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•  National News - Legal News


A judge on Friday rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ’s attempts to throw out felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.

The decision by state District Judge Andrea Beall, an elected Democrat, keeps Paxton on track for an April 15 trial on charges that he duped investors in a tech startup.

If convicted, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Houston courtroom for the hearing, sitting at the defense table with his attorneys.

“He’s ready for trial … This thing has been pending for eight years. (The special prosecutors) want to dance. Put on your shoes. It’s time to go. Let’s dance,” Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told reporters after Friday’s court hearing.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling the case, said it was important that Paxton’s case go to trial because “no one is above the law. And that includes Ken Paxton. And that’s why this case matters.”

During Friday’s hearing, the other special prosecutor in the case, Kent Schaffer, announced he was withdrawing ahead of the trial.

After the hearing, Wice said the two prosecutors parted ways after disagreeing over Schaffer’s push to avoid a trial and instead settle the case through pre-trial intervention.

Wice said Schaffer had recently reached out to Cogdell with the offer for pretrial intervention, which is like probation and would ultimately lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant stays out of legal trouble.

Wice said he doesn’t believe pretrial intervention would have been appropriate because there would be no admission of guilt and no jail time.

“And without an acknowledgment of guilt, to me, that was worse than a slap on the wrist. That was, gee, let’s get you a cocktail, a hot meal, and breath mint. And that wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” Wice said.

Cogdell said Schaffer had reached out to him about the proposal and he would have been happy to resolve the case without a trial and a dismissal of the charges.



The United Nations’ top court on Wednesday rejected large parts of a case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia bankrolled separatist rebels in the country’s east a decade ago and has discriminated against Crimea’s multiethnic community since its annexation of the peninsula.

The International Court of Justice ruled Moscow violated articles of two treaties — one on terrorism financing and another on eradicating racial discrimination — but it rejected far more of Kyiv’s claims under the treaties.

It rejected Ukraine’s request for Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in eastern Ukraine blamed on pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels, including the July 17, 2014, downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Russia has denied any involvement in the downing of the jetliner. A Dutch domestic court convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian in November 2022 for their roles in the attack and sentenced them in their absence to life imprisonment. The Netherlands and Ukraine also have sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over MH17.

In another rebuke for Moscow, the world court ruled that Russia had violated one of the court’s orders by launching its full-scale invasion in Ukraine nearly two years ago.

The leader of Ukraine’s legal team, Anton Korynevych, called the ruling “a really important day because this is a judgment which says that the Russian Federation violated international law, in particular both conventions under which we made our application.”

The legally binding final ruling was the first of two expected decisions from the International Court of Justice linked to the decade-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine that exploded into all-out war almost two years ago.

At hearings last year, a lawyer for Ukraine, David Zionts, said the pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine “attacked civilians as part of a campaign of intimidation and terror. Russian money and weapons fueled this campaign.”



A Hong Kong court ordered China Evergrande, the world’s most heavily indebted real estate developer, to undergo liquidation following a failed effort to restructure $300 billion owed to banks and bondholders that fueled fears about China’s rising debt burden.

“It would be a situation where the court says enough is enough,” Judge Linda Chan said Monday. She said it was appropriate for the court to order Evergrande to wind up its business given a “lack of progress on the part of the company putting forward a viable restructuring proposal” as well as Evergrande’s insolvency.

China Evergrande Group is among dozens of Chinese developers that have collapsed since 2020 under official pressure to rein in surging debt the ruling Communist Party views as a threat to China’s slowing economic growth. But the crackdown on excess borrowing tipped the property industry into crisis, dragging on the economy and rattling financial systems in and outside China.

Chinese regulators have said the risks of global shockwaves from Evergrande’s failure can be contained. The court documents seen Monday showed Evergrande owes about $25.4 billion to foreign creditors. Its total assets of about $240 billion are dwarfed by its total liabilities.

“It is indisputable that the company is grossly insolvent and is unable to pay its debts,” the documents say.

About 90% of Evergrande’s business is in mainland China. Its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, who is also known as Xu Jiayin, was detained by authorities for suspected “illegal crimes” in late September, further complicating the company’s efforts to recover.

It’s unclear how the liquidation order will affect China’s financial system or Evergrande’s operations as it struggles to deliver housing that has been paid for but not yet handed over to families that put their life savings into such investments.

Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares plunged nearly 21% early Monday before they were suspended from trading. But Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index was up 0.9% and some property developers saw gains in their share prices.



Former President Donald Trump’s bid to win back the White House is now threatened by two sentences added to the U.S. Constitution 155 years ago.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday barred Trump from the state’s ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding office. It’s the first time in history the provision has been used to prohibit someone from running for the presidency, and the U..S. Supreme Court is likely to have the final say over whether the ruling will stand.

If it does — which many legal experts say is a longshot — it’s the end of Trump’s campaign because a Supreme Court decision would apply not just in Colorado, but to all states. It also could open a new world of political combat, as politicians in the future fish for judicial rulings to disqualify their rivals under the same provision.

Some conservatives have even considered using it against Vice President Kamala Harris, who raised bail money for those jailed during the violence following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They said that also should be considered an “insurrection” against the Constitution.

So far, very little in the real world. Aware that the case was very likely going to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court majority stayed their own order until Jan. 4 — the day before the state’s primary ballots are due at the printer — or until the Supreme Court rules.

Technically, the ruling applies only to Colorado, and secretaries of state elsewhere are issuing statements saying Trump remains on the ballot in their state’s primary or caucus.But it could embolden other states to knock Trump off the ballot. Activists have asked state election officials to do so unilaterally, but none have. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed, but all failed until Colorado.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning of Section 3. The justices can take the case as quickly as they like once Trump’s campaign files its appeal, which is not expected this week. The high court then could rule in a variety of ways — from upholding the ruling to striking it down to dodging the central questions on legal technicalities. But many experts warn that it would be risky to leave such a vital constitutional question unanswered.

“It is imperative for the political stability of the U.S. to get a definitive judicial resolution of these questions as soon as possible,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote shortly after the ruling. “Voters need to know if the candidate they are supporting for president is eligible.”



The Russian Justice Ministry on Friday said it has filed a lawsuit with the nation’s Supreme Court to outlaw the LGBTQ+ “international public movement” as extremist, the latest crippling blow against the already beleaguered LGBTQ+ community in the increasingly conservative country.

The ministry said in an online statement announcing the lawsuit that authorities have identified “signs and manifestations of extremist nature” in “the activities of the LGBT movement active” in Russia, including “incitement of social and religious discord.” Russia’s Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing to consider the lawsuit for Nov. 30, the ministry said.

It is not yet clear what exactly the label would entail for LGBTQ+ people in Russia if the Supreme Court sides with the Justice Ministry, and the ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the move in itself represents the latest, and possibly by far the most drastic, step in the decade-long crackdown on gay rights in Russia unleashed under President Vladimir Putin, who has put “traditional family values” at the cornerstone of his rule.

The crackdown, which began a decade ago, slowly but surely chipped away at LGBTQ+ rights. In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any non-critical public depiction of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, Putin pushed through a constitutional reform to extend his rule by two more terms that also outlawed same-sex marriage.

In 2022, after sending troops into Ukraine, the Kremlin ramped up its rhetoric about protecting “traditional values” from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence, in what rights advocates saw as an attempt to legitimize the war in Ukraine. That same year, the authorities adopted a law banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, too, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBTQ+ people.

Another law passed this year prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for trans people. The legislation prohibited any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records. It also amended Russia’s Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage and adding those “who had changed gender” to a list of people who can’t become foster or adoptive parents.

“Do we really want to have here, in our country, in Russia, ‘Parent No. 1, No. 2, No. 3’ instead of ‘mom’ and ‘dad?’” Putin said in September 2022 at a ceremony to formalize Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions. “Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed in our schools from the primary grades?”

Authorities have rejected accusations of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Earlier this week, Russian media quoted Andrei Loginov, a deputy justice minister, as saying that “the rights of LGBT people in Russia are protected” legally. Loginov spoke in Geneva, while presenting a report on human rights in Russia to the U.N. Human Rights Council, and argued that “restraining public demonstration of non-traditional sexual relationships or preferences is not a form of censure for them.”

Putin, speaking at a culture-related event in St. Petersburg on Friday, called LGBTQ+ people “part of the society, too” and said they are entitled to winning various arts and culture awards. He did not comment on the Justice Ministry’s lawsuit.



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