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Court Overturns Judgment Against Rite Aid Over Pharmacist's Fear of Needles

A federal appeals court reversed a $1.8 million judgment against Rite Aid, concluding the company lawfully fired a pharmacist who was too afraid of needles to give immunization injections to customers.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said Christopher Stevens was fired because he couldn't do the job. A jury had concluded the company discriminated against the pharmacist because of his phobia, but the appeals court set aside the verdict in Stevens v. Rite Aid Corporation.

"It is understandable that the jury had sympathy for Stevens, afflicted as he was with an unusual phobia," Judge Jon O. Newman wrote for the unanimous court. "Nevertheless, his inability to perform an essential function of his job as a pharmacist is the only reasonable conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence."

Tortured Immigrant's Asylum Claim Revived

A federal appeals court has given a Salvadoran refugee another chance at asylum in the United States, but it will depend on a technical question about when he last arrived in the country.

In his petition for asylum, Jose Linares-Urrutia said that he first escaped El Salvador during a civil war that lasted a decade. He testified that he fled because he was tortured as a member of a revolutionary student group. The Salvadoran military shot him in the leg, beat him repeatedly, applied electricity to his genitals, and threatened to kill him, he said.

Linares-Urrutia had entered the U.S. on and off over a 30-year period, twice being deported and having been convicted of several crimes. He last crossed the border from the U.S. to Canada on April 25, 2012, apparently to seek asylum in that country but Canadian authorities returned him to the U.S.

Court Upholds Anti-Puppy Mill Laws

New York City has more cats and dogs than most American cities have people, and that's the problem.

The city has to deal with about one million dogs and cats -- not to mention half a million feral cats -- but it recently got some help from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court upheld the city's ordinance regulating "puppy mills," the pejorative term for some commercial dog distributors.

The law requires that pet shops may purchase dogs and cats only from "Class A" breeders, which are designated by federal law as breeders with valid licenses to breed on their own premises. "Class B" breeders, who generally buy and sell animals, are not permitted under the city law.

"Requiring pet shops to purchase directly from Class A breeders protects consumers by making it impossible to obscure the source of an animal by using a middleman, enhances animal welfare by reducing the incidence of disease and behavioral problems associated with irresponsible breeding, and alleviates the burden of providing care in public shelters for animals abandoned because of such problems," Judge Edward Korman wrote for the court in New York Pet Assocation v. City of New York.

Fax to Doctors May Violate Law Against Junk Faxes

There's no such thing as a free lunch and apparently no free dinners either -- at least not unsolicited fax invitations for dinner and a business show.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said that an unsolicited fax for a free dinner may have violated the Junk Fax Protection Act of 2005. Although a trial judge ruled the invitation was not a prohibited advertisement, the appeals court said it was close enough because the dinner had a business purpose.

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. had faxed doctors an invitation to a free dinner and a presentation about a physical disorder. The company was waiting for FDA approval of its drug to treat the disorder at the time.

"The fax invitation was sent to a doctor, whom Boehringer would presumably hope to persuade to prescribe its drugs to patients," Judge Ralph K. Winter wrote for the court. "Therefore, facts were alleged that Boehringer's fax advertised a free seminar relating to its business."

Last summer, a three-judge Second Circuit panel ruled that the U.S. government could not force Microsoft to turn over email data stored on overseas servers. They rejected the government's warrant, issued pursuant to the Stored Communications Act, finding that the act had no extraterritorial reach. It was a landmark ruling, one praised by business and privacy advocates and condemned by those who viewed it as hamstringing criminal investigations.

That opinion will stand, for now. On Tuesday, the Second Circuit deadlocked 4-4 on whether to rehear the case en banc, effectively denying any rehearing -- and resulting in four separate dissents.

Court Confronts Sexual Orientation at Work

The courts are in a delicate situation when it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.

"It's not about sex per se -- it doesn't matter who you slept with last night," attorney Susan Chana Lask argued on Jan. 20 in a case pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.

Court Hands Another Loss to Louis Vuitton; Couldn't Take 'My Other Bag' Joke

It was no joke to Louis Vuitton, who sued the makers of canvas hand bags that show cartoon images of Louis Vuitton bags.

Louis Vuitton apparently took umbrage that My Other Bag, Inc., was mocking the high-fashion company, which makes $2,000 hand bags. The company sued for trademark and copyright infringement, but a trial judge dismissed the case.

Doubly offended, the company appealed. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal, in a carefully worded opinion so as not to add insult to... Well, basically they said there was no injury.

"The fact that the joke on LV's luxury image is gentle, and possibly even complimentary to LV, does not preclude it from being a parody," the court said.

Capitol Records Music Infringement Case Going to SCOTUS

Can't I get a witness? Can't I get a witness?

Capitol Records could have hoped so. The company lost at trial and then appeal over lip-dubbed music recordings, so now its lawyers are are going to the highest court in the land.

The case involves music recorded before 1972, and whether Section 301(c) of the Copyright Act's remedies for infringement survived the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA shields internet service providers from some actions taken by their users, but the Copyright Act leaves infringement protection for pre-1972 recordings to the states.

2nd Cir. Adopts NLRB Standard for Bargaining Units

The Second Circuit has adopted the National Labor Relations Board's organizational standards for proposed unions. In applying a two-part test, the court joined other federal jurisdictions to evaluate whether proposed collective bargaining units consist of employees who share a "community of interests" and do not "arbitrarily exclude other employees." The panel reached its decision in Constellation Brands v. National Labor Relations Board, a contest over the organization of a winery's operations department.

"We hold the Specialty Healthcare framework to be valid, as our sister circuits have, and to be consistent with this Court's precedent," the court said. While upholding the NLRB's framework, however, the court concluded the Board did not properly apply the standard.

2nd Cir. Reverses Lower Ct. Libor Ruling, Says Antitrust Violated

The Second Circuit has reversed a lower federal court decision that had first determined that widespread collusion amongst international banks to price-fix the London Interbank Offered Rate (aka Libor) was not a violation of antitrust law for want of competition.

The Second Circuit's Court of Appeals reversed this recently, breathing new life into plaintiffs' hopes for redemption. As well as plaintiffs' lawyers. The ruling cracks open a doorway to potentially billions in damages tied to the manipulation of the price of money and lending.