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Week In Review

By Christine Coleman

Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


U.S. Calls for Breakup of Ticketmaster Owner

The Justice Department sued Live Nation Entertainment, which owns Ticketmaster, asking a court to break up the company over claims that it illegally maintained a monopoly in the live entertainment industry. The government accuses Live Nation of leveraging its sprawling empire to dominate the industry by locking venues into exclusive ticketing contracts, pressuring artists to use its services, and threatening its rivals with financial retribution. The government argues that those tactics have resulted in higher ticket prices and stifled innovation and competition throughout the industry. The suit, joined by 29 states and the District of Columbia, asks the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to order “the divestiture of, at minimum, Ticketmaster,” and to prevent Live Nation from engaging in anticompetitive practices. The case, happening 14 years after the government approved the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, has the potential to significantly transform the concert industry.

Federal Judge Rejects Dismissal Motions in UMG v. Internet Archive ‘Great 78 Project’ Infringement Battle

Universal Music Group’s (UMG) copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive is proceeding after Judge Maxine Chesney rejected multiple dismissal motions. UMG, Sony Music Entertainment (SME), and others initially submitted the $400 million action in August of 2023, alleging large scale infringement by the Internet Archive defendants in their “Great 78 Project.” According to the Internet Archive, the project “is a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records” and they have made at least 450,000 recordings available for streaming and download. The defendants moved to dismiss the suit in January, claiming that a cease-and-desist letter sent to them by the RIAA in July of 2020 should invalidate “a substantial swath of alleged instances of direct infringement.” The court disagreed and stated that the letter did not identify any specific sound recording, let alone any of the allegedly infringed works. Judge Chesney wrote, “although, at a later stage of the proceedings, Internet Archive Defendants may be able to use the letter to show one or more of the alleged acts of infringement described in the amended complaint occurred outside the limitations period, such a showing has not been made at the pleading stage.”

The Mechanical Licensing Collective Sues Spotify for Bundling and Cutting Royalties for Publishers and Songwriters

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) has filed a lawsuit against Spotify, calling the way the streamer reclassified its premium, duo, and family plans as “bundles”. Spotify then started paying a discounted royalty rate to publishers and songwriters, which the MLC claims was “improper.” This lawsuit comes just a week after Billboard first reported that the discounted royalty rate from these bundles would result in publishers and songwriters earning an estimated $150 million less in U.S. mechanical payments, compared to what they would have earned if the plans were not bundled. The root of this conflict started when Spotify launched an audiobook-only plan in March and reclassified the audiobook option as a “bundle” with the other plans, resulting in a reclassification to pay out lower royalty rates. The MLC is arguing that the premium service offered by Spotify currently is the same as what was offered before the bundle existed, so Spotify should continue to pay the full premium plan revenue rate.

Spotify Immediately Responds to the MLC’s Lawsuit — And Is Not Backing Down

In response to the lawsuit, Spotify is claiming that its discounted royalty rates for bundling are justified according to Phonorecords IV royalty agreement approved by the Copyright Royalty Board. In its response, Spotify is saying that the concerns the MLC are suing over were previously agreed upon between publishers and streamers, with bundles being a critical component.


NMPA Calls on Congress for Copyright Act Overhaul Amid Spotify Battle Over Bundling

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) has sent a letter to Judiciary Committee leadership in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, asking for the overhaul of the statutory license in Section 115 of the Copyright Act, which “prevents private negotiations in a free market” for mechanical royalty rates for songwriters and music publishers in the U.S. In the letter, David Israelite, the president and CEO of the NMPA, states that doing away with the 100-year-old system of government-regulated price setting for songwriter and publisher royalties (specifically, mechanical royalties) and allowing rate negotiations to occur in a free market would prevent songwriters and publishers from being taken advantage of by “Big Tech.” Songwriters, who are subject to the Copyright Royalty Board, do not have the ability to negotiate protections against bad faith tactics that record labels that operate in the free market have. Israelite proposes that “Congress should allow rightsholders the choice to license through the MLC using the statutorily set royalty rates or to withdraw from the MLC and operate in a free market if they meet certain conditions.” He also lists out potential requirements for copyright owners who wish to withdraw their works from the MLC. Graham Davies, president and CEO of the Digital Media Association (DiMA) replied to the NMPA’s letter, saying that the music industry depends on the blanket license established by the Music Modernization Act (MMA) and without it the MMA will fall apart, reverting the industry back to the inefficient and fragmented licensing regime that existed before the MMA became law.


