Trick or mistreat?
By Rebecca Hamilton
Five registered sex offenders filed suit in a California
federal court on Friday, arguing that restrictions placed on
them for Halloween violated their free speech rights.
The suit follows a decision by Simi Valley to ban sex
offenders from putting up holiday displays and outside lighting
during the trick-or-treat fest. The restrictions also require
sex offenders to display a sign on their front doors saying that
no candy will be handed out, according to The Ventura County Star.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the lawyer for the sex
offenders, Janice Belluci, said the requirement was similar to
branding: "We can think of what happened in Nazi Germany, where
Jews had to appear in public wearing yellow stars."
California is not the only place where Halloween spurs
heightened concerns about sex offenders. An annual Operation Candy Cane in New York involves state parole officers visiting
registered sex offenders on Halloween to check they have not
violated a curfew requiring them to stay home and open the door
only to law enforcement officers.
Birth control provision upheld
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A St Louis federal judge has dismissed a challenge to the
healthcare law's mandate that employees offer contraception
coverage, the first decision on the merits of the provision,
according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In a ruling on Sept.
28, U.S. District Judge Carole Jackson held that the mandate is
constitutionally valid and does not infringe the First Amendment
freedom to practice religion.
Frank O'Brien, a devout Catholic and owner of O'Brien
Industrial Holdings, a St Louis-based mining company, filed the
action in March, claiming the law's requirement that employers
offer health plans covering birth control violated his religious
beliefs. (The company has a statue of Jesus in its main lobby
and its statement of values includes references to the Ten
Commandments.) The suit, according to the Post-Dispatch, said
the contraception mandate forces the company to make a choice
between complying with the law or facing "ruinous fines that
would have a crippling impact on their ability to survive
But the judge disagreed and held that the mandate does not
represent a substantial burden on an employer's ability to
practice religion. "Frank O'Brien is not prevented from keeping
the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his
children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as
communion," wrote Jackson.
By Rebecca Hamilton
The 300th prisoner nationwide to be exonerated on the basis
of DNA evidence was released from a Louisiana prison on Friday.
(Hat tip: ABA Journal.)
Death row inmate Damon Thibodeaux falsely confessed to the
rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin back in 1996.
Since being incarcerated, Thibodeaux spent up to 23 hours a day
in solitary confinement, according to The Washington Post.
Though the inmate appealed his conviction in 1999 -- on the
grounds that his confession was coerced during a nine-hour
investigation -- it took a reinvestigation that involved DNA
testing, initiated in 2007, for Thibodeauxto convince the court
he was innocent.
His release comes as a Connecticut state appeals court on
Monday ordered a new trial of another man who confessed to rape
and murder back in 1989.
Richard Lapointe, a mentally disabled man, confessed after
police tricked him into believing they had evidence against him,
according to a report on National Public Radio. "If the evidence
shows I was there, and that I killed her, then I killed her, but
I don't remember being there," he told police.
The decision to order a new trial for Lapointe was not made
on the basis of DNA evidence but because the court found that
prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have
exonerated him. Like Thibodeaux's case, Lapointe's suggests that
innocent people sometimes do confess to serious crimes, a
phenomenon that most experts used to think did not happen.
By Caitlin Tremblay
Rapper and fashion enthusiast Kanye West is being sued --
again -- this time for allegedly using a song sample without
permission, according to Billboard (hat tip: Spin).
Kanye's label, Roc-A-Fella, paid a $62,500 license fee to
use a part of blues singer Eddie Bo's "Hook and Sling, Part I"
in two tracks on Kanye's No. 1 album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted
Fantasy": "Who Will Survive in America?" and "Lost in the
World." However, TufAmerica, the label that owns the rights to
"Hook and Sling," says the sample was used further without
permission. TufAmerica claims Kanye and Roc-A-Fella "failed and
refused to enter into written license agreements that accounted
for their multiple other uses" of the song, which include a
music video for "Lost in the World" and Kanye's short film for
his song "Runaway."
The label is seeking damages for an undisclosed amount. The
suit was filed in federal court in Manhattan and also named
Roc-A-Fella parent company Universal Music Group as a defendant.
In May, TufAmerica lodged a similar suit against the Beastie
Boys for sampling Trouble Funk songs on their albums "License to
Ill" and "Paul's Boutique." Universal was also named in that
By Rebecca Hamilton
Internet start-ups might be a high-risk investment,
including for the law firms that take them on as clients, but
they can also be high-reward if the company takes off -- which
is why Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is bending over
backwards to snag the business, reports The New York Times' Dealbook.
In addition to its trendy San Francisco location and an
office that Dealbook describes as having "all the markings of a
start-up," Wilson Sonsini has regular meet-and-greets with
start-ups and provides free standardized legal documents.
Partner Yoichiro Taku even runs a blog, http://www.startupcompanylawyer.com/,
that provides free legal guidance to newbies in the Internet
field. " opefully, when these start-ups need a lawyer, they
think of us," one of the Wilson Sonsini lawyers told Dealbook.
By Dan Brillman
The Federal Circuit appeals court was born 30 years ago in
part to streamline patent cases scattered across different
appeals courts with inconsistent levels of expertise. But is
patent litigation any less chaotic than it was in 1982?
Author Timothy Lee says no. In an essay for Ars Techica
entitled "How a rogue appeals court wrecked the patent system,"
Lee writes that the Federal Circuit court has favored patent
holders, particularly in software cases, and, in doing so, has
spurred an unprecedented age of patent trolls, patent fights and
a bottomless pit of Silicon Valley money to support it all.
How did this happen, given that the U.S. Supreme Court had
previously held that software can't be patented, which would
naturally limit patent litigation? According to Lee, a pivotal
decision was the Federal Circuit's 1998 ruling in State Street
Bank v. Signature Financial, which held that business methods
and strategies are patentable, even if the software they produce
isn't. The opinion provided an end run around Supreme Court
precedent and helped spur the patent litigation boom, says Lee.
As proof he points to Microsoft, which in the 1980s received
only five patents. In the 1990s, the software pioneer received
1,116; and a decade later, 12,330.
Instead of simply overseeing the business community, the
Federal Circuit began to identify with it, says Lee, who also
theorizes that earlier rules, which were more skeptical of
patent holders' claims, would have kept patent law as a "legal
backwater," and judges wanted a higher profile for themselves
and their court.
It's an interesting read, given the shock wave of Apple's
recent 10-digit win over Samsung and all the appeals and
counter-litigation certain to follow.
Summary Judgments for October 1
Summary Judgments for September 28
Summary Judgments for September 27
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