Archive for the ‘legal’ tag
Is this weird or what?
The governments of the world are dragging their feet, so good for these citizen activists.
Global warming is already disrupting the planet’s weather. Now it is having an impact on the courts, as well, as adults and children around the world try to enlist the judiciary in their efforts to blunt climate change.
In the United States, an environmental law nonprofit is suing the federal government on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs. Individuals in Pakistan and New Zealand have sued to force their governments to take stronger action to fight climate change. A farmer in Peru has sued a giant German energy utility over its part in causing global warming.
And while the arguments can be unconventional and surprising, some of the suits are making progress.
Last month, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon startled many legal experts by allowing the lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 teenagers and children to go forward, despite motions from the Obama administration and fossil fuel companies to dismiss it; the suit would force the government to take more aggressive action against climate change. The ruling by the magistrate judge, Thomas M. Coffin, now goes to Federal District Court to be accepted or rejected.
(click here to continue reading In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments – The New York Times.)
Briefly, since we marveled at this ridiculous lawsuit recently, the iPod DRM Class Action litigation lost in front of a jury:
A jury ruled in favor of Apple Inc. on Tuesday in a class-action lawsuit that accused the technology giant of violating antitrust laws by suppressing competition for its iPod music players.
After deliberating for only a few hours, an eight-person jury in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., found that Apple’s iTunes 7.0 was a genuine product improvement, and therefore not a violation of antitrust laws. The decision was unanimous.
The plaintiffs had said Apple made changes to its iTunes music service so that iPods wouldn’t operate with other companies’ products, driving up the cost of the devices. The plaintiffs, representing an alleged eight million harmed consumers, were seeking $350 million in damages, which could have been tripled under antitrust laws.
(click here to continue reading Apple Wins iPod Antitrust Trial – WSJ.)
Another amusing part of this trial was that the original plaintiffs were thrown out since they didn’t even own iPods during the time in question. Embarrassing for the plaintiffs’ legal team, and a ridiculous waste of the court’s docket…
The lawyers fighting Apple in a class-action lawsuit involving iPods have managed to do a few remarkable things: They persuaded a judge to bring a decade-old lawsuit to trial here last week, for one. They even managed to drag the famous Steve Jobs into giving a videotaped testimony shortly before he died three years ago.
But they have one big problem: Their case has no plaintiff.
A federal judge on Monday disqualified the only remaining plaintiff in the case, Marianna Rosen of New Jersey, after Apple’s lawyers successfully argued that she did not even buy any iPods for which she is seeking damages.
The judge appeared annoyed about the discrepancies with Ms. Rosen’s iPods and scolded the plaintiff lawyers for failing to do their homework. Another plaintiff in the case dropped out last week.
Last week, Ms. Rosen testified that she had bought two iPods: an iPod Nano in the fall of 2007 and an iPod Touch in December 2008. Apple’s lawyer asked whether Ms. Rosen kept receipts for her purchases. Ms. Rosen said she probably did not have the paper receipts, but later said her iPod Touch was in her bag.
Apple’s lawyers looked up the serial number of Ms. Rosen’s iPod Touch and found records showing it was bought in July 2009. The class action seeks damages for iPods bought from September 2006 to March 2009. So this iPod Touch missed the cutoff.
Apple’s lawyers last Wednesday pointed out the discrepancy about Ms. Rosen’s iPod Touch in a letter to the judge. They also raised similar concerns about the second plaintiff’s iPod purchases. On Friday, the second plaintiff dropped out of the case, leaving Ms. Rosen as the lone plaintiff.
Ms. Rosen’s lawyers then provided Apple a receipt showing two iPod purchases made in September 2008. But Apple pulled up its copy of the receipt for those iPods, which indicated they were bought by the Rosen Law Firm, the firm owned by Ms. Rosen’s husband. Apple’s lawyers argued that these were not iPods bought directly by Ms. Rosen, and therefore she could not claim injury.
(click here to continue reading Setback for iPod Class-Action Lawsuit as Sole Plaintiff Is Disqualified – NYTimes.com.)
Just ridiculous from the beginning. Speaking as a consumer who owned an iPod during this time, and could prove it, the litigation is (was?) groundless – I played music from many sources on my iPod without issue. And it would be like suing a CD manufacturer because some moron bought an 8-track tape and stuck it in a CD player, and the 8-track didn’t play. Is it the responsibility of the CD manufacturer to play every kind of music format ever created? No, this case was a joke.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd should lose their license to practice law…
Bonney Sweeney, the antitrust attorney at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd who claims to represent the interests of 8 million aggrieved Apple customers, now represents nobody but a roomful of lawyers.