Appeals Court Upholds Childish Gambino Song-Theft Ruling Because of Copyright Registration Error

The Second Circuit has declined to overturn an earlier ruling in a song-theft dispute between Childish Gambino and Miami-based rapper Kidd Wes. Kidd Wes accused Childish Gambino of ripping off his 2016 song “Made in America” by using a similar distinctive flow on the 2018 track “This is America.” The lower court dismissed Kidd Wes’ original claim because of registration issues and “a cursory comparison” of the two songs “reveals that the content of the choruses is entirely different and not substantially similar.” Kid Wes appealed, arguing that copyright law says that infringement lawsuits can still be filed even if there are inaccuracies in a registration, providing those inaccuracies were a mistake. However, the appeals court said that failing to register the musical work was not a mere inaccuracy. Kid Wes had registered the sound recording of his song but failed to register the musical work itself. His claim, however, centered on the musical work, and therefore failed to satisfy the registration requirement before bringing this suit.


Disneyland Character Workers at California Park Vote to Unionize

A majority of Disneyland cast members who perform as characters and dance in parades at the amusement park in California voted to unionize with the Actors’ Equity Association (Equity). Equity said that it had exceeded the threshold it needed in a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, winning a 79% majority. Issues that led to this moment included securing improvements in safety and scheduling and demanding “a living wage,” as well as other workplace benefits.

Sony Sues Marriott Over Social Media Posts

Sony Music has sued the Marriott hotel chain over its use of music on videos posted to social media. Recordings released by the label have appeared allegedly without license in videos promoting the company's various hotel brands, created by Marriott marketing teams directly, companies operating hotels using Marriott brands under license, and influencers paid by the Marriott company. The licenses short form video platforms have with the music industry typically only cover non-commercial use of the music in content.  Brands that use music in videos they upload to these platforms, however, need to negotiate synchronization deals with relevant record labels and music publishers, unless they are using music that has explicitly been pre-cleared for this sort of commercial use (or is in the public domain). Sony first notified Marriott about the infringement 2020 and has continued to provide notice of its continuing infringing conduct on multiple occasions.

Weinstein’s Lawyer Tried to Intimidate Witnesses, Prosecutors Say

Arthur Aidala, one of Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers, has questioned a witness’s credibility as prosecutors seek to retry Weinstein on sex crimes charges. In a letter to Judge Farber, prosecutors asked the judge to remind the lawyer of his “ethical obligations” regarding out-of-court statements under the New York Rules of Professional Conduct. They accused him of violating the rules with critical public statements about Miriam Haley, a former television production assistant, who at Weinstein’s 2020 trial said that he forced oral sex on her in his Manhattan apartment in July 2006. Days after Weinstein’s convictions were overturned, Aidala accused Haley of lying to the jury at a news conference and said he would diligently prepare to cross-examine her at the retrial if she “dares to come and show her face here.” Prosecutors said in the letter that these comments went beyond “mere posturing” and were “designed to let Ms. Haley know that if she testifies, Mr. Aidala will make it as unpleasant for her as possible.”

Elvis’s Granddaughter Sues to Block Sale of Graceland, Charging Fraud

Actress Riley Keough, the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, claims that Naussany Investments & Private Lending LLC is fraudulently planning to auction off Graceland, Elvis’s home in Memphis. The company is accused of claiming that Keough’s mother - Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, who died in 2023 - had borrowed money and put Graceland up as collateral. Naussany appears to be a false entity and the documents it presented regarding the loan are fake. The notary public named on the document denied ever meeting Lisa Marie as well as notarizing any documents signed by her. The sale of Graceland was scheduled for May 23, but the court issued a restraining order barring any sale with a hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Trump Calls Cannes Biopic ‘Garbage’ and Says He Plans to Sue

Ali Abbasi , director of “The Apprentice”, a biopic of Donald J. Trump, was unfazed by Trump’s threat to the film, which covers the ex-president’s relationships with his first wife and the fixer Roy Cohn. The day after the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Trump hit back at the movie, calling it “malicious defamation” and threatened legal action. Some scenes from the film depict Trump in an unflattering light, including him going under the knife for liposuction and a scalp procedure, as well as a controversial sequence where Trump sexually assaults his wife. Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said that the Trump team plans to file a lawsuit to “to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers.” Abasi remains unfazed by this threat, despite the effect it could have on the film’s release.

