Ex-Lottery Commissioner Loses Conviction Appeal
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/20 17:29
The 4th Circuit upheld the conviction and sentencing of ex-North Carolina lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, who concealed the fact that he had a conflict of interest with a lottery vendor.

A federal jury convicted Geddings of five counts of mail fraud for concealing his business relationship with Scientific Games, a vendor vying to operate the North Carolina state lottery.

After being appointed lottery commissioner, Geddings emailed his secretary and told her never to acknowledge over the phone that Scientific Games "is a client." As a lottery commissioner, he was supposed to provide an unbiased vote in determining which vendors run the state lottery.

Although Geddings had recused himself from voting on lottery vendors, he continued to receive money from Scientific Games and circulated negative articles about competing bidder, GTech.

Geddings' run as commissioner ended after the U.S. district attorney's office in North Carolina launched an investigation of the state lottery, forcing Scientific Games to disclose its payment records. Geddings resigned on Nov. 1, 2001.

The appeals court unanimously upheld his conviction and 48-month jail sentence for using mail and wire services to "defraud the citizens of North Carolina of his honest services." It held that jurors and the trial court judge acted reasonably in holding him accountable.


Court Sides With MySpace In Suit Over Sex Assault
Legal Topics | 2008/05/19 17:20
MySpace is immune from a lawsuit accusing it of failing to protect a teen girl from the alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old man she met on the popular social-networking site, the 5th Circuit ruled.

A three-judge panel upheld a Texas judge's dismissal of a lawsuit accusing MySpace.com and parent company News Corp. of failing to protect minor users from sexual predators.

The plaintiff, identified as Julie Doe, created a MySpace profile when she was only 13, but said she was 18 to circumvent the site's minimum age requirement of 14. After she turned 14, she met Pete Solis, a 19-year-old fellow MySpace user who allegedly sexually assaulted her in a parking lot in 2006.

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by the teen and her mother, ruling that their claims are barred by Texas common law and the Communications Decency Act, which shields Internet service providers from getting sued for publishing material posted by third parties.

Doe and her mother appealed dismissal of their negligence claim, arguing that MySpace is not a "publisher" under their claims, and that MySpace is not entitled to immunity for its failure to take reasonable steps to protect minors.

Judge Clement, writing for the appellate panel, remained unconvinced.

"Their allegations are merely another way of claiming that MySpace was liable for publishing the communications and they speak to MySpace's role as a publisher of online third-party-generated content."

Solis was indicted on a sexual assault charge and faces up to 20 years in prison.


Skycaps File National Class Action
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/16 16:19
Employers are cheating airport skycaps nationwide by paying them less than minimum wage and discouraging tipping by charging a $2 per bag "baggage fee," which customers falsely believe will be given to the skycaps, the skycaps say in a federal class action.

The skycaps say the baggage fee, imposed in 2005, has seriously impaired their earnings, which were heavily dependent on tips, and that they often end up working for less than minimum wage.

The skycaps say this unfair system has been imposed at major airline counters, including United, US Airways, JetBlue and American, at airports around the country, including O'Hare in Chicago, Logan in Boston, Philadelphia International, Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International in Florida.

They demand restitution and damages. Their lead counsel is Pyle, Rome, Lichten of Boston.

Here are the defendants: Huntleigh Corp., Prime Flight Aviation Services, Flight Services & Systems, American Sales Management Organization, and Prospect Airport Services.


Avandia Securities Class Action Dismissed
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/15 15:55
A federal judge dismissed a shareholders' class-action complaint that accused GlaxoSmithKline of violating securities laws by withholding or manipulating information about its heart drug Avandia. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton dismissed for failure to state a claim, without leave to replead.

After discussing the studies and meta-analyses (studies of studies) of the drug, Judge Stanton bought Glaxo's arguments: "Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the amended complaint because plaintiffs have not established that defendants have made a material misrepresentation or omission, plaintiffs do not sufficiently plead scienter, and the statements plaintiffs identify as false and misleading are forward-looking statements and thus are not actionable."


Class Claims MetLife Cheats By Assuming Kids Will Smoke
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/13 16:44
Metropolitan Life Insurance defrauds customers by illicitly and secretively applying smokers' rates to children who don't smoke, claiming that by the time they are adults the kids will be smokers, a class action claims in Middlesex County Court.

Plaintiffs claim MetLife conceals this deceitful policy, which violates underwriting guidelines.

They claim MetLife's "'juvenile standard' or 'standard' rate and/or risk class is a blend of smoking and nonsmoking mortality experience. MetLife never disclosed this information to policyholders, defendant's own sales agents, or persons other than those MetLife actuaries and home office personnel involved in pricing MetLife's insurance policies."

Represented by Bruce Greenberg with Lite DePalma Greenberg & Rivas, plaintiffs demand treble damages for consumer fraud.


Inventor Of Secret Goggles Can't Sue Government
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/12 16:01
The inventor of color-compatible night-vision goggles lacks standing to sue the government for compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act, after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office withheld his patent for 14 years on "national security" grounds, the Court of Federal Claims ruled.

Richard Cohen, an inventor with Honeywell International, filed a patent application in 1985 for "night vision goggles compatible with full color display." The PTO forwarded his application to defense agencies, and the Department of the Navy requested a secrecy order to keep his application under wraps.

When the order was lifted in 2000, Honeywell experienced rejection after rejection of its original and new patent applications.  The company blamed the rejection of a related 2002 patent application on the 14-year delay, and sought compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act.

But Honeywell's newer patent was not based on the original patent, so Honeywell failed to establish a causal link between the secrecy order and the company's alleged damages.


Talk About A Jury Of Peers ...
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/09 16:08
A woman in the jury pool for a marijuana trial failed to return from a break because she was arrested for allegedly smoking a joint outside the courthouse, the judge told the Houston Chronicle.

Criminal Court at Law Judge Sherman Ross told the newspaper he was preparing to file a bench warrant for missing Juror No. 2 when his bailiff got a call from police, who said Cornelia Mayo was being booked on a charge of smoking pot outside the courthouse.

"I've had prospective jurors get lost before, but it never occurred to me that they might be getting ready for a marijuana trial by, allegedly, smoking marijuana," Ross told the Chronicle. Mayo, who spent the night in jail, will be arraigned next week in the court across the hall from Judge Ross's courtroom.


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