On Monday, Sweeney lost her last plaintiff, a resident of New Jersey named Marianna Rosen. It turns out the “supracompetitive” price Rosen claims to have paid in 2008 for an iPod (“greater than she would have paid, but for the antitrust violations alleged herein”) was charged to her law firm’s credit card.
(click here to continue reading How dumb is this Apple iPod antitrust suit?.)
Especially since this is their second bite of the apple…
After a judge rejected Version 1.0 of the lawsuit, CNET says, lawyers changed their tune to accuse Apple of making software updates that kept rival music stores off the iTunes platform.
This is typical in class-action land. As with any repeated game, class-action lawyers are a well-defined group of players who must establish a reputation for fighting hard in every case and racking up as much expenses on the defense side as they can, in order to induce companies to come to the settlement table. That’s where they make their money, and the convenient fiction that they are suing on behalf of consumers collapses as they get down to the real negotiations, which are over the fee they will be paid without any objections from their supposed opponents across the table.
But for the whole process to work, they still need clients. And those clients must have a case. Defense lawyers have slowly but steadily woken up to the fact that those clients often come with baggage — Bill Lerach, the founder of the predecessor to Robbins Geller, went to jail for paying his clients to appear in securities class actions — and they are digging into their backgrounds to find out if they can even serve as plaintiffs. This must strike some plaintiff lawyers as strange, since everybody knows the “client” is just a vehicle for assembling a case that often is already loaded in their computer, ready to be filed. But it’s the law
(click here to continue reading Whoops! No Plaintiff! Apple Tells Court iPod Owner Isn’t In Class She Represents.)
The current case involving iPods is complex, having evolved significantly since the original January 2005 filing. The suit initially alleged that Apple broke the law by restricting owners of its iPod to songs purchased only through iTunes. A court deemed that legal, however, and the plaintiffs have since altered the suit, alleging instead that Apple made a series of software updates to iTunes specifically designed to shut out competing music stores’ ability to load their songs onto iPods.
The case will aim to determine what effect Apple’s FairPlay technology — a so-called digital rights management tool that acts like a watermark made of code — had on the market for MP3 players when it restricted iPod owners to iTunes and how to interpret Apple’s behavior in protecting FairPlay using software updates. Apple refused to license FairPlay to competing music stores and would not allow other MP3 players to connect to iTunes.
Apple’s Isaacson says the iTunes 7.0 and 7.4 updates were designed to improve security and purposefully keep third parties like RealNetworks, which Apple still considers a hacker, out of its system. “Harmony was outdated when FairPlay was updated. All Apple was doing was updating FairPlay,” he said. “That’s what happens when you reverse engineer the product and there’s an update of that architecture.”
Neither RealNetworks nor any of the retailers named in the suit, including Best Buy and Walmart, have filed suits of their own. RealNetworks executives will not appear as witnesses.
(click here to continue reading Apple misled iPod owners, plaintiffs allege at class action trial – CNET.)
Have you noticed those newish stop signs at crosswalks? Cars apparently keep running them over…
The stop signs have been installed citywide at 220 locations since mid-2012 to increase compliance with a 2010 state law requiring drivers to stop whenever a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk.
The law amended a previously existing law, which safety officials considered vague, requiring drivers only to yield to pedestrians. It also applies to all intersections across Illinois, sign or no sign.
More than 3,000 accidents and an average of 30 pedestrian deaths a year in the city are caused by vehicles hitting people, according to the Chicago Police Department. This year’s death toll is 29, authorities said Friday.
Chicago police officers issued 1,933 tickets to drivers who violated the must-stop law during 86 enforcement stings this year at intersections where pedestrian crashes have occurred or where the public has complained about drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, police said Friday.
In the enforcement operations, a plainclothes officer attempts to cross at a crosswalk. Drivers who fail to stop are pursued by squad cars and issued $120 tickets.
(click here to continue reading Most stop-for-pedestrian signs hit by cars, city data shows – Chicago Tribune.)
To be honest, I missed the fact that this law has changed. And when I’m a pedestrian, I think most Chicago drivers missed that the law changed too…
Seriously, if the police start really enforcing this law, they could easily do nothing but write tickets all day and all night. Many cars speed up if you step foot in a crosswalk, few slow down, fewer stop. I walk the city streets a lot, in many different neighborhoods, in my quest to photograph everything interesting at least once, and I can count the times a car stopped for me in a crosswalk on my left hand. Not many times, in other words.
