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Mass. court to hear appeal in sex harassment case
Legal News Digest | 2010/09/06 23:27
pThe highest court in Massachusetts is set to hear an appeal of a $1.85 million award in a sexual harassment and discrimination suit filed by a former Somerset highway department employee./ppDuring her 2007 trial, Kim Pelletier said she was touched inappropriately on the job and subjected to viewing pornographic pictures and movies at the Highway Department’s building./ppShe said her numerous complaints were ignored./ppThe $1.85 million jury award was reduced to $300,000 by a judge, then increased to $600,000./ppPelletier notified the court she would accept the $600,000, but the town later appealed and Pelletier withdrew her acceptance. She’s now seeking the original jury award./ppThe Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in the case Wednesday./p

Choice of clerks highlights Supreme Court's polarization
Legal News Digest | 2010/09/06 23:17
Each year, 36 young lawyers obtain the most coveted credential in U.S. law: a Supreme Court clerkship. Clerking for a justice is a glittering capstone on a resume that almost always includes outstanding grades at a top law school, service on a law review and a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.pJustice Clarence Thomas apparently has one additional requirement. Without exception, the 84 clerks he has chosen over his two decades on the court all first trained with an appeals court judge appointed by a Republican president./ppThat unbroken ideological commitment is just the most extreme example of a recent and seldom examined form of political polarization on the Supreme Court. These days the more conservative justices are much more likely than were their predecessors to hire clerks who worked for judges appointed by Republicans. And the more liberal justices are more likely than in the past to hire from judges appointed by Democrats./ppEach justice typically hires four clerks a year. Since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court in 2005, Justice Antonin Scalia has not hired any clerks who had worked for a judge appointed by a Democratic president, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has hired only two. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, only four of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's clerks on the Roberts court came from judges appointed by Republicans. The early data on President Barack Obama's two appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, show a similar pattern./ppBy contrast, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, a conservative appointed by President Richard M. Nixon who led the court from 1969 to 1986, hired roughly even numbers of clerks who had worked for judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans. Judge Richard A. Posner, a generally conservative judge appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, clerked for Justice William J. Brennan Jr., a liberal./p

Appeals court panel denies stay for Wash. inmate
Legal News Digest | 2010/09/05 23:25
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a Washington state death row inmate's request for an emergency stay of his execution.pAttorneys for Cal Coburn Brown could now ask the full court to review the case or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court./ppBrown is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 10 for the 1991 torture and murder of 22-year-old Holly Washa, a Burien woman./ppBrown is challenging, among other things, the state's new one-drug system for lethal injection./ppThe three-judge panel rejected his request for a stay in a 2-1 decision on Saturday./p

Eminem label loses court battle over digital royalties
Legal News Digest | 2010/09/04 23:25
pAn appeals court has ruled against Eminem's label, ordering Universal Music to pay royalties to the rapper's former production company. In a precedent that could be worth billions of pounds to the recording industry, the US 9th circuit court of appeals declared FBT Productions was entitled to 50% of Universal's revenue from digital sales./ppFBT Productions signed Eminem to an exclusive record deal in 1995, before he was famous; when Eminem went to Universal, FBT was entitled to a 12% royalty on records sold. But in the pre-iTunes era, the digital royalty rate wasn't made clear. FBT argued digital sales are not records sold but constitute a licensing of master recordings – entitling them to 50% of net receipts. A court rejected this argument in March 2009, but this decision has now been overruled. According to the appeals court, the contracts were unambiguous. The case has now been sent back to the lower court for further proceedings./ppFBT's case against Universal is worth several million pounds in royalties and damages, but the impact could be even larger. Twenty years ago, lawyers could not have imagined innovations such as the iTunes Music Store, and in certain contracts, it's unclear which royalty rates apply. While Universal Music insists the FBT case sets no legal precedent and concerns the language of one specific recording agreement, these sorts of ambiguities could be present in thousands of legacy contracts. If the courts interpret this language in certain ways, the costs could add up quickly.

US investors seek pay for pre-WWII German bonds
Legal News Digest | 2010/09/01 23:26
American investors are taking the German government to court in the U.S. over tens of thousands of bonds sold by the country in the aftermath of World War I.pThey're asking federal courts to force Germany to repay the 80-year-old bonds, which today could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars./ppThe German government says the lawsuits are baseless and that bondholders must go through a validation process enshrined in German law./ppBut the bondholders say a nightmarish maze of bureaucratic red tape has been built around the validation process./ppAction has been heating up in lawsuits filed in Miami, New York and Chicago, including a victory for investors last month when an appeals court rejected Germany's attempt to dismiss their case./p

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