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D.C. Circuit Weighs In on "Blackfish" and SeaWorld's OSHA 'Tale'

The CNN-produced documentary "Blackfish," premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, is a whale of a tale landing SeaWorld in a sea of legal woes.

The film traces a 39-year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to the graphic 2010 killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by the 12,000-pound orca, Tilikum, a whale previously associated with the deaths of two other people.

A cautionary tale, "Blackfish" highlights the captivity of orcas, the chilling danger it poses to whale trainers, and the wave of legal liability in which SeaWorld is now drowning.

A Federal Air Marshal was terminated by the TSA after posting sensitive information on an online forum for law enforcement officers, but he claims he made the information up.

In Lacson v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and TSA, Jose Lacson petitioned the D.C. Circuit to set aside the TSA's order which terminated him for leaking sensitive security information ("SSI") about Federal Air Marshall hiring numbers and assignments on the online forum Officer.com.

The case centered around jurisdiction and whether the evidence presented by the TSA was sufficient in light of claims that Lacson made the alleged SSI up.

Though the NTSB may be getting a bum rap for the way it handled the Asiana Flight 214 investigation, it still knows when to slap down a pilot who is misbehaving.

In Taylor v. Huerta, the D.C. Circuit Court approved of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) doing just that, denying a petition to review a pilot's case where he lied or, at best recklessly omitted, a prior DUI arrest when applying for a medical certification.

The complaining pilot blamed the buttons on the application's online form, but the Taylor Court had some gripes of their own.

For Q-1 Visa, Employer Sponsors Must Pay Foreign Interns

Internship cases are all the rage right now. A three-member D.C. Circuit panel weighed in on an unpaid internship case this week involving Q-1 visas and International Internship Program, an organization that sponsors a cultural exchange program that helps people from Asian countries find jobs in American schools.

At its heart, it’s an unpaid internship case involving foreign citizens.

The case centers on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the way it governs cultural exchange programs and Q-1 visas.

Across the nation, from California to Texas to D.C., voters had complained that it was unfair to watch public employees "double dip" by collecting their pension in addition to a salary.

But a change came, with many states and the District of Columbia passing laws to prevent "second career" retirees like former police officers from being rehired while still collecting pension money, reports Washington City Paper.

The D.C. Circuit is now saying that these laws, which may reduce a rehired cop's salary to zero to offset his pension payments, must allow public employees to receive a salary.

In January, the D.C. Circuit gave the proverbial bench-slap to President Barack Obama and the National Labor Relations Board, holding that Obama’s appointments to the NLRB during a Senate recess were unconstitutional. Earlier this week, the D.C. Circuit did it again, invalidating a rule promulgated by the NLRB that required employers to post notices detailing workers’ rights regarding unions.

The court issued an injunction in April 2012 after two lower courts came to differing conclusions about whether the rules exceeded the board’s authority. The court noted in its opinion that the Fourth Circuit currently has a pending South Carolina case regarding the rule.

Can a Single Slur Create a Hostile Work Environment?

Some hostile work environment claims are a little iffy. They are filled with suggestion or innuendo. The summary judgment phase in such claims might be a close call.

Placide Ayissi-Etoh's hostile work environment claim against Fannie Mae is not one of those claims, according to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The D.C. Circuit wasn’t fooled, even if the initial labor board was.

Ampersand Publishing acquired the Santa Barbara News-Press in 2000. Over the next four years, a shift in editorial tone, meant to quash the reporters’ alleged bias that was seeping into their writings, led to a full-on revolt. By 2006, the mutiny was on. Reporters sought a return to “journalistic integrity.” Ampersand’s owners sought to run their business as they saw fit.

A number of resignations and protests ensued, including an event where approximately twenty employees duct taped their mouths shut. Unfortunately for Ampersand, the tape didn’t stick and more protests followed, including a campaign to convince subscribers to cancel their subscriptions in protest.

Lawyer Sues After Feds Reject Her Job Application

Malla Pollack, a lawyer and resident of Kentucky, wants work for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C. The Administrative Office rejected her application because she doesn't live or work in the Washington metropolitan area.

So she sued.

Considering that Pollack just wiped the floor with the government's lawyers in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, maybe they should consider hiring her.

Justice Watch FOIA Request is 'No-Match' for Tax Return Exemption

Employers are required to file a W-2 for every paid employee. The W-2 lists the identities of the employer and the employee, the amount that an employee has been paid, and the taxes that have been withheld by the employer. The Social Security Administration (SSA) processes Forms W-2 for the IRS. On occasion, the employee's name and Social Security number as listed on a Form W-2 do not match the SSA's database. When that happens to a sufficient number of employees, the SSA sends the employer a "no-match" letter.

In 2006, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the SSA, seeking the names of the 100 U.S. employers that generated the most no-matches from 2001 through 2006. The agency declined to produce such records, concluding that they were exempt under FOIA Exemption 3. The District Court agreed with the agency, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.