Sympathy for the Devil
The Christian Taliban has infiltrated everywhere, including the Supreme Court, as evidenced by this discussion regarding The Town of Greece vs. Galloway…
Standing before the court, the residents’ lawyer, Douglas Laycock, suggested that a nonsectarian prayer would be satisfactory. Justice Alito wasn’t so sure.
“How could you do it?” Justice Alito asked. “Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … Wiccans, Baha’i.”
“And atheists,” Justice Antonin Scalia added. “Throw in atheists, too.”
Mr. Laycock reminded the justices that atheists were already out of luck based on the court’s prior decisions. Then, riffling through his documents, he suggested, “The prayers to the Almighty, prayers to the Creator.”
“To ‘the Almighty,’” Justice Alito said skeptically. “So if — if a particular religion believes in more than one god, that’s acceptable to them?”
Justice Scalia, often impatient in religion cases, couldn’t resist. “What about devil worshipers?”
Over the laughter of the courtroom, Mr. Laycock said meekly, “Well, if devil worshipers believe the devil is the almighty, they might be okay. But they’re probably out.”
And so it went, the justices trying in vain to determine what sort of prayer, if any, would be sufficiently nonsectarian, and who should be responsible for making that determination. None of them seemed to relish the idea of playing at prayer editor.
As the argument progressed it was increasingly difficult to discern any grounds on which to justify legislative prayer other than the fact that it’s something we’ve always done — which was the basis for the court’s ruling upholding such a prayer in the Nebraska legislature in 1983, when it last considered the question.
(click here to continue reading Sympathy for the Devil Worshipers? – NYTimes.com.)
Dance of the Devil Corn
and the only real solution that comports with our secular Constitution: don’t allow government sanctioned prayers at all! Why is this a difficult concept?
But there is an alternative to “eliminating” prayer — a moment of silence, which is what the town of Greece did for years without complaint. It allows everyone to pray exactly as they wish; it even makes room for the atheists and devil worshipers.
For some — including several members of the current court — a “silence only” policy is surely a step too far. But it would be a reasonable compromise in a pluralistic society, and for justices who don’t want to become de facto prayer editors, it’s a bright line on an otherwise blurry canvas of conflicting tests and standards that have rarely satisfied anyone.
Don’t these fools read their own sacred texts? You know, the Constitution and its amendments? Like the first one!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
(click here to continue reading First Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
If the government sanctions a particular kind of prayer as being the “right kind” of prayer, who could argue with a straight face that this is not the government establishing a preferred religion? Only the Christian Taliban would be so bold. When is the last time you read about a city council mandating a Pastafarian chant before a city council meeting? Right, never. Only the Christians do this repugnant shit.
And Scalia and Alito ought to be impeached if they rule in favor of the Town of Greece, NY
Somebody Please Tell This Machine I’m Not A Machine
Carl Esbeck is much more knowledgeable about the subject, and writes:
Can government knowingly take sides in a matter of religious belief or practice? More to the point, can government actively support a practice that is explicitly religious, such as prayer? This is the issue in Town of Greece v. Galloway as it ought to be framed.
Quoting with approval from Marsh v. Chambers, the Town’s main brief states that the purpose of legislative prayer is “[t]o invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws.” The practice not only calls upon a God or gods, but to a Divinity interested and active in human affairs. Why else invoke guidance? This act of prayer is thus consistent with some religions but not others. Deists, for example, believe in an impersonal God. A policy of legislative prayer is doubtlessly taking a side, and no phony pluralism dressed up as “nonsectarian” prayer – a vague theism not actually practiced by anyone – can cover up that fact.
(click here to continue reading Town of Greece symposium: Can government actively favor a religious practice? : SCOTUSblog.)
A related corruption is civil religion, the conflating of piety with patriotism. Civil religion is the confusion of religious faith with one’s love of country, an elevation of certain ceremonies, traditions, and habits of a nation to the level of the sacred. In Weisman, Justice Kennedy for the Court noted its false allure. After acknowledging the attempt by school officials to advance a “common ground” prayer, he said the Court’s precedents “caution us to measure the idea of a civic religion against the central meaning of the Religion Clauses . . . which is that all creeds must be tolerated and none favored. The suggestion that government may establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds strikes us as a contradiction that cannot be accepted.”
Ultimately religion does not exist to sustain the political order. It’s not a program for municipal improvement or to bless those who take up civic duties. When government uses religion as a tool to achieve its political goals, the danger to religion is that it becomes a courtier in the halls of State.
