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Stevens’ conviction set aside

A U.S. judge set aside the political corruption verdict that probably cost ex-Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens re-election and ordered an investigation into whether prosecutors' "shocking" conduct was criminal. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he had a duty to determine the "potential for obstruction of justice" by six federal prosecutors. The Justice Department abandoned the case after Attorney General Eric Holder discovered the prosecutors had withheld evidence that would have helped Stevens contest the charges he omitted $250,000 worth of gifts on his financial disclosure reports.

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Jackson Hewitt sued over tax refund loans

Tax-preparation company Jackson Hewitt faces a lawsuit in Kansas City over short-term loans that allow people get money due in their refund checks more quickly. A Kansas City woman filed suit in Jackson County Circuit Court last week against the company, arguing it violated state consumer-protection laws. The suit, which also seeks class action status, alleges that Jackson Hewitt should have registered with the state as a credit services organization.

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EPA, Independence reach agreement over sewer system

The federal government and the city of Independence have reached a settlement aimed to force improvements to the city's sewer system. Under the proposed settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City last week, Independence agreed to make improvements to its sewer system to end the sewage overflows. The EPA estimates the cost of those improvements at $35 million.

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A conversation with Judge Fischer

When Zel Fischer was selected to the Missouri Supreme Court last year, he was largely unknown outside northwest Missouri, where he was an associate circuit judge in Atchison County. On the state’s highest bench for five months now, Fischer has had a chance to get his feet on the ground and write a few opinions. He graciously agreed to sit for a question-and-answer session with reporters and editors from Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

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Attitude toward death penalty probed

Guantanamo detainees, death-row prisoners and Katrina victims share a bond that a noted attorney thinks reflects a malaise at the heart of the nation's psyche. John Adams Project defense attorney Denny LeBoeuf, keynote speaker for Thursday's Death Penalty Symposium at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, previewed the program Wednesday in delivering the Joseph Cohen Lecture. LeBoeuf summarizes her thesis this way: Guantanamo, the death penalty and Katrina are made from a single cloth woven by color, class and, in the case of "War on Terror" detainees, religion and ethnicity.

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Lost profits can be recouped for unusual vehicles, court rules

Owners of an unusual commercial vehicle are entitled to lost profits for loss of use and replacement costs of the vehicle when it is damaged in a wreck, said the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday. The Supreme Court affirmed a trial court's award of $201,000 to Gateway Foam Insulators Inc. for the loss of profits, replacement cost and environmental cleanup costs, associated with the wreck of its specialized foam insulation installation truck. The court only reversed an $11,723 award for loan interest.

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Proposed bill would let prosecutors carry guns

Deputy Scott Boan runs a metal detector over Stephen Jones at the ground floor entrance to the Jackson County Courthouse on Monday. While Jackson County has hefty security measures, some rural counties do not, prompting some lawmakers to favor letting prosecutors carry weapons. Earlier this year, a man whom Dent County Prosecutor Jessica Sparks had prosecuted on meth-related charges came into her courthouse office. Although Sparks said the confrontation didn't result in any injuries, she said she would have been in serious danger if a weapon was produced. Click here to continue reading.

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On the clock

Asked how he decided on his hourly rate, litigation and appeals attorney and former Supreme Court judge Edward "Chip" Robertson had a simple answer: "I call up Ann Covington, ask what she's charging and try to charge $5 more." It's a response that reflects one way attorneys set their rates - by checking those of other attorneys in comparable practices. Missouri Lawyers Weekly's second annual billable rates listing includes the rates of more than 200 attorneys and 61 legal support staffers in Missouri. Click here to continue reading and view the complete list.

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Venue by amendment argued

A judge's discretion to change the venue of a lawsuit in a Louisiana train accident was at issue Wednesday before the Missouri Supreme Court. In June 2007, a train owned by the Kansas City Southern Railroad Co. (headquarters pictured) slammed into a car in Louisiana. In the aftermath of the accident, an injured passenger and the family of a woman who died filed a lawsuit in Jackson County against the railway. The company is fighting a move to keep the lawsuit in Jackson County, saying venue is proper in St. Louis County, where the company’s registered agent resides.

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Buffaloed

Solo attorney Greg Stewart signaled his young client to join him at the front of the courtroom. The pair stood before Associate Circuit Judge Brenda Stith Loftin in St. Louis County Circuit Court to defend a small property damage suit. But the judge was a bit confused about the property in question. "I'm here to collect damages for my buffalo," said Betty Gourdine, the South County woman who sued Stewart's client, Michael Wirthlin, over a high school prank carried out in 2006.

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