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High Court Struggles Over Hospital Pension Dispute
Criminal Law Updates | 2017/03/23 02:33
The Supreme Court seemed to struggle on Monday over whether some of the nation's largest hospitals should be allowed to sidestep federal laws protecting pension benefits for workers.

Justices considered the cases of three church-affiliated nonprofit hospital systems being sued for underfunding pension plans covering about 100,000 employees. But the outcome ultimately could affect the retirement benefits of roughly a million employees around the country.

The hospitals — Advocate Health Care Network, Dignity Health and Saint Peter's Healthcare System — say their pensions are "church plans" exempt from the law and have been treated as such for decades by the government agencies in charge. They want to overturn three lower court rulings against them.

Workers suing the health systems argue that Congress never meant to exempt them and say the hospitals are shirking legal safeguards that could jeopardize retirement benefits.

"I'm torn," Justices Sonia Sotomayor said at one point during the hour-long argument. "This could be read either way in my mind."

Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Internal Revenue Service issued hundreds of letters over more than 30 years approving the hospitals' actions. That shows they were "proceeding in good faith with the assurance of the IRS that what they were doing was lawful," he said.

The case could affect dozens of similar lawsuits over pension plans filed across the country.

Much of the argument focused on how to read a federal law that generally requires pension plans to be fully funded and insured. Congress amended that law in 1980 to carve out a narrow exemption for churches and other religious organizations.


Those who lost North Carolina driver's licenses are restored
Criminal Law Updates | 2017/01/05 05:08
Court officials say North Carolinians who lost their driver's licenses because of problems at the Department of Motor Vehicles have gotten them back.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Forsyth County Clerk of Court Susan Frye said in May that thousands of North Carolina drivers had lost their licenses because DMV officials had not updated records.

Frye said the state agency did not update driver's records to show when people complied with requirements such as taking care of a ticket or getting a re-scheduled court date.

The exact number of people affect is unclear. Frye says the DMV has done a great job of fixing the problems. She says she's getting virtually no complaint calls now.


South Korean executives jailed for humidifier cleaner deaths
Criminal Law Updates | 2017/01/03 05:08
A South Korean court sentenced the former head of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser to seven years in prison Friday after the company's disinfectant for humidifiers killed scores of people and left hundreds with permanent lung damage.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Shin Hyun-woo, Oxy chief from 1991-2005, was guilty of accidental homicide and falsely advertising the deadly product as being safe even for children. Seven years is the maximum prison term the court could issue.

Choi Chang-young, chief judge of the case, said the disaster could have been prevented if Shin and others in the company, a subsidiary of British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, had tried to ensure the chemicals' safety.



US Supreme Court could hear Charleston company, Lexmark case
Criminal Law Updates | 2016/12/01 16:48
A small Charleston company that refills and resells empty toner cartridges could soon be defending itself before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute that could affect huge tech companies and pharmaceutical firms.

Lexmark, a Lexington, Kentucky-based printing corporation, sued Impression Products, accusing the company of patent infringement for selling its cartridges, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

At issue is what is known as the first-sale doctrine, a principle limiting a patent holder's rights after a product has been sold once.

Impression Products argued Lexmark's patents on its cartridges are no longer effective after the cartridges are sold, allowing the smaller company to sell them freely. Lexmark cartridges can cost up to hundreds of dollars, and Impression Products sells used ones at a lower price.

In February, a federal court sided with Lexmark, saying the corporation's patent rights weren't exhausted, regardless of whether the cartridges were being purchased from U.S. or foreign suppliers — Impression Products has purchased toner cartridges from Canadian suppliers in the past.

Last month, the federal government recommended the Supreme Court review the case.

Impression Products President Eric Smith explained that while this doesn't guarantee that the justices will review the case, it sharply increases the probability of it happening.

The implications of the case go beyond ink cartridges, as Samsung and Google have backed Impression Products' argument. The tech giants operate foreign supply chains that would have to jump through additional hoops if the first-sale doctrine did not apply for foreign purchases. Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer have supported Lexmark, with a Lexmark victory likely giving their own patents greater protection.



Israel court says lawmaker Hazan did drugs as casino manager
Criminal Law Updates | 2016/11/01 22:23
An Israeli court has ruled that a lawmaker from the ruling Likud party had used hard drugs when he ran a casino in Bulgaria, before entering politics.

Tuesday's ruling marks another blow to the already dubious reputation of Oren Hazan, who was elected last year and within months faced accusations of physically assaulting a public official, sexually harassing women and soliciting prostitutes.

Hazan sued Amit Segal, reporter for Israel's Channel 2 TV, for defamation over an investigative piece that included testimony on Hazan having allegedly consumed crystal meth while managing the Bulgarian casino.

In the ruling, the court found the reporter had acted in good faith and reported his story honestly. Nevertheless, it awarded Hazan $10,000 in damages for another, unsubstantiated Channel 2 report that Hazan had also sold drugs.


Landowners to court: Exxon Mobil pipeline breaches contract
Criminal Law Updates | 2016/10/19 03:20
Attorneys for landowners along a crude oil pipeline that ruptured in Arkansas in 2013 say Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. breached its contract because the pipeline interferes with their ability to enjoy their property.

Attorneys for the landowners and Exxon Mobil appeared Wednesday before judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota.

The landowners asked the appeals court to reinstate their case, which was dismissed last year, and have it re-certified as a class-action suit. Attorney Phillip Duncan says it's an issue of honoring easements.

Exxon Mobil attorney Gary Marts said the case was properly dismissed. He says landowners are essentially trying to regulate pipeline safety through a lawsuit - but that's the job of a federal agency.

The Pegasus Pipeline runs through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Texas.



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