SCOTUS Rules In Favor Of Colorado Baker But Reaffirmed Protection For Gay Rights
The Supreme Court ruled that Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, was improperly treated with hostility to his religious beliefs by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which originally ruled against the baker. Phillips claimed that he had a right to decline to use his artistic creativity to create a work at odds with his religious beliefs based on the grounds of freedom of speech. Justice Kennedy, in writing the majority opinion, did not discuss the issue of free speech in any depth. He did, however, state that the outcome of similar cases in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts "without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market". Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Elena Kagan, and Neil M. Gorsuch joined Justice Kennedy's majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the majority but noted that he would have ruled in favor of Phillips on free speech grounds. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented, but wrote that she agreed with several passages of the majority opinion reaffirming protections for gay rights.
Regan A. Smith Is the New General Counsel of The United States Copyright Office
Regan Smith was appointed the General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights for the United States Copyright Office effective May 27, 2018. Smith joined the Copyright Office in 2014 and advanced to deputy general counsel in 2016.
The Environmental Protection Agency Scales Back The Rules For Determining Risks From Chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) narrowed the requirements for evaluating health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market. In most cases, the EPA decided to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances' presence in the air, ground, or water.
President Trump called for Russia's readmission to the Group of 7 nations and refused to ease his assault on the global trading system. His stance earned angry rebukes from the leaders of the other member nations. Trump arrived to the Summit late and left early, before the scheduled sessions on climate change, clean energy, and oceans. He also retracted his endorsement of the final statement from the Summit. Canada's Prime Minister announced that Canada will institute retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. effective July 1, 2018.
Trump's Lawyers Claim In Letter To Mueller That the President Cannot Be Compelled To Testify
The New York Times obtained a copy of a 20-page letter, sent by President Trump's lawyers to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The letter broadly interprets the executive authority, implying that Trump does not need to talk to the investigators and asserting that he may terminate the investigation and even exercise his power to pardon. Trump also declared by tweet that he had "the absolute right" to pardon himself for any crime and that the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller was unconstitutional, but he did not elaborate on the legal basis for his claim.
Ryan Contradicts Trump On FBI's Use Of Confidential Informants, Self-Pardon
Speaker Paul D. Ryan dismissed President Trump's "Spygate" conspiracy theory, agreeing with Representative Trey Gowdy, who stated that FBI's use of informants to investigate potential Russian meddling in Trump's campaign was appropriate. Speaker Ryan also expressed his preference that President Trump should not try to pardon himself, as such a move may spark a constitutional crisis.
Letter To Mueller Also Contradicts Trump Team's Storyline On Son's Meeting
President Trump's lawyers acknowledged that he had dictated the statement from Donald Trump Jr. about meeting a Russian lawyer, contradicting his team's prior statements that he was not involved in the drafting of that statement.
Special Counsel's Team Accuses Paul Manafort Of Witness Tampering; Files Charges Against Manafort's Associate
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's office asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia to revoke or revise the conditions of Paul Manafort's bail because they had found probable cause to believe that he sought to tamper with witnesses. Additional charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice were filed against Manafort. Similar charges were also filed against his associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Russian Army-trained linguist with purported ties to Russian intelligence.
Consumer Bureau Purges Its Consumer Advisory Board
Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, dissolved its volunteer consumer advisory board, which is a board of outside experts consisting of consumer activists, academics, entrepreneurs and industry representatives. The board will be reconstituted next fall, but the current members will not be eligible to apply.
Special Master Finds That Most Materials Seized In Cohen Case Are Not Privileged
Special master Barbara S. Jones, in a report submitted to Kimba M. Wood, the federal judge presiding over Michael Cohen's case in Manhattan, recommended that only 14 paper documents out of the 639, and only 148 of 291,770 electronic files that she had looked at, should be found to be privileged or partly privileged, and therefore should be withheld from the prosecutors' inquiry. The President's lawyers asked to file an objection under seal directly to Judge Wood, arguing in favor of keeping the documents secret. Judge Wood required that the objections be filed publicly "except for those portions that divulge 'the substance of the contested documents.'"