Sexual Assault Suit Against Ex-Grammys Chief Neil Portnow Is Dismissed

Judge Analisa Torres dismissed a sexual assault lawsuit without prejudice against Neil Portnow, the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, after the plaintiff fell out with her lawyers and said in court papers that she feared for her safety and well-being if her real name were to be revealed during the case. The plaintiff filed her suit anonymously in November, saying that Portnow had drugged and raped her in a New York hotel room in 2018. Portnow denied the accusation. The case was removed to federal court in January, and in April, Portnow’s lawyers said that they would file a motion to compel the woman, a musician from outside the United States, to use her real name. In response, the plaintiff filed an unusual direct appeal to the judge, asking to have her case dismissed, saying that she feared “potential grave harm” if her name became known. Her lawyers then asked permission to withdraw as her counsel, saying that “the attorney-client relationship has deteriorated beyond repair.” Lawyers for Portnow wanted the judge to dismiss the case with prejudice to prevent the plaintiff from bringing the lawsuit again. Judge Torres rejected this request and said that Portnow would not suffer “plain legal prejudice” if another case were brought.


Arts School Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit for $12.5 Million

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts settled a lawsuit brought by dozens of alumni who described widespread sexual and emotional abuse that they said took place on and off campus, and that spanned decades. The 65 former students who brought the claims will be paid $12.5 million over four years. Former students described their abuse in a 236 page complaint, initially filed in late 2021. In the complaint, the former students stated that beginning in the late 1960s, dozens of teachers and administrators participated in, or allowed, their sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, conditions which then persisted for the next 40 years. The lawsuit was filed under the terms of a look-back law in North Carolina that opened a window for adults who said they were victims of child sexual abuse to sue individuals and institutions they held responsible, even if the statute of limitations on their claims had expired.

However, the law is facing legal challenges, and Lisa Lanier, a lawyer for the claimants, said that uncertainty made the settlement a particularly satisfying outcome for her clients with similar cases currently being held up in court. The lawyers lauded the courage of the former students who came forward to report the abuse and praised the university for taking responsibility for what happened, while seeking to make amends.

Orlando Museum of Art Gets a Gift With Strings and Tries to Cut Them

The Orlando Museum of Art recently received a $1.8 million bequest from the estate of Margaret Young. The museum would like to use the money to help ease their financial woes resulting from “the Basquiat fiasco,” in which purported Basquiat paintings from the museum were seized and found to be fake. However, Young restricted her bequest so it could only be used to buy artwork for the museum’s permanent collection. The museum has asked a Florida court to modify Young’s restrictions so the money can be spent more broadly. While the museum claims that the modification is not a request to address its financial shortfall, critics feel that if the modification were to be granted, it would allow Young’s bequest funds and others’ donations to be put towards what are typically viewed as operating expenses. In order for the modification to be granted, the museum’s lawyers must convince the court they are abiding by the Florida statute overseeing restricted charitable gifts. They must show that the modification is being made made in accordance with the donor’s probable intention and the modification is needed because the restriction has become “unlawful, impracticable, impossible to achieve, or wasteful.”


The NCAA Agreed to Pay Players. It Won’t Call Them Employees.

The immediate takeaway from the landmark $2.8 billion settlement that the NCAA and the major athletic conferences accepted was that schools can now pay their athletes directly. However, the players who are paid by the universities will not be employed by them, and therefore do not have the right to collectively bargain. This is the NCAA’s attempt to salvage the last vestiges of its amateur model, asking Congress to establish that athletes are not employees, but are students seeking college degrees. While this argument may seem peculiar, since the athletes are the main contributors to the billions of dollars in revenue generated by college sports, this stance supports the NCAA’s argument that classifying student athletes as employees would be the death of college sports. Charlie Baker, NCAA president, said Congress needed to enact legislation to protect the “95%” of college athletes who he contended would be harmed by a ruling that recognized them as employees, because many universities outside of the so-called power conferences have lost money already on athletics and that spending more to pay players could lead some to eliminate teams. If a federal judge in California approves the settlement, schools will decide how to divide up the revenue they set aside for sharing with athletes. By settling, the NCAA is banking on receiving an antitrust exemption from Congress, which would protect it from further lawsuits over compensation that is says would hurt its ability to make its own rules.

