« By October 9, New York State Employers Must Revise Their Sexual Harassment Policies | Main | Center For Art Law Case Law Updates »

Week In Review

By Angela Peco

Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Testifies Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford repeated her accusations under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, testifying that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her on a bed in the summer of 1982, tried to take off her clothes, and covered her mouth to keep her from screaming, causing her to fear that he might accidentally kill her. Kavanaugh struck an angry and defiant tone in his opening statement following Ford's testimony, forcefully denying the allegations and accusing the Democrats of launching a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled by President Trump's election and driven by revenge on behalf of the Clintons.



Veteran Sex Crimes Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell Led Questioning on Behalf of Republican Senators at Kavanaugh Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican leadership retained outside counsel Rachel Mitchell to question Christine Blasey Ford. Mitchell is the chief of the Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County attorney's office in Arizona and has a long record as an even-handed prosecutor of sexual and domestic abuse cases. Despite her qualifications, legal analysts questioned the use of a prosecutor in a case that has not been subject to a fact-finding law enforcement investigation.

In a memorandum to Republican senators following the hearing, Mitchell said a "reasonable prosecutor" would not bring a case against Kavanaugh given the evidence presented. In a legal context, a "he said, she said" case is incredibly difficult to prove, Mitchell said, and this case is even weaker than that. She cited inconsistencies in Ford's statements to the committee, noting Ford's account of her age at the time has varied. Mitchell also noted the lack of corroboration, and Ford's inability to remember details such as how she got to and from the gathering in question.



Two More Women Accuse Kavanaugh of Misconduct

Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, say that they either experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct by an inebriated Kavanaugh in high school or college. Ramirez claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drinking party at Yale. President Trump targeted one of the accusers in scathing, personal terms and accused Democrats of orchestrating a "con game." Trump also admitted that his skepticism about the accusers is rooted in his own anger about having been the target of what he maintains were false accusations of sexual misconduct.




Jeff Flake Demanded a One-Week Delay in Confirmation Vote

On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate floor but Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asked to delay the floor vote and reopen the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background investigation. Two tearful women had confronted the senator soon after he released a statement that he would vote "yes," accusing him of telling women that "assault doesn't matter." Following Flake's announcement, other senators considered swing votes - Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin, indicated they would support his call for a delay.


Details of FBI's Kavanaugh Investigation Show its Narrow Scope

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Friday that it will ask the FBI to probe the sexual assault allegations leveled against Judge Kavanaugh. The supplemental FBI background investigation will be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and will be completed in a week's time. As it is not a criminal investigation, FBI agents will not be able to get search warrants or grand jury subpoenas compelling witnesses to testify or hand over documents. The probe will instead rely on voluntary interviews and document production.

Though the White House said the FBI has free reign to investigate, anonymous sources say the administration is deciding the breadth of the inquiry. Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, will be among the four witnesses with whom the FBI will meet. Judge has been accused of witnessing Ford's assault but was not subpoenaed to testify before the Committee. The FBI also plans to investigate aspects of the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez, but at the time of this writing is not interviewing Julie Swetnick.




Trump Administration Will Restrict New Green Cards for Those on Public Benefits

Under a new regulation titled "Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds", immigration case workers will consider immigrants' use of public benefits when determining if green card candidates are likely to become dependent on government assistance, and as a result, be denied green cards. Federal law has always required green card applicants to prove they will not be a burden on the system, but the range of public benefits that will come under scrutiny has grown significantly to include non-cash benefits, like assistance for food, housing, and medicine. The regulation has been posted to the Federal Register and is undergoing the 60-day review period.



Judge Denies Trump's Request to Dismiss Emoluments Lawsuit

A federal judge in Washington ruled that lawmakers (congressional Democrats) have standing to sue Trump for accepting payments and other benefits from foreign governments without obtaining permission from Congress in what they argue is a violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. The next step is for the judge to rule on whether Trump actually violated the clause, in which case congressional Democrats can ask for information about foreign benefits related to the President's global business dealings.


Appeals Court Weighs Migrant Teenager's Abortion Rights

The Trump administration is claiming broad new authority to block access to abortions sought by undocumented immigrants under age 18 who are in its custody. The case is now before a federal appeals court, where lawyers for the migrants are arguing that Congress has never given the administration statutory authority to veto a minor's abortion decision. A district court judge has already issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with a pregnant minor's access to abortion services or counseling.


Trump Accuses China of Interfering in Midterm Elections

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, President Trump accused China of trying to damage his political standing before the midterm elections in response to him imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods. Trump's claim comes after China placed a four-page supplement in an American newspaper, designed to resemble a news article, that highlighted the economic costs of his trade battle with China.



