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Arapaho Man Who Killed Bald Eagle Loses Ruling
Headline News | 2008/05/09 14:49

A member of the Northern Arapahos in Wyoming faces trial for shooting and killing a bald eagle as a sacrifice for the tribe's Sun Dance religious ceremony. The 10th Circuit upheld the Bald and Golden Eagle Act, which makes it illegal to shoot eagles, as the "least restrictive means of pursuing the government's compelling interest in preserving the bald eagle."

The ruling reversed a federal judge's decision for Winslow Friday, who argued that his "taking" is exempt from the act because the Sun Dance and its offerings are important religious rituals for Plains Indian tribes. Friday's cousin, Nathaniel, was the sponsor for the 2005 ceremony, which meant his family was responsible for getting the materials for the ceremony - including an eagle. During the dance, the tribe offers up the tail fan of an eagle to the Creator by raising it on a pole.

The government charged Friday with violating federal law by shooting the eagle used in the Sun Dance.

Friday did not have the permit needed to take an eagle for religious purposes, but his lawyers argued that he would not have been granted one had he applied.

The court rejected this claim, saying the government occasionally grants tribal permits. And while the circuit judges understood the district court's frustration with the "biased and protracted nature" of the permit process, they said the law is not futile.

"We cannot deny the government its authority to enforce a congressionally enacted criminal statute based on no more evidence than this," Judge McConnell wrote



Forest Service May Redact Identities In Fire Report
Headline News | 2008/05/05 14:44
The U.S. Forest Service is not required to disclose the identities of employees who responded to a 2003 wildfire near Idaho's Salmon River that killed two Forest Service workers, a 9th Circuit panel ruled.

The court dismissed a complaint filed by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a public watchdog group that sought a copy of the Forest Service's investigation of the deaths of firefighters Shane Heath and Jeff Allen, who died while fighting the Cramer Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Three other federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, conducted similar investigations and criticized the Forest Service's response to the fire. The OSHA issued several citations against the agency for creating dangerous working conditions. By the Forest Service's own account, management failings had contributed to the deaths.

The Forest Service said it disciplined six employees involved in the fire, but withheld their names and identifying information due to privacy concerns.

The appellate court upheld the agency's decision, saying disclosure could cause "embarrassment, shame, stigma and harassment" for anyone associated with the tragedy.

The court also appeared skeptical that the plaintiff needed the information to launch its own investigation. The only new information that the group could exhume after four full investigations was the identities of the Forest Service employees, whom the group said it plans to contact. This stated purpose does not justify disclosure, the court ruled.

It concluded that releasing the information would not "appreciably further the public's interest in monitoring the agency's performance during that tragic event." 


Author Of 'The River Why' Sues To Stop Film
Headline News | 2008/05/01 14:30

David Duncan, author of "The River Why," had sued a husband and wife, and their film companies, and Sierra Club Books, claiming Sierra resold movie rights to his book, without his permission and without paying him, after an initial option expired.

Duncan, author of the critically acclaimed "River Why" and "The Brothers K," sued Thomas Cohen dba Hammermark Productions, and Cohen's wife, Kristi Denton Cohen dba Peloton Productions, in Federal Court.

Duncan says Denton Cohen, who makes corporate training films, claims to have acquired rights to his book from her husband, a Marin County attorney. "This right, however, was not Cohen's to give," Duncan says.

Duncan claims the Cohens and Sierra Club Books perpetrated "a fraudulent scheme," in which Sierra, purporting to act as his agent, sold Hammermark film rights to the book. But Hammermark never exercised the option, Duncan says.

The complaint continues: "SCB, in violation of its fiduciary duty owed to Duncan, revived Hammermark's expired option without any consideration after Hammermark purportedly assigned the rights to Cohen and Cohen offered SCB an opportunity to invest on its own account in the film production. Even in the absence of this fraudulent conduct, Duncan terminated Hammermark's right to prepare a film derivative work in 1993 because Hammermark failed to fulfill its obligations within a reasonable time. ... Duncan has gone to great lengths in an effort to resolve the impasse created by Denton Cohen's insistence that she owns the film rights to the book and SCB's faithless conduct. Denton Cohen is not qualified to produce the film, and Duncan never would have agreed to grant her the rights. All else seemingly has failed, and Duncan now seeks herein by way of a lawsuit to finally put a stop to Denton Cohen's infringement of the right to prepare derivative works of his book 'The River Why.'"



