Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

June 2016 Archives

Supreme Ct: Abortion Clinic Restrictions Can't Unduly Burden Women

Today the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Texas legal provisions that would have severely restricted access to abortions in that state. Five justices agreed that the law placed an undue burden on women in violation of constitutional rights, and the decision is considered significant nationwide.

At question were provisions in a law that added requirements for clinics performing abortions and their physicians, ostensibly to protect women. But the majority of the court found the contrary, writing that the restrictions did little for women's health. Let's consider the decision.

No Deportation Relief for Undocumented Parents of Americans and LPRs

The Supreme Court announced a deadlock today in a case about an immigration reform measure by President Obama. It would have allowed millions of undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents to avoid deportation and live in the light.

Texas led 26 states in opposing the Obama administration's measure, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. After the ruling's release, the President issued a statement expressing regret that he could do no more for immigrants before his term ended.

Supreme Court Shifts Perspective on Illegal Police Stops

It used to be that if a police stop was unreasonable, evidence found after that illegal stop was excluded from a case when successfully challenged in court. This week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that evidence from an unreasonable stop can be retroactively validated by a pre-existing warrant.

The ruling seems confusing and of little consequence to many. However, it's actually a big deal because millions of people have outstanding warrants for small infractions. Also, the decision shifts the angle on time and evidence in criminal cases. In the words of one dissenter, "Do not be soothed by the technical language." Let's consider the opinions -- majority and dissent -- and why this case is significant.

Net Neutrality Matters: Internet Is a Utility, Not a Luxury, Court Rules

We the people need the web, according to a federal appellate court decision issued today. Specifically, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that strict regulation of broadband companies by the Federal Communications Commission is legal because broadband access is a utility, not a luxury, reports The New York Times.

In a 184-page decision, the court concluded that the internet is a tool for all and, as such, subject to strict regulation, unlike luxury items which are just for a few. It is no longer optional but integral to life in our society, kind of like water and electricity. Let's consider the decision and its significance to all of us.

Supreme Court Invalidates Puerto Rico's Debt Restructuring Act

If you want to feel better about your own money troubles, take solace in the woes of Puerto Rico. The Caribbean island, which is an unincorporated US territory, is struggling with its debt and enacted legislation that would allow it to restructure debt similar to entities that do have bankruptcy protection, like states.

But the US Supreme Court just ruled that Puerto Rico cannot be a debtor under bankruptcy law, so local legislation passed to restructure the territory's debt is invalid, pre-empted by the federal bankruptcy code. Technically, this a case about preemption, whose laws rule, federal or state. But Puerto Rico is not a state, so the case really highlights the complicated relationship it has with the US and its law. Let's consider the decision.

Despite all the public backlash against Minnesota dentists travelling to Zimbabwe to shoot celebrity lions and countries auctioning off the right to hunt species whose numbers are already threatened by poaching, there are still people that want to travel to exotic places, see beautiful animals, and kill them dead. And there are still nations that will allow people to riddle endangered species with bullets. But there might not be a way for folks to get their big game trophies home anymore.

A federal court in Texas has ruled that Delta (and, presumably other similarly conscientious airlines) doesn't need to transport a hunter's endangered rhino trophy, upholding the airline's ban on "Big Five" trophies.

What Is a Pet Worth? Georgia Supreme Court Decides

When you go away on vacation and leave your precious pooch at a kennel, you expect to get the dog back, intact. If that doesn’t happen and you decide to sue, what can you expect to recover? Georgia’s highest court has just provided guidance on this issue, concluding that that dog is worth its fair market value, not the actual value paid for the pet, and that owners may also sue to recover veterinary expenses incurred.

The decision stems from a 2012 case in which one couple left both of their dogs at a kennel for ten days. During that time, the couple says, the kennel gave the wrong dog medication, causing almost-immediate acute renal failure and ultimately leading to her death nine months later. Now they’ll be able to try to collect costs from the kennel, according to the Georgia high court.

President Obama Commutes 42 Sentences: More to Come

Last week President Obama announced that he will commute the sentences of 42 federal prisoners, bringing to 348 his administration's total commuted sentences. This president has used the power of commutation more often than seven previous presidents combined, according to the Huffington Post, focusing particularly on commuting the too-severe mandatory minimum sentences of those imprisoned on drug crimes.

The White House's lead counsel, Neil Eggleston, issued a blog post last week explaining the decision and emphasizing the fact that serious reforms to criminal sentencing will have to take place at a congressional level. "There remain thousands of men and women in federal prison serving sentences longer than necessary, often due to overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences," he wrote.

Cell Phone Location Data Isn't Private, Federal Appeals Court Rules

Your phone says a lot about you, or it can if authorities review your location data over an extended period of time. That is why privacy advocates believe it constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and that a warrant should be required for phone location information.

But this week a federal appellate court in Virginia ruled 12-3 that no warrant is needed because consumers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information they willingly surrender to cell phone companies, reports The Intercept. The issue may still make its way to the Supreme Court eventually and some experts expect the strong dissent in this case and others like it indicate there is hope yet for privacy.

KS High Court Says School Funding Unconstitutional, Threatens Shutdown

Parents in Kansas have reason to fear for the future of their children's education: there may be no public schools open at the end of summer vacation. The state's Supreme Court today ruled that the legislature had not abided by its constitutional mandate to finance public schools equitably, especially poorer districts with less property wealth, and gave authorities an ultimatum.

The court gave the state a deadline -- until June 30 -- to fix the funding issues or face a total shutdown, demanding $40 million or more be added to the public education budget. The court's demand is worrisome to managers of other public programs who are afraid they will face more cuts as a result, reports The New York Times. Meanwhile, Governor Sam Brownback's office insists school budgets are sufficient and that he is committed to public education.