NY top court allows private securities claims

Legal Insight 2011/12/20 10:23   Bookmark and Share
Enforcement by the state attorney general against securities fraud doesn't pre-empt private common-law claims of negligence against investment companies, New York's top court ruled Tuesday.

The Court of Appeals rejected J.P. Morgan Investment Management's argument that New York's Martin Act gives the attorney general exclusive authority over fraudulent securities and investment practices. The court said Assured Guaranty (UK) Ltd. can sue J.P. Morgan.

"We agree with the attorney general that the purpose of the Martin Act is not impaired by private common-law actions that have a legal basis independent of the statute because proceedings by the attorney general and private action have the same goal — combating fraud and deception in securities transactions," Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote.

Assured claimed breach of fiduciary duty and gross negligence, alleging J.P. Morgan invested heavily in risky mortgage-backed securities while committing to a conservative investment policy for reinsurance company Orkney RE II PLC, whose obligations Assured guaranteed. After the market crashed, Assured had to cover Orkney losses.

"Here, the plain text of the Martin Act, while granting the attorney general investigatory and enforcement powers and prescribing various penalties, does not expressly mention or otherwise contemplate the elimination of common-law claims," Graffeo wrote. The unanimous ruling upheld a midlevel court, which had reversed a judge.
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NY federal court showdown set over pregnancy pill

Legal Insight 2011/12/13 10:43   Bookmark and Share
A federal judge in Brooklyn is poised to hear arguments Tuesday over whether the federal government is acting constitutionally in its decisions over the access teenage girls are given to morning-after contraceptive pills.

The arguments come just a week after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and announced that the pills would only be available without prescription to those 17 and older who can prove their age. President Barack Obama said he supported the decision regarding a pill that can prevent pregnancy if taken soon enough after unprotected sex.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups have argued that contraceptives are being held to a different and non-scientific standard than other drugs and that politics has played a role in decision making. Social conservatives have said the pill is tantamount to abortion.

Judge Edward Korman was highly critical of the government's handling of the issue when he ordered the FDA two years ago to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication. At the time, he accused the government of letting "political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making" cloud the approval process.
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Federal court issues new political maps for Texas

Legal Insight 2011/11/18 09:02   Bookmark and Share
A federal court on Thursday issued temporary political maps for the 2012 election in Texas that some say will give Democrats a greater chance of winning seats in the Legislature.

The maps, which still must be given final court approval, will remain in place for state House and Senate districts until there is a resolution to lawsuits filed over the Legislature's proposals — likely through the 2012 elections. The court is expected to also release a proposal for new congressional districts.

Republicans have acknowledged they are not likely to hold on to the 101-49 supermajority they have in the Texas House. Still Democrats argue that the GOP map drawers went too far in trying to preserve their power.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office, which is representing the state, was reviewing the maps and "working to prepare a response as directed by the court," spokeswoman Lauren Bean said.

Democrats and minorities have complained that the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature prevent minority groups from electing their choice of candidate.
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Defense witness in Murray case faces contempt fine

Legal Insight 2011/11/16 09:44   Bookmark and Share
A scientist who was the star defense witness in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor will be in court Wednesday to fight a threatened $1,000 fine for contempt.

Dr. Paul White is a pioneer in the use of the anesthetic propofol. He clashed with Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor over comments in and out of court during Dr. Conrad Murray's trial.

Pastor says White deliberately brought up banned information in his testimony.

Pastor is giving White a chance to appear Wednesday and explain why he should not be found in direct contempt of court and fined $1,000. A member of the trial defense team, Michael Flanagan, is representing him.

Murray is in jail awaiting sentencing for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death and is not required to attend the hearing.

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Indiana, Planned Parenthood in court over funding

Legal Insight 2011/10/21 09:32   Bookmark and Share
Planned Parenthood of Indiana can end a dispute over a law that would cut some of its public funding if it became two separate entities, with one offering abortion services and the other offering general health services, an attorney for the state told a federal appeals court Thursday.

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said during oral arguments before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that Indiana's new law is aimed at keeping taxpayer dollars "from indirectly subsidizing abortions."

He told the appeals court that Planned Parenthood of Indiana could ensure that wouldn't happen by separating its operations into two entities.

"Only by separating the two can we be sure that there's no cross-subsidy," Fisher said.

Planned Parenthood's attorney, Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the appeals court during the 45-minute hearing that Indiana's own Medicaid agency warned state lawmakers while they were weighing the legislation that it would violate Medicaid recipients' "freedom of choice" by targeting the abortion provider.

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Wyoming Supreme Court rules for bar owners

Legal Insight 2011/08/30 02:27   Bookmark and Share
The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that state law protects bar owners from lawsuits arising from the actions of their intoxicated patrons.

In a split decision Friday, the court upheld a lower court ruling against relatives of a Ten Sleep couple who died in a head-on crash in 2008. The couple's relatives had sued the owners of two Big Horn County saloons claiming they continued to serve the driver who plowed into the couple after he was drunk.

The court majority ruled state law from the 1980s holds bar owners can't be held liable for their patrons' actions.

Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite and Justice William Hill filed a dissenting opinion saying they would allow lawsuits against bar owners if they violated local ordinances against serving alcohol to intoxicated persons.

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