May 2009

  • May 8, 2009

    "One of the nation's largest unions is calling for 29 financial-services companies to investigate more than $5 billion in pay given to the firms' five highest-paid executives," according to Dow Jones Newswires. "The pension funds of the Service Employees International Union wants the companies' boards to review whether the compensation was 'tied to derivatives and other questionable instruments that are now worthless.'"

    A recent National Law Journal piece (subscription only) offerd this perspective:

    The high compensation should be returned to the companies, said the SEIU's lawyer, Jay Eisenhofer [right], manging partner of Grant & Eisenhofer, because it was based on record-setting financial results that have since been wrtiten off. "There ought to be two things looked at," Eisnhofer said. "Whether or not some portion of compensation should be repaid to the companies that have really suffered and whether or not there's some way of designing compensation systems going forward that might serve companies and shareholders better than the compensation systems that have led us to these problems."

     

  • May 8, 2009
    Guest Post

    By Jennifer Liebman. Liebman contributes legal research to the National Coalition Against Censorship and has completed a legal fellowship with the Media Law Resource Center's Institute.

    On April 20, the Supreme Court granted the government's petition for certiorari, in United States v. Stevens (05-2497), a case that pits a 1999 federal law prohibiting the depiction of animal cruelty against the First Amendment's protection of free expression.

    In 2005, Robert Stevens, a pit bull enthusiast and proprietor of a Web site called Pitbulllife.com, was convicted under the federal law, for selling videos of pit bull fights and pit bulls attacking other animals. The law, Section 48 of Title 18 of the US Code, prohibits:

    the sale, or possession of a depiction of a live animal being intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded or killed, with the intention of placing that depicting in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, where the conduct depicted is illegal under Federal law or the law of the State in which the creation, sale, or possession takes place, and the depiction lacks serious religion, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.

    Congress passed the law in response to "crush videos," which usually featured a woman stepping on and crushing to death small animals. Congress was aiming to dry up the market for such videos.

    A federal court in Pennsylvania found Stevens in violation of the law. An undercover police sting operation purchased from Stevens three videotapes depicting pit bulls hunting prey, fighting each other in Japan (where dog fighting is legal), and footage of dog fights from the 1960s and 70s. Stevens included voice-over narrations for all three tapes, and observations pertaining to both pit bull physiology, and the cultural and historical significance of dog fighting.

  • May 8, 2009

    The Google Books settlement, analyzed by Prof. James Grimmelmann in this ACS Issue Brief, continues to produce headlines.

    By way of background, "In 2004, Google announced that it would create the largest library in the history of the world. The search company had signed up with major universities around the globe to scan and make searchable every word in every volume they contained," according to Slate. "When it was done, we'd be able to search through printed texts in the same way we search the Web. It was a lofty ambition, and it was quickly stopped short by a cold reality -- copyright law."

    CNET News reports on recent developments: 

    The Justice Department is examining antitrust issues regarding a proposed settlement of Google Book Search lawsuits with the search giant ....

    It's unclear what might come of the reported talks, but the Justice Department is not to be treated lightly. The department leads enforcement of antitrust law, and Google backed down from its threatened antitrust lawsuit against it in 2008 regarding a search-ad partnership with Yahoo.

  • May 7, 2009

    In his piece "The Blossoming Union of Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom," Prof. Ira Lupu, an ACS contributor, recently offered his analysis of the complex recent history between marriage equality and religious freedom:

    In the fight over Proposition 8, social conservatives used arguments about religious freedom as a sword. Their most prominent arguments were spectacularly overstated. Some proponents of Prop 8 warned, for example, that recognition of gay marriage would lead to hate speech prosecutions of anti-gay pastors, and loss of tax exemption for churches that refused to host same-sex marriages. Though neither of these developments was remotely likely, some voters were apparently moved by these assertions to support Prop 8.

  • May 7, 2009
    Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, reiterated his support for Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Holder told the committee that the OLC is being run by capable lawyers, but that getting Johnsen confirmed as OLC director was "probably my top priority."

    Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, but her nomination has since been held up by opponents, who take issue with her criticism of some legal advice from the OLC during the Bush administration. Johnsen's nomination has garnered an array of support, including newspapers, a group of 70 legal scholars and former OLC directors.