Complications. This had sounded like an interesting way out of the national home owner crisis, but the banks are worried they will lose their paper money value. Of the 624 properties in discussion, 444 are still current in their payments, just that their houses assessed valuation is significantly less than the mortgaged value. Is eminent domain allowable in this sort of circumstance? The legal precedent is unclear, so presumedly, this lawsuit and similar is going to take a while to be settled.
Banks representing some of the nation’s largest bond investors filed suit against the city of Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday to block plans by city officials to seize and buy mortgages using their powers of eminent domain.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, could serve as a key test for whether a city can move forward with such a strategy, which would allow it to forcibly buy mortgages from investors at a price potentially below the property’s current market value. The city would then reduce the loan balance and refinance the mortgage to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
The legal challenge could serve as a key test for whether cities from Newark, N.J., to Seattle are able to follow Richmond’s lead.
City leaders in Richmond, a working-class suburb of around 100,000 on the San Francisco Bay, began sending letters last week to mortgage companies seeking to purchase loans on 624 properties and threatening to force sales via eminent domain if investors resisted. The city is partnering with Mortgage Resolution Partners, a private investment firm based in San Francisco, which was also named a defendant in the lawsuit.
(click here to continue reading Investor Group Sues Richmond, Calif., Over Eminent Domain Plan – WSJ.com.)
LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA about Steven Gluckstern’s solution for the foreclosure crisis. At sixty-one, Steven Gluckstern has extensive experience handicapping risk propositions on Wall Street. This past fall, Gluckstern, the chairman of a San Francisco-based group called Mortgage Resolution Partners, was in the midst of a tour of Southern California. In between hasty meals, he raced his rented Mercedes to meetings with mayors and activists and real-estate agents and developers, trying to interest them in his company’s sole product: a plan for cities battered by the foreclosure crisis to keep their citizens in their homes.
It’s a tool so ingenious that Wall Street treats it as the gravest threat to civilization since the breakfast burrito. Even as America’s home prices have risen for six of the past seven months, twenty per cent of homeowners remain “underwater,” owing more in principal than the house is worth. It’s a national problem that’s concentrated in a few locales, most notably California. Mentions Salinas councilwoman Jyl Lutes.
In places like Salinas, a large part of the problem is not the loans that are held by banks. It’s the ones that were pooled in “private-label securitizations.” Under Gluckstern’s plan, a city would use its powers of eminent domain to seize a homeowner’s mortgage in court, pay off the bondholders, then arrange a new mortgage for the homeowner at a price much closer to what the home is actually worth. M.R.P. started its campaign in San Bernardino County. In June, the county and the cities of Fontana and Ontario established a “joint powers authority” to examine M.R.P.’s plan. The foes of eminent domain rose up almost instantly and assailed the plan. A coalition of twenty-six financial-service and real-estate groups sent a letter threatening lawsuits.
The opposition often invoked what’s known as the “moral-hazard argument”: if you reward people for risky behavior they’ll just do it more. By the time Gluckstern visited the San Bernardino area, last fall, he was a marked man. When Gluckstern dropped by county C.E.O. Greg Devereaux’s office, Devereaux ruefully acknowledged that the opposition had gummed up M.R.P.’s plans. Without quite conceding in San Bernardino, Gluckstern began stealthier campaigns, in Michigan, Maryland, and southern Florida. He hopes to convince the opposition that his campaign will continue.
(click here to continue reading Tad Friend: Can Steven Gluckstern Solve the Mortgage Mess? : The New Yorker.)
and from what I recall, it turns out the mortgages are often held by multiple entities because of the mortgage derivative market.
and it is unclear if these particular legal challenges are going to stand up in court:
Legal advocates of the eminent domain plan have said that constitutional challenges aren’t likely to hold up in court. The loan strategy wouldn’t burden interstate commerce “because it doesn’t prevent credit from flowing in any particular way,” said Robert Hockett, the Cornell University law professor who was an early advocate of using eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages.
“This is a bluff,” said Mr. Hockett. “It’s meant to scare city officials into saying, ‘Oh, who are we to argue with the big guns.”
Supporters say their plan would help not only specific homeowners but also the broader community by reducing foreclosures that are hurting property values and eroding the tax base. “It’s the responsibility of banks to fix this, and they haven’t, so we’re taking it into our hands,” said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in a call with reporters last week.
