Articles Posted in Justia News

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Justia employees & supporters at Lambda Legal's San Francisco Soirée

Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest legal organization in the United States committed to achieving full civil equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, as well as those living with HIV. It is a nonprofit organization that aims to achieve positive change within these diverse communities through means such as impact litigation, education, and public policy advocacy.

On April 25, 2014, Lambda Legal held its annual San Francisco Soirée at City View at the Metreon in the heart of San Francisco. Justia had the honor of being a gold event sponsor this year and sent a contingent of employee representatives from our headquarters in Mountain View to be present at the event.

As a company that works with educational, public interest and other socially focused organizations to make legal materials and consumer resources free and easily accessible online, Justia’s sponsorship of the Lambda Legal San Francisco Soirée was a natural extension of a mission our company has been exemplifying since its inception. Many of our employees are lawyers or have an educational or professional background in law, as well as contribute to the various online public interest projects, legal aid, civil rights, and educational projects in which Justia is involved. Attending the Lambda Legal event as a sponsor offered us not only the opportunity to financially support an organization with a mission complementary to Justia’s but also to keep abreast of Lambda’s most recent advocacy work on behalf of LGBT individuals nationwide. Continue reading →

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The Supreme Court issued three opinions today. Read more about the decisions below.

Shelby County v. Eric H. Holder, Jr. 
Docket: 12-96
Date: June 25, 2012

Read commentary and review lower court decisions related to Shelby County decision here.

vote signJustia Opinion Summary:  The Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973(a), was enacted to address racial discrimination in voting. Section 2 bans any “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen … to vote on account of race or color,” applies nationwide, and is permanent. Other sections apply to some parts of the country. Section 4 defines “covered jurisdictions” as states or political subdivisions that maintained tests or devices as prerequisites to voting and had low voter registration or turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. Section 5 provides that no change in voting procedures can take effect in covered jurisdictions until approved by federal authorities (preclearance). The coverage formula and preclearance requirement were to expire after five years, but the Act was reauthorized. In 2006, the Act was reauthorized for an additional 25 years, but coverage still turned on whether a jurisdiction had a voting test and low registration or turnout almost 50 years ago. Shelby County, in the covered jurisdiction of Alabama, sought a declaratory judgment that sections 4(b) and 5 are facially unconstitutional. The district court upheld the Act. The D. C. Circuit affirmed. A 5-4 Supreme Court reversed, finding Section 4 unconstitutional. Its formula may not be used to require preclearance. States have broad autonomy in structuring their governments and pursuing legislative objectives; the Tenth Amendment reserves to states “the power to regulate elections.” There is a “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty” among the states. The Voting Rights Act departs from those principles by requiring states to request federal permission to implement laws that they would otherwise have the right to enact and execute. The Act applies to only nine states (and additional counties). In 1966, the departures were justified by racial discrimination that had “infected the electoral process in parts of our country for nearly a century” so that the coverage formula was rational in practice and theory. Nearly 50 years later, “things have changed dramatically.” Voter turnout and registration rates in covered jurisdictions approach parity; blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. Minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels. Congress, if it is to continue to divide the states, must identify jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense under current conditions. Data compiled by Congress before reauthorizing the Act did not show anything like the pervasive, rampant discrimination found in covered jurisdictions in 1965. Congress reenacted the formula based on 40-year-old facts with no logical relation to the present day.

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Dawson Farms v. Risk Management Agency, US 8th Cir. (11/7/12)
Agriculture Law, Government & Administrative Law

Dawson Farms challenged the RMA’s denial of its crop-insurance claim alleging loss due to “tuber rot” in stored potatoes. A final agency review affirmed the RMA’s denial of Dawson Farms’ claim, finding that the insurance adjuster’s sampling of the stored potatoes followed adequate sample procedures. Dawson Farms appealed the final agency decision to the district court, which affirmed. The court believed that, in light of the nature of the hearing officer’s finding under review, the deputy director’s statements made it reasonably discernable that the deputy director applied the correct legal standard and considered the record for the proper purpose of reviewing the hearing officer’s decision for substantial evidence. The hearing officer based his conclusion largely on the testimony of an expert in potato pathology. The court also believed that, to the extent the deputy director’s determination was a rejection of the hearing officer’s finding that the adjuster had a duty to re-sample, the issue under review was a question of law. Consequently, the court found no abuse of discretion or arbitrary and capricious action by the deputy director. Further, the agency determination was supported by substantial evidence.

Vance v. Rumsfeld, US 7th Cir. (11/7/12)
Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, International Trade, Military Law

American citizen-civilians, employees of a private Iraqi security services company, alleged that they were detained and tortured by U.S. military personnel while in Iraq in 2006, then released without being charged with a crime.  Plaintiffs sought damages and to recover seized personal property. The district court denied motions to dismiss. In 2011, the Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged Secretary Rumsfeld’s personal responsibility and that he is not entitled to qualified immunity. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that a common-law claim for damages should not be created. The Supreme Court has never created or even favorably mentioned a nonstatutory right of action for damages on account of conduct that occurred outside of the U.S. The Military Claims Act and the Foreign Claims Act indicate that Congress has decided that compensation should come from the Treasury rather than from federal employees and that plaintiffs do not need a common-law damages remedy in order to achieve some recompense.  Even such a remedy existed, Rumsfeld could not be held liable. He did not arrest plaintiffs, hold them incommunicado, refuse to speak with the FBI, subject them to loud noises, or threaten them while they wore hoods.