NCAA Settlement an Historic Day for Paying College Athletes. What Comes Next?

The Power 5 conferences and NCAA board of governors voted to accept the settlement of three antitrust cases that create a new structure for college sports. The more than $2.7 billion of back damages and a new revenue-sharing model that come with the settlement of House v. NCAA and two related antitrust cases mark a distinct pivot for college sports - the end of amateurism. While this settlement is necessary and important for college sports, the processes for how the revenue sharing will be implemented remain unclear. Lingering questions that will need to be determined once the settlement receives federal approval are how does Title IX factor into the financial calculus? How will NIL be policed if it remains outside of athletic departments? How do athletic directors find the money for athletes and divide it up fairly?

A Boxing Victory Offers Hope to War-Weary Ukrainians

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk became the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion. Usyk’s victory over British boxer Tyson Fury has lifted morale in Ukraine, as the country continues to struggle to contain Russian advances on the battlefield. President Volodymyr Zelensky lauded the victory as a symbol of Ukraine’s resilience, posting that “Ukrainians hit hard! And in the end, all our opponents will be overcome.” Since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, Usyk has used his appearances in the ring to draw attention to Ukraine’s fight on the battlefield, often sporting a traditional Ukrainian hairstyle and waving a Ukrainian flag bearing the symbol of the country’s military intelligence agency to celebrate his victory. As a result of his victory, Usyk  became the first undisputed heavyweight champion for nearly a quarter-century.


From ChatGPT to Getty v. Stability AI: A Running List of Key AI-Lawsuits

The rising adoption of AI across industries that has come about in recent years is bringing with it no shortage of lawsuits, as parties look to navigate the budding issues that these relatively new models raise for companies and creators. A growing number of lawsuits focus on generative AI, which refers to models that use neural networks to identify the patterns and structures within existing data to generate new content. Lawsuits are being waged against the developers behind some of the biggest generative AI chatbots and text-to-image generators, and in many cases, they center on how the underlying models are trained, the data that is used to do so, and the nature of the user-prompted output.

Sony Music Group Warns More Than 700 Companies Against Using Its Content to Train AI

SMG has begun to send formal letters to generative AI companies and streaming platforms, prohibiting them from using any SMG content without explicit licensing agreements. In the letter, SMG acknowledged the “significant potential and advancement of AI,” but also explained that the unauthorized use of SMG content in AI systems deprives its companies and their talent of control over and appropriate compensation for the content used. Stated in the letter, the use of these works “conflicts with the normal exploitation of those works, unreasonably prejudices our legitimate interests, and infringes our intellectual property and other rights.” The letter also asks AI companies to confirm that they either have not used SMG content without permission or, if they have, provide information on how the content was used in AI training.

Scarlett Johansson Says OpenAI Ripped Off Her Voice for ChatGPT

Actress Scarlett Johansson claims that after she turned down an invitation to voice ChatGPT, OpenAI brazenly mimicked her distinctive tones anyway. OpenAI revealed a new conversational interface for ChatGPT with an expressive, synthetic voice strikingly similar to that of the AI assistant played by Johansson in the sci-fi movie Her. OpenAI then suddenly disabled the new voice. Immediately after, Johansson issued a statement claiming to have forced that reversal, after her lawyers demanded that OpenAI clarify how the new voice was created. Her statement claims that Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, asked her last September to provide her voice for ChatGPT, which she declined. She was then surprised to find out her voice was being used anyway, when she saw the company’s demo for the new voice. Altman appeared to encourage the world to connect the demo with Johansson’s performance by tweeting out “her,” in reference to the movie. According to Johansson’s statement, her agent was contacted by Altman two days before the demo, asking that she reconsider her decision. After seeing the demo, she hired legal counsel to write to OpenAI asking for details of how it made the new voice. As a result, OpenAI paused the use of the voice “Sky,” adding to its list of already existing battles with artists, writers, and other creatives.

