A regularly updated guide to random legal news that I find interesting -- and hope you will too. And links! Always links!


Friday, April 25, 2003

District Court Rules File Sharing Software Does Not Violate Copyright, and Is Legal

Although it is only a District Court's order on summary judgment, today's ruling could be huge. Judge Stephen Wilson of the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Grokster and StreamCast Networks (aka Morpheus) and against the entertainment industry plaintiffs. These defendants distribute file sharing software similar to Kazaa which allows millions of users to share copyrighted songs and videos for free.

Basically, the court ruled that, though the software can be and is used to violate copyright, the software companies -- like manufacturers of VCRs and photocopiers -- cannot be held liable for contributory or vicarious copyright infringement. You can read the court's order here. An AP article about the ruling can be accessed here, and now weighs in here.
Injured Big-Game Hunter Takes Aim at Bullet Manufacturers

A big-game hunter has sued a bullet manufacturer because its bullet failed to kill a charging lion when he shot it. The lion mauled him (which, in my opinion, he richly deserved). You can read the story here. (Thanks to for the link.)
Santa Cruz Sues Ashcroft Over Medical Marijuana

US Attorney General John Ashcroft and his DEA minions have been raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers in California, despite state and local laws making medical marijuana legal. Now the City and County of Santa Cruz and several individual plaintiffs are fighting back. They've sued Ashcroft and the DEA in Federal District Court for injunctive relief and damages. You can access the complaint here (PDF), courtesy of Courthouse News Service.

My prediction for Mr. Ashcroft? You're about to find the 10th Amendment stuck somewhere you never wanted it to be stuck.

Ashcroft and his neo-federalist cronies have recently been bludgeoning the citizens of the several states with the 10th Amendment in an attempted end run around some 40 years of progress in civil rights. The Tenth Amendment says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The Ashcroft team has wielded the Tenth Amendment to invalidate various federal civil rights laws as applied against state governments, arguing that such laws went too far and invaded the powers reserved to the states. To their credit, they've had considerable success. But now the tables may be turning.

I've read the Constitution several times, and I don't recall it saying anything about delegating power over medical marijuana (or anything remotely related) to the United States. I believe that's a power reserved to the States, "or to the people" (who voted for it). That includes the State of California, its City and County of Santa Cruz, and its voters.

The neo-federalists like to argue that the Federal government ought to butt out -- at least when it suits them. For example, they argue that the Federal government should have no role in protecting racial minorities or women or gays or the handicapped, or in regulating firearms. The regulation of these matters was never envisioned as a Federal function by the founders and was "reserved to the states."

Yet anything that threatens their neo-Christian-conservative outlook -- such as medical marijuana, homosexuality, abortion, or (face it . . .) plain old sex -- should not just be regulated, but should immediately be subject to federal law enforcement efforts so aggressive and intrusive that they threaten our most basic constitutional rights to protection from unreasonable searches, seizures, and detentions. Ashcroft has actively worked to suspend or limit all of those those basic protections wherever possible.

It just tickles me pink that the Tenth Amendment -- the same Amendment the neo-Federalists tried to use to limit decades of federal civil rights jurisprudence -- is about to stop them dead in their tracks. Yet another testament to the wisdom of the Drafters.
Dial Trial Pits Clean vs. Filthy

"To hear Dial Corp. tell it, the sprawling soap plant near west suburban Aurora is a bright, happy place filled with workers who treat each other like family."

"Anyone visiting the busy factory 'would not even believe' that it has become ground zero in a landmark sexual-harassment case, said spokeswoman Cindy Demers. 'It's a great place to work.'"

"It's a great place if you like being groped, cussed at and stalked by co-workers, countered Sumiko Baker, among dozens of women suing Dial in a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," the Chicago Tribune reports. UPDATE (4/29): Dial has settled the case for $10 million, the AP reports here.
Ohio Judge Arrested on Arson Charge

An Ohio judge was arrested Thursday on charges that he set his home on fire after increasing his insurance coverage, the AP reports here. UPDATE: Today Judge Donald McAuliffe was denied bail, according to this.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Arrest of Brooklyn Judge Is Expected

"A Brooklyn Supreme Court justice is expected to be arrested and arraigned as early as today on charges that he accepted money and gifts in exchange for favorable rulings in matrimonial disputes, court sources said Wednesday," the New York Law Journal says here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Supreme Court Gives Small Companies Room to Avoid ADA

"Thousands of small companies could avoid a law requiring accommodations for disabled workers under a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Court ruled Tuesday against a disabled woman who said a company's partners and shareholders should be counted as employees, thereby making the company large enough to be subject to ADA requirements. The decision mainly affects professional service companies like law firms, medical practices and accounting offices," the Associated Press reports here.
Malpractice Suit Against Lawyer Can Proceed Despite Guilty Plea

"A corporation's guilty plea for bribing a foreign official does not bar a subsequent malpractice action against the lawyer who allegedly advised that the bribery would not violate federal law, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Reinstating a dismissed claim against attorney Phillippe S.E. Schrieber, Judge Robert D. Sack said the company's guilty plea does not prevent it from claiming that it was the victim of malpractice in relying on the attorney's advice," the New York Law Journal says here.
U-Haul Parent Amerco Sues Auditor PwC

"Amerco Inc., parent of truck renter U-Haul International Inc., has filed a lawsuit against PriceWaterhouseCoopers, claiming that its financial woes were a result of its auditor's bad advice, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday," according to this.
If Nike Defends Itself, Is That a Commercial?

The Christian Science Monitor reports on tomorrow's Supreme Court oral argument in the Nike case here.
Copy of the Bill of Rights, Looted During Civil War, Lands "Antiques Roadshow" Guy in Hot Water

Stolen from North Carolina by a Union soldier during Sherman's "march to the sea" in 1865, the copy of the Bill of Rights has surfaced twice before, only to disappear again. Now North Carolina has it back, and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Wayne Pratt -- who offered to sell it -- is in trouble. Or is he? The Christian Science Monitor has the story here.

Monday, April 21, 2003

In Spite of Reform Law, Milberg Weiss Emerges as Winner in Securities Suits

"Enemies of the plaintiffs' firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach may do well to heed the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: What does not kill me makes me stronger.

"Take, for instance, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, a 1995 law that many observers say was aimed at putting Milberg Weiss -- and especially partner William Lerach, the lawyer many corporate executives love to hate -- out of business. As one securities defense lawyer who lobbied for the PSLRA told the New Yorker last year, 'The whole idea behind the law was to destroy Lerach.'

"Instead, according to a new study by Stanford Law School's Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research, Milberg Weiss is doing better than ever," reports here.
California Appellate Court Bitch Slaps Governor Davis Over Parole

"In a ruling that seems to thumb its nose at the executive branch, Los Angeles' Second District Court of Appeal on Monday overturned a parole denial by Gray Davis only four months after the state's highest court gave the governor great leeway on parole issues," reports here. You can also read the full opinion here.
Bill to Bar Suits Against Gun Industry Stuns Crime Victims

The New York Times reports here about the NRA-backed bill that has passed in the House and looks likely to pass in the Senate.
Injured Juror Loses Bid to Recover Damages

"A Brooklyn murder trial jury foreman who was injured when a table in the jury room collapsed on his knee cannot recover from the state, a Court of Claims judge said," the New York Lawyer reports here.


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