Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

June 2012 Archives

Affordable Care Act Upheld

In a somewhat surprising decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the entire Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, by a 5-4 vote.

This landmark decision affirms one of the signature laws passed under President Obama, and the success of his presidency could be viewed in light of this law.

The decision was surprising as there were many controversial parts of the law. Had the Court struck down just one of these parts, the entire law would likely have been struck down. But that wasn't the case.

The EPA's proposed greenhouse gas rules are legal, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. Notably, the decision also quoted a few lines from the famous "I'm Just a Bill" Schoolhouse Rock cartoon from the 1970s.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the EPA to create new rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, power plants, and factories, Reuters reports. The EPA's decision to set limits is lawful, and the agency's interpretation of the Clean Air Act is "unambiguously correct," the judges held.

So why did the D.C. Circuit cite a 1970s-era cartoon in its decision?

Juvenile Life Sentences Unconstitutional Without Parole

Juvenile life sentences are not common and they're generally reserved for serious crimes. Those sentences may be even more unusual after Monday's Supreme Court decision on juvenile life without parole. The Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Sentencing schemes for juveniles must allow for discretion by judges and juries. This rule applies regardless of the crime committed according to the majority opinion in Miller v. Alabama, authored by Justice Elena Kagan.

The 5-4 decision is the latest in a series of decision by the Court that have reformed sentencing laws related to juveniles.

Arizona police can now ask about immigration status during stops, rules the Supreme Court of the United States. While considering Arizona's immigration law, the Supreme Court upheld certain parts of the law, while striking down other parts.

As a result of the divided 5-3 decision, Arizona police will now immediately enforce that part of the law that allows police immigration checks.

State police will flag federal authorities when they find an illegal immigrant, though it's unclear what other steps officials are allowed to take once discovering an illegal immigrant.

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Execution Law

The Arkansas supreme court has ruled that the state's execution law, enacted in 2009, is unconstitutional.

The law states the death sentence in Arkansas must be done by lethal injection of one or more chemicals which will be chosen by the director of the Department of Correction. In a seven-to-two vote, the state's high court held that the law fails the necessary separation of powers.

The court's decision now puts Arkansas in a somewhat difficult position.

The FCC's broadcast indecency rules fail to give broadcasters fair notice of what can't be shown on TV, the U.S. Supreme Court said in striking down the policy Thursday.

But the Court declined to rule on a separate question of whether the Federal Communications Commission's policy is unconstitutional under the First Amendment's free-speech protections, Reuters reports.

The 8-0 decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations and FCC v. ABC Inc. strikes down the decade-old FCC policy, but also gives the Commission the option to fix it.

Supreme Court Tells Drug Representatives: No Overtime Pay

The Supreme Court ruled drug representatives are not entitled to overtime pay in its decision on Monday.

Two ex-GlaxoSmithKline employees sued their former employer for OT. GSK and other pharmaceutical companies have historically treated drug representatives as outside salespeople exempt from overtime pay. That classification was challenged by the plaintiffs but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of pharmaceutical companies.

The 5-4 decision will have a significant impact on existing lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry.

Louis Vuitton protects its monogrammed image like a mama bear protects its cubs.

Earlier this year, Louis Vuitton successfully sued Hyundai for including a Louis Vuitton basketball in one of its car commercials.

Piggybacking on that success, another Louis Vuitton lawsuit was brought, this time suing Warner Brothers for its Hangover movie for including a scene with knockoff Louis Vuitton luggage and a common American mistranslation of the name "Louis." But in this case, Louis Vuitton lost.

How was this case different from Hyundai?

Facebook has settled a lawsuit over its "Sponsored Stories" advertisements and will pay $10 million to charity, Reuters reports.

Five Facebook members sued the social-networking site for allegedly using their names and images in "Sponsored Story" advertisements without their consent. That violates California's "right to publicity" law, their federal lawsuit claimed.

In a "Sponsored Story," an ad for a product appears on a user's Facebook page. The ad also shows which of that user's friends "likes" the advertiser, and includes those friends' names and profile pictures.

A federal jury has awarded $25 million to a black steelworker who sued for racial harassment at a now-defunct plant in upstate New York.

Elijah Turley worked 14 years at the ArcelorMittal plant in Lackawanna, N.Y., but a series of racist incidents between 2005 and 2008 left him a physical and emotional wreck, his attorney told jurors, according to The Buffalo News.

Turley's coworkers taunted him by calling him "monkey" and "boy." They scrawled graffiti on factory walls that said "KKK" and "King Kong." And they tied a stuffed monkey, hanging by a noose, to Turley's car.

New York City's transit agency has settled a lawsuit over a dress code that allegedly discriminated against Sikhs and Muslims for more than a decade after 9/11.

The dress code, which critics called a "brand or segregate" policy, allegedly forced Sikh and Muslim workers to make a choice about their religious head coverings: "Brand" them with a Metropolitan Transit Authority logo, or be "segregated" to a less-desirable job out of public view.

The policy was apparently on the books for years, but it wasn't enforced until 2002, in the wake of 9/11, Reuters reports. Ten years later, it's being partly derailed.

No NYC eviction for tenant Margaret Maugenest.

Maugenest has lived at the Gowanus loft at 280 Nevins Street in Brooklyn since 1984. She hasn't paid rent since 2003.

Despite living rent free for almost a decade, New York's highest court ruled that the building owner Chazon LLC could not evict Maugenest. So how did Maugenest manage to live rent free in one of the New York's high rent districts?

Hawaii's Beach Wedding Permits Constitutional, 9th Circuit Rules

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

The right to marry is a fundamental right. And Hawaii's requirement that couples obtain a permit to marry on its beaches does not violate that right , the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR) began requiring permits for commercial weddings in August 2008.

So how much is your golden-sand, dream wedding going to set you back?

SeaWorld Trainers Need Protection from Killer Whales: Fed. Judge

SeaWorld shows may soon get a lot less exciting. A federal judge has ordered SeaWorld to enact safety measures to protect SeaWorld trainers.

Administrative Law Judge Ken Welsch upheld violations cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against SeaWorld, Reuters reports. The case came after the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was killed by a killer whale during an Orlando SeaWorld show.

So what kind of protections could be coming down the pike?