U.S., Canada, and Mexico Finalize Trade Pact, Sending New NAFTA Deal to Congress

After more than a year of negotiating a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the three countries have finally inked a deal that will be called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The new deal for the first time sets rules for financial services and digital businesses. Canada pledged to curb protection for its dairy industry. The U.S. in turn compromised by agreeing to keep the dispute resolution mechanism of the original treaty.




Alabama is Revisiting the Ten Commandments Debate, Banking On a Conservative Supreme Court

Alabama voters will consider a constitutional amendment in November that would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in schools and other public property across the state. The vote will take place almost a decade after Roy Moore was ousted as Alabama's chief justice for defying federal court orders to remove a stone slab of the commandments from the state judicial building. Social conservatives campaigning for the amendment expect that the inevitable legal challenge will eventually reach the Supreme Court, where they hope a conservative majority, with Kavanaugh on the bench, will rule in favor of such displays.


Japan is Spared from Tariffs After Embracing Bilateral Trade Talks with the U.S.

Facing the threat of tariffs on imported cars, Japan has agreed to start two-way negotiations to promote Japan-U.S. trade. Japan initially insisted it was not interested in pursuing a bilateral deal and repeatedly invited the U.S. to re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade deal from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2017.


U.S. and South Korea Sign Revised Trade Deal

The trade agreement marks the first bilateral trade deal of the Trump administration and includes steps to open up the Korean market to increased American exports, most notably for automobiles.


North Korea Demands Concessions from the U.S. Before Denuclearization

North Korea's foreign minister said the country will not disarm without concessions from the U.S., including a staged reduction of international sanctions and a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War.


China, Facing U.S. Hostility, Vows to Come Out Swinging

China vowed to retaliate against the latest and biggest round of U.S. tariffs. However, the Chinese government has a broader, strategic decision to make when considering if and how it wants to take on the U.S. The Communist Party's overriding concern is domestic stability - the Chinese public is accustomed to a fast-expanding economy and it is not clear if it is prepared to endure a protracted trade conflict.


U.S. Evacuates Consulate in Southern Iraq

The State Department ordered the evaluation of the U.S. consulate in Basra, Iraq because of attacks in recent weeks by militias supported by the Iranian government.


Political Party Seeking Independence is Outlawed in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has banned the Hong Kong National party on the grounds that its pro-independence stance poses a threat to national security. It marks the first time a political organization has been outlawed in the former British colony since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.


Iraq Fears That Attacks On Women Are Linked

The country's Interior Ministry and its intelligence service are investigating the recent deaths of at least four prominent young women. The killing of model and social media star Tara Fares has raised fears of a coordinated campaign to silence outspoken women in Iraq.


Russian Officer is Named as Suspect in Salisbury Poisoning

A group of investigative journalists from Britain and Russia identified one of the suspects in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain earlier this year as an officer in Russia's military intelligence service. The report comes as Moscow continues to deny involvement.


Neighbors Refer Venezuela to Criminal Court

In a rebuke to Venezuelan President Maduro, five Latin American countries and Canada urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela for human rights abuses, pointing to arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual crimes perpetrated by the Venezuelan government. They also view Venezuela's economic unraveling as a growing regional threat.



Senate Passes Music Copyright Bill

The Senate passed a music copyright bill that would streamline royalty payments to artists from digital music platforms like Spotify. It also extends sound recording rights to music recorded before 1972, which lacks federal protection. The measure heads to the House next. Public advocacy groups argued that extending recording rights on all songs from 1923 through 1972 until 2067 would keep the works out of the public domain for too long.


Bill Cosby is Sentenced to Prison and Denied Bail

Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby was denied bail and ordered to prison immediately. The judge also upheld a Pennsylvania state board finding that required Cosby to be registered as a sex offender. A psychologist testifying for the prosecution at the sentencing hearing said Cosby has a sexual disorder involving non-consenting women and is likely to re-offend.



Led Zeppelin 'Stairway to Heaven' Case Goes Back to Trial

Led Zeppelin will again go on trial for allegedly copying an obscure 1960s instrumental for its 1971 classic "Stairway to Heaven". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2016 jury verdict that sided with the band due to the trial judge's erroneous jury instructions and decisions on trial evidence.


Outrage in France Over Rapper's Violent Lyrics

Rapper Nick Conrad created an uproar in France with his violent music video and lyrics that call for "hang[ing] the whites" and killing "the white babies." The song drew quick condemnation from politicians and anti-racism groups, and the Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into "public incitement to the commission of a crime or offense". Conrad could face up to five years in prison and a fine of about $52,000 if convicted.



