Attorney General releases report on Russian election interference, EU approves online copyright laws, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the Special Counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Attorney General Barr maintained his prior findings that there was no evidence the Trump campaign had “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Others, however, remained skeptical. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) stated that the redacted report contained “disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.”
- The member nations of the European Union (EU) voted 19-6—with three nations abstaining—to approve new copyright laws directed at online platforms companies such as Google. Unless they fall within exceptions related to education or data mining, online platforms will need to pay to license any copyrighted content they display, including brief news excerpts. Google had actively lobbied against the directive, reportedly suggesting that adoption of the directive could spell the end for Google News in EU countries. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the directive “the missing piece of the puzzle” in completing the EU’s digital single market.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that migrants detained pending deportation do not have a right to be held in the same state as their children. Although Judge Paul Niemeyer rejected the government’s claim that courts do not have power to review detainee transfer decisions, he found that there was no “right to family unity in the context of immigration detention pending removal.” Becky Wolozin of the Legal Aid Justice Center praised the court for recognizing its “power to hold the government accountable for its arbitrary and punitive transfer practices” but expressed disappointment that it “failed to recognize the importance of family unity in the context of detainee transfers.”
- U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) announced a bill that would address rising youth tobacco use by raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Lisa Lacasse of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network praised the bill, stating that the impacts of tobacco on young people “are simply unacceptable and will become a major burden on the health of our nation for years to come if left unaddressed.”
- Apple and Qualcomm settled a two-year legal dispute over patent licensing for modem chips—a key wireless communication component used in smartphones such as the iPhone—and announced a multi-year supply agreement for Qualcomm’s chips. Apple’s complaint against Qualcomm reportedly mirrored earlier charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Qualcomm used anticompetitive tactics to maintain a monopoly on the global supply of modem chips. Hours after the announcement, Apple’s current chip supplier Intel announced its intention to exit the modem chip business.
- The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior opened an investigation into Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in response to seven complaints alleging conflicts of interest dating back to his time as Deputy Secretary. U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) alleged that Bernhardt oversaw agency action to roll back endangered species protections to benefit the Westlands Water District (WDW), Bernhardt’s former client when he was a partner at a lobbying firm. Campaign Legal Center, a government ethics watchdog, alleged that Bernhardt continued to lobby for WDW even after he had deregistered as a lobbyist and that he violated the executive branch ethics pledge by working on matters related to his previous lobbying work during the two-year period following his appointment.
- After New York declared a public health emergency due to record measles outbreaks, parents of unvaccinated children filed a lawsuit challenging a New York mandate requiring mandatory vaccinations. The New York outbreak followed reports of measles outbreaks in the United States and around the world, highlighted in a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data from the World Health Organization.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that expands the agency’s authority to prohibit the sale of asbestos-containing products. The rule “closes a 30-year-old loophole that allowed old asbestos uses and products to come back to the market without any reviews or restrictions from EPA,” the agency said. Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group questioned why EPA did not ban asbestos outright, calling the rule “a half step at best.”
- Using authority from the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) temporarily classified synthetic cannabinoids—which mimic the main psychoactive agreement in marijuana—as substances with a high potential for abuse and severe psychological and physical dependence. The temporary order will expire in two years unless DOJ extends the order or makes its permanent.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In an article in the Cardozo Law Review, Justin Steil and Dan Traficonte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined how a recent U.S. Supreme Court case changed the standard municipal governments must meet when bringing Fair Housing Act cases against banks for allegedly discriminatory lending practices. According to Steil and Traficonte, the Court’s Bank of America v. City of Miami decision applied a restrictive legal standard that was originally designed for antitrust law but is “unwise and unworkable” in the fair housing context. As a replacement, Steil and Traficonte proposed a standard from tort law, which would impose liability on banks if they caused harm that “has a sufficiently close connection to the conduct” prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
- What is the geographic scope of U.S. law, and how is it enforced beyond our national borders? A recent research paper by Hannah Buxbaum of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law explored the concept of extraterritoriality—when federal law has legal reach and effect beyond the U.S’s borders—in recent regulatory enforcement actions. Buxbaum concluded that, because courts have narrowly construed regulatory statutes that could otherwise have international reach, private lawsuits under these statutes now play a decreased role in extraterritorial regulation.
- In an article for Perspectives on History, Katherine Benton-Cohen of Georgetown University examined how early 20th century U.S. immigration law was shaped by the growing influence of so-called credentialed experts in a burgeoning administrative state. During that era, social science and economic studies on immigration—such as those conducted by the influential Dillingham Commission—lent a “veneer of objectivity” to government policies that were in retrospect both racist and deeply flawed, according to Benton-Cohen.