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Legal System

2022 Was A Big Year For Climate Action In The Courts

A pair of climate cases from opposite sides of the country appear to be the closest yet to holding fossil fuel companies accountable in court. Lawsuits filed by Honolulu, Hawaii, and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have both overcome initial procedural hurdles and are advancing in state courts, despite dogged attempts by lawyers for the fossil fuel firms to punt the cases into federal courts where they hoped to find an easier path to dismissal. And the two cases have each taken a big leap forward in state courts with judges denying fossil fuel defendants’ requests to dismiss the litigation. Earlier this year, a Hawaii state court judge issued several rulings denying oil companies’ motions to dismiss Honolulu’s case, originally filed in March 2020. In a press release, the Honolulu City Council explained, “with these favorable rulings [Honolulu’s] case is now set to become the first in the country to move into a trial phase and begin the all-important process of discovery, where the oil companies must begin opening up files to show what they knew.”

$2.8-Billion Settlement Reached In Lawsuit Over Residential Schools

Officials announced Saturday that the federal government and 325 First Nations have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit, seeking reparations for the loss of language and culture brought on by Indian residential schools, for $2.8 billion. The agreement still has to be approved by a Federal Court before it can be disbursed to recipients, who filed the claim for collective compensation in 2012 as part of a broader class action known as the Gottfriedson case. Canada agreed to pay the $2.8 billion of settlement money into a new trust fund that will operate for 20 years, if the court approves the deal. The fund will be run independent of the federal government, according to officials. The fund organization will be governed by a board of nine Indigenous directors, of whom Canada will choose one, the agreement says.

Perú’s Prosecutor’s Office Initiates Investigation Against Boluarte

This Tuesday, January 10, the Peruvian Prosecutor’s Office ordered a preliminary investigation to be initiated against the de facto president, Dina Boluarte, for crimes of genocide, qualified homicide, and serious injuries, regarding the protests that have shaken the country after the ousting of Pedro Castillo as head of state. Several members of Boluarte’s cabinet will also be investigated, including the president of the council of ministers, Alberto Otárola, minister of the interior, Víctor Rojas, and minister of defense, Jorge Chávez, will also be investigated. In addition, the body ordered an investigation against Pedro Angulo, as former president of the council of ministers, and César Cervantes, as former minister of the interior. The measure will be applied in relation to “the alleged crimes of genocide, qualified homicide and serious injuries,” committed during the demonstrations in the months of December 2022 and January 2023, across the regions of Apurímac, La Libertad, Puno, Junín, Arequipa, and Ayacucho.

‘Public Trust’—A Key Legal Tool To Preserve Our Natural Resources

With the reality of climate change becoming more apparent in the form of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods, it is clear that the future of all life on the planet is in peril. To stress the immediacy and seriousness of human-caused climate change and its effects, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the leaders and representatives of nearly 200 countries at COP27 in November 2022. “Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” said Guterres at the conference. “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” As the climate rapidly changes largely due to the environmentally damaging practices of large corporations, unchecked by government officials that receive campaign contributions from the polluting industries, it may seem like there isn’t much that can be done to combat this problematic pattern.

Indigenous Elders Evicted And Banished From Colony Without Trial

Winnemucca Indian Colony, Paiute and Shoshone lands, Nevada - The Winnemucca Indian Colony is an Indian Colony created by the 1916 executive order of Woodrow Wilson and an act of 1928 Congress for homeless Paiute and Shoshone Indians to live and work nearby the developing railroad and town in far northwest Nevada. While the history of the Colony is complex, it is undisputed that Residents engaged in self-governance of their homelands until the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and others asserted involvement in the group’s affairs. The community has suffered from years of litigious disputes, harassment, and violence over who has authority over the Winnemucca Indian Colony. See generally Winnemucca Indian Colony v. United States of America Department of the Interior ex rel Ayers, (9th Cir. No. 18017121).

Prosecution In Saab Case Threatens To Undermine Diplomatic Immunity

The trial of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab continued on December 20, when U.S. District Judge Robert Scola heard closing arguments in an evidentiary hearing concerned with whether or not the concept of diplomatic immunity applied to his case. The diplomat was arrested on June 12, 2020, while en route to Iran from Venezuela as part of a special mission to broker a deal for food, fuel, medicine and other essential goods that became scarce in Venezuela due to the U.S. economic blockade. When his plane was forced to refuel in Cape Verde, local authorities arrested and eventually extradited him to the United States, despite the fact that he should have been afforded immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Saab is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which could carry a twenty year sentence if convicted.

Closing Arguments In US Political Prisoner Alex Saab’s Legal Hearing

After day one and day two of the hearing, December 12-13, the case of Alex Saab’s diplomatic immunity wrapped up on the third day, December 20. Judge Robert Scola in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida will make his decision by the end of this month. Saab’s defense explained that to determine whether Alex Saab is entitled to diplomatic immunity, the judge must answer three questions: “First, did the sending state, Venezuela, appoint Mr. Saab as a special envoy for the purpose of obtaining humanitarian aid in the form of food, medicine and oil? Second, did the receiving state, Iran, accept Mr. Saab as a special envoy? And third, was Mr. Saab in transit on the mission at the time of his detention and extradition?”