"Harry Potter" and "Evan Hansen" Are at the Center of a Legal Battle Between Two San Francisco Theaters

The lawsuit follows an acrimonious split between the Nederlander Organization (Nederlander), which operates the city's Orpheum and Golden Gate theatres, and producer Carole Shorenstein Hays, who will stage the two lucrative plays at the nearby Curran Theatre. Nederlander is arguing that allowing the Curran Theater to present the two plays would cause the Nederlander theaters irreparable harm in breach of an agreement between the parties restricting competition. The filing asks the Court of Chancery in Delaware to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the Curran Theater from staging the two shows, or as an alternative, to award Nederlander damages resulting from lost profits.


Federal Judge Allows Graffiti Artist's Lawsuit Against General Motors to Move Forward

A California federal judge is allowing artist Adrian Falkner to move forward in his copyright lawsuit against General Motors (GM) over a car advertisement that captured one of his murals. In 2014 a Detroit art gallery commissioned Falkner to create an outdoor mural that ended up on the walls of a parking garage. GM argued that the mural was inseparable from the garage and therefore part of an architectural work.


Art Dealer Ezra Chowaiki Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Fraud

The former Manhattan art gallery owner was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release for defrauding art dealers and collectors of more than $16 million. He was also ordered to give up his interest in over 20 works involved in the fraud.


"Lion King" Puppet Specialist Charged With Manufacturing 3-D Printed Gun At Theater

The puppet specialist was arrested at New York City's Minskoff Theater after he was found inside the prop room manufacturing a 3-D printed gun. He was charged with attempted criminal possession of a firearm, a misdemeanor. In New York, it is illegal for an unlicensed person to 3-D print an assault weapon, pistol or revolver. The arrest comes amid a national debate over the legality of 3-D printed guns, after a federal judge blocked gun rights activist Cody Wilson from distributing his blueprints.


Belgian Artist Jan Fabre Faces Claims of Harassment

Twenty dancers for Belgian choreographer Jan Fabre allege that they have suffered years of humiliation and sexual harassment. In their letter to a Dutch art magazine, they describe a toxic work environment as well as photographic sessions in which dancers were singled out with offers of money and urged to take drugs to "feel more free". Fabre was a member of the Flemish Wave popular in the European art scene of the 1980s.


Poor Drainage is Threatening Ancient Egyptian Treasures

A $9 million American-financed project is seeking to save Egyptian temples and treasures from further water damage. The water troubles at many Pharaonic sites along the Nile come from decades of flood irrigation in the surrounding fields. Water has penetrated the sandstone foundations and hieroglyphs are fading from temple walls. The project is now trying to drain the groundwater and divert it back into the Nile.


Scotland's Heritage Sites Face Dire Threats from Climate Change

Scotland's Orkney Islands house thousands of historic sites that are now under threat from rising sea levels. Most concerning is the extent and pace of erosion, which is significantly faster than at any other point in the last 100 years. Archaeologists, government agencies, and academics are working to dig, sift, and catalogue imperiled places, while also building physical structures to protect them.


Homage to Chinese Communism is Destroyed in Taiwan

A Buddhist temple that was converted into a shrine to the Chinese Communist Party has been demolished after stirring outrage among people in Taiwan.


The Divergent Paths of Seven Train Stations and the Efforts to Restore Them

Seven train stations in five states are featured in this New York Times article, all reflecting the trajectories of their towns - some remade, others crumbling. A few months ago, the city of Gary, Indiana sold Union Station for $10 to a group of artists who have cleaned the building and restored hopes that it can now have a second life and serve as a sign of a city that is heading toward a rebound. Other cities are facing similar problems of what to do with aging depots and calls for preserving and renovating them are resounding across the Midwest.



Federal Court Determines That Eastern Michigan Violated Title IX by Cutting Two Women's Sports Programs

A federal court granted a preliminary injunction to halt the elimination of two women's teams at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). EMU argued that it had cut the teams in an effort to trim the athletics department budget, but Judge Steeh said that financial hardship is not a defense to a Title IX violation. He ordered the two sides to work out a plan to reinstate the tennis and softball teams.


U.S. House Judiciary Committee Hearing Suggests Possible Federal Sports Betting Regulation

Members of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security & Investigations pressed witnesses about various potential legal safeguards in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to allow states to legalize sports betting. The National Football League (NFL) was the only professional league represented at the hearing, voicing support for "core federal standards" rather than "sweeping federal regulations". Pro leagues have favored federal oversight, while gaming groups have generally preferred state regulation. The hearing did not produce any definitive results, but several House members suggested that they would support new federal regulations.


