​​​​​​​​​​​The Latest Legal News & Industry Information

Alleged Judicial Activism in Abortion Case
Renews Calls for Supreme Court Reform

     The draft of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade that was leaked to the media is renewing calls this week in Congress to expand the number of justices.
     Democrats behind the proposal say the Supreme Court move to eliminate a federal right to abortion shows the nine-member court is too partisan and out of sync with the rest of the American population. Abortion rights are favored by a strong majority of Americans.
     The supermajority of conservatives on the court now would be harder for any president to attain if the court had 13 justices, according to supporters of a larger Supreme Court.
     The proposal was introduced in Congress last year by Democrats and reintroduced this year. It has 50 House co-sponsors but faces tougher opposition in the Senate.
     President Joe Biden appointed a commission to study Supreme Court reform, which could include more justices.
     Its supporters include Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who said a bigger court would restore balance to the Supreme Court, particularly after former President Donald Trump succeeded in getting three staunch conservatives appointed. They are Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
     “Republicans will have to answer for their role in this attack on women’s freedom and equality,” Smith said. 
     A Pew Research Center survey conducted in March found that 61 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion should be legal in most cases. Only 8 percent said it should be illegal in all cases.
     “When I worked at Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, I saw firsthand how women had the capacity to make the right decisions for themselves,” Smith said. “How dare Justice Alito and other Supreme Court justices think they know better.”
     The draft ruling, which was intended to be circulated among the other Supreme Court justices as they deliberate on how they will vote, was written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. The final opinion in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization is scheduled to be released next month.
     The court’s five most conservative judges already have signaled they will vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It legalized abortion and stands as one of the most significant rulings on women’s privacy rights in American history.
     As protests continued this week outside the Supreme Court and the homes of the justices, the commission appointed by Biden last year still is examining issues such as term limits on the court, a standardized code of ethics and procedures for selecting cases.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Lawsuit Accuses Former House Speaker
Of Stealing Marijuana Trade Secrets

     Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is being sued in Washington, D.C., for allegedly stealing data from a marijuana advocacy group to help form his own industry organization for promoting legalization and sale of cannabis.
     The lawsuit says Boehner was approached by James Pericola, executive director of the 10 Campaign, with an offer to become co-chair of the group. The law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where Boehner is a partner, was supposed to be a legal adviser.
     After signing an agreement in March 2018 to become co-chair and learning more about how the 10 Campaign operated, Boehner suddenly backed out of the deal, the lawsuit says.
     Less than a year later, the Ohio Republican announced he was starting a new marijuana advocacy group called the National Cannabis Roundtable.
     Boehner's group, which includes former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius as co-chair, already has supplanted the 10 Campaign as one of the nation's premier advocates for marijuana legalization. It also has become profitable off what Pericola says is his organization’s operating plan.
     Boehner and his heavyweight law firm “improperly used plaintiffs’ proprietary strategies, protected by non-disclosure agreements, to secure lucrative revenue streams in the campaign to deregulate the use of marijuana,” says the lawsuit filed in District of Columbia Superior Court.
     “Moreover, plaintiffs contend defendants intentionally misled plaintiffs to believe defendants were advancing the interests of The 10 Campaign with prospective funders, stakeholders and clients to induce plaintiffs to provide ongoing research, proprietary strategy and talking points,” the lawsuit says.  
     The advocacy group calls itself the 10 Campaign in recognition of rights reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
     Marijuana never has been legalized under federal law but 18 states and the District of Columbia do allow sale and personal use of it. Colorado was the first in 2012.
     Boehner was an opponent of legalizing marijuana while he was Speaker of the House. He switched allegiances sometime after joining Squire Patton Boggs.
     The National Cannabis Roundtable describes itself on its website as “an alliance of cannabis companies, as well as ancillary services and solutions providers, who seek cannabis reform which nurtures the nascent domestic industry, protects consumers and advances social equity. We are committed to sensible regulation, criminal justice reform, social equity and community reinvestment.”
     The lawsuit accuses the firm and Boehner of breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and constructive fraud. It seeks an injunction and more than $1.1 million in damages.
     The case is The 10 Campaign LLC et al. v. Squire Patton Boggs LLP et al., filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Justice Dept. Opens New Office
To Crack Down on Polluters

