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March 2013 Archives

Did the Supreme Court move too quickly to address whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry?

Should the states instead be left to continue the gay marriage experiment for a while?

Those were some of the sentiments expressed by Supreme Court Justices as California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, was argued before the High Court.

This full oral argument transcript may shed light on where the Justices stand on this issue. Or maybe not. After all, trying to extrapolate where the Justices will ultimately vote is fraught with pitfalls.

For what it’s worth, here are are some of the Justices’ comments (followed by the full transcript after the jump).

“I just wonder if this case was properly granted,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“You want us to step in and assess the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones and/or the Internet?” said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

“Why is taking a case now the answer?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.

Justice Kennedy, who likely holds the decisive vote, also voiced sympathy for the children of gay and lesbian couples.

“There’s some 40,000 children in California that live with same-sex parents. They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important.”

Of course, Justice Kennedy also spoke of uncertainty about allowing same-sex marriage.

“We have five years of information to pose against 2,000 years of history or more.”

An affidavit has surfaced in which lawyers at the world's largest law firm trade casual e-mails about running up legal bills for a client. One attorney jokes "that bill shall know no limits." Another described a colleague's approach to the assignment as "churn that bill, baby!"

It's not every day you read documentary evidence of possible churning -- the creation of unnecessary work to drive up a client's bill. But that appears to be what The New York Times found in a Manhattan Supreme Court filing last week involving the law firm DLA Piper.

DLA Piper is in a fee dispute with client Adam H. Victor, an energy industry executive. DLA Piper sued Mr. Victor for $675,000 in unpaid legal bills. Then Mr. Victor filed a counterclaim, accusing the law firm of a "sweeping practice of overbilling."

Do law firms inflate bills by performing superfluous tasks and overstaffing assignments? Here are some highlighted portions of DLA Piper's emails:

"I hear we are already 200k over our estimate -- that's Team DLA Piper!" wrote Erich P. Eisenegger, a lawyer at the firm, the Times reports.

"Now Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard 'churn that bill, baby!' mode. That bill shall know no limits," replied another DLA Piper lawyer, Christopher Thomson, noting that a third colleague, Vincent J. Roldan, had been enlisted to work on the matter.

A DLA Piper spokesman told TheTimes the firm did not comment on pending litigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that a former grad student who purchased books cheaply overseas can then resell them on eBay for a profit.

The California student, Supap Kirtsaeng, argued he was protected by the first-sale doctrine. The doctrine holds that copyright owners can’t ban resales of their products.

The High Court, in a 6-3 ruling, held the doctrine protects resellers even when the goods are lawfully manufactured outside the United States.

Varsity Athlete Can't Sue University for Being Cut from Team

Being cut from a team and losing your athletic scholarship is not grounds for a lawsuit.

That is how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled after a college basketball player sued her university and coach after losing her athletic scholarship.

The plaintiff, Brooke Elizabeth Heike, was awarded a scholarship by Central Michigan University. When she lost her scholarship she decided to seek legal relief.

Sharon Stone’s former maid has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the actress, claiming the actress fired her because she was injured carrying Stone’s groceries.

Angelica Castillo’s complaint is the second in a year from one of Stone’s domestic employees. In May, Stone’s ex nanny also sued accusing her of violating labor laws and making derogatory comments about her ethnicity.

The latest Sharon Stone lawsuit says Castillo hurt her back and was in severe pain. Although a doctor ordered her not to lift heavy objects and to get bed rest, Stone told her to return to work, the complaint alleges.

“While the plaintiff was still in severe pain, Stone repeatedly yelled at plaintiff for performing her duties more slowly, and called her ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid,’ ” the suit claims.

Angelica Castillo was fired by the actress last October after two years on the job.

The complaint accuses Stone of wrongful termination and failure to provide accommodation for her injury.

New York City’s ban on large soda drinks was halted by a judge Monday after industry groups sued to stop the “unfair burden on small business.” The ban was invalidated one day before the new law was to go into effect.

The city is “enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling ruled.

“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the state purpose of the rule,” Justice Tingling wrote, stating the regulations are “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had spearheaded the ban on any sugary drink cup over 16 ounces from restaurants, movie theaters and other establishments as an attack on obesity. But beverage manufacturers, like the American Beverage Association, called the law an illegal overreach that would infringe upon consumers’ personal liberty.

Justice Tingling sided with the trade groups and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the city from implementing the plan.

Arkansas has adopted what is by far the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortion — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound.

The law, the most pointed challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe. Beebe called the law “blatantly unconstitutional.”

The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.

A provision of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law that forbids day laborers to look for work violates the First Amendment, the 9th Circuit has ruled.

The provision aimed at day laborers and employers who hire them is unconstitutional and unenforceable, a three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled.

The panel rejected the state’s argument that it can make it a crime for someone looking for work to enter a car stopped on the street. That law also criminalizes drivers who stop to pick up laborers.

Attorneys for the state said Arizona has a legitimate interest in ensuring that traffic is not blocked.

But Appellate Judge Raymond Fisher ruled it would have been one thing if the state simply made it illegal to block traffic.

Instead, SB 1070 only targeted day laborers. And that, Fisher said, makes it an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment rights of the individuals.