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A court ruling has given farm fertilizer dealers a reprieve from a federal policy change that some say would unfairly burden the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy change announced last year would regulate retail dealers of farm fertilizer such as anhydrous ammonia under the same standards as manufacturers. It came after a deadly explosion at a Texas plant in 2013.

The Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute say the change would affect 3,800 fertilizer retailers nationwide, costing them more than $100 million. The two organizations sued a year ago.

The change was to take effect this coming Saturday. But a federal appeals court has ruled that OSHA can't implement it without going through a formal rule-making process.



improperly removed from his criminal case without explanation.

A letter from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Chief Judge Dee Drell of the Western District of Louisiana and U.S. District Judge Donald Walter in Shreveport are "invited" to file written responses by Oct. 6. The appeals court also asked two federal prosecutors to respond to Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal's arguments.

Ackal's attorney, John McLindon, argued in a court filing Friday that U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi's mysterious removal from the sheriff's case violated court rules and apparently was done without her consent earlier this year.

McLindon also is challenging Walter's decision to hold the trial in Shreveport instead of Lafayette, where the case originated.

The letter from the 5th Circuit doesn't specify what issues the judges and prosecutors should address in their responses to Ackal's petition. The letter indicated that they discussed the matter by telephone on Monday morning.

Ackal awaits trial next month on charges over the alleged beatings of jail inmates. Nine former employees of the sheriff's office already have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the Justice Department's civil rights investigation.

Minaldi originally was assigned to preside over the high-profile cases against the sheriff and 11 of his subordinates. But Drell abruptly reassigned the cases to Walter in March, two days after Ackal's indictment. Drell didn't give a reason for the switch in his one-sentence orders.

Four days before Minaldi's removal from the cases, she was in the middle of accepting guilty pleas by two former sheriff's deputies when a prosecutor cut her off mid-sentence and asked to speak to a defense attorney. Then, after a short break and private discussion with the attorneys, Minaldi adjourned the March 7 hearing in Lake Charles without giving a reason on the record.


Court cites racial profiling in tossing gun charge

•  National News     updated  2016/09/24 16:45


The highest court in Massachusetts on Tuesday threw out a gun conviction against a Boston man in a ruling that says black men who flee when approached by police may be reacting to racial profiling rather than trying to hide criminal activity.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court found that Boston police had "far too little information" to stop Jimmy Warren after seeing him and another black man walking in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood about 30 minutes after they received a report of a home break-in in 2011.

Police had received only a vague description of three black males wearing dark clothing and hooded sweatshirts seen leaving the home. Warren ran when police approached him. After a foot chase, an officer arrested him in a backyard. He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after a handgun was found on the front lawn.

The SJC found that police did not have a reasonable suspicion to stop Warren and his friend, noting that an officer's hunch is not enough. The court cited a report by the Boston Police Department that found black men were disproportionately stopped and frisked by Boston police between 2007 and 2010. The court said black men in Boston who flee when approached by police does not necessarily indicate that they are guilty of a crime.

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