Training Models Responsibly: AI and Creator Rights

At the end of 2023, Ed Newton-Rex, the Head of Audio of AI developer Stability AI, resigned from his position due to disagreements over the company’s stance on the use of copyrighted material in training generative AI models. Stability AI believed its use of copyrighted content fell under fair use, arguing that use of the material was transformative and significantly altered the original works. Newtown-Rex, a vocal advocate for the rights of creators, fundamentally disagreed with Stability AI’s interpretation of “fair use.” In his resignation announcement, Newton-Rex called for better frameworks to protect creators’ rights, suggesting that AI companies need to obtain explicit consent from content creators before using their work for training models and proposed various solutions, such as revenue-sharing agreements, upfront payments, or equity stakes, to ensure creators are compensated fairly. In 2024, Newton-Rex founded Fairly Trained, a not-for-profit company that provides certification for generative AI companies that operate according to fair training data practices. The certification can be obtained for any generative AI model that doesn’t use any copyrighted work without a license.

TikTok Moves to Limit Russian and Chinese Media’s Reach in Big Election Year

TikTok is introducing new measures to limit the spread of videos from state-affiliated media accounts as the company deflects criticism that it could be used as a propaganda tool in a major election year. It will no longer allow videos from state-affiliated media accounts like RT (global Russian Television network) and People’s Daily (Chinese Communist Party newspaper) into users’ main feeds if they “attempt to reach communities outside their home country on current global events and affairs.” The accounts will also not be permitted to advertise outside their home countries. Political news on TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is under particular scrutiny after the passage of a law that would force ByteDance to sell the company or face a ban in the U.S. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have said TikTok is a threat to national security, partly because of how the Chinese government could use it to spread propaganda. While TikTok, which is suing the federal government over the law, has vehemently pushed back on such concerns, fears about the presidential election in the United States helped build support for the new law.

‘We’ll See You at Your House’: How Fear and Menace Are Transforming Politics

A steady undercurrent of violence and physical risk has become a new normal for American public officials. From City Hall to Congress, public officials increasingly describe threats and harassment as a routine part of their jobs. Often masked by online anonymity and propelled by extreme political views, the barrage of menace has changed how public officials do their work, terrified for their families, and some driven from public life altogether. There has been increasing public support for politicized violence among both Republicans and Democrats in recent years through the use of social media platforms that can amplify anonymous outrage, spread misinformation and conspiracy theories and turn a little-known public employee into a target. In response to these increasing threats, Public officials at all levels are changing how they do their jobs, becoming less willing to run for reelection or seek higher offices, or even avoiding controversial issues altogether.

Elon Musk Ramps Up Anti-Biden Posts on X

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X, has increasingly been using his social media platform to criticize President Biden for his health and immigration policies Musk has steadily ramped up his criticism of Biden as the campaign season heats up before the November presidential election, posting about Biden on X at least seven times a month since January. Before that, he posted about Biden twice in December and not at all in November. In all, Musk had posted nearly 40 times about Biden this year, compared with about 30 times for all of last year. In contrast, Musk had posted more than 20 times on X this year about Trump, defending him and arguing that he is a victim of media and prosecutorial bias in the criminal cases that he faces. Musk’s posts signal a willingness to tip the political scales as the owner of an influential social media platform, something that no other leader of a social media firm has done.


Assange Can Appeal Extradition to U.S., British Court Rules

A London court ruled that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could appeal his extradition to the United States, opening a new chapter in his prolonged fight against being extradited a to face trial on espionage charges. Assange has been held in Belmarsh, one Britain’s highest security prisons since 2019, while his ongoing fight against extradition has proceeded through the courts. Earlier this year, the High Court asked the U.S. government to assure that Assange would be granted protections under the U.S. Constitution, including that he would not be denied constitutional rights automatically granted to Americans just because he is Australian and that the death penalty would not be imposed. The U.S. has guaranteed that Assange will not face the death penalty and could only promise that he would have First Amendment protections if they were determined to be applicable by the U.S. courts. In their decision, the High Court judges agreed that Assange had grounds to appeal his extradition on that basis. Assange faces charges in the U.S. under the Espionage Act related to WikiLeaks’ publication of tens of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents leaked to the site by Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, in 2010.

Russia, in New Push, Increasingly Disrupts Ukraine’s Starlink Service

Russia has deployed advanced technology to interfere with Ukraine’s Starlink satellite internet service, operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, leading to more outages on the northern front battle line. Ukrainian soldiers use Starlink to communicate, collect intelligence, and conduct drone attacks and the service has now slowed to a crawl. Starlink has been critical to the Ukrainian military since the earliest days of the war with Russia and without the full service, Ukrainian soldiers could not quickly communicate and share information about the surprise onslaught. Increased interference from Russia is at the heart of these outages, who are deploying stronger electronic weapons and more sophisticated tools to degrade Starlink service. The new outages appeared to be the first time the Russians have caused widespread disruptions of Starlink. If they continue to succeed, it could mark a tactical shift in the conflict, highlighting Ukraine’s vulnerability and dependence on the service provided by Starlink.


