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Supreme Court dismisses Microsoft search case
Court Line News | 2018/04/15 17:03
The Supreme Court has dismissed a dispute between the Trump administration and Microsoft over emails the government wanted as part of a drug trafficking investigation.

The justices on Tuesday agreed with both the administration and Microsoft that last month's passage of the Cloud Act as part of a spending bill resolves the dispute and makes the court's intervention unnecessary.

The legislation updated a 32-year-old law that governs how authorities can get electronic communications held by technology companies. The issue was whether Microsoft had to turn over emails that were stored on its server in Ireland.

The Cloud Act makes clear that the government can obtain the emails. The court says in an unsigned opinion that "no live dispute remains between the parties."


Sales of diesel cars in Germany drop after court permits ban
Court Line News | 2018/04/05 21:26
German officials say there's been a sharp drop in sales of new diesel cars, following a court decision that allows cities to ban the use of heavily polluting vehicles.

Figures released Wednesday by the Federal Motor Transport Authority show new registrations of diesel-powered cars dropped by 25.4 percent in March to under 109,000, compared with about 146,000 during the same month a year earlier.

Germany's top administrative court ruled Feb. 27 that cities can ban diesel cars and trucks to combat air pollution. The decision is a further blow to diesel fuel technology after the revelations that German automaker Volkswagen cheated on U.S. emissions tests.

The value of diesel vehicles in Germany already had fallen significantly, and their market share has fallen since the VW scandal broke in 2015.



Drug companies want Supreme Court to take eye drop dispute
Court Line News | 2018/04/01 21:27
Eye drop users everywhere have had it happen. Tilt your head back, drip a drop in your eye and part of that drop always seems to dribble down your cheek.

But what most people see as an annoyance, some prescription drop users say is grounds for a lawsuit. Drug companies' bottles dispense drops that are too large, leaving wasted medication running down their faces, they say.

Don't roll your eyes. Major players in Americans' medicine cabinets — including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer — are asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the case.

On the other side are patients using the companies' drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. Wasted medication affects their wallets, they say. They argue they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles of medication were designed to drip smaller drops. That would mean they could squeeze more doses out of every bottle. And they say companies could redesign the droppers on their bottles but have chosen not to.

The companies, for their part, have said the patients shouldn't be able to sue in federal court because their argument they would have paid less for treatment is based on a bottle that doesn't exist and speculation about how it would affect their costs if it did. They point out that the size of their drops was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and redesigned bottles would require FDA approval. The cost of changes could be passed on to patients, possibly resulting in treatment that costs more, they say.

Courts haven't seen eye to eye on whether patients should be able to sue. That's why the drugmakers are asking the Supreme Court to step in. A federal appeals court in Chicago threw out one lawsuit over drop size. But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia let the similar case now before the Supreme Court go forward. That kind of disagreement tends to get the Supreme Court's attention.

And if a drop-size lawsuit can go forward, so too could other packaging design lawsuits, like one by "toothpaste users whose tubes of toothpaste did not allow every bit of toothpaste to be used," wrote Kannon Shanmugam, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court who is representing the drug companies in asking the high court to take the case.



Agency: School boards, counties should stay out of court
Court Line News | 2018/03/27 15:36
School districts across North Carolina will present fall funding requests in the coming weeks, with the threat of costly and lengthy litigation if local county commissioners can't see eye-to-eye with school board members on spending.

The General Assembly's government watchdog agency told legislators Monday they should pass a law barring school districts from suing when funding disagreements can't be settled through formal mediation.

The Program Evaluation Division recommended the new law instead direct a county fund a district when mediation is exhausted through a formula based on student membership and inflation.

Some committee members hearing the agency report questioned whether it was worth changing the law since school funding impasses reached the courts just four times between 1997 and 2015. It took 21 months on average to resolve them.


Brazil court largely upholds law that some fear hurts Amazon
Court Line News | 2018/03/10 22:50
Brazil's Supreme Court has batted down challenges to key parts of a law that environmentalists say has contributed to increasing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

The 2012 law included an amnesty for illegal deforestation that occurred before July 2008, including releasing perpetrators from the obligation to replant areas in compensation. It also weakened protections for some preservation areas by expanding the sorts of activity allowed in them. It was backed by farming interests.

Wednesday's court ruling rejected most of the challenges to the law.

Brazil's non-governmental Socio-environmental Institute says researchers believe the law contributed to rising rates of Amazon deforestation starting in 2012 after years of decreases. However, the rate fell in 2017 as compared to 2016, which saw an exceptionally large swath of forest cut.



Court rules in favor of fired transgender funeral director
Court Line News | 2018/03/08 22:50
A woman was illegally fired by a Detroit-area funeral home after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Garden City discriminated against director Aimee Stephens by firing her in 2013.

In a 3-0 decision, the court said "discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII" of federal civil rights law.

The court overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, who said the funeral home had met its burden to show that keeping Stephens "would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely held religious beliefs."

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"The unrefuted facts show that the funeral home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer's stereotypical conception of her sex," said judges Karen Nelson Moore, Helene White and Bernice Donald.

The EEOC learned that the funeral home, until fall 2014, provided clothing to male workers dealing with the public but not females. The court said it was reasonable for the EEOC to investigate and discover the "seemingly discriminatory clothing-allowance policy."

Stephens said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union that nobody "should be fired from their job just for being who they are," adding "I'm thrilled with the court's decision."


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