Articles Posted in July, 2013


The City of Detroit filed for Bankruptcy protection last week. It is the largest municipality in the US to seek such relief.

Justia is collecting the documents filed in the case and posting them here.

For more information on the news story, check out the Detroit Free Press Coverage.

Posted in: Legal News


US Capitol BuildingThe US Government  responded yesterday to the FISC’s order to conduct a declassification review in the Yahoo case. Their response asks for 45 and 60 days to complete the full review. They cite the need for interagency coordination, the volume and type of materials, and multiple FOIA requests in support of this request.

In the Microsoft and Google cases, the Government asked for a third extension of its deadline to respond to Microsoft’s motion. Microsoft and Google both consented to the extension.

In other news about the FISA Court, Reggie B. Walton, the presiding judge, responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s request for more information about the court processes and procedures. On July 18, Sen. Leahy requested this information in preparation for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the implementation of FISA Authorities (scheduled for July 31).

Posted in: Laws, Legal News


US Great SealThere’s great news out of Washington today on the open government and transparency front. House Speaker John Boehner  and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have announced via press release that the United States Code (the “Code”) will now be available for download in XML format.

Users will be able to download individual sections of the Code or, if desired, the entire corpus. Check it out at the Office of Law Revision Counsel site here.  The Code uses the USLM Schema and is explained in greater detail in a user guide that is also available at the Law Revision Counsel site.  For rendering the XML files, a CSS stylesheet is also provided.

Here’s hoping we see lots new great applications and tools from this release!


papersThe Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has created a public docket for declassified opinions.

The documents have been released through the efforts of providers like Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google, as well as advocacy groups like the ACLU and the EFF, who filed requests to publish the opinions and filings in the FISC. Since FISA was enacted, the FISC and FISA Court of Review have only released a handful of opinions. The public docket gives us insight into the secret activities of the courts and their litigants.

The docket includes the following cases:


Hobbs v. John, U.S. 7th Cir. (7/17/13)
Copyright, Entertainment & Sports Law

Hammer and SickleIn 1982 Hobbs was working as a photographer on a Russian cruise ship where he had a brief affair with a Russian waitress. Based on the experience, he wrote a song, “Natasha” about an ill-fated romance between a man from the U.K. and a Ukrainian woman. In 1983, he registered his copyright to “Natasha” in the United Kingdom and sent the song to several music publishers, including a company that published songs composed by Elton John and Bernard Taupin. Hobbs’s efforts to find a publisher for “Natasha” were unsuccessful. In 1985, Elton John released his very successful song, “Nikita,” in which a singer from “the west” describes his love for Nikita, whom the singer saw “by the wall” and who is on the other side of a “line” held in by “guns and gates.” Hobbs filed a copyright infringement claim 27 years later. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the songs were not substantially similar. The Copyright Act does not protect general ideas, such as a romance between a western man and a woman from behind the iron curtain, but only the particular expression of an idea.


Asiana WreckageAsiana Airlines announced today that it plans to sue a San Francisco television station for broadcasting incorrect and racially insensitive names of the pilots involved in the airplane crash earlier this month.

On Friday, KTVU-TV reported that the names of the pilots of the crash had been released, but the names read (and displayed) were bogus names that were akin to the names one might make up for a prank call.

According to the KTVU-TV report, the pilots were:

  • Captain Sum Ting Wong
  • Wi Tu Lo
  • Ho Lee Fuk
  • Bang Ding Ow

Surely upon reading these names aloud (let alone reading them critically), the anchor might have known something was amiss.

But does Asiana have the grounds to pursue a lawsuit?

Posted in: Legal News, Litigation


Cell TowerThe Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed for a writ of mandamus and prohibition in the Supreme Court of the United States yesterday, asking them to vacate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s Order requiring production of phone records for domestic customers of Verizon.

In the petition, the questions presented are (1) Whether the FISC exceeded its statutory authority under 50 USC §1861 to authorize foreign surveillance when it ordered Verizon to produce records for wholly domestic communications and (2) Whether EPIC is entitled to relief under 28 USC §1651(a) to vacate the order by the FISC.

28 USC §1651 is known as the All Writs Act, and it authorizes the Supreme Court to issue extraordinary writs in its discretion. EPIC argues that an extraordinary writ is appropriate because (1) the FISC exceeded its statutory authority in granting the order and (2) No other court may grant relief, due to the secretive, ex-parte nature of the FISC orders and opinions.


keyboardCalifornia’s Public Records Act survived a near miss last week. The EFF reports that the California legislature passed a bill last week that included a trailer to cut CPRA funding. The trailer bill would have made compliance with the CPRA optional for local governments.

Thanks to pressure from activists, the bill was replaced, and the CPRA language removed. But it’s still sitting on Gov. Brown’s desk.

California’s Public Records Act, codified at Cal. Gov. Code §6250 et seq. is a state version of the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It is designed to help citizens access the papers and records of state agencies. It covers all public records, defined in Cal. Gov. Code §6252 (e) as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” It also includes “Writings,” defined at §6252(g) as “any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.”