Prince Harry Cannot Include Rupert Murdoch in Lawsuit, Court Rules

Justice Timothy Fancourt ruled that Prince Harry and other plaintiffs could not expand their claims of unlawful actions by News Group Newspapers in the U.K. to include allegations regarding Rupert Murdoch, the 93-year-old media mogul who controls the company, as well as other senior News Group executives. This is a setback for Harry’s long-running legal campaign against Britain’s tabloids. Justice Fancourt also rejected his attempt to broaden the time frame of the alleged unlawful actions to before 1996 and after 2011, saying that his lawyers had filed that amendment too late. This rules out allegations of actions targeted at Diana, Princess of Wales, or Meghan Markle. This case is scheduled to go to trial in January and marks one of the final chapters of the sprawling litigation that flowed from British newspapers’ phone hacking scandal.

General News

Trump Trial Turns to Debate Over Jury Instructions After Defense Rests

The jury was dismissed until closing arguments, but the judge and lawyers from both sides met to hash out how jurors will be instructed before deliberations. Trump did not take the stand in his own defense. Some of the aspects of the instructions debated were what types of “unlawful means” should apply (only crimes or both civil violations and crimes), and whether it be required for the jury to agree unanimously that Trump had falsified records to conceal a conspiracy to win an election by unlawful means and what those unlawful means were.


Trump Lawyers Accuse Prosecutors of Misconduct in Documents Case

The judge in the Trump classified documents case unsealed two motions by Trump attacking the integrity of the inquiry and claiming that the special counsel, Jack Smith, had timed his charges to create maximum political damage. In filings responding to Trump’s claims, which were also unsealed, Smith’s prosecutors vehemently defended themselves, denying there had been any misconduct or efforts to politicize an investigation that from the start, they said, had taken a “measured, graduated approach.” The two unsealed filings were initially submitted in February to Judge Cannon, but their release was delayed as she worked with the parties to redact the names of witnesses and other sensitive information from the text. It is not clear when Judge Cannon will rule on the motions from Trump’s team or if she will schedule hearings on them.


Prosecutor in Trump Georgia Case to Appeal Judge’s Decision to Quash Six Charges

Fani T. Willis, the lead prosecutor in the Georgia election interference case against former President Trump and 14 of his allies, said that her office would appeal Judge Scott McAfee’s decision earlier this year to throw out six of the 41 counts in the indictment. This creates a second substantive set of issues that must now be considered by the Georgia Court of Appeals before the election case can go to trial, along with the appeal of another ruling by Judge McAfee allowing Willis to remain on the case, despite defense lawyers arguing that she should be disqualified. Willis’s decision to file the appeal is another indication that the closely watched election interference case is unlikely to go to trial before the upcoming presidential election. I


Supreme Court Sides With Republicans Over South Carolina Voting Map

The Supreme Court cleared the way for South Carolina to keep using a congressional map that a lower court had deemed an unconstitutional racial gerrymander that resulted in the “bleaching of African American voters” from a district. The conservative majority, by a 6-to-3 vote, returned the case to the lower court, handing a victory to Republicans by allowing them to maintain boundaries that helped make the district in question a party stronghold. The Court’s delay in ruling ensured that this year’s election will be held under the contested map, but the majority opinion, written by Justice Alito, will have an impact on South Carolina and other states in the years to come. The Court’s majority held that courts must generally credit lawmakers’ assertions that their goal in redistricting was partisan, which is permissible, rather than based on race, which is not. Alito wrote that courts should avoid grave accusations against state lawmakers. In dissent, Justice Kagan accused the majority of creating hurdles that will make it all but impossible to challenge voting maps as racial gerrymanders. In a concurring opinion, Justice Thomas said the Court should be getting out of the business of assessing claims of racial gerrymandering entirely.

