Law News Digest – Week of May 3, 2015


Consumer Rights: Have you flown United Airlines and paid for in-flight Wi-Fi or DirecTV? Apparently the Wi-Fi/DirecTV service doesn’t work outside the continental U.S. or over water, and United conveniently doesn’t tell you this on board. Well, this woman may be your hero: she paid for DirecTV for a 4 hr flight and only got it for 10 minutes, and is now suing the airline on behalf of herself and all others in a similar situation.

Policing the Police: U.S. Justice Department is investigating Baltimore Police Department to determine whether there is a systemic problem of using excessive force, including deadly force, conducting unlawful searches, seizures and arrests, and engaging in discriminatory policing. This is in addition to the Department’s specific investigation of the death of Freddie Gray, and to the Baltimore prosecutor’s criminal case against the six officers involved.

Even in San Francisco: Prosecutors in San Francisco are investigating racist, homophobic, and sexist texts by at least 14 SFPD officers. They have identified about 3,000 criminal cases that may be affected by such bias, meaning that some convictions could be overturned or current cases dismissed.


Privacy RightsRemember when we found out the NSA ordered Verizon to hand over ALL its customers’ metadata? (Note: metadata = time of call, who you’re calling, etc., but not content). The NSA said the Patriot Act allows that kind of thing. No it doesn’t, says a federal appeals court today. The specific provision in the Patriot Act at issue here is due to expire on its own in June, and Congress is currently debating whether to renew it or change it.


Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) has allowed 17 million more people to obtain health insurance, and 80% of Americans have seen no change in coverage, according to a new study.

Gun control: Oregon will enact law requiring background checks for all buyers of guns through private sales. The state already has laws requiring background checks for gun purchases through licensed dealers and gun shows. The new law will make Oregon the 12th state to require background checks for private sales of handguns and long guns.

Free SpeechDo you have a 1st amendment right to sing at the Post Office? Nope, said a court today. A postal worker refused to serve a guy after he wouldn’t stop singing, so he sued the USPS for infringing his freedom of speech, and lost. And everyone who ever needs to mail a package again just breathed a sigh of relief.

Sex, Lies, and Law: A man in San Diego was sentenced to 6 months in jail for lying to a sex partner about his HIV status, and infecting the partner, in violation of a California law. He may also be required to pay for the partner’s medical expenses. Sex is NOT all fun and games, people.


Privacy Rights: Can authorities use your cell phone location data as evidence of a crime, without getting a warrant? Yes, a court ruled today that does NOT violate the Constitution. A factor in the court’s decision was that “the government did not seek, nor did it obtain, any GPS or real-time … location information” but only location data corresponding to phone calls made. How else can the government collect evidence on you?

Healthcare fraud: DaVita, one of the largest kidney dialysis providers in the country, is agreeing to pay out almost half a billion dollars to settle claims that it deliberately wasted medicine in order to receive higher payments from Medicare, the government healthcare program for seniors and people with disabilities. Being evil can get expensive!


Justice for poor youth in Georgia: The government is supposed to provide poor people accused of crimes with lawyers to defend them for free (called public defenders), under the Constitution. Those lawyers are also supposed to be able to do a thorough job. Unfortunately, all over the country, public defenders are overloaded with cases and can’t do a proper job. After being sued, New York recently agreed to reform its public defender system; now Georgia is doing the same.

Bridgegate: Today a former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pleaded not guilty to charges related to the closure of the George Washington Bridge, which was allegedly done as revenge for a mayor’s refusal to endorse the governor. Last week, a former ally of Christie actually pleaded guilty for his involvement.

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