2nd Circuit Won't Change NY's Apportionment Method
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/11 15:50
The 2nd Circuit denied a voter's assertion that New York's method of congressional district apportionment should be changed from overall population to voting-age population.

Michael Kalson sued Gov. David Paterson and the state election board. Kalson claimed his vote didn't count as much as those of voters in other congressional districts with a smaller percentage of adults.

Judge Calabresi agreed with the trial court that Kalson's claim lacked merit.

The judge noted that Kalson does not assert that "districts must be comprised of the same number of actual voters or eligible voters; he asserts only that they must have the same voting-age population."

Although one district may have a more adults than another, the second district could have a lower percentage of felons, noncitizens, and people who choose not to vote, Calabresi noted.

For that reason, the judge ruled, the plaintiff's request for a voting-age requirement would not remedy his complaint.


'Rear Window' Copyright Holder Sues Spielberg & Viacom
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/09 15:42
Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks and Viacom stole the copyrighted story on which the Hitchcock film "Rear Window" was based and used it as the basis for their movie, "Disturbia," the copyright holder claims in Federal Court. Hitchcock based his movie on the Cornell Woolrich story, under a license, but the defendants in this case just swiped it, the plaintiff says.

The Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust sued Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures, Viacom, NBC Universal, Universal Pictures, and United International Pictures in this 60-page federal lawsuit, with 120 pages of attachments.

The plaintiff says this is just "the latest in an ongoing pattern of behavior by the Universal Defendants ... and their predecessors, who on numerous occasions in the past utilized the Rear Window Story without securing rights and paying compensation. In multiple rounds of litigation during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s extending all the way to the United States Supreme Court (See Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207, 110 S. Ct. 1750 (1990)), the predecessors of Universal Defendants have been required to acknowledge Plaintiff's rights in and to the Rear Window Story and the Rear Window Film resulting in, inter alia, the payment of compensation in order to obtain grants of rights in and to the Rear Window Story".

The lawsuit cites numerous newspaper reviews of "Disturbia" that criticize "Disturbia" as being "ripped off" from the Rear Window story and movie. One reviewer wrote that Spielberg and his associates merely changed the protagonists from old people to teen-agers.

Plaintiff demands restitution, disgorgement, damages and costs. Its lead counsel is Clay Townsend with Morgan & Morgan of Orlando, Fla.


Inspector Suspended For Not Shutting Black-Owned Business
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/08 17:15
A 20-year veteran building inspector says Genesee County harassed, suspended and constructively fired him because he refused to shut down a black-owned business on a pretext. Michael O'Leary says his boss told him, "Shut them down, go into that business and find some reason to shut them down. We don't want gang bangers and north end problems coming into our Township."

O'Leary claims his boss, defendant Supervisor Douglas Carlton, gave him those racist instructions. He claims that when he and the fire chief could not find any code violations in the black-owned business, the Beach House, and allowed it to stay open, Carlton told him, "You did a real poor job on that assignment," and proceeded to harass, suspend and constructively fire him.

O'Leary says he "considered keeping businesses in Flint Township open for business to be part of his job duties."

He demands more than $75,000 in damages. He is represented by Tom Pabst.


Canadian mining company settles with Alaska Eskimos
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/05 15:39
Canadian-based Teck Cominco Ltd. asked US District Court Judge John Sedwick Wednesday to approve a $120M settlement agreement with six Eskimo plaintiffs from the Alaskan village of Kivalino. The agreement stems from a 2002 lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the District of Alaska by residents living near the company's Red Dog Mine, claiming the company - the world's second largest zinc producer - dumped more than the Clean Water Act's legal limit of toxic discharge into Red Dog Creek. Kivalino residents fish and draw their drinking water from the creek. The parties had initially given notice of a settlement agreement in May, but the plaintiffs allegedly changed their minds before filing a proposed settlement with the court.

Other mining companies elsewhere around the world have in recent years faced legal challenges, complaints and protests from indigenous and aboriginal groups claiming that mining activity has infringed their rights or their enjoyment of property. In July, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights announced it would investigate Australian mining company Oceana Gold for possible human rights violations at the site of a planned gold and copper mine in Didipio, Philippines. Also in July, the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Canada ruled that sentences imposed on seven aboriginal protesters in March for opposing mining company operations on community land were too severe.


Wextrust Is A $225 Million Ponzi Scheme The SEC Says
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/04 16:03
Joseph Shereshevsky, a felon, and his partner Steven Byers fraudulently raised $225 million from nearly 1,200 investors, the SEC claims in Federal Court. The SEC says the men are running a Ponzi scheme through Wextrust Capital, other Wextrust entities, and Axela Hospitality.

Also sued are Wextrust Equity Partners, Wextrust Development Group, and Wextrust Securities. The defendants created 150 LLCs and conducted at least 60 private placement offerings "without disclosing that funds raised were actually being used to pay prior investors n unrelated offerings and to make unauthorized payments to fund the operations of the Wextrust Entities, which were operating at a deficit," the SEC says.

Wextrust has "borrowed" at least $74 million from the LLCs and "loaned" at least $54 million to them, the SEC says. It wants funds frozen, books and paperwork, disgorgement, injunctions and penalties.

Byers, 46, of Oak Park, owns 60% of Wextrust, the SEC says.

Shereshevsky, 52, aka Joseph Heller or "Yossi," lives in Norfolk, Va. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2003 and was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay $38,800 in restitution.


Harass A Republican, Lose Your Phone
Areas of Focus | 2008/09/02 15:54
Ramsey County has obtained an emergency order allowing it to order telephone companies to turn over the names and numbers of anyone who makes harassing phone calls during the Republican National Convention, and to cut off those people's phone service, for the purpose of "public safety." The order will expire when the Republican convention ends.

The order ostensibly is aimed at anyone who might make "ongoing hang-up calls to the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center" During the Republican Convention.


Pole Dance Teacher Sues City To Combat 'Pall Of Orthodoxy'
Legal Topics | 2008/08/29 16:53
Adams Township unconstitutionally refused a permit to a woman who wants to open a "dance and fitness studio ... to teach women how to pole dance, power lap dance, and strip tease - all while fully clothed," Stephanie Babines claims in Federal Court. She says her class contains "absolutely no nudity, spectators, or sexual activity," but is part of a "growing national exercise movement" which has spread even to China, but is unreasonably feared, and illegally proscribed, by "small-town municipal officials."

Represented by the ACLU, Babines says she is being deprived of her livelihood because "the small-town municipal officials do not approve of the type of dance she teaches. They believe it is 'provocative,' full of sexual 'innuendo,' and too dangerous for their township."

Au contraire, Babine says. "The instruction contains absolutely no nudity, spectators, or sexual activity. The studio is not a men's entertainment club or strip joint, nor is it a mere front for such activity. Rather, the dance Ms. Babines hopes to teach is part of a growing national exercise movement. Chronicled in U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, Pittsburgh Magazine, and Oprah Winfrey's talk show, pole dancing provides 'a workout that combines aerobics, dance, yoga, (and) strength training.' Ms. Babines has seen her dance classes help women get in shape, build self-confidence, and express their sexuality. A recent report documented how the craze has even spread to China. But while a repressive country like China allows dance studios to teach pole dancing, the defendants in this small Butler County town have misapplied their zoning code to deny Ms. Babines her right to teach this new combination of art and sport to interested adult women.

"Ms. Babines brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief to challenge the pall of orthodoxy imposed by defendants on the people in their town who wish to communicate unconventional ideas and to vindicate her free-expression rights under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions to teach others about lawful and constitutionally protected activity."


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