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Supreme Court May Re-examine What Is "Indecent"
Top Legal News | 2008/03/04 03:21

This week, after more than 30 years, the Supreme Court may reopen the debate over what constitutes an "indecent" broadcast. The issue before the court is the usually accidental, so-called "fleeting expletive" that sneaks into an over-the-air broadcast, such as Bono's "This is really, really f---ing brilliant" comment at the 2003 Golden Globes, which was broadcast on NBC.

After receiving complaints from viewers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to crack down on broadcasters who air "isolated or fleeting expletives" during daytime and early evening hours. Last year, Fox and other television networks sued to block the new policy, and an appeals court in New York put it on hold. Now, the FCC is asking the Supreme court to clear the way for the crackdown to be enforced. The justices may act on the agency's appeal as soon as today, and if they vote to hear FCC vs. Fox TV, arguments will be heard in the fall, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The appellate judges in New York felt that the FCC's new policy was arbitrary and vague, as it does not specify that all expletives will trigger fines regardless of the circumstances. At the same time, the appellate judges hinted that a true ban on all broadcast expletives would violate the 1st Amendment's free-speech guarantee. At the same time, broadcasters have said they have no desire to air expletives, but they're just trying to make sure that when an unscripted expletive is used - most often by a celebrity who is not a network employee - it does not result in a large fine. To help monitor the situation, broadcasters have instituted five-second delays on awards shows and some other live programming, but an occasional expletive can still slip through.

"It's like the Maytag repairman," said Rick Cotton, general counsel for NBC Universal, according to the LA Times. "You're expecting that after sitting in front of a console for literally thousands of hours that at a particular moment, on a completely unexpected basis, a person will hear it and will react in time."



U.S. court rules against Bayer's Yasmin patent
Headline News | 2008/03/04 03:20
A U.S. district court ruled against the validity of Bayer Schering Pharma's patent for its contraceptive drug Yasmin, the German drug company said late on Monday.

This was the result of a patent challenge by generic manufacturer Barr Laboratories, Bayer said in a statement.

"Bayer disagrees with the court's decision and will consider its legal options in this regard," the company added.

Bayer Schering's contraceptive drug Yasmin has annual sales of more than one billion euros. Sales of Yasmin in the United States came in at 321 million euros ($486.9 million) last year, it said.



Court Leaves Diabetes Drug Case Intact
Court Center | 2008/03/04 03:19
A divided Supreme Court is leaving intact a ruling favoring people who sued a pharmaceutical company, saying they had been harmed by a drug to combat diabetes.

The dispute stems from several suits against Warner-Lambert over its diabetes drug Rezulin. Warner-Lambert is now owned by Pfizer. The Supreme Court split 4-4 in the case, with Chief Justice John Roberts not participating.

The users of the drug are relying on a Michigan law to allege that the pharmaceutical company engaged in fraud by misleading federal regulators to get the drug approved. The Michigan law shields pharmaceutical companies from product liability lawsuits, unless they committed fraud.

At issue in the case is whether that fraud exception, which allows lawsuits to proceed, is pre-empted by federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the exception to the Michigan law was not pre-empted by federal regulations, enabling the plaintiffs to pursue the case.

Twenty-seven Michigan residents say they suffered personal injuries caused by Rezulin, a drug that federal regulators approved despite risks to the liver and cardiovascular system.



Campton Hills pays $124,000 to lawyers
Legal News | 2008/03/03 20:42

Campton Hills leaders are attempting to catch up on the village's mounting legal bills.

Village board members Tuesday voted 4 to 0 to pay Chicago-area legal firm Arnstein & Lehr LLP nearly $124,000 for services dating from July to November. Trustees Bern Bertsche and Al Lenkaitis were absent.

While there is currently enough money in municipal coffers to square up the latest bill, Village Treasurer Kathy Catalano said officials might soon need to dig into contingency funds earmarked for budget overruns.

Legal expenses are expected to only mount as the village wages ongoing legal battles with several groups of property owners who are trying to detach their land from the new municipality.

The latest bill is in addition to a roughly $50,000 tab the village paid off around the beginning of the year.

"I'd prefer it wasn't that much," Village President Patsy Smith said Tuesday. "But that's the cost of starting a new village when you're being challenged legally."

Village Attorney Bill Braithwaite has said his firm attempted to help the village by delaying invoices until the municipality, which incorporated after a referendum last April, began receiving state-shared revenue.

Catalano said while "there have been some invoices lagging because of this," the money is finally arriving.

"We've got the ability to pay these bills," she said.

No one at Tuesday's meeting addressed when to expect legal bills from November through today or how much they will be.



Holme Roberts & Owen chooses new leader
Firm Websites | 2008/03/03 20:40

B. Lawrence Theis has been elected chairman of the executive committee at Denver law firm Holme Roberts & Owen LLP, succeeding Robert Bach.

Theis is a partner with HRO's litigation practice group. He founded the litigation firm of Musgrave & Theis, which merged with HRO in 2006. He is a former state antitrust prosecutor.

Bach had been the firm's executive committee chairman for eight years, HRO (hro.com) said in a statement Tuesday. Bach will return to full-time law practice.

Theis had been HRO's general counsel. Mashenka Lundberg will assume that post.

HRO, founded in 1898, is Denver's second-largest locally based law firm, according to the Denver Business Journal's Book of Lists. The firm says it has more than 260 attorneys in three Colorado officers as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, London and Munich.



Helms Mulliss & Wicker merging into Virginia law firm
Press Releases | 2008/03/03 20:35

McGuireWoods LLP and Helms Mulliss & Wicker PLLC are joining forces in a merger that will create a law firm with nearly 900 lawyers and offices in 17 locations.

The combined firm will be known as McGuireWoods LLP. The merger will be effective at the close of business on March 31, 2008.

McGuireWoods currently has 750 lawyers at 15 locations worldwide, including 40 in Charlotte. Helms Mulliss, established in Charlotte in 1922, has 145 lawyers, including 120 in Charlotte and 25 in offices in Raleigh and Wilmington.

Triangle Business Journal reported in January that Charlotte-based Helms Mulliss & Wicker was in merger talks with Richmond, Va.-based McGuireWoods. Firms with a strong Charlotte presence often are courted by out-of-state firms interested in the city's high-powered financial sector.

Both firms do business with Wachovia and Bank of America. But Richard Cullen, chairman of McGuireWoods, says that the merger was driven by more than just obtaining additional banking business.

"It would be wrong to assume we're doing this merger because of any one city in North Carolina or any one client," says Cullen. "We're very eager to be in Raleigh. We're planning on growing that office."

Cullen declined to go into specifics about how many people might be added over the coming years in the Raleigh office, which currently has 20 lawyers.

After the merger, Peter Covington, the chairman and managing member of Helms Mulliss, will become vice chairman of McGuireWoods, a newly created position.



Yanez beats Criss in Texas Supreme Court primary
Legal Watch | 2008/03/03 20:31
South Texas appellate Judge Linda Reyna Yanez will be the next Democrat trying to win a seat on the GOP-dominated Texas Supreme Court.

Yanez won the high civil court's Place 8 Democratic primary Wednesday over Galveston Judge Susan Criss. Yanez is a judge in the state's Thirteenth Court of Appeals.

Criss lost despite the visibility she earned presiding over recent high-profile cases like the civil lawsuits filed in wake of the deadly 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City.



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