Weekly Legal News 3/2/2014

According to a newly released report by the Pew Research Center this week, most Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country. However, nearly half of them also say they are satisfied with the recent rise in deportations. There were a record high deportations amounting to 420,000 in 2012. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican figures have said that it is unlikely for any significant developments in immigration policy to take place this year. Some Democrats are more hopeful. Referring back to the study, it reveals that about 73 percent believes undocumented immigrants should be given a way to remain in the country legally even though less than half actually support providing them with a pathway to citizenship. Almost 9 out of every 10 Hispanics agree with allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country, according to the survey, and 60 percent of Hispanics say they dislike the increase in deportations. They are the most supportive of the bill.  No matter their stance, about half of all Americans consider passing immigration reform as an “extremely important” or “very important” issue.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the controversial legislation that would have allowed business owners in Arizona to refuse service to gays and others if those customers somehow offended the proprietors’ religious beliefs. Brewer, a Republican, announced her decision at a news conference held Wednesday afternoon. She commented, “I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments, I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062, moments ago.” Republican strategist Jaime Molera said business leaders believed a veto would help Arizona’s reputation and avoid a repeat of the backlash that followed enactment of the controversial immigration legislation known as SB 1070. Apple, who is currently investing millions in the state and is planning to locate there, played a large role in its veto by announcing its support of the veto. The governor said, “Apple will have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona, and its decision to locate here speaks volumes about the friendly, pro-business climate we have been creating these past four years.” The Superbowl Committee did similarly. Arizona will host the next Superbowl.

Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy, was found not guilty by a jury in less than a hour. The charge was for sideswiping a tractor-trailer while driving on a suburban New York highway, after mistakenly taking a sleeping pill. Nobody was injured in the 2012 accident, during which Kennedy drove for more than five miles at high speed, swerving into other lanes and the medians on both sides of the highway before striking the truck, then leaving the scene of the accident. When police found her, she was passed out over the steering wheel and one officer suspected she might have suffered a seizure. It is unusual to hold a jury trial for an unclassified misdemeanor charge, and her attorney suggested she was prosecuted due to her wealth and status. Prosecutors of the case stated that Kennedy had not intended to take the sleeping pill, but maintained that she must have become aware of having done so at some point during her drive and that failing to get off the road was a criminal mistake. A toxicology expert testified during the trial that the sleeping pill takes effect so quickly that Kennedy could have been sleep driving and unaware of her actions. Kennedy then testified that she had no clear memory of the incident and that, if she had realized her mistake, she would not have continued to drive.

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law goes to trial Monday on charges he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida’s mouthpiece after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors say they plan to show jurors a picture of Abu Ghaith seated with bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders on the day after Sept. 11, 2001, as they make statements about the attacks. Prosecutors will also show jurors post-9/11 videos in which the charismatic bearded man promises more attacks on the United States as devastating as those that demolished the World Trade Center.”The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,” Abu Ghaith said in an Oct. 9, 2001, speech. Defense lawyers will argue that some of the government’s evidence relates to a detainee at Guantanamo Bay with a similar name to Abu Ghaith rather than to the defendant who has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Abu Ghaith could face life in prison. He was captured heading home to Kuwait when the flight landed instead in Jordan, where he was handcuffed and turned over to American authorities. When he was brought to the United States for trial, some criticized the move, saying al-Qaida leaders should not receive the protections offered by a civil court trial.

The Food and Drug Administration has decided to allow generic emergency contraceptive pills to be sold over the counter, without age restrictions. Last July, the FDA removed the age restriction on sales of Plan B One-Step, which can prevent most pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex for women who weigh less than 165 pounds. However, by approving the product for sale without prescription, the FDA also granted Teva Pharmaceuticals an additional three years of protection from generic competition because it conducted an additional market study on the product’s use by teenagers. Women’s health groups were disappointed in that decision because Plan B One-Step is considerably more expensive than its generic competition. Now the FDA has reconsidered. In a sort of compromise, the FDA now says the generic versions of the product must still say on their labels that they are intended for “women 17 years of age or older,” but they may be sold directly from retail shelves without a requirement to produce proof of age. Women’s health groups were generally pleased with the action.

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