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Defendant Asher Adelman established eBossWatch.com, which published an article, “'Bizarre’ and hostile work environment leads to lawsuit.” The article detailed a gender-discrimination, workplace-harassment, and retaliation lawsuit brought against Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc., and its chief executive officer and co-owner, John Wintermute (collectively Wintermute), by a former employee, Kristen Laforgia. More than a year after the article’s publication, Wintermute’s attorney sent a letter to Adelman, contending that the article was false and defamatory, Laforgia’s complaint was baseless, and that Laforgia and Wintermute had settled the lawsuit. In an email response, Adelman defended the article, stating that it was a reporting of Laforgia’s complaint, with a few modifications that, by Adelman’s opinion, made clear the article reported on what was filed in Laforgia’s complaint. Wintermute still filed a defamation action. The trial court found the modified article fell within the ambit of the fair report privilege and dismissed the defamation lawsuit. The Appellate Division disagreed with the trial court, holding that under the single publication rule, a new statute of limitations began to run only “if a modification to an Internet post materially and substantially alters the content and substance of the article.” The panel reasoned that “if a minor modification diminishes the defamatory sting of an article, it should not trigger a new statute of limitations.” The panel therefore dismissed as untimely Wintermute’s defamation lawsuit filed more than one year following publication of the original article. The panel did not decide whether the fair report privilege barred the action. The Court granted Wintermute’s petition for certification. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined genuine issues of disputed fact remained concerning whether Adelman made a material and substantive change to the original article, and the Appellate Division erred in dismissing the defamation action based on the single publication rule. However, the Court found the modified article was entitled to the protection of the fair report privilege. The article was a full, fair, and accurate recitation of a court-filed complaint. The trial court properly dismissed the defamation action, and on that basis the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s judgment. View "Petro-LubricantTesting Laboratories, Inc. v. Adelman" on Justia Law

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Mohawk, a seller of prescription drugs sent junk faxes to medical providers, advertising the seller’s prices on Bristol-Myers and Pfizer drugs. A recipient filed a putative class-action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which makes it unlawful “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to a fax machine, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C). Plaintiff first asserted claims only against Mohawk, which never answered the complaint. The district court entered a default judgment. Plaintiff then amended its complaint to assert claims against Bristol and Pfizer, arguing that they had “sent” the unsolicited faxes simply because the faxes mentioned their drugs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. To be liable, a defendant must “use” a fax machine or other device “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to another fax machine. Bristol and Pfizer neither caused the subject faxes to be conveyed nor dispatched them in any way; only Mohawk did those things. Bristol and Pfizer, therefore, did not “send” the faxes and thus have no liability for them. View "Health One Medical Center v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law