Richard Grenell, the new United States ambassador in Berlin, reportedly expressed to Breitbart London his desire to empower other conservatives throughout Europe. As this sentiment appears to be a direct threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition, Germany's Foreign Ministry asked for a clarification. In the U.S., some argued that ambassadors making political statements should be relieved from their duties. The State Department spokeswoman, on the other hand, stated in a briefing on Tuesday that ambassadors have a right to express their opinions.
Mexico Imposes Tariffs On US; China Offers To Buy $70 Billion In Products In Order to Suspend US Tariffs On Chinese Products; ZTE Reaches Deal With Trump
Mexico imposed tariffs on US imports, including bourbon, apples, potatoes, cheese, and pork in retaliation to the Trump administration's levies on steel and aluminium. Meanwhile, China offered to buy $70 billion of energy, agricultural and manufactured products from the US to suspend tariffs on Chinese products. At the same time, President Trump agreed to lift sanctions from the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE in exchange for a $1 billion fine and a leadership and compliance team overhaul.
Google Says It Will Not Use Its Artificial Intellegence For Weapons But Will Continue Working With The Military
Following an outbreak of employee protests, Google promised that it would not use its artificial intelligence program for weapons or for surveillance that violates human rights, but stated that it will continue working with governments and the military.
Stormy Daniels Sues Cohen And Own Former Counsel For Collusion Against Her
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Michael Cohen, President Trump's "fixer", of helping and encouraging Keith M. Davidson, her former attorney, of violating attorney-client privilege and withholding relevant communications from her and her current lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
Court Orders Deposition Of The President In Ex-"Apprentice" Contestant's Defamation Case
Justice Jennifer Schecter, a New York judge, ordered President Trump to be deposed by the end of January in a defamation lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice." The President's lawyers argued that this lawsuit should not be heard while the he is in office. Justice Schecter ruled earlier that the case should not have to accommodate a sitting president.
Settlement In Principle Reached In The Case Of Toddler Dancing To Prince Song
In 2007, Stephanie Lenz posted on YouTube a video of her 18-month-old child dancing to the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy." The posting resulted in a legal battle over alleged copyright infringement claim and a counterclaim of alleged violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by knowingly misrepresenting said copyright. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that copyright owners must consider fair use when sending takedown notices, but that a copyright holder's subjective good faith belief that allegedly infringing material does not constitute fair use was a sufficient shield from misrepresentation liability. Left to try were the questions of fact as to the copyright holder's subjective beliefs about the video in question. The parties announced that they reached a settlement in principle, but the terms of the settlement have not been made public.
Comedian Chris Farley's family settled their federal lawsuit against Trek Bicycle, which named its fat-tired bikes Farley. The lawsuit alleged that Trek misappropriated Farley's name and "fat guy" brand of comedy.
Stars Of The "Fixer Upper" Show Settle With E.P.A.
Chip and Joanna Gaines, who star in HGTV show "Fixer Upper," have agreed to pay the EPA a civil fine of $40,000 for alleged violations of rules for the safe handling of lead paint during home renovations. The also agreed to inform their audience about the dangers of lead-based paint.
New Jersey Judge Could Not Contain His Mirth In The "Bananapalooza" Case
Judge Noel Hillman of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, who issued a decision earlier this week in a copyright infringement lawsuit between two rival costume manufacturers concerning selling lookalike banana costumes, used terms like "bananafest" and "bananapalooza" at a hearing, mused "whether the founding fathers had banana costumes in mind" when they drafted the Constitution, and declared that the costumes in question were "unlikely to end up in the Philadelphia Museum of Art." The defense lawyer brought a sample real banana into the courtroom, while the plaintiff's attorney acknowledged that the case was "ripe" for giggles.
A-list authors, including Michael Lewis, Robert Caro and Jeffery Deaver, are bypassing printed books and releasing stand-alone audiobook originals, hoping to take advantage of the exploding audiobook market.
