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Court: No blanket exemption for police dashcams
Press Release | 2014/06/13 12:04

The state Supreme Court has ruled that state dashboard cameras can't be withheld from public disclosure unless they relate to pending litigation.

Five of the high court's members said Thursday that the Seattle Police Department wrongly used a state statute as a blanket exemption to the state's public records act when it denied providing dashboard camera videos to a reporter with KOMO-TV. Their ruling overturns a 2012 King County Superior Court judge's ruling that said the department could withhold the videos for three years.

The majority awarded KOMO attorney fees and sent the case back to the lower court.

Four justices argued that the statute was clear that that the recordings should not be released to the public until completion of any criminal or civil litigation.


Court: Company didn't induce patent infringement
Press Release | 2014/06/03 12:34
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that a company is not liable for inducing patent infringement if someone other than the company carries out some of the steps leading to infringement.

The justices unanimously ruled Monday that Internet content delivery company Limelight Networks Inc. did not infringe on the patented system for managing images and video owned by rival Akamai Technologies Inc.

Akamai claimed Limelight used some of its patented methods for speeding content delivery, and then illegally encouraged its customers to carry out the remaining steps. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed, but the Supreme Court reversed.

Justice Samuel Alito said all the steps for patent infringement must be performed by a single party. Since there was no direct infringement, Alito said there could be no inducement.

The case drew interest from tech giants including Google and Oracle, which have been sued frequently by so-called "patent trolls," companies that buy patents and force businesses to pay license fees or face costly litigation. They had urged the high court to overturn the Federal Circuit in order to limit the growing number of patent infringement lawsuits.

In another patent case Monday, the high court also ruled unanimously that a medical device company's patent on a heart-rate monitor used with exercise equipment was too ambiguous to pass muster. Biosig Instruments had sued competitor Nautilus Inc., for allegedly infringing its monitor's design.


Court: Red Bulls must pay $2.8M in property tax
Press Release | 2014/05/13 12:15
A New Jersey appeals court ruled Monday that the state's Major League Soccer franchise is liable for nearly $3 million in property taxes to the town of Harrison.

The New York Red Bulls have played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison since 2010. During that time, the town billed the team for about $1.5 million for the 2010 tax year and about $1.3 million for 2011, according to court documents.

The team has paid the taxes, according to a team spokesman, but had filed a lawsuit to have them reimbursed.

In the lawsuit, the Red Bulls claimed they are exempt from paying taxes under state law because the property and stadium are devoted to "an essential public purpose."

The Red Bulls have the rights to all revenues from the stadium including naming rights, while the town and the Harrison Redevelopment Agency are allowed to use the stadium for events such as high school or college sports championships or public ceremonies.

Monday's appellate ruling held that while those other uses benefit the public, they are subordinate to the Red Bulls' uses of the stadium and therefore don't qualify the stadium for exemption under state law.


Court rules for environmentalists in water fight
Press Release | 2014/04/17 14:17
An appeals court said Wednesday that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt. The ruling won't affect water flows because protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit.

"This about how we are going to manage the water in the future," said Douglas Obegi, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Water-rights holders and government lawyers argued that consultation wasn't necessary because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was required to renew the contracts and had no discretion over terms of the agreement that would control water levels in the Delta.


Court: Private email exempt from open records law
Press Release | 2014/04/03 15:05
A California appeals court has ruled that private text messages, emails and other electronic communications sent and received by public officials on their own devices are not public records regardless of the topic.

The 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose ruled last week that the state's Public Records Act doesn't extend to officials' private devices.

The California Supreme Court is expected to be asked to step in and settle this long-simmering debate.

State laws do require the communications of elected officials and other officials involving public issues to be retained and turned over upon request.

Since the coming of email, activists and others in the state have been battling at all levels of government over whether public issues discussed on private devices with personal accounts are covered by the Public Records Act. Similar legal battles and political debates have sprung up across the country as well.

The March 27 ruling reverses a lower court decision in favor of environmental activist Ted Smith, who sought access to messages sent on private devices through private accounts of the San Jose mayor and City Council members

Smith's attorney James McManis said he will ask the state Supreme Court to review the case. If the high court refuses to take it, the appeals court ruling will stand.


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