Wisconsin Judge Orders Special Elections

On Thursday, a Wisconsin judge ordered Governor Scott Walker to schedule special elections for a pair of legislative seats that the governor has refused to schedule since the end of last year.

Due to Walker’s refusal to schedule the elections, Democrats in the state had sued the governor. They also indicated that governor was delaying the elections because he was afraid that Republicans would lose them.

Josann Reynolds, who is a Dane County Circuit Court Judge and an appointee of Governor Walker, told the governor that he must schedule an election within the week. Though the governor is expected to appeal the order. Amy Hasenberg, who is the governor’s spokesperson, said that the governor was presently conferring with state attorneys to determine what actions they will take next.

The two seats in dispute concern one in the state senate and another in the state assembly. They both became vacant in December of last year when both office holders took positions in the Walker administration. The governor has insisted that the two seats should not be filled in special elections, but that they instead should be filled during the normal November 2018 elections. The winners of those elections would then be seated in January of next year.

The governor stated that he had no legal obligation to hold special elections, and that by not holding them he was actually saving the taxpayers money. But Democrats believe that he was more motivated by the fact that a Democrat won a special legislative election this past January in a heavily Republican district that overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2016. Governor Walker himself called the outcome of that election a wake up call.

According to Wisconsin law, if a seat vacancy occurs before May 1 during an election election year, a special election must be called. But Walker believes that this does not apply in this case because the vacancies occurred last year, which was not an election year.

Facebook Could Face an Avalanche of Lawsuits

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has not only eroded confidence in the world’s most popular social network; it has also opened a can of worms that could keep Facebook’s legal team busy for years.

In California, four civil lawsuits were filed against Facebook during the last week of March; furthermore, attorneys representing Cook County in Illinois filed a lawsuit on behalf of Chicago residents whose protections under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act were allegedly ignored when the social network gave data access to Cambridge Analytica.

Although the various lawsuits piling up against Facebook present a diversity of civil complaints, a common theme in the filings is that the social network failed t to protect user data in accordance to its Terms of Service.

Meanwhile, agents from the Information Commissioner’s Office of the United Kingdom executed a search warrant at the corporate offices of Cambridge Analytica in London. Legal analysts believe that the raid could produce documents that United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller will probably find of interest as they may relate to the ongoing investigation into the political campaign that elected President Donald Trump. The work of Cambridge Analytica is believed to have been instrumental in the election of Donald Trump as well as in the Brexit referendum.

The legal issues that Facebook will likely face in the next few months were caused by an app developed by Cambridge Analytica under the guise of academic research. A Russian American developer created a Facebook app that essentially consists of a fun quiz; what users did not know is that their social media data was being harvested along with the data of individuals within their social circles. The data was later cross-referenced with consumer data records to create voter profiles that could be targeted with false news reports.

In the Cook County lawsuit, Facebook could face fines as high as $10,000 per each individual violation of the aforementioned Illinois state law. Similar lawsuits by state attorney generals across the U.S. could be forthcoming.

John Dowd, Trump’s Lead Lawyer, Resigns

The New York Times is reporting that Trump’s lead lawyer resigned today. Just last week, Trump claimed in a tweet that he is very happy with his legal team. The President lashed out at the report that Trump was looking for different legal talent. Regardless, changing lawyers in the middle of any litigation or controversy is 1) a sign of being on the losing end, and 2) a catalyst for even more loss.

Thousands of hours are involved in litigation. Beyond what the public sees in any legal fight, lawyers spend days, weeks and months researching, brainstorming, and writing. The lawyers supporting any potential criminal defendant are numerous. Typically, each attorney is tasked with the procedural and substantive law for a particular subset of the total case. For instance, one lawyer might be responsible for determining whether jurisdiction could be an issue in the case. While this research and information belongs to the client, the knowledge and strategy involved in all of that work remains with the lawyer and his or her team. So, when you no longer have that lawyer’s expertise and strategic framing, as a client…not a good thing.

Furthermore, and even more importantly, the other side of any litigation relishes picking off an opponent’s legal team. If litigation is war, then each and every step in the process is a battle to the end. So, when the other side starts losing lawyers – for whatever reason – one side looks to be winning the legal fight. Lawyers also spend time attempting to dislodge opposing parties from their legal team. Citing conflicts of interest or other ethical missteps, lawyers will typically have teams devoted to the single task of researching the law on conflicts and bar rules.

So, overall, lawyers resigning is not a good thing. It is doubtful that the recent news of Trump’s lead attorney, Dowd, will be a benefit for the President’s legal fight against special counsel Mueller. The only possible good news would be if Trump hired a much better lawyer to replace Dowd. Since learning that Ted Olson, one of the country’s finest litigators, turned Trump down, it seems that Trump is losing his legal entanglement.

Tax Law Includes Big Change for Family Law

The U.S. Congress and President Trump just passed an overhaul of U.S. tax law. There are big changes across a variety of taxes, deductions and exemptions. The law was hotly debated, and it remains controversial.

