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Russian court keeps theater director under house arrest

A Moscow court on Monday ruled that a prominent theater and film director who is being investigated for fraud must remain under house arrest. Kirill Serebrennikov, arguably Russia’s best known director, was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship. Serebrennikov’s plays have often been targeted by conservative circles, which dismiss his work as decadent and unpatriotic. The court ruled Monday Serebrennikov should stay under house arrest at least until late January, rejecting a plea for bail. Investigators have accused him of scheming to embezzle about $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he directed between 2011 and 2014. Serebrennikov has dismissed the accusations as absurd. Serebrennikov’s lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, told Russian news agencies on Monday that his client had petitioned the investigators to allow him to attend the premiere of the ballet “Nureyev” at the Bolshoi that he had directed. But the chances that Serebrennikov will be allowed to go to the Bolshoi are “negligible,” Kharitonov said. Tickets for “Nureyev,” which premiers later this month, went on sale last month and were sold out in a matter of hours. Source: Legal News Post Russian court keeps theater director under house arrest

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Prosecutors ask court to send Russia's ex-minister to prison

Russian prosecutors on Monday asked a court to send a former economic development minister to a high-security prison for 10 years. Alexei Ulyukayev, the highest-ranking Russian official to have been arrested since 1993, was detained last year at the headquarters of Russia’s largest oil producer, the state-owned Rosneft, after a sting operation by Russia’s main intelligence agency. Ulyukayev denies the charges and says Rosneft’s influential chief executive Igor Sechin has set him up. The circumstances of the case have ignited speculation that Ulyukayev fell victim to a Kremlin power play by Sechin, a longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin. A prosecutor on Monday in his remarks during cross-examination asked the court to find Ulyukayev guilty of extorting a $2 million bribe from Sechin and send him to a high-security prison for 10 years as well as fining him roughly $8.5 million. Ulyukayev deserves such a harsh penalty because his actions “are undermining the authority of the government,” the prosecutor told the court. Prosecutors have said Ulyukayev was extorting a bribe from Sechin in return for giving the green light to Rosneft’s purchase of another oil company. Source: Legal News Post Prosecutors ask court to send Russia's ex-minister to prison

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Cake case before Supreme Court has ties to barbecue decision

The upcoming Supreme Court argument about a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple makes some civil rights lawyers think of South Carolina’s Piggie Park barbecue. When two African-Americans parked their car at a Piggie Park drive-in in August 1964 in Columbia, South Carolina, the waitress who came out to serve them turned back once she saw they were black and didn’t take their order. In the civil rights lawsuit that followed, Piggie Park owner Maurice Bessinger justified the refusal to serve black customers based on his religious belief opposing “any integration of the races whatsoever.” Federal judges had little trouble dismissing Bessinger’s claim. “Undoubtedly defendant Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens,” U.S. District Judge Charles Earl Simons Jr. wrote in 1966. By the time the Supreme Court heard the case in 1968, the issue was the award of fees to the lawyers representing the black South Carolinians who sued Bessinger’s restaurants. But in a footnote to its unsigned 8-0 opinion, the court called the religious freedom argument and Bessinger’s other defenses “patently frivolous.” Fifty years later, civil rights lawyers are pointing the Supreme Court to Bessinger’s case in support of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the gay couple who were turned away by Colorado baker Jack Phillips, giving rise to the high court case that will be argued Tuesday. “The logic of Piggie Park and other precedents overwhelmingly rejecting religious justifications for racial discrimination apply squarely to the context of LGBTQ discrimination,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a Supreme Court brief. The fund also represented the people who sued Piggie Park. Both cases involve laws intended to prevent discrimination by private businesses that open their doors to the public. In the case of Piggie Park, the law was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bake shop case involves the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses from refusing to sell their goods to people on the basis of sexual orientation among other things. As the case has come to the justices, the focus is on Phillips’ speech rights, not his religious beliefs. As a cake artist, he claims a right not to say something with which he disagrees. Source: Legal News Post Cake case before Supreme Court has ties to barbecue decision

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Asbestos Court to resolve hundreds of claims

The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order creating an asbestos claims court to resolve hundreds of Libby asbestos-related cases pending in the state’s trial courts. The cases have languished for years because W.R. Grace & Co. — the owner of the defunct vermiculite mine near Libby that is blamed for widespread asbestos disease and death in that community — filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after the Montana Legislature passed the Asbestos Claims Court Act in 2001. Now those cases can proceed in the state court system. The high court’s order places all pending asbestos cases into a specialty court. Flathead District Judge Amy Eddy, who has an extensive background in complex civil litigation, will preside over the court initially, handling pre-trial proceedings. “It’s an enormous responsibility, but resolution needs to be brought to these cases,” Eddy said. “It would be devastating to the judicial resources, which are severely underfunded, if they were to be litigated on an individual basis.” Eddy said her work with the District Court is and will remain a priority, and stressed that no local resources will be used for the asbestos claims court. The venue will be in the Montana Supreme Court, “as a specialty court, using their resources,” she said. Source: Legal News Post Asbestos Court to resolve hundreds of claims

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Supreme Court rejects case over Mississippi Confederate emblem

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected hearing a case that challenges the use of Confederate imagery in the Mississippi state flag. Carlos Moore, an African-American attorney from Mississippi, argued that the flag represents “an official endorsement of white supremacy.” “The message in Mississippi’s flag has always been one of racial hostility and insult and it is pervasive and unavoidable by both children and adults,” Moore said in his court appeal. “The state’s continued expression of its message of racial disparagement sends a message to African-American citizens of Mississippi that they are second-class citizens.” The justices did not comment on their decision to decline Moore’s appeal to have the flag ruled as an unconstitutional symbol of slavery, The Associated Press reported. “We always knew it was a long shot,” Moore told the news wire. After a lower court rejected the lawsuit for lack of standing in April, Moore appealed the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had given the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause too narrow of an interpretation. Source: Legal News Post Supreme Court rejects case over Mississippi Confederate emblem

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