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Bolivian ex-heads of state convicted in U.S. civil trial

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Dado Galdieri as reported by The Nation 4/27/18.

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Dado Galdieri as reported by The Nation 4/27/18.

An April 3 guilty verdict in a civil trial in Florida marked something unique in case law: “The case marks the first time that an ex-head of state was forced to face his accusers in a US court for human-rights abuses,” reports The Nation.

“The events in the case took place 15 years ago and thousands of miles away from the US district federal courtroom in downtown Fort Lauderdale where the trial played out,” The Nation recounts. “For three weeks in March, the families of people killed by the Bolivian military during a 2003 country-wide uprising testified against former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his minister of defense Carlos Sánchez Berzaín.”

The landmark human-rights case stemmed from the U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act, “one of the broadest human-rights laws in the world,” The Nation explains. “The TVPA created the ability to bring cases of extrajudicial killings and torture against foreign officials when the potential remedies are exhausted in a plaintiff’s home country.”

In 2011, Bolivia’s Supreme Court found five former military officials and two former cabinet ministers guilty for their role in the 2003 killings. “After a two-and-a-half-year trial, the generals received 10- to 15-year prison sentences, and the ministers three years a piece,” the article explains.

“Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in that case as well, but because at the time Bolivian law prohibited trials in absentia and both were residents in the US, neither was tried. US support for the two men was made explicit in 2007, when Sánchez Berzaín was granted political asylum.”

The 2003 killings happened in the midst of political protests against a natural gas pipeline project. “The coalition government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, popularly known as Goni, who had won his second term with the help of US Democratic Party election consultants, declared a state of siege and militarized El Alto and surrounding areas,” the article recounts. “Once the dust settled, around 60 people had been killed and over 400 wounded. …”

Sara Corcoran interviews Alan Lowenthal, United States Congressman for California’s 47th District.

Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran with Alan Lowenthal, United States Congressman for California’s 47thDistrict.

Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran with Alan Lowenthal, United States Congressman for California’s 47thDistrict.

Just published is Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran’s interview with Alan Lowenthal, United States Congressman for California’s 47thDistrict.

“I have the largest Cambodian community in the country, one of the largest Vietnamese American communities, and a large LGBTQ community. I am going to continue to fight for human rights. I’ve had legislation passed with Ed Markey in the Senate to ensure that the State Department deals with LGBTQ issues internationally. Right now, there are some 70 nations where it’s a crime of some sort to be gay and in some of those countries you can be put to death. Together we need to make sure U.S. policymakers are working with those countries to change those policies. We can provide assistance to them and urge that they be required to have human rights protections for all,” states Rep. Lowenthal in the interview.

Rep. Lowenthal also provides insights on the upcoming elections in this riveting interview. Read it here: http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/2018/05/22/19938/

Internet freedom in peril from new anti-sex trafficking law

Photo credit: Vox online article, April 18, 2018, Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Photo credit: Vox online article, April 18, 2018, Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A new law that combats sex trafficking could indanger Internet freedom, according to the online news site, Vox.

A flurry of litigation could ensue if the warnings are true.

“The next big battle over internet freedom is here,” warns Vox in its April 23 article. “This month, Washington lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a narrow bill that seeks to crack down on sex trafficking online. To most, it seemed like a no-brainer: Sex trafficking is obviously bad. The law, however, changed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, a 20-year-old communications law that is the basis of the free internet as we know it.”

The new legislation, signed into law on April 11 by President Trump, “opens more avenues for victims of online sex trafficking to legally pursue websites that facilitate trafficking by amending Section 230, making it easier for federal and state prosecutors and private citizens to go after platforms whose sites have been used by traffickers. …” reports Vox.

“The law creates an exception to Section 230 that means platforms would be responsible for third-party content related to sex trafficking or conduct that ‘promotes or facilitates prostitution.’”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, “the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world,” described Section 230 as crucial to Internet freedom.

