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9th Circ. upholds denial of Oregon domestic partnership
Legal Watch | 2008/08/15 14:12
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Thursday that Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury did not violate the constitutional rights of voters who signed a petition to hold a referendum on a state law establishing same-sex domestic partnerships. Bradbury struck over 200 signatures from the petition after officials found that many of the signatures did not match those on voter registration cards. He then announced that the petition was approximately 100 signatures short of the required number. Voters were not permitted to contest the decision by introducing extrinsic evidence, and so signators brought suit, alleging violations of due process and equal protection guarantees. The Ninth Circuit held that any burden placed on the plaintiffs' fundamental right to vote was minimal and held that there had been no constitutional violations:
The Secretary’s procedures already allow chief petitioners and members of the public to observe the signature verification process and challenge decisions by county elections officials. The value of additional procedural safeguards therefore is negligible, and the burden on plaintiffs’ interests from the state’s failure to adopt their proposed procedures is slight at most.
Plaintiffs had unsuccessfully asserted that Oregon was required to provide them with an opportunity to "rehabilitate" the stricken signatures, and also argued that the lack of uniform statewide rules for verifying referendum signatures violated Bush v. Gore.

The US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled in February that the domestic partnership law should be allowed to take effect after it was suspended last December. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law last May after it was passed by the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate. The law would have taken effect on January 1 of this year had there been no lawsuit.


Truck Driver Sues For Bridge Collapse
Court Center | 2008/08/14 14:18
A truck driver was crushed and trapped in his truck when a highway overpass collapsed, and his horrified wife watched his rescue on live television, Robert and Carol Sylvester claim in Butte County Court.

The Sylvesters sued FCI Constructors, of Vista, and Granite Construction Co., of Watsonville, who were working on State Route 149 between SR 99 and SR 70 before and during the July 31, 2007 collapse. The Sylvesters say the defendants "were put on notice of safety violations at the construction site of the freeway overpass" before July 31. And, they say, "several minutes prior to the eventual collapse of the overpass false work defendants were on notice or should have been on notice that the structure was unsafe, unstable, moving, and likely to collapse."

The complaint continues: "Carol Sylvester witnessed the event where her husband was trapped in the debris of the collapsed freeway overpass via live television. Plaintiff was aware that her husband was in fact injured in the ongoing event and was aware of reports of his injuries during the event."

The Sylvesters demand punitive damages. They are represented by James McKenna with Peters, Rush, Habib & McKenna.


Steve Wynn Sues Soft-Core Porn King
Top Legal News | 2008/08/13 14:15
"Girls Gone Wild" mogul Joseph Francis faces another lawsuit, this time from billionaire Stephen Wynn, who claims that Francis defamed him with the false accusation that Wynn stiffs high rollers in his hotel casinos.

Wynn, owner of Wynn Las Vegas and the Encore, first sued Francis in July, claiming the soft-core porn king owed $2 million in gambling debts from February 2007.

Francis insisted he had already paid his debt through agreements and discounts.

Francis told The Associated Press, "The Wynn Hotel has chosen not to honor its agreement to apply certain discounts to balances they have already been paid for."

Francis also indicated that he planned on "exposing how exactly Mr. Wynn deceives his high-end customers."
Wynn responded with this defamation lawsuit in Clark County Court, claiming he has suffered injury to his reputation and "shame, mortification, hurt feelings and emotional distress."

In June, Francis pleaded not guilty to charges of tax evasion for allegedly deducting more than $20 million of bogus business expenses on his 2002 and 2003 returns. Trial is set for Sept. 16 in Los Angeles.

Francis claims that he never saw his tax returns before they were filed, and that his accountant contacted the IRS after quitting and reported the accounting mistakes to collect money through the Tax Whistleblower Program.

Wynn is represented by Frank Schreck with Brownstein Hyatt


DuPont Loses Bid to Enforce Supply Contract
Top Legal News | 2008/08/12 14:09
A state judge denied E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.'s request to enforce a supply contract that Bayer CropScience canceled, threatening DuPont's supply of chemicals used in its Require and Resolve corn herbicides.

Vice Chancellor Stephen Lamb of the Delaware Chancery Court refused to grant an injunction requiring Bayer to carry through on its shipping commitment. Bayer claimed du Pont breached the contract by introducing a new product line that exceeds the scope of its license and violates the terms of the supply agreement.

