T-shirt satirist, NSA nearing settlement?


Dan McCall’s parody of the National Security Agency seal, above, was pulled off a printer’s website due to a cease-and-desist letter it received from the agency. (Courtesy of Paul Alan Levy)

Dan McCall soon might not have reason to sell his “Censored by the NSA” and “Censored by the DHS” T-shirts anymore.

Back in October, McCall, a Minnesota activist, sued the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security for violating his First Amendment rights when they issued cease-and-desist letters against his merchandise.

McCall is the proprietor of LibertyManiacs.com, which sells T-shirts, mugs and posters, many with satirical images he creates. One of his creations, from earlier this year, placed a slogan below the NSA’s official seal: “The only part of the government that actually listens.”

Now, both sides “are currently in discussion to resolve the case,” according to a court filing Friday by the government agencies. The agencies have asked for the deadline to respond to the complaint be moved to the middle of February. McCall’s lawyer agreed Tuesday to extend the deadline, according to the filing.

The agencies’ response was supposed to be due Jan. 6.

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Marvin J. Garbis had not made a decision on the motion as of Friday afternoon.

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Jacques Vergès

Jacques Vergès

Welcome to Monday, the 20th anniversary of the Mattel/Fisher-Price merger. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Should old age be taken into consideration by governors and parole boards?

– Defense attorney for Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal dies in Paris.

– Flurry of settlements may be imminent in Sandusky case, lawyer says.

– Law school fights disclosure of its students’ poor record on the bar exam.

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Welcome to Tuesday and game two of the Battle of the Beltways. Here are some pregame news items.

– A man who helped give rise to many a Constitutional Law and bar exam question has died.

– President Obama will play Pick Three.

– Millions may have overstayed their welcome.

– Roger Clemens may have cheated off the diamond.

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Greece, N.Y.Welcome to Monday and the start of a three-game home series against that team from New York. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Did a town board in Greece (New York, again) violate the First Amendment with its pre-session prayer?

– Obama administration’s search for leakers reaches new high (or low).

– Evanston, Ill., residents hope their Chicago suburb becomes a no drone zone.

– Civil rights challenge to New York Police Department’s stop, question and frisk tactic nears conclusion.

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Wall StreetWelcome 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.

Virginia Supreme Court yelps over censorship

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.

Raskin rips Romney, Ryan and Robert (Bork)

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.”

See our display ad under ‘Free Speech’

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.

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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.


Law blog roundup

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.