“Section 230 says that ‘no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider’ (47 U.S.C. § 230). In other words, online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. The protected intermediaries include not only regular Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but also a range of ‘interactive computer service providers,’ including basically any online service that publishes third-party content.”

The foundation continues, “This legal and policy framework has allowed for YouTube and Vimeo users to upload their own videos, Amazon and Yelp to offer countless user reviews, craigslist to host classified ads, and Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking to hundreds of millions of Internet users.

Section 230, according to Vox, faces more threats than the new anti-sex trafficking law, “but also in light of increased scrutiny on Facebook and the advent of platforms such as Airbnb and Yelp, where third-party content is the business model.”

 

Gynecological mesh is making legal headlines

Caption should be: Photo from CBS 60 Minutes story, 5/13/18.

Photo from CBS 60 Minutes story, 5/13/18.

A strip of plastic called gynecological mesh is making legal headlines. According to CBS’ 60 Minutes, “The manufacturers and several medical societies say the implant is safe. But more than 100,000 women are suing. And together, they make up the largest multi-district litigation since asbestos. “

One of the largest manufacturers of the gynecological mesh is Boston Scientific, which has attracted 48,000 lawsuits, which claim that its mesh “can inflict life-altering pain and injury.” Read more…

California city uses GoFundMe.com for legal costs

The Go Fund Me page for the City of Los Alamitos legal defense.

The Go Fund Me page for the City of Los Alamitos legal defense.

Help with paying a dog’s veterinary bills. Funds to stage a benefit for a peanut vendor. Aid to a family recovering from a house fire. GoFundMe.com, the popular crowd-funding site, typically channels donations to individuals with specific fundraising needs.

But in California, where clashes over immigration policy continue to rage, one community has resorted to using GoFundMe.com to bankroll a legal battle involving the state and its immigration policy.

“Please help the City of Los Alamitos in our fight against Sanctuary Law and our support of the U.S. Constitution,” reads the page titled, “Mayor Edgar’s – Stop Sanctuary Law.” “Please contribute to our GoFund Me Page for the City’s legal defense. The funds will go directly to the City to pay for our legal costs.”  

The Go Fund Me page indicated that in roughly a month, $21,544 had been raised toward the city’s $100,000 goal.

A FindLaw blog reported on the larger legal dispute, noting, “The city of Los Alamitos, located in Orange County, is facing a lawsuit over a recently enacted ordinance permitting the city residents and officials to disregard the state of California’s recently passed sanctuary state law. … But, in response to the Los Alamitos law, concerned residents, through the ACLU and other groups, filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the city’s law from taking effect.”

The state law faces its own legal challenges, but city officials weren’t content to wait for that litigation to play out.

“Curiously, Los Alamitos has actually set up a GoFundMe page seeking donations to fund the litigation,” FindLaw reported. “And if you thought this curious idea was the result of some social media intern on the cutting edge, it was the town’s mayor, Troy Edgar, that launched the page.”

The L.A. Times reported in April, “Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar said he could not comment on the pending lawsuit but stated that it will prompt him to focus on promoting a GoFundMe page that he launched last month to help pay for legal costs.”

Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran tells the tale of legal enigma in her recent Buzzfeed article

All Roads Lead to Baron & Budd-2 copyDebating the “nature of existence” is more the stuff of college dorms (and at least one recent documentary) than state appeals courts, so the legal team for a Texas journalist seeking to open a 20-year-old deposition transcript might have been taken aback when the debate arose not from the other side, but from the bench.

At issue is a deposition by a Texas attorney named Russell Budd, part of the politically connected Dallas-based firm Barron & Budd that rose to prominence, in large part, due to successfully representing asbestos victims. The Russell Budd deposition from 20 years ago reportedly addresses a “witness coaching memo” that was as controversial then as it is now.

Courts Monitor publisher Sara Corcoran tells the tale of this legal enigma in her recent Buzzfeed article, Texas Attorney General Paxton On Point To Open Mystery Testimony.

