CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

May 2013 Archives

New Colorado Pot Law Violates Free Speech, Pot Magazines Argue

A day after Colorado enacted a law taking marijuana magazines off store racks, three publications sued to block the provision.

High Times magazine and two other publications say a new law requiring marijuana-themed publications to be kept behind the counter in stores violates free speech. The publications say they are being singled out because of their content, which they say is not obscene.

"In enacting this legislation, the State has essentially treated marijuana related magazines as pornography," the publications argue in the attached motion for a preliminary injunction. "However, even pornography distribution enjoys more freedom than this statute permits."

The requirement was added to a larger marijuana regulation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The law takes effect in July.

US Admits Drones Killed 4 American Citizens

Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed that the Obama administration deliberately killed four U.S. citizens in drone strikes abroad.

The U.S. intentionally killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen, according to the attached letter to Congressional leaders, first obtained and reported by The New York Times.

Holder's letter says that the United States had killed three other Americans:

  • Samir Khan, who was killed in the same 2011 strike;
  • al-Awlaki's son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was also killed in Yemen; and
  • Jude Mohammed, who was killed in a strike in Pakistan.

Holder's letter specifically details Anwar al-Awlaki's death, stating that Awlaki's direct actions in planning terrorist attacks led to the drone strike that killed him.

"Awlaki's involvement in the planning of numerous other plots against U.S. and Western interests and [made] clear he was continuing to plot attacks when he was killed," Holder wrote.

"The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was lawful, it was considered, and it was just."

The video game industry is sure to take notice after a federal appeals court ruled that Electronic Arts can be sued by a former college quarterback who alleges EA stole his likeness for its popular “NCAA Football” game.

Ryan Hart, who played for Rutgers from 2002 to 2005, may pursue his lawsuit against EA on allegations that the video game giant misappropriated his likeness for the popular video game.

The 2-1 decision (attached below) was delivered Tuesday by a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. It reversed a district court decision which held that the depiction of college players in the video game was protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

Hart sued EA in 2009, alleging it violated his right of publicity by using his likeness in the 2004, 2005 and 2006 installments of the “NCAA Football” game. The game’s quarterback shared Mr. Hart’s number, height, weight, helmet visor and the left wrist band he regularly wore in real life.

To earn a First Amendment shield, Electronic Arts had to show that it had transformed Mr. Hart’s identity to a significant degree. The majority of the appeals court panel held that EA had not done so.

“The digital Ryan Hart does what the actual Ryan Hart did while at Rutgers: he plays college football, in digital recreations of college football stadiums, filled with all the trappings of a college football game,” Circuit Judge Joseph Greenaway wrote for the majority. “This is not transformative.”

Meanwhile, the Ninth Circuit is considering a similar lawsuit filed by former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller and other former players.

The relationship between government and religion will once again become a point of discussion at the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Justices agreed to consider whether a New York town could open meetings with a prayer.

Two residents sued Greece, New York, in 2008, saying it was endorsing Christianity, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers, that legislative sessions could begin with a prayer in most circumstances, citing the "unique history" of the practice throughout U.S. history.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against the city's policy in the attached ruling. Still, other courts around the country have found such invocations -- if inclusive and limited in scope -- to be permissible.

The petition will be argued later this year or early in 2014, with a ruling ready by the spring.

The adoptive parents of a child born with male and female organs say South Carolina mutilated their son by choosing a gender and having his male genitalia surgically removed.

The surgery took place when the child was 16 months old and a ward of the state, according to the attached lawsuit filed by the parents against three doctors and several members of the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

Lawyers for the parents said the complaints filed in federal and state courts are the first lawsuits of their kind filed in the United States.

The child, now 8 years old, feels more like a boy and “wants to be a normal boy,” Pamela Crawford, the boy’s adoptive mother, said in a video released by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “There was no medical reason that this decision had to be made at this time.”

DOJ Seized AP Journalists' Work, Home, Cell Phone Records?

The U.S. government secretly seized telephone records of The Associated Press for a two-month period in 2012 in a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into news-gathering operations, the AP says.

AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt, in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said the Justice Department seized records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012.

"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters," Pruitt said in the attached letter of protest.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

Dr. Phil’s production company has filed suit against Gawker Media for posting footage of the TV therapist’s interview with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, on Deadspin.com.

The suit was filed Monday in a Texas federal court by Peteski Productions, one of the producers of the Dr. Phil show.

The complaint alleges the sports gossip website posted the juiciest parts of the interview online before it had aired in the majority of Dr. Phil markets.

In its copyright infringement lawsuit, Dr. Phil’s producers also include an artful “suckerfish” reference:

“A remora is a fish, sometimes called a suckerfish, which attaches itself to other fish like sharks,” the complaint states. “The host fish gains nothing from the relationship but the remora is enriched by obtaining benefits (usually food and transportation) from the host… Gawker received substantial benefits from its infringement but Pateski received nothing…”

California cities and counties are free to ban the sale and distribution of medical marijuana. Pot dispensaries can be banned via zoning laws, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The unanimous ruling, which approved a ban by the city of Riverside, is expected to spur more such bans statewide. About 200 communities now have zoning laws that exclude cannabis dispensaries.

Supporters of medical marijuana have argued that patients would be forced to drive hundreds of miles to obtain marijuana legally or to buy illegally on the street.

“While some counties and cities might consider themselves well-suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens,” Justice Marvin Baxter wrote for the seven-member court.

Three college friends of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect removed a backpack with fireworks emptied of gunpowder from his dorm room three days after the attack, according to the attached FBI affidavit.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

The FBI affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of the backpack after concluding from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the bombers.

The FBI alleges that on the night of April 18, after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects, the three men went to Tsarnaev's dorm room. The men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of powder.

Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack from the room "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble," the FBI said in the affidavit. He also decided to remove Tsarnaev's laptop.

After the three men returned to Kadyrbayev's and Tazhayakov's apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The affidavit says Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble."

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations they violated their student visas while attending UMass, The Associated Press reports.