Fox News Sued for Allegedly Peddling Conspiracy Theories About Murdered DNC Staffer

complaint this week alleges that Fox News and two contributors intentionally exploited the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich during the 2016 election season.  Rich was murdered in Washington in what authorities believed was a botched robbery; the complaint alleges that Fox News reported a false story that Rich had been murdered after leaking thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks.  According to the complaint, Fox News induced Rich’s parents to hire a private investigator to help “solve” the murder without informing them that the information would be used in a “sham story” that would be repeatedly covered in the lead-up to the 2016 election.  Fox News retracted the story in May 2017.

The complaint includes claims for intentional inflection of emotion distress,  aiding and abetting, conspiracy, tortious interference with contract, and negligent supervision.

The case is currently pending before Judge Daniels.

In Trump Twitter Case, Parties Dispute Whether President’s Tweets Are Government Action; Judge Buchwald Floats “Muting” Compromise

Last week, Judge Buchwald heard oral argument (see transcript here) on summary judgment motions in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump (see our previous coverage here). The suit alleges that President Trump and others violated the First Amendment when they blocked Twitter users who wrote tweets critical of the president.  The plaintiffs claim that preventing them from viewing comments, replying to tweets, and participating in comment threads denies access to an important public forum in the 21st century.

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Judge Rakoff Bemoans “Factual and Legal Fictions” Underlying Enforcement of Consumer Arbitration Clauses

In an opinion today in the Uber antitrust case, which was on remand from the Second Circuit (see our prior coverage here), Judge Rakoff sent the case to arbitration based on the “Terms of Service” within Uber’s phone application.  Before doing so, however, he complained of having to enforce terms that “everyone recognizes” are “totally coerced”: Continue Reading

Second Circuit: Searchable Database of TV Clips Is Not “Fair Use”

In an opinion today, the Second Circuit held that the “fair use” defense under copyright law did not apply to a service called “TVEyes” that allows users to search transcripts of cable news and other TV shows, and then watch clips up to 10 minutes long (called the “Watch” function).  The decision was a reversal of an earlier ruling by Judge Hellerstein (see our prior coverage here).

The Second Circuit first concluded that TVEyes’ Watch service was “transformative,” a key component of a fair use defense, insofar as it allows users to isolate clips based on their searches: Continue Reading

Second Circuit: Sexual Orientation Discrimination Violates Title VII

Today, an en banc panel of the Second Circuit held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination “because of . . . sex” in violation of Title VII, overturning Simonton v. Runyon, 232 F.3d 33 (2d Cir. 2000).  In 2017, a Second Circuit panel reviewing a decision of Judge Failla that was highly critical of Simonton, had ruled that it was bound by the Simonton rule until the en banc Court ruled otherwise (see our coverage here) — which is what happened today.

The majority found that Title VII’s legal framework had evolved substantially since its enactment in 1964, including a “sea change in the constitutional framework governing same-sex marriage.”  According to the majority: Continue Reading

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Suit Challenging New York’s Charity Reporting Laws

Yesterday, the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Stein’s decision last year to dismiss a suit by Citizens United challenging New York’s charity reporting laws (see our previous coverage here). Citizens United challenged the New York Attorney General’s requirement that charities file an un-redacted Schedule B, a form listing the names and contribution amounts of the charity’s donors, before receiving a license to solicit contributions in the state.

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Journalist’s Complaint Seeks CIA Files for “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” at Guantanamo

complaint filed this week seeks to compel the CIA to release records related to its interrogation practices, including “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on a prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  According to the complaint, the prisoner has been held at the Guantanamo Bay facility for fifteen years without being charged.  A Politico article cited in the complaint reports that the prisoner has been tortured and waterboarded while in U.S. custody.

The complaint includes three claims for violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

A judge has not yet been assigned to the case.

Judge Preska: Disputed Picasso Will Stay at the Met

Yesterday, Judge Preska dismissed a suit seeking to reclaim Picasso’s “The Actor” from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The suit alleged that the painting was sold under duress in the 1930s after its owner at the time, a German Jew, fled the Nazi regime (see our original coverage here).  While the opinion details the plight of the Leffmann family as they fled from Germany to Italy, Switzerland, and eventually Brazil to escape the Nazis, ultimately, the complaint did not adequately allege a claim against the Met.

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Judge Rakoff: Parties’ “Strategic Concerns” Don’t Justify Sealing Settlement Terms

Today, Judge Rakoff rejected an attempt by the parties in the Petrobras securities litigation (see our prior coverage here) to keep parts of the settlement agreement in that case out of the public record.  Judge Rakoff had previously rebuffed the parties’ request to keep parts of the settlement agreement confidential, and the parties had renewed their request in a letter to the court attaching the documents at issue.  Judge Rakoff denied this request as well, and then on his own filed the documents on the court’s public docket:

From Sykes-Picot to Iran-Contra, secret agreements always have their apologists, but they rarely serve the public interest . . . . There is a certain irony in counsel for plaintiffs – who have premised their claim of fraud on defendants’ alleged failure to disclose material information – seeking to keep secret three agreements that are a material part of the settlement. While plaintiffs’ counsel states that the Court has sometimes approved such sealing in past cases, the issue was never squarely raised; and, in any event, the Court is now convinced that the parties’ and their counsels’ strategic concerns should play no role in the Court’s determination of whether or not such documents should be sealed. Rather, the Court should be guided by the basic principle that all material parts of a proposed class action settlement should be available for public review and comment. Accordingly, the Court attaches to this Memorandum Order the three documents in issue and directs the Clerk of the Court to forthwith docket this Memorandum Order and the three attachments.