Appeals court backs Jimmy John's franchisee in labor dispute

Topics in Legal News 2017/07/06 16:55   Bookmark and Share
A company that owns 10 Jimmy John's sandwich shops in the Twin Cities was within its rights to fire six union workers who circulated posters critical of the company's sick-leave policy, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a three-judge appeals panel, which had affirmed a National Labor Relations Board ruling in favor of the workers, who were part of a unionization drive by the Industrial Workers of the World at shops owned by MikLin Enterprises.

The full appeals court concluded that the poster attack was "so disloyal" that it wasn't protected by federal labor law.

The posters were timed to the flu season in early 2011. They protested the company's policy against workers calling in sick without finding replacements to take their shifts, and accused the company of putting the health of its customers at risk. The poster features two identical photos of Jimmy John's sandwiches but said one was made by a healthy worker and one was made by a sick worker.

"Can't tell the difference?" the poster read. "That's too bad because Jimmy John's workers don't get paid sick days. Shoot, we can't even call in sick. We hope your immune system is ready because you're about to take the sandwich test."

The poster and a press release were distributed to more than 100 local and national news organizations, and the IWW threatened wider distribution if its demands were not met.

The NLRB concluded that MikLin violated protections for employee communications to the public that are part of an ongoing labor dispute. The three-judge appeals panel agreed. But the full appeals court said the board misapplied a controlling precedent set in a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case that permits firings for disloyalty when the quality of a company's product is attacked, as opposed to communications targeting the employer's labor practices.

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Court: Energy firm can pass $55M cleanup costs

Legal Insight 2017/07/05 16:55   Bookmark and Share
The Ohio Supreme Court says an energy company is allowed to pass on the $55 million cost of cleaning up two polluted sites to its customers in the form of an added charge on their monthly bills.

Duke Energy has been adding $1.67 to bills in Ohio for about three years to help pay for the cleanup of two long-closed facilities in Cincinnati. A spokeswoman says the charge will likely continue for two more years.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that cleanup costs can be treated like other business expenses.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy inherited the plants from another company. They were closed in 1928 and 1963, but cleanup had been a low priority because there was little public access to the sites.


Abduction suspect makes first appearance in court

Hundreds of people gathered outside a federal courthouse Monday as the suspect in the kidnapping of a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois made his first appearance since being arrested last week.

During the nine-minute hearing, 28-year-old Brendt Christensen acknowledged to the judge that he understood his rights, but did not say anything else. U.S. Magistrate Eric Long ordered Christensen held without bond in the kidnapping of Yingying Zhang. Authorities say facts in the case indicate the 26-year-old Zhang is dead, although her body hasn't been found.

Long ordered Christensen to return to the court in Urbana on Wednesday to determine bond. A preliminary hearing was set for July 14, but that would be waived if a grand jury returns an indictment before then. The federal kidnapping charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to a U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman.

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Indiana high court to rule on Lake Michigan beach ownership

Court News 2017/07/04 16:57   Bookmark and Share
The Indiana Supreme Court will decide who owns the land immediately adjacent to Lake Michigan.

Don and Bobbie Gunderson claim their land on Lake Michigan extends to the water’s edge, meaning no one can access the beach by their house without permission, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The state said it owns the land in a trust for all residents up to the “ordinary high-water mark.” The line is generally defined as the mark on the shore where the presence of water is continuous enough to distinguish it from land through erosion, vegetation changes or other characteristics.

The state was granted the land at statehood in 1816, said Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher. He said the state must control beach erosion, which it can’t do effectively if nearby homeowners are allowed to claim the beach as their own.

The high court’s order granting transfer of the case vacates a 2016 state Court of Appeals ruling that established an unprecedented property-sharing arrangement between the state and lakefront landowners. All parties involved with the case agreed the appellate court’s decision was unsatisfactory and asked the state Supreme Court to rule on the matter independently.

Justices will receive written briefs and likely hear oral arguments later this year before issuing a decision, likely in 2018.

