White House is taking on corporate mergers, landlord junk fees
Legal Topics | 2023/07/20 15:28
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed new guidelines for corporate mergers, took steps to disclose the junk fees charged by landlords and launched a crackdown on price-gouging in the food industry.

The announcements will be discussed as part of President Joe Biden’s scheduled meeting with the White House Competition Council, a group of officials established under a 2021 executive order.

The council has focused on creating more transparency for consumers and finding approaches to limit the concentration of industries in ways that the Biden administration says lead to higher prices and hurt the ability of start-ups and small businesses to grow. Republican lawmakers and some business group critics counter that the Democratic president’s effort will lead to greater regulatory costs that leave the economy worse off.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are proposing revised guidelines for how they evaluate mergers. Their goal is to provide more clarity on the impact mergers can have on workers and to update the guidance for a digital economy that is shaped by companies such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Meta.

The government first issued its guidance on mergers in 1968. Officials stressed that the new guidance conforms to the laws set by Congress and the precedents of court rulings.

Republican lawmakers have accused FTC Chair Lina Khan of “harassing” Twitter since it was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk. They say her push to break up the concentration of corporate power amounts to government interference in business practices.


Louisiana Senate passes bill banning gender-affirming care
Legal Topics | 2023/07/17 12:20
A controversial bill — that at one point had been presumed dead — banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths in Louisiana was passed by the Senate on Monday and is likely to reach the governor’s desk in the coming days.

The bill, which passed in the Senate mainly along party lines, 29-10, would prohibit hormone treatments, gender-affirming surgery and puberty-blocking drugs for transgender minors in Louisiana. The measure will go back to the House, which has already overwhelmingly passed the legislation, to approve of minor amendments, including pushing back the effective date of the law to Jan. 1, 2024.

If the House concurs, the legislation would be sent to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who opposes it. Edwards has not said whether he would veto the bill. If he does, lawmakers could convene a veto session to try to override his decision. Last session, Edwards chose not to block a law banning transgender athletes from participating in women and girls sports competitions in Louisiana, although he successfully vetoed a similar measure the year before.

The proposed gender-affirming care ban gained national attention last month when a Senate committee voted to kill the bill. Longtime Republican state Sen. Fred Mills was the tiebreaker vote, opposing the legislation citing that he “relied on science and data and not political or societal pressures.”

In a year when restrictions and prohibitions on gender-affirming care for transgender youths has been a priority on conservative agendas — with at least 18 states enacting laws limiting or banning the medical care, including all three of Louisiana’s bordering states — the rejection of the controversial legislation did not go unnoticed.




Amazon pushes back against Europe’s pioneering new digital rules
Legal Topics | 2023/07/13 17:24
Amazon is disputing its status as a big online platform that needs to face stricter scrutiny under European Union digital rules taking effect next month, the first Silicon Valley tech giant to push back on the pioneering new standards.

The online retailer filed a legal challenge with a top European Union court, arguing it’s being treated unfairly by being designated a “very large online platform” under the 27-nation bloc’s sweeping Digital Services Act.

Amazon, whose filing to the European General Court was made available Tuesday, is the second company to protest the classification. German online retailer Zalando filed a legal claim two weeks ago with a similar argument.

The Digital Services Act imposes new obligations on the biggest tech companies to keep users safe from illegal content and dodgy products, with violations punishable by potentially billions in fines or even a ban on operating in the EU.

The rules, which will take effect on Aug. 25, are expected to help Europe maintain its place as standard setter in global efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.

Seattle-based Amazon is one of 19 companies classed as the largest online platforms and search engines under the DSA, which means they will have to better police their services to protect European users from hate speech, disinformation and other harmful online content.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, declined to comment directly on the case, saying it would defend its position in court.



Judge limits Biden administration in working with social media companies
Legal Topics | 2023/07/05 16:19
A judge on Tuesday prohibited several federal agencies and officials of the Biden administration from working with social media companies about “protected speech,” a decision called “a blow to censorship” by one of the Republican officials whose lawsuit prompted the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana granted the injunction in response to a 2022 lawsuit brought by attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri. Their lawsuit alleged that the federal government overstepped in its efforts to convince social media companies to address postings that could result in vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic or affect elections.

