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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Competitive Cheerleading

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held on August 7, 2012 that competitive cheerleading does not qualify as a sport under Title IX. The case was brought by members of Quinnipiac University's women's volleyball team, who alleged that the University's decision to replace volleyball with competitive cheerleading violated Title IX. The decision to categorize a varsity sport under Title IX is made by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR). In determining Title IX compliance, the OCR considers factors, such as whether the number of men and women on sports teams is proportional to the respective numbers enrolled at the school. In 2010, U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill found that Quinnipiac had manipulated its team rosters by undercounting men and overcounting women to make it appear as if the genders were equally represented. Judge Underhill ruled that none of Quinnipiac's competitive cheerleaders counted as varsity athletes because the cheerleading was not recognized as a varsity sport by the OCR. On appeal, the Second Circuit Court held that Quinnipiac discriminated against women. While competitive cheerleading is "physically challenging" and requires competitors to possess "strength, agility and grace," Quinnipiac's program does not yet have the hallmarks of a varsity athletic sport, the court held. "(W)e do not foreclose the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, might someday warrant recognition as a varsity sport," U.S. Circuit Judge Reena Raggi wrote. "But, like the district court, we conclude that the record evidence shows that 'that time has not yet arrived.'"


Gibson Guitar

Gibson Guitar Corp. will pay a $300,000 penalty under a criminal enforcement agreement with federal prosecutors, after it admitted to possible illegal purchases of ebony from Madagascar. The U.S. Justice Department began investigating the guitar maker in 2009 when it suspected that Gibson was importing banned or protected wood from Madagascar and India. "As a result of this investigation and criminal enforcement agreement, Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit over-harvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Gibson has ceased acquisitions of wood species from Madagascar and recognizes its duty under the U.S. Lacey Act to guard against the acquisition of wood of illegal origin by verifying the circumstances of its harvest and export, which is good for American business and American consumers," Moreno said. The Lacey Act, originally passed to decrease trade in bird feathers, was amended in 2008 to require U.S. companies to make detailed disclosures about wood imports. In addition to the $300,000 penalty, Gibson will forfeit $261,844 worth of wood that was seized in the course of the investigation, and will pay $50,000 to the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. finally settled a decade-old dispute over its former name WWF with the World Wide Fund for Nature. World Wide Fund for Nature works to save endangered species. The Switzerland-based World Wide Fund for Nature sued the WWE's predecessor company, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, in 2000 in the United Kingdom. In May 2002, The World Wrestling Entertainment formally announced its WWE identity.



MGA has emerged victorious in its recent retrial against Mattel. Mattel sued MGA for copyright infringement in 2001 when MGA released the Bratz dolls. Mattel claimed that it owned the copyright to the doll as it was created by Carter Bryant, a former Mattel employee. At the initial trial in 2008, a jury awarded Mattel $100 million in damages, MGA was ordered to stop making and selling Bratz products, and to transfer to brand to Mattel. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the verdict and ordered a retrial. At the retrial, an eight-person jury unanimously rejected Mattel's copyright claims and absolved MGA of any wrongdoing in relation to stealing of trade secrets from Mattel. Instead, it found that Mattel was responsible for stealing trade secrets from MGA in relation to unreleased product information, and awarded MGA $88.5 million in compensation. Mattel was awarded only $10,000 on the claim that MGA and its chief executive had interfered with Mattel's contractual relations with Carter Bryant. Mattel lawyers are said to be seeking a retrial.


Sports Betting in New Jersey

U.S. college and professional sports leagues filed a lawsuit in the District Court of New Jersey on August 7, 2012, seeking to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports betting. The lawsuit claims that a law signed in January to allow sports betting at the state's racetracks and at Atlantic City casinos violates a broad federal ban on wagering on sports events. The law, signed by Governor Chris Christie, is expected to be fully implemented this fall. Once it is, New Jersey racetracks and casinos will be allowed to apply for licenses and open gambling operations for amateur and professional sports. Betting on college events taking place in New Jersey, or involving a New Jersey college team will still be prohibited. The lawsuit claims that allowing New Jersey to open sports gambling would "irreparably harm amateur and professional sports by fostering suspicion that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition." The lawsuit also said the New Jersey law was precluded by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1992 to impose a broad ban on sports gambling.


The New Yorker

On August 9th, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken dismissed most of a defamation claim brought by a Canadian art expert over a 2010 New Yorker magazine article. Peter Paul Biro, an art expert, claimed that the article defamed him. He brought defamation and injurious falsehood claims, challenging roughly two dozen passages of an article written by New Yorker staff writer David Grann. The article described Biro as a self-styled "forensic art expert" who claimed to have pioneered a new way to authenticate paintings. The article expressed skepticism about Biro's claims, discussed several lawsuits filed against him, and raised questions about Biro's business motives. Biro said his reputation was destroyed by the article, and is seeking up to $2 million in damages. "The article as a whole does not make express accusations against Biro or suggest concrete conclusions about whether or not he is a fraud," Oetken wrote. "Rather it lays out evidence that may raise questions, and allows the reader to make up his or her own mind." However, the court allowed Biro to go forward with a handful of defamation claims. The New Yorker said in a statement: "We are gratified that Judge Oetken has already dismissed the vast bulk of Mr. Biro's claims, and we are confident that we will prevail."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 10, 2012 3:27 PM.

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