The decision will determine if visitors can walk, sunbathe and play on Lake Michigan beaches located between the water and privately owned properties next to the lake.

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More court challenges expected for Trump's new travel ban

Topics in Legal News 2017/07/01 16:58   Bookmark and Share
A scaled-back version of President Donald Trump's travel is now in force, stripped of provisions that brought protests and chaos at airports worldwide in January yet still likely to generate a new round of court fights. The new rules, the product of months of legal wrangling, aren't so much an outright ban as a tightening of already-tough visa policies affecting citizens from six Muslim-majority countries.

Refugees are covered, too. Administration officials promised that implementation this time, which started at 8 p.m. EDT, would be orderly. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said his agency expected "business as usual at our ports of entry," with all valid visa holders still being able to travel. Still, immigration and refugee advocates are vowing to challenge the new requirements and the administration has struggled to explain how the rules will make the United States safer.

Under the temporary rules, citizens of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen who already have visas will be allowed into the United States. But people from those countries who want new visas will now have to prove a close family relationship or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business in the U.S. It's unclear how significantly the new rules will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas. Nevertheless, human rights groups girded for new legal battles.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups challenging the ban, called the new criteria "extremely restrictive," ''arbitrary" in their exclusions and designed to "disparage and condemn Muslims." The state of Hawaii filed an emergency motion Thursday asking a federal judge to clarify that the administration cannot enforce the ban against relatives — such as grandparents, aunts or uncles — not included in the State Department's definition of "bona fide" personal relationships.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer met with customs officials and said he felt things would go smoothly. "For tonight, I'm anticipating few issues because, I think, there's better preparation," he told reporters at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night. "The federal government here, I think, has taken steps to avoid the havoc that occurred the last time."

Much of the confusion in January, when Trump's first ban took effect, resulted from travelers with previously approved visas being kept off flights or barred entry on arrival in the United States. Immigration officials were instructed Thursday not to block anyone with valid travel documents and otherwise eligible to visit the United States.
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Another ex-Arpaio underling testifies against him in court

Court News 2017/06/29 09:45   Bookmark and Share
Two ex-members of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement squad testified against their old boss Wednesday, with one man describing how the agency defied a judicial order to stop rounding up immigrants.

Arpaio, 85, is charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge’s order to end his patrols that rounded up immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

If convicted, the former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix could face up to six months in jail.

Arpaio created a squad called the Human Smuggling Unit that was the main immigration enforcer while he was Maricopa County Sheriff. Prosecutors called a former member of that squad, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, to the witness stand to describe its immigration efforts from 2012 to 2013.

Jakowinicz testified that he spoke to the leaders of the unit during that time, and they said the agency’s legal troubles over immigration had been resolved — despite being under an injunction to stop immigration enforcement.

“They didn’t want … to change anything,” he said. “Everything was running smoothly.” Arpaio has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience was unintentional and puts the blame on his former lawyer.

The case marks a harsh rebuke against a lawman who became a national political celebrity with his Arizona immigration patrols but lost his bid for a seventh term in office last year amid voter frustration stemming from the huge bill he ran up over his many legal tangles.

Jakowinicz testified he personally talked to Arpaio about the agency’s practice of handing over immigrants in the country illegally to the U.S. Border Patrol.

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Mississippi man takes Confederate flag fight to high court

Legal Insight 2017/06/29 09:45   Bookmark and Share
A black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state's Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against Moore, "a city could adopt 'White Supremacy Forever' as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag."

Mississippi's is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

However, several cities and towns and all eight of the state's public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.

The fresh scrutiny has extended to other Old South symbols on public display; New Orleans recently removed statues of Confederate officers and a monument to white supremacy, and other cities are considering similar demotions.

The lawsuit Moore filed in February 2016 says the Mississippi flag is "state-sanctioned hate speech," and seeks to have it declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed it in September without ruling on the merits, saying Moore lacked legal standing to sue because he failed to show the emblem caused an identifiable legal injury.
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