Celebrities were recently deprived of a valuable asset. This time, however, the perpetrator was not an Internet hacker, a supermarket tabloid, or an unscrupulous business manager. It was the United States Supreme Court. Although State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell concerns the constitutionality of punitive damages, it may have the unintended effect of limiting celebrities’ nationwide rights of publicity.
Stem cells present an intriguing dilemma. They tantalize with their boundless medical potential, but challenge with equally limitless questions about their ethical consequences. If not for this ethical challenge, the question of federal funding for stem cells would be simple: How much funding and to whom? Instead, ethical objections, closely related to other highly controversial political issues, sweep stem cell policy into a political vortex. In recent years, this storm has reduced science’s role in the equation – transforming the issue from a tangible question of science and technology into an abstract debate setting ethical catastrophes against as yet undiscovered miracle cures. Given the political firestorm, government actors have treaded carefully, implementing halfway measures and justifying them by obscuring portions of the real debate from the public. The resultant policy, culminating in President George W. Bush’s August 2001 limitation on federal funding to existing stem cell lines, is driven by a blend of outdated legislation and imperfect institutional arrangements – a combination that, admittedly, handicaps the nation’s ability to explore the potential benefits of human embryonic stem cells (“hES”). More importantly, the policy fails to address the fundamental problem that purportedly justifies its existence: the ability to control the issue’s controversial ethical dilemmas.
In 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”) to address the serious flaws in the private securities litigation system. Courts, Congress, and many commentators agreed that the chief evil plaguing the system was strike suits, suits “based on no valid claim, brought either for nuisance value or as leverage to obtain a favorable or inflated settlement.” Strike suits prevailed in private securities claims because, irrespective of the merits of the claim, it was usually less costly for defendants to settle than fight the allegations. Plaintiffs’ attorneys realized that defendants would settle and took advantage of the situation, sometimes filing claims based on bad news rather than evidence of wrongdoing. Congress stepped in to put an end to these abusive strike suits by enacting the PSLRA, which, among other things, raised the pleading standards for private securities claims, stopped plaintiffs from abusing the discovery process to force settlements, and made the threat of sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (“Rule 11”) more imposing.
On December 24, 2003, the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, attended a special Christmas Mass at a state correctional facility about forty miles north of Gainesville, Florida. More than just celebrating the Christian holiday with the prison’s almost 800 inmates, Governor Bush was attending a milestone in modern American criminal rehabilitation. He was there to dedicate the Lawtey Correctional Institution (“Lawtey”) as the nation’s first completely faith-based prison.
The conversion of Lawtey to a faith-based format is one of the most recent examples of the growing political trend to allow more open participation of religious organizations in government supported and funded social welfare programs. This trend is in line with the much talked about charitable choice provision, which allows religious groups access to federal welfare funds without having to establish a secular service provider component. The provision also allows religious groups to incorporate their religious message into social programs and to consider religion when hiring and disciplining employees.
A corporate inversion is a paper transaction in which an American corporation reincorporates in a foreign nation without moving any of its operations to that country. The principle reason that a corporation will invert is to save money on taxes, in some cases as much as $60 million annually. Politicians, believing these companies are reincorporating in a foreign country to evade taxes, have introduced numerous bills to try to stop these companies from moving overseas. Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, stated that he plans to stop inversions within 500 days of his election to office. These corporations, however, have demonstrated that they will not give up these tax savings without a fight. Leucadia National Corp., a company that underwent an inversion in 2002, has hired a high-priced lobbying firm to block congressional efforts to stop inversions.
“We are at a moment in our history at which the terms of freedom and justice are up for grabs.” Every major innovation in the history of communications – the printing press, radio, telephone – saw a brief open period before the rules of its use were determined and alternatives were eliminated. “The Internet is in that space right now.”
The technology of the Internet has revolutionized communication and information distribution throughout the world. The direction of this revolution, however, will be determined in large part by how the law chooses to regulate this new medium.
Joint client representation is a practice that is fundamentally important to the legal system. The cost of obtaining private legal services has been rising over the past decade. This trend poses a serious problem: while the cost of these services has skyrocketed, the ability of large segments of the population to pay for them has not matched pace. Often times, due to the economic constraints faced by an ever-growing segment of our society, parties in need simply cannot afford to obtain independent legal representation. To these individuals, joint representation constitutes one of the most viable and accessible methods of obtaining adequate legal representation.
Divorce litigation is one area where an overwhelming demand for legal representation exists and where the problem of unmet legal needs is particularly pervasive. One particular subset of divorce cases, the so-called friendly divorce, appears to be an ideal candidate for joint representation. In these cases, the couple has reached agreement on the majority of marital settlement issues and requires only limited legal assistance.
E-mail, the most revolutionary advancement in communication since the printing press, has now become the single most important means of intrusion into our daily lives. Because of its inherent convenience and efficiency, e-mail facilitates an unprecedented level of constant, unchecked disturbances from unsolicited bulk messages, also known as spam. As a result of the Internet’s decentralized architecture and flawed technical underpinnings, consumers and businesses face daily mass invasions via e-mail. These continuous transmissions of low value unsolicited e-mails are invasions to property interests. In sum, spam is nuisance.
Every year the Army Corps of Engineers receives over 74,500 applications for permits under section 404(a) of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), the provision regulating the discharge of fill or dredged material into the nation’s waters. Consequently, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari for Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“SWANCC”) – a case potentially affecting the status of millions of acres of American wetlands – property owners, developers, and environmentalists alike were wise to stand up and take notice.
The SWANCC case involved a Chicago-area consortium of municipalities that sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) for denying them a permit to develop a landfill on an abandoned mining site because the Corps had determined the land in question was inhabited by migratory birds. The central issue presented in SWANCC was whether this “Migratory Bird Rule” – a regulation promulgated in 1986 giving the Corps authority over wetlands populated by migrating birds – was a proper exercise of jurisdiction under the CWA. The municipalities argued that the rule exceeded the Corps’ authority because the CWA was meant to only regulate waters that are navigable or that adjoin navigable waterways. On the other hand, the Corps argued that its jurisdiction is not limited by traditional notions of navigability; rather it has authority over the nation’s waters to the fullest extent of the Commerce Clause.
The increasingly complex technology involved in patent infringement cases has lead many to question the ability of district court judges and jurors in such cases to issue uniform and predictable decisions. In fact, there is evidence that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals – the appellate court with sole jurisdiction and accumulated expertise in patent law – routinely overrules district court decisions regarding claim construction and prosecution history estoppel under the doctrine of equivalents. Given the frequency with which the Federal Circuit overturns district court decisions, and the fact that nearly every patent infringement case involves a dispute over claim construction or prosecution history estoppel under the doctrine of equivalents, patent infringement cases are typically uncertain until after appeal.
The uncertainty of patent infringement cases until after appeal is highly problematic for several reasons. First, uncertainty at the trial level is inefficient because it stimulates appeals rather than settlements. Second, it “creates doubt about the ability of district court judges to adjudicate complex technical patent [infringement] cases.” Finally, this uncertainty may even have the far-reaching effect of stifling innovation. Thus, the current system of adjudication for patent infringement trials is in need of reform, and a specialized patent trial court combined with a rule of greater deference appears to be the most effective means for bringing needed certainty to patent infringement trials.