Buyer Of A Sisley Landscape With Nazi-Tainted Provenance Asks Christie's For a Refund Plus Interest
Alain Dreyfus, an art dealer in Switzerland, bought Alfred Sisley's painting titled "First Day of Spring in Moret" at a Christie's auction in New York City in 2008. He now claims that Christie's did not sufficiently examine the work's provenance before putting it up for sale and failed to identify that this work was plundered by Nazis in 1940 from a Jewish collector in Paris, Alfred Lindon. A Lindon descendant has filed a claim related to the painting in a court in Paris. Dreyfus expressed his willingness to return the work to the Lindon heirs. He also demanded that Christie's reimburse him the $338,500 that he paid for the painting in 2008, plus an annual interest rate of 8%. Christie's responded that its actions were appropriate and that it had checked all available databases, catalogues, and resources prior to the sale and found nothing at that time to indicate the painting was ever in Lindon's collection.
U.S. Foundation Under Pressure To Return Ancient Chinese Manuscript
A new 440-page study traces the provenance of the Chu Silk Manuscript, a 2,300-year-old document presently in possession of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation (the Foundation) in Washington, D.C., from tomb raiders who discovered it during World War II, to American spies who smuggled it out of China, to several museums and foundations in the United States. The Foundation is now under pressure to return the manuscript and is reportedly in discussions with Beijing over possible terms of such return.
Daughter Sues Father Over Failed Attempt To Block Sale Of A Basquiat Work
Belinda Neumann-Donnelly sued her father, Hubert Neumann, a major art collector, claiming that by suing to block the sale by the Estate of her mother, he intentionally depressed the price of a Jean-Michel Basquiat masterpiece, "Flesh and Spirit", which sold at auction last month for $30.7 million. Neumann had unsuccessfully sued to block the sale, claiming that it violated his agreement with Sotheby's, which purportedly gave him the right to approve all matters concerning the marketing of works from the "Family Collection."
The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Announces A Mega-Gift To The Whitney Museum Of American Art
The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation (RLF) announced that it is giving 400 of the artist's artworks, or about half of its holdings, to the Whitney Museum of American Art. The move marks a beginning of RLF's process of winding itself down. Smaller gifts will be going to other institutions.
Street Artists Receive Public Commission In Lower Manhattan
Silverstein Properties, a developer, in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, commissioned street artists to create eight murals on the sheds housing mechanical equipment that will one day service 2 World Trade Center. Six of the murals are now complete. All works will be on display for at least a year.
Former President Of USA Gymnastics Pleads the Fifth Amendment
Steve Penny, the former president of USA Gymnastics, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination several times at a Senate subcommittee hearing last week. He was being questioned about his knowledge of the abuses committed by Lawrence G. Nassar, a former Olympic national team doctor, who was convicted earlier this year for molesting gymnasts.
New Video Of Sterling Brown's Arrest Leads To New Vows To Sue
Sterling Brown, a Milwaukee Bucks player, was arrested and subdued by the police with a stun gun following an alleged parking violation this past January. Following release of new video footage of Brown's arrest, during which one of the police officers appears to be purposefully stepping on Brown's ankle, his lawyer stated that he intends to file a federal civil rights lawsuit on Brown's behalf.
Trump Disinvites The Eagles; James And Curry Boycott White House
Cleveland's LeBron James and Golden State's Stephen Curry stated that their teams would not participate in any sort of ceremony at the White House after President Trump cancelled the Philadelphia Eagles' White House victory ceremony at the last minute. Nearly all of the players and coaches of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles team said they would boycott the visit after the President voiced his position that players should stand during the national anthem at games. White House visits by sports teams have historically been nonpolitical celebrations under prior administrations.
Delaware and New Jersey began offering full-scale sports betting this week following the Supreme Court's decision last month to strike down the provision prohibiting state authorization of sports gambling schemes in the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
White House Unblocks Twitter Users But Promises Appeal
Last month, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that President Trump and his team violated the constitutional rights of seven Twitter users who were blocked from viewing or responding to President Trump's tweets based on their expressed political opinions. The White House has now unblocked these users, but promised to appeal Judge Buchwald's decision.
Reporter May Be Compelled To Testify At A Murder Trial
New York's Court of Appeals is considering whether Frances Robles, a New York Timesreporter, may be compelled to testify about her interview of Conrado Juárez after his arrest in connection with the death of "Baby Hope". Robles invoked New York's shield law, which allows journalists to be compelled to take the stand or turn over notes only if prosecutors can show the information is "highly material and relevant" and "critical or necessary" to proving their case. She also maintains that being forced to testify would adversely impact her journalistic credibility and effectively prevent her from conducting sensitive interviews with others accused of crimes.
