Exile on Pennsylvania Avenue
By Anna Louie Sussman
Can U.S. citizens be banished from states? Probably not, even though a Washington judge issued such an order to a man who was arrested for climbing a tree near the Capitol as part of a protest during President Barack Obama's inauguration.
Rives Miller Grogan was exiled from Washington on Tuesday under laws that require city authorities to "preserve the peace and secure the Capitol from defacement," according to Slate. But the site doubts such a ban is constitutional.
A few states still have banishment laws on the books, but 16 specifically prohibit it, says Slate. Appeals courts have tended to overturn exile sentences.
There are a few reasons to oppose banishment, the story notes. It prohibits freedom of movement, is cruel and unusual and could result in states attempting to use their neighbors as penal colonies to dodge imprisonment costs. That function would harken back to banishment's roots and America's onetime status as a premiere destination for Great Britain's undesirables.
By Caitlin Tremblay
Popular dating website Match.com is being sued for $10 million for failing to disclose the potential dangers of online dating, according to the Associated Press. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas by Mary Kay Beckman, who was brutally attacked by a man she was matched with on the site.
According to the lawsuit, filed last week, in 2010 Beckman broke up with Wade Ridley just eight days after meeting him. Four months later he hid in her garage and stabbed her 10 times. Beckman says she has undergone several surgeries to fix her jaw, preserve her eyesight and replace part of her skull with a “synthetic component.”
Ridley was later charged with murdering a woman in Phoenix. Last year he committed suicide while in jail.
Match.com, which settled a previous lawsuit with a member who says she was sexually assaulted, said the lawsuit has no legal basis. In a statement it said that Beckman’s experience was terrible but the lawsuit is “absurd.” The dating site said she was a victim of a “sick, twisted” man with no known criminal record.
By Anna Louie Sussman
The Catholic Church has long advocated that a fetus is an “unborn person,” on the basis of the church’s spiritual teachings, which define life as beginning at conception. But in an unusual twist, a Catholic health company being sued for the wrongful death of two fetuses is arguing that only individuals born alive are persons, the Colorado Independent reports.
Lori Stodghill, a 31-year-old mother pregnant with twins, died after her doctor at St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado, failed to respond to an emergency page while on call that evening. Stodghill’s husband, Jeremy, sued Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs St. Thomas More and about 170 other facilities in 17 states, for the wrongful deaths of the twins, who likely could have been saved by an emergency C-section, according to the Independent. The procedure probably would not have saved the mother, experts said.
Two judges have so far ruled in Catholic Health’s favor. The Colorado Supreme Court will decide in the next few weeks whether to take the case, according to newspaper.
Pay for delay
By Dan Brillman
A new deal passed by the House earlier this week establishes an April 15 deadline for passage of a budget resolution. If there is no bill by then, representatives wouldn’t get paid until a measure is passed or until January 2015, when the next Congress is elected and sworn in.
NBC News takes a look at whether a congressional pay-freeze provision -- intended as leverage to get the deal done -- is constitutional. Under the 27th Amendment, senators and representatives can vote for pay raises, but the raises can’t go into effect until the following class of legislators is elected and seated. The exact wording bars laws “varying the compensation for the services of senators and representatives.”
Does the bill, which essentially freezes the money in escrow, violate the amendment? It depends on what the meaning of the word “vary” is. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) says the bill is kosher because the pay amount will not change, which is all the amendment refers to.
University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin disagrees, telling NBC that freezing the money absolutely varies its worth “because there is a time value to money. Anyone who gets a salary would think it a very material change in the terms if the money were escrowed … instead of being made available to pay the mortgage.”
The details of the amendment, ratified in 1992, have never been argued before the Supreme Court.
Do a little dance
By Anna Louie Sussman
The six-year battle around a Youtube video featuring a baby dancing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy” looks like it may finally go to a jury, since the two sides can’t settle, Ars Technica reports.
The case began in 2007 when Stephanie Lenz uploaded a video of her son Holden to YouTube, which prompted Universal Music Group to request the video’s removal. Lenz turned to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights, to argue that the takedown was illegal. The foundation sued, claiming that the video’s “self-evident fair use” of the song did not violate the Digital Copyright Millennium Act. Universal has argued the case should be thrown out without a trial.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel didn’t buy the argument of either side. Instead, he said, Lenz and Universal must argue over damages of $1,275 (mostly a few hours of the EFF lawyer’s time) in front of a jury.
Ars Technica points out that the long-fought battle has even less at stake than it might appear. “Today's order further limits damages, finding that Lenz can't collect any damages for her temporary loss of YouTube's hosting service (it was free anyhow), nor for having her free speech rights ‘chilled,’" the site notes.
End of an era
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
In what art experts say could be the last great Holocaust-era art restitution case, a Californian real estate developer is seeking the return of artworks valued at $100 million, the Los Angeles Times reports (hat-tip: Opinio Juris). David de Csepel of Altadenz claims more than 40 artworks were stolen from his great grandfather, Jewish banker Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, by the Nazis, in cahoots with Hungarians, during World War II. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington heard brief oral arguments in the case, in which de Csepel argued that Hungarian courts failed to return the paintings or compensate Herzog’s relatives for a collection that included works by Monet and El Greco.
De Csepel first filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the government of Hungary, three of its museums and a university, demanding that the stolen artworks be returned, the LA Times reported at the time. De Csepel argued that Hungary can be sued in U.S. courts under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Hungary argued that the U.S. courts have no jurisdiction and that the case should either be heard in Hungarian courts or the International Court of Justice. A federal judge in 2011 allowed the lawsuit to continue except for 11 of the artworks, which were apparently a subject of a prior settlement before Hungarian courts. Both Hungary’s lawyers and de Csepel filed counter appeals, which are currently being heard.
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