Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Federal Judge Blocks Employers From Opting Out of Birth Control Coverage

At the eleventh hour, one judge in Philadelphia blocked employers from opting out of providing birth control coverage to employees.

The Trump Administration, specifically the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury, issued new federal laws in October 2018, allowing business and nonprofits to opt out of offering birth control through their employee's health insurance plans. That rule, set to go into effect on January 14, 2019, was brought to a grinding halt, courtesy of U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia.

Iowa's 'Ag-Gag' Law Struck Down

Ag-gag laws are intended to muzzle the voices of undercover journalists and animal rights activist looking to expose certain unethical practices in the agricultural community. Often, these journalists and activists use false pretenses in order to gain their employment, and then go rogue once inside the organization. The Iowa government wanted to criminalize this conduct, but the plaintiffs, and ultimately the judge, felt what was being criminalized was the speech, not the conduct, and therefore declared Iowa's ag-gag law unconstitutional.

Politicians Can't Block Voters on Facebook, Court Rules

Politicians give up some personal rights as elected officials, and one of those is blocking haters. Though blocking those that challenge your viewpoints on Facebook is tempting and acceptable by the general public, that's not the case for politicians, according to one court. Another key take-away from this decision: a social media page can be considered a public forum. Facebook, you've come a long way, baby!

Cyntoia Brown Given Clemency by Tenn. Governor

Cyntoia Brown's story has a bittersweet ending, but that's better than the alternative. Come August, she will be a free woman, notwithstanding ten years on parole following her release. When Brown was 16 years old, she was convicted in a Tennessee court room of murdering a man who bought her for sex, and was handed an adult sentence that wouldn't have allowed her to seek parole until she was 51.

After some celebrity intervention by Amy Schumer, Kim Kardashian West, and Ashley Judd, along with a documentary based on her case, Brown was granted clemency at the age of 30 by Tennessee's Governor Bill Haslam. A different woman now than the girl that was incarcerated, armed with maturity and education, she plans to help at-risk youth, and hopefully help them avoid the path she helped to forge.

Using Drugs During Pregnancy Isn't Child Abuse, Pennsylvania Court Rules

You can't abuse a child if there is no child, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In the debate over whether using drugs during pregnancy rises to the level of child abuse, the court found that a fetus is not a child, and therefore the act cannot amount to child abuse. As such, Child Protective Services has no standing to investigate such matters, and mothers cannot be punished for it.

Google's Face Scanning on Android Photos Doesn't Violate Privacy

Facial recognition software is all the rage these days, from unlocking your iPhone to unlocking doors at your place of business to allowing you access to theme parks with your season pass. As creepy as biometrics often seems to the general public, it is not a violation of privacy. Google won a major biometrics lawsuit in Illinois federal court this week, based on a challenge under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Facebook still faces a similar legal challenge, but Google is off the legal hook.

Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) upheld a federal judge's ban of the Trump administration's new asylum restrictions, a ruling which had already been affirmed by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

New Yorkers Need Permits to Carry Guns in Public, Judge Rules

New York may be ready to legalize nunchucks, but not carrying guns in public. A district court judge upheld New York's current concealed-carry law, New York State Penal Law Section 400.00 (2)(f), which requires petitioners to show "proper cause" for the need to carry a loaded firearm outside the home.

Though plaintiffs claimed this amounted to a de facto ban on almost all public carry licenses, since such few requests were granted, the judge disagreed, stating this law in no way violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and subsequently dismissed the case.

Airbnb Settles Lawsuit With Major Landlord

Just days before the trial was to start, Apartment Investment and Management Company (Aimco) and Airbnb settled their pending lawsuit in Florida state court. Specific causes of action included tortious interference with lease agreements, trespass and aiding and abetting trespass, and deceptive and unfair trade practices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both sides appear to be content with the settlement, and possibly willing to look for ways in which they can work together.

Not every appeal to the Supreme Court gets heard. In fact, you need four of the nine Justices to agree to grant what is known as certiorari before a case can move forward to arguments. And because the Court doesn't normally elaborate on the reasons for declining to hear appeals, such decisions are ripe for interpretation.

Take the recent refusal to hear appeals from two lower court decisions regarding Planned Parenthood. Those lower courts ruled that Medicaid recipients can sue states that strip funding for the nonprofit or remove it from their lists of qualified service providers. The Court voted 6-3 to leave those decisions in place, leading to speculation as to why a supposedly conservative court declined to take on an abortion-related appeal.