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ACLU files suit against Texas juvenile prison system
Court Issues | 2008/06/17 14:51

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit Thursday against the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), alleging that five girls imprisoned at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex were subjected to punitive solitary confinement, physical abuse and invasive strip searches. The ACLU alleged that the treatment violated the girls' rights under the US Constitution and international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. TYC officials responded that the agency is working to address the issues raised in the lawsuit.

In May 2007, TYC announced it would release 226 inmates after an investigation revealed that their sentences had been improperly extended in retaliation for filing grievances. In June 2007, Congress passed a bill to reform the Texas juvenile prison system, creating the Office of Inspector General to internally police the system. The Ron Jackson girls' facility is estimated to hold about 190 inmates.



Ginsburg Reverses FOIA Denial
Court Issues | 2008/06/16 14:45
An airplane enthusiast has the right to seek documents from the Federal Aviation Administration, though the lower court had denied his friend the same documents.

Greg Herrick was denied access to the documents, due to an exemption covering trade secrets. When his friend filed a similar lawsuit, the lower court said the lawsuit was precluded by the first ruling. The D.C. Circuit upheld, but Justice Ginsburg reversed, shooting down the Circuit's 5-point test for "virtual representation."

"Extending the preclusive effect of a judgment to a non-party runs up against the deep-rooted historic tradition that everyone should have his own day in court," Ginsburg wrote.

For a lawsuit to be precluded, the two parties must have "pre-existing substantive legal relationship" or one party must have assumed control over the previous litigation, according to the unanimous opinion.


Subscription Bill for $11.83 Brings $5 Million Award
Law Firm News | 2008/06/13 14:33
A bill for $11.83 led a customer to file a federal class action accusing XM Satellite Radio of illegally renewing subscribers' contracts without proper notice. Damages are estimated at more than $5 million.

On behalf of all XM subscribers in New York, Richard Vacariello claims XM violates New York General Obligations Law ยง50903 by failing to notify subscribers 15 to 30 days before "automatically" renewing their subscriptions.

Vacariello took a 3-year subscription and used it in a leased automobile, then turned in the car and let the XM subscription expire - he thought. After he turned in the car, he says, XM sent him a bill for $359.64. (It is not clear from the complaint whether this was a bill for another year or for another three years.) Vacariello says he objected, and that XM told him it had "automatically renewed the contract."

So Vacariello says he canceled the contract "immediately," only to have XM send him another bill - for $11.83 - for the period after the 3-year contract expired, and before he canceled the automatic renewal.

Vacariello says XM refused to cancel the $11.83 bill, so he paid it under protest, for fear of harming his credit. Then he filed this class action. He estimates class damages at more than $5 million. He demands compensatory damages and an injunction.


Trial Suspended Over Judge's Dirty Web Site
Blog News | 2008/06/12 14:33
An obscenity trial in Los Angeles Federal Court was suspended after it was revealed that presiding 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski posted sexually explicit photographs and videos on a Web site that he has since blocked from the public, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Kozinski, 57, claims he had no idea that the graphic materials, which included a photo of naked women painted to look like cows and a video of a man "cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal," were available to the public, The Times reported.

Kozinski is presiding over the trial of Los Angeles filmmaker Ira Isaacs, who is accused of violating U.S. obscenity laws by making pornographic films depicting extreme fetishes, including bestiality and defecation. Jurors were set to view hours of allegedly obscene videos during trial.

Kozinski told The Times that some of the material was inappropriate, while others he claimed were meant as jokes. "Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he told the the paper. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's a part of life."

The judge, considered a judicial conservative, was appointed to the bench at age 35 by Ronald Regan, making him the youngest federal appeals court judge in the country. He has a reputation for championing free speech and the First Amendment.

Before it was blocked, the site alex.kozinski.com contained extensive sexually explicit material, The Times claims, including images of masturbation and public sex. "There was a slide show striptease featuring a transsexual, and a folder that contained a series of photos of women's crotches as seen through snug fitting clothing or underwear. There were also themes of defecation and urination, though they are not presented in a sexual context," Times reporter Scott Glover wrote.

"People send me stuff like this all the time," Kozinski told The Times. He said he saves items he finds interesting or amusing that he might later send to friends. But he said that he must have accidentally uploaded some of the more explicit images to his server while trying to upload something else.


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