Law News Digest – Week of June 7, 2015
Friday, June 12
Bought something from a Michael Kors Outlet? You may be getting some $$ back (which you will probably spend at the outlets). Story: Shoppers sued MK for deceptive price tags at their outlets, where they would put an “MSRP” price, and then a lower amount labelled “our price.” But the clothes were never intended for sale at the “MSRP” and were made exclusively for the outlets. MK agreed to settle the lawsuit and will pay out almost $5 mil to outlet shoppers over the last 4 years. They will also change their sales practices to either replace “MSRP” with “Value” and explain what “Value” means, or will stop using reference prices altogether in outlets.
It’s not illegal to be drunk on your front steps in Iowa: A woman in Iowa was convicted of public intoxication for being drunk on the front steps of her house. But are the front steps of your house a public space? Nope, said the Iowa Supreme Court, which overturned her conviction and said what she did was not illegal. The ruling will likely influence other states on this issue.
They are actually enforcing campaign coordination laws now: Federal election laws limit the amount you can donate to a candidate, but allow organizations called “SuperPACs” to raise money to run their own campaigns for candidates without any limits for donations. Yet SuperPACs must maintain strict separation from an actual candidate’s campaign. It’s generally believed that candidate campaigns regularly coordinate (illegally) with SuperPACs. But yesterday marked the first time a political operative was convicted of such illegal coordination. He got 2 years in prison and 2 additional years of probation.
Six more Guantanamo Bay prisoners released: The men were held at the prison for 13 years, and were identified as “low-risk.” This brings the total number of prisoners at Guantanamo to 116, less than half the number when Pres Obama took office in 2009. The President is still working towards the goal of either convicting or releasing all the prisoners and shutting down the prison by 2017.
North Carolina allows officials to opt out of performing marriages: The state passed a law yesterday that allows judges and other officials whose duties include performing marriages to refuse to perform a particular marriage because of a “religious objection.” The law doesn’t specifically mention same sex marriage, but obviously it’s directed towards that. After the official refuses once, he or she then can’t perform any marriages, same sex or opposite sex, for 6 months.
Michigan allows adoption agencies to discriminate: And in other discrimination news, Michigan passed a law which allows private adoption agencies which take state money to refuse to place children with certain families (meaning gay families of course) based on a religious objection. The ACLU thinks this is unconstitutional, and is considering suing to block the law.
Thursday, June 11
Government cracks down on Kickstarter campaign: It’s the first time the federal government has gone after a Kickstarter campaign. A guy created a campaign to fund a board game called “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City,” and raised $122,000. Although he promised to send people t-shirts or a copy of the game if they donated, he never sent these. Instead of using the money for the game, he spent it on personal items. Then he said he was canceling the project and refunding the money, but he didn’t actually refund anything. So the Federal Trade Commission is requiring him to refund the money, except that this order is suspended because of…. wait for it… an inability to pay.
Wednesday, June 10
It just got harder to have an abortion in Florida: The state passed a law requiring a woman who wants an abortion to visit a clinic, then wait at least 24 hours, then come back to the clinic for the procedure. That makes 14 states that require 2 clinic visits for an abortion. See more on abortion laws here.
Warner Music settles claim that it underpays interns: In the latest in a series of settlements over underpaid interns, Warner Music Group has agreed to pay hundreds of former interns a total of over $4.2 million. The settlement covers interns who worked in New York since 2007 and who were paid nothing or less than minimum wage. In general, an “internship” may avoid paying minimum wage only if it meets certain criteria, including that interns do NOT displace regular employees, and the employer does NOT receive an immediate advantage from the intern’s activities. Clearly, many internships violate these criteria, and the government is cracking down.
Tuesday, June 9
Group that feeds strangers’ parking meters scores win: A group of activists known as Robin Hooders roam around Keene, New Hampshire feeding strangers’ parking meters and leaving a picture of Robin Hood on the car with the message “Your meter expired! However, we saved you from the king’s tariff!” (Can we get this in LA please?) The group also apparently records and sometimes confronts parking enforcement officers, and the city sued the group on the basis that they were interfering with the city’s contract with its employees. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire said that claim is bogus and the activists are simply exercising their free speech.
Monday, June 8
Congress can’t designate Jerusalem as part of Israel: That’s basically what the Supreme Court decided today. Story: Israel and Palestine have an ongoing dispute over who should control Jerusalem, and whether they should split it. Until they resolve this (will they ever?), the official U.S. policy is that Jerusalem is not part of any particular country. But in 2002, Congress passed a law allowing Americans who were born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as the birthplace on their passports. Yet neither Presidents Bush or Obama actually implemented the law, since it conflicts with longstanding policy. The Supreme Court today struck down the law as unconstitutional because the President has the exclusive power to grant recognition to a foreign government.