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Big Oil loses appeal, climate suits go to California courts
Class Action News | 2020/05/28 01:33
Big Oil lost a pair of court battles Tuesday that could lead to trials in lawsuits by California cities and counties seeking damages for the impact of climate change.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by energy companies and ruled state courts are the proper forum for lawsuits alleging producers promoted petroleum as environmentally responsible when they knew it was contributing to drought, wildfires, and sea level rise associated with global warming.

The lawsuits claim Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and other companies created a public nuisance and should pay for damage from climate change and help build sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against future impact construction that could cost tens of billions of dollars.

The ruling overturned a decision by one federal judge, who had tossed out lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

“It is time for these companies to pay their fair share,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement applauding the ruling. “They should not be able to stick taxpayers with the bill for the damage they knew they were causing. We will continue to hold these companies accountable for their decades-long campaign of public deception about climate change and its consequences.”

While the rulings were victories for the coastal counties and cities all in the San Francisco Bay Area except for the tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County and cheered by environmental groups, it could take years before they ever get to a jury, if they make it that far.


Supreme Court blocks House from Mueller grand jury material
Class Action News | 2020/05/21 04:53
The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily prevented the House of Representatives from obtaining secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The court’s unsigned order granted the Trump administration’s request to keep previously undisclosed details from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election out of the hands of Democratic lawmakers, at least until early summer.

The court will decide then whether to extend its hold and schedule the case for arguments in the fall. If it does, it’s likely the administration will be able to put off the release of any materials until after Election Day. Arguments themselves might not even take place before Americans decide whether to give President Donald Trump a second term.

For justices eager to avoid a definitive ruling, the delay could mean never having to decide the case, if either Trump loses or Republicans regain control of the House next year. It’s hard to imagine the Biden administration would object to turning over the Mueller documents or House Republicans would continue to press for them.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objected to the high court’s decision in a statement Wednesday evening. “The House’s long-standing right to obtain grand jury information pursuant to the House’s impeachment power has now been upheld by the lower courts twice,” Pelosi said. “These rulings are supported by decades of precedent and should be permitted to proceed.”

The federal appeals court in Washington ruled in March that the documents should be turned over because the House Judiciary Committee’s need for the material in its investigation of Trump outweighed the Justice Department’s interests in keeping the testimony secret.



Blind justice: No visual cues in high court phone cases
Class Action News | 2020/05/02 04:18
On the evening before he was to argue a case before the Supreme Court years ago, Jeffrey Fisher broke his glasses. That left the very nearsighted lawyer with an unappealing choice. He could wear contacts and clearly see the justices but not his notes, or skip the contacts and see only his notes.

It wasn’t hard to decide. “I couldn’t imagine doing argument without seeing their faces,” Fisher said.

He won’t have a choice next month. Because of the coronavirus pandemic the high court is, for the first time in its 230-year history, holding arguments by telephone. Beyond not being able to see the justices' nods, frowns and hand gestures, the teleconference arguments in 10 cases over six days present a range of challenges, attorneys said, but also opportunities.

Roman Martinez, who will argue in a free speech case, said the lack of visual cues may change what sense is most important. “Maybe it will concentrate the mind on listening,” he said.

The unprecedented decision to hold arguments by phone was an effort to help slow the spread of the virus. Most of the justices are at risk because of their age; six are over 65. And hearing arguments by phone allows them to decide significant cases by the court’s traditional summer break.

The attorneys arguing before the court include lawyers for the federal government and states as well as those in private practice. Only a few are women. Most have made multiple arguments and are familiar to the justices, although at least one lawyer is giving his first argument before the court. The Trump administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, will argue twice.


Washington Supreme Court to hear COVID-19 inmate case online
Class Action News | 2020/04/22 03:21
In an historic setting, the Washington Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday while sitting alone in their separate chambers using Zoom technology in a case that addresses the safety of inmates in the state’s prisons during the coronavirus outbreak.

At the same time, conservative lawmakers, law enforcement officials and some victims plan to hold news conferences on both sides of the state to protest the release of some offenders.

At least 24 corrections employees and 13 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, almost 100 offenders were placed in isolation and more than 1,000 are being quarantined. The majority of the positive cases occurred at the Monroe Correctional Complex where seven staff and 12 inmates have the disease.

After the virus hit the facility, the second largest in Washington, inmates filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking the justices to order Gov. Jay Inslee and Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair to release inmates who are older than 60, have underlying conditions and are within 60 days of their release date.

In an unanimous ruling on April 10, the justices ordered the state to devise a plan to protect inmates from the disease. Several days later, Inslee announced plans to release almost 1,000 non-violent offenders who are close to their release date.

As of Wednesday, about 41 inmates received work release furloughs, 293 had their sentences commuted and another 600 were on a list to be considered for a release into the community using electronic monitoring.


Hawaii Judiciary postpones state court trials amid pandemic
Class Action News | 2020/04/16 13:15
Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald has announced an order to postpone all state court trials amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state Judiciary said.

The order states all state trials in civil, criminal and family courts be postponed until May 29 or the termination of Gov. David Ige’s state of emergency, whichever is sooner, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The exception would be if the chief judge of a circuit court orders otherwise.

“While our community has responded well to stay-at-home orders and the results of these public health measures have been encouraging, the Judiciary must continue to do our part to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and court users," Recktenwald said.

The Committee on Operational Solutions was also formed under the order. The committee would accelerate the courts’ capabilities to conduct proceedings remotely due to the pandemic and would plan for the timely transition to return to increased court operations in the coming months.

Recktenwald has encouraged teleconferencing and videoconferencing to address as many cases as possible and appropriate to combat the spread of COVID-19.


Spanish court: Google search must show man's acquittal first
Class Action News | 2020/03/10 03:04
A Spanish court has partially accepted Google's appeal against a ruling that ordered it to erase news articles about a man accused of sexual abuse, but the new judgement said the company had to display the man's acquittal at the top of any search results.

A National Court decision Friday said that freedom of expression took precedence over personal data protection in this case. However, given the case's special circumstances, the person's acquittal must appear in first place in internet searches, it ruled.

In 2017, Spain's Data Protection Agency ruled in favor of a psychologist who was tried and acquitted on three counts of sexual abuse for which he faced a possible 27 years in prison.

The man, whose name was not released, applied to have Google's search engine erase 10 news articles relating to the case that appeared when his name was keyed in. The agency ordered eight story links to be blocked, saying the news was obsolete.

Google appealed, arguing that the articles were of public interest and access to them should be protected by free speech laws. It also maintained they were of current interest and not outdated.

Spain's privacy agency has long defended people's “right to be forgotten.” Its efforts triggered a landmark ruling in 2014 by Europe's highest court that said search engines must listen, and sometimes comply, when people ask for the removal of links to newspaper articles or other sites containing outdated or otherwise objectionable information about themselves.



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