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Legal News for Weds 7/10 - Baldwin Trial Revolves Around Revolver, Pauline Newman Failed Lawsuit, 2016 Clinton Campaign Disclosure Case

Legal News for Weds 7/10 - Baldwin Trial Revolves Around Revolver, Pauline Newman Failed Lawsuit, 2016 Clinton Campaign Disclosure Case

Alec Baldwin's trial focusing on the Colt .45 "Peacemaker" revolver, Judge Pauline Newman's failed lawsuit seeking reinstatement, and the 2016 Clinton campaign's disclosure case.
“Rainbow Warrior” Greenpeace boat, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Operation Satanique

On July 10, 1985, French intelligence agents bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbor, New Zealand. This covert operation, codenamed "Operation Satanique," aimed to prevent the vessel from protesting French nuclear tests in the South Pacific. The attack resulted in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and the tragic death of Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira.

The incident quickly escalated into an international scandal, straining diplomatic relations between France and New Zealand. In the aftermath, two French agents, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, were apprehended and sentenced to ten years in a New Zealand prison for manslaughter. However, under international pressure, a deal was struck that allowed the agents to serve their sentences on a French-controlled island in the Pacific.

Litigation between France and New Zealand ensued, culminating in a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In this landmark case, New Zealand sought compensation for the attack and the breach of its sovereignty. The ICJ ruling required France to pay New Zealand $7 million in damages and issue a formal apology, marking a significant moment in international law and state accountability.

This event highlighted the tensions surrounding nuclear testing and environmental activism during the Cold War era. It also underscored the importance of respecting international law and the sovereignty of nations. The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior remains a poignant reminder of the lengths to which states might go to protect their interests, often at great moral and legal cost. 

The case of New Zealand v. France before the International Court of Justice demonstrated the legal processes and repercussions when a nation's sovereignty is violated by another state. This case emphasized the role of the ICJ in resolving international disputes and upholding international law.

Alec Baldwin's trial for the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the "Rust" movie set has turned its focus on the Colt .45 "Peacemaker" revolver involved. Jury selection occurred in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with Baldwin and his wife in attendance. The trial, starting almost three years after the incident, sees prosecutors and defense lawyers questioning jurors about their knowledge of the case and Baldwin's influence as a public figure.

The case is unprecedented in U.S. history, as actors rarely face criminal charges for on-set fatalities. Baldwin could face up to 18 months in prison if convicted. The "Rust" armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, was previously found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for mistakenly loading a live round into the gun, receiving an 18-month sentence.

A crucial point in the trial is whether Baldwin should have inspected the gun after being told it was "cold," meaning it should have been empty or contained dummy rounds. Baldwin has stated he did not pull the trigger, but an FBI examination found the gun would not fire without the trigger being pulled. Baldwin's defense argues that the gun was modified, potentially allowing it to fire without a trigger pull, but the FBI destroyed the gun during testing, complicating the defense's ability to prove this claim. Legal experts suggest that the condition of the firearm and its modifications will be central to the trial's outcome.

Alec Baldwin manslaughter trial revolves around Wild West gun | Reuters

Judge Pauline Newman, a 97-year-old member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, lost her lawsuit seeking reinstatement after being suspended for alleged cognitive and physical impairments due to age. Newman challenged her suspension, arguing that the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, which governs the removal of judges, was unconstitutional. However, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper dismissed her claims, asserting that the law does not violate due process rights. Newman's attorney announced plans to appeal the decision.

The Federal Circuit suspended Newman in September for at least a year or until she complies with court-ordered medical examinations. Chief Judge Kimberly Moore highlighted Newman's alleged cognitive decline and lack of cooperation with mental health inquiries. Newman, a notable figure in patent law, has defended her fitness for duty, citing favorable medical reports and maintaining public appearances.

This case marks a rare public debate over judicial fitness, coinciding with broader discussions about age and capability in public office. The Federal Circuit's judicial council has demanded further explanation from Newman regarding her suspension, signaling potential for the suspension's extension due to her continued non-cooperation.

US judge, 97, loses lawsuit seeking reinstatement | Reuters

97-Year-Old Judge Newman to Appeal Loss in Suspension Suit (3)

A D.C. Circuit panel ruled that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and a pro-Clinton PAC, Correct the Record, must face claims of improperly disclosing millions in expenditures. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) dismissed a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center, alleging violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act. The court found that the FEC's dismissal was "contrary to law" as it stretched exemptions for internet spending beyond legal limits.

The court emphasized that campaign committees must disclose coordinated expenditures as contributions, with exemptions only for unpaid internet communications. The Campaign Legal Center accused the Clinton campaign of accepting undisclosed contributions from Correct the Record, including opposition research and media activities. The ruling requires the FEC to clarify the internet exemption's bounds and consider enforcement actions against the Clinton campaign and Correct the Record. If the FEC does not act within 30 days, the Campaign Legal Center can pursue a private lawsuit.

The D.C. Circuit’s decision upholds a lower court ruling that the FEC's dismissal was unlawful. It also highlighted how the FEC's interpretation of exemptions could allow circumvention of campaign finance laws. The case has been remanded to the district court and then back to the FEC for further action. Judges J. Michelle Childs and Harry T. Edwards joined in the opinion.

Clinton Campaign Case to Prompt Review of Disclosure Exemption

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
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