CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog


In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a report concluding that almost all commonly used forensic techniques, including handwriting analysis, have never been properly scientifically tested. And yet, the State of New Hampshire was requiring untrained local election moderators review and compare handwritten signatures on absentee ballots, and reject ballots with questionable signatures.

That practice will now be ended, after a federal court ruled the procedure unconstitutional. The court found "the current process for rejecting voters due to a signature mismatch fails to guarantee basic fairness," and you can see the full ruling below:

In June, the Supreme Court vacated a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision finding that Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, violated the civil rights of a gay couple by refusing to bake a same-sex couple a cake for their wedding. Rather than ruling that business owners have a right to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Court found that the Commission was too hostile to Phillips' claims of religious beliefs.

Just a few short weeks later, Phillips and his cake shop are back in court, this time over his refusal to bake a cake for an attorney celebrating the anniversary of her decision to come out as transgender. Although the incident occurred a year before the Supreme Court ruling, Colorado cited Phillips for again violating state civil rights laws by declining to create that cake. Now he is suing the state and government officials, claiming "Colorado has been on a crusade to crush [him] because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith."

You can see the suit below.

By now, one would think judges are familiar with the process of transgender children changing their name, and that, absent some improper motive, judges must grant these petitions. And yet ...

Three mothers have filed a federal lawsuit against Juvenile Court Judge Joseph W. Kirby in Ohio, claiming he "has a pattern and practice of treating name change requests from transgender adolescents differently than other name change requests," and denying every request he hears. You can see the full lawsuit below.

Silicon Valley ag-tech company Zest Labs claims Walmart stole its proprietary "freshness management" technology used for reducing food waste. And if you know how much fresh food goes to waste, you know that the figures involved in the lawsuit are huge.

Zest claims a total of $85 billion worth of fresh food is wasted every year in the United States, and Walmart loses nearly $3 billion a year to "fresh food shrink." So if Walmart did steal Zest's Zest Fresh tech, it would be worth a lot -- $2 billion, according to a recent lawsuit. And you can see that lawsuit here:

So, did the popular ridesharing app *ahem* "Lyft" this professor's invention? Retired Georgia Institute of Technology engineering professor Stephen Dickerson is suing the billion-dollar platform, claiming he came up with the idea of integrating cellphones, GPS technology, and automated billing back in 1999.

"The core of [Lyft's] business model is the transportation system of Prof. Dickerson's invention," his lawsuit alleges, "without that system, Lyft literally cannot operate." You can see the full legal filing below.

Mentorship and guidance programs for middle and high school students can be extremely valuable to a young person's development, but programs that "guide" a student into the criminal justice system can have equally negative effects. One such program in Riverside, California, known as the Youth Accountability Team Program, is being accused of funneling children who haven't committed a crime into criminal-like probation programs for poor grades, being tardy to school or "defiant," using "inappropriate language," being "easily persuaded by peers," or "pulling the race card."

And the ACLU is helping to sue the County of Riverside and its probation department, seeking to end what it calls an "astonishingly punitive and ineffective law enforcement program." You can see the full lawsuit below.

The Supreme Court today removed an injunction against President Donald Trump's much-maligned travel ban, citing federal immigration law that "exudes deference" to the president and allows him "broad discretion to suspend" the entry of noncitizens into the United States. Despite arguments and federal court rulings that the ban unfairly targeted Muslim immigrants, the Court determined the government demonstrated "a sufficient national security justification" for restricting entry from travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, and Somalia.

While the case isn't over yet -- it was sent back to the lower courts "for such further proceedings as may be appropriate" -- the Supreme Court's holding contained some forceful language that future challengers will need to overcome. You can read all of the Court's reasoning right here:

Given that carrying and using a cell phone is pretty much a requirement of participation in modern society, and that the amount of data phone companies can collect via the towers our phones are constantly "pinging" for a signal, the location data of our phones can provide quite the window into our daily lives. And if law enforcement wants to peek through that window, they need a warrant according to the Supreme Court.

Today, the Court ruled that police must obtain a warrant to get a phone's location information from cell towers, in certain circumstances. But not every justice agreed with the majority. You can read all the Supreme Court's reasoning right here.

It has not been a good year for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, politically speaking. The laundry list of petty corruption within his office (lavish and illegal spending on offices, residences, supplies, and raises for staff) is so long at this point that CNN has to update it every couple weeks.

It also hasn't been a great year for the EPA, legally speaking. State attorneys general sued the EPA and Pruitt in April, accusing them of ignoring the administration's duty to control methane emissions. Their attempt to delay gas guzzler fines was blocked by a federal judge that same month. In May, 17 states and D.C. filed a lawsuit in response to the agency's promise to rollback vehicle emissions standards. And then last week three conservation and public-health groups sued Pruitt and the EPA, claiming they have failed to address serious air pollution in 17 cities. You can read the latest legal filing below.

The Supreme Court today ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Jack Phillips' First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion in the way it dismissed his religious reasoning for denying service to a same-sex couple who requested a cake for their wedding.

While the Court was careful not to rule that wedding vendors and other business owners have a right to refuse service to same-sex couples, it did say the state agency reviewing the case "showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating [Phillips'] objection." Therefore, the finding that Phillips violated Colorado's anti-discrimination laws was invalidated.

You can read the Supreme Court's full opinion, and its reasoning, below.