Former Senate Aide Is Charged With Lying To The Investigators; Journalist's Records Seized
James A. Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee aide, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters in an investigation of classified information leaks. The prosecutors also seized several years of a New York Times reporter's phone and email records. News media advocates objected to the latter as an intrusion on the journalistic First Amendment freedoms.
France's Parliament began to debate a bill that would allow judges to block content deemed false during a three-month period preceding an election. The bill, championed by President Emmanuel Macron, faces criticism that it poses a potential threat to the freedom of the press.
The editorial staff of the New Yorker magazine joined the growing trend among magazines and news publications and formed a union. Employees of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others, are already represented by unions.
Alexander Nix, former chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, told British lawmakers during a contentious hearing before Parliament's media committee that he was being subjected to "frankly ridiculous accusations based on the most tenuous connections that simply aren't supported by evidence". Cambridge Analytica is accused of abusing information pulled from Facebook, engaging in unethical business practices, and playing a role in the British vote to leave the European Union.
Facebook Finds Itself In The Midst Of Continuing Controversy Over User Privacy
Facebook revealed that it has a data-sharing partnership with Huawei, a telecommunications equipment company with alleged close ties with China's government. Huawei was flagged by the U.S. intelligence officials as a national security threat. Facebook committed to winding down the Huawei deal. Meanwhile, the social media giant is facing a new wave of criticism from the US and European lawmakers and regulators after disclosures that it had allowed dozens of hardware manufacturers access to personal user data. To add insult to injury, a software bug this week made public the private posts of as many as 14 million Facebook users in yet another failure to keep the information of millions of users private.
In Hungary, allies of the right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban control most of the domestic media and promote sensationalist, anti-immigration articles. Orban's allies are now investing in Slovenian media to give him a voice in support of Slovenia's right-wing leader Janez Jansa, who finished first in the country's national elections last week and who is now working to piece together a governing coalition.
With the national elections just six weeks away, Pakistan's military establishment is mounting a campaign of intimidation against its critics in the news media, on social media, and in mainstream political movements. Several journalists were abducted or threatened; major news outlets were blocked; and those expressing support for the civilian governing party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, were censored or punished.
U.K. Regulator Clears Way For Battle Over Satellite Broadcaster Sky
Comcast and the Walt Disney Company are fighting for control of the British satellite broadcaster and internet service provider Sky, which has 23 million customers in five countries, and owns valuable broadcasting rights to English Premier League games, Formula One races, and other sporting events. Britain's culture secretary, Matthew Hancock, ruled that 21st Century Fox, whom Disney offered to buy and which already owns part of Sky, may proceed with its bid to buy out the rest of Sky. This application was previously held in regulatory limbo over concerns that it would give Fox's chairman, Rupert Murdoch, too much control over the country's media.
Matt Lauer Can Keep His New Zealand Ranch, At Least For Now
New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office announced that it did not have sufficient evidence that Matt Lauer had breached a good-character test for foreign property buyers when he bought the lease to the Hunter Valley Station ranch in February of last year, months before he was fired from the "Today" show over sexual misconduct allegations. The agency noted, however, that it will continue monitoring the matter and could revisit the case "should further information come to light." New Zealand's definition of good character is broad and "offenses or contraventions of the law" that fall short of a crime may be evidence of a breach of the good-character test.
A Russia-Hating Priest Played A Role In The Case Of Faked Assassination Of A Putin Critic
Arkady Babchenko, a dissident Russian journalist, agreed to fake his death, believing his life to be at risk. He was found in a pool of his own blood by his wife and was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. He subsequently apologized for the stunt at a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine. The Ukraine Security Service claimed that this was a sting operation aimed at stopping a real assassination plot against Babchenko, further complicating the tortured relations between Ukraine and Russia. In a latest twist, a Russia-hating right-wing priest claimed that he was hired to carry out the hit and that he was working for Ukraine's intelligence services. Ukrainian officials admitted that he had played a role.