MoFo drafts Sandy handbook
By Erin Geiger Smith
Individuals still trying to rebuild their lives after
Superstorm Sandy swept through the Northeast in October can look
to a resource guide published by the law firm Morrison &
The handbook details which agencies handle different issues,
such as replacing lost income, providing housing assistance and
advising what mortgage and foreclosure relief options might be
The information is both on the firm's website and in hard
copy at the New York City Bar Association, in English, Spanish
and Chinese. This isn't the first time MoFo has gotten into
post-disaster information assistance. It has also drafted
handbooks in the wake of wildfires in Southern California,
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the attacks on New York and
Washington on Sept. 11.
Native American slave lawsuit can go ahead
By Caitlin Tremblay
Descendants of slaves owned by members of the Cherokee
Nation can sue the tribe's current chief to try to get back
their tribal membership, the Associated Press reports.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on
Friday overturned a lower court ruling, which had said the case
could not proceed because the tribe was not a defendant.
When slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865,
black men and women who were enslaved by the Cherokee tribe
became Cherokee Freedmen. In an 1866 treaty, former slaves were
granted full tribal rights. But in 2007 the Cherokee Nation
approved an amendment to its constitution stripping 2,800
descendants of freed slaves of their tribal membership. The
amendment said that all tribal citizens must have a Native
American ancestor listed on the Dawes Roll, a listing created in
1898 of members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and
The issue is now in two separate federal courts, one in
Washington and the other in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the case was
originally filed. The Obama administration has intervened in the
Tulsa case, saying the 1866 treaty should remain in effect for
the descendants of those freed slaves.
U.S. files motion to dismiss al-Awlaki lawsuit
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
Lawyers for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other U.S.
officials have asked a federal court in Washington to dismiss a lawsuit against them over the deaths of three U.S. citizens
killed in Yemen by drone strikes last year. The Justice
Department, in its motion to dismiss, has argued that the
necessity for the strikes and the viability of any alternatives
is a question beyond the court's power of judicial review,
The lawsuit, filed in July by relatives of the deceased,
alleges that the U.S. strikes violated basic legal guarantees,
including the right to due process. According to the lawsuit, in
September 2011 Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born al Qaeda operative,
and Samir Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was working for
an al Qaeda magazine in Yemen, were both killed by a drone
strike. A month later, al-Awlaki's son, a U.S.-born 16-year-old,
was a collateral casualty of a strike aimed at an Egyptian named
The Justice Department has now argued that while the
executive branch's power to use force against its citizens is
governed by due process principles, the courts do not have the
power to question how these limits are enforced. The ACLU and
the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represent the
plaintiffs, issued a statement in response: "The essence of the
government's argument is that it has the authority to kill
Americans not only in secret, but also without ever having to
justify its actions under the Constitution in any courtroom."
United for Netscape, divided over Google
By Erin Geiger Smith
Two lawyers who represented Netscape in its antitrust
charges against Microsoft now find themselves on opposite sides
of Google's anti-competition battles, The New York Times reports.
As some of you will recall, the federal government filed a
landmark lawsuit against Microsoft in 1998. Its investigation
into Microsoft got started after two attorneys representing
Netscape, Gary Rebak and Susan Creighton, authored a
200-plus-page paper detailing how they believed the software
giant was unfairly stifling competition.
Now Rebak of Carr & Ferrell in Silicon Valley, California,
represents several companies who feel Google isn't playing
fairly and is preventing young companies from flourishing. He
said Google's use of its search engine to favor its own online
offerings is "an instant replay of the Microsoft case."
But Creighton has an entirely different position. She is a
partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Washington, where
she represents Google and has testified to Congress that the
company "has consistently enhanced consumer welfare by
increasing the services available to consumers."
Rebak and Creighton do still have one thing in common --
both are playing a waiting game to see whether the Federal Trade
Commission will bring charges against Google for its search
practices. Reuters reported last week that the commission is
likely to take a little more time to announce conclusions to its
investigation, which has now dragged on for more than a year.
Not so privileged
By Erin Geiger Smith
Nearly everyone knows, courtesy of "Law & Order,"
communications between spouses usually fall within the marital
communications privilege. But does that include emails a
husband sends his wife from his work computer?
Baker & Hostetler's Discovery Advocate blog highlights a
Thursday decision on the question from a three-judge panel of
the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling dealt with the
case of Philip Hamilton, who was convicted of bribery, based in
part on messages he emailed his wife from a computer at a public
school where he was a consultant. Hamilton argued that the
emails shouldn't have been allowed into evidence.
The 4th Circuit panel disagreed, ruling that the email
communications were not privileged because they were stored on a
workplace computer and the school's workplace policy stated that
employees should have "no expectation of privacy" in the use of
their email. The panel cited a 1934 Supreme Court case which
ruled the marital privilege did not apply because the husband
had a stenographer take down the message to his wife.
On appeal, Hamilton and his amici supporters are likely to
say the opinion seems out of date with the modern mailing world,
points out the blog's author, Gil Keteltas. Nor is it only
husbands and wives who might need to think about a privilege
waiver, he says. If a company's outside director checks
privileged email from his work computer at his day job, there's
a chance it could later be subject to discovery, according to
Summary Judgments for December 14
Summary Judgments for December 13
Summary Judgments for December 12
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook