Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

November 2014 Archives

Ga. Supreme Court OKs Private Probation, Denies Extending Sentences

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it was constitutional for private probation companies to monitor offenders but ruled it was illegal to extend sentences once imposed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the state's High Court found that private probation supervision companies like Sentinel Offender Services were allowed to supervise misdemeanor probationers, but they couldn't extend their sentences. This ruling may impact the $40 million in supervision fees private companies collect from low-level offenders.

What are the details of this Georgia Supreme Court ruling?

Drones Can Be Regulated by FAA Rules: NTSB

The NTSB has ruled that drones, despite being in a regulatory gray area, are subject to the FAA's rules.

This is a reversal of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) judge's ruling in March, which found that the FAA didn't have any legitimate regulations which could touch drone pilots. But on Tuesday, that judge's decision was appealed to the four-member board, which reversed the lower administrative decision and found that drones are indeed "aircraft" under the FAA's regulations.

So with all this back and forth, what should drone pilots know about this NTSB ruling?

Judge OKs $5B Settlement in Kerr-McGee Pollution Case

A federal judge has approved a settlement agreement in which Anadarko Petroleum Corp will reportedly pay $5.15 billion to clean up pollution at nearly 2,000 sites across the country.

The United States Department of Justice is calling the settlement the largest-ever recovery for environmental cleanup, reports Reuters. The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by creditors of Tronox, a spin-off of energy company Kerr-McGee, against Anadarko, which acquired Kerr-McGee in 2006.

What led to this record-setting environmental cleanup settlement?

4 States' Gay Marriage Bans Are Constitutional: 6th Cir.

Gay marriage opponents got their first victory in a federal appeals court Thursday, as the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriage bans as constitutional in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Two judges on the 6th Circuit's three-judge panel determined that the issue of defining marriage should be left to the states, not judges, reports the Detroit Free Press. Meantime, the lone dissenting judge blasted her colleagues, calling the opinion more of a "TED talk" than a constitutional analysis. The 2-1 decision is now the rule of law in the four states mentioned above.

Why did the 6th Circuit uphold these states' gay marriage bans when so many other courts have struck down similar laws?

Cops Can Force Suspects to Unlock Phones via Fingerprint: Va. Court

Police can force suspects to unlock their smartphones with a fingerprint, which is different than a passcode, according to a Virginia judge's recent ruling.

While the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police officers may not search inside an arrestee's cell phone without a warrant, a Virginia state judge believes officers might be able to unlock it with a fingerprint. Judge Steven C. Frucci ruled that while a suspect may not be compelled to give up his or her secret code, a fingerprint is a completely different story.

Does this ruling spell ruin for fingerprint technology protecting cell phone privacy?