Federal lawsuit filed over jail overcrowding
Headline News | 2008/04/30 14:45

Civil rights lawyer Jonathan Feinberg [firm profile] filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of 11 inmates challenging the "unconstitutional conditions" in which inmates are currently being held at four Philadelphia jails. US District Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled last January that overcrowded Philadelphia jails violate inmates' constitutional rights and therefore require court monitoring. Surrick's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Feinberg's partner, University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky, in 2006 and ordered the City to immediately rectify conditions including "the failure to provide beds and bedding, ... material for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower facilities." Suffolk's temporary injunction expired several months ago, and the new lawsuit now seeks class certification on behalf of all Philadelphia inmates.

A similar lawsuit filed by Rudovsky 35 years ago resulted in court oversight of Philadelphia jails from 1971 to 2001.



Appeals court orders new credit card case trial
Headline News | 2008/04/28 14:41

A U.S. appeals court reinstated a class-action suit on Friday against a group of banks that force their credit card customers to use arbitration instead of the courts to settle disputes.

The credit cardholders "alleged that the banks (with other co-conspirators, including American Express (AXP.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N)) illegally colluded to force the cardholders to accept mandatory arbitration clauses in their cardholder agreements," according to the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The cardholders argued that the banks had violated antitrust laws "by refusing to issue cards to individuals who did not agree to arbitration," according to the decision.

The cardholders want the court to stop the banks from compelling arbitration, prevent them from "continuing their alleged collusion" and invalidate the existing mandatory arbitration clauses.

A lower court judge sided with the banks, which include Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Discover Financial Services (DFS.N), Capital One Bank (COF.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N), and dismissed the case, saying the cardholders lacked standing.

The panel of three appellate judges disagreed. "The cardholders have adequately alleged antitrust injuries," it said in its ruling.

Bank of America, Capital One and Discover declined to comment. The other banks did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"We're quite happy with the decision," said Charles Goodwin, whose Philadelphia law firm represents the credit cardholders. The cardholders are a large class coming from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and California, he added.

Other banks named in the lawsuit include units of HSBC (HSBA.L) and Washington Mutual Inc (WM.N).

Joe Ridout of the nationwide nonprofit group Consumer Action hailed the ruling, saying: "It's unfair for consumers to have to give up their legal and constitutional rights just to get a credit card."



Fed. judge declares 2nd mistrial in terror case
Headline News | 2008/04/17 15:12

US District Judge Joan A. Lenard Wednesday declared a second mistrial in a terrorism prosecution of six men charged with conspiring to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations. In December 2007 Lenard declared an initial mistrial when the jury was deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. A seventh man was acquitted in that proceeding.

The seven were indicted last year on charges of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleged that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men said that their clients were entrapped by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. If the men had been convicted, they would have faced up to 70 years in prison.



Class Says Lifelock Has Troubling Bosses
Headline News | 2008/04/11 14:41
Lifelock misrepresents and deceptively advertises its "identity theft protection" service, for which it charges $110 a year, a class action claims in Middlesex County Court.

Plaintiffs claim Lifelong does not actually provide the services it offers, that its president Richard Davis dreamed up the idea "while sitting in a jail cell after having been arrested for failing to repay a $16,000 casino marker," and that Lifelock's Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder Robert Maynard is under a lifelong FTC injunction because of misleading infomercials he ran for his own "credit improvement company."

    The complaint adds, "Finally, and perhaps most disturbing ... Maynard himself had engaged in the very type of identity theft his company had set out to eliminate, but stealing his own father's identity."

    Plaintiffs say that whatever services Lifelock does provide its 900,000 subscribers are available elsewhere for free


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