Legal Briefs: What’s Happening in the Law

January 5, 2015

Each week, we bring you updates on the legal world. 

Looking ahead …

Behind director Clint Eastwood’s new film American Sniper lies a pending murder trial. This February, Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh will face criminal charges for the murder of Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL on whom the film is based. In December of 2013, Routh shot Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range. Routh’s defense is expected to plead insanity. (Reuters)

Harvard Law doesn’t practice what it preaches, or at least teaches. This week, the US Department of Education declared that Harvard Law School violated Title IX in its failure to correctly address claims of sexual assault. In the upcoming year, the law school must now do what faculty have been calling for for months: revise its sexual harassment policy. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Is net neutrality to remain? In February, the Federal Communications Commission will introduce and vote on new net neutrality proposals aimed at restraining the actions of broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon. If approved, these new regulations will prevent providers from altering Internet speed on different websites and among different users, maintaining Internet quality equality. (Washington Post)

And in case you missed it …

New Year, new same-sex marriage laws. On January 1st, a federal judge in Florida issued a clarifying order regarding a ruling made in August 2014 on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. The order states unequivocally that clerks must give marriage licenses to same-sex couples seeking one. (Christian Science Monitor)

Habeas corpus is still only for homo sapiens. A New York court dismissed a habeas corpus petition submitted by animal rights activist and attorney Steve Wise in defense of a chimpanzee named Kiko. Wise claimed that Kiko’s past experience and current condition are intolerable: Kiko suffered abuse during the filming of Tarzan, resulting in deafness, and now lives chained to a cement cage. The court, however, maintained precedent and held that the writ of habeas corpus applies to humans only. (Reuters)

Two US Senators question the FBI’s dubious use of fake cellphone towers. These towers imitate legitimate cellphone towers’ activities by collecting and recording signals emitted by mobile devices. Unlike towers owned by companies like AT&T and Verizon, however, these towers glean personal information about a cell phone user’s phone, location, and more for surveillance purposes. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley question the legality of the Bureau’s fake towers and the claim that they do not require a warrant. (Washington Post)

Airline giants are daunted by a 22-year-old. Orbitz and United Airlines have filed a joint suit against Aktarer Zaman, created of Skiplagged, an airline ticketing startup that relies on ‘hidden city’ ticketing to snag cheap flights. Demanding $75,000 in lost revenue, both Orbitz and United Airlines allege Skiplagged poses “unfair competition” by giving users cheap rates through nontraditional means. Zaman seems to see the irony in that claim, however, and has created a GoFundMe campaign in response to the allegations that states, “As a 22-year-old with a startup being bullied by these large corporations, your support means so much to me.” (Entrepreneur)

Image: thomaskessens via photopin