Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

April 2017 Archives

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a National Labor Relations Board decision in favor of a wrongfully discharged employee. The story is making headlines due to the fact that the fired employee used a few choice phrases to describe his supervisor in a public Facebook post. Those choice phrases are of the type that most office workers would expect to result in immediate termination.

However, thanks to the laws prohibiting retaliation against employees engaged in pro-union activities, and the common sense of the NLRB and the court, the opprobrious comment qualified as protected pro-union speech. Though most of the Facebook post exclaimed profanities about this supervisor, there was a legitimate criticism and a call to action for people to vote to unionize. Thank goodness for this prolific employee that Facebook doesn't have a 140 character limit.

Up until last week, Colorado had a law in place allowing the state to keep fees and restitution paid by criminal defendants, even after their convictions were overturned. That was until the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority in a 7-1 decision, held "Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions." And these monetary exactions were not insignificant. The two plaintiffs in the case had paid $12,500 between them in court costs, fees, and restitution, and Colorado attorneys say they've been contacted by exonerated defendants who've paid over $20,000, only to have their convictions vacated. Here's a look at the Court's ruling.

The company that promised it could, but then couldn't, Theranos has agreed to pay out over $4.5 million to settle the Arizona class action case against it. The settlement resolves the consumer protection and fraud claims against the blood testing company brought by Arizona.

The settlement will provide each individual who used Theranos in Arizona between 2013-2016 with a full refund. With 175,000 class members, the average breaks down to around $25 per person. In addition to the monetary relief for consumers, a $25,000 attorney fee award was secured, as well as an agreement for Theranos to cease operation in Arizona for two years.

A few years ago, Ethan Couch was made infamous as a result of the defense his lawyers pleaded in an effort to get him off on four counts of DWI manslaughter. Couch is the notorious "affluenza teen." This week he is again making headlines as the Texas Supreme Court denied his appeal.

Unlike influenza, affluenza is a rather different ailment, if it can even be considered such at all. Couch's medical expert testified that the teen was unable to appreciate the consequences of his actions (of killing four people while driving drunk) due to his affluent upbringing. As if claiming an affluent upbringing as a defense wasn't shocking enough, until he fled the country in 2015, he wasn't even sentenced to a single day behind bars.

Texas Senate Bill 14, which Governor Rick Perry signed into Texas law in 2011, was struck down by the courts, again. The ruling specifically explained that the voter ID initiative violated the Voting Rights Act due to the discriminatory purpose of the law. While the Fifth Circuit essentially made the same finding last July, it remanded the case to District Court to reconsider in light of some evidentiary rulings.

The court found that "a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind the passage of SB 14." The court pointed out that one of the state's alleged stated purposes for the law, to prevent voter fraud, was clearly a pretext as only two convictions of voter fraud were made over the past decade with over 20 million votes cast in Texas. The court found the state's other defenses of non-discriminatory purpose similarly unconvincing.

When Gavin Grimm sued the Gloucester County School District, he was seeking an order that allowed him to use the boy's restroom at his school in accordance with his gender identity. Although he won that order in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, the order was vacated last week following a quick and inconclusive visit to the Supreme Court.

Thus Grimm's case ends without a definitive ruling on transgender bathroom access, and he will be denied access to the boy's bathroom for the rest of his high school career. But two judges from the Fourth Circuit took the opportunity to praise Grimm's courage and place his legal struggle alongside those or other famous civil rights litigants. "G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed," wrote Judge Andre Davis. "[A]s Dr. King reminded us, however, 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' G.G.'s journey is delayed but not finished."

A federal district court judge in Arizona has ruled that the state's relatively new no-intent-required child molestation law is unconstitutional.

Although the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a man convicted under that new law, the federal district court in Arizona reversed the state's supreme court's upholding of the law.

The Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an important ruling regarding a hotly contested issue: federal discrimination protections for LGBT employees. While many states already provide legal protections for LGBT employees who suffer discrimination based upon their sexual orientation, it is not a settled issue whether Title VII provides any protection.

The Seventh Circuit's ruling found that the protections for sex discrimination listed in Title VII do protect LGBT employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. While other courts have agreed with this interpretation of Title VII, several have not despite the fact that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has considered LGBT individuals to be protected since 2015.

A federal district court in the state of Kentucky ruled last Friday that a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and other individuals, can proceed. The defendants sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but were only successful in each having one claim dismissed, despite each being sued under multiple claims.

The lawsuit stems from a March 2016 campaign rally where three protesters were forcibly removed from the audience after Trump stated: "Get 'em out of here." The lawsuit requests damages for injuries stemming from the removal, as well as punitive damages.

When you first think about it, simply putting a price on an item in a store might not seem like "speech." But when it comes to credit card surcharges (where retailers pass swipe fees charged by credit card companies to consumers), the issue becomes a little more murky.

And the Supreme Court is trying to clear it up. After retailers sued over a New York law that makes credit card surcharges illegal, the Court ruled that the law "regulates speech," and therefore the statute might violate merchants' First Amendment rights. Here's a look at the decision.