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Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
U.S. Court News | 2017/11/16 13:03
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.



Samsung worker killed by brain tumor wins compensation case
Legal News Feed | 2017/11/13 13:03
Overturning an appeal court's decision, South Korea's Supreme Court said Tuesday the family of a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumor should be eligible for state compensation for an occupational disease.

The ruling on Lee Yoon-jung, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 30 and died two years later, reflects a shift in the handling of such cases in South Korea.

Workers used to have the onus of proving the cause of a disease caused by their work. But after years of campaigning by labor advocates to raise awareness about the obstacles workers face in getting information about chemicals used in manufacturing, courts have begun to sometimes rule in favor of workers.

Lee worked at a Samsung chip factory for six years from 1997 to 2003 but there was no record available of the levels of chemicals she was exposed to while working there.

An appeals court denied the claim filed by Lee, based on government investigations into the factory conducted after she left the company. The investigations reported that the workers' exposure to some toxins, such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, were lower than maximum permissible limits. They did not measure exposure levels to other chemicals or investigate their health risks.

The Supreme Court said such limitations in government investigations should not be held against a worker with a rare disease whose cause is unknown.

The case filed by Lee's family is the second time this year South Korea's highest court has ruled in favor of a worker. In August, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court's ruling that denied compensation to a former Samsung LCD factory worker with multiple sclerosis.

The government-run Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, the defendant in the case, did not respond to requests for comment.

Lim Ja-woon, the lawyer representing Lee, said brain tumors are the second-most common disease, after leukemia, among former Samsung workers who sought compensation or financial aid from the government or from Samsung for a possible occupational disease. He said 27 Samsung Electronics workers have been diagnosed with brain tumors, including eight people who worked at the same factory as Lee.


Trump choosing white men as judges, highest rate in decades
Court News | 2017/11/11 13:02
President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America's federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation's diversity.

So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump's most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges.

That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.



High court to hear appeal in Newtown school shooting case
U.S. Court News | 2017/11/10 13:02
Lawyers are set to ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to reinstate a wrongful death lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 Newtown school massacre.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in an appeal by a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the shooting.

They're trying to sue Remington Arms, the North Carolina company that made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Gunman Adam Lanza's mother legally purchased the rifle.

A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying federal law shields gun makers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products.

The company denies the lawsuit's allegations that it violated state law by selling such a dangerous weapon to the public.


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