Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

September 2017 Archives

A meager $35 per person tax for residents of Portland, Oregon, used to fund art and music education for school children, has been ruled constitutional by the state's Supreme Court. Despite the state's constitution banning head taxes (taxes that are imposed on everyone uniformly regardless of the ability to pay), the state's highest court ruled that the law's many exemptions allowed it to pass constitutional muster.

Ordinarily, under Oregon law, a head tax would be ruled unconstitutional. However, the fact that the arts education tax exempts social security income, income derived from the state pension program, and those below the poverty line, went a long way to convincing every court that heard the challenge that the tax met the legal requirements.

Over two years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are still battling on the fringes for the same rights as heterosexual couples. And when it comes to parental rights, those battles -- for custody, visitation, even access to a spouse and child during and after childbirth -- can be fierce.

The Arizona Supreme Court leaned on that U.S. Supreme Court ruling to settle one of those battles, pertaining to parental rights under the state's paternity statute. Only there was no "pater" in this case -- it involved two female spouses, and the rights of the non-biological parent.

Why wait until you're 15 to understand what it's like to hitchhike from coast to coast? You don't need to be in middle school to feel the yearning and aspirations of 1940s New York City cafe society, right? Surely a tale about two fishermen of varying ages wouldn't be lost on a nine-year-old.

All are semi-compelling arguments for translating canonical books for a younger audience. Unfortunately for the publishers of those kid-friendly classics, none of those is a legal defense to copyright infringement. "The mere removal of adult themes," a federal judge said, ruling that KinderGuides children's versions were unlawful copies of the original works, "does not meaningfully recast the work any more than an airline's editing of R-rated films so that they can be shown to children on a flight absolves the airline from paying a royalty."

There's no doubt our smartphones can be distracting. There's no doubt that distracted driving is dangerous, even deadly. And there's no doubt smartphones, or at least some alerts, could be disabled while we're driving. So does not automatically disabling distracting smartphone functions while we're driving mean that smartphone manufacturers are liable for distracted driving accidents?

Not according to a California Superior Court in Santa Clara, California. The father of a man killed by an 18 year old who was texting and driving, sued Apple, claiming the company knew the dangers of texting and driving, possessed a "lock-out mechanism" capable of disabling functions like texting while someone is driving, and failed to provide the feature for users. But the court dismissed the lawsuit, saying Apple's role in the accident was far too attenuated" to be legally responsible for the death.