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High court worries about abandoning online sales tax rule
Top Legal News | 2018/04/15 03:04
The Supreme Court sounded concerned Tuesday about doing away with a rule that has meant shoppers don't always get charged sales tax when they hit "checkout" online.

The justices were hearing arguments in a case that deals with how businesses collect sales tax on online purchases at sites from Amazon.com to Zappos. Right now, under a decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn't have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don't get charged it, but the vast majority don't.

More than 40 states have asked the Supreme Court to abandon its current sales tax collection rule , saying that as a result of it and the growth of internet shopping, they're losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year.

But several Supreme Court justices suggested during arguments Tuesday that they had concerns about reversing course.

"I'm concerned about the many unanswered questions that overturning precedents will create a massive amount of lawsuits about," Justice Sonia Sotomayor told South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, who was arguing for the court to do away with its current rule.

Chief Justice John Roberts pointed to briefs suggesting the problem of sales tax collection "has peaked" and may be "diminishing rather than expanding." ''Why doesn't that suggest that there are greater significance to the arguments" that the court should leave its current rule in place, he asked.

The fact that Congress could have addressed the issue and has so far hasn't, Justice Elena Kagan said, "gives us reason to pause." Congress can deal with the issue in a more nuanced way than the court, she said, saying Congress is "capable of crafting compromises and trying to figure out how to balance the wide range of interests involved here."

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online.


Supreme Court hearing case about online sales tax collection
Legal Interview | 2018/04/11 03:05
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether a rule it announced decades ago in a case involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses' collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn't have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don't.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they're losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they're shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court's physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.



Indian court grants bail to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan
Law Firm Business | 2018/04/08 06:22
A court on Saturday granted bail to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, who will be allowed to remain free while he appeals his conviction on charges of poaching rare deer in a wildlife preserve two decades ago.

Khan was convicted Thursday and sentenced to five years in prison and was immediately sent to jail. On Saturday, Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi ordered him to sign a surety bond of 50,000 rupees ($770) before he could be set free from the jail in Jodhpur, a town in western India.

After he was released, he was driven straight to the airport to fly to his home in Mumbai, India's entertainment capital.

Hundreds of Khan's overjoyed fans danced outside the courtroom and chanted "We love you, Salman." His sisters, Alvira and Arpita, were present during the hearing.

Carrying big garlanded posters of Khan, they also set off firecrackers and sang songs from his Bollywood movies as some of them chased his car heading to the airport.

The scenes were more intense outside his Mumbai residence. Thousands of fans waited for hours and lit up the sky with fireworks as Khan reached his home.

Flanked by his father and other relatives, he came to the balcony of his apartment with folded hands and waved, thanking them for their support. He retreated after signalling his fans to go home.

Four other Bollywood stars accused in the case - Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam - were acquitted Thursday by Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri. They were in the vehicle that Salman Khan was believed to be driving during the hunt in 1998. Tabu and Neelam both use just one name.

Khan says he did not shoot the two blackbuck deer. The heavily muscled actor was acquitted in two related cases.

His attorney Mahesh Bora has challenged the conviction and sentence, and Khan will remain free pending the outcome of the appeal.



Democrats Claim Victory In Wisconsin's Supreme Court Race
Firm Websites | 2018/04/06 18:36
In Wisconsin Tuesday, Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet won a seat on the state Supreme Court, riding a wave of Democratic enthusiasm to victory in this (officially) nonpartisan election.

The race drew national attention, mostly from big-name Democrats from around the country who saw it as an opportunity build momentum before the general election in November.

Dallet won the seat over her opponent, Judge Michael Screnock from Sauk County, Wisc., a former conservative-activist turned lawyer.

"I think my message resonated with Wisconsinites," Dallet told supporters in Milwaukee Tuesday night. "People are tired of special interests ruling and wanted to speak up."

With the win, she will replace outgoing conservative Justice Michael Gableman, bringing the court's 5-2 conservative majority down to 4-3.

While the state's Supreme Court seats are non-partisan, candidates have long found ways to send hints about their political leanings, but this year's race was overtly partisan.

Dallet's first TV ad featured grainy black and white footage of President Donald Trump, warning voters that their values were under attack.

Her endorsements came from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee ran ads on Dallet's behalf, and he campaigned for her last month during stops in Wisconsin. In a statement Tuesday night, Holder said, "Today, the voters of Wisconsin took a critical first step toward a state government that better reflects their needs and interests."

Screnock, meanwhile, argued Dallet's overtures to Democrats showed she would be an "activist" on the court, but Screnock himself received $300,000 from the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the most a political party has ever spent on a Supreme Court candidate in the state's history.



