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Supreme Court to consider American Express fee dispute
Politics & Legal | 2017/10/27 01:01
The Supreme Court is taking up an appeal by 11 states that argue American Express violated antitrust laws by barring merchants from asking customers to use other credit cards that charge lower fees.

The justices said Monday they would review a ruling by the federal appeals court in New York that sided with American Express.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by states and the Obama administration in 2010 against American Express, Mastercard and Visa. The lawsuit said that letting merchants steer customers to cards with lower fees for merchants or to other preferred cards would benefit consumers and increase incentives for networks to reduce card fees.

Visa and MasterCard entered into consent judgments in 2011 and stopped their anti-steering rules for merchants while American Express proceeded to trial.

A trial judge ruled against American Express in 2015, but the appeals court reversed that ruling last year.

The Trump administration said it agreed with the states, but still urged the Supreme Court to reject the case. The administration said the justices should let the issue percolate in the lower courts.

The 11 states that joined the appeal are Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

Other states that were part of the original lawsuit are Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas.

The court will hear argument in Ohio v. American Express, 16-1454, during the winter.


Court: Utility, not gov't responsible for Fukushima disaster
Politics & Legal | 2017/09/21 10:10
A Japanese court has ruled that a utility, not the government, should pay compensation to dozens of former residents of Fukushima for losses to their livelihood caused by meltdowns at a nuclear plant after a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Chiba District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Friday to pay a total of 376 million yen ($3.4 million) to most of the 45 plaintiffs who sought compensation over the loss of their livelihoods and communities because of radiation contamination.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs' claim the government should also be held responsible for its failure to enforce tsunami safety measures.

About 30 other compensation suits filed by tens of thousands of former Fukushima residents are still pending.

The wrecked Fukushima plant's decommissioning is expected to take decades.


Fraternity brothers due in court in pledge's fatal fall
Politics & Legal | 2017/06/10 17:21
Members of a Penn State fraternity facing charges related to the death earlier this year of a pledge after a night of heavy drinking are due in court Monday for a hearing about whether there's enough evidence to head to trial.

Prosecutors in the case against the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi chapter and 18 of its members are leaning heavily on video surveillance recordings made the night 19-year-old sophomore engineering student Tim Piazza was injured in a series of falls at the fraternity after a pledge acceptance ceremony that included heavy drinking.

The defendants face a variety of charges, with eight accused of dozens of crimes, including involuntary manslaughter and felony aggravated assault, while five others are accused only of a single count of evidence tampering.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller says prosecutors will play video in court, and she expects the hearing to last all or most of the day.

Authorities have said members of the fraternity resisted summoning help until well into the next morning.

A grand jury report described how members of the fraternity carried Piazza's limp body upstairs, poured liquid on him and even slapped him on the face. When one of them argued to call for medical help, he was confronted and shoved into a wall, the grand jury said.

Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died at a hospital Feb. 4 from traumatic brain injury and had suffered severe abdominal bleeding. His blood-alcohol measured at a dangerous level.

"I believe this is a case where the defendants have been overcharged by the district attorney's office," said defense attorney Michael Engle, whose client Gary DiBileo, 21, faces 56 counts, including involuntary manslaughter. "We hope to develop more information during the preliminary hearing process, and beyond, that will demonstrate that many of the charges in this case are just not applicable to the conduct."

Engle said DiBileo, a junior from Scranton who recently withdrew from Penn State, was said by a witness to have advocated for calling an ambulance at some point.



Trial court election changes considered by North Carolina House
Politics & Legal | 2017/02/20 14:11
Some Republicans are set on returning all North Carolina state judicial elections to being officially partisan races again.

A law quickly approved in December during a special election directed statewide races for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals to become partisan starting in 2018. Now the state House scheduled floor debate Wednesday on legislation extending that to local Superior Court and District Court seats next year, too.

Having partisan races means candidates run in party primaries to reach the general election. Unaffiliated candidates could still run but would have to collect signatures to qualify.

Judicial races shifted to nonpartisan elections starting in the mid-1990s in part as an effort to distance judicial candidates from politics. But Republicans today say party labels help give voters some information about the candidates.



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