Mothers May Sue Gerber Over Sugary Fruit Snacks
Legal Topics | 2008/05/02 16:21

The 9th Circuit allowed two mothers to pursue their class action accusing Gerber Products Co. of deceptively dressing up sugar-loaded gummy treats as healthy snacks for toddlers.

The mothers claimed Gerber falsely touts its Gerber Fruit Juice Snacks as "nutritious" and "made with real fruit juice," and displays images of oranges, peaches, strawberries and cherries on the packaging. But a quick look at the label reveals the main ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, and the only fruit juice is concentrated white grape juice.

They also took issue with Gerber calling the saccharine product a "snack," saying "candy," "sweet" or "treat" was more appropriate. Gerber later changed the name to Fruit Juice Treats, but denied that the lawsuit had anything to do with the change.

A federal judge dismissed the case last year, ruling that a reasonable consumer could see through the packaging "puffery" by simply reading the ingredients.

But the appellate court found that on-the-go parents should not have to scour ingredient lists for labeling discrepancies.

"We do not ... think that a busy parent walking through the aisles of a grocery store should be expected to verify that the representations on the front of the box are confirmed in the ingredient list," Judge Pregerson wrote.

"We do not think that the FDA requires an ingredient list so that manufacturers can mislead consumers and then rely on the ingredient list to correct those misinterpretations and provide a shield for liability for the deception."



Convicted terror plotter sent to ’Supermax’
Legal Topics | 2008/04/21 15:54

Convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla will serve his term at a Colorado federal prison known as “Supermax” for its strict, isolated conditions and roster of infamous inmates, prison officials said Friday.

Padilla, 37, was sent from a Miami prison to the high-security facility in Florence, Colo., on Thursday, said Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Pounce. Padilla was sentenced in January to about 17 years, but counting time already served and good behavior deductions his projected release date is Feb. 9, 2021 — or about 13 years.

At Florence, Padilla joins such well-known inmates as “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski, Sept. 11 attacks plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and Eric Rudolph, convicted of the 1996 Olympics bombing. Other neighbors among the 485 inmates are attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid, FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen and Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

Padilla attorney Michael Caruso said in an e-mail Friday that Supermax is “a living hell” where inmates spend most days in 7-foot-by-12-foot cells and have little contact with the outside world. Caruso noted that others convicted of supporting terrorism, such as the “Lackawanna Six” group in upstate New York, were not sent to the nation’s toughest prison.

Caruso called the decision “yet another example of Jose being treated differently and in a more punitive fashion than others who have been accused of similar crimes. I genuinely fear that Jose’s mental health will erode to an even greater degree.”

Padilla and two co-defendants were convicted in August of three terrorism-related charges after a three-month trial in Miami federal court. The other two men, 45-year-old Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, 46, remained in custody Friday at Miami’s downtown detention center.

The three were part of a support cell that sent money, recruits and supplies to Islamic extremist groups around the world, prosecutors said at trial. They had faced possible life sentences, but each was given lesser terms by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.

All three are appealing their convictions and sentences, and federal prosecutors are also appealing the sentences as too lenient.

Padilla was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on suspicion of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the U.S., although those allegations were not made at his trial. Testimony showed that Hassoun recruited Padilla at a Florida mosque to attend an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was held in military custody for 3 1/2 years and was the subject of numerous legal challenges to his continued detention. He also claimed he was mistreated and tortured at a Navy brig, but Bush administration officials denied that.



Defense in CIA case wants Berlusconi as witnesses
Legal Topics | 2008/04/17 16:26

A former Italian secret services chief's defense lawyers requested Wednesday that Premier-elect Silvio Berlusconi testify in the trial of 26 Americans and others charged with kidnapping a terror suspect during a CIA operation.

Nicolo Pollari's defense also requested outgoing Premier Romano Prodi as a witness, said lawyer Alessia Sorgato, who represents some of the American defendants.

Berlusconi _ who won Italy's national elections Monday _ is considered a key witness because he was premier when an Egyptian cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted from a Milan street in February 2003.

The alleged kidnapping was part of the CIA's so-called extraordinary renditions program _ moving terror suspects from country to country without public legal proceedings.

