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In a case that has roots going back centuries, the fight over the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, reached a turning point this week when the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Congregation Shearith Israel properly owned the synagogue and its bells.

In issuing their ruling, the First Circuit reversed the lower district court that had ruled in favor of Congregation Jeshuat Israel. This case has been closely followed for the local, and special, interests that surround such a historic landmark.

1st Circuit Rules Against Ex-Gun Owners in Gov't Fee Levying Case

The case of Jarvis v. Village Vault was decided by the First Circuit last week in favor of the Massachusetts business, Village Vault.

The legal issue revolves around how much government entanglement is needed in order to turn a seemingly private entity into an arm of the government thereby triggering due process concerns.

Penalties for Abuse of IRS Preservation Deduction Upheld

Getting "creative" with your tax returns can cost you, as Gordon and Lorna Kaufman found out last week when the First Circuit affirmed penalties against them for an "historic preservation easement" that had no value.

After Lorna bought a $1 million house in Boston, the Kaufmans learned about a "tax incentive program" for houses in the historic preservation district where the house resided. The program allows tax deductions for the value of an historic easement. Tax deductions? Hmm ...

Fidelity Faces 401(k) Float Income Class Action in Mass.

Fidelity Investments, the largest U.S. provider of workplace retirement plans, is facing a putative class action in Massachusetts alleging that Fidelity improperly uses customer money earned in overnight accounts to pay its own operating expenses, Reuters reports.

Earlier this month, three Massachusetts residents filed suit against Boston-based Fidelity, accusing the company of using "float income" -- income generated from retirement fund assets -- by temporarily investing it for its own benefit, in violation of ERISA.

A recent ruling by the Eighth Circuit sheds some light on how the court might rule.

Rhode Island Judge Streamlines Massive Foreclosure Mediation Docket

U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. issued an order to streamline the handling of his massive foreclosure mediation docket involving hundreds of cases. The order came after the First Circuit Court of Appeals ordered specific limits on the amount of court time and money that can be spent on handling the mediation process.

Each case will get one bite at the mediation apple -- and many oranges parties won't even get that.

While the U.S. may not be respecting the privacy interests of the German Republic (or of its Chancellor Angela Merkel), its courts are upholding treaties dating back to the 1950s surrounding the issue of post-WWI Agra Bonds. Last week, the First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a $7 billion claim against German banks.

Rhode Island Judge 'Reluctantly' Lifts Foreclosure Injunction

In response to an order from the First Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. has "reluctantly" lifted an injunction preventing foreclosures and evictions from proceeding in the 825 foreclosure cases pending in Rhode Island's federal court.

In June, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that McConnell's August 2011 order staying foreclosures and evictions in the pending cases was effectively an injunction, despite the parties being unable "to show a likelihood of success" of prevailing in their cases, which is an essential requirement of continuing injunctive relief, reports the Providence Journal.

McConnell's caseload includes borrowers from across Rhode Island who have challenged their foreclosures both before and after the foreclosure process. With the injunction lifted, what will become of the homeowners?

1st Circuit OK's Denial of Rent Increases for Section 8

The years of automatic rent payment increases may be over for landlords. With the last housing market collapse, landlords may be denied their annual rental payment increases for their Section 8 housing units. Even though their contract with MHA may state they will get these increases automatically every year, the contract may have a limitation clause within it that allows MHA to deny increases should it lead to a windfall for landlords.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has affirmed that MHA properly denied landlords their "otherwise-automatic" annual payment increases. It's all written in their housing assistance payment contracts with the landlord plaintiffs.

Blackstone Battle Goes to Mediation, EPA and City Forced to Talk

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to move the Blackstone battle between the Environmental Protection Agency and the city of Worcester to mediation, forcing the two parties to sit down and possibly discuss a compromise.

The battle over the Blackstone River has been a long and contentious one. Federal environmental regulators initially stepped in when they became concerned with the levels of pollutant discharge from the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District plant in Millbury. It claimed that the Blackstone River is one of the most polluted in the state and began implementing limits on pollutants discharged from the plant.

First Circuit Follows Trend: Upholds MERS Authority

The First Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.'s (MERS) power to assign a mortgage without having to possess a beneficial interest in the promissory note.

The plaintiff in the case contended that although the actual bank mortgagee had declared bankruptcy, MERS did not have the authority to act on behalf of a non-existent entity and assign the mortgage to another institution.

In a unanimous decision, the First Circuit agreed with a lower court that "legally MERS was holding the mortgage in trust," meaning it has the authority to foreclose and assign mortgages, even though it was acting as an agent for the new owners.