Category Archives: News

Brexit Opponents Consider Legal Routes

BrexitOpponents of “Brexit” are considering legal steps they can take to try and prevent the UK’s exit from the EU. Lawyers and campaigners have been studying the situation to identify areas of the law through which the decision may be challenged.

The referendum has proved a decisive issue for the UK, and a vote in favour of leaving the EU by a majority of just 51.9% has left many opponents of Brexit unsatisfied. Many not only continue to believe that leaving the EU would be a mistake, but feel that, with the public still essentially split down the middle, the vote was too close to form the basis of such a major and long-term decision for the country’s future. Matters have not been helped by polls suggesting that over 1.1 million people may regret voting leave, either in light of things that have happened and information that has come to light since voting closed or because they used it as a protest vote.

Millions of people, an unprecedented number, have signed a petition for the government to repeat the referendum in hopes that the British public will be able to come to a more decisive conclusion one way or another. Others fear that this could just lead to a “neverendum” where vote after vote must be held before a vote that will be accepted can emerge.

Those who oppose either the entire concept of leaving the EU or the acceptance of such a narrow majority have begun looking at possible legal bases for either blocking the UK’s exit from the EU or delaying it for further consideration. Many of these possibilities are rooted in the fact that the referendum itself is not legally binding. A public vote is not part of the process for leaving the EU and under law is essentially an opinion poll, though the government added weight to it by pledging before polls opened to follow the result.

The actual legal mechanism for the UK to enact Brexit is by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives a two-year timeframe for the country to negotiate its exit. Article 50 states that an EU member state may leave the Union “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” This has led some legal experts to raise questions about just what requirements are lawful in the UK constitution, with some claiming that the Prime Minister alone does not have the authority to invoke Article 50 as this would overturn the 1972 European Communities Act. Under this interpretation, the Prime Minister requires consent in the form of an act of parliament to leave the EU.

A number of legal experts have subscribed to this view. One of these is Lord Pannick QC, who says that the question of whether such consent should be given is a matter for parliament to decide.

Learning Management Platforms Bring Law Students into the Digital Age

As law students gear up for the upcoming fall semester, they can expect a number of technological innovations that are changing the ways college courses are conducted. The University of Oregon has already used a learning management system called “Blackboard” for a number of years. With the online platform, students are able to access course syllabi, readings, assignments, notes, and quizzes with the click of a button. Law students enjoy the efficiency of the program, which allows them to reach out to fellow students in their classes, email professors, and keep track of their homework. But what about those long, exhausting hours of study?

Digital Platform Makes Legal Study More Manageable

Albany Oregon attorneys are particularly interested in technology and its role in the legal world, anticipating more digital enhancements to law programs in the Pacific Northwest region. A recent article detailed an application growing in popularity. LearnLeo is a learning management system specifically engineered for legal education. Since its launch in 2012, LearnLeo has been involved with 20 of the country’s top law schools. In lieu of bulky textbooks and endless sticky notes, diligent graduate students have access to an online program that lets them read, highlight, and organize materials without the hassle of paperwork.

Among other scholarly fields of study, B.A. to J.D. programs are notoriously tedious when it comes to course workload. Students find themselves sifting through endless information while preparing for assignments, exams, and mock trials. Experts predict that digital platforms like LearnLeo can save scholars hours of study time a week. Instead of compiling, organizing, and outlining case notes, eager learners have more time to actually take in the information and understand it. The virtual classroom also streamlines course content, letting professors lead the group in study without waiting on them to thumb through gigantic textbooks.

Technology to Meet Law Student Demands

At Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, students use ExamSoft to take their tests, a program that makes grading easier and allows professors to assign quizzes for homework. Embracing a program like LearnLeo will cater more specifically to the needs of students. While the original product is focused on helping pupils create briefs and outlines, two new products made by the company are now available.

Described as a “pre-law prep program” and a “careers” option, the software gives valuable advice for young people thinking about a career in the legal field. The technology evaluates participating law firms and provides important job prospect information for graduates. LearnLeo also mentors younger students, acquainting them with terminology and other info that will help them adjust to the culture shock of law school.

