Reversing a rule initiated in President Obama’s final weeks, the Trump administration posted a legal memo that stated that it will not seek charges against companies that accidentally kill migratory birds.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which is almost a hundred years old, protects birds by requiring businesses to guard against hazards that could harm them. In recent years, BP paid $100 million in fines for violating the act, and Duke Energy was found to be in criminal violation of the act. In one of its last rulings before leaving office, the Obama administration announced that the government could under the law prosecute companies for killing birds even if they do so accidentally. Though the new Trump administration suspended the application of the ruling almost immediately after taking office. Now they say that the law only applies to purposely killing migratory birds.
Under the MBTA, the government could seek 6 months in prison and a 15,000 fine for each bird killed or wounded by the actions of a company, but the Trump administration believes that this places way too much burden on businesses. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in excess of 30 million birds accidentally die every year in collisions with structures such as towers and electrical lines, and many more die in turbines and pits.
Conservation groups took exception to the new ruling. The National Audubon Society, which believes the MBTA is one of the most important conservation laws on the books, thinks that the new interpretation not only violates the intent of the treaty but it also ignores decades of long-standing legal precedent. David O’Neill, who is the chief conservation officer of the society, says that the ruling disincentivizes business from working with them to come up with solutions to the problem.
Another conservation group, the National Wildlife Foundation, lamented how the law went from being too broadly interpreted under the Obama administration to being too narrowly interpreted under the current administration.
Industry groups, though, applauded the ruling. The National Ocean Industries Association believes that the previsous interpretation created lots of uncertainty and that the current one meant the businesses would not have worry about being threatned with prosecuation over what they believe are essentially legal activities.
Christmas has long been associated with extended holiday traveling for many people across the nation. As a matter of fact, sometimes folks attempt driving completely across the nation to get to spend some high quality time with friends and family. And for some, the term “high” is truly the operative word. However, sometimes the best laid plan can still go awry. And this is especially true in Nebraska, which is a state that has just exposed the fact that at least one state still has antique laws.
Sheriff deputies in York County, Nebraska conducted a traffic stop shortly before Christmas that involved an 80 year-old man and his 83 year-old wife who stated they were on their way to visit family in New England. According to their identification, Northern California is their home. The reason for the stop as recorded by the investigating officers is that the operator of the truck was swerving across the lane divider and failed to give a signal when turning. What appeared as a routine traffic stop was about to turn into a full blown drug investigation.
During the traffic stop one of the officers smelled the distinct aroma of raw marijuana, and having a K-9 unit in the police car with them, they decided to let the dog do his magic. What the dog produced was astounding when considering that the suspects who were stopped at first appeared as apparently harmless law-abiding citizens. What the K-9 officer found was 60 lbs of marijuana, along with a significant stash of THC oil extract. According top the elderly couple, the stash was intended as Christmas presents for their friends and family.
Of course, being caught red-handed and admitting to having possession of the contraband, the couple was arrested and received two citations from the officers. The first citation was for possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver for resale. However, the second charge revealed the true state of legislation in Nebraska. The couple was cited for not having a state of Nebraska marijuana tax stamp. Uh, say what?
The issue of marijuana legality has been a confusing and potentially outdated federal statue that has also seen overlapping legislation from the states. While it is federally illegal to even possess any amount of marijuana, several states have also enacted a marijuana stamp tax law. That way, even if you are caught with marijuana and somehow manage to have it returned by the state after excellent aggressive legal counsel can get you acquitted of charges, you still owe the state of Nebraska their claim to taxation for the prospective sale.
There was no information provided with respect to whether or not the couple was carrying a Santa Claus suit as well, but suffice to say someone did not have such a merry Christmas.
Barnes and Thornburg attorney John F. Meyers is suspended from the practice of law for two years. That’s because officials say he falsified his hourly billing in order to collect payments for work he didn’t do. The Georgia Supreme Court handed down the suspension.
An official reviewing the case recommended disbarring the attorney completely. However, the discipline panel decided on the two-year suspension. The disbarment is the result of Meyers’ attempts to fool a corporate client into paying bills that they didn’t owe for services that Meyers performed for someone else.
Meyers practiced in the areas of labor and employment law with Barnes and Thornburg. Barnes and Thornburg is a large law firm with more than 600 attorneys. Authorities say the events leading to the suspension happened in 2011.
