. The defense argued [brief text] that the Griffon rationale was inapplicable because absent guidance from Congress that stipulates any prohibitions, "statutes of limitations are procedural in nature and should be applied retroactively." Seale, now aged 73, has been in an Indiana federal jail throughout his appeal because he was considered a flight risk. A three-judge panel will hear the remaining claims in Seale's appeal.

The US Department of Justice successfully petitioned the court to hear the case en banc after a three-judge panel vacated Seale's sentence [text; JURIST report] in September 2008, based on Seale's argument that a five-year statute of limitations for non-capital crimes [18 USC 3282 text] enacted in 1972 applied retroactively to his 2007 indictment. In 2007, Seale was convicted on two counts of kidnapping resulting in death and one count of conspiracy in connection with the 1964 events, and was sentenced [JURIST reports] to three lifetimes in jail.






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