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A North Texas city that sits atop a natural gas reserve is preparing for an extended court battle after voters made it the first in the state to ban further hydraulic fracturing — a fight that cities nationwide considering similar laws will likely be watching closely.

An industry group and the state's little-known but powerful General Land Office responded quickly to the measure Denton approved Tuesday night, seeking an injunction in District Court to stop it from being enforced.

Battling the fracking ban will be Texas Land Commissioner-elect George P. Bush's first fight. The founding partner of an energy and infrastructure consultancy, Bush promoted the economic benefits of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, throughout his campaign.

The ban could have a domino effect in Texas, threatening an "energy renaissance" in shale resources accessed with the drilling technique, said David Porter, a commissioner on the Texas Railroad Commission, the state's oil and gas regulator.

Scores of cities in other states have considered similar bans over health and environmental concerns. Measures aimed at restricting fracking passed Tuesday in Athens, Ohio, and California's San Benito and Mendocino Counties, but failed elsewhere in those states.

The proposal in Denton, a university town about 40 miles north of Dallas, was a litmus test on whether any community in Texas — the nation's biggest oil and gas producer — could rebuff the industry and still thrive.

The courts must "give a prompt and authoritative answer" on whether Denton voters had the authority to ban fracking, Texas Oil and Gas Association attorney Tom Phillips, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, said Wednesday.

Dominican Republic quits OAS's human rights court

•  Law Firm News     updated  2014/11/05 14:29

The Dominican Republic withdrew as a member of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Tuesday, leading rights activists to raise concerns about the welfare of migrants in the Caribbean country.

The announcement came just weeks after the human rights court found the Dominican Republic discriminates against Dominicans of Haitian descent, angering the government, which called the findings "unacceptable" and "biased."Last year, a Dominican court ruled that people born in the Dominican Republic to migrants living there illegally were not automatically entitled to citizenship, basically rendering thousands of people stateless.

The government has since pledged to resolve their status but has only offered residency and work permits under a new program.The Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court had given the Dominican government six months to invalidate the Dominican court's ruling.

In a 59-page ruling issued Tuesday night, the Constitutional Court said the country had to withdraw from the rights court because the Senate never issued a resolution to ratify the February 1999 agreement with the rights court as required by the Dominican constitution.

Court rejects appeal over Senate filibuster rules

•  Headline News     updated  2014/11/04 15:31

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a public interest group and four members of Congress who challenged the Senate filibuster as unconstitutional.

The justices let stand a lower court ruling that said Common Cause and the lawmakers did not have legal standing to pursue the case.

The plaintiffs argued that Senate rules requiring at least 60 votes to bring legislation to a vote violates the constitutional principle of majority rule. A federal appeals court said the lawsuit was filed against the wrong parties.

The case was brought against Vice President Joe Biden in his role as president of the Senate, and against the Senate's secretary, parliamentarian and sergeant at arms.

Common Cause says it can't sue the Senate directly because that is barred under the Constitution's Speech and Debate Clause.

Last year, the Senate voted to end use of the filibuster rule from blocking most presidential nominees. Democrats said they ended the rule out of frustration that Republicans were routinely using the tactic to block President Barack Obama's nominees for pivotal judgeships and other top jobs.

But 60 votes are still required to end filibusters against legislation.

Health overhaul's subsidies at Supreme Court

•  Court News     updated  2014/10/30 11:00

Supreme Court justices have their first chance this week to decide whether they have the appetite for another major fight over President Barack Obama's health care law.

Some of the same players who mounted the first failed effort to kill the law altogether now want the justices to rule that subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the law are illegal.

The challengers are appealing a unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, that upheld Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. The appeal is on the agenda for the justices' private conference on Friday, and word of their action could come as early as Monday.

The fight over subsidies is part of a long-running political and legal campaign to overturn Obama's signature domestic legislation by Republicans and other opponents of the law. Republican candidates have relentlessly attacked Democrats who voted for it, and the partisanship has continued on the federal bench. Every judge who has voted to strike down the subsidies was appointed by a Republican president.

The appeal has arrived at the Supreme Court at a curious time; there is no conflicting appeals court ruling that the justices often say is a virtual requirement for them to take on an issue. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited that practice, for example, as a reason she and her colleagues decided not to take on the same-sex marriage issue. And in the gay marriage cases, both sides were urging the court to step in.

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