Authorities say that Meyers helped another attorney use the corporation’s money to fund a new, private law firm. The pair didn’t have the authority to siphon the company’s money for that purpose, officials say. They say the pair billed a large corporation for work that wasn’t done for the corporation’s benefit. The other attorney involved in the scheme agreed to give up his law license. Meyers denied that he knew he was defrauding the corporate client. He said that he was just following instructions from the other attorney involved in the scheme.
When the fraud came to light, the corporation fired the attorney involved. Meyers resigned as in-house counsel. Meyers repaid the money. The disciplinary panel said that because Meyers quickly repaid the money he took fraudulently, a suspension was more appropriate than complete disbarment.
Meyers leaves the practice of law after 34 years in practice. His professional accomplishments include defending NFL quarterback Jameis Winston. Meyers hasn’t had any other discipline charges in his entire career. Meyers had legal representation during the disciplinary proceedings. The state entered the opinion and its order of suspension on December 11, 2017.
Despite ethics rules preventing dishonesty in billing, honesty in billing is often hard to enforce because of a lack of oversight and accountability for attorneys who own their own practices and bill independently. Many attorneys still bill for services by the hour. Some say the business model discourages efficiency. With attorneys under pressure to be profitable for their firms, they might exaggerate their hours in order to meet billable hour requirements or earn bonuses. Some say there aren’t enough checks and balances for clients to catch dishonesty and outright fraud.
The nation is in turmoil over the future of the internet, following the decision made by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to terminate net neutrality. The rules have been in place since 2015, when they were instituted to ensure the internet remained freely available to everyone without interference from service providers eager to push their own products and services.
Changes Won’t Be Immediate, But They Will Come
The greatest fear sweeping the online community has been that changes would be immediate, following the defeat of net neutrality. The assumption was that service providers would charge for access to individual websites, such as social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While that hasn’t been the case, internet service providers have hinted that they may use their new-found power to push their own interests.
All legal content will still be available on the internet, but companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast are likely to prioritize their own content. This means smaller start-up companies, or those with no service provider affiliations, will experience greater difficulty in reaching consumers. The larger service providers assert that the unregulated internet prior to 2015 functioned well and even provided better user experiences.
FCC Commissioner Mike O‘Rielly supported the decision to do away with net neutrality, suggesting new technologies, such as self-driving vehicles, can now be given priority over the flood of “cat videos” seen on social media. He added that making extreme changes to service wouldn’t serve providers well with their customers and would only attract negative attention from lawmakers. By attempting to block or discriminate against certain kinds of content, internet service providers would only be hurting their own interests, O’Reilly said.
“It is simply not worth the reputation cost,” added the FCC commissioner.
The Fight is Far From Over
While the public feels defeated by the repeal of net neutrality, congress isn’t giving up so easily. Democrats in particular are committed to protecting the rights and freedoms granted by net neutrality, whether that means working through the courts or establishing new laws in congress. Already, Senator Edward Markey claims to have the backing of 15 other senators in a move to undo the net neutrality repeal.
Meanwhile, another FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, released a dissenting opinion in which she warned of the new overreaching powers now granted to internet service providers.
“They have the technical ability and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic,” Rosenworcel stated. “And now this agency gives them the legal green light to go ahead.”
A recent poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, found that 80% of participants opposed the repeal of net neutrality rules. The poll was conducted prior to the ruling, between December 6 and December 8.
In what has become an almost daily headline in the news, movie producer Harvey Weinstein finds himself facing another lawsuit from a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct. In New York federal court, British actress Kadian Noble filed a lawsuit against Weinstein accusing him of sex trafficking. In the lawsuit, Noble stated the allegations resulted from a meeting she had with Weinstein while in France in February 2014. According to Noble, in that meeting, which was held in Weinstein’s hotel room, he violated United States federal sex trafficking laws by sexually assaulting her in his hotel room.
According to the lawsuit, Weinstein used his influence in the film industry to force or coerce Noble into sexual activity due to his promising to use influence to help her land a role in one of his upcoming films. However, Weinstein has stated he has never had non-consensual sex with Noble or anyone else, and his spokespeople have also stated he has denied any and all allegations of non-consensual sex. Because of this, it’s important to note that the allegations have not been independently confirmed as of this time.
