Articles Posted in 2013


As I’ve been perusing the news, blogs, and social networks discussing various aspects of the government crisis in which we are currently mired, I have noticed that many people use “shutdown” and “shut down” interchangeably (or use one variation exclusively—to their detriment). I thought I would elucidate readers.

“Shutdown” is generally a noun.

  • “The government shutdown affects us in many ways.”

Posted in: Other
Tagged: grammar

IMO Advisory Letter No. 3-11 and Opinion No. 12-08 of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities, New Jersey Supreme Court (9/19/13)
In this appeal, the Supreme Court held that a judge’s acting and comedy career is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore he may not serve as a municipal court judge while continuing with that career.

Read More: Municipal judge resigns after top state court says he can’t moonlight as stand-up comic

United States v. Melvin, US 1st Cir. (9/17/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Defendant was indicted on a single count of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. That same day, law enforcement officers interviewed Defendant at a proffer session, which was held pursuant to a written proffer agreement. The government promised Defendant it would not use against him any “statements made or other information” disclosed at the proffer session. After the proffer session failed, Defendant proceeded to trial. Despite its earlier assurances, the government presented at trial voice identification testimony from a police officer based on what the officer had heard at the proffer session. The testimony linked Defendant to an incriminating recorded telephone conversation. The jury found Defendant guilty. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction, holding (1) admission of the testimony violated the proffer agreement and Defendant’s due process rights; and (2) the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Remanded.

In re:  Miller, US 3rd Cir. (9/16/13)
Bankruptcy, Legal Ethics

The Millers retained Ettinger in 2008 to represent them in a landlord/tenant dispute. Over 23 months, Ettinger billed $43,000. The dispute settled for $9,500. The Millers paid Ettinger $20,000, but even before the landlord-tenant matter settled, Ettinger sought relief in Pennsylvania state court to accelerate the speed at which he was paid. He petitioned to withdraw as a counsel, first based on alleged failure to pay and then due to professed “lack of cooperation.” Both petitions were rejected, though the Millers were ordered to make “good faith” payments. Despite their continued payments, Ettinger sued the Millers, who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection the following month. Ettinger filed an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court to prevent discharge of the Millers’ remaining debt to him, alleging fraud. The Bankruptcy Court rejected the complaint and imposed a $20,000 sanction against Ettinger jointly with his attorney. The district court vacated on the ground that the sanctions violated the “safe harbor” requirements of Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9011, which requires 21 days between serving and filing a sanctions motion, during which period the challenged conduct may be remedied, but refused to remand for further consideration. The Third Circuit remanded with instructions to permit the Bankruptcy Court to consider alternative avenues to impose sanctions.

Posted in: Legal Research

Seaton v. TripAdvisor,  US 6th Cir. (8/28/13)
Communications Law, Constitutional Law, Injury Law, Internet Law

broomGrand Resort, which has operated in the Great Smoky Mountains since 1982, claims that TripAdvisor’s publication of a survey that concluded that Grand Resort was the dirtiest hotel in America caused irreparable damage to its business and that TripAdvisor used a flawed rating system that distorted actual performance and perspective. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the “dirtiest hotels” list is protected opinion; it reflects TripAdvisor’s users’ subjective opinions and is not capable of being defamatory. The court rejected a motion to amend to add claims of trade libel-injurious falsehood and tortious interference with prospective business relationships to the claims of false light-invasion of privacy and of defamation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that amendment of the complaint would be futile.


caduceusIn a recent filing, EveryMD LLC—perhaps best known for its (in)famous lawsuit against Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and approximately four million Facebook business account holders—is suing Facebook for allegedly infringing on its patent on its system for online communication that underlies its model for allowing patients to email doctors directly. According to the complaint, the patent at issue is U.S. Patent No. 8,499,047, entitled “Method, apparatus and business system for online communication with online and offline recipients.”

According to the website:

EveryMD’s Doctor E-Mailer service is a unique, free, patent-pending system that allows your office to receive online prescription refill requests and requests for scheduling appointments from patients on your office’s existing fax machine.

Posted in: Patent, Technology

Shore v. Maple Lane Farms, LLC, Tennessee Supreme Court (8/19/13)
Agriculture Law, Injury Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use

Certain amplified music concerts were conducted on farm land in a rural county. The county board of zoning appeals later ordered the business owners who hosted the concerts to limit the concerts to one per year, but the business owners defied the order. Plaintiff, a neighborhood property owner, filed suit seeking to enforce the zoning authority’s decision and to abate the concerts as a common-law nuisance. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding (1) the concerts were exempted from local land use regulations because they qualified as “agriculture”; and (2) the Tennessee Right to Farm Act (Act) precluded nuisance liability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the concerts were not “agriculture” for the purpose of the zoning laws; and (2) the Act did not apply to the music concerts, and Plaintiff presented a prima facie case of common-law nuisance. Remanded

Read More: State high court: Music festivals on farms not shielded from nuisance complaints

Balintulo v. Daimler AG, US 2nd Cir. (8/21/13)
Class Action, Injury Law, International Law

