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Local News

Amish Men Found Guilty of Traffic Violations

Two Amish men must pay fines for refusing to post reflective triangles on their horse-drawn carriages.

Levi Hostetler and Joe Stutzman were found guilty on misdemeanor traffic charges during a Graves County Circuit Court session Monday.

The men say the posting the state-mandated warning emblems violates their religious beliefs. Stutzman was fined $173 and Hostetler was fined a total of $341—both amounts are due January 12th.

Hostetler and Stutzman are among nine men ordered to jail last month for refusing to pay fines associated with the emblems.

Two other Amish men in court Monday had their trials postponed to November.

Additional information from Kentucky Public Radio’s Rose Krzton-Presson and the Associated Press

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Local News

JCPS Student Assignment Hears Arguments, Judges Not Impressed With District’s Plan

The Kentucky Court of Appeals heard oral arguments today over an interpretation of a state statute, which could affect the JCPS student assignment plan.

The debate was between the words enroll versus attend.

Since 2000, a state statute (KRS 159.070) has allowed districts to chose where students go to school by removing the word “attend” in legislative language, said Bryon Leet, a JCPS board attorney. Leet said  JCPS can enroll a student at one school and have them attend another, like in the case of the current student assignment plan. But that’s not the state law’s intent, said Bruce Miller, an appellant attorney.

“My belief was that when I enrolled in Vanderbilt University undergraduate school in 1962, I attended Vanderbilt. I didn’t enroll there to go to Peabody across the street,” said Miller.

But Leet argued the law’s language is specific and that the word enroll doesn’t mean that a student must attend that school. And, he said, state law allows districts to make decisions about student assignment as long as it meets three factors: education, health and welfare, he said.

But JCPS misinterpreted the statute, said Ted Gordon, an appellant attorney. Gordon said the words are used interchangeably and that it’s common sense to assume a student would attend the school where they enroll.

“And to make these neighborhood schools a depository for paperwork that’s not the intent of the statute in any way shape or form,” said Gordon.

In the current JCPS plan, students are assigned to certain schools depending on a diversity quota, based on income, education and race.

But a 2007 Supreme Court decision (Meredith v. The Jefferson County Board of Education)  said no single student could be assigned to a school by race. The district argued it uses all three factors to make its quota, said Leet.

“In the minds of many educated professionals in this subject and in the minds of this elected school board it furthers the education achievement of everyone in order to avoid racial isolation,” he said.

Regardless, the JCPS student assignment plan hasn’t improved the district and test scores have dropped, said Judge Kelly Thompson. He went on to say the district should consider reverting back to neighborhood schools and by relying on race in any form to meet its diversity quota ignores previous court decisions.

“These three justices were very, very strong to tell the school board that they have over litigated this matter and they were not accepting any semantic difference between enroll and attend and to return to neighborhood schools,” said Gordon who joked that a rebuttal wasn’t necessary at the end of Wednesday’s hearing.

A decision is expected in the next four to six weeks, said assistant JCPS board assistant attorney Lisa DeJaco. If the Kentucky Court of Appeals should rule against JCPS, the case could head to the State Supreme Court, she said. But it could be six months to a year before the State Supreme Court decides whether to accept the case.

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Local News Uncategorized

Floyd County Judge Introduces Veteran-Treatment Court

Floyd County Indiana Superior Court 3 Judge Maria Granger is proposing a specialized court that would defer veterans to veteran-specific treatment programs, rather than having them spend time in prison.

“Much is going to be expected from the veterans that enter the program,” said Granger. “The key for success, if it’s going to achieve the public safety and the recidivism which is the main objective for this, it’s going to be important that these veterans are accountable and responsible.”

Since 2008, veteran-specific treatment courts have become more popular. Around 80 percent of veterans in the justice system identify as mentally ill, according to data from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

Now, these courts are becoming more popular as more U.S. Veterans are coming home, said Chris Deustch, spokesman with the NADCP.

“Anecdotally what court teams are telling us is that veterans-only docket, where there’s a real culture of veterans and veteran mentors that are involved, that participants feel comfortable and are taking to the program a little faster than maybe if they were in a regular drug court or mental health court,” said Deustch.

“Some of the research that is out there suggests that veterans don’t always fare that well in standard treatment settings. That they really need a specialized treatment setting, specific to the issues they may be suffering from as it relates to their service,” he said.

A veteran could have the original charges lessened or dropped after completion of the program, said Granger. But failing to complete the program would leave a veteran subject to the original charges, she said.

The 18-month program would be difficult and shouldn’t be considered a free pass, she said.

The court is still deciding what offenses would be eligible for rehab.

The court must still be approved by the Indiana Judicial Center. Granger hopes to have the court implemented by early next year, she said.

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Local News Politics

Supreme Court Rules for Kentucky Man, With Caveat

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Kentucky man facing a nearly nine-year prison sentence for crack cocaine charges is eligible to have his sentence reduced.

William Freeman agreed to the sentence in a plea deal, which was based on the sentencing guidelines for crack. When those guidelines changed, Freeman tried to have his sentence shortened, but was told he had to follow his plea deal.