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Amusingly, I received a letter from Corporate Records Service such as described by Ms. Madigan earlier today, and the envelope amused me enough to take the above photograph. I laughed, took the photo, and discarded the entire thing into my recycling bin. However, I did retrieve it just now, if anyone wants a copy…
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against a company [Corporate Records Service] for allegedly conning businesses into paying unnecessary fees with an official-looking letter.
The bogus letters instructed companies to pay a $125 fee for an “annual minutes records form.” Madigan’s office says the letters were made to look like they were from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
Madigan says companies can toss those letters in the garbage. The fee isn’t required by Illinois law.
(click here to continue reading Illinois sues over business letter scam – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.)
via (on Flickr).
I should have taken a clearer photo, but not worth it to take a second.
There is no doubt that, in the broader sense, Swartz’s suicide was, in his family’s words, “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach”—a system that ought to be changed for everyone, not just loveable Ivy League nerds.
Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. The charges were wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer.
Thirty-five years! For stealing data!
The average rapist serves between five and six years.
The average first-degree murderer does 16.
And no one seriously thinks Swartz was trying to make money—as in, you know, commit fraud.
No wonder people are comparing DA Ortiz to Javert, the heartless and relentless prosecutor in Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables.”
Murder by Prosecutor | Ted Rall’s Rallblog
The U.S. needs to abolish the death penalty immediately. And yes, I realize this inmate wasn’t sentenced to death, but obviously the state often makes mistakes, consequently, wrongfully accused people shouldn’t have to lose their life.
Robert Dewey, a Colorado inmate sentenced to life without parole for murder, left jail today a free man after serving 18 years of his sentence. DNA testing, using a technology not available at the time of his conviction, proved he was innocent.
Dewey is the 290th person to be exonerated nationwide on the basis of DNA evidence proving factual innocence — meaning someone else committed the crime.
“I find that Mr. Dewey is factually innocent of the crimes of which he was accused of in this case,” the judge said, noting Dewey had spent more the 6,000 days behind bars. “Mr. Dewey is now again a free man.”
(click here to continue reading DNA Testing Clears Colorado Man After Serving 18 Years – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime.)
Also, every defendant in capital cases should have access to DNA testing, at trial, not having to wait and fight for 18 years to clear their names…
Still too high if you ask me1
Samuel Zell, the real-estate mogul behind the disastrous leveraged buyout that plunged Tribune Co. into bankruptcy, came out the biggest loser in an inter-creditor fight over expected payouts from the Chapter 11 proceeding.
Judge Kevin Carey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., found Mr. Zell’s investment ranked dead last in the Chapter 11 payment priority competition, “at the bottom of Tribune’s capital structure.” Mr. Zell’s claims are junior to $759 million of claims from holders of the so-called Phones notes, the judge said.
Mr. Zell has labeled the Tribune LBO “the deal from hell.” The two-step transaction in 2007 piled an additional $8 billion in debt on the publishing and broadcasting operation, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year later. Tribune publishes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers as well as TV stations.
(click here to continue reading Sam Zell Ranks Last Among Tribune Creditors – WSJ.com.)
- or numerous people who work, or once worked, for Mama Tribune [↩]
Wow, that’s amazingly brazen, if true. The tough part will be proving it, seems as if News Corporation used the mafia model of having a guy tell a guy to suggest to another guy he might do something illegal…
Part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire employed computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in Britain, according to evidence due to be broadcast by BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday .
The allegations stem from apparently incriminating emails the programme-makers have obtained, and on-screen descriptions for the first time from two of the people said to be involved, a German hacker and the operator of a pirate website secretly controlled by a Murdoch company.
The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky.
The allegations, if proved, cast further doubt on whether News Corp meets the “fit and proper” test required to run a broadcaster in Britain. It emerged earlier this month that broadcasting regulator Ofcom has set up a unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1% owned by News Corp, meets the test.
…James Murdoch, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp and chairman of BSkyB, was a non-executive director of NDS when ONdigital was hacked.
(click here to continue reading Questions for News Corp over rival’s collapse | Media | The Guardian.)
and meanwhile, the noose tightens on James Murdoch:
In a continuing effort to distance himself from News Corporation’s embattled British newspaper unit, James Murdoch has stepped down from the board of Times Newspapers Holdings.
The group, established by Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation and James’s father, was created to safeguard the editorial independence of The Times of London and The Sunday Times after the media conglomerate bought the British newspapers in 1981, according to public filings with the British government.
James, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch and once the heir apparent at the $50 billion media company, has over the last several months resigned from a string of corporate boards, both with ties to the British papers and unrelated.