Right now, the innovative technology is still in its infancy. But Albany, Oregon attorneys recently discovered that students in local programs can access almost 15,000 cases in LearnLeo’s database, making it an incredible–and totally free–resource. Users need to create a quick profile before starting. With news that 3 of Oregon’s law schools have ranked among the top in the nation as of 2015, it’s only a matter of time before they are on board with the learning platform. If you’re headed back to school this Fall, consider these other ways the Internet can help you survive the stress of law school.

Technology’s Impact on Law Students’ Study Habits – 5 Helpful Tips

  • Online dictionaries offer instant access to the definitions of perplexing legal jargon.
  • Collaborate with others on case briefs and read existing resources via a variety of free websites.
  • Research the latest cases in legal news that out-of-date textbooks won’t tell you about.
  • Endless blog articles offer helpful advice on the transition to law school and how to adjust your lifestyle.
  • Connect with other students, lawyers, and professionals, creating a study support system.

 

 

US Prosecutors Level Multiple Accusations at FIFA Officials

As investigations into the scandal in which international football governing body FIFA has found itself embroiled, US prosecutors have levelled a list of allegations. Several of the organisation’s officials have, the prosecutors claim, been involved with fraud and racketeering for more than two decades.

Prosecutors also claim that these officials are guilty of laundering money, with tens of millions of dollars involved over the course of 24 years. Overall, 14 individuals have been indicted, seven of which are being held in Zurich since Wednesday. One of the seven in Zurich is Vice President of FIFA Jeffrey Webb. Swiss authorities report that six of these seven individuals are currently contesting extradition for trial in the US.

Overall, the US prosecutors claim to have discovered around a dozen different schemes that represent the kind of activities they allege took place. One such scheme, they say, resulted in the decision to award South Africa the honour of hosting the 2010 World Cup.

Most prominently, the indicted officials are accused of taking bribes. Since 1991, it is claimed that they collectively accepted bribes and kickbacks with a total value of over US$150 million (£97 million). According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, these officials “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Summarising the accusations against the officials, Lynch said that they had “used their positions to solicit bribes,” and they had done so “over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, is not one of those on the receiving end of the allegations. In a statement, Blatter insisted that corrupt officials would be booted out of the organisation. 11 of the 14 people involved in the recent allegations from US prosecutors, including all of those currently held in Zurich, have been given a “swift and immediate provisional ban” from any activities relating to professional football.

The organisation is due to hold its presidential election this Friday, in which Blatter is the favourite candidate. Should he be successful, it will be Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA president. UEFA, the European football body, has said that this election should be postponed, and it is considering a boycott of proceedings. Currently, however, FIFA insists that its presidential election is to go ahead on Friday as planned.

As well as accepting bribes, including bribes that influenced the decision of where major tournaments would take place, officials are accused of organised racketeering, obtaining money through fraud, and money laundering.

Lawyer Says China Discrimination Case “Will Definitely Have an Impact”

Gay Rights ChinaChinese courts recently saw what was probably the country’s first discrimination case focussing on the treatment of a homosexual individual in the workplace. Liu Xiaohu, the lawyer of the plaintiff, has said that the case “will definitely have an impact” on China and the way in which the country views issues of LGBT rights.

The plaintiff, who first filed his case in November and is using the pseudonym Mu Yi, was dismissed from his job, and alleges that this was because of his sexuality. He claims that he was outed as gay after an online video, which was filmed by police and showed him and another gay man arguing, went viral. It was the revelation of his sexuality, he alleges, which led his employer to fire him from his role as a designer.

His employer maintains that “Mu Yi’s” dismissal was not a result of his being revealed as a homosexual, and was not related to his sexual orientation. Yangcheng Evening News reports that the company claims that inappropriate workplace attire and a “poor service attitude” were in fact the reasons for the decision to fire the plaintiff.

It is believed to be the first workplace discrimination case in China to deal with issues of sexual orientation. The Chinese office of PFLAG, a rights advocacy group, believes this to be the case.

The Nanshan District People’s Court, which is in the city of Shenzhen in the south of China, heard the case. A decision on the verdict is expected to be reached at some point within the coming three months, according to Mr Lui. The lawyer described himself and his client as “very optimistic” about the outcome of the case.

