CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal Documents Blog

CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog


After filing a lawsuit over access to public records, the ACLU of Missouri has received a "heavily redacted" copy of the incident report on the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown.

This five-page document, released by the Ferguson Police Department, reveals few details about the events of the fatal shooting and lacks even a basic narrative. Tony Rothert, the Missouri ACLU's legal director, called on the Ferguson Police Department to release a complete copy of the incident report to "begin building public trust."

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in federal court Thursday as being a violation of constitutional rights, though the decision won't take effect immediately.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that Florida's prohibition on same-sex nuptials infringes on the "fundamental right" to marriage under the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.

Hinkle stayed his own ruling, pending the outcome of gay marriage decisions in several other states, including Virginia, where the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay on a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing gay marriage while it determines whether or not it wants to hear the case.

Delaware has moved into the digital rights vanguard by passing a law granting families the right to control a loved one's digital assets after his or her death.

According to Ars Technica, Delaware is the first U.S. state to accomplish this kind of legislation, although some states (like Idaho and Nevada) have more limited versions of digital rights for heirs. Speaking to the law's strengths, a spokeswoman for the Delaware governor's office noted that regardless of the location of the digital account provider (e.g., Twitter, which is based in San Francisco), if a will is governed by Delaware law, the executor would have access to those accounts.

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, have released an incident report from prior to Michael Brown's shooting, one that details an alleged robbery that preceded the unarmed teen's killing by police.

Ferguson police identified the officer who shot and killed Brown as Officer Darren Wilson. The incident report claims that Brown had stolen a box of cigars prior to being lethally shot.

According to The Washington Post, the report does not "provide any additional information regarding the confrontation or why Brown was ultimately shot and killed."

A federal appeals court has denied Fox's bid to shut down the Dish Anywhere streaming platform. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of TV streaming just three weeks after the Supreme Court shut down Aereo for streaming TV over the internet without permission.

So why did a California federal court give the green light to Dish to continue selling a service so similar to Aereo?

Fox had argued that Dish "engages in virtually identical conduct when it streams Fox's programming to Dish subscribers over the Internet--albeit also in violation of an express contractual prohibition--has repeatedly raised the same defenses as Aereo which have now been rejected by the Supreme Court."

Fox asked the 9th Circuit to impose a preliminary injunction, one that would put a halt to the service.

In a short four-page opinion (attached below), the judges found that Fox's claim that it would be "irreparably harmed" without an immediate block to Hopper was not credible.

Immigrant advocacy groups have sued the federal government for a failure to provide legal representation for immigrant children facing deportation.

The class-action lawsuit (attached below) alleges the government is violating due process by having children navigate the complex immigration legal system alone.

The suit comes as the Obama administration scrambles resources to meet a surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the nation's southwest border. The complaint seeks to require agencies to provide children with legal representation at deportation hearings.

"The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone," said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "Their ability to grasp what is at stake and even just perform the act of talking to a judge is virtually nonexistent.

"A 10-year-old cannot make legal arguments and cannot even make reliably accurate factual statements that a court can rely on in deciding that child's case."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Immigration Council and other groups on behalf of children facing deportation hearings.

Lindsay Lohan has filed a lawsuit against the makers of "Grand Theft Auto V," alleging they used her likeness without permission for a character in the hugely popular video game.

Lohan's lawsuit (filed in New York and attached below) alleges that Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive's use of a character named Lacey Jonas is an "unequivocal" reference to the 28-year-old actress.

The Jonas character appears in the game hiding from paparazzi and asks one of the main characters for a ride. "Please, I'm hardly wearing any makeup," the Jonas character says. Later, Jonas gets frustrated when the main character doesn't recognize her. "I'm really famous!" she says, as they evade photographers.

For months ahead of the game's release, the complaint claims, the companies promoted the Lacey Jonas character and a side plot that must be rescued from paparazzi.

Lohan starred in the 2004 movie "Mean Girls," but in the decade since has become better known for her legal issues (including theft and reckless driving) and six rehab stints.

In 2000, Lohan sued E-Trade over a commercial that featured a "milkaholic" baby named Lindsay. Then in 2011, she filed suit against Pitbull for rapping, "So, I'm tip-toein', to keep flowin', I got it locked up, like Lindsay Lohan."

Lohan's latest lawsuit may well come down to her "rights of publicity" and whether the Jonas character is actually based on her likeness.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police officers usually need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect's cellphone.

The 9-0 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts held the right of police to search an arrested suspect at the scene without a warrant does not extend in most circumstances to data held on a cellphone. Still, there are some emergency situations in which a warrantless search would be permitted, the court said.

Ruling on two cases from California and Massachusetts, the justices acknowledged both a right to privacy and a need to investigate crimes. But they came down squarely on the side of privacy rights.

Seeing someone with a cellphone is such a common thing today, that "the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy," Roberts wrote. "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime...Privacy comes at a cost."

A federal appeals court has released a secret Justice Department memo that justifies a 2011 drone attack that killed Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born Islamist preacher and suspected al Qaeda leader.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals released a redacted version of the secret Obama administration memorandum on Monday. The memo (which starts on page 67 after the opinion) states that since the U.S. government considered al Awlaki to be an "operational leader" of an "enemy force," it was legal for the Central Intelligence Agency to attack him with a drone even though he was a U.S. citizen.

The memo says the killing was further justified under Congressional authorization for the use of U.S. military force following the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked-plane attacks.

The Obama administration released the memo in response to a court order following Freedom of Information lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times.

"High-level government officials have concluded, on the basis of al-Aulaqi's activities in Yemen, that al-Aulaqi is a leader of (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) whose activities in Yemen pose a 'continued an imminent threat' of violence to United states persons and interests," the document said.

Awlaki was killed in what U.S. officials acknowledged at the time was a CIA drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011, Reuters reports. Another American citizen, Samir Khan, was killed in the same attack, although U.S. officials have said that Khan was not intentionally targeted.

Six federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins were cancelled by an appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The board ruled the term "Redskins" is disparaging to a "substantial composite" of Native Americans.

The immediate legal impact of the ruling, which can be appealed to federal court, could be limited, however. The Washington Redskins football team is not required to stop using the name.

But Wednesday's 2-1 board ruling (attached below) could give critics of the term another shot to urge Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder to change it.

"[W]e decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," said the 2-1 ruling by a panel of three administrative trademark judges at the patent agency, also known as the PTO.

If the trademark ruling survives any potential appeals, the Redskins would lose certain rights and find it harder to crack down on unauthorized sales of merchandise with the team's name and logo.

"This probably isn't going to affect the team's ability to run the business or enforce its rights," Marc Reiner, an intellectual-property lawyer at Moss & Kalish PLLC, in New York, told The Wall Street Journal. "This is just a government body saying that it's inappropriate to have this as a registered trademark."