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The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals from three Republican U.S. House members who challenged fines for not wearing face coverings on the House floor in 2021.

The justices did not comment on leaving in place $500 fines issued in May 2021 to U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina.

The mask requirement was part of the House’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mandate remained in place even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance noting that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

The lawmakers showed up on the House floor without masks, even posing for a selfie. The requirement was lifted in June 2021.

Lower courts had refused to disturb the fines, ruling that courts lack the power to review the mask policy.

Lawyers for House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, had urged the court to reject the appeal from fellow Republican representatives, though they noted that Johnson and every other member of the Republican leadership voted against the mask policy.


A judge on Friday rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ’s attempts to throw out felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.

The decision by state District Judge Andrea Beall, an elected Democrat, keeps Paxton on track for an April 15 trial on charges that he duped investors in a tech startup.

If convicted, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Houston courtroom for the hearing, sitting at the defense table with his attorneys.

“He’s ready for trial … This thing has been pending for eight years. (The special prosecutors) want to dance. Put on your shoes. It’s time to go. Let’s dance,” Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told reporters after Friday’s court hearing.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling the case, said it was important that Paxton’s case go to trial because “no one is above the law. And that includes Ken Paxton. And that’s why this case matters.”

During Friday’s hearing, the other special prosecutor in the case, Kent Schaffer, announced he was withdrawing ahead of the trial.

After the hearing, Wice said the two prosecutors parted ways after disagreeing over Schaffer’s push to avoid a trial and instead settle the case through pre-trial intervention.

Wice said Schaffer had recently reached out to Cogdell with the offer for pretrial intervention, which is like probation and would ultimately lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant stays out of legal trouble.

Wice said he doesn’t believe pretrial intervention would have been appropriate because there would be no admission of guilt and no jail time.

“And without an acknowledgment of guilt, to me, that was worse than a slap on the wrist. That was, gee, let’s get you a cocktail, a hot meal, and breath mint. And that wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” Wice said.

Cogdell said Schaffer had reached out to him about the proposal and he would have been happy to resolve the case without a trial and a dismissal of the charges.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the witness stand Thursday and forcefully pushed back against what she described as “lies” about her romantic relationship with a special prosecutor during an extraordinary hearing over misconduct allegations that threaten to upend one of four criminal cases against Donald Trump.

A visibly upset Willis, who originally fought to stay off the witness stand, agreed to testify after a previous witness said her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade began earlier than they had claimed. The district attorney’s testimony grew heated under questioning from a defense attorney who’s trying to remove Willis from Trump’s 2020 election interference case, with the prosecutor at one point raising papers in front of her and shouting: “It’s a lie!”

“Do you think I’m on trial? These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial,” Willis told defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant. At another point, Willis said, “Merchant’s interests are contrary to democracy.”

Willis is expected to return to the witness stand on Friday to continue answer questions. The probing questions for Willis and for Wade, who testified before her, underscored the extent to which the prosecutors who pledged to hold Trump accountable are themselves now under a public microscope, with revelations about their personal lives diverting attention away from Trump’s own conduct and raising questions about the future of the case as Trump vies to reclaim the White House.

The revelation of Willis and Wade’s romantic relationship has provided an opening for Trump and his Republican allies to try to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Willis’ case, which the former president has characterized as politically motivated. Other Republicans have cited them in calling for investigations into Willis, a Democrat who’s up for re-election this year.


Former Illinois lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate William “Sam” McCann abruptly pleaded guilty on Thursday to nine felony counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, halting his federal corruption trial over misusing up to $550,000 in campaign contributions.

McCann, who cut off negotiations over a plea deal last fall when he dismissed his court-appointed attorneys, made the reversal on the third day of a bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Lawless. His latest lawyer, Jason Vincent, of Springfield, asked that he be released from custody as part of the deal, but Lawless nixed the idea, telling McCann his only option was to offer a no-strings open plea.

The seven counts of wire fraud and single count of money laundering each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. For tax evasion, it’s three. But a complex set of advisory guidelines before Lawless, who set sentencing for June 20, will likely yield a far shorter term.

“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?” Lawless asked. The 54-year-old McCann, wearing the gray-and-black striped jumpsuit of the nearby county jail where he’s held, replied, “Yes, your honor.”

Lawless set a hearing for Friday on McCann’s release request, but it’s certain to draw opposition from the government and not just because McCann violated probation last week when he left the state to check himself into a hospital with chest pains. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass told Lawless he would introduce as further evidence of McCann’s unreliability a bizarre social media video posted just this week in which McCann claims a government conspiracy involving an “ungodly pack of lies” is against him.

