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U.S. treasure firm ordered to identify disputed wreck
Legal Watch | 2008/03/07 16:55
A U.S. judge ordered a Florida treasure-hunting company on Thursday to disclose the identity of a disputed shipwreck and dismissed some of its claims against Spain in a legal wrangle over a $500 million haul of silver and gold.

Odyssey Marine Exploration and Spain have been arguing over the treasure since the trove was found last year at an undisclosed location in the Atlantic Ocean.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ruled on Thursday that Odyssey's lawsuit claiming rights to the treasure could go forward provided the company promptly identifies the wreck for Spain, or gives its "best available hypothesis" of the identity.

At a court hearing on Wednesday, the company's lawyers said Odyssey did not know for certain the name or nationality of the wreck, from which the company recovered some 17 tonnes of silver coins and gold.

"We want to know the identity of this vessel, and what this ruling is saying is 'It's not an answer to say we haven't decided for sure,'" said lawyer James Goold, who is representing Spain.

Merryday ruled that parts of Odyssey's lawsuit could go forward through the courts, including claims for possession and ownership of the wreck and the artifacts.

But he sided with Spain on several other elements of the suit, dismissing Odyssey's claims for monetary damages from Spain and a request for an injunction to "secure the integrity of the recovery operation against interference from a third party."

The two sides have been at odds since Odyssey announced last May that it had found half a million silver coins and other artifacts. It said the wreck, which it code-named "Black Swan," was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean outside any country's territorial waters.

The dispute turned ugly when Spanish warships twice intercepted the company's treasure hunting ships after they left the British territory of Gibraltar and escorted them to Spanish ports.



US court dismisses suit on Barr's Plan B pill
Court Center | 2008/03/07 10:57
A U.S. court dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit against U.S. health regulators over their decision to allow the sale of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc Plan B contraceptive without a prescription.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Barr were sued by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and other groups that sought to overturn the FDA's decision.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted FDA's and Barr's motion to dismiss the suit.

The court said it agreed with defendants that plaintiffs failed had "to identify a single individual who has been harmed by Plan B's OTC (over-the-counter) availability," according to the ruling.

Plan B was approved in 1999 and the FDA broadened the approval in 2006 to allow sale to adults without a prescription. The pills must be kept behind pharmacy counters and only sold to girls younger than 18 years old with a doctor's order.

Separately, on Monday, another U.S. court found the patent for Bayer AG's Yasmin contraceptive drug to be invalid, paving the way for Barr to sell a generic version.

"It's a big win for Barr," Natixis Bleichroeder analyst Corey Davis said of the Bayer ruling. "This could be one of those nice generic products with a long tail on it," he said.


Law Firm Sponsors Contest To Combat Underage Drinking
Press Releases | 2008/03/07 10:02

The McDivitt Law Firm and My PSA Contest are asking high school students to create unique and compelling public service announcements that encourage fellow teens to abstain from the dangers of underage drinking and driving.

Alcohol related crashes are the second leading cause of teen death and children who begin drinking by age 13 have a 38 percent higher risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life.

McDivitt Law Firm hopes that, through this PSA contest, the messages created by teens specifically for their peers might prove to be one method for helping to prevent the tragedy and devastation, which are too often the result when teenagers drink and drive.

The contest is open to high school students in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and surrounding areas. Students are being asked to produce 28 to 29 second video PSA's. The PSA's will be judged on students' abilities to analyze and discuss the topic and produce a quality video. The winner will receive a laptop computer and the school the student attends will receive a monetary donation. The winning PSA will also be aired on TV.



Bush: 'US Must Not Let Down Its Guard'
Top Legal News | 2008/03/07 09:00
President Bush said Thursday that while it's been more than six years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States must not become complacent about terrorism.

In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Bush said U.S. officials have helped foil numerous planned attacks, including a plot to fly an airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast and another to blow up trans-Atlantic passenger jets.

"The enemy remains active — deadly in its intent — and in the face of this danger, the United States must never let down its guard," Bush said.

Bush continued to pressure the House to act on Senate-passed legislation needed to renew an intelligence law that governs how the government can eavesdrop on suspected terrorists. The law expired Feb. 16 and the House and Senate have yet to reconcile different versions of a new intelligence bill.



US lawmaker fears open-ended US military pact in Iraq
Headline News | 2008/03/06 20:48

A top lawmaker voiced fears Tuesday that US President George Bush's administration was negotiating deals with Iraq that would amount to an open-ended commitment to stage US combat missions there.

Administration officials say formal US-Iraqi negotiations will begin later this month on a legal framework aimed at keeping security policy options open for both countries beyond 2008, when the UN mandate for US forces ends.

David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, told a joint meeting of two congressional subcommittees Tuesday that "the agreements will not tie the hands of the next president or indeed this president.

"They will ensure that every policy option remains on the table," Satterfield told the lawmaking panels. "The size of the US presence in Iraq, the missions to be performed by such forces if forces are present, are decisions for the president and the next president to make," he added.

The so-called Strategic Framework and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), he insisted, "will not include a binding commitment to defend Iraq or any other security commitments that would warrant Senate advice and consent.



Court of Appeals weighs scope of extortion law
Legal Watch | 2008/03/06 19:26

A lawyer for the state came under sharp attack from several Court of Appeals judges when he urged them to reinstate the extortion conviction of a man who sent expletive-laden letters to a former boss and his attorney, threatening to sue them unless they paid him $100,000.

Assistant Attorney General Brian S. Kleinbord said Scott L. Rendelman’s letters constituted extortion because the grounds for his threatened lawsuit were “baseless” and the written messages were a “threat to obtain something of value to which [he] is not otherwise entitled.”

A Montgomery County jury had convicted Rendelman of trying to extort money from William Elmhirst and attorney Kevin P. Fay, but the Court of Special Appeals threw out the conviction, saying that a threat to sue, unlike a threat of bodily harm, is not evidence of extortion.

Three of the seven judges hearing the matter on Thursday — retired Judges Alan M. Wilner, Lawrence F. Rodowsky and Dale R. Cathell — echoed that reasoning.

Click to download the Webcast of the State of Maryland v. Scott L. Rendelman

Extending the crime of extortion to include threats of litigation might discourage individuals and their lawyers from validly informing an opponent that they might file suit, lest they find themselves in criminal court, the judges said.

By contrast, all seven were largely silent as Rendelman’s lawyer, Karen C. Daly of Washington, said prosecutors go too far when they charge with extortion a person proclaiming his or her legal right to sue – even if vulgarly expressed.



Judge Wants to Resolve Indian Lands Case
Top Legal News | 2008/03/06 17:59
A federal judge says he wants to resolve a 12-year lawsuit over government mismanagement of Indian lands this June.

In a decision last month, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said government accounting for billions of dollars owed to Indian landholders has been "unreasonably delayed" and is ultimately impossible.

At the same time, Robertson said the task is not hopeless, and he asked lawyers for both sides to lay out their cases again at a status hearing on Wednesday.

The June trial "is meant to bring this matter to a conclusion," Robertson said.

The suit, first filed in 1996 by Blackfeet Indian Elouise Cobell, claims the government has mismanaged more than $100 billion in royalties held in trust from Indian lands dating back to 1887.



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