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2. Bumpy Recovery
As the New Year began, the economic outlook was as bleak as the winter weather. Many fourth quarter earnings statements recorded massive losses and uncertain prospects for recovery. With the 2008 government bailout obviously inadequate, new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined on Feb. 10 a different approach and expansion of the rescue effort. The plan included a public-private rescue fund for toxic assets and an expanded program for financing consumer loans.
4. Up Against a Wall
As the product liability lovechild of old-guard asbestos and new-wave Chinese imports, the Chinese drywall scandal was a plaintiffs lawyer's dream and a homeowner's nightmare.
6. Disparate Decisions
The Supreme Court's 2008-2009 term saw the justices siding with employers in cases involving age discrimination and the ability to impose mandatory arbitration on union members' discrimination claims. But on the key labor and employment decision of the term, it left employers between a rock and a hard place on the issue of reverse discrimination.
8. Climate of Change
For the first time, meaningful climate change legislation gained traction in Congress in 2009 in the form of the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
10. Labor Letdown
For awhile, it looked like 2009 might go down in American history as the year of labor victories. It started in January, when President Obama signed three pro-union executive orders affecting companies with government contracts. The new Democratic-controlled Congress wasted no time passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, in effect overturning a pro-employer Supreme Court decision and making it easier for workers claiming pay discrimination to win suits against their employers.
12. Hitting Home
With the increase in litigation, the focus on intellectual property and the employment issues surrounding layoffs that arise during difficult economic times, legal departments are no doubt keeping themselves busy these days. But despite the increased workload, many are being asked to slash not only their annual budgets, but also their headcounts.
14. Social Responsibility
Social media aren't exactly new, but they took a front-and-center role in our personal and professional lives this year. According to research firm Forrester, in 2009, about four in five American adults who went online used social media at least once a month, and half participated in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
15. Historic Choice
President Obama got his first opportunity to alter the Supreme Court when Justice David Souter announced his retirement April 30. Obama's choice to replace him, 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, personified the American dream--like the president himself. Sotomayor rose from a childhood in a Bronx housing project to become a successful Latina attorney and jurist.
17. Deal Duties
Delaware, a pacesetter for U.S. corporate law, took on two cases in 2009 that dealt with the duties of boards of directors, an increasingly important issue for shareholders in recent years. Specifically, two cases, one still raging, looked at their duties in the mergers and acquisitions context.
19. Breaking the Rules
Change is afoot at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), but as for the expected change that sparked controversy in the IP world for years--well, it kind of just went away.