The Chinese government only took the decision to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997 – much later than many other countries. Even after it ceased to be a criminal offence, it was still officially listed as a mental illness until 2001. In the relatively short time since, Chinese society has become noticeably more tolerant of homosexuality, especially in the bigger cities, but nonetheless conservative attitudes remain prevalent. Discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace is more common than in many other parts of the world, and this means that the decision reached in this case has the potential to be a landmark of considerable importance to other individuals.

According to Yangcheng Evening News, Mu is seeking compensation of 50,000 yuan along with an apology.

Australia’s Channel 7 Loses Legal Battle After “Racist” Broadcast

Australian TV broadcaster Channel Seven has lost a three-year-long legal battle against the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The battle finally came to an end after Channel Seven lost an appeal in the federal court and was ordered to pay the legal costs of ACMA.

The legal battle stems from a 2011 documentary broadcast detailing the indigenous Brazilian Suruwaha people. The broadcast has been described as a “racist portrayal” of the tribe which violated the television code of practice‘s requirement that broadcasts be fair, balanced, and factually correct. The broadcast would also, according to federal court judge Justice Buchanan, “be likely to provoke or perpetuate intense dislike and serious contempt of and for the Suruwaha tribe and its members.”

The broadcast featured adventurer and writer Paul Raffaele accompanying journalist Tim Noonan through the Amazon. In the program, Noonan and Raffaele alleged that the tribe carry out “one of the worst human rights violations in the world” by encouraging the killing of disabled children “in the most gruesome way possible.” They claimed that disabled children and those born to single mothers were fed, while still living, to wild beasts by the tribe.

Complaints about both the factual accuracy and the tone of these reports were first raised by Survival International, an international organisation that advocates for the rights of tribal people. The organisation formally complained to ACMA after Channel Seven did not correct or retract the many “errors and distortions” that they had highlighted in the broadcast’s allegations of child murder. Channel Seven described the claims made by Survival International as “nonsense” and defended the broadcast, but ACMA found that the allegations of routine child killing were in breach of factual accuracy requirements. Channel Seven challenged this decision through a Judicial Review, but the challenge proved unsuccessful as the court upheld the original judgement.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, compared the broadcast to “19th-century colonialist scorn for ‘primitive savages'” designed to “suggest that they don’t deserve any rights.”

The Suruwaha tribe was formed from an amalgamation of members from other tribes who fled the devastation wreaked on the region by global demand for rubber. Members of the tribe who have seen the broadcast are said to be angry. Members of the tribe have also claimed that they were asked to remove their everyday, Western-style clothing for the cameras, and in the final broadcast this had the effect of making them look more primitive and less connected to the outside world.

Court of Appeal Rules man can Sue UK Government

abdul-hakim-belhajJudges at the Court of Appeal have decided that Abdul Hakim Belhaj, a Libyan man who claims to have been illegally sent back to his home land and tortured, can mount a case against the UK government in court.

Previously, the High Court had decided that Mr Belhaj’s case could not be heard in a British courtroom because of the potential damage it could do to international relations. Specifically, it was decided by Mr Justice Simon that, in spite of the alleged knowledge held by UK officials, a court in England did not have the power to adjudicate on claims of rendition and torture that took place in Libya. Furthermore, the court  dcided that many of the claims were “non-justiciable” in UK courts because they involved officials in China, Libya and other countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.On these grounds, it was decided that the case be thrown out.

However, the Court of Appeal has overturned this decision, with judges deciding that Mr Belhaj’s claims were “grave” enough to warrant being heard in court. Judges at the Appeal Court said that state immunity was not enough to bar the proceedings. Furthermore, Lord Dyson voiced the opinion that there is “a compelling public interest in the investigation by the English courts of these very grave allegations.”

Sapna Malik, the lawyer representing Mr Belhaj, described the decision as a “very significant step forward.” Mr Belhaj, who is now a politician in his homeland of Libya, said that he and his wife were “gratified by the judges’ decision to give us our day in court.”

Mr Belhaj alleges that MI6 and Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, were deeply involved with the arrangement of the rendition of Mr Belhaj and his wife from China. According to Mr Belhaj, who previously led a group opposing the Muammar Gaddafi regime, claimed that information leading to his rendition was provided by British Intelligence.

