This Week in Legal News

news icon for blogOn Monday night,  U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas, issued a temporary injunction to block implementation of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.  The injunction was a response to a challenge to the orders filed by 26 states, a suit that the administration contends is without merit.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review overturned the terrorism convictions of David Hicks, a former detainee at Guantanamo.

Two U.S. law schools, the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law,  have announced that they will admit some students without requiring that they take the LSAT.


This Week in Legal News

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the nation’s ban on physician-assisted suicide.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., news icon for blogColorado legislators have rejected a bill that would have made assisted suicide available to terminally-ill patients.  Five states currently permit physician-assisted suicide: Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Mexico and Montana.

On Monday, Alabama became the latest state to recognize marriage equality, after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from the state Attorney General for the extension of a stay of a federal injunction prohibiting him from enforcing Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages.  Probate courts in a majority of Alabama’s 67 counties, however, are refusing to issue marriage licenses, either rejecting same-sex couples outright or closing their offices, after a call to such action by Chief Justice Roy Moore.  On Thursday, a federal judge ordered Mobile County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Marriage equality supporters hope that this order will clarify the issue in other counties.

On Wednesday, the captain of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years on various charges related to the 2012 shipwreck.

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will permit users to name a “legacy contact” who will be able to administer a page following a user’s demise.  This is a departure from Facebook’s previous policy of freezing an account upon verification of an account-holder’s death.





In the News: Vaccinations

Child vaccinations have been a huge issue vaccinein the news lately.  All states have legislation mandating certain vaccines for students; all state laws also have exceptions for medical reasons.  Other types of exceptions include religious or philosophical exceptions.

The National Center for State Legislatures recently posted a 50-State Summary of school vaccine requirements and exceptions.  South Carolina’s student vaccination statute is found in the South Carolina Code Annotated § 44-29-180.  According to the NCSL’s chart and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina allows religious exemptions, but not philosophical ones.

West Virginia and Mississippi are the only states which do not give exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons, but California lawmakers are thinking about joining them by getting rid of their  philosophical exemption.  California is one of five states (including WV and Mississippi) that does not grant religious exemptions.

Supreme Court to Make Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

Supreme CourtOn Friday, January 16th, the Supreme Court decided to rule on same-sex marriage, granting certiorari in four cases.

The Court limited the petitions (coming from four states: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) to just two questions.  First, does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?  And second, does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state?  The court has allotted one hour and ninety minutes for oral arguments, but a date for the oral arguments has not yet been set.

To see the documents for the four cases involved, click the case names:  Tanco v. Haslam, Obergefell v. Hodges, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Bourke v . Beshear.

More coverage to follow on what will likely be a ground-breaking decision regardless of how the Court decides…


This Week in Legal News

A few interesting legal news stories from the past week:

  • The Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari in seven cases challenging state laws barring recognition of same sex marriages.  Perhaps not such a huge surprise given that there was no split among the lower courts.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held that a lifetime registration requirement for juveniles offenders to be unconstitutional.
  • Jury selection in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev began on Monday, after a federal appeals court denied his argument to change venue.
  • Kazakhstan’s new Criminal Procedure code will require police to read suspects their rights when making an arrest; the rights are based on the U.S.’s Miranda warnings.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a New York state rule barring children who are not immunized from public schools, due in large part to an exception allowing children whose parents have “genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to” the rule not to be immunized.

What’s on your legal news radar this week?  Let us know in the comments!

Legal News of the Day: Supreme Court Tackles Unusual Precedent Question

Tomorrow, March 5, the U.S. Supreme Court will tackle an unusual question regarding its precedent. Rather than determining how a prior case should be interpreted, the Court will address whether the case should be overruled altogether. In arguments for Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, the Court will decide whether to overrule or substantially limit its holding in Basic Inc. v. Levinson. Both cases deal with the “fraud-on-the-market” theory of liability in SEC Rule 10b-5 class action suits.

Read more about the arguments for tomorrow here.

Legal News of the Day: SEC Conflict Minerals Rule Under Scrutiny

Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court held oral arguments on whether the requirement that publicly traded companies disclose the use of certain minerals from certain African countries is a violation of the First Amendment and whether the SEC took arbitrary actions when adopting the rule.Cg-map

A trio of business groups challenged the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals rule, but the district court upheld the rule.  The rule, meant to cut off funding for those perpetrating human rights abuses, requires companies to disclose whether their products contain tin, tunsten, tantalum, or gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbors, but the business groups question whether the rule would help the African people and argue that complying with the rule would cost companies billions of dollars.  They also argue that the SEC could make compliance less of a burden by exempting those companies who use only trace amounts of the minerals in question.  The First Amendment argument is that the rule forces them to criticize their own products; during the oral arguments, the panel seemed concern that making companies share this information could be a “slippery slope.”  The SEC argues that it is following its Congressional mandate by creating the rule.

Legal News of the Day: SCOTUS Hears Arguments on Recess Appointments

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in NLRB v. Noel Canning to decide whether the president’s power to make recess appointments can be exercised:

  • during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate OR is limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate
  • to fill any vacancy that exists during a recess OR is limited to those that arise during the recess

Last January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board by President Obama were unconstitutional.  The government appeals that decision.

For a review of the argument, see this SCOTUSblog post.

Legal News of the Day: Supreme Court Hears Argument on Authority of Military Bases to Punish Protestors

This morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of United States v. Apel, concerning whether military bases have the authority to punish anti-war protestors who violate the rules of access to military facilities.  The military base in question is Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a base that the public needs special permission to enter, but across which runs Pacific Coast Highway, a public road, which are generally open to free speech activity.  In the late 1980s, a commander set up a public protest area just outside the main gate, along the highway.  There are laws making it a crime to enter a military base for an illegal purpose and to reenter a base after having been barred or removed from a base, but the federal government formally gave the state of California an easement to use the part of the Pacific Coast Highway that runs across the edge of the base as a public road.  The protest zone is within the space covered by the easement.

Supreme Court

The defendant in the case is no longer welcome in the protest zone due to an earlier incident in which he through blood on a sign at the gate of the base and then again years later for trespassing.  In 2010, Mr. Apel entered the protest zone on three occasions.  He was charged for violating the provision hat criminalizes entering a base after having been barred previously and convicted.  The Ninth Circuit overturned that conviction, relying on a prior case from the same military base that stated the Air Force can only punish those entering a base without permission if the military has “the exclusive right of possession” of the property and concluding that it shares authority over the protest zone and the part of Pacific Coast Highway because of the easement.

Check out SCOTUSblog’s analysis on the upcoming arguments to see the issues that will likely arise and what the court will be considering.

Legal News of the Day: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Cases Challenging Internet-Only Sales Tax

Amazon_logoOn Monday, the Court refused to hear two new cases that challenged state taxes on Internet-only sales in states where those companies do not have a physical presence: Inc., v. New York Taxation Dep’t and v. New York Taxation Dep’t.  In both cases, the Internet retailers argued that they had no presence in the state and should be exempt from taxes on purchases made on those Internet retail sites by New York customers.  The Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state) ruled that they were subject to tax in New York because contracts with third-party local affiliates that generate customers for them through Internet links to the retailers’ websites is a substantial enough nexus to force the companies to collect taxes.  The Washington post posited that the court’s decision to stay out of the issue may pressure Congress to come up with a solution on a national level; in the meantime, has suspended its relationships with the local affiliates to avoid having to conform to the New York law.