By: Steve Lash
Welcome to the final Monday of January. Here are some news items to get your week before the big game started.
– Military lawyer clashes with Obama administration over breadth of war crimes.
– Muslim students file First Amendment appeal in California.
– Wall Street receives advice on dealing with the Justice Department.
– Another “M” state debates the death penalty.
By: Kristi Tousignant
The Virginia Supreme Court is dealing with new-age censorship this week as it tackles a case dealing with negative posts on business review websites Yelp and Angie’s List.
The court overturned a preliminary injunction against a Fairfax County woman for negative reviews of a Washington contractor who worked on her house. The contractor subsequently filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against the homeowner.
The Fairfax County Circuit Court had ordered her reviews on the websites removed. The ACLU appealed the decision, saying the woman’s First Amendment rights were violated.
The state supreme court overturned the injunction two days after the appeal was filed, finding the contractor had an adequate remedy in suing for damages.
According to The Washington Post, such lawsuits are on the rise as the country grapples balancing free speech with defamation and libel in the age of infinite Internet information.
By: Steve Lash
Maryland state Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, wants voters heading to the polls to remember that the president has the authority to make appointments to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts — and that Robert Bork is among the legal advisers to the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Raskin, an ardent supporter of President Barack Obama, warned in Wednesday’s Huffington Post that a “Romney-Ryan-Bork court would lead to the uncorking of bottles of champagne throughout the boardrooms of America’s largest and most right-wing corporations.”
Romney appointees to the federal courts would lead to “an acceleration of all of the worst trends already ravaging the prospects of justice for ‘natural persons’ in America, including the destruction of what is left of campaign finance and disclosure laws as corporations assume all the political free speech rights of the people, a dramatic change ushered in by Citizens United in 2010,” Raskin added on the post’s Politics blog.
Raskin has been quite prolific recently, having written an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week calling for a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court ruled that “the government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether” under the First Amendment.
But Raskin, a widely respected constitutional law professor at American University, might need to brush up on his history.
In the Huffington Post piece he referred to Bork as as “the right-wing polemicist and former Bush Supreme Court nominee so extreme that he was rejected by a bipartisan coalition of Senators in 1987.”
“I think somebody must have changed that,” Raskin said of the error. “I very well know that Ronald Reagan is the one who made that mistake.”
By: Ray Frager
Let your fingers do the walking … to the First Amendment.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that phone books are protected speech, thus invalidating ordinances in San Francisco and Seattle regulating the tossing of Yellow Pages onto doorsteps and driveways.
“Although portions of the directories are obviously commercial in nature, the books contain more than that, and we conclude that the directories are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment,” Judge Richard R. Clifton wrote in the court’s opinion.
The sponsor of San Francisco’s law, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, had a different view. The ruling, he said, “protects giant corporate polluters that litter our city doorsteps with millions of unwanted Yellow Page books.”
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.
By: Steve Lash
Welcome to Columbus Day 2012. Without further ado, or having to sail the ocean blue, here is this week’s roundup.
– New York shows how it can handle a terrorism trial in federal court.
– Hopes dim for rights activists in Egypt.
– Rejected white University of Texas applicant gets her day in the Supreme Court this week.
– Wisconsin school district defends holding its graduation in a church.
By: Steve Lash
Welcome to Monday, a day on which two movies immediately come to mind. And let’s not forget the roundup. Here are some news items to get your week started.
– A New York Times obituary recalls the Pentagon Papers case.
– DNA evidence reaches a milestone.
– How has the BP oil spill affected class-action litigation?
– Detroit newspaper continues battle to get public records on parolees and probationers.
By: Danny Jacobs
An artist at the center of battles challenging peddling laws in Baltimore and Ocean City will be the center of attention at a Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts fundraiser Thursday night.
Spray-paint artist Mark Chase will be performing and donating his works to the fundraiser, “Fiesta de los Abogados y Artistes” in the courtyard at Baltimore’s Union Mill. (“Abogados” is Spanish for “lawyer.”)
Chase, the man behind Stellar Paintings, successfully challenged Ocean City’s regulations for street performers, which will be in effect if you’re walking on the Boardwalk this summer. (That’s his painting, “Jupiter Rising,” at left.)
In February, Chase was acquitted on charges of peddling without a permit in Baltimore when a federal judge ruled officers never saw him selling anything.
Chase also has plans to challenge Baltimore’s peddling restrictions much like he did Ocean City’s.
By: Danny Jacobs
A few interested parties have entered the Dan Snyder-City Paper libel lawsuit with (rhetorical) guns a-blazin’.
The Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of City Paper’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Washington Redskins’ owner in response to a November 2010 article.
Among the dozen organizations joining the ACLU in the filing are the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and the publishers of Politico and National Journal.
The brief argues in part that Snyder’s complaint is a “SLAPP,” a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” The D.C. City Council passed an “anti-SLAPP” law in December designed to protect people who “speak and write about issues of public interest,” according to the ACLU.
Lawsuits filed against such people (in this case City Paper writer Dave McKenna) should be dismissed unless “the person bringing the lawsuit can show that he is likely to win the case if it is allowed to go forward,” according to the ACLU.
But the brief goes beyond legal arguments, attacking Snyder using cultural references that would make Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. proud. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Erin Drenning
It was all over the news in October – Mississippi Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn jailed an attorney who refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in his courtroom.
I was nothing short of baffled to hear that an officer of the court in his 70s — who spent his long career as a state lawmaker, prosecutor and judge — could get the Constitution so completely and appallingly wrong. Even someone with the most basic understanding of the First Amendment should realize that compulsory unification of opinion is unconstitutional.
To make matters worse, Littlejohn stubbornly stuck to his guns, requiring all in his courtroom to again recite the pledge just one day after the national uproar over his treatment of lawyer Danny Lampley.
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance last week recommended to the state Supreme Court that Littlejohn be publicly reprimanded and pay $100 in court costs for jailing Lampley, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Read the rest of this entry »
By: Danny Jacobs
If you’ve never heard of Andrew Shirvell, I’ll let Anderson Cooper tell you about him in the video below.
(If you’d like Shirvell with a side of snark, check out this Daily Show story from last week.)
Shirvell was fired Monday from his position as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. His lawyer says Shirvell was exercising his First Amendment rights, but Attorney General Mike Cox said Shirvell’s conduct was “unbecoming for a state employee, especially an assistant attorney general.”
“Shirvell repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources, our investigation showed,” Cox said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Philip Thomas, Shirvell’s lawyer, said Shirvell has received excellent performance reviews and said the firing “smelled political.”
“There’s been a tremendous piling on against Andrew,” Thomas told the Free Press. “The liberal media started this tempest in a teapot.”
Sounds like this kettle might be boiling for the foreseeable future.