Last week, the auction house Sotheby’s said in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that James Murdoch would not return to his board position. Earlier this year he gave up his position on the board of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Murdoch will hold onto his role as chairman of the British broadcaster BSkyB, of which News Corporation holds a minority stake. The company dropped its $12 billion bid to take over BSkyB last summer when a phone hacking scandal thrust News Corporation under increased government scrutiny.
(click here to continue reading James Murdoch Resigns From Times Newspapers Holdings Board – NYTimes.com.)
Let’s hope by this summer, or even autumn, the House Corrupt of Rupert Murdoch begins to fall. Just in time for the 2012 election, and Fox News’ ramp up of lies, damn lies, and false statistics…
Nick Davies reports:
On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the News of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant.
This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the NoW finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch’s three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the NoW. They come from the Sun, from the top of the tree – the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor.
Nothing is certain. No one has been convicted of anything. The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the 25 others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.
Under enormous legal and political pressure, Murdoch has ordered that the police be given everything they need. Whereas Scotland Yard began their inquiry a year ago with nothing much more than the heap of scruffy paperwork seized from the NoW’s private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, Murdoch’s Management and Standards Committee has now handed them what may be the largest cache of evidence ever gathered by a police operation in this country, including the material that led to Saturday’s arrests.
They have access to a mass of internal paperwork – invoices, reporters’ expense claims, accounts, bank records, phone records. And technicians have retrieved an enormous reservoir of material from News International’s central computer servers, including one particularly vast collection that may yet prove to be the stick that breaks the media mogul’s back. It is known as Data Pool 3.
(click here to continue reading Mysteries of Data Pool 3 give Rupert Murdoch a whole new headache | Media | The Guardian.)
and D.D. Guttenplan adds:
The US Department of Justice, on its website, helpfully offers links to the text of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in fifteen languages, from Arabic to Urdu. The English version is sixteen pages long, and probably ought to be in Rupert Murdoch’s iPad so he can skim through it during his flight this week from New York to London, where the British branch of his media empire made more headlines on Saturday.
…But as the Guardian’s Nick Davies, the reporter who broke the hacking scandal this summer, explained last week, what makes this handover particularly dangerous for the Murdochs is that this data, “which was apparently deliberately deleted from News International’s servers,” might also “yield evidence of attempts to destroy evidence the high court and police were seeking.” Destroying such evidence, or perverting the course of justice, as it’s known here, is a felony in Britain. But it is also a crime under the FCPA—§ 78m (b) 5, which states: “No person shall knowingly circumvent or knowingly fail to implement a system of internal accounting controls or knowingly falsify any book, record, or account.”
Although Davies’s reporting exploded the “rogue reporter” defense, until now the Murdochs have just about managed to maintain plausible deniability for themselves. But the traditional prosecution strategy of picking off the guilty underlings and then flipping them up the corporate ladder has gotten uncomfortably close to James Murdoch—and that was before the company started throwing employees off the train, which is how even longtime Murdoch minions like Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s former political editor, see this weekend’s arrests.
As the evidence mounts that much of Murdoch’s journalism was built on illegal invasions of privacy and corrupt relationships with police, three questions remain in urgent need of answers: Why should British authorities permit an in-house News Corporation committee, regardless of how fragrant its members may be, to serve as gatekeepers of the company’s records—especially when there is abundant evidence of efforts to destroy or delete incriminating evidence? In light of the latest arrests relating to corrupt payment to government officials, and bearing in mind actor Jude Law’s claim that his phone was hacked on his arrival at JFK airport, when will the Justice Department get serious about its own investigations? (There is also the lesser question of whether we are really to believe that methods which consistently delivered tabloid gold for editors and reporters in Britain would be too sleazy to tempt the high-minded hacks at the New York Post?)
And finally, what did the Murdochs know and when did they know it? Unlikely as it might have seemed in July, we may be about to find out. As more News Corp. executives come to believe they are being sacrificed to protect Rupert’s succession plan, the probability increases that someone who knows the answer will decide to cooperate with authorities. This gives the Justice Department, in particular, enormous leverage. In 2009 Siemens paid $800 million in fines for violating the FCPA—which also provides for possible prison sentences of up to five years. Amid the steady drumbeat of revelations from London it is important to keep an eye—and ear—on Washington. That’s where you’ll hear the sound of the other shoe dropping.
(click here to continue reading When Will the Justice Department Get Serious About Murdoch? | The Nation.)
