For three years, Mother Jones has been litigating a defamation suit over a piece that drew attention to the political activites of wealthy billionaire Frank VanderSloot. "This was not a dispute over a few words. It was a push, by a superrich businessman and donor, to wipe out news coverage that he disapproved of. Had he been successful, it would have been a chilling indicator that the 0.01 percent can control not only the financing of political campaigns, but also media coverage of those campaigns." [more inside]
PatentsView is a new patent data visualization platform from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The PatentsView beta search tool allows members of the public to interact with nearly 40 years of data on patenting activity in the United States. Users can explore technological, regional, and individual-level patent trends via search filters with multiple viewing options. The database links inventors, their organizations, locations, and overall patenting activity using enhanced 1976-2014 data from public USPTO bulk data files.
On December 13, 2013, the US district court for the District of Columbia ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of American citizens' telephone records was "likely" to violate the Fourth Amendment (previously on MeFi). Today, DC's federal court of appeals overturned that ruling. The rationale is that the plaintiffs did not prove "that they were affected by the metadata-gathering program," so they did not have standing to challenge it in court. [more inside]
Eric Adler of the Adler Vermillion law firm and the Legal Hackers group dives into the odd nuances of copyright laws as applied to video games.
The New Mexico Law Review just published an issue dedicated entirely to Breaking Bad. It features eight articles that analyze the illegal acts committed on the show, their real-world parallels, and the consequences attached:
Given the array of legal issues raised, our editorial board was excited to take the opportunity to present analysis of Breaking Bad by scholars and legal practitioners. In April 2014 we issued a call for papers requesting abstracts on topics including the application of the Fourth Amendment to drug crimes under the New Mexico and/or U.S. Constitutions; the War on Drugs; ethical duties of lawyers; drug-offense sentencing; drug enforcement in rural, urban, and/or Tribal areas; and substance abuse and the law.Some of the greatest legal minds in New Mexico (and the country) came together to examine how Walter White would look to a jury, how the war on drugs affects peripheral citizens like Skyler, and whether Heisenberg could have stayed legit by fighting for his stake in Grey Matter in the courts. [via] [more inside]
Tuesday night, the Santa Monica (CA) City Council unanimously passed one of the most restrictive laws in the nation on short-term rentals. The ordinance (which strengthens and enforces laws already on the books) explicitly bans vacation rentals – rentals of 30 days or less where the primary occupant of the home or apartment is not present – while legalizing and taxing “home-sharing” – i.e. renting a couch, spare room or backyard cottage - providing at least one of the primary residents lives on-site throughout the stay. Santa Monica (pop. 92K) receives over 7 million visitors annually; Salvador Valles, the city's acting chief administrative officer for Planning and Community Development, estimates the number of available listings on home-share sites would go from 1700 to 300. The ordinance goes into effect June 15. [more inside]
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
It's been a long time coming, but the Porn Trolling copyright lawyers of Prenda Law finally had (another) day in court, this time before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It went poorly.
Amanda Knox Acquitted of 2007 Murder by Italy’s Highest Court [New York Times]
"ROME — Italy’s highest court overturned the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and her Italian former boyfriend on Friday, throwing out all charges and ending a long-running courtroom drama over the killing of a British student in 2007. The ruling in favor of Ms. Knox, a 27-year-old former exchange student from Seattle, and her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, 31, was a shock in Italy, where the convictions had been expected to be upheld in the stabbing death of the British student, Meredith Kercher.Previously. Previously. Previously. Previously.
The day Chris Kyle died - an account of the fateful gun range encounter between the subject of the film "American Sniper" and fellow veteran Eddie Ray Routh. Routh has received a life sentence for killing Kyle and freind Chad Littlefield, with a jury finding his claims of PTSD to be "an excuse".
Now in open beta, SCOTUS Search allows users to "search the text of 1,424,780 individual statements within 6,683 Supreme Court oral arguments." [more inside]
An Argentina court has recognised an Orangutang as 'non-human person': “This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories.” - A similar case regarding a chimpanzee in New York was recently thrown out of court.
