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Legal news from Sunday, April 3, 2011




Federal judge upholds Wisconsin supreme court campaign finance law
Carrie Schimizzi on April 3, 2011 3:16 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] on Friday dismissed [order, PDF] two challenges to campaign financing schemes for Wisconsin Supreme Court elections. Wisconsin Right to Life [advocacy website] and the Wisconsin Center for Economic Prosperity challenged the Impartial Justice Act [SB 40 materials, PDF] saying the law violates their First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] rights and had sought a federal injunction to stop public financing before the April 5 election. The plaintiffs had challenged three provisions of the law which require reports of third-party disbursements, a $360,000 trigger of supplemental grants to candidates that elect for public financing and a $1,000 cap on individual contributions made to privately-funded candidates. In upholding the law, Judge William M. Conley found the plaintiffs were not unduly burdened by the law and that any burden on their First Amendment rights was outweighed by the state's "compelling interest in the election of justices to its highest court free from an appearance of bias." Conley did acknowledge, however, that his decision may be undermined by the US Supreme Court's expected ruling on the appeal [JURIST report] of a similar Arizona campaign financing law:
Obviously, even the narrow holding by this court today may be undermined by the Supreme Court's decision in McComish, and the court considered a decision on the merits here pending further guidance from the Supreme Court ... At the same time, the court is painfully aware that its decision may merely be contributing to public financing's 'death by a thousand cuts,' as Justice Breyer put it during oral argument earlier this week in McComish, recognizing that money, like water seems to find its own level.
The plaintiffs said they plan to immediately appeal for emergency relief [MJS report] before the election on Tuesday.

The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [JURIST report] to the Arizona campaign financing case in November. In McComish v. Bennett [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will determine whether Arizona's matching funds and the law regulating campaign financing to equalize resources among candidates and interest groups, rather than advancing a compelling state interest in the least restrictive manner, violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded [opinion, PDF] that the Arizona public financing scheme and matching funds provision did not offend the First Amendment. In Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine whether the First Amendment forbids states from providing additional government subsidies to publicly financed candidates that are triggered by independent expenditure groups' speech against such candidates or by the candidates' privately financed opponents.




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Israel calls for UN to retract Goldstone report
Drew Singer on April 3, 2011 10:44 AM ET

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[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] on Sunday called [statement] on the UN to retract the Goldstone Report [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] following statements made by Richard Goldstone in a Washington Post op-ed [text]. The Goldstone Report, which found that Israel committed war crimes [JURIST report] in Operation Cast Lead [JURIST news archive] after a fact finding mission, was called into question Friday by Goldstone's article, where he said: "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document." According to Goldstone, new evidence has shown that Israel never targeted civilians in the conflict as originally alleged.
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
Goldstone went on to commend Israel and the Palestinian Authority for conducting investigations into the report's allegations, noting that Hamas had not done so. He also noted the positive effect the report had in the conflict, leading to reforms in the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces. Citing these statements, Netanyahu called for the report to be nullified [Al Jazeera report].

The report said that Israel regularly and impermissibly disregarded the welfare of civilians and even targeted them during the conflict in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention [texts]. The report also found that Israel failed to look into alleged misconduct by its soldiers and used white phosphorous [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in violation of international law. The report accused Palestinian fighters of firing mortars indiscriminately into civilian areas and mistreating prisoner of war Gilad Shalit [JURIST news archive] in violation of the Third Geneva Convention [text]. Israel dismissed the report [MFA press release] as prejudiced and one-sided, citing the large number of countries that did not support the fact finding mission.




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Military training for 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal to be complete midsummer
Drew Singer on April 3, 2011 10:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] US Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley [official biography] on Friday testified [hearing record] that the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] is on track to be complete midsummer. Nine percent of the military was trained in the past month without resistance, Stanley told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel [official website] at the hearing. Stanley said the transition has gone "extremely well" and that the military is on track to meet its goal of completing the repeal training by midsummer. Stanley spent the majority of the meeting contesting Republican challenges that the new policy is bad for the military.

Last month, the Obama administration asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to delay its review of an order striking down DADT [JURIST report] policy because the it will soon be ended. In December, President Barack Obama signed legislation that would repeal DADT [JURIST report] as soon as the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the necessary policies and procedures are in place within the military to implement the repeal.




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