The rendition took place in 2004, and resulted in Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar being returned to their homeland where they were subjected to torture which, according to Mr Belhaj, is “as fresh and as painful for us as if it happened yesterday.” Mr Straw has previously denied any awareness of the rendition.

The government and Jack Straw now have the option to appeal to the Supreme Court. If an appeal is made, the case will not be heard until this has concluded. According to a statement from the Foreign Office, it is currently considering whether to lodge an application for an appeal or not.

Senior Judge Praises Televised Pistorius Trial

Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, has praised South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius trial, which was controversially televised. Neuberger’s comments were included in a speech in which he stressed the value of open justice.

Neuberger said that broadcasting trials “is merely the modern extension of enabling the public to enter the courts physically.” Like making courts open to public visitors, televising a trial gives ordinary people access to the proceedings of the justice system and the ability to see how decisions are reached first hand.

Lord Neuberger, speaking in Hong Kong to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club, said that “Open justice is an essential feature of the rule of law. In its most basic form, it means that court hearings take place in public and judges’ decisions are available to the public.” He also stressed the importance of making sure that the way in which information was provided to the public was not only accessible but comprehensible, and described the role of the media in doing this as “essential.”

By contrast, he said, “if courts sit in private, judges cease to be properly accountable for their decisions, as the public do not know what the evidence and arguments were put before the judge, or why the judge reached a particular decision.” Furthermore, Neuberger warned that courts may “get into bad habits” should the doors be shut to the press and the public, and this could erode confidence in the integrity of the justice system.

On this basis, Neuberger decidedly expressed his support for the concept of televising trials. However, he acknowledged that it is important to approach the matter in the right way. For example, he described the US’ trial of OJ Simpson as a lesson “in how not to do it.” By contrast, he praised the more recent coverage of South Africa’s trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, calling the media handling of the trial “impressive.”

Neuberger also stressed that it was essential journalists do not abuse their privileged position in passing on vital information about legal proceedings to the public. He acknowledged that simplification and even bias are likely to creep into the way that judgements are reported, and also that the media will likely level criticism at some aspects of the law. However, he insisted that through this the reporting process should remain “based on accuracy and truth rather than misreporting and propaganda.”

Summing up the importance of journalistic integrity in this process, he said “Inaccurate and unfair reporting of a judge’s decision in order to make a good story is an abuse of the freedom of expression accorded to the press and it undermines the rule of law.”

Progress and Limitations on “Right to be Forgotten”

Google Logo 2010Google has recently made some first steps in complying with the recent EU ruling that individuals may have some information about themselves removed from search results as part of a “right to be forgotten.” However, while Google has done a lot in a very short time to comply with the ruling in spite of the company’s own disappointment with the controversial decision, there remain strict limitations in place. Some of these limitations are with the ruling itself, and show no signs of going away however closely Google complies with the law.

Google recently created a webform through which people are able to request the removal of content. Individuals completing the form will have to explain their reasons for considering the content “irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate.” Under the EU ruling, it is only this type of content that can be removed in order to prevent negative media coverage from a person’s past continuing to dominate any search engine query relating to that individual. Those submitting requests will also have to specify which European jurisdiction they reside in and provide digital copies of identification in order to prove their personal eligibility.

However, by Google’s own admission these efforts are in the early stages. The form is just an “initial effort” with significant changes and improvements to the company’s systems still expected in the months to come.

Furthermore, the EU ruling is disappointingly non-specific even for some of those who agree with the European Court of Justice’s decision. The type of content specified as eligible for removal is extremely broad, and at the same time vague enough to make it difficult to specify any one type of content. For their part, Google seem to have adopted a fairly narrow interpretation. Once a removal request has been received, they will weigh up whether the information’s availability is in the public interest, and if they feel that it is the request is likely to be rejected. When it comes to the public interest, Google seem to have matters such as financial fraud, misconduct and professional malpractice in mind.

There are also some limitations that will never be overcome by Google’s efforts alone. This fact will not be unwelcome to the many who have disagreed with the EU Court of Justice’s ruling, but will certainly disappoint those who are hoping to have negative media coverage buried. For a start, the ruling relates only to search engine results. It will still be accessible through links on other websites and searches within the news website itself. Secondly, it only applies to search engines focussed on markets within the EU. Through the nature of the internet, it is extremely easy for individuals within the EU to access search engines outside EU jurisdictions in which the results may still appear, and this could include Google’s own, main .com domain.