A state senator from 2011 to 2019, McCann formed the Conservative Party of Illinois to campaign for governor in 2018. A criminal indictment in 2021 outlined numerous schemes McCann employed to convert contributions from his campaign committees to buy vehicles, pay an overdue loan, two mortgages, credit card bills and fund a family vacation, entertainment and other purchases.

For his unsuccessful run for governor, he collected more than $3 million dollars from Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers alone. Despite being questioned four times by FBI and IRS agents in summer 2018 about alleged improper spending, he tore through $340,000 in leftover campaign funds for personal expenses in the year after the election.

McCann’s trial was repeatedly delayed. On the day it was supposed to start last November, McCann announced he had dismissed his court-appointed attorneys and would represent himself, telling reporters afterward, “God’s got this.” The proceeding was reset for Feb. 5, but McCann didn’t show, sending a weekend email that he was in a St. Louis-area hospital.


A verdict is expected Friday in Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial, adding to a consequential week on the former president’s legal calendar.

Trump could be hit with millions of dollars in penalties and other sanctions in the decision by Judge Arthur Engoron, who has already ruled that the former president inflated his wealth on financial statements that were given to banks, insurers and others to make deals and secure loans.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $370 million and a ban on Trump and other defendants from doing business in the state. A penalty like that could potentially wound the real estate empire that helped Trump craft his image as a savvy billionaire businessman and vaulted him to fame and the White House.

Engoron is set to rule after 2½ months of testimony from 40 witnesses, including Trump. Closing arguments were held Jan. 11. The judge is deciding the case because juries are not allowed in this type of lawsuit and neither James’ office nor Trump’s lawyers asked for one.

Engoron is expected to release his decision Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances that would necessitate a delay, court officials said.

It has already been a big week in court for Trump. On Thursday, a different New York judge ruled that Trump will stand trial March 25 on charges that he falsified his company’s records as part of an effort to buy the silence of people with potentially embarrassing stories about alleged infidelity. Trump says he is innocent.

If the schedule holds, it will be the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial.

Also Thursday, a judge in Atlanta heard arguments on whether to remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from Trump’s Georgia election interference case because she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor she hired.

James’ office has estimated that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion. State lawyers contend Trump used the inflated numbers to get lower insurance premiums and favorable loan terms, saving at least $168 million on interest alone.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and his lawyers have said they’ll appeal if Engoron rules against him.

The Republican presidential front-runner testified Nov. 6 that his financial statements actually understated his net worth and that banks did their own research and were happy with his business. During closing arguments in January, he decried the case as a “fraud on me.”

Engoron is deciding six claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. State lawyers alleged that Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion one year.

Before the trial, Engoron ruled on James’ top claim, finding that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent. As punishment, the judge ordered some of his companies removed from his control and dissolved. An appeals court has put that on hold.


Attorney and prominent conservative media figure Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, tearfully telling the judge she looks back on that time with “deep remorse.”

Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal with prosecutors, was a vocal part of Trump’s reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law.

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

She rose to speak after pleading guilty, fighting back tears as she said she would not have represented Trump after the 2020 election if she knew then what she knows now, claiming that she relied on lawyers with much more experience than her and failed to verify the things they told her.

“What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” the 38-year-old Ellis said.

The guilty plea from Ellis comes just days after two other defendants, fellow attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, entered guilty pleas. That means three high-profile people responsible for pushing baseless legal challenges to Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory have agreed to accept responsibility for their roles rather than take their chances before a jury. A lower-profile defendant pleaded guilty last month.

Responding to a reporter’s shouted question in the hallway of a New York City courthouse, where a civil case accusing him of inflating the value of his assets is being held, Trump said he didn’t know anything about Ellis’ plea deal but called it “too bad” and said he wasn’t worried by it.

“Don’t know anything, we’re totally innocent of everything, that’s political persecution is all it is,” he said.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Georgia case, used Ellis’ plea to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the racketeering charges Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought against all 19 defendants.



An appeals court ordered the Dutch government on Monday to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, citing a clear risk of violations of international law.

A trio of human rights organizations brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export license in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Judge Bas Boele said in reading out the ruling, eliciting cheers from several people in the courtroom.

The decision came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the conflict. Rutte was also expected to separately meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government would appeal. “It is up to the state to shape its foreign policy,” Geoffrey van Leeuwen, the minister for foreign trade and development said in a statement. In the meantime, van Leeuwen said his office would abide by the export ban.

“We are extremely grateful that there is justice and that the court was willing to speak out on justice,” lead lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told reporters after the hearing.

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland and The Rights Forum filed the case in December. They argued the continued transfer of the aircraft parts makes the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes being committed by Israel in its war with Hamas.

In January, a lower court sided with the government, allowing the Dutch to continue sending U.S.-owned parts stored at a warehouse in the town of Woensdrecht to Israel. The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses.

Other countries are also considering restricting weapons sales to Israel. Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have brought a similar suit against their government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel.

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