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Court: Idaho nuclear waste documents won't be made public
Lawyer Blogs | 2018/02/06 19:13
U.S. officials don't have to provide details about proposed shipments of extremely radioactive spent commercial nuclear fuel to the country's top government nuclear research laboratory in Idaho, a federal court has ruled.

The ruling was a major setback to a lawsuit filed by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who had a long history of legal battles with the Energy Department over nuclear waste entering the state and a firm belief that residents had a right to know the agency's plans.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Tuesday ruled the federal agency acted properly in withholding information sought by Andrus in a Freedom of Information Act request he filed in January 2015.

That decision means the documents will not be released to the public anytime soon, but they ultimately could be as another part of Andrus' argument has yet to play out and the case remains open.

Andrus, a Democrat who died in August at age 85, filed the lawsuit in September 2015 after receiving heavily blacked-out documents from the federal agency about the spent commercial nuclear fuel shipments. His daughter, Tracy Andrus, has been substituted with the court's approval as the plaintiff in the case.

The former governor's longtime aide, Marc Johnson, said he was disappointed with Tuesday's ruling in favor of the Department of Energy, "particularly after waiting so long to see what DOE really has in mind for further waste in Idaho."

The lawsuit seeks information about several hundred pounds of proposed research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel the federal agency wants to send to the Idaho National Laboratory, the nation's top federal nuclear research lab.

The shipments required a waiver to a nuclear waste agreement the Energy Department and Idaho signed in 1995 limiting nuclear waste shipments to Idaho. The agreement followed federal court victories by then Gov. Andrus at a time when he feared the state was becoming a repository for the nation's nuclear waste.

Andrus, before his death from complications from cancer, contended that signing such a waiver would open the state up to receiving tons of nuclear waste from around the nation, and is why he sought information about the Energy Department's plans.



UK court increases sentence for surgeon who maimed patients
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/08/03 16:13
Britain's appeals court has increased to 20 years the prison sentence of a surgeon convicted of performing unnecessary operations, leaving scores of patients maimed and some in constant pain.

Ian Paterson falsely told patients they had cancer and performed operations including mastectomies. He was convicted of crimes against 10 patients in May and sentenced to 15 years. Prosecutors believe there were many more victims.

The government challenged the sentence, and three appeals judges agreed Thursday that it was "unduly lenient."

One of the judges, Heather Hallet, said "greed, self-aggrandizement, power" and other possible motives "do not come close to explaining how a doctor can falsely tell a patient he or she has cancer when they have not."

She said the victims "must feel no sentence could properly reflect their suffering."



Australian court debates release of Queen's secret letters
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/07/25 16:33
A legal battle over secret letters revealing what Queen Elizabeth II knew of her Australian representative's stunning plan to dismiss Australia's government in 1975 opened in federal court Monday, in a case that could finally solve a mystery behind the country's most dramatic political crisis.

Historian Jenny Hocking is asking the Federal Court to force the National Archives of Australia to release the letters between the British monarch, who is also Australia's constitutional head of state, and her former Australian representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr. The Archives have classified the letters as "personal," meaning they might never be made public.

The letters would reveal what, if anything, the queen knew about Kerr's plan to dismiss Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's government in 1975 to resolve a deadlock in Parliament. It is the only time in Australian history that a democratically elected federal government was dismissed on the British monarch's authority. The dismissal stunned Australians and bolstered calls for the country to sever its colonial ties to Britain and become a republic.

Whitlam's own son, lawyer Antony Whitlam, is arguing the case on behalf of Hocking, and took on the case free of charge.

Hocking, a Whitlam biographer, argues that Australians have a right to know the details of their history, and that the letters written in the months leading up to the unprecedented dismissal are key to unraveling the truth.


Top Kansas Court to Revisit Death Penalty in Wichita Murders
Lawyer Blogs | 2017/05/03 04:34
The Kansas Supreme Court is considering for a second time whether to spare two brothers from being executed for four murders in what became known as "the Wichita massacre" after earlier rulings in the men's favor sparked a political backlash.

The justices were hearing arguments from attorneys Thursday in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers were convicted of dozens of crimes against five people in December 2000 that ended with the victims being shot in a snow-covered Wichita field, with one woman surviving to testify against the brothers.

The crimes were among the most notorious in the state since the 1959 slayings of a western Kansas family that inspired the book "In Cold Blood." The state has 10 men on death row, including the Carrs, but it has not executed anyone since hangings in 1965.

The Kansas court overturned the Carr brothers' death sentences in July 2014, citing flaws in their joint trial and sentencing hearing. The decisions stunned the victims' families and friends, as well as legislators. Critics launched unsuccessful efforts to oust six of the seven justices in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the Kansas court's rulings in a sometimes scathing January 2016 opinion. The nation's highest court returned the men's cases to the Kansas court for further reviews.

The Carr brothers' attorneys are raising some of the same legal questions again, arguing that the Kansas Constitution requires the death sentences to be overturned even if the U.S. Constitution doesn't. The Kansas court has the last word on "state law" issues. There is one new justice since the court last ruled in 2014.

The Kansas court previously concluded that the two men should have had separate sentencing hearings. Jonathan Carr argued that he was not as responsible as his brother for the crimes and that Reginald Carr had been a bad influence on him during their troubled childhoods.


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