Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

October 2016 Archives

The Santa Ana police department recently settled the lawsuit against it alleging that their officers stole product during a marijuana dispensary raid. A secret camera that officers were unaware of caught officers eating marijuana-laced treats that were for sale in the dispensary. Additionally, the video footage captured an officer mocking a disabled woman in a wheelchair.

While the officers who were caught misbehaving have been fired, the department clearly felt compelled to settle the lawsuit as the six-figure settlement implies. Whether or not the lawsuit's larger allegations of corruption were, or could be, substantiated, may never be found out due to the settlement.

This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) to put sea ice seals, aka bearded seals, on the threatened species list. While adding a species to the threatened species list is nothing new, how the bearded seal made it on the list is quite unique.

The Ninth Circuit Court considered evidence that the seals' habitat was being destroyed by climate change. Based on current climate change trends, projections for their habitat are bleak. What's significant here is that the court is accepting the climate change projections for the years 2050 to 2100. A similar ruling was upheld in the DC Circuit in 2013 concerning polar bears, but generally it's very rare for a court to list a species as threatened based on climate change projections.

While Osama bin Laden is dead, his media secretary, Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, who made propaganda videos, as well as filmed the wills for 9/11 hijackers, just had his 2008 conviction upheld in the DC Appeals Court. Although he had been detained in Guantanamo Bay, then tried and convicted in a military court for conspiracy years ago, his attorney is still fighting the conviction.

Although it is not disputed that the media secretary helped Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, what is disputed is the propriety of the conspiracy charge brought against him. The media secretary was convicted of conspiracy, which technically is not a war crime, which arguably means that the enemy combatant should have been tried in a regular federal court rather than by a military court. The DC Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the conviction.

DreamWorks is one of several large animation studios sued in one of the largest class action lawsuits ever brought against animation studios by employees. DreamWorks has offered to settle their portion of liability in the case by putting $50 million into the settlement's common fund. DreamWorks, along with Disney, Pixar, LucasFilm, Sony, Blue Sky, and others were sued for allegedly agreeing to wage-fix and not poach each other's animators and employees.

The settlement still needs to be approved. However, prior settlements from Sony and Blue Sky for much smaller amounts have already been approved, so it seems likely that DreamWorks' offer will be as well. Unlike most settlements, class action settlements must be approved by a judge in order to protect the interests of the class members. Shockingly, the lawsuit seems to be a result of Steve Jobs' time as the CEO of Pixar.

A recent Ninth Circuit decision requires all crisis pregnancy centers to distribute information about publicly funded contraception and abortion services. This is not welcome news for pro-life groups. California's Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act went into effect on January 1st, 2016 and requires that pregnancy centers and clinics provide a notice to their patients about the available, publicly funded, prenatal, abortion and family planning services.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a pro-life organization, and two other groups, challenged the act's constitutionality and sought a preliminary injunction exempting them from posting the required-by-law notifications. After the lower court rejected and dismissed their claims, they appealed. The 9th Circuit upheld the act in a decision published last Friday.

An important ruling out of Chicago's Federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last week analogized cat and dog ownership to the Uber versus taxi regulation debate. The case involved the taxi industry's challenge to the city of Chicago's decision to regulate ride sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, differently than taxi cab companies.

The circuit court affirmed the decision of the lower court, agreeing that the city is free to regulate the two industries differently.

In the slide-to-unlock legal saga that started years ago between tech leaders Samsung and Apple, the Federal Appeals Court reversed the prior appellate decision, reinstating the $120 million verdict against Samsung. The two tech giants are gearing up for an even bigger battle this week before the Supreme Court on an unrelated patent infringement case dating back to 2011.

The slide-to-unlock case, originally decided in May 2014, had a federal jury award Apple $119.6 million for Samsung's infringement of their the slide-to-unlock, autocorrect, and quick-link feature patents. After the verdict, Samsung appealed, and the Appeals Court overturned the jury's verdict, however this year, the same Appeals Court reversed the prior ruling, reinstating the jury's verdict.

In what must be a shock to Mike Pence, Indiana's Republican Governor and Donald Trump's running mate, a federal appeals court confirmed that Pence did in fact discriminate against Syrian refugees. Pence insisted that his action in denying funding to any state agency that assisted Syrian refugees was not an act of discrimination. However, both the Federal District Court and Federal Appeals Court pointed out that Pence's action was discriminatory, and that he is going to lose the underlying lawsuit.

Last year, amid the crisis in Syria causing millions of people to be displaced from their homes, over half of which being children, countries around the world opened their borders and hearts. The United States has only accepted a small fraction of the displaced peoples. In Indiana, Pence wanted to impose an outright ban on refugees. However, in no uncertain terms, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't buying it.

For the first time during his time in office, Congress voted to override President Obama's veto, passing a bill that allows 9/11 victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in the terror attacks. The Obama administration said it's sympathetic to victims' families, but opposed the bill, fearing that allowing such lawsuits for Americans in this case would open the door to legal challenges against American officials in other countries in the future. But the vote wasn't very close: The Senate voted 97-1 in favor of the override; the House vote was 348-77 in favor.

So what does the new law mean? And is Congress already having buyer's remorse over the override?