Berlusconi's testimony in the Milan trial is being sought to clarify which evidence might be protected as classified and prove that Pollari was against the rendition, Sorgato said. Also among the requested witnesses are the defense ministers and undersecretaries in both Berlusconi's 2001-06 government and Prodi's 2006-08 government.

Judge Oscar Magi will decide May 14 on whether to allow their testimony. On the same day, Abu Omar's wife, Ghali Nabila, and Milan's lead anti-terrorism investigator, Bruno Megale, will also be heard.

The issue of classified documents has held up the trial, which opened in June, for months as the court awaited a decision by Italy's highest court on whether the indictments improperly relied on state secrets as evidence. It is part of the Italian government's request to throw out the indictments.

The high court still has not ruled, but the judge decided last month to resume the trial anyway. The Constitutional Court is set to hear the case July 8.

Italian prosecutors say the cleric was transferred to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years. Nasr, who was released last year, said he was tortured.

All but one American suspect in the case have been identified by prosecutors as CIA agents. Seven Italians also were indicted in the case, including Pollari.

Pollari has denied any involvement by Italian intelligence in the abduction, and Berlusconi has publicly supported his military secret services chief.



Fed Appeals Court Dismisses Free Speech Case
Legal Topics | 2008/04/10 16:30

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Kentucky high school student Timothy Morrison against the Boyd County Board of Education over a 2004 policy that banned Morrison and other students from expressing their opposition to homosexuality. Judge Deborah L. Cook, in a 2-1 ruling, said that Morrison failed to show he had been harmed by the policy prior to the school district repealing the policy and also that winning the lawsuit, which sought $1 in damages, would not rectify the issue. Morrison sued the school district over a now-repealed policy that required students to undergo anti-harassment training. The school district changed the policy to exempt speech that would ordinarily be protected under the First Amendment. Wednesday's ruling reverses an earlier decision by the same Sixth Circuit panel allowing the case to proceed.

In another student free speech case, the US Supreme Court held last year in Morse v. Frederick that public schools do not violate the First Amendment rights of students by sanctioning them for speech during a school-sanctioned activity that may be reasonably interpreted to promote the use of illegal substances. A high school student was suspended after he displayed a banner with the message "Bong hits 4 Jesus" during a televised parade on a school day. The student subsequently sued his principal, arguing that the principal unreasonably restricted his right to free speech.



Scalia to Go Before the News Cameras
Legal Topics | 2008/04/09 15:52
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who makes no secret of his disdain for the news media, has agreed to appear in a segment of CBS News' "60 Minutes" on April 27, the eve of the publication date for a new book he has co-authored.

A knowledgeable source who requested anonymity confirmed Monday that the top-rated newsmagazine asked Scalia for the interview and he accepted, in spite of his oft-stated view that judges should stand apart from the modern media culture.

Correspondent Lesley Stahl has already conducted several taped interviews with Scalia that range well beyond his book -- called "Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges" -- and delve into his career and upbringing.

In the life of the Court and the career of Justice Scalia, this is a remarkable, Nixon-goes-to-China moment. No justice has excoriated the news media like Scalia has, and it would have surprised no one if he had completed his tenure on the high court without ever consenting to a broadcast interview.

Earlier in his tenure, when he gave a speech at a law school and an unsuspecting local television news crew showed up, Scalia would impetuously refuse to go on stage until the cameras left. In what has become known as the "Hattiesburg Incident" of 2004, deputy U.S. marshals ordered reporters to erase audiotape recordings of a speech Scalia was giving in Mississippi. The marshals believed they were enforcing Scalia's anti-press policies. Scalia apologized, and said his policies had been misunderstood.

But when the reporters lodged protests with the marshal's service, an internal investigation ensued. In a deposition taken during the investigation and later released under the Freedom of Information Act, one of the marshals quoted Scalia as saying, earlier in the day, "I hate the media, don't like the media, I don't know why they're here. I'm not talking to them." That same day,according to another deposition, when the question of talking to local media came up, a reporter overheard Scalia saying, "I don't do interviews. I don't talk to the press."

