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•  Continuing Education - Legal News


A woman accused of holding her 4-year-old stepson in a scalding bath, covering his burns and not getting him medical care before he died was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder and other charges on Thursday.

A Warren County judge sentenced Anna Ritchie to 18 years to life in prison after she changed her plea from not guilty.

Ritchie was arrested after the March death of Austin Cooper. A detective said Ritchie told police that she put Austin's legs in extra-hot water as punishment because he didn't like baths and that she tried to hide his burns.

Her attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to have evidence from her interview with Franklin police detectives excluded from the case.

County Prosecutor David Fornshell alleged that Ritchie held Austin in extra-hot water for 20 to 25 minutes as he struggled, then put him to bed wearing pajamas and socks to cover his bleeding feet and burned skin, his arms cut where her fingernails had grasped him. His father found him dead in his crib more than 16 hours later, Fornshell said.




Presidential candidate Scott Walker won a major legal victory Thursday when Wisconsin's Supreme Court ended a secret investigation into whether the Republican's gubernatorial campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups during the 2012 recall election.
 
No one has been charged in the so-called John Doe probe, Wisconsin's version of a grand jury investigation in which information is tightly controlled, but questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months.

Barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling makes Walker's campaign that much smoother as he courts voters in early primary states.

"Today's ruling confirmed no laws were broken, a ruling that was previously stated by both a state and federal judge," said Walker's spokeswoman Ashlee Strong. "It is time to move past this unwarranted investigation that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The case centers on political activity conducted by Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative organizations during the 2012 recall, which was spurred by Democrats' anger over a Walker-authored law that effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.

The justices cited free speech in effectively tossing out the case, ruling state election law is overbroad and vague in defining what amounts to "political purposes."

Justice Michael Gableman, part of the court's conservative majority, praised the groups for challenging the investigation.

"It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution," Gableman wrote in the majority opinion.



A state appellate court has ruled that California water officials cannot go onto private property for soil testing and other studies related to construction of two massive tunnels that would siphon water from the Sacramento River.

Nancy Vogel of the state's Department of Water Resources said Friday that officials anticipated the ruling and work won't be delayed.

The decision handed down Thursday by the state's 3rd District Court of Appeal says an intrusion on private property without permission violates the California Constitution.

If built, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan — estimated to cost billions of dollars — would send fresh water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Central and Southern California.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed against the state by more than 150 property owners in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Yolo, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in a 44-page decision with the majority opinion saying the state must adhere to eminent domain laws, which give property owners the right to a jury trial to determine a fair payment for taking away their land.

Acts such as testing soil, observing or trapping animals either by driving onto property, using boats or going on foot amount to "taking" and trigger the need for eminent domain proceedings, the majority opinion said.



A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former Giants slugger Barry Bonds' obstruction-of-justice conviction stemming from rambling testimony he gave during a 2003 appearance before a grand jury investigating elite athletes' use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bonds' testimony was ''evasive'' and capable of misleading investigators and hindering their probe into a performance-enhancing-drug ring centered at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, better known as BALCO.

In a statement Friday night, Bonds said he was disappointed but he has instructed his attorneys to ask that he be allowed to immediately begin serving his sentence of 30 days of house arrest and two years of probation.

''Meanwhile, I also intend to seek further judicial review of the important legal issues presented by the appeal that was decided today,'' Bonds said. ''This has been a long and difficult chapter in my life and I look forward to moving beyond it once I have fulfilled the penalties ordered by the court.''

Like several other prominent athletes who testified before the grand jury, Bonds was granted immunity from criminal prosecution as long as he testified truthfully.

But after Bonds repeatedly denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs - he testified he thought he was taking flax seed oil and other legal supplements - prosecutors charged him with obstruction and with making false statements.

A jury convicted Bonds of a single felony count of obstruction, stemming from when he was called before the grand jury in San Francisco in December 2003. Bonds was asked whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, had ever injected him with a substance, and he replied by discussing the difficulties of being the son of a famous father. Bonds' father is former major leaguer Bobby Bonds.



The Indiana Court of Appeals has issued a decision that may have a large impact on summary judgment practice in Indiana. In Commr. of the Indiana Dept. of Ins. v. Black, ___ N.E.2d ___ (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), the Court essentially held that Indiana will apply the standard set forth in Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), at least in some circumstances.

Tim Black alleged that Dr. Harris and others rendered negligent care to his wife after she complained of chest pain. The negligence allegedly resulted in severe cardiac arrest and resulted in the need for a heart transplant. The medical review panel unanimously concluded that Dr. Harris failed to comply with the applicable standard of care.

After the panel decision, Black filed a petition seeking payment of $1 million from the Patient's Compensation Fund and asserted that he had settled with Dr. Harris for $250,000, thereby satisfying the qualifying amount to get to the fund. The Commissioner sought discovery of the settlement agreement but Black refused to produce it, saying it was confidential. Black did produce a copy of an unauthenticated check in the amount $250,000 from the Medical Assurance Co., made payable to Black and his counsel. Black also produced some correspondence between counsel that discussed a prospective settlement.

The Commissioner moved to dismiss the petition claiming that he needed the settlement agreement in order to make payment. It was not clear from the check whether the payment was for settlement with Dr. Harris or other defendants. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and after conducting a hearing on damages, ordered the Commissioner to pay Black $1 million. The Commissioner appealed.

In considering the motion to dismiss, the Court of Appeals observed that matters outside the pleadings were submitted in support of the motion to dismiss and were relied on by the trial court. In light of this fact, the Court of Appeals, pursuant to T.R. 12(B), treated the motion as one for summary judgment. In a footnote, the court recognized that T.R. 12(B) requires that "all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such motion by Rule 56." Although no such "opportunity" was given, the court found there was "no prejudice" and proceeded to consider the appeal as a summary judgment case.

The court noted that the Commissioner's position on the motion required him to prove a negative?-that there was no settlement with Harris for $250,000. In Jarboe v. Landmark Cmty. Newspapers of Indiana, Inc., 644 N.E.2d 118 (Ind. 1994), the Indiana Supreme Court rejected the view that a party seeking summary judgment could simply point to the opponent’s burden of proof at trial and prevail unless the non-movant produced evidence supporting its claim or defense. This ruling has for many years been perceived as being at odds with Celotex, in which the U.S. Supreme Court reached a different conclusion under the federal rules. In 2000, Justice Boehm, in dissenting from a denial of transfer in Lenhart Tool & Die, Inc. v. Lumpe, 722 N.E.2d 824 (Ind. 2000), expressed the view that a party who puts forward evidence that a non-movant will be unable to present evidence to prove an essential element of its claim or defense, should be entitled to summary judgment if the non-movant fails to present such evidence. In Black, the Court of Appeals held: "Today, we accept Justice Boehm's views on this subject expressed in his dissent."

Having adopted this new standard, however, the Court of Appeals found that in this case, based on the unauthenticated check and the settlement correspondence, there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether a $250,000 settlement on Black’s claim against Harris had been accomplished. So, the Commissioner was not entitled to summary judgment. Black was also not entitled to a judgment on his claim since it was not clear that the required settlement with Harris for $250,000 had been consummated.

The Court held that the Commissioner is entitled to discovery of the settlement agreement and that the confidentiality term in the settlement agreement would not trump the Commissioner's right to such discovery. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.



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