Appeals court expands minor leaguers salary lawsuit
Legal Topics | 2019/08/17 20:00
A federal appeals court has expanded a lawsuit by minor league baseball players alleging they are being paid less than minimum wage.

Players sued major league teams in February 2014, claiming most earn less than $7,500 annually in violation of several laws. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granted class-action status to a California class of players in March 2017, but denied the status to Arizona and Florida classes.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said class action status should be given to the Arizona and Florida classes, too, and sent the case back to U.S. District Court for additional proceedings.

Circuit Judges Richard A. Paez and Michael R. Murphy, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, voted to expand the classes in a decision written by Paez. Circuit Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, dissented and said the District Court erred in granting class-action status to the California class without completing an analysis of California’s choice-of-law rules.


Court: US can reject asylum along parts of Mexico border
Legal Topics | 2019/08/17 20:00
A federal appeals court on Friday cleared the way for the U.S. government to forbid Central American immigrants from seeking asylum at the two busiest stretches of the southern border in a partial legal victory for the Trump administration.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows President Donald Trump to enforce the policy in New Mexico and Texas, rejecting asylum seekers who cross from Mexico into either state. Under Friday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s July 24 order stopping the policy would apply only in California and Arizona, which are covered by the 9th Circuit.

The two busiest areas for unauthorized border crossings are in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and the region around El Paso, Texas, which includes New Mexico. Nearly 50,000 people in July crossed the U.S. border without permission in those two regions, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

The policy would deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on the way to the U.S. without seeking protection there. Most crossing the southern border are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty, who would largely be ineligible. The policy would also apply to people from Africa, Asia, and South America who come to the southern border to request asylum.


Mexico high court to Health officials: Regulate medical pot
Legal Business | 2019/08/16 03:00
Mexico’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s Health Department to set regulations complying with a law allowing medical use of marijuana and derivatives.

The law took effect in June 2017 but has yet to be put into practice.

The high court says in a statement that the Health Department should have modified its regulations within six months of the law taking effect.

It ruled in favor of a legal challenge on behalf of a child who received a prescription for THC to treat his epilepsy but had been unable to access the drug.

The court said late Wednesday that his right to health care was violated because regulations on medicinal marijuana were not in place. The Health Department said in a statement that it would comply with the ruling.
 


Gun-control backers concerned about changing federal courts
Legal Business | 2019/08/12 01:24
California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, including a ban on the type of high-capacity ammunition magazines used in some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings.

How long those types of laws will stand is a growing concern among gun control advocates in California and elsewhere.

A federal judiciary that is becoming increasingly conservative under President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has gun control advocates on edge. They worry that federal courts, especially if Trump wins a second term next year and Republicans hold the Senate, will take such an expansive view of Second Amendment rights that they might overturn strict gun control laws enacted in Democratic-leaning states.

The U.S. Supreme Court so far has left plenty of room for states to enact their own gun legislation, said Adam Winkler, a gun policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. But he said the success of the Trump administration in appointing federal judges, including to the high court, could alter that.

“Those judges are likely to be hostile to gun-control measures,” Winkler said. “So I think the courts overall have made a shift to the right on guns. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”

The legal tug-of-war already is playing out in California.


Supreme Court rebuffs Alabama officer charged with murder
Legal Business | 2019/08/10 08:23
The Alabama Supreme Court refused Friday to intervene on behalf of a Huntsville police officer charged with murder in a 2018 shooting, sending the case back to circuit court for a potential trial.

The justices turned away an appeal by officer William “Ben” Darby in a brief ruling without explanation.

Darby was on duty when he shot and killed Jeffrey Parker, 49, on April 3, 2018. Darby contended he was acting in self-defense and shouldn’t be prosecuted, but the court refused to overturn a lower court’s refusal.

The decision means the case against Darby can continue in Madison County.

