Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

July 2014 Archives

Miss. Abortion Law Unconstitutional; Clinic Can Stay Open: 5th Cir.

Mississippi's only abortion clinic can stay open, after a federal appeals court found that Mississippi's newest abortion law was unconstitutional.

The Mississippi law was similar to controversial abortion reform that passed in Texas last year; the Texas law was upheld by the same federal appellate court in March. Reuters reports that in a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the Mississippi law would "place an undue burden on a woman's right to seek an abortion."

What makes these decisions so different, and why did the court find Mississippi's law unconstitutional?

Fla.'s 'Docs v. Glocks' Law Upheld by Federal Appeals Court

A federal appellate court has upheld Florida's controversial "Docs v. Glocks" law, barring doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a prior decision by a Florida federal district court, declaring the law to be a "legitimate regulation" of doctors' professional conduct in the state, reports Reuters. Critics worry that this law chills physicians' free speech rights with regard to firearms, placing their licenses on the line if they broach the subject of guns.

It appears "Glocks" won over "Docs," but why did the appeals court side with gun owners?

Obamacare Subsidies OK for Federal Exchanges Too, 4th Cir. Rules

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the use of Obamacare subsidies in both state- and federally run healthcare exchanges.

Tuesday's unanimous ruling in King v. Burwell flatly contradicts an earlier ruling (hours earlier) by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the use of Obamacare tax credits to anyone who enrolled via a federally created exchange. USA Today reports that this circuit split may lead to a "Supreme Court showdown."

Why did the 4th Circuit allow Obamacare subsidies for all healthcare exchanges, when the D.C. Circuit limited them?

Obamacare Subsidies Only for State-Run Exchanges, D.C. Cir. Rules

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Obamacare subsidies are only authorized for eligible participants in "State"-established healthcare exchanges, and not for participants in the federally established exchange.

The ruling arises from an IRS interpretation of the laws underpinning Obamacare, specifically allowing taxpayers to take advantage of premium tax credits regardless of whether a state or federal entity created the insurance marketplace. Law professor Jonathan Adler writes for The Volokh Conspiracy that he believes this ruling is truer to the text of the law, though it may not mean the healthcare system many reformers had hoped for.

Why did the D.C. Circuit rule against Obamacare subsidies for participants in federally created marketplaces?

Johns Hopkins Settlement: $190M for Gynecologist's Secret Recordings

Johns Hopkins Hospital has proposed a $190 million payout to settle a class-action lawsuit over a gynecologist's secret recordings of patients.

The late Dr. Nikita A. Levy is alleged to have "surreptitiously recorded patients over the course of several years," reports The Baltimore Sun. Although Levy committed suicide in February 2013 amid an investigation into his alleged recordings, Hopkins had identified more than 12,500 potential victims.

What would this proposed settlement cover for Levy's victims?

Smoker's Widow Wins $23.6B From RJ Reynolds, but Will It Stand?

A smoker's widow was awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages from RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, but the award may not survive appeal.

A Florida jury on Friday granted Cynthia Robinson the multibillion-dollar sum in punitive damages, as well as $7.3 million in compensatory damages. Reuters reports that Robinson's husband was a chain smoker and died in 1996 of lung cancer at 36.

Does this incredibly large punitive award stand a chance?

Calif.'s Death Penalty Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

A federal district judge has ruled that California's death penalty system is unconstitutional, ironically because Death Row takes too long.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney determined in Jones v. Chappell that the massive delays in the Golden State's administration of the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Reuters reports that since 1978, only 13 convicts have been executed in California, while more than 900 were sentenced to death.

Is waiting too long for the death penalty in California really unconstitutional?

Univ. of Texas Can Still Use Affirmative Action: 5th Cir.

The University of Texas at Austin can continue its affirmative action program, after a federal appeals court upheld its use on Tuesday.

In a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the use of race in undergraduate admissions, Reuters reports. This decision comes more than one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the case to be returned to the 5th Circuit and be examined under more exacting scrutiny.

Why did affirmative action make it in this case?

Mich. Supreme Court: No Resentencing for Juvenile Lifers

Michigan's convicts serving life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles won't be getting resentenced or a chance for parole after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

The state's highest court determined in a 4-3 decision that more than 350 juvenile "lifers" who are serving sentences related to killings committed at age 17 and younger should not be retroactively resentenced, reports MLive.com. This case was in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held it was unconstitutional to generally punish teens to life without the possibility of parole.

Why were these juvenile lifers denied a chance at parole?

$310M DRAM Settlement for Electronics: Claims Due Aug. 1

If you bought a computer, video game console, or other electronic device between 1998 and 2002, chances are you're eligible to get at least $10 -- and maybe more -- just by filling out a form.

As part of a price-fixing lawsuit settlement, manufacturers of DRAM -- aka Dynamic Random Access Memory, a type of memory used in most computers -- have agreed to provide rebates to consumers who purchased products containing DRAM during the years in question, with no documentation required on your part.

Fill out the form; acquire currency. Can it really be that simple?

Ariz. Immigrant Driver License Policy Hits Roadblock in 9th Cir.

Arizona immigrants celebrated a victory in court Monday, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of a policy that prohibits young immigrants from receiving Arizona driver's licenses.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA, also known as the "Dream Act") gives certain residents who were brought to the United States without documentation as children a chance to legally remain in the country and work. But under Arizona's policy, these "Dreamers" couldn't use their federally authorized employment documents as proof of their legal presence in the country.

Why did the 9th Circuit block this driver's license policy?

Top 10 U.S. Supreme Court Decisions From the 2013 Term

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Term was full of surprises both in the public and private sectors. After the High Court's final opinions were released Monday, we had an opportunity to revisit some of this session's biggest cases.

Here are our picks for the Top 10 Supreme Court decisions from the 2013 Term, which began back in October: