In an opinion today, Judge Oetken rejected a lawsuit (covered here) by which four states, including New York, sought to invalidate the newly-enacted cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) on a filer’s federal income tax returns.  The challengers argued the law “verg[es] into territory that is constitutionally reserved to the states.”  But Judge Oetken found that, while the law may alter what types of state tax laws are more or less attractive—for example, it creates disincentives for high state tax rates—the law nonetheless does not improperly infringe on states’ sovereign authority to exercise their taxing powers as they wish:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken Dismisses Constitutional Challenge to Cap on State and Local Tax Deductions

On Thursday, Judge Oetken dismissed a Major League Baseball umpire’s discrimination claims under the Ohio Civil Rights Act, holding that the plaintiff could not seek relief under the conflicting laws of two different states based on a single course of employer conduct.  The plaintiff alleged that the MLB discriminated against him on the basis of race and brought claims under Ohio and New York law.

Plaintiff argued that the “transitory nature” of his job meant that he is discriminated against in every state in which he works.  However, because plaintiff challenged the same acts under both laws, Judge Oetken applied a choice of law analysis and found that the two state laws conflicted because Ohio permits punitive damages while New York does not.   Judge Oetken held that New York had a greater interest in the litigation and dismissed the Ohio claims:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken: MLB Umpire Can’t Bring Bias Claims Under Conflicting State Laws

In an order last week, Judge Oetken granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the purveyors of the cryptocurrency “AlibabaCoin” from continuing to use the marks of Alibaba Group, the global e-commerce company based in China.  According to Alibaba Group, defendants “published a variety of promotional materials that impermissibly use Alibaba’s trademarks in an effort to align AlibabaCoin with Alibaba in the minds of potential consumers.”

Notably, Judge Oetken addressed whether cryptocurrency transactions purportedly occurring in Belarus could be subject to personal jurisdiction in New York by analogizing cryptocurrency to debit card transactions:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken Enjoins “AlibabaCoin” from Using Alibaba Group’s Marks; Finds Personal Jurisdiction Over Cryptocurrency Transactions Made Using Blockchain in Belarus

Yesterday, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland filed a complaint against the U.S. Treasury Department and others, seeking to invalidate the newly-enacted cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) on a filer’s federal income tax return.  Prior to the 2017 changes to the tax law, all or a substantial portion of SALT could be deducted from a federal tax return.  After 2017, the deduction was capped at $10,000.
Continue Reading Four States Sue Treasury Department Over Cap on State and Local Tax Deduction

In an opinion Wednesday, Judge Oetken ruled that it was not unconscionable for UnrollMe, a provider of free software to help unsubscribe consumers from unwanted email, to enforce the users’ agreement to allow the company to use or sell their data, at least on an anonymized basis — notwithstanding that people may not like this sort of arrangement:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken Enforces “Faustian Bargain” of Free Software In Exchange for User Data

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Oetken refused to transfer to the Southern District of Texas a challenge to the EPA’s decision to suspend a rule from the previous administration, concerning the definition of “navigable waters.”  The Southern District of Texas is considering similar issues in a related case, but Judge Oetken found that the desire for uniformity was not enough to justify the transfer:
Continue Reading Citing Virtues of “Inter-Court Dialogue,” Judge Oetken Refuses to Transfer EPA Case to Texas Court Considering Similar Issues

In an opinion last week, Judge Oetken denied a motion by a plaintiff, who identifies as genderqueer and who accuses the defendants of employment discrimination, to sue under a pseudonym.  The decision was largely based on the fact that the plaintiff had already been identified in a news article, but Judge Oetken also noted the

In an opinion Friday, Judge Oetken refused to dismiss a putative class action brought by Applebee’s patrons who allege that the tabletop computer tablets at the Broadway and Times Square locations force customers to leave a minimum tip of either 15% or 18%, and thereby deceive customers into believing tipping is mandatory, in violation of New York’s consumer protection laws.

The defendants argued (among other things) that the social norm of leaving a tip was grounds to dismiss the case, but Judge Oetken disagreed:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken Refuses to Dismiss Complaint Alleging that Applebee’s Tabletop Tablets Force Patrons to Tip

In an opinion Wednesday in a case under the TCPA, a law that (among other things) bars calls without consent to cell phones via automatic dealings systems, Judge Oeken rejected the defendant’s argument that, by exempting government debt collection calls from the ban, the law is a form of speech discrimination that violates the First Amendment.

Judge Oekten found that, while the law “imposes a content-based restriction on speech” and thereby merits “strict scrutiny,” the law was nonetheless justified under that standard:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken: Law Banning Robocalls to Cell Phones, Except Where Government is Collecting Debts, Does Not Violate First Amendment

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Oetken denied the defendants’ pre-discovery summary judgment motion in a sex discrimination suit against the law firm Chadbourne & Parke and certain partners. The defendants argued that the named plaintiffs, as firm partners, did not qualify as “employees” of the firm for purposes of the relevant discrimination statutes because of their titles and because of the terms of the partnership agreement.

Judge Oetken concluded, however, that the plaintiffs were entitled to discovery to prove whether the various factors distinguishing employees and owners were present in the case, and focused in particular on whether the firm was really run by a centralized Management Committee, as opposed to the partners generally:
Continue Reading Judge Oetken:  Law Firm Partners Can Be “Employees” for Purposes of Sex Discrimination Suit, Based on Control by Management Committee