Read More:
Alleged torture victims can’t sue Rumsfeld, The Boston Globe (11/8/12) Continue reading →

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Apple, Inc. was hit with a patent infringement lawsuit Thursday (read it below) alleging that the company’s iPad 3 tablets and Macbook Pro computers violate four light emitting diode (LED) patents. The case was filed in in federal court in Delaware by claimed patent holder LED Tech Development LLC, a Delaware limited liability company based in Tyler, Texas, the city that is a patent litigator’s combat zone.

Each of the four infringement claims, the complaint charges, involve Apple “products utilizing pulse-width modulation signals to drive light-emitting diodes.” Apple’s newest iPad a/k/a the ‘iPad 3,’ and Macbook Pro are named specifically.
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The 2012 Law Via the Internet Conference at Cornell Law School has concluded, and the Justia attendees have headed back to sunny California. By every measure, I think the conference was a success. It stimulated thought and provoked discussion; it disseminated new ideas and revisited old ones; and it brought together a group of people with similar objectives and diverse experiences.

Here are some of my own thoughts and reactions:

  • Innovators in the legal field must collaborate and share their knowledge, discoveries, and experiences to achieve their goals because the law is, by its very nature, resistant to change or disruption.
  • We often use technology for silly purposes before—and sometimes well before—using it for nobler and more meaningful goals.
  • Generally we have to develop a product according to what its users want, even if that isn’t what we think they should want.
  • Ithaca is beautiful, cold, and very remote.

Although I, of course, am biased toward thinking that Justia’s own Tim Stanley had the most outstanding presentation, I was impressed with all of the people who presented at the sessions I attended. Richard Susskind and Clay Shirky—the two Justia-sponsored keynote speakers—invigorated the conference with their enthusiasm and vision, and I thought their presentations provided a theme and an energy that resurfaced continually throughout the various sessions of the conference.

Thanks to LVI 2012, I learned a great deal about the great work of my colleagues and peers, met some really inspiring people, and affirmed my own belief that the law should be freely available to all. Continue reading →

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Here is a summary of legal developments in five federal and state court cases last week that involved technology companies, or alleged activities by their users.

Samsung Cries Foul, Claiming Jury Foreman in Apple iPhone $1B+ Lawsuit Was Biased

In a motion filed last Tuesday, Samsung’s lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh to set aside the jury’s $1.05 billion iPhone lawsuit verdict in favor of Apple. They alleged that jury foreman and retired computer engineer Velvin Hogan failed to disclose that his former Silicon Valley employer Seagate Technology Inc. sued him in 1993, despite being asked by the judge whether he had been involved in any lawsuits.
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In a few days, several of us here at Justia will be traveling to “gorges” Ithaca, New York, to attend the 2012 Law Via the Internet Conference at Cornell Law School. The conference marks the 20th Anniversary of the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School, the Internet’s first legal website and the world’s leading online source for free legal information.

Since 1992, the LII has been committed to providing free and open access to the law—a mission aligned with Justia’s own mission to advance the availability of legal resources for the benefit of society.

With its opening reception on Sunday, October 7, the LII is welcoming to this global event nearly 300 advocates of open legal access from around the world.

Justia is sponsoring keynote speakers Richard Susskind, a legal technology innovator, and Clay Shirky, a social media visionary. These two keynote addresses will be livestreamed here.

Other speakers include include GovLoop.com founder Steve Ressler, legal information analyst David Curle, head of the United Nations project on Information Technology in Legislatures Gherardo Casini, GovTrack.us founder Joshua Tauberer, and Google Scholar founding engineer Anurag Acharya.

All of this in a mere two days.

The LII invites you to explore the conference website at lvi2012.org, and follow @LVI2012 on Twitter to keep up with the latest news and information.

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Tomorrow brings one of the most highly anticipated decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years: the ruling on the constitutionality of the health-care law that is arguably the crowning achievement of President Obama’s first term in office. Incidentally, tomorrow also marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of Verdict, Justia’s legal analysis and commentary site. Continue reading →

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We’ve got three picks from our writers this week – enjoy!

Don’t Even Think of Parking Here

Feloney v. Baye
Nebraska Supreme Court (6/1/12)

For several years, Michael Feloney used his neighbor Robert Baye’s driveway to turn his vehicle to enter his garage. Eventually Baye decided to build a retaining wall on his driveway, which prevented Feloney from using Baye’s driveway. Feloney sued Baye, requesting the district court to impose a prescriptive easement on Baye’s driveway for ingress and egress. The district court granted summary judgment for Baye, concluding (1) Feloney’s use of the driveway was permissive under the “unenclosed land” rule, which provides an exception to the rule presuming adverseness when the use is over unenclosed land; and (2) thus Feloney could not prove the elements required for a prescriptive easement. The Supreme Court affirmed but for different reasons, holding (1) the presumption of permissiveness arises when the land is unenclosed wilderness and does not apply in urban settings such as in this case; (2) when the owner of a property has opened or maintained a right of way for his own use and the claimant’s use appears to be in common with that use, the presumption arises that the use is permissive; and (3) Feloney’s use of Baye’s driveway was presumptively permissive under this rationale.
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