Other Decisions: Decided

Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Recently in Other Category

This week, the Detroit Public School Teachers' Union agreed to settle one of the two cases it has brought against the school district and state because of the school system's many failures. The parties were able to come to a compromise regarding claims over the poor building conditions. The settlement agreement provides for a new process to ensure that building repairs get completed in a timely fashion, and appoints an oversight committee to enforce the agreement.

The condition of some Detroit schools are so appalling that this litigation was actually necessary. Teachers complained not just about overcrowding and low pay, but also about the literal conditions of the buildings. Classrooms had mold, vermin, and were actually crumbling. While the Detroit schools are facing a funding crisis, the teachers are dismayed about the conditions that the children are subjected to. So much so that early last year, they organized a walk out that shut down nearly 90 percent of district's schools for one day.

Today, the Dylann Roof saga neared some semblance of closure as the young man was sentenced to death. The jury returned the death sentence after only three hours of deliberation. The speed of the sentencing decision was likely fueled by Roof's own insistence that he did not suffer from any mental impairments, coupled with his lack of a repentant attitude. To make matters worse for Roof, he not only confessed to the murders, he never even appeared remorseful for his actions.

When delving into the tragedy of this hate crime, it becomes abundantly clear that Roof held disturbing, patently false, and racist beliefs. The guilty verdict was reached in mid-December during the guilt-phase of the trial. Roof was convicted of all 33 counts, over 20 of which fell under the federal hate crimes statutes. The death penalty was reached today during the sentencing-phase of the trial. During this phase, the families of the victims were asked to present testimony about their losses. Roof chose to represent himself during this phase of the trial, despite the advice of the court and counsel.

The San Francisco Academy of Art has agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against them by San Francisco's City Attorney after nearly a decade-long dispute. The academy will pay $20 million to the city (over the next five years) for various housing, code, and zoning ordinance violations they committed in San Francisco over the past decade, while the housing crisis was at an all time peak. Additionally, as part of the settlement, the academy will spend nearly $40 million on bringing two of their own buildings into compliance and offering 160 units of affordable housing to seniors.

While the city might be trying to spin this settlement as a positive result, the Academy's attorney made it clear that they would have accepted this same settlement deal without litigation being filed. The academy has 40 buildings across the city and could easily turn quite a nice profit just by serving as a landlord in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The lawsuit alleged that 33 of the 40 buildings owned by the academy in the city were out of compliance. Furthermore, the academy allegedly illegally converted several building they purchased from residential use to commercial use.

Last week, California teachers across 13 districts breathed a collective sigh of relief as a court ruled that standardized test scores of students should not be factored into teacher evaluations. Judge Goode explained that legislative purposes behind the standardized tests are to evaluate students, schools, and even whole local education agencies, and that using the tests to evaluate individual teachers was not envisioned by the legislature.

While the proponents for evaluating teachers based on standardized test results, a group called Students Matter, can still appeal this ruling, the ruling against them clearly explains that the law does not say what they want it to say. This lawsuit was strongly opposed by the California teachers union.

Fed Appeals Court Tosses $19 Trillion Claim Against Google

Have you ever googled yourself? Did you find anything disconcerting? Do you wish you could do something about it? That is how Colin O'Kroley felt when he saw his name associated with a child indecency case in a Google search.

He sued Google and other defendants for $19 trillion, claiming "severe mental anguish" from the listing. A federal appeals court this month rejected O'Kroley's claim. Although the plaintiff really wasn't involved in the indecency case, reports the American Bar Association Journal, the search engine is protected by the Communications Decency Act.

Supreme Ct: Abortion Clinic Restrictions Can't Unduly Burden Women

Today the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Texas legal provisions that would have severely restricted access to abortions in that state. Five justices agreed that the law placed an undue burden on women in violation of constitutional rights, and the decision is considered significant nationwide.

At question were provisions in a law that added requirements for clinics performing abortions and their physicians, ostensibly to protect women. But the majority of the court found the contrary, writing that the restrictions did little for women's health. Let's consider the decision.

Net Neutrality Matters: Internet Is a Utility, Not a Luxury, Court Rules

We the people need the web, according to a federal appellate court decision issued today. Specifically, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that strict regulation of broadband companies by the Federal Communications Commission is legal because broadband access is a utility, not a luxury, reports The New York Times.

In a 184-page decision, the court concluded that the internet is a tool for all and, as such, subject to strict regulation, unlike luxury items which are just for a few. It is no longer optional but integral to life in our society, kind of like water and electricity. Let's consider the decision and its significance to all of us.

Despite all the public backlash against Minnesota dentists travelling to Zimbabwe to shoot celebrity lions and countries auctioning off the right to hunt species whose numbers are already threatened by poaching, there are still people that want to travel to exotic places, see beautiful animals, and kill them dead. And there are still nations that will allow people to riddle endangered species with bullets. But there might not be a way for folks to get their big game trophies home anymore.

A federal court in Texas has ruled that Delta (and, presumably other similarly conscientious airlines) doesn't need to transport a hunter's endangered rhino trophy, upholding the airline's ban on "Big Five" trophies.

President Obama Commutes 42 Sentences: More to Come

Last week President Obama announced that he will commute the sentences of 42 federal prisoners, bringing to 348 his administration's total commuted sentences. This president has used the power of commutation more often than seven previous presidents combined, according to the Huffington Post, focusing particularly on commuting the too-severe mandatory minimum sentences of those imprisoned on drug crimes.

The White House's lead counsel, Neil Eggleston, issued a blog post last week explaining the decision and emphasizing the fact that serious reforms to criminal sentencing will have to take place at a congressional level. "There remain thousands of men and women in federal prison serving sentences longer than necessary, often due to overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences," he wrote.

KS High Court Says School Funding Unconstitutional, Threatens Shutdown

Parents in Kansas have reason to fear for the future of their children's education: there may be no public schools open at the end of summer vacation. The state's Supreme Court today ruled that the legislature had not abided by its constitutional mandate to finance public schools equitably, especially poorer districts with less property wealth, and gave authorities an ultimatum.

The court gave the state a deadline -- until June 30 -- to fix the funding issues or face a total shutdown, demanding $40 million or more be added to the public education budget. The court's demand is worrisome to managers of other public programs who are afraid they will face more cuts as a result, reports The New York Times. Meanwhile, Governor Sam Brownback's office insists school budgets are sufficient and that he is committed to public education.