Parker called authorities threatening to kill himself with a gun, police said. Darby was one of three officers who responded and shot Parker when the man wouldn’t drop his weapon, authorities said.

An internal police review board cleared Darby of wrongdoing, but grand jurors later indicted him.

During a hearing on Darby’s claim of immunity, Darby testified he fired his weapon after Parker refused his commands to lower a gun from his own head. The defense argued Darby’s actions were to protect a fellow officer, Genisha Pegues, who was talking to Parker.



Appeal in John Steinbeck lawsuit heard in court
Court News | 2019/08/07 08:23
Both sides had another day in court Tuesday in a family battle that has been waged for decades over who controls the works of iconic author John Steinbeck.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments to an appeal by the estate of Steinbeck’s late son, Thomas Steinbeck. The panel was in Anchorage to hear various cases.

Thomas Steinbeck’s estate is contesting a 2017 federal jury verdict in California that awarded more than $13 million to the author’s stepdaughter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, whose mother was John Steinbeck’s third wife. The lawsuit said Thomas Steinbeck and his wife, Gail Steinbeck, impeded film adaptations of the classic works. A judge earlier ruled in the same case that the couple breached an agreement between Kaffaga’s late mother and Thomas Steinbeck and his late brother, John Steinbeck IV.

Neither Gail Steinbeck nor Waverly Kaffaga attended Tuesday’s proceeding.

Attorney Matthew Dowd, representing the Thomas Steinbeck estate, told the circuit judges the appeal contends the 1983 agreement was in violation of a 1976 change to copyright law that gave artists or their blood relatives the right to terminate copyright deals. The appeal also disputes the award handed up by the jury, maintaining it was not supported by substantial evidence of Gail Steinbeck’s ability to pay.

Kaffaga’s attorney, Susan Kohlmann, told the circuit judges multiple courts, including an earlier Ninth Circuit decision, have already upheld the agreement as binding and valid, and deemed it enforceable. She called the contract argument a “complete red herring.”

Dowd disagreed. He said previous decisions on the agreement didn’t completely deal with the particular issue involving the 1976 statute. He said Gail Steinbeck was not allowed to fully address the issue in court.

The appeals panel did not rule immediately on the case. Dowd earlier said he didn’t expect a decision for several months.

The judges appeared skeptical that the contract issue wasn’t adequately dealt with in previous rulings, and they questioned whether they were being asked to review another circuit court’s decision.

The judges also said the punitive damages of about $8 million awarded by the Los Angeles jury in 2017 appeared to have been decided without evidence of Gail Steinberg’s ability to pay. If that part was stricken from the award, there would still remain $5.25 million in compensatory damages, they noted.


Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Opinions | 2019/08/04 08:23
Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez became Puerto Rico’s new governor Wednesday, just the second woman to hold the office, after weeks of political turmoil and hours after the island’s Supreme Court declared Pedro Pierluisi’s swearing-in a week ago unconstitutional.

Accompanied by her husband, Judge Jorge Diaz, and one of her daughters, Vazquez took the oath of office in the early evening at the Supreme Court before leaving without making any public comment. She then issued a brief televised statement late Wednesday, saying she feels the pain that Puerto Ricans have experienced in recent weeks.

“We have all felt the anxiety provoked by the instability and uncertainty,” Vazquez said, adding that she would meet with legislators and government officials in the coming days. “Faced with this enormous challenge and with God ahead, I take a step forward with no interest other than serving the people ... It is necessary to give the island stability, certainty to the markets and secure (hurricane) reconstruction funds.”

The high court’s unanimous decision, which could not be appealed, settled the dispute over who will lead the U.S. territory after its political establishment was knocked off balance by big street protests spawned by anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat that forced the previous governor and several top aides to resign.

But it was also expected to unleash a new wave of demonstrations because many Puerto Ricans have said they don’t want Vazquez as governor.

“It is concluded that the swearing in as governor by Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, named secretary of state in recess, is unconstitutional,” the court said in a brief statement.


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