This morning, the Supreme Court released an opinion (pdf) in Heien vs. North Carolina, finding that because the Fourth Amendment requires government officials to act reasonably, not perfectly, and gives those officials “fair leeway for enforcing the law,” an officer in North Carolina did not act unconstitutionally when they stopped and searched a car driving with a broken brake light, even though North Carolina law requires only one vehicle brake light to be working. [more inside]
"Defensive patent aggregator" RPX have a new line of business: selling patent troll insurance to startups.
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in King v. Burwell, invalidating subsidies through the federal healthcare exchanges, despite the lack of a Circuit split.
Missouri state court judge Rex M. Burlison has ruled that Missouri cannot keep St. Louis officials from marrying same sex couples. [more inside]
After seven years of litigation, the New York Civil Liberties Union has announced a settlement in Hurrell-Harring v. New York, which will reform the way in which low income criminal defendants are represented in court. [more inside]
For five years, Kenneth Creighton was held in jail, suspected of involvement in the killing of a bystander outside a bodega in the Bronx. In 2012, the charges were dropped. Mr. Creighton was released from Rikers Island. He has since filed a lawsuit against New York City for false arrest and malicious prosecution, and has sought the name of his accuser — a man who told the police that he had seen Mr. Creighton hand a gun to his brother, Dior, who was charged in the shooting.
Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief. [The Guardian]
The conjoined twins who would die without medical intervention, a boy who refused blood transfusions on religious grounds…Ian McEwan on the stories from the family courts that inspired his latest novel.[more inside]
A Republican panel of the D.C. Circuit has ruled [.pdf opinion] in the case of Halbig v. Burwell that a drafting error in the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies exclusively to state-based exchanges and not to federally-facilitated ones, even while subjectively intending to provide subsidies in both cases. The ruling threatens to take away federal subsidies for insurance sold on Obamacare exchanges in 36 states.
A 17 year-old Virginia teenager who is under investigation for sending a consensual sext to his 15-year-old girlfriend may be forced to have an erection in front of police as evidence in the case. [more inside]
On June 26, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Tsilhquot’in people in their title claim to more than 1700 square km of land in British Columbia. The case is a landmark, and was a unanimous decision, supported 8-0 by the justices. The decision, is the first time the Canadian courts have recognized full aboriginal title to a specific tract of land by, and experts in the field expect the ruling to have an impact on future title questions worldwide (from Vancouver Island to New Zealand, or, one might say, from PKOLS to Aotearoa) [more inside]
In England coats of arms and other issues of heraldry are registered and administered by the College of Arms. But what if some base scoundrel displays your family's ancient and noble coat of arms without the right to do so? You sue them in the Court of Chivalry. [more inside]
The Murders at The Lake. "In the summer of 1982 the city of Waco was confronted with the most vicious crime it had ever seen: three teenagers were savagely stabbed to death, for no apparent reason, at a park by a lake on the edge of town. Justice was eventually served when four men were found guilty of the crime, and two were sent to death row. In 1991, though, when one of the convicts got a new trial and was then found not guilty, some people wondered, Were these four actually the killers? Several years after that, one of the men was put to death, and the stakes were raised: Had Texas executed an innocent man?" [more inside]
Debo Adegbile was selected by President Obama to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Senate, aided and abetted by seven Democratic senators, killed his nomination. Why? Because he’s fought for civil rights.
"33" is a video made by the students of color at UCLA Law School. There are 33 black law students at the UCLA law school out of 994 J.D. students, not including those pursuing an LL.M. degree, a one-year law degree program for international students. [more inside]
During their Freedom Hosting investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers. [more inside]
During oral arguments this week on the Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States case, Justice Antonin Scalia chastised attorney Steven Lechner for reading from his script. Justice Stephen Breyer broke the tension with these words: "It's all right." [more inside]
Grantor retained annuity trusts are a method that the ultra rich use to avoid gift taxes. Many lawyers insist that these trusts are a cornerstone of any sound estate plan.
Following the state Supreme Court's decision in Griego v. Oliver [pdf], New Mexico has become the 17th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. [more inside]
Stop calling the DA "the Government!" it hurts her feelings or something. The defense responds..'Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions....defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a "lawyer," or a "defense attorney." Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the "Defender of the Innocent." This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent. Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation "Guardian of the Realm."'