But DuPont maintained that it never breached the contract, and asked the court to prevent Bayer from cutting off its chemical supply.

Concluding that the wording of the contract favors Bayer's interpretation, Vice Chancellor Lamb refused to issue the injunction.


DC Circuit dismisses Fannie Mae shareholder suit
Top Legal News | 2008/08/11 14:11
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Friday dismissed a shareholder suit against government-sponsored lender Fannie Mae for alleged wrongdoing by the board of directors. Shareholders accused the board of failing to take appropriate steps in 2004 to prevent accounting violations, and also asserted that the board should not have approved $31 million in severance benefits for two officers who resigned as a result of the violations. Upholding the district court's decision, the DC Circuit held that it had the authority to hear claims against Fannie Mae, but that the appellants were not excused from making demand on the board prior to filing suit. Judge Kavanaugh commented, "The story of Fannie Mae told by these reports is disturbing." Later in the opinion, he wrote:
According to plaintiffs, the complaint alleges that the directors crossed that line by failing to adequately respond to several “red flags”: (1) a $200 million audit difference originating in 1998; (2) a whistleblower’s complaints that Fannie Mae was improperly manipulating earnings; (3) signs that Fannie Mae management was using improper hedge accounting practices; and (4) sister company Freddie Mac’s disclosure in 2003 that it had understated profits. We disagree that these allegations create a“substantial likelihood” of personal liability for the directors. On each claim, the Board or its relevant committee looked into the matter and relied on internal or external accounting experts and officials responsible for those matters.
Also Friday, Fannie Mae announced a second quarter loss in excess of $2 billion, prompting careful evaluation of recent legislative action and leading to increased speculation about a government "bailout".

In October 2004, the US Department of Justice began an investigation into whether Fannie Mae broke accounting rules to boost earnings and executive bonuses, but dropped the investigation in August 2006. In May 2005, Fannie Mae agreed to pay $400 million as part of a settlement with regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission. In April of this year, former CEO Franklin Raines agreed to pay $24.7 million to settle a related civil lawsuit brought by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.


Texas executes second foreign national since ICJ order
Top Legal News | 2008/08/08 14:15
Convicted murderer Heliberto Chi on Thursday became the second foreign national to be put to death in Texas since the International Court of Justice ordered the US to stay such executions. The US Supreme Court refused to grant either a stay or certiorari just hours before the Honduran man was executed at 6 pm local time. Lawyers for the Honduran government have argued that Chi was improperly prevented from contacting his government in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Last month, lawyers for Mexico made a similar argument before the ICJ to block the execution of Mexican citizen Jose Ernesto Medellin, which took place on Tuesday.

The governor of Texas announced his refusal to comply with the ICJ order last month. In March, the US Supreme Court ruled in Medellin v. Texas that neither a 2005 memorandum from President Bush ordering Texas to rehear several cases against Mexican nationals nor the March 2004 ICJ decision were binding on Texas officials who had refused to rehear Medellin's case. Last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Chi's lethal injection execution while the US Supreme Court considered Baze v. Rees, a case reviewing whether lethal injection is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.


Federal judge unseals FBI anthrax investigation documents
Headline News | 2008/08/07 14:32
Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of hundreds of documents related to the FBI's probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks. Among other papers, the released documents include 14 search warrants issued against government scientist and biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins, who had recently emerged as a suspect in the mailings. Last week, Ivins apparently committed suicide after learning that the Department of Justice planned to prosecute him in connection with the attacks. Officials close to the investigation said that the documents were first released in briefings made to victims' families and that the investigation into the crime has all but ended.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice announced that it will pay former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven Hatfill $2.8 million to settle his claim that the DOJ violated the US Privacy Act by providing information about him to journalists during its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, in which he was at one point named a "person of interest." The DOJ initially agreed to seek a settlement in late June after Hatfill filed his lawsuit. The settlement may moot a contempt case against former USA Today reporter and past JURIST student staff member Toni Locy, who is now awaiting a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Locy had refused to disclose her related sources in discovery, and Hatfill lawyer Christopher Wright later stated that Locy's evidence was no longer needed by his client.


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