Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

May 2017 Archives

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to San Francisco's controversial law banning public nudity. The two plaintiffs seeking to overturn the law, Oxane "Gypsy" Taub, and George Davis, both faced prosecution under the law after donning nothing at all at the city's eccentric Bay to Breakers cross-city marathon, and at a local street fair in the city's foregone hippy epicenter, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

Among San Francisco's many claims to fame, the casual attitude toward nudity is one that has fallen out of fashion, at least legally. In 2012, the city passed an ordinance requiring any person engaging in a public display of nudity to have obtained a parade permit first. In what is sure to be an upset to nudists everywhere, the ban has been ruled constitutional, and as such, isn't going anywhere, for the time being.

Back in March of 2015, Wikimedia, with help from the ACLU, sued the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the entities' surveillance on online communications. This week, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit after it had been dismissed by a lower court.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of other plaintiffs in the case, but ruled that Wikimedia had standing to bring the suit because its allegations were enough to "make the plausible conclusion" that it had been specifically targeted by the NSA. Here's a look at Wikimedia's claims and the court's decision.

As a result of the 2013 holiday shopping season data breach at Target stores across the country, the retailer has agreed to pay $18.5 million to end a multistate enforcement action. This settlement is reported to be the largest ever in a multistate consumer data-breach enforcement action.

The multimillion dollar settlement will get stretched relatively thin though as it is set to be divided by 47 different states. California, which will receive almost $1.5 million from the settlement, is getting the largest share. These funds will not be going to consumers, but rather to the state's consumer protection enforcement offices. However, this settlement is in addition to a $10 million settlement that was recently approved in the consumer class action stemming from the same incident.

A decision out of a federal court in Pennsylvania last week is being heralded as a landmark ruling for the transgender community. Traditionally, transgender individuals have been excluded from protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act because being transgender is not a disability. However, this meant that certain medical conditions that are prominent in the transgender community, such as gender dysphoria, were also being excluded from protection under the ADA.

The Pennsylvania judge distinguished between these two exact issues when ruling that a transgender employee at a Cabela's could proceed under her ADA claim. While the case still needs to proceed with fact-finding, more motions, and potentially a trial, last week's ruling is groundbreaking. However, individuals should be careful to not regard transgender individuals as disabled unless the person actually has a disability.

Convicted mass murderer Dylan Roof had his motion for new attorneys granted last week ahead of his expected appeal. Roof was sentenced to death this past January. Since motions for a new trial have been unsuccessful, it is expected that Roof will file an appeal.

It is no secret that Roof was not happy with his attorneys. In fact, reports have surfaced claiming that Roof believed his attorneys are evil. During the sentencing phase of his federal trial, after a jury returned a conviction, Roof chose to represent himself, against the advice of his attorneys and the court. However, now that the conviction and sentence have been issued, and there are no more motions to be made at the trial level, Roof must proceed with an appeal if he plans to continue fighting the conviction.

Today, the US Supreme Court rejected hearing an appeal to the Fourth Circuit's ruling striking down several key components of North Carolina's controversial voter ID law, passed last year. Last summer, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 5 key components, including the voter ID provisions, were unconstitutional and could not be enforced. Since SCOTUS refused to hear the appeal, the Fourth Circuit's ruling stands.

Although the voter ID law was upheld by the lower District Court, on appeal, the court found that lawmakers targeted African American voters ' with almost surgical precision.' Additionally, the appeals court found that the voter ID law was an attempt to 'impose cures for problems that did not exist.'

The Ohio Supreme Court reached a rather controversial decision on Thursday about the Fourth Amendment rights of students on public school grounds. The state's highest court reversed the two lower courts' decisions suppressing the evidence that was discovered during three warrantless searches of a student's backpacks.

In short, the Ohio Supreme Court found that schools may conduct warrantless searches of unattended backpacks to identify who the bag belongs to, and ensure the bag does not contain dangerous items or pose a threat to student safety.

A recent decision by the California Supreme Court settled a question of state labor law that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals needed resolved in order to rule on a pending federal appeal that turns on the application of state law.

The case stems from the labor disputes of two Nordstrom employees that allege the company violated California's Labor Code sections 551, 552, and 556 which govern the guaranteed "day of rest" each week to full time employees. The employees asserted that they had been forced to work more than 7 consecutive days without being provided the "rest day."

A lower federal court interpreted the California code sections to exempt employees if they work less than six hours on any one day of the week, which knocked out the case in the lower court. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court requested the state Supreme Court clarify the state law.

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to California's ban on controversial "conversion therapy" for gay children. That means the statute is legal which prohibits licensed therapists from working with gay minors to change their sexual orientation to straight.

It's the second time the Court has passed on an appeal regarding the law, and while not an endorsement of the statute, declining to hear further challenges to the ban effectively leaves Ninth Circuit rulings in the state's favor in effect. Here's a closer look at the case.

The class action case against the AARP for unfair business practices related to selling its members Medigap insurance has been revived by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiff Jerald Friedman sued the AARP and United Health on behalf of all consumers for basically misleading the public into believing the AARP was providing the insurance, and specifically in California where the AARP is not licensed to do so.

The case had previously been dismissed by a federal court for not having specific enough allegations that showed an entitlement to court ordered relief. The Ninth Circuit, however, thought differently, and reversed the decision, allowing the case to continue.

Nearly a year ago, Airbnb filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, challenging a law the city passed attempting to regulate their disruption of the hotel industry. The legislation not only required Airbnb host-users to register with the city and adhere to strict limits, the city made it illegal for the company to collect fees from the host-users that were not registered with the city as short-term rental providers.

Airbnb challenged the law on the basis that it violated a federal act protecting the online publishers of information from liability. Unfortunately for Airbnb, a federal judge found their argument unconvincing. The court explained that the San Francisco law did not penalize anything involved with the publishing of information, but rather, penalized the separate conduct of collecting fees from hosts that do not register with the city.

In the wake of that decision, Airbnb and the city reached a settlement after much negotiation and problem solving. The settlement will allow business to continue for Airbnb while also accomplishing the goals the city's legislation sought to achieve.

This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision that could have far reaching implications for the relationship between local governments and businesses, like banks and lenders, involved in real estate. In short, SCOTUS ruled that cities and local governments, under certain conditions, are "aggrieved individuals" that can bring claims for damages pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. However, those damages need to be rather certain.

The case involved the city of Miami's charge of racially discriminatory predatory lending against Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The city claimed that the discriminatory practices of the banks targeted Hispanic and African American minorities for predatory loan schemes, which defaulted at a high rate in concentrated minority areas, and as a result, caused the city economic injury. The economic injury came as a result of not just the decreased tax revenue, but also as a result of increased city expenses.

United Airlines has settled the legal case against it being brought by Dr. David Dao, the UA passenger who was forcibly removed from his seat by law enforcement, on April 9 of this year, when he refused to get bumped from a flight. Dr. Dao allegedly suffered a concussion, a dental injury, and other injuries, as a result of the incident which went viral causing a PR nightmare for UA.

While the settlement is for an undisclosed amount, most commentators agree that the amount must have been enormous to achieve a resolution this quickly. The level of public vitriol over this incident was enormous. While United Airlines initially attempted to stand by the actions of their crew and law enforcement, after the massive public backlash, the company reversed their position.