A nice stiff fine would be nice, or even better, take away their FCC license…
Lois Beckett reports:
This weekend, five more journalists from a Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid were arrested as part of an ongoing bribery investigation.
The arrested journalists, all from the The Sun, were later released, and have yet to be charged with any crimes. (As the Wall Street Journal explained this summer, arrests in the U.K. are often made early in a criminal investigation, and may not be followed by any charges.)
But the arrests have once again raised questions about whether Murdoch’s News Corporation might face prosecution for bribery in the U.S. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Reuters reported last week that U.S. authorities are “stepping up investigations” into the potential bribery by Murdoch employees. An FBI spokeswoman told ProPublica, “We’re aware of the allegations and we’re looking into it.”
As we noted during the unfolding of the phone hacking scandal this summer, the U.S. has stepped up prosecutions of companies for bribery of foreign officials in recent years, and the fines for these violations can be steep. Companies can face prosecution by the Justice Department if they record bribery payments, or be pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fake record-keeping if they falsify documents to conceal the bribes.
The statute of limitations on civil Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges is five years. The New York Times reported Saturday that it was not clear when the allegations that led to the Sun arrests had taken place, “though some of those arrested have told friends that they were questioned on events from almost a decade ago.”
(click here to continue reading New Arrests in Murdoch Bribery Scandal Raise Question of U.S. Charges – ProPublica.)
Seems like our litigious society has consequences, and not all good. If we stopped prosecuting low level drug offenses, our overcrowded courts could clear their glut a bit. Maybe there should be a five year moratorium on prosecuting marijuana offenses regarding amounts less than an ounce? Try it, see if the dockets clear up a bit…
An explosion of criminal prosecutions in the nation’s overextended federal courts has left civil litigants from bereaved spouses to corporate giants waiting years for their day in court.
The logjam, prompted particularly by criminal cases related to drugs and immigration, as well as by the proliferation of more-obscure federal criminal laws, threatens the functioning of the nation’s judicial system, say some judges and attorneys.
Over the past three decades, the U.S. has steadily added to the federal rule book through new criminal statutes and regulations that carry criminal penalties. Combined with beefed-up enforcement, that has led to a 70% jump in the number of pending federal criminal cases in the past decade—to over 76,000, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.
Civil litigation, which accounts for over three quarters of federal court cases, is getting squeezed the most. In 2007, fewer than 7% of civil cases were more than three years old. By last year, that percentage more than doubled, with nearly 45,000 cases in a holding pattern.
(click here to continue reading Criminal Case Glut Impedes Civil Suits – WSJ.com.)
Combination Post Office and Court House in Sitka, Alaska.
It doesn’t help that appointing judges to the bench has become part of our toxic partisan political system
Exacerbating the problem are vacancies on the federal bench. Despite the surge in case loads, the number of authorized federal judgeships has risen just 4% since 1990. Of the 677 district court judgeships currently authorized, about 9.5% are vacant.
and these are just tickets, but still, to my mind this mentality is part of the problem:
A record number of drivers were issued cellphone violation tickets in Chicago for not using hands-free devices last year, translating into millions of dollars in revenue for the city, according to figures obtained by the Tribune.
And because of a change in the way those tickets are processed, the city doesn’t have to offer a cut on most of those fines to the state or Cook County, resulting in a loss of revenue for them, the newly released data show.
In 2010, Chicago police issued 23,292 tickets for using a cellphone while driving, the highest number of citations handed out in a single year for the offense. The number is a 73 percent increase from 2006, the first full year that the city’s cellphone law went into effect. The 2010 tickets brought in $2.2 million for the city, data show. The figures indicate the city has become more aggressive in issuing the violations, which are difficult to fight and come with a hefty fine that has increased from $50 to up to $500 in just five years.
“It’s pay short money now or pay long money later,” said Alvin Wooten, 42, a South Sider who has gotten two cellphone tickets and chose to pay the fines rather than face higher ones by contesting them.
(click here to continue reading Record number of drivers given cellphone violation tickets in Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)
Every little societal change involves laws, and enforcement of laws to change behavior. Some I can see (cellphone usage does impair driving), but not all…
Photography is not a crime, part the 234,642nd. Kudos to the ACLU…
The ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies Thursday alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.
The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department and deputies “have repeatedly” subjected photographers “to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures” from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.
“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”
(click here to continue reading ACLU sues Sheriff’s Department, alleges photographers were harassed – latimes.com.)
and from the ACLU:
The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP today sued the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies for detaining and searching photographers. The incidents of harassment occurred when photographers were taking pictures in public places where photography is not prohibited.