Another Provocative Flag Was Flown at Another Alito Home

Justice Alito’s beach house displayed an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, a symbol carried on January 6th and associated with a push for a more Christian-minded government. This follows after it was discovered an upside-down American flag, another symbol from January 6th, was flown outside the Justice’s Virginia home. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag dates back to the Revolutionary War and is now a symbol of support for former President Trump, for a religious strand of the “Stop the Steal” campaign, and for a push to remake American government in Christian terms. Photos show that the flag was flown at the Alito home in Long Beach Island, NJ throughout the summer of 2023. Justices are not supposed to give any impression of bias, yet the flag could be seen as telegraphing the Alitos’ views. The revelation of the flag has prompted concerns from legal scholars and ethicists, and calls from dozens of Democratic lawmakers that the justice recuse himself from cases related to January 6th.


Lawmakers Dial Up Pressure on Alito to Recuse From Elections Cases

A growing number of Democratic lawmakers called for Justice Alito to recuse himself from cases related to Jan. 6th, and demanded new ethics rules for the Supreme Court after revelations that flags carried by rioters at the Capitol were flown outside his homes. The Supreme Court is just weeks away from issuing decisions on two major cases concerning Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6th and the symbolism of the flags call into question Justice Alito’s neutrality. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, has introduced a resolution to censure Justice Alito and said that Congress needed to take the firm position that the Justice’s actions were a violation of judicial propriety. Republicans in Congress have stopped short of joining calls for recusal, though several have said that having the flags up for the public to see demonstrated poor judgment. Judicial ethics experts and former federal judges have said the flags could be interpreted as political statements that reflect poorly on the Court as it prepares to issue potentially divisive opinions that could directly affect the 2024 election.

Norfolk Southern to Pay $310 Million for East Palestine Accident

Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay more than $310 million to settle claims and cover costs resulting from the February 2023 derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio. The Department of Justice and the E.P.A. said the settlement, pending approval by a federal court, would require Norfolk Southern to improve rail safety and pay for cleanup costs and health and environmental monitoring in and around East Palestine. The settlement ensures that the cleanup would be paid for by Norfolk Southern and help prevent similar disasters. The biggest part of the settlement is an estimated $235 million to cover past and future costs relating to the environmental cleanup, along with a  $15 million civil penalty related to claims that the railroad violated the Clean Water Act. Norfolk Southern did not admit liability in the settlement. The company expects to pay out $1.7 billion, including the $600 million settlement of a class action suit brought by the residents and business of East Palestine. The settlement does not resolve all regulatory and legal challenges.

Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Make Abortion Pills Controlled Substances

Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation designating abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances. Possession of the drugs without a prescription would be a crime punishable with jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. The legislation now goes to the state’s Republican governor, Jeff Landry, who is widely expected to sign the legislation into law. By classifying the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol as Schedule IV drugs (like Ambien, Valium and Xanax), lawmakers in the state say they aim to curb the illicit distribution of the drugs for abortions. However, the FDA does not consider the two medications to have potential for abuse or dependence, and years of research have overwhelmingly shown both pills to be safe. Hundreds of doctors in the state strenuously opposed the legislation because Louisiana already bans most abortions, and because the two drugs are also prescribed for other uses.

Top Oceans Court Says Nations Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the world’s highest court for dealing with the oceans, issued a groundbreaking opinion that said excessive greenhouse gases were pollutants that could cause irreversible harm to the marine environment and must be cut back. The advisory opinion is not binding, but stated that nations must legally take all necessary measures to reduce, control, and prevent marine pollution caused by human-made greenhouse gas emissions. The 21 judges on the tribunal, also known as the Oceans Court, were unanimous in their opinion, and experts say it could lead to more wide-ranging claims for damages against polluting nations. The request for an advisory opinion was made by a group of small island nations that are already affected by rising sea levels and the court’s opinion to the more than 165 countries that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This opinion effectively expanded the definition of marine pollution to include greenhouse gasses. The judges agreed that greenhouse gases constitute “pollution of the marine environment” and that countries can be held to account for that pollution.

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s President, Dies in Helicopter Crash at 63

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president and a top contender to succeed the nation’s supreme leader, was killed in a helicopter crash. His presidency was shaped by two major events: the 2022 nationwide uprising, led by women and girls, demanding the end to the Islamic Republic’s rule and the government’s brutal crushing of that movement; and the current Middle East war with Israel, with which it had a long history of clandestine attacks.

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By Bennett Liebman Crime and Congestion and an East Side Casino Crime and congestion: Addressing these concerns around a possible NYC casino on the East Side ( The High Line v. Related-Wynn H


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