EPA set to overturn Obama-era vehicle efficiency rules, California sues

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Photo Credit:
Wikipedia

According to the Washington Post, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will revisit Obama-era vehicle efficiency rules. Obama’s policy to address climate change would raise efficiency requirements on the nation’s automobile fleet to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump-era proposal would freeze the emissions standards at 2021 levels. The new plan would also challenge California’s ability to set its own fuel-efficiency rules.

A lawsuit — filed by California with support from other states and environmental groups – aims to try to block the overturn of Obama’s policy.

New protocol dismisses civil rights cases before Education Department

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo Credit:
Wikipedia

Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, hundreds of civil rights complaints before her department are being dismissed, based on a new protocol that seeks to unclog the system, the New York Times reports.

“The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has begun dismissing hundreds of civil rights complaints under a new protocol that allows investigators to disregard cases that are part of serial filings or that they consider burdensome to the office,” the New York Times reports.

“The changes worry civil rights groups, which point out that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has already rescinded guidances meant to protect students against sexual assaults on campuses and black and transgender students against bias.”

The department’s Office for Civil Rights responds that it wants to be more efficient and effective than it was under the Obama administration, “which was known for its aggressive enforcement and broad investigations but was also accused of being overzealous and leaving cases languishing for years,” the newspaper reports.

If Supreme Court upholds President Trump’s travel ban, will it rein in district judges who have opposed it?

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press as reported in Los Angeles Times, 4/25/18

Photo Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press as reported in Los Angeles Times, 4/25/18

A travel ban that limits immigration may secure a key legal victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, based on comments from justices on April 25, a major newspaper predicts.

The L.A. Times reports, “The Supreme Court’s conservative justices sounded ready Wednesday to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, potentially giving the embattled White House a big legal victory after a series of defeats in the lower courts.”

The third version of a travel ban “bars the entry of most immigrants and travelers from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and North Korea as well as officials from Venezuela,” the L.A. Times reports.

“The justices issued a ruling in June that allowed the second version of the travel ban to take partial effect. Then, in December, with only two dissents, they set aside lower-court rulings to allow the administration to put the third version into practice, a strong indicator of where the majority was headed,” the newspaper reports.

This brings up the question about whether this ruling will override the “increasingly common practice of district judges handing down nationwide orders based on a suit brought by a handful of plaintiffs,” such as the district judge’s order in Hawaii that blocked the travel ban nationwide.

Suit spurs $6.4 million ‘revenge porn’ judgment

Elisa D’Amico, a lawyer with the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, as reported in the New York Times, 4/11/18. Photo credit: Jake Naughton for The New York Times.

Elisa D’Amico, a lawyer with the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, as reported in the New York Times, 4/11/18. Photo credit: Jake Naughton for The New York Times.

In a relatively new area of law, a major court verdict has been handed down against a perpetrator of “revenge porn.”

This phenomenon involves the distribution of sexually explicit images or video of someone without their consent. A flurry of legislation across the United States now has culminated in a $6.4 million judgment, considered one of the largest ever.

On April 11, the New York Times reported on the case, which involved a California woman and her boyfriend. They ended their relationship in 2013, but “he began to post sexual photographs and videos of her on pornography websites and to impersonate her in online dating forums, according to court documents,” the New York Times reported. “He threatened to make her life ‘so miserable she would want to kill herself.’ … In 2014, the woman, who was listed as Jane Doe in court documents to protect her identity, sued her former boyfriend, David K. Elam II, in United States District Court in California to get him to stop. Four years passed, until the court awarded her $6.4 million on April 4, in one of the biggest judgments ever in a so-called revenge porn case.”

According to the article, “The California case was one of the first lawsuits filed by the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, an initiative started in 2014 by K&L Gates, a Pittsburgh law firm, to litigate against online harassment and the non-consensual posting of explicit material…”