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Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) investigated complaints against police, including domestic violence, excessive force, and death in custody, and made disciplinary recommendations: allegations were “sustained,” “not sustained,” “exonerated,” or “unfounded.” Investigators interviewed witnesses and procured evidence to draft reports. IPRA’s Administrator retained final responsibility for making recommendations and establishing “rules, regulations and procedures for the conduct of investigations.” Davis became an IPRA investigator in 2008. Davis alleges that in 2014-2015, his supervisors ordered Davis to change “sustained” findings and make his reports more favorable to the accused officers. Davis refused and was allegedly threatened to with termination. Davis alleges that they requested Word versions of Davis’s reports to alter them to look like Davis had made the changes. The administrator then implemented a policy requiring his approval for all “sustained” findings: if an investigator refused to make a recommended change, he would be disciplined for insubordination. Davis again refused to change “sustained” findings and was fired. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his First Amendment claims. That an employee may have good reasons to refuse an order, does “not necessarily mean the employee has a cause of action under the First Amendment when he contravenes that order.” Because IPRA required Davis to draft and revise reports, his refusal to revise those reports was speech “pursuant to [his] official duties.” He spoke as a public employee, not a private citizen. The First Amendment does not protect this speech. View "Davis v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Dennis and Wanda Irish appealed a district court order granting a directed verdict in favor of Jeffrey and Dona Hall. The Irishes brought a defamation action against the Halls after the Halls changed their home wireless internet designation to read, “[D]ennis & [W]anda Irish stocking u2.” The complaint requested an injunction, damages, attorney fees and costs. This followed an acrimonious history between the parties stemming from Wanda Irish’s role as the mayor of the city of Harrison. The district court granted the Halls’ motion for a directed verdict, concluding the statement conveyed via the wireless designation was an opinion, and as such was protected under the First Amendment. The Irishes appealed the district court’s order, and the Halls cross-appealed, challenging the district court’s denial of attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting the Halls’ motion for a directed verdict, finding the phrase “[D]ennis & [W]anda Irish stocking u2” was not a statement of opinion, political criticism, or hyperbole. The Court vacated the directed verdict, affirmed the denial of attorney fees, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Irish v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In 2013, federal agents obtained an 18 U.S.C. 2703 warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose all e-mails and other information associated with a customer's account that was believed to be involved in illegal drug trafficking. Microsoft determined that the account’s e-mail contents were all stored in Microsoft’s Dublin, Ireland datacenter and moved, unsuccessfully, to quash the warrant with respect to that information. The court held Microsoft in civil contempt. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that requiring Microsoft to disclose the electronic communications in question would be an unauthorized extraterritorial application of section 2703. In March 2018, Congress enacted and the President signed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), Pub. L. 115–141, amending the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701, to add: “A [service provider] shall comply with the obligations of this chapter to preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber within such provider’s possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States.” The Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue with respect to which certiorari was granted; a new warrant replaced the original warrant. View "United States v. Microsoft Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2008 Oncor began installing smart meters that can report customers’ electricity usage remotely, eliminating the need for personal inspection and the associated labor costs. In 2012 a Texas Senate committee investigated whether smart meters have harmful effects on public health.” Reed, an Oncor “trouble man” who completed ad hoc repair jobs and responded to power outages, who was also the union's business manager and financial secretary, volunteered to testify. Reed signed the witness list as representing the union. During his brief testimony, Reed said he represented the local union and spoke of the meters burning, testified to receiving repair orders or damaged boxes after the meters burned, and spoke of experiences with disgruntled customers. Oncor investigated, concluded that Reed’s testimony was false, and terminated his employment. An ALJ found a violation of the National Labor Relations Act by interfering with Reed’s protected union activities. The NLRB affirmed. The D.C. Circuit remanded, directing the NLRB to clarify its decision under a two-prong test for assessing whether employees’ third-party appeals constitute protected concerted activity or amount to such detrimental disloyalty as to permit termination for cause. Even disparaging statements can enjoy protection where the communication indicates it is related to an ongoing dispute between the employees and the employers and the communication is not so disloyal, reckless or maliciously untrue as to lose protection. View "Oncor Electric Delivery Compan v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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In 2012, a Pasadena officer shot and killed an unarmed man, resulting in multiple investigations, including by the Office of Independent Review Group (OIR). The Los Angeles Times made requests under the California Public Records Act (PRA), Gov. Code, 6250, seeking disclosure of the OIR’s 2014 report. Officers sought to enjoin the report’s disclosure. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the officers' petition in 2015, finding that the report is a public document, and remanded for issuance of a new or modified judgment. The Times then sought attorney fees from the city under the PRA and from the two involved police officers and the Pasadena Police Officers Association, under the private attorney general statute (Code Civ. Proc., 1021.5). The trial court awarded the Times limited fees against the city and declined to award the Times any fees under section 1021.5. The court of appeal affirmed the award of limited fees under the PRA but reversed the order awarding no fees under the private attorney general statute, directing the trial court to award the Times reasonable fees against the officers and/or the Pasadena Police Officers Association. View "Pasadena Police Officers Association v. City of Pasadena" on Justia Law

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Telecommunications carriers with legacy obligations petitioned for review challenging the FCC's decision to hold their obligations in place during an interim period. The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review for two reasons. First, the court owed deference to the FCC's decision to hold a preexisting regime in place for an interim period, so as to avoid commandeering agency resources and to respect the agency's judgments about how to maintain baseline universal service in the context of uncertainties attending a major regulatory transition. Second, in response to petitioners' generalized allegations that vulnerable consumers do not need the disputed services and that the existing program leaves petitioners with underfunded obligations, the FCC has made clear that it will grant case-by-case forbearance or supplemental funding in areas where providers can meet their burden to show that their services were not required or that they needed additional financial help. View "AT&T, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City and ImOn in an action brought by Mediacom, seeking declarations that certain resolutions were void and that the City could not permit a potential cable provider to construct a "cable system" without acquiring a cable franchise. Mediacom also alleged contract violations, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and Equal Protection violations, all depending on whether ImOn could lawfully build a fiber-optic network without a franchise. The court held that ImOn's fiber-optic network was not a "cable system," because ImOn has not provided or proposed to provide cable services. Therefore, the agreements at issue authorizing ImOn's construction of a fiber-optic network were not a de facto cable franchise. In regard to Mediacom's equal protection claim, the court also held that the district court properly concluded that ImOn and Mediacom were not similarly situated because only Mediacom was a cable provider in the City, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mediacom's motion for discovery. View "MCC Iowa v. Iowa City" on Justia Law

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Verizon filed suit challenging the Board's denial of its application for a special use permit to construct a cellular communications tower. The district court dismissed the action as time-barred under the thirty-day limitations period of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA). The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that the Board's action became final not when the Clerk entered a document in the Ordinances and Resolutions books, as the district court found, but when the Board approved the minutes of the meeting at which it voted on Verizon's application. The court reasoned that only when an applicant receives sufficient notice does the decision become "final," and only then can the thirty-day clock begin to run. In this case, the minutes, created pursuant to published statute, provided the notice that due process and the Supreme Court's interpretation of the TCA required. View "Athens Cellular, Inc. v. Oconee County, Georgia" on Justia Law