After 41 Years In Prison, Mumia Abu-Jamal May Finally Get A New Trial

Award-winning journalist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison for 41 years in a case infused with racism. The 68-year-old is a former Black Panther and the author of a dozen books, including the celebrated Live from Death Row. After his 1982 conviction in the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner, Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death. In 2011, his sentence was reduced to life without the possibility of parole. Abu-Jamal has a serious heart condition and other life-threatening health problems. Faulkner stopped Abu-Jamal’s younger brother William Cook on the morning of December 9, 1981. Abu-Jamal, who was driving a taxi, coincidentally drove by and came to his brother’s assistance. Following a shootout, Faulkner was shot and killed. Abu-Jamal was shot in the stomach.

All Charges Dismissed Against Nick Tilsen In 2.5 Year Long Case

Rapid City, South Dakota – Today, NDN Collective announced that after nearly two and a half years of legal battles, all charges against NDN Collective president and CEO Nick Tilsen have been dismissed by the state of South Dakota. “My case held a mirror up to the so-called legal system, where prosecutors – fueled by white fragility and fear of Indigenous power – wasted years of state resources to intimidate, criminalize, and violate me,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective. “The fact that I’ve gone from facing 17 years in prison to all charges dismissed is not a coincidence or an act of justice – it’s evidence that the charges were bogus from the start. We only won because we had effective tools and a strong network to fight them, and did not back down until we had exhausted the system that was built to exhaust us.

Venezuelan Political Prisoner On Trial In Miami Refuses To ‘Sing’

Starting December 12, an evidentiary hearing before the US Southern District Court of Florida is considering a case of historic importance. Is the US above international law? Can international conventions on diplomatic immunity be violated by US courts and prosecutors? The fate of Alex Saab, a special envoy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is being contested, but larger questions that could affect the lives of diplomats around the world will be decided. Most prisoners with a get-out-of-jail-free card would have played it, but not Alex Saab. The Venezuelan diplomat has been incarcerated for two and a half years. On June 12, 2020, Alex Saab was on a mission from Caracas to Tehran to procure supplies of food, fuel, and medicine denied the Venezuelans by sanctions imposed by the US.

Protest Called In Miami For Freedom Of Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab

An important hearing takes place on Monday, December 12 in the case of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, illegally imprisoned in the US. Solidarity activists will protest outside the Federal Court building in Miami, chanting “Free Alex Saab,” while inside a judge will hear arguments from Saab’s defense trying to win his freedom. Saab’s defense will assert his status as a Special Envoy of the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. As a special envoy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Saab is immune to prosecution by the US government, according to international law. “The United States is singling out Alex Saab for punishment because he is key to bypassing the illegal US sanctions imposed on Venezuela,” said Cassia Laham of the Free Alex Saab Committee.

Court Rules Against Waratah Coal Mine In Landmark Ruling

The Queensland Land Court has ruled human rights would be unjustifiably limited by a proposal to dig the state's largest coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. First Nations-led activist group Youth Verdict challenged an application by mining company Waratah Coal, owned by billionaire Clive Palmer. The group of young Queensland activists challenged the mine on the basis it would impact the human rights of First Nations peoples by contributing to climate change. The coal mine would remove about 40 million tonnes of coal a year for export to South-East Asia, with a forecast life span of 30 years. It is the first time a group has successfully argued coal from a mine would impact human rights by contributing to climate change.

A Promising Challenge To The World’s Richest Man

A good day’s work for a good day’s pay. Should this age-old wisdom define how our workplaces here in the 21st century go about compensating work? More to the point: Should our corporations start applying this common-sense standard across the board, to both front-line workers and our most powerful corporate CEOs? Kathaleen McCormick will soon let us know, in a turn of events that must have the richest man in the known universe — Elon Musk — more than a little bit uneasy. McCormick currently serves as the chancellor — top judge — in what amounts to Corporate America’s top go-to judicial body, Delaware’s little-known Court of Chancery. Why does corporate law so often come down to what judges in Delaware say that law should be?

Repression In The Courts Is Failing To Silence Palestine Campaigners

Palestine campaigners have been dragged through the UK courts over the last few months because of their intense direct action campaign against Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. Elbit is Israel’s largest private drone manufacturer, and manufactures the majority of the drones that the Israeli military uses to attack Gaza. It also manufactures small-caliber ammunition for the Israeli army. Campaigners have been have been taking action against Elbit for more than a decade. However, the direct action campaign gathered momentum after the formation of Palestine Action in 2020. Campaigners have vowed to push Elbit out of the UK. This week, three campaigners are standing trial in Southwark Crown Court, for an action in which they drenched the London HQ of Elbit Systems in red paint.

How Brazil’s Electoral Court Took Action Against Bolsonaro’s Fake News

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has often been described as the “Trump of the tropics,” in reference to the former leader of the United States. But this has led to superficial comparisons between the two countries. It is true that the Bolsonaro family and members of Steve Bannon’s ultra-conservative “Movement” have worked together closely, and social media disinformation tactics were imported from the US and became a key factor in Bolsonaro’s 2018 electoral victory. However, Brazil’s electoral system is completely different. Many things that are illegal in US elections – especially regarding campaign funding – are considered election fraud under Brazilian law.
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