Plaintiffs filed putative class-action suits over ten years ago under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, on behalf of those harmed by the South African legal regime known as “apartheid.” Plaintiffs asserted that defendants aided and abetted violations of customary international law committed by the South African government by selling cars and computers to the South African government. Defendants petitioned for mandamus relief. The court concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., issuance of the writ was unnecessary in this case because defendants have an adequate means of relief through a motion for judgment on the pleadings; plaintiffs’ arguments that Kiobel did not apply where defendants were American citizens, or where the case involved American interests, were without merit; and, because the Kiobel decision plainly foreclosed plaintiffs’ claims as a matter of law, the court need not consider whether defendants have asserted a valid basis for “collateral order” jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for mandamus relief and vacated the stay placed by the court on proceedings in the district court.

Read More: High Court Decision Cited in Rejection of Apartheid Liability


Seltzer v. Green Day, Inc., et al., US 9th Cir. (8/7/13)
Copyright, Intellectual Property, Trademark

Plaintiff filed suit against Green Day and others, alleging violations of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., aCopyright Symbolnd the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., because Green Day used plaintiff’s illustration, “Scream Icon,” in the video backdrop of its stage show. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Green Day on all claims and the grant of attorney’s fees to Green Day under the Copyright Act. The court concluded that Green Day’s use of the illustration was fair use under the Copyright Act where the purpose and character of the use was transformative and not overly commercial; the nature of the work included its status as a widely disseminated work of street art; Green Day’s use of the work was not excessive in light of its transformative purpose; and Green Day’s use did not affect the value of the piece or of plaintiff’s artwork in general. In regards to plaintiff’s claims under the Lanham Act, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish any trademark rights. The court concluded, however, that the district court clearly erred in finding that plaintiff’s claims were objectively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment but vacated the award of attorneys fees.

Read More: Green Day not liable for using artist’s work at concerts

Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Connor Grp., US 6th Cir. (8/5/13)
Civil Rights, Landlord-Tenant, Zoning, Planning & Land Use

Connor Group owns and manages about 15,000 rental units throughout the U.S., including about 1,900 in the Dayton area. Its rental agent posted an ad on Craigslist: 599/1br – Great Bachelor Pad! (Centerville) … Our one bedroom apartments are a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up. This apartment includes a large bedroom, walk in closet, patio, gourmet kitchen, washer dryer hook up and so much more….  A fair-housing organization sued, charging violation of the Fair Housing Act’s section 3604(c) and Ohio’s Revised Code section 4112.02(H)(7), claiming that the bachelor pad ad was facially discriminatory to families and women. The court provided a jury instruction that “The question is not whether the particular advertisement discourages some potential renters from applying … but whether such discouragement is the product of any discriminatory statement or indication in the advertisement. If an ordinary reader who is a member of a protected class would be discouraged from answering the advertisement because of some discriminatory statement or indication contained therein, then the fair housing laws have been violated.” The trial court ruled in favor of the landlord. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial based on the erroneous instruction.

Read More: Ohio fair housing group gets new trial in discrimination suit over ‘bachelor pad’ apartment ad


Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc., US 9th Cir. (7/31/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Consumer Law, Entertainment & Sports Law, Intellectual Property, Trademark

Football ConceptRetired Hall of Fame football player, James “Jim” Brown, filed suit against EA, alleging that EA violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), through the use of Brown’s likeness in EA’s “Madden NFL” series of football video games. The court rejected the “likelihood of confusion” test and the “alternative means” test, concluding that the only relevant legal framework for balancing the public’s right to be free from consumer confusion about Brown’s affiliation with “Madden NFL” and EA’s First Amendment rights in the context of Brown’s section 43(a) claim was the Rogers v. Grimaldi test. Applying the Rogers test, the court concluded that the use of Brown’s likeness was artistically relevant to the “Madden NFL” games and that there were no alleged facts to support the claim that EA explicitly mislead consumers as to Brown’s involvement with the games. In this case, the public interest in free expression outweighed the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of EA’s motion to dismiss.

NCAA Licensing Litigation, US 9th Cir. (7/31/13)
Civil Rights, Class Action, Constitutional Law, Consumer Law, Entertainment & Sports Law, Intellectual Property, Trademark

Former starting quarterback for Arizona State University, Samuel Keller, filed a putative class action suit against EA, alleging that EA violated his right of publicity under California Civil Code 3344 and California common law by using Keller’s likeness as part of the “NCAA Football” video game series. EA moved to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. The court concluded that EA could not prevail as a matter of law based on the transformative use defense where EA’s use did not qualify for First Amendment protection because it literally recreated Keller in the very setting in which he had achieved renown. The court also concluded that, although there was some overlap between the transformative use test and the Rogers v. Grimaldi test, the Rogers test should not be imported wholesale to the right-of-publicity claims. Finally, the court concluded that state law defenses for reporting of information did not protect EA’s use. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion to strike the complaint.

Read More: Ninth Circuit Sides With Athletes in EA Video Games Case


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!