National Hockey League, Concussion Lawsuit Plaintiffs Propose Spring or Summer 2019 Trial

The National Hockey League and lawyers representing former players suing it over its approach to concussions have proposed to a U.S. federal court that the lawsuits of four yet-to-be-determined former players head to trial in 2019. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson ruled in July that the former players' head trauma-related lawsuits would not move forward as a class action.


Grand Jury Subpoenas Major League Baseball Teams Over International Dealings

A federal grand jury is looking into Major League Baseball (MLB) teams' international dealings and has issued subpoenas to club officials and other personnel involved in the transactions. Though the target of the inquiry is not clear, reports say that investigators have subpoenaed at least one former Braves official. Both the FBI and Department of Justice lawyers who specialize in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases, typically involving bribery of foreign officials, are said to be leading the investigation.


Minor League Baseball Players Are Exploring Unionization to Combat Low Wages

A suit filed four years ago demanded that major league owners pay their minor league players according to minimum wage laws. The owners responded by successfully lobbying for a federal law that guaranteed minor leagues the minimum wage - but only for a 40-hour workweek during the season. Players are not paid for extra innings, spring training or the off-season, which has aggravated a core of minor league players enough to explore unionizing. The MLB Players Association is supportive of minor leagues but has not formally considered a proposal to represent them.


Could the National Basketball Association Force Cavaliers' J.R. Smith to Cover Up His 'Supreme' Tattoo?

The National Basketball Association (NBA) forbids players from unilaterally advertising logos on their person during games. J.R. Smith's "Supreme" tattoo seems to run afoul of this policy and the NBA has warned that he could face a fine for each game in which he fails to cover the tattoo. The NBA has a right to fine Smith under its policy, but it may also have obligations in sponsorship contracts to do so. Further, given that NBA players collectively share in revenue generated by the league's apparel contracts, the players themselves have a financial stake in the NBA protecting the intellectual property rights of sponsors.


Eric Reid Signs with the Panthers While His Collusion Case Against the National Football League Continues

Safety Eric Reid did not agree to dismiss or settle his collusion grievance against the NFL as part of his contract in Carolina. Reid knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem when both players were on the 49ers. There is one potential piece of evidence that could make the alleged collusion even more conspicuous, however - if the Panthers cleared the move with the league office before signing him, the mere effort to get the green light from the NFL could be evidence of an atmosphere of collusion.


Ohio State and Oklahoma Are Battling Over the Use of the Block Letter "O"

Ohio State has filed an action with the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board against the University of Oklahoma (OU) over its use of the block "O." Ohio State uses the block letter as its primary logo and the school extensively outlines the history of its use in the action. The school first registered a trademark for a version of its letter in 1997, then another version in 2003, and a third in 2013. OU, on the other hand, claims that its block "O" has been in commercial use since 2001 and its Board of Regents filed a trademark application for the mark in 2017.


Former NFL Cheerleaders Are Shedding Their Anonymity and Agitating for Change

Five former Washington Redskins cheerleaders who spoke anonymously to the New York Times about the sexual harassment they endured on the job have now agreed to be named in order to bolster the credibility of their allegations and to inspire other women to speak out about workplace harassment. The report prompted the NFL team to conduct a three-month investigation and to introduce several changes this season, including new uniforms and having two female police officers accompany cheerleaders to a team calendar shoot for security.


Questions Remain Concerning United States Olympic Committee Lists of Barred Individuals

National Governing Bodies are creating lists containing hundreds of people who have been barred from federations running those sports, often for sexual misconduct. Links to these lists are now available on SafeSport's website, the agency that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) created in 2017 to investigate and rule on accusations of misconduct. However, the sheer scope of the lists and the inconsistencies within them because of differing standards among the organizations raise plenty of questions, including whether the effort to collect and publish the names is even legal. There are also questions about transparency and whether individual sports are divulging all past offenders.


Vote to Reinstate Russia Exposes Rifts in Antidoping Community

The World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) vote to allow Russia to return to the international sports fold has been a wake-up call for athletes and officials who oversee global competitions. The United States Anti-Doping Agency, for instance, is urging the federal government to focus on worldwide doping and is making the case for WADA reform. At issue is whether WADA should have removed Russia from the list of noncompliant countries before Russia met two requirements for reinstatement: admit to state-sponsored doping and turn over all computer data and tainted biological samples collected from athletes. In defending the decision, WADA says that it received a commitment from Russia to turn over the computer data and samples by the end of 2018.