The Superior Court of New Jersey's Appellate Division ruled on August 27 that if, as you text someone, you have special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, you as the texter have a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time. [more inside]
Canadian self-described "Freemen" in Alberta have recently attracted a great deal of public attention to themselves. The justice system generally takes a very dim view of their shenanigans, as laid out in one of the most comprehensively researched and bizarre judgment issued in recent memory. Here's a general overview and debunking of the arguments they use. [more inside]
The Limits of Computer Trespass Law (Lengthy video with audio available) "Have you ever borrowed a smartphone without asking? Modified a URL? Scraped a website? Called an undocumented API? Congratulations: you might have violated federal law!" Legal and internet thinkers (including Ed Felten, Jennifer Granick, Dan Auerbach, & others) talk about vagueness in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, chilling effects, and the prosecution of Aaron Swartz in a panel discussion at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society. [more inside]
Last post at groklaw ~pj a.k.a. Pamela Jones, the writer behind the law analysis site groklaw, has decided to shut down in the wake of the closure of Lavabit confidential email service. [more inside]
Banks usually reserve the right to change the rules or rates for credit cards they issue at any time, and the only notice given is buried in a long legal document. Russian Dmitry Argarkov turned this on its head: After he received a junk-mail credit card offer, he modified the document to include terms ridiculously in his favor and sent it back. The bank signed and certified it without looking at it, and sent him a credit card. [more inside]
Many of America's biggest corporations rely on temp workers to make up an ever increasing portion of their work force. This has led to a boom in the temp agency industry and a sharp decline in temp workers' quality of life.
For years in Malibu, CA, homeowners have tried to hide public access points to local beaches in order to prevent people from using them. A recently released app has tipped off the public as to exactly where these access points are, causing an outcry from the homeowners.
Sly Stone's history of drug addiction and eccentricity is well known. But, a recent California Court of Appeals ruling details how a series of ill advised business deals left Stone destitute. [more inside]
Full opinion (dissent at page 33): In what is arguably the most important criminal procedure case the Supreme Court has decided in decades, the Court today announced its 5-4 holding in Maryland v. King. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy, held that the 4th Amendment allows states to collect and analyze DNA from people arrested (but not convicted) of serious crimes.
Who owns Marvelman? Part I and part II - the concluding chapters of Padraig O Mealoid's epic 16 part history of one of comic's most disputed characters. meanwhile another hole in comics history is about to be filled in as Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's Zenith finally gets collected in full.
Bernie "Whistling" Smith, a legendary, no-nonsense Vancouver cop was the subject of this 1975. Oscar nominated documentary. [more inside]
In Reluctant Defense of the Curmudgeon Malcontents. A Baltimore-area attorney explains how online marketing is hurting the legal profession: There is for the conscientious ethical attorney a balance between eremitic life in a Byzantine-era monastery and nonsense online carney barking, but none of these non-attorney folks deserve a seat at the table in that discussion. And the more you see of the online marketing nonsense that's out there, the more sympathetic you become to people with poor home training who reject that nonsense in language you wouldn't want uttered aloud in your grandmother’s house of worship.
To update followers of the Prenda Law porn-trolling copyright lawyers saga, Judge Wright has just issued a catastrophic order [.pdf] imposing sanctions and making criminal referrals, entertainingly littered with Star Trek references.
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act changes UK copyright law so that only a "diligent search" for ownership is required before a work is considered "orphaned", and put into extended collective licensing. This is one part of a larger act that is supposed to "modernise the UK’s copyright regime to promote innovation in the design industry, encouraging investment in new products while strengthening copyright protections. " Pundits are comparing this to Instagram's assertion of ownership over its users' works last year.
When police carried out a routine stop-and-search of her boyfriend on the London Underground, Gemma Atkinson filmed the incident. She was detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest. She launched a legal battle, which ended with the police settling the case in 2010. With the money from the settlement she funded the production of this animated film, which she says shows how her story and highlights police misuse of counterterrorism powers to restrict photography. [more inside]