A majority five justices ruled in Freeman’s favor. Four of those five said anyone who takes a plea deal should be eligible for a shorter sentence if guidelines change. But the fifth was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She ruled that only convicts whose plea deals state they are based on sentencing guidelines should be eligible.

“The case really does position Justice Sotomayor, at least in criminal matters, as part of the court’s center,” says U of L Professor Sam Marcosson. “Both the government and defense lawyers will have to think carefully about how to appeal to her and make careful arguments.

Marcosson says Sotomayor’s opinion significantly reduces the scope of the high court’s decision. Rather than affecting potentially thousands of prisoners, it will likely affect hundreds.

Freeman may again request a shorter sentence. If he does, the case will be heard at the federal courthouse in Louisville.

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Local News Politics

Indiana Panel to Review Court Decision on Police Entry

A special committee of Indiana legislators will consider whether lawmakers can do anything about a recent state Supreme Court Ruling that said Indiana residents don’t have the right to resist police officers who illegally enter homes.

Republican Senator Brent Steele will chair the committee, which will determine whether the General Assembly can overturn the ruling or reduce its effects. He says the committee will report to lawmakers this fall.

The 3-2 ruling brought Indiana law in line with most other states, but critics contend it violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects residents from illegal searches.

Additional information from the Associated Press

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Local News

Planned Parenthood of Indiana Continues Fight Against New State Law

Planned Parenthood of Indiana will be in court soon to try to have a law that strips the organization of public funding overturned.

A previous attempt to have the law stopped was rejected shortly after Governor Mitch Daniels signed the legislation. Organization president Betty Cockrum says if the court case doesn’t work, she thinks the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could step in. She says it’s possible the agency could withdraw about $4 million of federal family planning Medicaid funds from Indiana if the law remains on the books.

“There was further suggestion that it could put the entire Medicaid budget in Indiana at risk if they chose to sanction the state to that degree. And so what has now happened is that Secretary Sebelius has been looking at it.”

Cockrum says that could make state officials rethink the measure.

“I think if there was strong language suggesting that the entire Medicaid budget was put at risk, one wants to believe that wouldn’t take a whole lot of analysis and thought.”

A ruling on the court case is expected by July 1st. Planned Parenthood serves about 9,300 Medicaid patients in Indiana. Through donations, those patients will receive care through June 15th

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Returns to Court Tomorrow, Reorganization Plan Due

The Louisville Orchestra is due in court again tomorrow for a bankruptcy hearing.

Under the ensemble’s Chapter 11 filing, orchestra management has to submit a plan for reorganizing operations. Officials have declined to comment on the content or status of the plan, but the management had previously sought to reduce the number of full-time musicians.

That proposal first came up in talks to renew the musicians’ contract late last year. Musicians said a smaller orchestra would not be artistically or financially successful, and countered with new ideas for fundraising. When the talks broke down, the Chapter 11 filing was made.

The players’ contract expires this week and talks have resumed outside of court. Both sides have been silent about the negotiations.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the management could take any number of actions. First, they could submit a reorganization plan for the judge to consider. They could also decide not to submit a plan and instead ask for more time to put a plan together. The judge could either grant that request or end what’s called the exclusivity period. That would allow other parties in the case to submit their own reorganization plans. The judge could also dismiss the Chapter 11 filing or convert the case to Chapter 7. That would effectively end the current orchestra by requiring it to liquidate its resources.

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Environment Local News

Miners’ Widows Sue Operator Over 2010 Accident

The widows of two men killed in a mine accident in Kentucky last year are suing the mine’s operator. The Dotiki mine had received hundreds of citations for safety violations before the 2010 roof collapse. The women say production took priority over safety at the mine.

From Bloomberg:

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky by Sandy Travis of Dixon and Melissa Carter of Hanson, whose husbands died in the April 28, 2010, collapse. They also filed claims with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration seeking $9 million each for personal injury and wrongful death.

Travis is seeking up to $5 million in punitive damages in the lawsuit, while Carter, who is also suing on behalf of the couple’s minor son, is asking for up to $10 million in punitive damages. Both are also asking for an undisclosed amount in compensatory awards.

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Environment Local News

Kentucky Environmental Foundation Hopes to Spur EPA Decisions

The Kentucky Environmental Foundation is hoping to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to rule on issues related to air quality in Kentucky.

The EPA has missed its deadline to approve or reject state implementation program proposals. The proposals outline how various regions in the commonwealth will reduce particulate pollution released by power plants, cars and other sources. KEF director Elizabeth Crowe says by missing deadlines, the EPA has allowed the air to remain polluted, and her organization has filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA over the issue.

“That is just a way to, in this case, let the EPA know that we’re watching and that we want them to go ahead and take this action,” she says.  

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Local News

Appeals Court Overturns Decision to Reinstate Expelled U of L Nursing Student

The decision to reinstate a University of Louisville nursing student who was expelled over her blog posts has been overturned.

Nina Yoder was expelled from U of L in 2009 after posts she’d written about her coursework were found online. That year, U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson ruled that the school violated a contract with Yoder, who was then reinstated and has since graduated.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Simpson’s decision was improper because the case was a free speech issue, not a contract violation.