July 2011 Court Decisions: Decided
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July 2011 Archives

PTSD Settlement: Vets with PTSD Get Benefits Under Settlement

As many as 4,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are expected to be impacted by the PTSD settlement reached with the Department of Justice and military on Thursday.

Still requiring court approval in this class action lawsuit, the settlement will provide at least 1,000 soldiers discharged between 2003 and 2008 with lifetime disability benefits, while also increasing disability compensation and retirement benefits for at least another 1,000.

DNA Collection of Criminal Suspects: 3rd Cir. OKs Arrest DNA Check

The 3rd Circuit has given the green light for DNA collection upon arrest for criminal suspects. The 3rd Circuit's DNA decision came down to a closely divided court, with an 8-6 majority.

The case that went up for appeal to the 3rd Circuit concerned a man, Ruben Mitchell, who was indicted with a count of attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. Upon arrest, law enforcement officials wanted to collect a DNA sample from him. Mitchell objected to the collection, and raised the Fourth Amendment as his defense, according to the 3rd Circuit's opinion.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizure. Is the taking of DNA of a criminal suspect unreasonable search and seizure?

Beef Jerky Verdict: Jack Link Must Pay Son $5M for Ousting Him

A Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling this week was supposed to bring an end to the family feud raging between Jack Link and his sons Troy and Jay, but it appears as though Link Snacks, the nation's largest purveyor of beef jerky, will keep battling it out in court for some time to come.

While the justices unanimously voted to reinstate a jury verdict awarding Jay Link $5 million in punitive damages, they also remanded the case back to the trial court to determine if he should have received more.

Porn Condoms: LA Porn Stars Not Required to Wear Condoms

In Los Angeles, porn and condoms traditionally don't seem to mix - at least according to a lawsuit filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation against the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

And, porn stars and condoms won't be legally required go hand-in-hand together, after an appeals court has ruled that the LA County Department of Public Health does not need to mandate adult film performers wear protection.

The case was filed in Los Angeles County, and the decision of the lower court was upheld by the Second District Court of Appeals.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed the lawsuit after news that an adult film performer recently tested positive for HIV, reports KTLA-TV.

Man's Call to Shoot Obama is Free Speech, Not a Crime

Walter Bagdasarian is an "especially unpleasant fellow," but that doesn't mean he violated the law in 2008 when he encouraged members of a message board to shoot Obama.

The racist and violent statements made by Bagdasarian against the then-candidate appear to violate a federal statute criminalizing threats of violence against presidential candidates. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that they are actually speech protected by the First Amendment.

LA Grocery Worker Law: New Owners Must Hire Workforce for 90 Days

The California Supreme Court gave a boost to employees earlier this week, ruling 6-to-1 that a 2005 Los Angeles grocery worker law is not preempted by state law, federal labor code, or the Equal Protection Clause.

With worker retention ordinances, which are designed to prevent new business owners from laying off existing employees, popping up across the country in a variety of industries, one can only expect this decision to encourage more California cities to get in on the trend.

TSA Body Scanners Constitutional, Rules D.C. Cir.

Are TSA body scanners constitutional?

In a long-awaited decision by the D.C. Circuit, the court affirmatively ruled last week that the controversial technology does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches.

However, it did find that the Transportation Safety Administration wrongly failed to consider the public's opinion of the new technology, ordering it to issue a notice of rulemaking, and accept public comments.

Plastic Bag Ban Upheld by CA Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld Manhattan Beach's plastic bag ban on Thursday, ruling that the small Southern California beach town was not required to conduct a full-scale environmental review before enacting legislation.

Though there was no question that cities have the power to enact such a ban, the court's decision will make it much easier for smaller localities to ban plastic bags without incurring significant costs.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, a group of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors, have been challenging bans across the state, particularly when municipalities fail to conduct a full-blown Environmental Impact Review (EIR).

Lesbian Custody Dispute: Ohio Biological Mom Gets Custody

An Ohio Supreme Court custody decision has given custody of a daughter to the biological mother in a lesbian relationship. The same-sex couple's custody dispute, with one partner being the biological parent and the other the non-biological parent, was decided in a 4-3 decision.

Kelly Mullen, the biological parent, had originally shared parenting responsibilities with her lesbian partner, Michele Hobbs. After the couple split, a custody battle ensued.

Hobbs argued to the court that she was intended to be the co-parent of their daughter despite not being the biological parent, reports the ABA Journal.

US Can't Impose Anti-Prostitution Pledge on Health Groups: 2nd Cir.

Nonprofit organizations fighting HIV/AIDS abroad have won an important victory this week, with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the federal government cannot predicate funding on an organizations adoption of an anti-prostitution pledge.

Finding that a funding requirement that forces health groups to denounce prostitution and sex-trafficking is akin to compelled speech, the court, in a 2-1 vote, affirmed the District Court's preliminary injunction.

Chicago's Firing Range Ban Unconstitutional: 7th Cir.

The 7th Circuit handed down another win for proponents of the 2nd Amendment on Thursday, granting plaintiffs a preliminary injunction that stops the enforcement of Chicago's citywide firing range ban.

Admitting the relative newness of 2nd Amendment jurisprudence, the court determined that, at trial, the city is unlikely to sufficiently justify the burdensome impact of the ban, as the right to bear arms has also historically included a right to maintain firearm proficiency.

Ind. S. Ct: Drunk Passenger Can Still Be Charged

Though she may have simply been a drunk passenger in a vehicle, in 2008, Brenda Moore was arrested for public intoxication when her designated driver was pulled over and found to be driving without a valid license.

Perturbed by the law's application in a situation that is encouraged by governments all over the country, she appealed her conviction on the grounds that it violated public policy.

While this may be true, according to the Indiana Supreme Court, it's not illegal.

Michigan Affirmative Action Ban Illegal, Rules 6th Circuit

Taking a page from the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Seattle School District, the 6th Circuit struck down Michigan's affirmative action ban late last week on the grounds that it violates the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition of legislative changes that burden a minority's ability to participate in the political process.

Though limited to those within the court's jurisdiction, the decision could have far-reaching implications, as at least 6 other states have also banned affirmative action in higher education.

California Employers Must Pay Nonresident Employees Overtime

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the Oracle overtime lawsuit, finding that state overtime laws apply to nonresidents who work in California.

However, the court also said that employees are not protected by the state's wage and hour laws when they work out of state, even if they are paid by a California-based employer.

Both conclusions have huge implications for employees and companies that conduct business within California.

Squatters Have No 4th Amendment Rights, Rules Mich. Ct.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against Lonnell Antwine, a Hamtramck man who claimed that his 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when police conducted a warrantless search of his condemned home.

The ruling, which is based on a line of 8th Circuit and Supreme Court decisions, can be said to leave squatters who occupy condemned and abandoned property with little rights.