February 2010 Court Decisions: Decided
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February 2010 Archives

Google Bosses Busted Over Autistic Abuse Video

Senior Google bosses David Carl Drummond, George De Los Reyes, and Peter Fleischer have been handed six-month suspended sentences by an Italian court for allowing a video of an autistic boy being abused by sadistic bullies in Turin to remain online and at number one in the 'most viewed' Google Video chart for two months.

A court in Italy said the video violated the boy's privacy and the defendants should have taken it offline sooner. Google says it plans to appeal the "astonishing" verdict.

"We are deeply troubled by this decision," a statement read.  "It attacks the principles of freedom on which the internet was built."

Fendi Bags Burlington Coat Factory for $4.7M over Counterfeits

Blogs from the Stylist.com to Business Insider are a-buzz this week with the news that Italian fashion house Fendi has won a major award against down-market discount retailer Burlington Coat Factory for their breach of a 20+ year old injunction for trademark infringement. The cost: $4.7 million. That will buy a few Baguette bags.

Navy Ready for Women on Subs, Says Gates

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has informed Congress of the Navy's plans to incorporate women into the crews of submarines. In his February 19th letter to Congress, Secretary Gates said that the Navy's plan to introduce women into the submarine corps will begin to be phased in sometime next year.

Supreme Court Upholds Florida Miranda Warnings

It's not quite the same as "book 'em Dano," but the Miranda warnings are probably the other most well known intersection of American culture and the legal system. A person arrested for a crime has the right to remain silent, to speak to a lawyer, to have a lawyer provided if he or she cannot afford one. According to a report on MSNBC, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court in a lesser seen majority configuration of 7-2, upheld Florida's version of the Miranda warnings, saying they did communicate the "essential message" of the right to legal counsel.

Big Bang Bang: Guns Now Allowed in National Parks

Maybe Smokey The Bear would like to add a Kevlar vest to his park ranger uniform, because things might be getting even more wild in our national parks. The Los Angeles Times reports today that under a federal law that took effect Monday, February 22, Americans may now bring firearms into every national park in the country, provided they comply with the firearms laws of the park's home state. The law permitting this change was attached as an amendment to credit-card legislation.

Bruce Springsteen fans won't be dancing in the dark anymore. For many of them who overpaid for their concert tickets last year, their check is in the mail. 

It appeared that Ticketmaster had a hungry heart.

In a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Ticketmaster has agreed to refund Bruce Springsteen tickets to consumers who bought the tickets in 2009 from Ticketmaster's resale Web site, TicketsNow.

The FTC alleged that Ticketmaster used bait-and-switch tactics to sell these tickets to consumers, when they went on sale on February 2, 2009. 

What a brilliant disguise.

The ticket purchasers first went to the Ticketmaster site where they received "no tickets found" messages. They were then directed to the reseller's site and were sold tickets at a much higher price-sometimes triple or quadruple the face value.

AG, USDA Announce Long Hoped for Settlement with Black Farmers

In a joint statement issued Thursday, February 18, Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the settlement of and closure to the long litigation by African American farmers against the USDA for racial discrimination in USDA farm loan programs. The settlement, which totals $1.25 billion, is contingent upon appropriation by Congress and will set up a process outside the courts where farmers may make their claims for damage awards and debt relief.

U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff clearly wasn't thrilled at the Bank of America settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, calling it "half-baked justice, at best." 

Nevertheless, Judge Rakoff reluctantly approved the settlement of $150 million between Bank of America and the SEC, after a lengthy battle by BofA to fight the civil charges of misleading shareholders during Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

But why doesn't Judge Rakoff like this settlement? It's certainly a step up from last year's proposed settlement of $33 million, which the Judge rejected. 

Gitmo Detainee's Fathers' Case Dismissed by Federal Court

On Wednesday, a Washington D.C. Federal District Court dismissed all claims by the fathers of two Guantanamo detainees who hung themselves. According to the report by the Courthouse News Service, the fathers of Yasser Al-Zahrani, Jr., a Saudi Arabian citizen, and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami Jr., a Yemeni citizen, brought claims against the U.S. Government for alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. The plaintiffs had sought punitive damages for physical and emotional injury, and loss of earnings, family relations, and medical expenses.

