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The city of Chicago and a surfing organization have told a judge that a proposed federal settlement over U.S. Steel's repeated chemical spills into Lake Michigan is inadequate.

The Chicago Law Department and the Surfrider Foundation urged the federal judge Thursday to impose tougher penalties on the steelmaker for last year's hexavalent chromium discharges from its Midwest Plant in Portage, Indiana, into the region's primary source of drinking water, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The nearly $900,000 in fines and penalties proposed by the federal government fall short when compared with the ecological damage caused by the carcinogenic discharges, according to court documents filed by the city of Chicago and the nonprofit foundation. The settlement also requires the steelmaker to test for hexavalent chromium daily, create a preventative maintenance program and upgrade all pollution monitoring.

"The government's inadequate oversight ... demonstrates the need for Surfrider to remain vigilant," said Mark Templeton, the group's attorney.

The University of Chicago's Abrams Environmental Law Clinic discovered last year that the manufacturing and finishing plant had violated chromium limits in its federal water pollution permit at least four times since 2013. The plant's chromium discharges are limited to 30 pounds a day, while hexavalent chromium is limited to about half a pound a day.




Lawyers for the two men charged in the Northern California warehouse fire that killed 36 people said Friday they are now preparing for a trial where they will try to shift blame for the blaze from their clients to others, including the building's owner and government officials.

Derick Almena, 48, and Max Harris, 28, on Friday appeared briefly in an Oakland courtroom for the first time since a judge scuttled a plea deal agreed to by prosecutors. They were ordered back to court in three weeks to schedule a trial.

Outside court, the men's lawyers say there's plenty of blame to share for the Dec. 2, 2016, fire in an Oakland warehouse illegally converted into an underground entertainment venue and live-work space for artists. The cause of the fire has never been determined, which the lawyers said is key part of the men's defense.

Serra also said numerous government officials visited the illegally converted warehouse before the fire, and they had a duty to report the building's condition to authorities. Almena lived in the warehouse with his wife and three children and were visited by Alameda County's Child Protective Services officials several times. Oakland police officers were also called to the warehouse on several occasions to investigate noise complaints and tenant disputes, among other issues.




A federal appeals court in Washington is siding with transportation officials in a dispute about the transit agency's decision to reject an ad from the Roman Catholic Church.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Washington sued in 2017 after Metro rejected an ad for its Christmas fundraising effort, which showed a biblical scene. The archdiocese argued Metro's decision violated the First Amendment. Metro pointed to its blanket policy of refusing to accept issue-oriented ads including political, religious and advocacy ads.

A lower federal court judge had also sided with Metro. The Trump administration supported the archdiocese.

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was on the three-judge panel deciding the case but recused himself, so Tuesday's decision was 2-0.




A convicted serial rapist should be allowed to be released into the community under supervision, the Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruled Monday, saying the state did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Thomas Duvall should remain in treatment.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said Monday that she will appeal the provisional discharge of Duvall, in a case that once set off a political firestorm as lawmakers were considering changes to the state's treatment program for sex offenders.

"I have grave concerns about this decision," Piper said in a statement. "Three experts have previously testified that Thomas Duvall is not ready for life in the community and that he presents far too great a risk to public safety. I share that view and will exhaust every possible avenue of appeal."

Duvall, 62, has spent the last 30 years locked up for the violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, he bound a Brooklyn Park girl with an electrical cord and raped her repeatedly over several hours while hitting her with a hammer. He was civilly committed as a psychopathic personality in 1991 and sent to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Duvall has been in treatment since 2001 and was diagnosed as a sexual sadist. He has been in the final stages of the program since 2010, living outside the security perimeter at the facility in St. Peter, going on regular supervised community outings, volunteering at a thrift store, attending community support groups and preparing for transition into the community.



Three Massachusetts teenagers charged with stealing a gun from a retired police officer are heading to court.

The Sun of Lowell reports that the boys, all age 15 or 16, are scheduled to appear in Lawrence Juvenile Court on Monday to answer to charges of possession of a firearm. One of the teens is also charged with larceny of a firearm and possession of ammunition without a proper permit.

Their names were not released because of their age. All are from Lowell. Authorities say the gun was stolen from inside a locked car in Dracut on June 5 and reported to police the next day.

Interim Lowell Police Superintendent Jonathan Webb says because the vehicle was locked and the firearm's locking mechanism was engaged the retired officer was not charged.




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