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October 2014 Archives

Manuel Noriega Loses 'Call of Duty' Publicity Suit Against Activision

Wait, Manuel Noriega is in court and he's the plaintiff? It's more likely than you think. Apparently following on the heels of Lindsay Lohan, Noriega -- yes, the same one who was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 -- sued Activision, maker of the game "Call of Duty."

Noriega -- currently in prison in Panama -- claimed that "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" portrayed him by name and likeness "as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes" in the game. Earlier this week, though, a Los Angeles County Superior Court dismissed Noriega's case with prejudice.

Cal. Supremes to Review Confidentiality of Police Personnel Files

A police officer's personnel file could be a gold mine for a defendant -- past misconduct, especially the really juicy stuff like beating a defendant or falsifying a police report, could destroy an officer's credibility and sway an otherwise teetering jury.

But who screens those police files to determine whether they should be turned over? The California Supreme Court unanimously voted to take up the issue in an appeal of an intermediate court's ruling that prosecutors, not police officers, should screen the files, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

S.F.'s 2-Year Payouts for Ellis Act Evictions Nixed by Fed. Judge

The Ellis Act acts as a check on California's fairly tenant-friendly landlord/tenant laws. Even notwithstanding tougher locals laws (like those in Los Angeles and San Francisco), the Ellis Act allows a landlord to evict a tenant if he's getting out of the landlord business altogether.

Here's the kicker: In San Francisco, where the median market rent is now almost $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment, landlords often find that it makes more economic sense to get out of the landlord business and sell their properties to someone else -- rather than continue to collect rent from long-term, practically unevictable tenants paying much lower than market rate.

More Silicon Valley Anti-Poaching Lawsuits Filed: 3 Things to Know

The Silicon Valley anti-poaching mega-class-action has turned into quite the show: First, there were estimates that the suit could cost the companies involved (Adobe, Google, Intel, and Apple) billions in damages. Then, it settled for a relative pittance: $324 million. An objecting plaintiff, and a motion to intervene by a bunch of mass murderers later, the settlement was nuked and a trial date was set.

Now? While the four tech titans appeal Judge Lucy Koh's holding that the settlement was unreasonable, other lawyers are lining up to take on other tech companies that may have had similar anti-poaching agreements in place.

Here are five things to know about the latest Silicon Valley anti-poaching lawsuits:

Atheist Sues Over Religious 12-Step Program, Settles for $1.9M

Parolees in California can be required to enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs as part of their parole or probation. But it's potentially crossing a line to ask an atheist parolee to surrender to a higher deity that he doesn't believe in.

That's what happened to Barry Hazle of Shasta County, who was paroled after a prison term for meth possession and then ordered to enroll in a drug treatment program. The program required that he "submit to a 'higher power,'" the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Hazle, a lifelong atheist, was having none of it.

S.F. Superior Court Clerks Go on Strike for 2nd Time in 2 Years

Don't expect to get anything done in any of San Francisco's superior courts today: All the clerks are on strike. The clerks, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, voted last month to authorize the strike, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The strike was prompted by pay raises -- or, rather, the lack thereof. Clerks received a 3 percent pay raise last year, but that's it. The union claims that the court has "refused to bargain over mandatory issues [...] withheld information from the union [...] and threatened the jobs of union members at the table," according to SF Weekly.

S.F. Supervisors OK New Airbnb Rental Regulations

By a 7-4 vote on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law permitting the operation of Airbnb rentals in the city.

The law establishes some regulation of Airbnb rentals, but not as much as Airbnb's opponents wanted.

GVRO: What the Gun Violence Restraining Order Law Means

Every fearful conversation that I have heard from gun owners and conspiracy theorists has finally come true in California: The government can come seize your guns, though only if a family member claims that you are a danger to yourself or others.

Still, that's not going to assuage the fears of many gun owners out there. Assembly Bill 1014, drafted after the Santa Barbara shooting and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, creates the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), a set of procedures that piggybacks the current Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) system. The law will allow police officers to temporarily seize the restrained party's firearms, reports Reuters.

Here are the specifics of the legislation, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2016:

Propositions 1 and 2: State Budget Boogaloo

This is the sixth and final entry in a series about this year's California ballot propositions. Hopefully we can help sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to claims about what these propositions do and don't do. In case you missed them, here are our discussions of Propositions 45, 46, 47, 48, and the missing-in-action Prop. 49.

The first big question is: "Why are these numbered 1 and 2 when the other propositions start at 45?" Glad you asked. They began life as Propositions 43 and 44 -- which makes sense -- and then got tweaked a little. After Prop. 43 was submitted, it got altered slightly, which meant it needed a new number. Because Gov. Jerry Brown considers them a package deal, Prop. 44 got renumbered so that voters would know they go together.

Prop. 45: Meaningful Health Insurance Regulation

This is the fifth in a series about this year's California ballot propositions. Hopefully we can help sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to claims about what these propositions do and don't do. In case you missed them, here are our discussions of Propositions 46, 47, 48, and the missing-in-action Prop. 49.

Remember the Affordable Care Act? Yeah, it was in the news from time to time. California was one of the states that set up its own state insurance exchange. Currently, the state health insurance exchange, Covered California, negotiates rates for plans offered on the exchange.

What Happened to Prop. 49? Calif. Supreme Court Cut It in Aug.

This is the fourth in a series about this year's California ballot propositions. Today, we discuss what happened to an initiative that was removed from the ballot, Proposition 49.

Notably absent (or maybe not) from this November's list of state ballot initiatives is Proposition 49, which would have called on the U.S. Congress to enact a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC. A laudable goal, to be sure: Citizens United, like herpes, is the gift that keeps on giving.

But even by the standards of California's wacky initiative system -- which lets millionaires give themselves property tax breaks and a simple majority of voters take away fundamental rights -- Prop. 49 was just a bridge too far for the California Supreme Court.

Prop. 48: Indian Casinos on Somewhat-Indian Land Near Fresno

This is the third in a series about this year's California ballot propositions. Hopefully we can help sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to claims about what these propositions do and don't do. In case you missed them, here are our discussions of Proposition 46 and Proposition 47.

Once again, it's time to decide whether we want to extend gambling to another Indian reservation in California. This time, Proposition 48 proposes allowing the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe to establish casinos. Approval of this proposition would ratify two Indian gaming compacts the state has already entered into with the tribes. But much of the discussion of Prop. 48 goes beyond the text of the instant legislation.

Prop. 47 Releases Dangerous Criminals! (Except That It Doesn't)

This is the second in a series about this year's California ballot propositions. Hopefully we can help sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to claims about what these propositions do and don't do. In case you missed it, here's our discussion of Proposition 46.

After years of brutal, "tough on crime" punishment, the United States -- and California -- has decided that maybe mandatory minimums, harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, and Draconian recidivism statutes aren't the way to go after all. In 2012, the state amended its "Three Strikes" law to make the mandatory 25-to-life sentence applicable only if the third strike is a violent felony. Just this week, Gov. Brown signed a law that eliminated the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity in state law.

Now comes Proposition 47, which seeks to "ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses." Cue the disingenuous claims that child molesters will get released directly into elementary school playgrounds in 3, 2, 1 ...