Reviewing 5 of September's top stories

Colorado shooting victims file suit, Arizona’s immigration law causes controversy and three more continuing cases in the news

Ruling Reviewed

As the Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, the fallout from its last session continues. In June, the court handed down a much-anticipated decision in Arizona et al v. U.S., when it struck down much of the state’s controversial immigration law, including provisions that would have required legal immigrants to carry registration documents, prevented illegal immigrants from seeking or holding employment in the state and given state and local police the power to arrest anyone who they suspected of committing a deportable offense. The court upheld the so-called “show me your papers” section of the law, which requires police to verify the immigration status of people they stop.

Earlier this month, the immigration issue was back in the headlines, as a federal judge rejected a request by several civil rights groups to block enforcement of the “show me your papers” provision. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that, per the Supreme Court’s ruling, the provision “cannot be challenged further on its face before the law takes effect,” although she left the door open for future constitutional challenges. Bolton did approve a preliminary injunction against a law making it a crime to harbor illegal immigrants, a decision that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer reportedly plans to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Shoe Scuffle

Christian Louboutin is no longer seeing red, after a 2nd Circuit ruling gave trademark protection to the his signature heels. The Paris-based shoe designer sued rival fashion house Yves Saint Laurent America (YSL) last April, claiming that the latter’s all-red shoes infringed on Louboutin’s own high heels, which feature characteristic red soles.

Louboutin began making the scarlet stilettos in 1992 and patented them in 2008. But that didn’t sway a federal judge, who ruled last August that Louboutin didn’t have the right to trademark a color. The designer’s lawyers promptly appealed the case to the 2nd Circuit, which partially overturned the lower court’s decision earlier this month. In its ruling, the court reached a compromise of sorts, granting Louboutin the right to trademark red soles that contrast with the rest of the shoe, while allowing YSL to continue producing monochromatic red shoes.

Theater Tragedy

As more court documents in the Colorado theater shooting case were released to the public Friday, additional lawsuits from shooting victims are beginning to wend their way through the courts. On July 20, suspect James Holmes allegedly opened fire during the midnight premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, Colo. The attack left 12 people dead and 58 others injured.

In July, Torrence Brown—who was present, but not hurt at the shooting—reportedly became the first victim to hire an attorney to sue the movie theater, Holmes’ doctors and Warner Brothers, the studio behind latest Batman film.

That suit was recently followed by two others. Joshua Nowlan, Brandon Axelrod and the latter’s wife, Denise Traynom, filed two separate suits against Cinemark Theaters, the parent company of the Aurora theater, on Sept. 21. The three plaintiffs, who were all wounded during the shooting, say that the suspect was able to exit the theater through an unsecured emergency door; retrieve weapons, ammunition and body armor from his car; and reenter through the same door before opening fire. According to a statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers, “readily available security procedures, security equipment and security personnel would likely have prevented or deterred the gunman from accomplishing his planned assault on the theater’s patrons.”

Meat Malice

One South Dakota meat processor who reportedly lost millions in the wake of this spring’s “pink slime” controversy is taking its beef with ABC News to court. In May the news network aired a series of reports on “pink slime,” also known as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB). The product is made of beef scraps that are treated with ammonium hydroxide during processing and then used as meat filler. ABC identified the product as a “cheaper filler” that was “once only used in dog food and cooking oil.”

Despite assurances from beef processors and government agencies that the product is safe for consumption, the ensuing controversy drove at least one beef processer into bankruptcy, as schools, fast food restaurants and supermarkets announced that they would no longer buy LFTB. Another company that was hit especially hard was Beef Products Inc. (BPI), a South Dakota beef processor that shuttered three of its four plants after allegedly losing millions of dollars in revenue. BPI is now seeking $1.2 billion in a defamation suit against ABC News and several of its reporters, arguing that the news network falsely and maliciously reported that its product was unsafe, unhealthy and “more like gelatin than meat.”

Bias Battle

One battle has ended in a racial discrimination suit against Merrill Lynch, but the war continues.  A 7th Circuit judge rejected a racial bias suit brought by a group of black financial advisors who accused their employer of doling out higher bonuses to white employees.

Luckily for the brokers, Judge Diane Sykes said that they may be eligible for “complete relief” in another, similar suit currently making its way through the federal district court in Chicago. The related case was filed in 2005 by another group of black brokers who accused Merrill of systematic bias when making decisions on hiring, pay and promotions.

In February, the 7th Circuit granted class action status to the suit, reversing a lower court’s ruling that there was not enough evidence to pursue the case. In his opinion Judge Richard Posner noted that the practices at issue in the case “practices of Merrill Lynch, rather than practices that local managers can choose or not at their whim,” thus distinguishing the suit from the landmark class action case Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes.

Alanna Byrne

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