NFL Defensive Lineman's Story - a Descent Into Pain and Paranoia Due to CTE

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head. He left a trail of documents, letters, and photographs that show a player crippled by injuries and vulnerable to CTE's familiar symptoms, including paranoia, memory lapse,s and angry outbursts.


Cristiano Ronaldo's Lawyers to Sue German Magazine for Publishing Rape Accusations Against the Soccer Star

Ronaldo's lawyers plan to sue the German magazine Der Spiegel for publishing "blatantly illegal" accusations by an American woman who alleges she was raped by the player in 2009. They claim that the report was "inadmissible reporting of suspicions in the area of privacy." The woman moved to void a 2010 settlement agreement that kept her silent about the alleged assault.


Athlete Selected for the First-Ever Refugee Olympic Team Arrested in Greece

Sarah Mardini and other members of a migrant aid group were jailed in Greece and are facing charges of espionage, violation of state secrecy laws, and criminal enterprise. Greek authorities allege that the group systematically facilitated the illegal entrance of foreigners. Mardini herself arrived in Europe as a Syrian refugee and was credited with using her swimming skills to guide an overloaded dinghy to safety. Her organization gathers information on the movement of migrants and sends boats to rescue those at risk of drowning.



Justice Department Will Sue California to Block its New Net Neutrality Law

This past Sunday California became the largest state to adopt its own rules requiring Internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Hours after the proposal became law, the Trump administration announced that it will sue California on grounds that the federal government, not state leaders, has the exclusive power to regulate net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scrapped nationwide protections last year, citing regulatory burdens on industry.


FCC Puts 5G Rollout Rules in Federal Hands

The deployment of 5G, which delivers wireless internet at speeds far faster than the current standard, requires more infrastructure than existing cellular technology and the new federal rules are meant to speed up the installation of this 5G equipment. Under the new rules, local officials have 60 to 90 days to approve or reject installation requests from wireless carriers. The FCC is also putting limits on how much city officials can charge to deploy 5G cells, ordering that all fees must be based on costs. Local officials claim these rules constitute federal overreach and will strip their ability to negotiate with companies or manage how their cities look and feel.


CBS Subpoenaed by Manhattan District Attorney for Information on Les Moonves

State and local prosecutors in New York have opened inquiries into CBS regarding the sexual harassment claims made against its chief executive, Leslie Moonves. CBS said in regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it received subpoenas from the Manhattan District Attorney and New York City's Commission on Human Rights for information related to its own investigation of sexual harassment claims. The New York State attorney general's office is conducting a civil inquiry to determine whether CBS broke any laws by harboring a culture of sexual harassment.



Comcast Outbids Fox for Control of British Broadcaster Sky

With a final offer that values Sky at about 29.7 billion pounds, the American cable giant, Comcast, wrested away control of Sky from Rupert Murdoch and the Walt Disney Company, which is buying most of Rupert Murdoch's company, 21st Century Fox.


Facebook Security Breach Exposes Accounts of 50 Million Users

Hackers exploited a feature in Facebook's code to gain access to user accounts and potentially take control of them in an attack that exposed
the personal information of nearly 50 million users. Company officials do not yet know the identity or the origin of the attackers.


Google Faces Tough Questions at Senate Hearing on Online Privacy

Google's chief privacy officer faced tough questions from lawmakers over its plan to launch a censorship-friendly search service in China and its alleged anti-conservative bias. The company also faced sharp criticism for failing to send a top executive to a Senate hearing on state-sponsored election meddling involving technology platforms earlier this month. Google's chief executive has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in November.


Russian Website USAReally Stokes the Fire of U.S. Politics

Cybersecurity experts believe that a Moscow-based website reporting on divisive content could be part of a retooled Russian propaganda operation that is experimenting with new tactics ahead of November's midterm elections, testing the boundaries of what American social media companies will allow. The website USAReally has received funding from the Federal News Agency, a Russian media conglomerate with ties to the troll farm, whose employees were indicted by Special Counsel Mueller earlier this year. Others believe that it could be a decoy meant to attract attention away from more covert Russian campaigns.


Euroskeptic Journalist is Appointed Chairman of Italy's State Broadcaster RAI

The new chairman of Italy's state-owned TV RAI is an anti-migrant, Eurosceptic journalist with a history of spreading conspiracy theories. Marcello Foa is expected to back the policies of Italy's populist Five Star Movement, which has threatened to dismantle the country's guild of journalists.


Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 1, 2018 9:32 PM.

The previous post in this blog was By October 9, New York State Employers Must Revise Their Sexual Harassment Policies.

The next post in this blog is Center For Art Law Case Law Updates.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.