Considered a civil lawsuit, it seeks unspecified damages for Noble. And for those who wonder about the statute of limitations regarding these charges, federal law allows for a 10-year statute of limitations on sex trafficking charges. Also important to remember is that in this lawsuit, Harvey Weinstein is not the only party named. Noble named the Weinstein Company itself as well as Harvey’s brother Bob, whom Noble alleges was aware of Harvey’s activities in regards to forcing women into having non-consensual sex with him in exchange for movie roles. As of now, neither officials of the Weinstein Company nor Bob Weinstein himself have provided comments on the allegations nor the lawsuit.
As of now, more than 50 women around the world involved in various aspects of the entertainment industry have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, and police in London, Los Angeles, New York, and Beverly Hills are conducting investigations into allegations of sex trafficking, rape, and other related acts that could result in the filing of criminal charges against Weinstein. Due to the allegations, Harvey Weinstein has been fired from the Weinstein Company, resigned from the Directors Guild of America, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For additional information on this developing story, visit Reuters.
Allegations now exist from six former clerks for the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals regarding sexual harassment from judge Alex Kozinski.
The six accusers say that while performing duties for the San Francisco based court that sexual comments and behaviors resulting in feelings of discomfort were directed towards them by Judge Kozinski. Four of them women also requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Judge Kozinski has denied the allegations and stated that he would never ‘do anything’ offensive to any employees. The judge expressed regret for any remarks made that may have offended anyone.
One accuser who did go on record in accusing Kozinski is Heidi Bond. Bond clerked for Kozinski for approximately a year beginning in 2006 and now authors romance novels under a pen name. The allegations made by Bond are that on three separate occasions she was summoned by Kozinski to his office and was shown pornography by the judge. Bond says the judge would then ask her questions such as did she think the videos were ‘digitally manipulated’ and if she was aroused by videos.
Emily Murphy clerked for another judge with the 9th circuit court and met Judge Kozinski in 2012. Murphy alleges that Kozinski overheard her making remarks about the gym in the courthouse being rarely used. In response to Murphy’s remarks, Kozinski suggested that she work on in the gym naked. Murphy says that she and two others taking part in the conversation attempted to redirect the conversation but Kozinski would not be deterred.
Another former clerk of Kozinski who wished to remain anonymous said that the judge had also shown her pornography and that he had also shown her a chart detailing the totality of the judge’s sexual conquests.
A former extern told media sources that while sitting at a table with Kozinski that the judge lifted a tablecloth to look at her legs.
Judge Kozinski received backlash in the past for what many believed to be a cavalier attitude toward issues pertaining to sexuality and humor. It was determined in 2008 that the judge had posted sexual materials to his personal website.
More about the allegations against Judge Alex Kozinski can be seen at the abajournal.
Tom Wolf, governor of Pennsylvania, signed a bill a few months back to allow ten mini-casinos to be established in Pennsylvania. This project is almost underway. Governor Wolf believes opening these casinos will help add money to the state budget. In one interview, Governor Wolf discussed using some of this money to assist veterans with their daily needs and to renovate inner-city housing establishments. Governor Tom Wolf hopes these ten gaming facilities will be up and running within the next 12 months.
There are currently 12 casinos in the state of Pennsylvania. The mini-casinos must be built at a minimum of 25+ miles from any of the 12 casinos. Investors do not see this as a problem because Pennsylvania is one of the Largest states in America. Each mini-casino will be allowed to have approximately 25 slot machines and several card tables. These mini-casinos are also expected to have a game room for children in order to make these establishments family-friendly.
In addition to investors, restaurant owners are happy about these new casinos. Several restaurant owners have already signed deals to have their food sold at these establishments. Many restaurant owners are expected to do the same thing over the next few months.
In addition to restaurant owners, entertainers are also signing contract deals with these new gaming establishments. Each establishment is expected to have live entertainment every night of the week.
The citizens of Pennsylvania are also thrilled about these establishments being built. The main reason for this is due to transportation. Though there are a number of casinos in Pennsylvania, most of these casinos are hours from busy Pennsylvania cities, and Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of people who do not drive. Citizens will be able to take their local buses to the new gaming establishments, and Pennsylvania bus companies are expected to run daily specials to these facilities.