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Court hears case of officer immune from manslaughter charge
Legal Business | 2016/09/27 20:42
A federal appeals court will hear arguments Tuesday in a Texas case in which the state is trying to prosecute a white Texas officer who a judge earlier said was immune from prosecution in the shooting death of a black man.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the case in New Orleans.

Charles Kleinert was an Austin police officer working with an FBI task force investigating bank robberies when he encountered Larry Jackson Jr. Court records say Jackson tried to enter a bank that was closed, saying he wanted to make a withdrawal. Kleinert was inside, and bank employees who talked to Jackson told Kleinert he lied about his identity.

Kleinert went out to investigate and after a short conversation, Jackson ran off. Kleinert gave chase.

When Kleinert caught up to Jackson, a struggle ensued and Jackson was shot in the back of the neck and died. Kleinert's team have argued that Kleinert hit Jackson twice with his hand while holding his gun, then Jackson turned, Kleinert fell back and his gun accidentally discharged.

Prosecutors have argued that Kleinert acted recklessly, that he used excessive force and suggested the gun was directly against Jackson's neck when it went off. A Texas grand jury indicted Kleinert for manslaughter in July 2013.

But before the case went to trial, a federal judge dismissed it. The judge cited a more than 100-year-old court ruling protecting federal officers from state prosecution if they were carrying out their duties in a reasonable and proper manner. The protection doesn't shield all acts by federal law enforcement, but it does create a different, and what many consider a more forgiving, standard for their conduct than state law.



Court gives fertilizer dealers a reprieve from policy change
Videos for Legal Insight | 2016/09/26 20:42
A court ruling has given farm fertilizer dealers a reprieve from a federal policy change that some say would unfairly burden the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy change announced last year would regulate retail dealers of farm fertilizer such as anhydrous ammonia under the same standards as manufacturers. It came after a deadly explosion at a Texas plant in 2013.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute say the change would affect 3,800 fertilizer retailers nationwide, costing them more than $100 million. The two organizations sued a year ago.

The change was to take effect this coming Saturday. But a federal appeals court has ruled that OSHA can't implement it without going through a formal rule-making process.



DC appeals court hears arguments in Clean Power Plan case
Court News | 2016/09/23 20:42
Barack Obama's plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, which aims to slow climate change by reducing power-plant emissions by one-third, has been challenged by more than two dozen mostly Republican-led states, including Texas, and allied business and industry groups tied to fossil fuels. The states deride the carbon-cutting plan unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency as an "unlawful power grab" that will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.

The Supreme Court has delayed implementation until the legal challenges are resolved.

Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last year. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

Regardless of which side prevails at the appeals level, the issue is considered likely to end up being decided by the Supreme Court.


Court asks judges to respond to Louisiana sheriff's claims
Lawyer Blog Post | 2016/09/18 20:42
A federal appeals court on Monday asked two judges to respond to a petition by a Louisiana sheriff who claims another judge was improperly removed from his criminal case without explanation.

A letter from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Chief Judge Dee Drell of the Western District of Louisiana and U.S. District Judge Donald Walter in Shreveport are "invited" to file written responses by Oct. 6. The appeals court also asked two federal prosecutors to respond to Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal's arguments.

Ackal's attorney, John McLindon, argued in a court filing Friday that U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi's mysterious removal from the sheriff's case violated court rules and apparently was done without her consent earlier this year.

McLindon also is challenging Walter's decision to hold the trial in Shreveport instead of Lafayette, where the case originated.

The letter from the 5th Circuit doesn't specify what issues the judges and prosecutors should address in their responses to Ackal's petition. The letter indicated that they discussed the matter by telephone on Monday morning.

Ackal awaits trial next month on charges over the alleged beatings of jail inmates. Nine former employees of the sheriff's office already have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the Justice Department's civil rights investigation.

Minaldi originally was assigned to preside over the high-profile cases against the sheriff and 11 of his subordinates. But Drell abruptly reassigned the cases to Walter in March, two days after Ackal's indictment. Drell didn't give a reason for the switch in his one-sentence orders.

Four days before Minaldi's removal from the cases, she was in the middle of accepting guilty pleas by two former sheriff's deputies when a prosecutor cut her off mid-sentence and asked to speak to a defense attorney. Then, after a short break and private discussion with the attorneys, Minaldi adjourned the March 7 hearing in Lake Charles without giving a reason on the record.


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