One of the changes that impacts family law in a big way is the change in the way alimony payments are taxed. Until now, the person who paid alimony or spousal support to an ex-spouse could deduct that amount from their income. The person who received alimony had to pay taxes on the amount that they received.

The new tax law reverses that. Now, you have to pay taxes on alimony that you pay. You don’t have to pay taxes on alimony that you receive. The new rule applies throughout the United States. Each state may determine their own laws for how much alimony to pay or receive. However, taxation rules set by the federal government apply throughout the country.

Supporters of the new law say that more taxes overall will be collected by the government. They say that payers have higher tax rates, so the government will collect more net taxes. They say the changes won’t make a difference in divorce figures, because most people don’t make a decision about whether to file for divorce based on how the government taxes alimony. Opponents say that alimony payers may fight paying alimony if they know that they have to pay taxes on what they pay. They say that it’s hard enough for divorcing couples to resolve their disputes without penalizing an alimony payer with taxes.

The change makes alimony tax rules mirror child support laws. Child support recipients don’t pay taxes on the amounts they receive. Instead, the person who pays child support pays the taxes on the amounts that they pay. Now, alimony laws work the same way.

Justices Question Lawyers In Case That Could Dramatically Affect Public Sector Unions

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument relating to an important case that could determine whether public sector unions can collect involuntary fees from nonmembers. Based on the questions the justices asked, experts believe that the outcome of the case could be determined by the newest member of the court, Neil Gorsuch, who did not ask any questions during the proceedings.

Arguments lasted about an hour, and the questions that came from the court’s conservative wing seem to suggest that they were sympathetic with the arguments made by anti-union groups. They argued that forcing nonmembers to pay fees to the unions — to cover costs related to negotiating collective bargaining agreements with local and state governments — was tantamount to restricting the freedom of speech of those nonmembers. Conversely, justices who represent the liberal wing of the court asked questions that suggest that they were supportive of continuing the fees.

At issue was whether negotiating collective bargaining agreements was a political activity. The conservative justices seem to think that it is, while the unions and their liberal supporters on the court insist that negotiating the contracts is separate from their political activities.

Outside the court, protesters on both side of the issued attempted to get their voice heard on the issue. Those supporting union rights held signs that insisted that the country needed good union jobs, while their counterparts held signs that stated that they were standing with Mark. The latter refers to Mark Janus, who is a an Illinois state worker and the plaintiff in the case.

Currently, more than 20 states require around 5,000,000 workers to pay these fees, which are called “agency fees.” If these fees were disallowed, it would be a major setback to unions, and could affect what can spend in political races. Commonly, unions support Democratic candidates over Republicans.

Supreme Court Argues Merits Of Old Law When Applied To Modern Technology

The United States Supreme Court discussed on Tuesday the practical application of an older law in regards to modern technology. The court, during oral arguments, considered the legalities of federal warrants being issued by prosecutors to gain access to emails sent and received by drug dealers stored on Microsoft servers based in Europe.

Justices of the court have been given the task of interpreting what is known as the Stored Communications Act which was passed in 1986. Legal experts say that the case highlights the conflict that exists between law enforcement officials and tech firms that have a vested interest in keeping private the information their customers share with them.

Michael Dreeben, United States Deputy Solicitor General, maintains that prosecutors have the legal right to access these emails due to the fact that Microsoft is headquartered in the United States. Dreeben opines that the issue is not international in scope and urges colleagues not to be fooled by the slight of hand trick that Microsoft attempts to play.

E. Joshua Rosenkranz, an attorney representing Microsoft, counters the argument made by Dreeben by declaring that the law gives jurisdiction to where the emails are held and the United States prosecutors are not entitled to access emails held in the country of Ireland.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, appears to agree with Microsoft on the matter and is among a group of justices that have suggested to Congress that the law is in need of revision to provide better clarity on the matter.

Ginsburg goes on to express that in 1986 cloud storage was something unimaginable. She would also say that specific legislation should be drafted if Congress wishes to regulate these modern technologies.

Supreme Court Will Not Hear DACA Case

Last year, President Trump announced that the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals law would be ended on March 5, 2018. At that time, no one would be able to renew their status under the program if they had not already done so. DACA, as the law is referred to, currently covers about 700,000 people who were brought to the United States as children by their parents who were illegal immigrants.

Congress has been debating DACA for many months since the president’s announcement. The Democratic Party even went so far as to allow a government shutdown over DACA. Congress has so far not been able to come to an agreement regarding DACA or immigration reform.

Since the Congress has not been able to come to a resolution regarding DACA, the courts have become involved. Federal Judge William Alsup from the Northern District of California ruled against the Trump administration by stating that renewals must continue to be granted under DACA even past the March 5 deadline.

