Judge Hellerstein Authorizes § 1782 Discovery to Law Firm in Aid of Anticipated Dutch Suit Against Firm Client

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Hellerstein authorized discovery from the law firm Cravath under 28 U.S.C. § 1782 relating to a claim that the petitioning party planned to file, but had not yet filed, in the Netherlands against a Cravath client.

Judge Hellerstein rejected Cravath’s argument that, since the Netherlands case hadn’t been filed, the discovery was not (in the words of the statute) “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal”: Continue Reading

Suit Challenges President Trump’s Business Holdings Under Emoluments Clause

In a suit filed today, a citizen watchdog group is challenging Donald Trump’s business dealings under the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.  Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 reads:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

The complaint argues that payments from foreign countries to Trump companies (such as the Commercial Bank of China, a state-owned enterprise which leases office space in Trump Tower) violate the Emoluments Clause, which was intended to prevent conflicts of interests and foreign influence in U.S. government decisions.  The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, claims standing based on the time and resources spent monitoring the issue, which cannot be spent elsewhere.  The complaint contains claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Emoluments Clause violations.

The case is pending before Judge Abrams.

Paul McCartney Seeks to Reclaim Rights to Beatles Songs Under the Copyright Act

Sir Paul McCartney aims to reclaim his rights to popular Beatles songs in a complaint filed yesterday.  The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that his copyright termination notices are valid ahead of the 2018 expiration of the Copyright Act’s term for pre-1978 copyrights – 56 years after McCartney and John Lennon began composing together in 1962.  Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the defendant in the case, is the successor in interest to a group of music companies that purchased the copyrights to various Beatles songs in the 1960s.  The termination notices were served from 2008 to 2015 and cover hundreds of songs composed by McCartney and Lennon, including “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Let it Be,” “Hey Jude,” and “Yesterday.”

The case is pending before Judge Ramos.

Judge Schofield Rules that State Courts Should First Interpret a Lobbying Law under First Amendment Challenge

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Schofield invoked so-called “Pullman”-abstention and thereby declined to rule on a case raising a novel state question.  The case is a constitutional challenge by PR firms to a New York law requiring lobbyists to make certain disclosures.  The firms argued that an advisory opinion by state regulators could be interpreted to mean that the law covered their communications with the press, in violation of the First Amendment.

Judge Schofield ruled that the state courts should interpret the law in the first instance because doing so would “avoid the ‘friction-generating error that can result when a federal court endeavors to construe a novel state [a]ct not yet reviewed by the [s]tate’s highest court,’ and because a state court determination of the meaning of the Advisory Opinion will likely resolve or modify the federal constitutional issue.”

Judge Pauley Rejects $360 Hourly Fees for “Temporary Associates”

In an opinion last week concerning a class action fee award, Judge Pauley reduced the requested $360 hourly rate for temporary associates at the plaintiff’s law firm, because he concluded they were functionally contract attorneys, who are ordinarily paid less: Continue Reading

Judge Daniels Denies Motion to Dismiss Challenge to Delays in Bronx Criminal Court

In an opinion last week, Judge Daniels denied a motion to dismiss a case alleging that extreme delays in the Bronx Criminal Court system violated the constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial.  While Judge Daniels found that the named plaintiffs lacked standing because their cases had been resolved, Judge Daniels allowed 30 days for the plaintiffs to be replaced with plaintiffs having pending cases in the Bronx Criminal Court system.

On the merits, he found that the plaintiffs had stated a claim: Continue Reading

New York Court of Appeals Answers Question First Raised by Judge McMahon: No Common Law Right of Public Performance For Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

Today, the New York Court of Appeals, in response to a question certified from the Second Circuit (after being certified for interlocutory review by Judge McMahon), held that New York common-law copyright law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings predating the 1972 federal Copyright Act.  The question was certified as part of a putative class action of artists of pre-1972 sound recordings (led by The Turtles, who wrote “Happy Together”) seeking royalties from Sirius XM Radio for allegedly playing recordings without permission. Continue Reading

Judge Oetken: Preliminary Injunction Winner in Trademark Case Cannot Direct Third Party Retailers to Stop Selling the Accused Product

In an opinion today, Judge Oetken clarified a preliminary injunction granted to the maker of a product called “My Cinema Lightbox,” a backlit sign similar to old-fashioned movie theater displays (see image below), against a similar product called “My Marquee Lightbox.”   After winning its motion for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff  began instructing retailers that they could no longer sell “My Marquee Lightbox.”  Judge Oetken clarified that the Order did not permit the plaintiff to do so: Continue Reading

Judge Seibel Dismisses Class Action Alleging Too Much Empty Space in Muscle Milk Containers

This week, Judge Seibel dismissed a putative class action against the makers of Muscle Milk and other protein powder products.  The plaintiff alleged that the products were mislabeled under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as they contained unnecessary empty space (or “slack fill”) that represented up to 30% of the container’s volume.

Judge Seibel found that these allegations alone – without further factual support – were not sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss: Continue Reading

Judge Forrest: Enough With “Reductionist” Motions of Patent Ineligibility

In an opinion Wednesday, Judge Forrest denied a summary judgment motion seeking to declare the plaintiff’s claimed patents ineligible for patent protection.  The opinion begins with skepticism of the current “fad” of patent defendants seeking to declare patents ineligible with “reductionist” arguments that overly simplify the invention: Continue Reading