Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Arizona Voting Laws Are Constitutional, Federal Court Rules

The Democratic National Committee is running out of time if it wants to strike down two Arizona voting laws it deems unfair before the upcoming November elections.

The DNC filed suit against the State of Arizona in April 2016, challenging two voting laws. The first, a new law that makes collecting early ballots from voters a felony punishable by one year in jail and a $150,000 fine. The second, a law that dates back to 1970, which forbids voters from casting ballots outside of their precinct. The DNC viewed both of these laws as unconstitutional under the 1st, 14th, and 15th Amendment, as well as the Fair Voting Rights Act of 1965. A federal judge ruled against the DNC, and they appealed. A three member panel of the San Francisco federal circuit court ruled that two Arizona voting laws are indeed constitutional. The Democratic National Committee plans to seek a review on this matter en banc.

Missouri Can Enforce Abortion Clinic Regulations, Federal Court Rules

Many people debate whether or not Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. Without a crystal ball, it's hard to tell. But truthfully, that may not be necessary. It may be possible to maim it to the point that it is effectively useless.

After a recent case in Missouri, it may still be legal to get an abortion, but good luck finding a low cost facility to get one.

Broad Institute Wins CRISPR-Cas9 Patent Lawsuit Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's assertion that Harvard-affiliated Broad Institute can keep its patents on CRISPR, Clustered Regularly Inspected Short Palindromic Repeats. The court found that Broad's applications do not overlap with those of the University of California, Berkeley's, and that the two are patently distinct. Not only are billions of dollars at stake, but also scientific reputations, and the lives of generations to come.

Federal Judge Voids Texas' Fetal Burial Law

There's a side of abortions and miscarriages that is often forgotten: the body of the fetus.

In February 2017, a Texas law went into effect that required health care providers to bury or cremate fetuses, regardless of a patient's wishes or religious beliefs. That law had been put on hold after local abortion clinics filed for, and received, a temporary injunction in federal court.

Last week, Judge David A. Ezra declared that injunction permanent, stating the law violated the 14th amendment, since it required healthcare facilities to use "unreliable and nonviable" waste disposal methods that would restrict abortion access. He also found that the law interfered with a woman's decision to have an abortion by "enshrining one view of the status of and respect that should be given to embryonic and fetal tissue remains."

Homeless in Western States Can't Be Prosecuted for Sleeping on Streets

Outlawing the criminalization of homelessness just got a little clearer in the Western United States. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it is unconstitutional to prosecute someone for sleeping on public streets, at least for the most part. More on that later.

Do you know all the people connecting to the internet using your IP address? It's possible, if you live alone and you're tech-savvy enough to password-protect your internet connection. But what if a family all uses the same connection? Or you own an adult foster care facility that houses many people, all with access to the internet connection under your name? And one of those people uses your IP address to illegally download a crappy Adam Sandler movie? Are you on the hook for copyright infringement?

Not according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled last week that "the bare allegation that the defendant was the registered subscriber of an Internet Protocol address associated with infringing activity was insufficient to state a claim for direct or contributory infringement."

If you asked a layperson, they would probably guess that job opportunities for people of color have never been better, and that corporations are getting more racially diverse. But that's not always the case, especially in the financial sector. Bloomberg reports that major banks have been losing more and more black workers every year, and JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., has seen its share of black employees drop six consecutive years, from 16 percent in 2011 to 13.4 percent in 2017.

Those numbers were reported along with a $24 million settlement between JP Morgan and six current and former employees who claimed the bank's discrimination against black financial advisors was "uniform and national in scope."

SoCal Cities Have Standing to Sue for Tijuana Sewage Pollution

In a landmark decision, a federal district judge ruled that two Southern California cities and the San Diego County Unified Port District have standing to sue an international agency over polluted waters allegedly entering the United States under the Clean Water Act. While admitting that "the border will complicated matters," the judge believed the plaintiffs did indeed have standing to sue over continuous spills of sewage and other waste water into San Diego County.

On average, San Diego beaches have had sections of shoreline off-limits to swimmers for more than a third of the year over the last decade, due to these spills. The judge allowed the plaintiff to amend their complaint in order to add more facts, which will be necessary when deciding the case on its merits.

In May 2017, the Supreme Court struck down congressional boundaries in North Carolina, finding they were drawn to pack more black voters into specific congressional districts. Eight months later, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state to again redraw its congressional map, ruling the effort to set the current boundaries was "motivated by invidious partisan intent."

The Supreme Court asked the Fourth Circuit to revisit that decision (based on new precedent regarding whether a voter has standing to bring a gerrymandering claim), but the court came to the same conclusion: Voters in North Carolina provided sufficient "evidence establishing that each of their districts is 'packed or cracked' and, as a result, that their votes 'carry less weight than [they] would carry in another, hypothetical district.'"

So it's either back to the congressional map drawing board for North Carolina lawmakers, or back to the Supreme Court.

Ever since former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman began making headlines for audio recordings and allegations detailed in tell-all book about the Trump administration, the non-disclosure agreements supposedly signed by all staffers have come to light. Porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal also purportedly signed NDAs regarding their relationships with the president in exchange for hush money.

But are these agreements enforceable? A New York judge recently ruled that some of the provisions of nondisclosure agreements signed by Trump staffers -- those compelling arbitration rather than lawsuits -- are not, at least when it comes to claims of harassment and sexual discrimination.