Doughty cited “substantial evidence” of a far-reaching censorship campaign. He wrote that the “evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’ ”

Republican U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt, who was the Missouri attorney general when the lawsuit was filed, said on Twitter that the ruling was “a huge win for the First Amendment and a blow to censorship.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the injunction prevents the administration “from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans” on social media.


Judge allows North Carolina’s revised 12-week abortion law to take effect
Legal Topics | 2023/07/02 09:01
A federal judge ruled on Friday that nearly all of North Carolina’s revised 12-week abortion law scheduled to begin this weekend can take effect, while temporarily blocking one rule that doctors feared could expose them to criminal penalties.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles sets aside that rule but allows the law’s remaining provisions to begin on Saturday while litigation continues.

Abortion providers had last week requested a blanket order halting all of the July 1 restrictions pending their court challenge. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and a physician said several sections in the newly revised law were so vague and seemingly contradictory that doctors could unintentionally break the law, leaving them unable to care for women seeking legal abortions.

But the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed legislation this week revising or repealing nearly all of the challenged provisions, making arguments against most of them moot. Among other things, the lawmakers clarified that medication abortions will be legal in nearly all cases through 12 weeks, and that a lawful abortion remains an exception to North Carolina’s fetal homicide statute.

Eagles, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, had said in court that it would be overly broad to block enforcement of the entire law. Instead, she directed that for at least the next two weeks, the state cannot enforce a rule saying doctors must document the existence of a pregnancy within the uterus before conducting a medication abortion.

The abortion providers’ lawyers argued that the language raised questions about whether abortion pills can be dispensed when it’s too early in a pregnancy to locate an embryo using an ultrasound — subjecting a provider to potentially violating the law.


Supreme Court rules for nursing home patient’s family
Legal Topics | 2023/06/28 15:28
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for the family of a nursing home resident with dementia that had sued over his care, declining to use the case to broadly limit the right to sue government workers.

The man’s family went to court alleging that he was given drugs to keep him easier to manage in violation of his rights. The justices had been asked to use his case to limit the ability of people to use a federal law to sue for civil rights violations. That outcome could have left tens of millions of people participating in federal programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, without an avenue to go to court to enforce their rights.

The Supreme Court has previously said that a section of federal law — “Section 1983” — broadly gives people the right to sue state and local governments when their employees violate rights created by any federal statute.

The court by a 7-2 vote reiterated that Thursday, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing that Section 1983 “can presumptively be used to enforce unambiguously conferred federal individual rights.” Both liberal and conservative justices joined her majority opinion while conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

The court had been asked to say that when Congress creates a federal spending program — giving states money to provide services such as Medicare and Medicaid — they shouldn’t face lawsuits from individuals under Section 1983. The court rejected that invitation.

The specific case the justices heard involves the interaction of Section 1983 and the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act, a 1987 law that outlines requirements for nursing homes that accept federal Medicare and Medicaid funds. The court was being asked to answer whether a person can use Section 1983 to go to court with claims their rights under the nursing home act are violated. The answer is yes, the court said.


Southern Indiana man bolts from courtroom before capture
Legal Topics | 2023/06/07 17:08
A man sentenced to 200 days in jail for a probation violation bolted from a southern Indiana courtroom and tried to escape before two shocks from a stun gun brought him down, police said.

Trevin Littlejohn, 35, of Columbus, faces a new charge of resisting law enforcement following the episode Monday.

After Littlejohn was read his sentence, he declared he would not go to jail and fled from the courtroom, using chairs to obstruct an officer in the court, said Sgt. Dane Duke of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Littlejohn escaped the grasp of another officer and was shocked with a stun gun but kept going, fleeing down a flight of stairs before a second shock floored him, Duke said. Officers then placed him in handcuffs.

After being treated at a hospital, Littlejohn was lodged in the Bartholomew County Jail in Columbus.

Littlejohn’s attorney J. Grant Tucker said he had no comment on the incident.



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