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California high court: Yelp can't be ordered to remove posts
Headline News | 2018/07/04 00:48
Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies warned could be used to silence online speech.

In a 4-3 opinion, justices agreed, saying removal orders such as the one attorney Dawn Hassell obtained against Yelp "could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform."

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that Yelp had said could lead to the removal of negative reviews from the popular website.

Hassell said Yelp was exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. Her attorney, Monique Olivier, said in a statement that the ruling "stands as an invitation to spread falsehoods on the internet without consequence."

She said her client was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hassell's 2013 lawsuit accused a client she briefly represented in a personal injury case of defaming her on Yelp by falsely claiming that her firm failed to communicate with the client, among other things.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan found the online statements defamatory and ordered the client and Yelp to remove them. Hassell said the client failed to answer her lawsuit or remove the posts, so she had to seek a court order demanding that Yelp do it.

A second judge and a state appeals court upheld Sullivan's order.

"Ms. Hassell did exactly what she should have done," Olivier said Monday. "After both the defamer and Yelp refused to remove untrue and damaging statements, she obtained a judgment against the defamer, and sought to enforce that judgment by requiring Yelp to remove the defamation."

Yelp said the lower court ruling would give businesses unhappy about negative reviews a new legal pathway for getting them removed.

Yelp said the removal order violated a 1996 federal law that courts have widely interpreted as protecting internet companies from liability for posts by third-party users and prohibiting the companies from being treated as the speaker or publisher of users' posts.

Three of the California Supreme Court justices agreed.

"In substance, Yelp is being held to account for nothing more than its ongoing decision to publish the challenged reviews," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in an opinion joined by associate justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger said in a separate opinion that she agreed that the removal order against Yelp was invalid, but for a different reason. Hassell did not name Yelp as a defendant, so the company did not get its "own day in court," Kruger said.


Trump has 2 or 3 more candidates to interview for court
Headline News | 2018/07/04 00:42
President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices and plans to meet with a few more as his White House aggressively mobilizes to select a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Eager to build suspense, Trump wouldn't divulge whom he's talking to in advance of his big announcement, set for July 9. But he promised that "they are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way. I had a very, very interesting morning."

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with four people for 45 minutes each Monday and will continue meetings through the rest of the week. She said Tuesday he has "two or three more that he'll interview this week and then make a decision."

The interviews were with federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. The Washington Post first reported the identities of the candidates Trump spoke with.

The president spent the weekend at his Bedminster golf club, consulting with advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy with a justice who has the potential to be part of precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said Monday, repeating the role he played in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

McGahn will be supported by a White House team that includes spokesman Raj Shah, taking a leave from the press office to work full time on "communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies." Justin Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.

Trump's push came as the Senate's top Democrat tried to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick who would oppose abortion rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a campaign-season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate," which confirms judicial nominees.

With Trump committed to picking from a list of 25 potential nominees that he compiled with guidance from conservatives, Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CNN's "State of the Union," said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.



Court: S.Korea must allow alternative for military objectors
Headline News | 2018/06/28 07:50
South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the country must allow alternative social service for people who conscientiously object to military service, which is currently mandatory for able-bodied males.

The ruling requires the government to introduce alternative service by the end of 2019. It was hailed by activists as a breakthrough that advances individual rights and freedom of thought.

It is also likely to trigger a heated debate in a country which maintains a huge military to counter North Korea threats, and where many have accused conscientious objectors of attempting to evade the draft.

Hundreds of conscientious objectors are imprisoned in South Korea each year, serving terms of 18 months or longer. Most are Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to serve in the military on religious grounds.

"Too many people have been forced to choose between prison and the military, and when they choose prison, a term of 1 1/2 years has been almost automatic," said Lim Jae-sung, a human rights lawyer who has represented contentious objectors. "This is great news for those who are currently on trial or will conscientiously object to military service in the future as we probably won't be marching them straight to jail."

The court said the current law, which does not permit alternative service, is unconstitutional because it infringes excessively on individual rights.

The court acknowledged that conscientious objectors experience "enormous disadvantages" in addition to their prison terms, including restrictions in public sector employment, maintaining business licenses and social stigma.


