On November 29, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. Texas. This case involves the death penalty and the intellectually disabled. Specifically, whether in capital cases it violates the Eighth Amendment and the High Court’s prior rulings in Hall v. Florida and Atkins v. Virginia to preclude the application of current medical standards and require older medical standards to determine the intellectual disability of a criminal defendant.
For months, Syrian and Russian warplanes have bombed Aleppo, killing and wounding residents. Russian officials have referred to the siege as “diplomacy backed by force.” The US Ambassador to the UN has called it “barbarism.” The US and France have called for a War Crimes investigation, but any meaningful action at the UN has been blocked by Russia’s place on the Security Council. In this Teleforum, two distinguished professors with extensive practical experience examined the status of the siege under the Law of Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law.
On October 31, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. Varsity Brands, Inc. designs and manufactures clothing and accessories for use in various athletic activities, including cheerleading. Design concepts for the clothing incorporate many elements but do not consider the functionality of the final clothing. Varsity received copyright registration for the two-dimensional artwork of the designs at issue in this case, which were very similar to ones that Star Athletica, LLC was advertising. Varsity sued Star and alleged, among other claims, that Star violated the Copyright Act. Star countered that Varsity had made fraudulent representations to the Copyright Office. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Star argued that Varsity did not have valid copyrights because the designs were for “useful articles” and cannot be separated from the uniforms themselves, all of which tends to make an article ineligible for copyright. Varsity argued that the copyrights were valid and had been infringed. The district court granted summary judgment for Star and held that the designs were integral to the functionality of the uniform. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, however, and held that the uniforms Varsity designed were copyrightable.
The question now before the U.S. Supreme Court asks what the appropriate test is to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under section 101 of the Copyright Act.
To discuss the case, we have Zvi Rosen, who is an adjunct professor at New York Law School.
Ronald Meisburg, former National Labor Relations Board Member and General Counsel, joined us to discuss recent updates to joint employment law. Joint Employment is defined under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act as a form of employment that “exists when an employee is employed by two (or more) employers such that the employers are responsible, both individually and jointly, to the employee for compliance with a statute.”
This issue has risen to the forefront of labor law as President Obama’s Department of Labor has become more aggressive in his last year and as businesses grapple with the coming of a new administration.
What are the limits of what constitutes a “church” under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act? Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explains the upcoming Supreme Court Case, Dignity Health v. Rollins. The “Dignity Case” highlights the ambiguity of the definition of “church-established enterprises,” such as the health care systems of religious organizations, and how they are impacted by the parameters of what constitutes religious exercise.
In May, the Department of Labor announced a new overtime regulation, which would require all employers to pay overtime to their salaried employees who make under $47,476 annually. The rule was set to take effect on December 1, 2016. However, 21 states filed suit against the federal government claiming that the rule violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and states’ rights by increasing the overtime threshold, which was $23,660 under the FLSA, so drastically and by setting automatic increases to the threshold every three years. The states argue the rule will decrease full-time employment while increasing unemployment and will burden state governments unlawfully under the 10th Amendment by forcing them to conform to the new regulations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of business groups also filed their own suit against the law. The cases were consolidated.
On November 16, Judge Mazzant of the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas heard the states' motion for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the rule. On November 22, Judge Mazzant granted the states’ motion and issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of Labor from implementing and enforcing the new rule. Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke, Michael Hancock of Cohen Milstein, and Jesse Panuccio of Foley & Larner LLP joined us to discuss the court's ruling and the future of the overtime rule under the new administration.