In a decision issued last week, Judge Abrams granted investment fund Franklin Templeton’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by Amy Cooper, a former employee. In May 2020, video of an altercation between Ms. Cooper and a black birdwatcher in Central Park went viral. Her employer terminated her the following day, and issued this statement: “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.”

Ms. Cooper sued, alleging race and gender discrimination and defamation. Judge Abrams held that Ms. Cooper’s complaint did not give rise to even a “minimal inference of discriminatory motivation.” As to the defamation claim, Judge Abrams held that Franklin Templeton’s statement was “a protected statement of opinion, rather than a defamatory statement of fact capable of being proven true or false.”

Continue Reading Judge Abrams: Viral “Central Park Karen” Failed to State a Claim Against Former Employer

In an opinion last week, the Second Circuit, reversing a decision by Judge Furman (covered here), held that Citibank could sue to recoup almost $500 million that it had sent, in error, to certain lenders of a struggling borrower, Revlon.

Citibank was the administrative agent for the loans, and, based on a technical error, wired the full principal balance (nearly $900 million) before the maturity date. Judge Furman applied the “discharge for value” defense to conclude that even a mistaken payment need not be returned where it pertains to a valid debt.

The Second Circuit concluded, however, that the defense is inapplicable so long as the recipient is on “inquiry notice” of the mistake. Inquiry notice was shown by the fact that there was no prior notice of any loan repayment, as the transaction documents required, and by the fact that Revlon was not expected to have the funds to repay: Continue Reading Second Circuit: Citibank Can Recoup $500 Million Accidental Debt Repayment

In an opinion today, Judge Woods ruled, in essence, that retweets are not endorsements. The ruling came in connection with a denial of CNN’s motion for reconsideration in a case brought by two family members of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The court had previously ruled that the plaintiffs’ false light claim against CNN could proceed, based on a CNN report that suggested the plaintiffs were followers of the conspiracy group QAnon.

Judge Woods rejected the argument (initially accepted in a report and recommendation by Magistrate Judge Cave) that the plaintiffs’ “likes” and “retweets” of pro-QAnon tweets rendered the association with QAnon substantially true: Continue Reading Judge Woods: Retweets Are Not Endorsements

In a trademark infringement complaint filed on Monday, Liberty Tax Service sued the makers of the TV show “Better Caul Saul” for depicting an allegedly similar business, “Sweet Liberty Tax Services,” as essentially a criminal enterprise: Continue Reading Tax Preparation Firm Sues the Makers of “Better Caul Saul” For Depiction of Similarly-Named, but Crooked, Fictional Firm

In an opinion last week in a Fair Labor Standards Case, Judge Engelmayer reduced the requested fee award for plaintiffs’ counsel from $155,000 down to approximately $5,000. The plaintiffs had prevailed, but only as to a narrow aspect of the claim. After the liability verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor (in part), their counsel asked for a fee award without bothering, until prompted by Judge Engelmayer, to request damages for the plaintiffs themselves.

Judge Engelmayer explained that the fee reduction was justified because, inter alia, “plaintiffs’ counsels’ lawyering in support of these claims was anemic”: Continue Reading Judge Engelmayer Slashes Requested Fee Award Based on “Anemic” Lawyering

In an opinion last week, Judge Cote dismissed a copyright infringement case brought by the maker of certain “HomeGirl Hotline” TikTok videos against the comedian Michael Che, arising out of sketches on Che’s television show involving a fictional mobile app called “homegrrl.”

Both the plaintiff’s videos and Che’s sketches generally involved calling upon a “homegirl” to help in social situations, the former via phone call (the “HomeGirl Hotline”) and the latter via mobile app (“homegrrl”). In one TikTok video, for example, “the dispatched HomeGirl throws a cheating husband’s belongings out of the house,” and in one of Che’s television sketches, a “Homegrrl” is dispatched to assist a male driver who gets into a car accident with a female driver. Continue Reading Judge Cote Concludes That the Concept of “Hiring a Homegirl” for Help in Social Situations Is Not Protectable Under Copyright Laws

In an opinion Monday, Judge Marrero ruled that the First Amendment protected the right of a group of law professors to publish online their attorney grievance complaints against prosecutors in Queens who had been involved in alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The professors received a letter from New York City’s Corporation Counsel claiming that the disclosure of their complaints violated a statute protecting the confidentiality of grievance proceedings.

Judge Marrero, quoting an earlier Second Circuit case, found that the effort to deter the law professors was unlawful: “Penalizing an individual for publicly disclosing complaints about the conduct of a government official strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.”  Continue Reading Judge Marrero: First Amendment Allows Attorney Grievance Complainants to Publish Their Own Complaints, Notwithstanding Confidentiality Statute

In an opinion Tuesday, Judge Crotty preliminarily enjoined New York State from enforcing unauthorized practice of law (“UPL”) regulations against a non-profit that counsels New Yorkers facing debt-collection actions (see our prior coverage here).

Judge Crotty found that UPL regulations were commonly upheld as regulating conduct, but, as applied to the that the program at issue, the UPL regulations governed speech: Continue Reading Judge Crotty: Non-Profit’s Advice on Dealing With Debt Collection Actions Is Protected by First Amendment Against “Unauthorized Practice of Law” Regulations

In an opinion Wednesday, Judge Rakoff allowed the handbag maker Hermés to proceed with a trademark suit against the individual responsible for a series of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) associated with digital images of “faux-fur-covered versions” of Hermés’s “Birkin” handbag. An example of a “MetaBirkin” image is below:

Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: Hermés Can Enforce Its “Birkin” Trademark Against Maker of “MetaBirkin” NFTs