Lawsuit seeks lawyer access to immigrants in prison
Headline News | 2018/06/22 07:01
A rights group filed an emergency lawsuit in federal court Friday against top officials of U.S. immigration and homeland security departments, alleging they have unconstitutionally denied lawyers' access to immigrants in a prison in Oregon.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred 123 immigrants in early June to the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, because other holding facilities have been overloaded since the Trump administration enacted a "zero tolerance" policy in April involving people entering the U.S. illegally.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed the lawsuit in Portland on behalf of the detainees, who are mostly from Mexico and Central America. The lawyers say they've been denied meaningful access to the detainees, many of whom escaped violence in their home countries and are seeking asylum in the U.S.

"The U.S. Constitution protects everyone who is on U.S. soil," said Mat Dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon. "You have fundamental rights to due process of law. You can't just throw them in prison."

An interfaith group, meanwhile, announced it would be holding Sunday morning services outside the prison. The Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, which is organizing the services, is based in Portland.

"With Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions invoking Romans 13 to validate the immoral separation of immigrant children from their families, this can no longer be a time for 'business as usual' for Christian communities," said the Rev. Michael Ellick of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland.

Last week, Sessions cited a Bible verse urging obedience to the laws of government "for the purpose of order."

Among the people being held in the medium-security prison is Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez, whose family was separated at the border when they sought asylum at a port of entry, the ACLU said.




USCIS Completes Lottery for Temporary Increase in FY 2018 H-2B Cap
Headline News | 2018/06/17 00:54
On May 31, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began receiving H-2B petitions under the temporary final rule increasing the numerical limit, or cap, on H-2B nonimmigrant visas by up to 15,000 additional visas through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2018.

In the first five business days of filing, USCIS received petitions for more beneficiaries than the number of H-2B visas available under the FY 2018 supplemental cap. Accordingly, regulations required USCIS to use a computer-generated selection process, commonly known as a lottery, to randomly select enough petitions to meet, but not exceed, the increased H-2B cap for FY 2018. USCIS ran this lottery on June 7, 2018, and on June 11, 2018, began issuing notifications to the petitioners that were selected.  

USCIS will reject and return unselected petitions with their filing fees, as well as any cap-subject petitions received after June 6, 2018.

Petitions accepted for processing will have a receipt date of June 11, 2018. Premium processing service for these petitions begins on that receipt date.

Only employers whose petitions were accepted will receive receipt notices.



Supreme Court addresses question of foreign law in US courts
Headline News | 2018/06/13 17:56
The Supreme Court says United States federal courts should consider statements from foreign governments about their own laws but do not have to consider them as binding.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous court that federal courts should give "respectful consideration" to what foreign governments say. But she wrote that federal courts don't have to treat what they say as conclusive.

Ginsburg said the appropriate weight given to a government's statement in each case will depend on the circumstances, including the clarity, thoroughness and support for what a government says.

The Thursday ruling came in a case that involves two U.S.-based purchasers of vitamin C, one in Texas and the other in New Jersey, and vitamin C exporters in China.




Woman accused of dismembering roommate appears in court
Headline News | 2018/06/12 07:16
A San Francisco woman looked composed and lucid as she made her first court appearance on Friday on a murder charge accusing her of killing and dismembering her roommate, whose body parts prosecutors say were discovered in plastic bags at their home.

Lisa Gonzales, 47, was in an orange jail suit with her hands cuffed behind her back during the brief appearance with her attorney. She answered a question from the judge, but she did not enter a plea. Her arraignment was continued until June 14.

Police arrested Gonzales on Saturday after her 61-year-old roommate was reported missing. Police discovered the victim's severed arms and legs in a maggot-filled storage container, according to prosecutors.

Gonzales told police that her roommate refused to move out, and the two of them argued on May 15, a San Francisco prosecutor said in a court filing. She told investigators she thinks she "flipped," but she didn't have a "real recollection" of what happened, Adam Maldonado said in the filing.

Outside court, Gonzales' public defender, Alex Lilien, said his client was a hardworking, single mother and had taken the victim, Maggie Mamer, in after Mamer said she had been evicted by unscrupulous landlords. He said he didn't have details about his client's mental health.

"She's charged with murder, and she's being portrayed as a monster in the media — and that's distressing," he said. "She's concerned about her family."

Mamer had lost her home and "fallen on hard times" when Gonzales in August 2017 offered her a room, Maldonado said in the court filing. They agreed on $400 a month as rent. But after items around the home began to get misplaced or broken, Gonzales told Mamer in April to move out in 30 days or face eviction, the prosecutor said.

Lilien said Friday that Gonzales did not know Mamer well when she let her move in, and that Mamer had a history of not paying rent.


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