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Court: Teen accused in school shooting plot deserves bail
Legal Interview | 2018/04/10 12:25
The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that a teenager accused of planning a shooting at his former high school should not be kept in jail pending his trial.

The state's top court ruled on Wednesday that there's not enough evidence to show 18-year-old Jack Sawyer, of Poultney, attempted a crime, only that he prepared to commit one.

The decision reverses a lower-court order that Sawyer be held without bail.

An attorney for Sawyer had argued that while the teen made preparations for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School he didn't take any concrete steps that under state law would justify charges including attempted aggravated murder, which allows a judge to reject bail.

Court documents say Sawyer had planned to carry out the attack last month. Sawyer has pleaded not guilty.


North Carolina court allows case against dance instructors
Headline News | 2018/04/09 12:25
North Carolina's highest court says dance instructors who glided away to a competing dance studio can still be sued by the employer who wrangled the foreign-born pair's permission to work in the United States.

Happy Dance Inc. studio owner Michael Krawiec said Wednesday he's not yet discussed with his lawyer how to proceed after last week's ruling by the state Supreme Court.

The court decided breach of contract and other claims can continue against two dance instructors from Bosnia and Serbia, but the Charlotte studio that hired them away is largely out of the woods.

U.S. dance studios face a chronic search for instructors and have filled the gap by importing foreign workers from Eastern Europe and other countries where learning to waltz or tango is part of growing up.


Retailers hope for certainty as Supreme Court hears tax case
Court Watch | 2018/04/08 12:25
Retailers are hoping for a resolution this year from the Supreme Court, which hears arguments Tuesday in a decades-old dispute: Whether companies must collect sales tax on items sold in a state where they don't have a store or other building.

If the court backs government officials who say they're losing billions of dollars in uncollected taxes, thousands of small companies could be forced to start charging their out-of-state customers for them. Some businesses fear that could alienate customers used to tax-free shopping. On the other side: Retailers who do collect sales tax and believe those who don't have an unfair advantage.

The justices will hear online retailers Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg challenging a South Dakota law enacted last May requiring out-of-state retailers that have sales of more than $100,000 or over 200 transactions a year in the state to collect sales tax. Their decision could have national implications on e-commerce, although Congress can pass legislation afterward that broadens or narrows the law.

It's not only about the money, says Stephanie Harvey, owner of exit343design in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. There are more than 10,000 sales tax jurisdictions in the United States: 35 states, the District of Columbia, counties and municipalities.

"Adding this sales tax isn't just about the tax itself — it's about the cost of time to navigate and file (taxes) or the additional expense of hiring someone to do so on behalf of the business," says Harvey, whose design and printing company has an online store and sells merchandise to other retailers.

The justices are likely to rule by June on whether to overturn a 1992 decision, Quill v. North Dakota, that said companies cannot be forced to collect sales tax from customers in a state where they don't have a physical presence like a store or distribution center. Collecting tax from online sales hasn't been a question for big online retailers like Walmart or Macy's since they have physical stores in most or all states. They also have accounting systems and financial staffs to handle the work.

Small retailers have software options to help collect taxes and do the administrative work, but it's an added cost. Whether it's worth it may depend on how much revenue a seller gets from other states. The most comprehensive software can work with the programs retailers use to process sales transactions. The software sellers determine the correct sales tax rate and submit payments and reports to tax authorities.


Ohio court to decide if ex-player can sue over concussions
Headline News | 2018/04/07 12:25
The Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether the widow of a former University of Notre Dame football player can sue the school and the NCAA over allegations her husband was disabled by concussions from his college career in the 1970s.

Steve Schmitz was suffering from dementia and early onset Alzheimer's disease when he and his wife, Yvette, filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County in October 2014. The lawsuit alleged both institutions showed "reckless disregard" for the safety of college football players and for their failure to educate and protect players from concussions.

The lawsuit said the link between repeated blows to the head and brain-related injuries and illnesses had been known for decades, but it was not until 2010 that the NCAA required colleges to formulate concussion protocols to remove an athlete from a game or practice and be evaluated by doctors.

Steve Schmitz died in February 2015. The lawsuit said the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed him in 2012 with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease attributed to receiving numerous concussions.

A judge ruled that too much time had passed for Schmitz to sue, a decision overturned by a state appeals court. The state's high court planned to hear arguments from both sides on Wednesday.

A ruling in favor of Schmitz's widow would allow her to return to court and argue the specific allegations regarding the impact of concussions on her husband, a running back and receiver.

Notre Dame and the NCAA argue the statute of limitations for Schmitz to have sued date back to his playing days when he first realized he suffered head injuries. As such, the two-year window for filing a personal injury claim had long passed, the institutions say.


Court to decide if drug use while pregnant is child abuse
Headline News | 2018/04/06 12:26
Pennsylvania's highest court will decide whether a woman's use of illegal drugs while pregnant qualifies as child abuse under state law.

The Supreme Court recently took up the case of a woman who tested positive for suboxone and marijuana at the time she gave birth early last year at Williamsport Hospital.

A county judge ruled that did not qualify as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law, but the intermediate Superior Court said drug use while pregnant can make bodily injury to a child likely after birth.

Court records indicate the child spent 19 days in the hospital being treated for drug dependence, exhibiting severe withdrawal symptoms.

"Mother's actions were deplorable but this court must follow the law," wrote Clinton County Judge Craig Miller in May, ruling the county child welfare agency had not established child abuse occurred.

The mother's lawyers argue lawmakers never intended the child protection law to apply to acts during pregnancy.

"No one thinks using drugs while pregnant is good, but using the criminal justice system and the civil child abuse system to punish people for doing so just makes a bad situation much, much worse," said the woman's lawyer, David S. Cohen.

Amanda Beth Browning, lawyer for the Clinton County Department of Children and Youth Services, declined comment.

In a filing with Supreme Court, the woman's lawyers said most states, with a few exceptions, "have taken a non-punitive approach to the issue."

"Almost every major medical and public health organization has recognized that punishing women for drug use during their pregnancies is counterproductive to public and private health," wrote lawyers for the mother, identified by initials in court records.


Lawyer tells Australian court Geoffrey Rush barely eating
Legal Focuses | 2018/04/05 12:26
Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has become virtually housebound, barely eats and wakes each morning with a "terrible sense of dread" since a Sydney newspaper alleged inappropriate behavior toward an actress, his lawyer swore in an affidavit.

Lawyer Nicholas Pullen's affidavit submitted to the Australian Federal Court in Sydney on Monday said the 66-year-old Australian actor had suffered "tremendous emotional and social hardship" since The Daily Telegraph accused him in December of inappropriate behavior toward actress Eryn Jean Norvill during the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "King Lear" in 2015.

Rush has denied the allegation. He is suing the newspaper over the articles, which he says portray him as a pervert and sexual predator. Details of the alleged behavior remain vague.

Rush "suffers lack of sleep and anxiety requiring medication" and believes his worth to the entertainment industry "is now irreparably damaged," his lawyer wrote.

He rarely left home in the three months after the articles and "has been virtually housebound," his lawyer said.

Rush "has lost his appetite and barely eats" and "wakes up every morning with a terrible sense of dread about his future career," Pullen added.

Rush has performed in the Sydney Theatre Company for 35 years. He won the 1997 best actor Academy Award for "Shine" and has three other Oscar nominations. He is perhaps best known as Captain Barbossa in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.



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