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May 2013 Archives

Walmart to Pay $110M for Environmental-Protection Violations

Walmart has pleaded guilty to violating environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act, in three separate cases this week. The world's largest retailer is now set to pay more than $110 million in fines.

Walmart admitted to six misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act in two cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company admitted to illegally disposing of hazardous waste materials at its retail stores.

In a third case out of Missouri, Walmart also pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by improperly handling pesticides that had been returned to its stores by customers.

Joe Arpaio's Sheriff Department Racially Profiled Latinos, Court Finds

A federal court ruled that Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies racially profiled Latinos while on immigration patrols in the Arizona county, reports The New York Times.

The ruling is a major blow to the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” who has become the poster child of Arizona’s strict approach to immigration enforcement. The lawsuit was brought by a group of Latinos who alleged they were racially profiled by Arpaio’s deputies as targets for raids and traffic stops.

Arpaio’s attorneys plan to appeal the federal judge’s ruling in the next 30 days.

Federal Courts Block Abortion Bans in Arizona, Arkansas

Two states have had their early abortion bans blocked in federal court this month, and although Arizona and Arkansas laws are among the first early abortion laws to receive a real federal judicial treatment, they won't be the last.

Many states have been able to push through legislation that complies with Roe v. Wade but still limits abortions, like Texas' pre-abortion ultrasounds. So how did these laws not pass federal muster?

Supreme Court Sides with Monsanto in GMO Seed Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Monsanto's patent rights were infringed by soybean farmer Vernon Bowman when he planted second-generation seeds that were meant for consumption.

The Court may have made its unanimous decision in the case in small part due to Bowman's somewhat ingenious way of selecting out Monsanto crops from bulk seed mixes and further developing those crops, reports The New York Times.

This ruling, issued Monday, may be the first of many in the battle over GMO foods. But this decision already has significant consequences for growers using genetically modified seeds.

'Bible Banners' OK at School Football Games, Texas Judge Rules

In a surprising ruling on Wednesday, a Texas judge determined that cheerleaders displaying "Bible banners" at high school football games did not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

The ruling means cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, can resume making banners with messages like "If God is with us, who can be against us?" after they trounced their school district in court, reports Reuters.

How does this ruling square against the U.S. Supreme Court's long history of separating church and state in schools?

States Can Limit Public Records Access to Residents: Supreme Court

In a blow to freedom of information advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that state public-records access can be limited to residents of that state.

The unanimous decision upheld laws in Virginia and a handful of other states that release some public records only to in-state residents, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At the core of the decision are the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Constitution's privileges and immunities clause.