Black Lawyers Still Underrepresented in South African Legal System

South African CourtSince the days of Apartheid, South Africa has been hailed for undergoing a complete transformation which has seen drastic improvements in racial equality. However, black groups still remain very much underrepresented among the country’s lawyers.

Those who would once have been severely restricted by Apartheid now make up two thirds of the past ten years’ law graduates. While this figure would look encouraging on its own, data from the Law Society of South Africa reveals that only 37% of the country’s practising attorneys are black. There is evidently great disparity between the number of black people who complete law degrees in South Africa and the number who go on to work as lawyers. When it is considered that approximately 79% of South Africa’s population as a whole are black, even the two thirds (66%) of graduates that are black begins to look a little low.

According to South African attorney Michael Motsoeneng Bill, “The rhetoric has been that there was room for all of us, but it created too high an expectation. The idea that you are a black lawyer and therefore your fate is sealed is wrong.” Bill himself has enjoyed success as a black lawyer, but has also seen how difficult it is for his peers to get on in the industry.

The reason for the underrepresentation of black people among South Africa’s 22,000 practicing solicitors, Bill theorises, is that 80% of law firms remain white-owned, and this figure includes many of the big players. This is coupled with the fact that corporate clients are the most lucrative and desirable ones in the legal industry, and corporations in South Africa also remain heavily white-dominated. Bill suggests that ultimately, “They often don’t have the courage to change the status quo and diversify briefing patterns.” This leaves black lawyers confined to lower-paying areas of practice such as conveyancing, and such restrictions could potentially be a disincentive to work as a solicitor at all.

For some, the issue of underrepresentation has been highlighted by the high-profile Oscar Pistorius trial. Thanks to the decision to allow the trial to be televised, it has shown a case within the South African court system to the world. The picture the world has seen has included an all-white defence team and predominantly white team acting for the prosecution. Considering the giant steps towards equality and diversity that so many other parts of South Africa have experienced in recent years, many have found this image a surprising one.

Samsung to Sue Dyson

Samsung-LogoSouth Korean electronics firm Samsung is to sue Dyson for 10 billion Korean won(£5.6 million). The lawsuit claims that the British appliance maker had “hurt Samsung’s corporate image” through past litigation falsely claiming the electronics firm was copying features of its appliances.

In August 2013, Dyson brought a case for infringement of patent against Samsung, claiming that the electronics company had copied a steering system used in some of Dyson’s cleaners. According to a statement made by Dyson chief executive James Dyson at the time “Although they are copying Dyson’s patented technology, their machine is not the same. Samsung has many patent lawyers so I find it hard not to believe that this is a deliberate or utterly reckless infringement of our patent.”

The lawsuit was later dropped in October, as the Korean company was able to show it had been using this technology before Dyson filed their patent. It was, therefore, decisively established that the company had not been copying Dyson. However, Samsung contends that this was too late to prevent harm to their image in the eyes of the public.

The new lawsuit was filed at Seoul District Court last week, and the reasons behind the case were explained in a statement to the Korea Times. The company originally stated an intention to assess the damage that had been made to their image at the time that Dyson’s lawsuit was dropped. They said they would then decide whether they should take action of their own, and it seems this decision has now been reached.

The sum that is initially being demanded may not be the full extent of the lawsuit. According to the statement a spokesperson for the company made to the Korea Times; “We are initially seeking 10bn won from the UK-based manufacturer. However, the amount will increase depending on how the court proceedings go.” The spokesperson went on to say that “Samsung’s marketing activities were negatively affected by Dyson’s groundless litigation, which is intolerable.”

According to a spokesperson for Dyson, the company is “not apologising.” The spokesperson went on to claim that Dyson have not yet been provided with a copy of the complaint made against them.

Responding to the new litigation from Samsung, James Dyson called it “surprising” that Samsung was “so worried.” Of the original lawsuit for patent infringement which started the trouble, Dyson said simply “We patent our technology, and naturally defend it.” He then went on to suggest that the judgement of the original case suggested the protection afforded by the patent system is “not enough.”