Brazil's top court: Lula can be jailed for upheld conviction
Top Legal News | 2018/04/05 02:36
A sharply divided top court voted early Thursday to reject an attempt by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva to stay out of jail while he appeals a corruption conviction, delivering a hard blow to the front-running candidate in this year's presidential election in Latin America's largest nation.

After nearly 11 hours of often heated debate, the Supreme Federal Tribunal voted 6-5 to deny da Silva's request to stave off a 12-year prison sentence while he fights a conviction that he has always argued was nothing more than a ploy to keep him off of the October ballot.

Despite the conviction and several other corruption charges against him, da Silva leads all preference polls for the election.

The decision means that da Silva will likely be jailed soon, though probably not until at least next week thanks to various technicalities.

Chief Justice Carmen Lucia, who was sharply criticized during the session by various colleagues, cast the deciding vote after the court was tied at 5 to 5.

"The constitution secures individual rights, which are fundamental to democracy, but it also assures the exercise of criminal law," she said.

The debate at the Supreme Federal Tribunal underscored how fraught the matter is at a time of high tension and angst in Brazil.

Justice Gilmar Mendes, traditionally a critic of da Silva, voted in favor of da Silva's petition to stay out of jail, challenging his colleagues to buck pressure from society.

"If a court bows (to pressure), it might as well not exist," said Mendes.

Justice Luis Roberto Barroso argued that the integrity of the justice system was at stake.

"A penal system that doesn't work with minimal effectiveness leads to an instinct for taking justice into one's own hands," Barroso said in voting against da Silva.



Liberal Dallet easily takes Wisconsin Supreme Court race
Top Legal News | 2018/04/04 02:35
Rebecca Dallet, a liberal Milwaukee judge, easily defeated conservative Michael Screnock on Tuesday in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, fueling optimism among Democrats for more victories in the fall midterms.

The win in the first statewide general election in the country this year forced Gov. Scott Walker, who endorsed Screnock, to warn his fellow Republicans.

"Tonight's results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI," Walker, who is up for re-election in November, tweeted. "Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they'll target me and work to undo our bold reforms."

Although the race was viewed by some as a bellwether, results of past Supreme Court elections have not consistently proven to be predictive of what will happen in November. President Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, while Dallet thumped Screnock by double digits.

She won by a nearly 12-point margin with 87 percent of precincts reporting, based on unofficial results.

The race for a 10-year seat was nonpartisan in name only, with millions in ad spending and public endorsements from the likes of Joe Biden, Eric Holder and the National Rifle Association.

Dallet said her victory, which Democrats quickly seized on as another sign of momentum, was a rejection of special interest influence on Wisconsin's Supreme Court.

"The candidate with the most experience in our courts and standing up for the fairness of our courts won," she said. "I think people are tired of what's been going on in our state in terms of the money coming in to buy these elections and people spoke out tonight."

Screnock said he was proud of his campaign, in the face of "tremendous outside influence from liberal special interest groups that were willing to say and spend anything to elect their preferred candidate to the bench."

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said the win was a warning shot to Walker, calling it a "huge loss" for him because his "endorsement, philosophy and politics were on the ballot."

One of the Democratic challengers to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, immediately tried to raise money off the Dallet win. Randy Bryce called the Dallet win "a rallying cry for working folks."

Screnock, a Sauk C


Drug companies want Supreme Court to take eye drop dispute
Opinions | 2018/04/02 18:35
Eye drop users everywhere have had it happen. Tilt your head back, drip a drop in your eye and part of that drop always seems to dribble down your cheek.

But what most people see as an annoyance, some prescription drop users say is grounds for a lawsuit. Drug companies' bottles dispense drops that are too large, leaving wasted medication running down their faces, they say.

Don't roll your eyes. Major players in Americans' medicine cabinets — including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer — are asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the case.

On the other side are patients using the companies' drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. Wasted medication affects their wallets, they say. They argue they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles of medication were designed to drip smaller drops. That would mean they could squeeze more doses out of every bottle. And they say companies could redesign the droppers on their bottles but have chosen not to.

The companies, for their part, have said the patients shouldn't be able to sue in federal court because their argument they would have paid less for treatment is based on a bottle that doesn't exist and speculation about how it would affect their costs if it did. They point out that the size of their drops was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and redesigned bottles would require FDA approval. The cost of changes could be passed on to patients, possibly resulting in treatment that costs more, they say.

Courts haven't seen eye to eye on whether patients should be able to sue. That's why the drugmakers are asking the Supreme Court to step in. A federal appeals court in Chicago threw out one lawsuit over drop size. But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia let the similar case now before the Supreme Court go forward. That kind of disagreement tends to get the Supreme Court's attention.

And if a drop-size lawsuit can go forward, so too could other packaging design lawsuits, like one by "toothpaste users whose tubes of toothpaste did not allow every bit of toothpaste to be used," wrote Kannon Shanmugam, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court who is representing the drug companies in asking the high court to take the case.


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