The "60 Minutes" appearance is the centerpiece of a limited round of publicity Scalia will be doing to promote sales of the book he wrote with Bryan Garner. Garner is the legal writing expert whose company LawProse Inc. runs seminars for law firms around the country. The two decided to write the book after Garner interviewed Scalia and seven other justices about legal writing and advocacy last year. Those tapes are available on Garner's Web site. C-SPAN announced Monday that Scalia would appear in a live exchange with high school students today on C-SPAN3.

Scalia is not the first justice to appear on television to launch a book, by any means; just last year Justice Clarence Thomas' memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," was published the day after a "60 Minutes" appearance. Current and former Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Stephen Breyer and William Rehnquist have also done televised interviews to publicize their works.

But for Scalia to join the trend after decades of disdaining this kind of attention is remarkable. He may have felt encouraged in a general sense by the lighter and more open leadership of the Court by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., which contrasts sharply with the cloistered style of Rehnquist, Roberts' predecessor. The 72-year-old Scalia may also have felt that at this stage in his life, the time has come to unburden himself and tell his story on a stage broader than the Supreme Court.


Chemical Co. Settles Lawsuit for $1.8 Billion
Legal Topics | 2008/04/09 15:43
W.R.Grace, a specialty chemical company that operated plants inMassachusetts and Montana, agreed to a settlement yesterday forasbestos claims brought against the company in a class action lawsuit.

More than 100,000 claims have been brought against W.R.Grace by individuals who claimed to have been injured by exposure toasbestos. Pending approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald,the settlement would allow W.R. Grace to make steps towards moving outof bankruptcy, which the company filed for in 2001, and startcompensating the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

If the settlement is allowed, the company would immediately deposit$250 million into a trust for victims. Starting in 2019, the companywould contribute an additional $110 million to the trust for fivesuccessive years followed by ten annual payments of $100 million. Theagreement would also make public 10 million shares of W.R. Grace stockthat plaintiffs would be able to purchase for $17 a share for up to oneyear after the company’s reorganization.



Eyes on Supreme Court in Execution Case Tuesday
Legal Topics | 2008/04/08 16:36
By 6 p.m. Tuesday, when a Mississippi inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court may give the clearest indication so far of whether it intends to call a halt to all such executions while a case from Kentucky that the justices accepted last month remains undecided.

The Mississippi inmate, Earl W. Berry, convicted of kidnapping and murder in 1988, has been turned down by the Mississippi Supreme Court and by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Late on Monday, the justices denied his appeal of the state court ruling, as well as the application for a stay of execution that accompanied it.

Mr. Berry’s application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit ruling, which his lawyers filed on Monday afternoon, remained pending in the evening, having come in very late in the afternoon.

In turning down the state-court appeal without any apparent dissent, the Supreme Court’s three-sentence order provided a brief explanation. The Supreme Court had no jurisdiction, the unsigned order said, because “the judgment of the Mississippi Supreme Court relies upon an adequate and independent state ground.”

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 11 that Mr. Berry’s challenge to the lethal injection procedure was barred as a matter of state law because he had not presented the claim in his earlier appeals. The United States Supreme Court’s own jurisdiction is limited to deciding independent questions of federal law.

The Fifth Circuit, which sits in New Orleans, similarly dismissed Mr. Berry’s challenge to lethal injection as untimely, in a decision issued on Friday. By contrast, that decision clearly presents an issue of federal procedural law for the Supreme Court to address, whether a challenge to an execution method on the eve of a scheduled execution must be dismissed as untimely. As to whether all pending executions should now be delayed, the appeals court all but challenged the justices to state plainly whether that was the case.

Noting that Mr. Berry’s new federal-court case challenging lethal injection was not filed until Oct. 18, the appeals court said: “Well-established Fifth Circuit precedent is clear: death-sentenced inmates may not wait until execution is imminent before filing an action to enjoin a state’s method of carrying it out.”

That precedent “remains binding until the Supreme Court provides contrary guidance,” the appeals court said.

In the five weeks since the Supreme Court agreed to examine how courts should evaluate the constitutionality of lethal injection, in a case from Kentucky, Baze v. Rees, No. 07-5439, the national picture has become increasingly confused. The justices allowed one execution to proceed and granted stays in two others.


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