CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

July 2013 Archives

Electronic Arts used the images of several ex-NCAA athletes without their permission in its video games, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

EA's use of the likenesses of former college players in its video games did not deserve First Amendment protection, the court held in a 2-1 ruling (attached below). Ex-UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller were among the group of ex-players who filled suit over the use of their likenesses in the NCAA football and basketball games.

EA "literally recreates Keller in the very setting in which he has achieved renown," and lacked "significant transformative elements" to defeat a right-of-publicity claim, Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the majority.

Bybee pointed out that in the 2005 edition of NCAA Football, the virtual starting quarterback for Arizona State had the same facial features, hair color, skin tone, throwing arm, weight, height, home state, and visor preference as Keller.

It has been a rough summer for Electronic Arts. Two weeks ago EA lost the rights to put the NCAA logo and name on its games beyond this year. In May the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals revived a similar lawsuit by former Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart. That court said Hart's right of publicity outweighed EA's right of expression.

SAC Capital, one of Wall Street’s biggest hedge funds founded by billionaire Steven A. Cohen, has been indicted for insider training.

The 41-page federal indictment (attached below) is one of the most high-profile insider trading cases in U.S. history.

SAC Capital (the firm bears Cohen’s initials) engaged in a decade-long scheme of profiting from non-public information from employees of publicly-traded companies and other sources, the indictment alleges.

The scheme “was substantial, pervasive and on a scale without known precedent in the hedge fund industry,” according to the indictment, blaming “institutional indifference” to unlawful conduct.

This could mean the end for Cohen’s legendary Wall Street career. He is one of the highest-profile figures in U.S. finance with a net worth of $8.8 billion, according to Forbes. Ranked the No. 40 richest American, he is among an elite group of hedge fund managers to personally earn at least $1 billion a year.

Along with the criminal charges, federal prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to recover millions of dollars in gains from insider trading offenses.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner reportedly told his communications manager to work without underwear, demanded kisses and repeatedly dragged her around in a headlock while whispering sexual advances.

These are some of the allegations contained in the first Bob Filner lawsuit (attached below) filed against the embattled mayor of the nation's eighth-largest city.

The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred on behalf of Irene McCormack Jackson, the mayor's former director of communications. McCormack is a longtime journalist and employee of the San Diego Port District.

"I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women," McCormack said at a press conference Monday. "He is not fit to be the mayor of our great city."

On Friday the San Diego County Sheriff's Department opened a hotline to take calls from any possible victims of Filner's alleged conduct.

Detroit Bankruptcy is Largest Ch. 9 Filing in US History

The city of Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing made it the the largest U.S. city in history to seek Chapter 9 protection.

The filing (attached below) came in the face of $18.5 billion in debt to creditors and unions.

Detroit has seemingly tapped out its tax base, with no further ability to tax its population of 700,000, which is down 60% from its peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s.

The Motor City’s bankruptcy filing lays the groundwork for a historic effort to bail out a major U.S. city.

Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert, was hired by the state as emergency manager. He made the filing Thursday in federal bankruptcy court.

Groups supporting religion, drugs, guns, the environment, and digital rights have sued the National Security Agency over collecting their phone records.

Nineteen organizations including Unitarian church groups, gun ownership advocates, and a broad coalition of political advocacy organizations filed suit over violations of their First Amendment rights of association.

The attached lawsuit "challenges an illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance, specifically the bulk acquisition, collection, storage, retention, and searching of telephone communications information."

The lawsuit is at least the fourth challenge to the government's vast phone surveillance program, information about which was first disclosed by The Guardian newspaper.

The ACLU also sued the Obama Administration in June after The Guardian published documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The attorneys have wrapped up closing arguments and now a six-woman jury will decide the fate of George Zimmerman. As they deliberate, the jury must follow Judge Debra Nelson's specific jury instructions attached below.

The Zimmerman jury instructions are in the box below and you can also click on the blue link "Zimmerman Jury Instructions" to read a larger version.

Every line of the jury instructions was fought over by the attorneys, until a final draft was agreed upon and read aloud to jurors by Judge Nelson.

"It is up to you decide which evidence is reliable," Nelson told the jurors, adding that they should use "common sense" to determine what evidence is reliable and what is not.

Zimmerman has admitted to fatally shooting Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, says he acted in self defense.

For the latest, up-to-the minute Zimmerman trial news, see FindLaw's George Zimmerman page.

Apple E-Book Ruling: Company Will Appeal Price Fixing Decision

Apple "conspired to raise the retail price of e-books," a federal judge held in the ruling attached below.

Apple and five major U.S. publishers artificially drove up the prices of e-books in 2010, Judge Denise Cote ruled Wednesday.

"[T]he evidence is overwhelming that Apple knew of the unlawful aims of the conspiracy and joined the conspiracy with the specific intent to help it succeed," Judge Cote wrote.

Apple says it plans to appeal the ruling, according to company spokesman Tom Neumayr, claiming it brought much needed innovation and competition into the e-book market.

Unpaid Interns Sue NBC Over Labor Violations

NBC is going to have some explaining to do after it was slapped with a proposed class action lawsuit by former unpaid interns, claiming the broadcast company violated federal labor laws.

The suit includes former interns from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” as well as the booking department for MSNBC, and seeks more than $5 million in damages, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

NBC joins Fox Searchlight Pictures in the growing list of media companies being sued in federal court for allegedly stiffing their interns, with plaintiffs claiming these companies violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The complaint asserts that NBCUniversal’s unpaid interns essentially substituted for normal workers, a violation of federal and state standards for minimum wage and overtime.

The New York-based media giant was also accused of failing to provide any academic or vocational training for its unpaid interns, making its internship program little more than a portal for free workers.

If this suit is successful, a court ordered injunction may force NBC to reform their internship policies.

Elmo Puppeteer's Sex Suits Dismissed By Federal Judge

The former puppeteer of Elmo of “Sesame Street” fame got relief from a federal court on Monday after the judge dismissed three separate civil claims against him for sexual abuse.

Kevin Clash, the man accused by the three suits of sexually assaulting several underage teenage boys, had performed as Elmo for almost three decades before these allegations surfaced, reports The Associated Press.

Judge John Koeltl tossed out the three lawsuits against Clash, claiming that the accusers’ lawsuits were barred by New York’s statute of limitations law.

The New York law allows victims of emotional or physical injuries up to three years after reaching the age of majority to file their claims, but all of the lawsuits filed after that cannot be heard.

All three lawsuits against Clash were filed too late according to Judge Koeltl, but his decision may be overturned on appeal.