Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

August 2012 Archives

Threatening a Judge, Even in a Song, is Still a Crime

It's never a good idea to threaten a judge no matter how you go about it. That includes if you do it in a song posted online, according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Franklin Delano Jeffries II was engaged in a custody battle back in 2010 that had been taking a while. He poured out his frustration with the process into a song and posted it online, reports The Wall Street Journal. But a court ruled that his venting went too far and the Sixth Circuit agreed in their ruling on Monday.

The problem for Jeffries comes down to the lyrics for his composition.

A U.S. federal district court in Texas found this to be exactly the situation as it threw out the Lone Star state's new district maps drawn ahead of the November 6 presidential elections, reports Reuters. State lawmakers apparently attempted to silence the black and Hispanic vote, as evidenced by the Texas redistricting map case.

The court found that these new maps not only had the effect of reducing the influence of black and Hispanic votes, but that Texas state lawmakers also had the nefarious intent of discriminating against such minorities, writes Reuters.

FDA Tobacco Warning Labels Struck Down by Fed. Appeals Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and said that the agency could not require cigarette manufacturers to put graphic cigarette warning labels on its packaging.

The FDA had proposed nine graphic images to include on the top half of all cigarette packaging. The images would demonstrate the harms of smoking through powerful images such as a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, and an infant enveloped by cigarette smoke, reports The Associated Press.

These images would accompany existing warning labels that says smoking causes cancer and can harm fetuses.

In a virtual clean sweep for Apple, Samsung must pay more than $1 billion for willfully violating Apple's patents in developing a wide variety of phones and tablet computers, a Silicon Valley jury announced Friday.

Jurors also found Apple did not infringe on any of Samsung's patents and will not have to pay its rival a dime, Reuters reports. An appeal is likely.

In a historic and closely watched case, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple sued South Korea-based Samsung for allegedly copying the design and technology used in Apple's iPhones and iPad tablet designs.

What could the decision mean for consumers?

AL Immigration Law Blocked: Can't Check Student Immigration Status

Parts of Alabama's immigration law were struck down in an 11th Circuit decision published Monday. The law was intended to step-up policing of undocumented immigrants.

The law included some pieces that were similar to those ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court earlier this year. Sections requiring immigrants to carry documents at all times and criminalizing transport or illegal immigrants were struck down, reports the Chicago Tribune.

A rule unique to Alabama that affects children was also struck down by the court. The ruling noted that it violated Equal Protection.

Poker is Game of Skill, Not Gambling Under Federal Law, Judge Rules

For all those poker enthusiasts who want to cut back on their gambling habit: fear not. Poker is not gambling, at least not in New York.

Not so fast though. The ruling from a federal court judge only applies to federal law. Gambling is still illegal in the state of New York and there's a good chance that covers poker.

The judge's decision resulted from a case alleging that a man who ran an underground poker club had violated laws against gambling. The judge overturned a jury's verdict ruling that the man he wasn't gambling in the first place.

We had to take a second to think about this one too.

Is it Constitutional to Impersonate a Cop After U.S. v. Alvarez?

Laws that punish people who impersonate a police officer are still constitutional under the First Amendment, according to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Impersonating an officer is not a new offense and most states criminalize penalize fake cops. The constitutionality of those laws came under question after US v. Alvarez.

But the majority of the court agreed that case doesn't apply to impersonating an officer.

Pennsylvania's voter ID law can take effect this November, a judge ruled Wednesday. But opponents of the politically divisive law vowed to appeal.

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in November's presidential election, initially pushed for the voter ID law as a way to prevent election fraud, the Associated Press reports. Every Democratic lawmaker voted against it.

But in court, the voter fraud concern was barely discussed, and it wasn't the reason for the judge's decision.

Walmart Defeats Immigrant Janitors' False Imprisonment Appeal

Walmart wins a nine-year-old lawsuit brought by a class of janitors that claimed that the retailer engaged in immigration violations, unfair labor practices, and even falsely imprisoned its workers.

The janitors worked for a variety of contractors that provided janitorial services to Walmart. They accuse Walmart of trying to clean its stores "on the cheap" by hiring illegal immigrants that would be more willing to put up with unfair working conditions and lower pay, reports Reuters. In addition, to keep federal authorities from finding the immigrants, the janitors claim that they were locked up overnight in Walmart stores.

A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld rulings by a lower court and found that the janitors could not sue as a class. They also rejected the illegal work condition and false imprisonment claims.

Liability Waiver Blocks Suit for Injury in Chimp Attack

The liability waiver that Kristin Howard signed before she was attacked by a chimp prevents her from suing for her injuries, according to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Howard was 10 days into an internship at Chimps Inc., a private chimpanzee sanctuary, when she was attacked by a chimp named Kimie. Howard was cleaning a cage she believed was empty and which staff told her chimpanzees could not get into.

It turns out they could and Kimie attacked Howard and bit off most of her left thumb.

Despite all that, Howard is not permitted to sue. The waiver prohibits it.

Animals Not Just Property, Also Crime Victims: OR Court

Animal lovers in Oregon can celebrate since a state court of appeals ruled that animals are more than just property. They can also be considered the victim of a crime, according to Wednesday's ruling.

The ruling arose from a particularly heinous case of animal abuse by Arnold Weldon Nix. Officers investigated his farm in 2010 and found many emaciated horses and goats along with several dead animals.

The case is making headlines not because Nix was found guilty of animal abuse but because the ruling marks a change in how the law treats animals.

Kyleigh's Law was upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court and young drivers will still have to keep a red decal on their license plates identifying them as young drivers.

The law was controversial as young drivers thought that they were being profiled by the red decal both by cops and potential predators. The challengers to the law argued that the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act made the red decals illegal.

The court did not agree and found that the decal identifying drivers as teen drivers did not constitute the release of "highly restrictive personal information," reports the Asbury Park Press.

Buffalo Fire Dept. Test Didn't Discriminate, 2nd Cir. Rules

Fire departments have found themselves the target of several high profile race discrimination lawsuits based on their employment exams. And courts have been all over the map with their rulings.

Most recently, the 2nd U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld the City of Buffalo's employment exam finding that while there was a disparate impact against black firefighters, the test was not discriminatory.

A group representing black firefighters had sued claiming that the test was discriminatory as only 43 percent of black firefighters passed the exam, as compared to 76 percent of their white counterparts, reports Reuters.

Facebook Post Helps Overturn Detroit Brothers' Murder Convictions

The Highers brothers may finally go free after a judge ordered a retrial in a murder case where the Detroit men were convicted 25 years ago.

Raymond and Thomas Highers were just 21 when they were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a drug dealer who was shot in his home. Then two years ago a high school classmate of theirs made a post on Facebook about the brothers. That started a chain reaction where other classmates got together to find evidence of their innocence.

Based on the testimony of new witnesses, Judge Lawrence Talon overturned the brothers' conviction on Thursday but the men are still not free.