     The Justice Department announced this month it was opening a new Office of Environmental Justice to crack down on industrial polluters.
    Top priorities of the new program are reducing climate change and protecting low-income or disadvantaged communities, according to the Justice Department announcement.
     “For far too long, these communities have faced barriers to accessing the justice they deserve,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
     The Justice Department is collaborating with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify which polluters should be prosecuted or fined. The agencies identified chemical plants and refineries as some of the most likely targets of the enforcement. 
     The fines they pay would go to environmental cleanup and public health in a revival of an EPA compensation system that was ended under the Trump administration.
     Announcement of the Environmental Justice Office fulfills a campaign promise of President Biden. He said he would make environmental justice a higher priority in an all-of-government strategy against climate change.
     It also advances tough EPA enforcement its administrator, Michael Regan, announced in January. 
     The EPA is conducting unannounced inspections of industrial sites in three Gulf Coast states known for chemical contamination.
     They include Louisiana’s “chemical corridor” between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Residents of the low-income area complain they have been overlooked as chemical plants and refineries pollute their air and water.
     The agency also issued notices to the city of Jackson, Mississippi, that its aging drinking water system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and to Union Pacific Railroad that it needs to clean up creosote from a railyard in Houston.
     Cynthia Ferguson, an attorney who works in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, is serving as acting director of the new office.
      For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

FBI Warns of Ransomware Attacks
Using Sophisticated Program

     Shortly after a D.C. bar and restaurant was hit by a devastating cybercrime, the FBI warned that computer hackers most likely based in Russia have compromised at least 60 organizations since last month.
     They are using a new generation of a sophisticated programming language called Rust that is hard to deactivate.
     The cyberthieves in the attack on Johnny Pistolas in the Adams Morgan neighborhood have not been caught or linked to the Russians with any degree of certainty.
     What is known is that they were able to illegally transfer nearly $500,000 from the restaurant’s bank accounts through fraudulent wire transactions.
     The family-owned restaurant was able to recover part of the money. About $200,000 was lost to the thieves.
     The phishing attack against Johnny Pistolas was exactly the kind of danger mentioned in the FBI advisory. 
     About 30 percent of the attacks with the Rust programming language have infiltrated U.S. organizations. The others are worldwide.
     The FBI accuses the malware group BlackCat, sometimes known as Darkside, of the attacks. 
     Darkside is blamed for the May 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident. It shut down for five days Colonial Pipeline Company’s 5,500-mile pipeline that carries nearly half the fuel used on the U.S. East Coast from its source in Texas.
     The sophistication of the attacks shows the BlackCat gang is affiliated with other money launderers and data thieves, indicating “they have extensive networks and experience with ransomware operations,” the FBI advisory says. 
     The U.S. Justice Department says the ransomware gangs are most likely based in Russia but do not have official government sponsorship. Nevertheless, the Russian government has made almost no effort to shut them down.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C. Council Tries to Protect Against
Restrictive State Abortion Laws

     A District of Columbia Council member wants to turn the nation’s capital into a sanctuary city for women seeking abortions who might be prosecuted or sued in their home states.
     A bill introduced this month by D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau would bar anyone from assisting interstate investigations of persons getting abortions in the District of Columbia.
     It also would allow lawsuits against anyone trying to collect bounties for reporting someone who gets an abortion or assists in one.
     The bounties refer to what Nadeau’s bill calls “Texas-style bounty claims.” It is a reference to a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue people who perform an abortion at least six weeks after fertilization.
     Nadeau’s bill was prompted by a leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling that would eliminate a federal right to abortion granted under the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It would make abortion rights a state decision.
     Texas is one of 26 states that would enforce some degree of limits on abortion. It also is one of the most restrictive.
     The District of Columbia, along with 16 states, has laws that defend abortion rights.
     The protections in Nadeau’s bill for women from states that would outlaw abortion take on greater importance for the District of Columbia.
     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2019, among the 4,552 abortions performed in the District of Columbia, 68.7 percent were done on women from other places. It is the highest rate of abortion for out-of-state residents in the nation.
     Called the Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022, the District of Columbia bill is partly modeled on a Connecticut law the state’s governor signed last week.
     It grants an immunity from liability to Connecticut medical providers from legal action based on abortion restrictions in other states.
     The proposed Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act grants the same kind of immunity but goes further. It also protects from liability persons coming to the District of Columbia to obtain contraception or gender-affirming health care, people engaged in lawful sexual conduct and same sex couples.
     “While I am hurt and horrified by the assault on human rights perpetrated by the Supreme Court, I am resolved to do all that I can to protect women and other District residents whose liberties are endangered,” said Nadeau, a Democrat.
     Nine members of the District of Columbia Council,  including its chairman, co-sponsored Nadeau’s bill, meaning it already has the majority needed to pass.
     They described the draft Supreme Court opinion in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a threat to Americans’ privacy that goes far beyond abortion. The draft was written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
      For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

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