Usually, any appeals of a district court judge’s ruling would have to be heard by a federal court of appeals. However, the Trump administration wanted to bypass this and take the appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

On Monday, February 26, the Supreme Court refused to hear the Trump administration’s appeal. The Supreme Court ruled that the case must work its way up through regular channels. This means that any appeal will now be heard by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

For the most part, the Ninth District has not ruled favorably for positions advocated by the Trump administration. The president has been very critical of the court and its decisions.

Legal experts believe that it will take approximately one year for the case to reach the Supreme Court again. Until the ruling is overturned, DACA and its provisions will remain in place.

California Law Struck Down as Unconstitutional

As one of the biggest economies and most populated states in the country, California can seem like a land of its own. Whether its products “known to cause cancer in the state of California” or battles over sanctuary cities, the Golden State sets its own rules. It’s no surprise the state recently tried to limit IMDb’s right to free speech – but the results of the case are unexpected.

 

Because California is home to Hollywood, the state often finds itself advocating for the special interests of its most-taxed citizens. The California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, recently joined up with SAG-AFTRA, a union for professional actors, to uphold a state law, AB1687. The law passed in 2016 but has been under an injunction since 2017. If allowed, the law would prevent the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), from publishing the real age of any actor who paid for a subscription to IMDbPro. Becarra and SAG-AFTRA argued that IMDbPro creates a special relationship between actors and IMDb.com, and this relationship limits IMDb’s free speech rights.

 

The same judge who put the law on hold last year has ruled against Becerra and SAG-AFTRA. Judge Vince Chhabria called AB1687 “clearly unconstitutional” according to the  Los Angeles Times.  IMDb has argued its right to free speech is violated by the law, and Judge Chhabria seems to agree. The Judge was particularly unmoved by the state’s argument that the law was necessary to protect actresses from age-related discrimination, calling that defense unclear.

 

SAG-AFTRA is already planning an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The guild issued a statement claiming Judge Chhabria failed to understand the central argument of the case. It’s unclear for Becerra will join in the appeal efforts.

Who Will Gain And Who Will Lose From The GOP Tax Overhaul

The GOP tax plan received a lot of attention and rightly so. It created significant changes for companies and completely overhauled existing tax law. It is expected that the new tax bill will produce some big winners and perhaps some losers. Let us look at who the expected winners will be and how the law will impact varying businesses.

The highlight of the new tax bill is undoubtedly the fact that corporate tax rates have been slashed from 35% to 21%. This is a significant drop of 14%. If you are a company making $100 million a year in corporate profits, then the new tax law will save you $14 million a year. Now that is not pennies or chump change isn’t it?

Given this fact, it is expected that the biggest beneficiaries of the new tax law will be companies that have been charged at the highest tax rate. Naturally, they will see the most significant reduction in the amount of taxes they pay on their profits. Whether they reinvest those tax savings back into the business, raise wages, give benefits, or pay shareholders is a whole different issue altogether. We have seen bonuses given out, and salaries increased for many employees though, which shows that the tax law has positively impacted certain sectors of the economy.

There is another component of the new tax law, that is often overlooked, but is very important, especially for large multinational corporations. The new tax bill lets multinational corporations such as Apple repatriate or bring back overseas profits at a one time significantly reduced rate. These companies can then use this overseas money to reinvest in the USA or just insert funds into the US economy. This can be a major deal and can further jump-start the economy.

As far as I can tell, for now, there is only one group of losers from new tax laws enacted by the GOP Congress and President Trump. State and local deductions will now be capped. This will result in some people in high tax states such as Illinois and California paying more money to the federal government than under previous tax statutes.

Public Defenders In Los Angeles Protest Hiring Of New Boss

A group that included over 150 public defenders that work for the county of Los Angeles protested on Monday in response the appointment of their new chief. The source of the conflict stems from the fact that many feel the newly hired public defender Nicole Davis Tinkham is not qualified for the position that has been granted to her.

Deputy public defender Alisa Blair has been vocal In expressing her displeasure with the hire points out that Tinkham has not tried one criminal case in her legal career. This, Blair says, would qualify Tinkham for only an entry-level position with the office if ordinary standards were followed.

Some deputy public defenders are also concerned with Tinkham’s past work history of defending sheriff’s deputies working with the county both while involved in private practice and later as an employee working for the Office of the County Counsel. Tinkham’s detractors believe that this history from Tinkham could make It more difficult for public defenders to gain the trust of those they are instructed to defend.

Approximately 390 of the 650 public defenders that work for Los Angeles County added their signatures to a letter that addressed these concerns before the hiring of Tinkham was made final.

Monday’s protest took place at lunchtime on a day that the Los Angeles Superior Court was closed for business. Christine Rodriquez, a Deputy Public Defender that took part in the protests, said this time was chosen in order to avoid any disruption of the work of public defenders.

Brenden Woods, Alameda County Public Defender, was present at the protest and spoke in support of Tinkham’s hiring. Protesters have also gained the support of Jeff Adachi, Public Defender of San Francisco as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.