Reviewing 5 of October’s top stories

New Yorkers fight the city’s soda ban, Douglas Arnsten and Rajat Gupta receive their sentences and three more continuing cases in the news

Super-Sized Sodas

New Yorkers suffering preemptive sugar withdrawal can take some comfort in a legal challenge filed this month against the Big Apple’s impending city-wide ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

The ban has generated controversy since Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed it in May, arguing that it will help improve public health in a city in which more than half the population is overweight or obese. But opponents say that it will infringe on personal liberties and harm small businesses. They also note that exceptions to the ban include diet sodas, coffee drinks and any products sold in convenience stores or supermarkets.

On Oct. 12, a group of those opponents—including some heavyweights in the beverage and restaurant industries—took their objections to court, arguing that only the city council, not the mayor-appointed Board of Health, has the power to pass the law.

 

Marriage Melee

In May, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit ruled unanimously that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages, violates the constitutional right to equal protection. Although many gay marriage proponents welcomed the decision, the court kept its opinion very narrow, ruling neither on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry, nor on whether states that outlaw gay marriage can be forced to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.

But a recent ruling by the 2nd Circuit, which also found DOMA to be unconstitutional, may prompt the Supreme Court to take a stance on the issue. The high court could also choose to examine the issue through the lens of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that overturned the state’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. In August 2010, a federal district judge struck down the measure, a decision that the 9th Circuit upheld in a 2-1 vote earlier this year.

Continuing Conflict

Apple Inc. won a huge battle in its patent war with Samsung Electronics Co., but the global war rages on. On Aug. 24, a U.S. jury ordered Samsung to pay $1.05 billion in damages for infringing Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Things are going better for Samsung in Europe, however. On Oct. 18 a three-judge panel in London’s High Court upheld an earlier judge’s ruling that the Korean company’s tablet computers do not infringe the design of Apple’s iPad. The reasoning wasn’t overly complimentary—the original judge found that Samsung’s Galaxy tablets aren’t “cool” enough to be confused with the iPad, a fact that Apple exploited in its court-mandated “apology ads.” But Samsung can take comfort in the fact that the ruling will apply throughout Europe, unless Apple mounts a successful appeal.

Samsung won another, smaller victory earlier this month when Judge Lucy Koh lifted an injunction that banned sales of the company’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Significant Sentences

This month saw the sentencing of three men whose trials have been making headlines for months: Jerry Sandusky, Douglas Arntsen and Rajat Gupta. Jerry Sandusky was the first to learn his fate when, on Oct. 9, Judge John Cleland sentenced the former Penn State assistant football coach to 30 to 60 years in prison for 45 counts of child sexual abuse. “That has the unmistakable impact of saying, clearly, for the rest of your life,” Cleland told Sandusky, who is 68. “You abused the trust of those who trusted you. ... The crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but your assault to their psyches and souls.”

Douglas Arnsten was next on the chopping block. On Oct. 18, the former Crowell & Morning associate was sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison for embezzling more than $10 million from his clients. Arnsten, who attempted to flee to Hong Kong when his theft was discovered in September 2011, had pleaded guilty to grand larceny and scheming to defraud earlier in the month.

Last up was Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. board member and McKinsey & Co. head who was arrested on insider trading charges last year. In June, a jury found Gupta guilty of passing confidential Goldman Sachs financial information to former hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, who is serving his own 11-year prison term in the case. Gupta could have faced more than a decade in jail, but on Oct. 24, Judge Jed Rakoff handed down a lesser, two-year sentence.

 

Placated Publishers

After years of litigation, Google Inc. has reached a settlement with the Association of American Publishers (AAP) over the tech company’s controversial book digitization project. The AAP and the Authors Guild filed a class action suit against Google in 2005, claiming that it violated their copyrights when it digitized roughly 20 million books for its online library.

In 2009, the parties reached a settlement under which Google agreed to pay $125 million to authors and publishers whose copyrights had been violated. That is, until the Department of Justice and the federal court system stepped in, claiming the deal was illegal.

As part of a new settlement that was finalized earlier this month, publishers can decide if they want their books to be included in Google’s project, and receive a percentage of any sales made through the digital library. Meanwhile, the Authors Guild has vowed to keep fighting the digitization.

Alanna Byrne

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