The Bodyguard? DOJ Settles Defective Body Armor Suit

On Friday, the Department of Justice announced a settlement with Lincoln Fabrics Ltd., a Canadian weaver of ballistic fabrics and its American subsidiary. The companies have agreed to pay the United States $4 million to settle charges brought by the DOJ under the False Claims act for their role in supplying defective material to makers of bullet proof vests, bought by the federal government and by state, local and/or tribal law enforcement.  

At least there's some vindication for distressed homeowners who were duped by irresponsible mortgage companies. Countrywide Financial Corp., the first domino to fall, now has to pay several Florida borrowers pursuant to a settlement with the Florida Attorney General.

Why? Florida alleged that the former mortgage giant participated in deceptive and unfair business practices -- in this case, predatory lending. The concept of predatory lending is broad. Federal and state governments have enacted laws to deal with this issue and to define which practices are, in fact, deceptive. The Truth In Lending Act is one example of such laws. 

In the Countrywide complaint, the attorney general claimed that Countrywide had misleading rates and penalties. In addition, the complaint alleges that the borrowers were put into loans they could not afford.     

Fashionable Fight: Court Rules for Louis Vuitton Against eBay

Keywords, Adwords, trademarks, counterfeits, it's enough to make a legalista fall off her Choos. The latest case in the bag-full of legal issues between Silicon Valley's eBay and LVMH owned French fashion house Louis Vuitton, was decided at least for now, in a French court on February 11.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Inmate Strip Searches Constitutional

A federal appeals court ruled that strip searches of newly arrested inmates are not only constitutional, but necessary.

The decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco replaces an older ruling that strip searches are so dehumanizing that they violate a person's constitutional rights.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the ruling justifies strip searches not only for inmates who are suspected of committing violent or drug-related crimes, or of concealing contraband, but all newly arrested inmates, regardless of why they were arrested.

Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Limits on Med Mal Damages

Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a state statute limiting the non-economic damage awards plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits can receive. Under the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, Sec. 2-1706.5, monetary damages for pain and suffering awarded to plaintiffs were mostly limited to one million dollars per each hospital and staff and $500,000 per doctor.

3rd Circuit Issues Differing MySpace Student Speech Opinions

It's going to be back to the drawing board for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania after two separate panels of the court issued opinions reaching opposite results in two very similar student speech cases. Both cases concerned parodies of school principals, one by a middle-schooler and one by a high school student set up as fake MySpace pages. The result? According to an attorney in one of the suits, "a state of chaos."

The Appeal: 10th Cir. Appellate Court Dismisses Grisham Defamation Suit

On Monday, the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a dismissal of the defamation suit against author John Grisham and co-defendants Dennis Fritz, anti-death penalty advocate Barry Scheck, author Robert Mayer and their publishers. The plaintiffs, former Oklahoma District Attorney William Peterson, former Shawnee police officer Gary Rogers, and former Oklahoma state criminologist Melvin Hett, had sued the defendants for defamation, invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy for their books recounting the botched investigation and trial for the 1982 rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter, in Ada, Oklahoma.

A Heartfelt Agreement: Boston Scientific and J&J Settle for $1.7 Billion

Today, Boston Scientific, a medical devices company, announced in a press release a major settlement with rival Johnson & Johnson over patent infringement claims on coronary stents. Boston Scientific has agreed to pay J&J $1.7 billion this year, with the initial payment of $1 billion made today and the balance to be paid by this time next year. Stents are the tiny mesh cylinders inserted in blood vessels to keep them propped open after blockages are cleared.

No Road to Nowhere: Feds to Pay $52 Million to not Build Road

On Tuesday, the federal government agreed to a settlement worth $52 million to escape commitments to complete the "road to nowhere" project in a wilderness area of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, in North Carolina.

Noriega Will See France, Supreme Court Won't Hear Appeal

Manuel Antonio Noriega, erstwhile former dictator of Panama, will soon be heading for the Bastille. More precisely, he will soon be entering French custody. Last Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the former strong man opposing his extradition to France.

Thomas-Rasset Spins Right 'Round on RIAA Settlement Offer

This news from the depths of Minnesota winter will not provide any warmth to the Recording Industry Association of America. According to the eCommerce Times, the defendant in the well publicized illegal downloading case, Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset Jammie Thomas-Rasset, has decidedly turned down the settlement offer of the RIAA to reduce the court award against her to $25,000.00. Mind you, that's down from $54,000 and that's down from the original jury award of $1.92 million. But Thomas-Rasset is hanging tough.