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Lake County courts to switch to online filing system in May
Headline News | 2018/04/20 10:45
Court officials in northwestern Indiana's Lake County plan to switch next month to an online filing system that's already used by nearly three-quarters of Indiana's counties.

Lake County's circuit and superior courts will switch May 21 to the Odyssey case management system that's supported by the Indiana Supreme Court. Courts in 65 of Indiana's 92 counties currently use that state-funded system.

Mark Pearman is executive director of Lake County's Data Processing Department. He tells The (Northwest Indiana) Times the state is providing the county with the Odyssey software at no cost.

Pearman says that in August, new cases filed with the Lake County Clerk's Office will be scanned into the Odyssey system. The county's court system is scheduled to switch to a completely paperless record system in January.


Judge fights for job after admitting to courthouse affair
Legal Interview | 2018/04/19 10:45
Massachusetts' highest court will decide the fate of a judge who admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker that included sexual encounters at the courthouse.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is asking for Judge Thomas Estes to be suspended indefinitely without pay to give lawmakers time to decide whether to remove him from the bench for his relationship with Tammy Cagle, who worked in the special drug court where Estes sat before she was reassigned last year.

If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees, it will be the first time in three decades it has taken such action against a judge for misconduct. The case comes amid the #MeToo movement that sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in the workplace.

"This case couldn't come at a worse time for Judge Estes," said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The Supreme Judicial Court will consider Estes' case Tuesday. Cagle has accused Estes, who's married and has two teenage sons, of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him in his chambers and her home. Then after she tried to end the relationship, she asserts he treated her coldly and pushed her out of the drug court.



Cosby defense team lobs attacks in court of public opinion
Law Center | 2018/04/18 10:45
Jurors weren't allowed to hear testimony that Bill Cosby's chief accuser was once hooked on hallucinogenic mushrooms or had her sights set on becoming a millionaire, but that hasn't stopped the defense from airing the explosive claims about Andrea Constand in the court of public opinion.

With Cosby's sexual assault retrial heading for deliberations this week, the 80-year-old comedian's lawyers and publicists are increasingly playing to an audience of millions, not just the 12 people deciding his fate.

They're hitting at Constand's credibility in the media with attacks that Judge Steven O'Neill is deeming too prejudicial or irrelevant for court, and they're holding daily press briefings portraying Cosby as the victim of an overzealous prosecutor and an unjust legal system.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt has decried Constand's allegations of drugging and molestation as "fantastical stories" and deemed District Attorney Kevin Steele an "extortionist" for spending taxpayer money on the case.

Lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who's been in court following the retrial, said prominent defendants like Cosby almost always play to the court of public opinion when there's no gag order, but that his team's approach hasn't been "particularly effective or convincing."

"It is so strident, and it is so hyperbolic, I think most people will turn it off," said McAndrews, who prosecuted chemical heir John E. du Pont for murder in 1997 and is not associated with either side in the Cosby case.

O'Neill is expected to rule Monday on what could be the Cosby team's last line of attack in the courtroom: whether jurors can hear deposition testimony that Cosby's lawyers say could have insights into what led Constand to accuse him.

Constand's confidante, Sheri Williams, gave the testimony as part of Constand's 2005 lawsuit against Cosby, which he wound up settling for nearly $3.4 million. Cosby's lawyers said that testimony is vital because Williams is not responding to subpoena attempts.


Supreme Court rejects anti-abortion pastor's appeal on noise
Lawyer News | 2018/04/17 05:41
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a pastor who challenged a state law's noise limit that was used to restrict his anti-abortion protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland, Maine.

The justices offered no comment Monday in rejecting the appeal from the Rev. Andrew March. He sued after he said Portland police officers repeatedly told him to lower his voice while he was protesting outside the clinic. March says police invoked a part of the Maine Civil Rights Act that applies to noise outside health facilities.

March says the law "targets pro-life advocates" in violation of the Constitution. A district judge temporarily blocked its enforcement, but the federal appeals court in Boston reversed that ruling.



Michigan Democrats back Nessel for state attorney general
Court Watch | 2018/04/17 05:40
Thousands of fired-up Michigan Democrats endorsed Dana Nessel on Sunday in a hotly contested race for state attorney general, backing the former prosecutor-turned-civil rights lawyer to wrest back control of an office the party last held 16 years ago.

If elected in November, Nessel — who helped mount a successful legal challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban — would be Michigan's first openly gay statewide officeholder. She defeated Pat Miles, the former U.S. attorney for western Michigan in the Obama administration, in a fight that drew a record number of delegates to Detroit.

"I want to bring empathy back to the office of Michigan attorney general," Nessel said after her victory inside a packed convention hall in the Cobo Center, where she became the rare candidate to win a convention fight despite not being supported by the influential United Auto Workers union and Michigan AFL-CIO, which had backed Miles. "With the help of not just Democrats in the state but independents and yes, even Republicans, I think we can do that and I look forward to being able to try."

The 48-year-old Nessel, who was a Wayne County assistant prosecutor for 11 years, co-owns a small Detroit law firm that among other things focuses on criminal defense, family law and adoptions for same-sex couples. Barring a surprise, she will be officially nominated at Democrats' next convention in August and face a Republican nominee — either state House Speaker Tom Leonard or state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — in the November election. GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette cannot run again due to term limits and is instead vying for governor.

Nessel's win sets the stage for a female-dominated Democratic statewide ticket if favorite Gretchen Whitmer wins the gubernatorial primary election in August. Democrats, who flooded the convention despite icy, rainy weather, also endorsed Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state in an uncontested race, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is running for re-election to a fourth term.


Court: Man can't be retried for murder after mistrial ruling
Law Center | 2018/04/16 05:40
Georgia's highest court says a man can't be retried for murder after the judge in his case declared a mistrial after about three hours of jury deliberations.

Jedarrius Treonta Meadows was on trial in September 2015 for the February 2014 shooting death of Damion Bernard Clayton in Macon.

The judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they weren't making progress and a bailiff said things had become contentious in the jury room. The defense objected, arguing that three hours of deliberation wasn't unreasonable.

The following month, the defense argued a retrial would violate Meadows' constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The judge rejected that in June.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday that the mistrial ruling was made "without sufficient factual support and without considering less drastic alternatives to terminating the trial."


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