CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog


As we have noted before, the right to free speech has its limits. Threats, obscenity, and defamation can all be illegal. But what about disparaging remarks or racial slurs? And what about government sanction of that speech?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a disparagement clause, allowing it to deny trademark applications that "may disparage ... persons, living or dead ... or bring them into contempt, or disrepute." But the Supreme Court today ruled the disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause, a ruling that could have an enormous impact the limits of free speech in trademark cases.

President Donald Trump has come under fire, politically, for not fully divesting himself from his personal business interests when he took office. Today, for the second time, he's hearing the same criticism, but legally.

Back in January, a bunch constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators, and former White House ethics lawyers sued Trump, claiming that payments made to Trump-owned businesses amounted to violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. Earlier today, the District of Columbia and State of Maryland filed a similar suit. So what is the Emoluments Clause and is Trump violating it? You can see the full lawsuit below:

As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed; try, try, try again. President Donald Trump may be on his third try after his second attempt at an executive order limiting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries was blocked much in the same way as the first.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld a lower court's injunction prohibiting the travel ban from being enforced, and minced no words in doing so. With many guessing the case will now head to the Supreme Court, you can read the Fourth Circuit's decision below.

The Justice Department has named former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head the investigation into allegations that Russian agents meddled in the 2016 presidential elections. That investigation is expected to touch on contact that Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security advisor, had with Russia before and after the election.

The necessity of independent counsel to oversee the investigation became apparent following Trump's dismissal of James Comey who was the head of the FBI until last week. The DOJ order gives Mueller the authority to investigate ties between Russia, Trump, and his presidential campaign. You can see the order below:

Another day, another Trump executive order, another lawsuit seeking an injunction against said order. This time it's the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which describes itself as a "National non prophet nonprofit working to promote the separation of state and church," suing Trump mere hours after he signed his Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.

While the order purports to protect "the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government," critics claim it is an illegal attempt to skirt a largely inconsequential provision of the tax code. All we are waiting on now is the inevitable federal district court order enjoining enforcement of Trump's order. You can read the FFRF's lawsuit requesting that injunction below.

Like many federal judges before him, United States District Judge William H. Orrick of California's Northern District has enjoined the federal government from enforcing one of President Donald Trump's executive orders. Trump's Executive Order 13768, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," has suffered the same fate as his travel ban, both the original and the revised version.

So why was the latest order ruled unconstitutional? You can see Judge Orrick's reasoning below.

Soon after his election as president, Donald Trump attempted to crack down on speech coming out of federal agencies, especially speech on social media that might be critical of the new administration or supportive of the previous one. That attempt backfired somewhat, with federal employees going "rogue" and creating alternate social media accounts used to blast Trump policy changes.

In response, the Trump administration furthered its attempt to silence disparaging speech, issuing a federal summons to Twitter in an effort to unmask the users behind at least one rogue account. Twitter didn't blink, and countersued the Department of Homeland Security, along with several other individuals and agencies.

Less than 24 hours later, Trump's team withdrew its summons and Twitter followed suit, dropping its complaint challenging the administration's power to demand such information. You can read Twitter's filing below.

One inevitable outcome to manufacturing driverless cars is that there will nonetheless be lawsuits if and when those cars get into accidents. And if there's no "driver" to sue, those lawsuits will be undoubtedly be aimed at the manufacturer.

One driverless car manufacturer is trying to avoid liability for several accidents, essentially arguing "to err is human." Tesla says that no manufacturer has been expected to build a perfectly accident-free automobile, especially in the face of human error, nor should it be expected to design a car, even a driverless one, that can overcome those human errors. You can see their full legal filing below:

Most of us are skeptical when buying a used car -- we want the CARFAX report and we don't always believe salesmen's assurances that a car on their lot is safe. But the "Certified Pre-Owned" distinction is meant to allay those fears -- after all, the CARFAX website itself calls them "the low-cost alternative to a new car, or as a low-risk option to a used car." But it turns out CPOs might not be as safe as you'd think.

A federal lawsuit alleges the Federal Trade Commission allowed dealers to market and advertise certified pre-owned vehicles as "safe," even when the same vehicles were subject to safety recalls due to dangerous defects. The suit covers cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor homes, and claims the FTC did not require dealers to submit the vehicles to the recalls or fix the defects; they only had to disclose the vehicles "may" be subject to recalls, even when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had already required a safety recall. You can read the full lawsuit below.

President Donald Trump's second attempt at barring entry into the United States from Muslim-majority countries has been put on hold, with a federal judge in Hawaii issuing a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the travel ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson's ruling comes two months after another federal court in Washington blocked Trump's initial executive order on immigration, a decision which was upheld by a unanimous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just a few weeks ago.

Judge Watson's opinion was not kind to President Trump or his surrogates, who are quoted extensively as evidence that the ban was specifically targeted toward Muslims. You can read the full opinion below.