“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected First Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU/SC. “Sheriff’s deputies violate the Constitution’s core protections when they detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”
The complaint is filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, who between them have been detained or ordered not to photograph by Sheriff’s deputies on at least six occasions. The complaint details similar incidents involving others, from amateur photographers to veteran photojournalists.
(click here to continue reading ACLU/SC Challenges Sheriff’s Dept.’s Detention of Photographers.)
The times they are a-changing…
Jimi Hendrix made an appearance at the Supreme Court on Wednesday in an argument over whether Congress acted constitutionally in 1994 by restoring copyright protection to foreign works that had once been in the public domain. The affected works included films by Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini, books by C. S. Lewis and Virginia Woolf, symphonies by Prokofiev and Stravinsky and paintings by Picasso.
The suit challenging the law was brought by orchestra conductors, teachers and film archivists who say they had relied for years on the free availability of such works.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. posed the general question in the case this way: “One day I can perform Shostakovich. Congress does something. The next day I can’t. Doesn’t that present a serious First Amendment problem?”
Then the chief justice, a pioneer in the citation of popular music in legal discourse, asked the question slightly differently, invoking Hendrix, the great rock guitarist, to test the limits of the government’s position. “What about Jimi Hendrix, right? He has a distinctive rendition of the national anthem, and assuming the national anthem is suddenly entitled to copyright protection that it wasn’t before, he can’t do that, right?”
The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., making his debut in the post, said there were good reasons to allow Congress to restore copyright protection to works that had entered the public domain, even at some cost to free expression by performers and others. Responding to the chief justice’s hypothetical question, Mr. Verrilli said that “maybe Jimi Hendrix could claim fair use.”
(click here to continue reading Jimi Hendrix Is Cited During Supreme Court Arguments – NYTimes.com.)
Near the end of his argument in the case, Golan v. Holder, No. 10-545, Mr. Falzone returned to the chief justice’s reference to performers like Hendrix.
“There can’t be any doubt, as I think Chief Justice Roberts got at, that the performance has a huge amount of original expression bound up in it,” Mr. Falzone said. “It’s the reason it’s different to see King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Company; it’s the reason it’s different when John Coltrane plays a jazz standard.”
We get class action notices in the mail all the time, and mostly just throw them out. I suspect most of them are bogus lawsuits that mostly benefit the lawyers filing the case. I wonder if their days are numbered…
But this week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put a damper on the business model of legal extortion by trial lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits. It sent this particular class-action settlement back to the lower court for reconsideration. It was the court’s first failure to rubber-stamp such a class-action settlement in eight years.
Ted Frank of the Center for Class Action Fairness had filed the objection to the settlement. “We have been saying all along that this is an abuse of the class-action process,” Frank told me. He said that the case could be a milestone in his fight to prevent such abuses.
“A defendant is willing to throw a million dollars at a case to make it go away, because it’s often more expensive to defend it,” Frank said. “And the attorneys are OK with settling for that million dollars, if they get the million dollars. But if most of the money has to go to their clients, they won’t bring the crummy cases in the first place. They’ll only bring meritorious cases.”
Frank has become the proverbial fly in the trial lawyers’ ointment, objecting again and again to bogus nuisance settlements that make up the bread and butter for some. In January, his objection helped convince a court to throw out a settlement between Classmates.com (the online social site with the annoying popup ads) and some users who felt they had been duped into signing up.
In that case — whose merits appear much stronger than the Bluetooth case — the lawyers had negotiated $117,000 for the aggrieved class, and a million-plus-dollar fee for themselves.
Frank’s organization, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is currently fighting settlements that are overly generous to trial lawyers in cases against Kellogg, Volkswagen and Toys “R” Us, among others.
(click here to continue reading Days numbered for trial lawyers getting outrageous paydays | David Freddoso | Columnists | Washington Examiner.)
and from the Center for Class Action Fairness:
Victory: court rejects Classmates.com settlement We’d like to think our objection had at least a little to do with the end result.
This decision is not a big surprise after the court was severely critical of the settlement during the December 16 fairness hearing. We won’t know for a while why the court rejected the settlement, but Judge Richard Jones today issued an order stating that he did so, that the parties should return to litigation, and that a formal opinion would be forthcoming. (The parties might reasonably murmur that they’re hard pressed to have productive settlement negotiations until they know where they fell short in the court’s eyes.)
(click here to continue reading Center for Class Action Fairness, LLC: Victory: court rejects Classmates.com settlement.)