In an opinion today, Judge Furman granted a motion for sanctions against the Department of Justice for failing to review and produce hundreds of relevant documents in the litigation over when a citizenship question could be included in the 2020 Census (see our previous coverage here).  The case centered on whether the inclusion of the citizenship question was a proper exercise of executive authority. The withheld documents provided evidence that the question was included to assist in political redistricting efforts, and that the stated justification (that the question was added to help enforce the Voting Rights Act) was pretextual.

While Judge Furman agreed that the conduct was sanctionable, he noted that the most appropriate remedy – judgment in favor of the plaintiffs – had already occurred:
Continue Reading Judge Furman Sanctions DOJ in Census Citizenship Question Case

In an opinion this morning, Judge Vyskocil denied an application for a TRO by a Queens Republican who sought to have her name on the ballot for the June 23 primary.  The plaintiff’s complaint was focused on the fact that, due to the spread of COVID-19, New York had reduced the number of days available to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Judge Vyskocil denied the application because (among other reasons) she found that the State’s interest in controlling COVID-19 met the standard of “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” necessary to justify the shorter time period, particularly given that the State also correspondingly reduced the number of signatures required:
Continue Reading Judge Vyskocil Denies Congressional Candidate TRO Arising from Reduction in Number of Days to Gather Signatures to Appear on Ballot

Last fall, hundreds of lawsuits were filed in the Southern District of New York alleging that retailers and restaurants that failed to offer gift cards with Braille lettering for sale violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (see a Steptoe summary of this wave of complaints here).

Judge Woods recently decided the first two of these cases:  Dominguez v. Banana Republic and Murphy v. Kohl’s Department Stores.  In both cases, Judge Woods dismissed the complaints for lack of standing and failure to state a claim.  Judge Woods held that a Braille gift card is a specialty good that merchants are not required to stock under the ADA’s implementing regulations.  He further held that the ADA empowers retailers to choose which auxiliary aids they offer, rather than allowing customers to demand a particular aid.

The opinions also take issue with the duplicative “copy and paste” nature of these complaints, which lacked specific allegations sufficient to create standing.  In the Murphy opinion, Judge Woods found that the plaintiff had failed to allege an intent to return to the store where he was denied service.  The opinion notes that:
Continue Reading Judge Woods Tosses First Suits Claiming that ADA Requires Braille Gift Cards (Steptoe Success)

Yesterday, Judge Torres issued a preliminary injunction ordering the New York State Board of Elections to reinstate the Democratic presidential primary that it had decided last week to cancel. Former candidate Andrew Yang and a number of his pledged delegates sued to halt the move.

As Judge Torres found, because a primary “actually results in the election of delegates to the Convention,” the cancellation would not only deprive the other presidential candidates of the opportunity to earn votes for the nomination, but would deprive their pledged delegates of the opportunity to influence the party platform and vote on issues of party governance.  Although Judge Torres agreed that “[p]rotecting the public from the spread of COVID-19 is an important state interest,” she was “not convinced that canceling the primary would meaningfully advance that interest,” particularly because there were less drastic alternatives:


Continue Reading Judge Torres Orders Reinstatement of New York Democratic Primary

On Monday, the New York State Board of Elections voted to cancel New York’s democratic presidential primary, which it had originally postponed from April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In a complaint filed Tuesday, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and a group of candidates running to become pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention sued the Board of Elections to block the move.

Plaintiffs argue that the cancellation would disenfranchise millions of voters, suppress turnout in down-ballot races to the detriment of challengers, deny Yang the opportunity to accumulate delegates and influence at the convention, and establish a precedent that President Trump could use to cancel the November 2020 election.  Plaintiffs allege violations of the right to vote and of procedural due process and are seeking emergency relief.

Plaintiffs argue that the primary can safely proceed if voters are simply allowed to vote by mail, and that it is “cancelling democracy” to simply shut down the primary:
Continue Reading Andrew Yang Sues New York State Board of Elections for Canceling Democratic Primary

In a letter endorsement Friday, Judge Failla rejected an attorney’s to re-open a deposition, finding that the attorney making the request was the source of the problem:

[T]he Court observes that Plaintiff’s counsel assumed the role not only of questioner, but of Greek Chorus as to many of [the witness’s] answers, thereby unnecessarily prolonging her deposition. Counsel’s treatment of the witness was also unnecessarily rude, and by the end of the deposition, counsel appeared unwilling or unable to let [the witness] complete her answers to his questions. Accordingly, the Court sees no reason to order the continuation of [the] deposition . . .

A couple of examples from the transcript are below:
Continue Reading Judge Failla: Attorney Who Was a “Greek Chorus” During Deposition Cannot Reopen It

In an order this week, Judge Schofield denied the motion by Donald Trump, the Trump Corporation, and other Trump family members to compel arbitration of claims related to the multi-level marketing scheme ACN (see our previous coverage here).  Defendants argued that, because the plaintiffs had agreed to arbitrate any claims they might have against ACN, the same arbitration clause should force arbitration of any claims against the Trump defendants related to their endorsement of ACN.

Judge Schofield found that the defendants had failed to show the required relatedness from the plaintiffs’ perspective between ACN and the Trump defendants in order to apply equitable estoppel:
Continue Reading Judge Schofield Denies Trump Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration of Multi-Level Marketing Scheme Claims

On Friday, Judge Rakoff dismissed a class action complaint in which a fantasy sports contestant alleged that Major League Baseball’s recent cheating scandals fatally compromised the fairness of fantasy contests promoted by the league. (Click here for previous coverage.) Although the conduct “broke the hearts of all true baseball fans,” Judge Rakoff held that the league did not owe fantasy baseball participants any duty of disclosure or care that could support claims for fraud or negligence, and that the plaintiff’s consumer protection and unjust enrichment claims were “too attenuated to support liability.”  The opinion begins:

Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: MLB Broke the Hearts of All True Baseball Fans, But Did Not Break the Law

On the heels of Judge Swain ruling that the NBA 2K video games could depict player tattoos, Judge Daniels has issued an opinion ruling that the popular video game Call of Duty can prominently feature Humvees, without violating the trademark laws.  He concluded that including them in the game is an “integral element” of artistic expression, as opposed merely representing an attempt to piggy-back on the goodwill of Humvees (see our prior coverage here):
Continue Reading Judge Daniels: Video Game “Call of Duty” Is Allowed to Feature Humvees