Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

October 2017 Archives

In yet another legal defeat of a Trump executive order in federal court, the District Court for the District of Columbia found likely that the administration's attempted "exclusion of transgender individuals from the military is unconstitutional."

"There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all," Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote, granting an injunction against President Trump's order. "In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects." The ruling puts the preceding status quo back into effect, whereby openly transgender individuals can join the military and rise through the ranks.

'The normal expectations of the participants in a school sponsored educational trip abroad involving minor children supported the imposition of a duty on the defendant to warn about and to protect against serious insect-borne diseases in the areas to be visited on the trip.'

Most of that is pretty standard stuff: we want schools to adequately warn students and parents about the dangers they might encounter on a field trip. It's the "serious insect-borne diseases" part that gives one pause. And it should -- that disease was tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE, contracted by a 15-year-old boarding school student in northeast China. And the full quote was from Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, upholding a $41.7 million verdict against the school for failing to inform her that the U.S. Center for Disease Control had issued a warning to protect against the disease in the exact area where the students would travel.

Not all of the country's residents are native English speakers, nor is everyone fluent in the language. This can be a problem during natural disasters or other emergencies when timely information can be the difference between life and death. But currently, the Federal Communication Commission doesn't require broadcasters to translate emergency alerts and broadcast the alerts in languages other than English.

And yesterday a federal court sided with the FCC in a lawsuit challenging English-only emergency alerts.

In one of the two closely watched and highly controversial travel ban cases that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up on review this term, an order of dismissal has been issued. However, the dismissal only applies to Executive Order 13,780, a.k.a. travel ban 2.0, which had expired as of September 24, 2017.

As the Court explained in a brief order, because the travel ban in issue had expired, the legal case no longer presented a "live case or controversy." In legal terms, the case was ordered dismissed as "moot" -- which is basically the Court  refusing to hear a case where it can't fix anything anymore.

Churches and religious organizations get some perks when it comes to paying taxes. In fact, 501(c)(3) organizations can be tax exempt, if they follow certain rules. And members of the clergy can get certain tax breaks as well. Or at least they could before a recent federal court ruling in Wisconsin.

The "parsonage allowance" allowed a pastor or "minister of the gospel" to exclude mortgages, utility bills, and other housing-related expenses from gross income on their tax returns. But last week U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the allowance "violates the establishment clause because it does not have a secular purpose or effect and because a reasonable observer would view the statute as an endorsement of religion." The only question is what the IRS and members of the clergy will do now.

The District of Columbia has been notoriously aggressive with gun legislation, making the D.C. Circuit ground zero for legal battles over the Second Amendment. The latest skirmish -- over whether residents must prove a "special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life" in order to obtain a carry permit -- appears to be over in the circuit court, and may be headed a few blocks over to the Supreme Court.

In July, a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel invalidated the District's gun ordinance, and last week the circuit denied the District's request for an en banc rehearing before the entire court. D.C. can request for review from the Supreme Court, a request most think the Court would grant.