Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog


The concept of money bail is almost as old as the penitentiary itself. And on its face, it seems logical: people charged with a crime can secure their release, and the justice system has a financial interest in motivating defendants to appear for trial. But in practice, it means that thousands of potentially innocent people are stuck in jail -- often for minor offenses -- simply because they can't afford bail.

That's why cities, states, courts, and the Department of Justice have come out against pre-trial money. Add federal judges in California to that list, after one found no justification for San Francisco's bail schedule.

If the Theresa Halbach murder story were a soap opera, you might've stopped watching by now because the story had truly gone off the rails. Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were charged with her 2005 killing, and their convictions have been scrutinized ever since, leading to two documentaries and a slew of appeals.

As it stands now, both remain behind bars. But another twist may be coming. Avery and his attorneys won an appeal this week to introduce new evidence, which could possibly lead to a new trial.

It is hard enough for women employees to get promotions at the same rate as their male counterparts. It's even harder when those promotions are followed by rumors that the woman must have slept her way to the top, rather than earning them on their own merit.

In less than two years, Evangeline Parker was promoted six times at Reema Consulting Services, Inc., rising from a low-level clerk to Assistant Operations Manager of the entire Sterling, Virginia facility. Sadly, and perhaps predictably, those promotions generated the sexist rumor that she slept with a superior, especially from male colleagues Parker bypassed on her ascent, despite them starting out around the same time. And it turns out those rumors, along with other sex-based conduct, can constitute sex discrimination in the workplace.

As President Trump has made immigration a central policy arena, sanctuary cities and states have become important flashpoints of legal action. Under former Attorney General Jeff Session, the Justice Department threatened to withhold federal funds from cities and states that declined to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, and those sanctuary jurisdictions responded with lawsuits.

Thus far, those suits have been successful in ensuring that the federal government may not condition the allocation of funds on immigration assistance. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals dealt another blow to the DOJ, ruling that only Congress could create such conditions on federal funds.

Abortion has always been a controversial topic, and much of the pro-life/pro-choice debate has taken place in public forums like marches, demonstrations, and other protests. And some pro-life advocates have taken their message straight to medical clinics and facilities, much to the chagrin of women's health care providers.

In response, some states, counties, and municipalities have passed "buffer zone" or "bubble zone" ordinances, prohibiting protests and leafletting near clinics that provide abortion services. One such law in Chicago survived a legal challenge this week, but it is unclear how long the law will stand.

Judges Can Release Secret Grand Jury Records

A federal appeals court has affirmed the right of federal judges to release grand jury records that are usually kept secret. The decision was made for a case in which an author and historian is requesting access to the federal grand jury inquiry into the lynching murders of two African-American couples in 1946.

The City of Baltimore joined Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Philadelphia in decriminalizing pot possession, even though they reside in non-legalized states. State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced in January that her office will decline to prosecute any marijuana possession cases, regardless of the amount or the prior criminal history of the person in question.

The recreational possession or use remains illegal under federal law and in the State of Maryland. So how will the prosecutorial prohibition work?

San Francisco's Warning Labels on Soda Blocked

An en banc ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of beverage companies seeking to get an injunction on the ordinance passed in 2015 by the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF), requiring 20 percent of a soda label to show a black-box warning that reads: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco."

Though the eleven member panel disagreed on exactly why they favored imposing the injunction, they all agreed that the three member panel of the Court of Appeals was incorrect in denying the injunction, since they believed it was entirely possible that the soda companies may ultimately win the case in overturning the ordinance, and therefore compelling them to follow the law would place an undue burden and irreparable harm on them. Now the case will be sent back to the district court to be decided on its merits.

Yahoo's Data Breach Settlement Rejected by Judge

District Judge Lucy Koh, rather dissatisfied with both sides of the Yahoo Privacy Data Breach lawsuit, has denied approval of the class action settlement proposed back in November. According to Koh, Yahoo's refusal to disclose the total payout number, coupled with the ridiculously high legal fees plaintiffs are seeking, rendered the settlement insufficient. She has told both sides to go back to the drawing board, and try again.

Iowa Strikes Down Fetal Heartbeat Law

The abortion battle is heating up, especially given the composite of the current United States Supreme Court. Most states are looking to retain as many rights as possible at the state level, and the Iowa courts are no exception.

Judge Michael Huppert of Polk County, Iowa, ruled that according to a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision, the states Fetal Heartbeat law violates the Iowa Constitution, which makes a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy a fundamental right. By relying on the Iowa Constitution and the Iowa Supreme Court precedent, Huppert should be able to keep this case out of the United States Supreme Court. But it could just be a matter of time before the right case hits the right court, and the real battle begins.