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Court upholds net neutrality rules on equal internet access - 2016/06/15

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the government's "net neutrality" rules that require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a win for the Obama administration, consumer groups and content companies such as Netflix that want to prevent online content from being blocked or channeled into fast and slow lanes. The rules treat broadband service like a public utility and prevent internet service providers from offering preferential treatment to sites that pay for faster service. The Federal Communications Commission argued that the rules are crucial for allowing customers to go anywhere on the internet without a provider favoring its own service over that of other competitors. The FCC's move to reclassify broadband came after President Barack Obama publicly urged the commission to protect consumers by regulating internet service as it does other public utilities. Cable and telecom opponents argue the new rules will prevent them from recovering costs for connecting to broadband hogs like Netflix that generate a huge amount of internet traffic. Providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T say the rules threaten innovation and undermine investment in broadband infrastructure. But Judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan denied all challenges to the new rules, including claims that the FCC could not reclassify mobile broadband as a common carrier. That extends the reach of the new rules as more people view content on mobile devices.

Spain court orders Operation Puerto blood bags released - 2016/06/11

A Spanish court ruled Tuesday that blood bags that are key evidence in one of Spain's worst doping scandals should be handed over to authorities for investigation. The Madrid Provincial Court said bags containing blood samples and plasma should be handed over to the Spanish Cycling Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Cycling Union and Italy's Olympic Committee. The announcement came 10 years after Operation Puerto revealed a doping network involving some of the world's top cyclists when police seized coded blood bags from the Madrid clinic of sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The decision backed an appeal by lawyers for prosecuting parties against a 2013 court ruling that the bags should be destroyed for privacy reasons. The court said Thursday's ruling "took into account that the goal is to fight against doping, which goes against sport's ethical values." Not ordering the bags to be made available would have "generalized the danger of other sports people being tempted to dope themselves and sent a negative social message that the end justifies the means," the court said. The 2013 order to destroy the blood bags outraged the sports community. Spain's anti-doping agency, the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency were among the entities that appealed.

A Legal Battle: Online Attitude vs. Rules of the Bar - 2016/06/10

A federal court in Northern California has rejected an effort to block a new San Francisco law that requires health warnings on ads for sugary drinks. U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen's decision Tuesday clears the way for the law approved by city lawmakers last year to take effect in July. The ordinance requires the warnings to appear on ads for soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages that appear on billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums within the city. The labels would read: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay." The American Beverage Association and other groups have sued the city to overturn the law. Chen denied their request for an injunction to keep the measure on hold while the case proceeds.

Court rejects blocking health warning on sugary drinks ads - 2016/05/18

A federal court in Northern California has rejected an effort to block a new San Francisco law that requires health warnings on ads for sugary drinks. U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen's decision Tuesday clears the way for the law approved by city lawmakers last year to take effect in July. The ordinance requires the warnings to appear on ads for soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages that appear on billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums within the city. The labels would read: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay." The American Beverage Association and other groups have sued the city to overturn the law. Chen denied their request for an injunction to keep the measure on hold while the case proceeds.

Bridge conspirator list release is delayed by appeals court - 2016/05/15

A federal appeals court on Tuesday delayed the release of a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal as it considers whether to allow someone named on the list to block its publication. The ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia called for a June 6 hearing for attorneys to present their arguments. The ruling left open the possibility that the hearing could be closed to the public. The same judge on Friday denied a request by the person on the list, identified as John Doe, to further delay the release of names of unindicted co-conspirators in the plot. Doe then appealed to the 3rd Circuit. Doe's attorney, Jenny Kramer, has argued in court filings that Doe would be "publicly branded a felon" without the chance to clear his name in court, violating his rights to due process. Bruce Rosen, an attorney for the media companies, called Doe's attempt "frivolous and desperate" in a response filing and argued that the due process clause doesn't protect a person's reputation. He also wrote that names of unindicted co-conspirators often are revealed during a trial anyway. Bridget Kelly, Republican Gov. Chris Christie former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a top Christie appointee to the agency that operates the bridge, have been indicted and face trial this fall. A second former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official has pleaded guilty.

Supreme Court punts decision in birth control dispute - 2016/05/15

The Supreme Court rid itself Monday of a knotty dispute between faith-based groups and the Obama administration over birth control. The court asked lower courts to take another look at the issue in a search for a compromise. The justices issued an unsigned, unanimous opinion in a case over the arrangement devised by the administration to spare faith-based groups from having to pay for birth control for women covered under their health plans. The major confrontation over an element of President Barack Obama's health care law ended with a whimper and with no resolution of the issue the court undertook to decide. "The court expresses no view on the merits of the cases," the justices wrote. The matter almost certainly would not return to the Supreme Court until after the 2016 presidential election. The outcome suggests the court lacked a majority for a significant ruling and is perhaps another example of how the justices have been affected by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In the short term, the government can take steps to make sure that women covered by the groups' health plans have access to cost-free contraceptives. At the same time, the groups won't face fines for refusing to comply with administration rules for objecting to paying for birth control.

Arizona sheriff faces prospect of more court oversight - 2016/05/13

As he seeks a seventh term in office, the sheriff of metro Phoenix faces the prospect of greater oversight of his agency from a judge who ruled that the lawman has disobeyed his orders in a racial profiling case. Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found to be in civil contempt of court for violating court orders, such as letting his officers conduct immigration patrols 18 months after the judge barred them. The decision brings Arpaio one step closer to a possible criminal contempt case that could expose him to fines and even jail time. The sheriff was put under court supervision after the judge ruled nearly three years ago that Arpaio's officers had profiled Latinos. In response, the judge imposed an overhaul on the agency, including giving officers training on how to conduct constitutional traffic stops. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow is now considering whether to invalidate several internal investigations into alleged wrongdoing and mismanagement by sheriff's employees and get an independent investigator to re-examine the allegations. The contempt ruling on Friday said Arpaio deliberately misstated facts last year when he denied in court that he had conducted an investigation of the judge.

High court says investor lawsuit can remain in state court - 2016/05/11

The Supreme Court says a lawsuit alleging securities fraud under New Jersey law can remain in state court even though the same claims could have been brought under federal law. The unanimous ruling on Monday is a win for investors who often find it tougher to win shareholder class action cases before federal judges than in state courts. The justices sided with a group of shareholders who say Merrill Lynch traders used illegal tactics to depress the value of a stock. Merrill Lynch said the lawsuit belonged in federal court because the claims include violations of federal securities law. But the court sided with the plaintiffs, saying it didn't matter that the claims were similar to those that could have been made under federal securities law.