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ACLU Accuses National Guard of Abuse
Against Protesters with Helicopter Tactic

     The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last week against the federal government for the way low-flying National Guard helicopters were used to disperse protesters near the White House in 2020. 
     The plaintiff was a protester who says her eyes and skin were strung by debris when one of two helicopters flew as low as 45 feet over a crowd. Protesters described the wind kicked up by the helicopter blades as being like a tropical storm.
     The National Guard was joining with police to disperse the demonstrators as they protested racial injustice after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. Police near the White House fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at them during the June 1, 2020 confrontation.
     The plaintiff, Dzhuliya Dashtamirova, 25, of Baltimore, says she continues to suffer anxiety and insomnia because of the incident.
     “My eyes and skin were burning from all the debris flying everywhere,” Dashtamirova said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I couldn’t see anything. It was terrifying and felt like a warning to people who believe in racial justice that if we say things the government doesn’t like, it will use the full force of the military against us.”
     Her complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Federal Tort Claims Act. She claims $200,000 in damages.
     The lawsuit says protesters were exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly when they were attacked by police.
     ACLU attorneys say they want to use the lawsuit as a precedent to prevent police and the military from using similar tactics with helicopters against other demonstrators.
     ACLU lawyer Michael Perloff called the helicopter maneuver “a dangerous, unprecedented show of force” against peaceful demonstrators.
     He added, “The streets of D.C. are not a war zone, and protesters are not the enemy. Our government should stop treating them that way.”
     The ACLU of the District of Columbia raised the same issues in an administrative complaint it filed against the National Guard in 2020. The National Guard has not yet responded to the lawsuit filed last week.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Senate Bill Would Require
Cameras in Supreme Court

     A bill introduced in the Senate last week would require the Supreme Court to televise its hearings.
     Senators who introduced the bill said it would help to ensure transparency and better public understanding of how the court operates.
     “Rulings made by Justices in our nation’s highest court impact the lives of every American, regardless of zip code,” Sen. Dick Durbin, R-Ill, said in a statement. “We see an ever-apparent interest for the American people to be able to witness the highest court’s proceedings, from seemingly routine sessions to oral arguments in high-profile cases like Dobbs and Bruen, for example.”
     The Dobbs case Durbin mentioned eliminated the federal right to abortion. The Bruen case expanded gun rights.
     Durbin is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was joined in introducing the bill by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
     The bill, called the Cameras in the Courtroom Act, would allow an exception if the justices vote to exclude cameras in cases where they might interfere with a party’s due process rights.
     In all other cases, the bill would require that the Supreme Court “permit television coverage of all open sessions."
     The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the same bill in 2021 but it never made it to a vote in the full Senate chamber. This time, the bill’s supporters say they might have more bipartisan support.
     It represents another step toward opening the Supreme Court for more public scrutiny. The court began live streaming audio in 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The justices have resisted cameras in the courtroom to protect the privacy of the parties.
     "The judicial branch has a massive impact on our daily lives and the lives of generations to come, yet few Americans ever get the chance to see inside the legal process," Grassley said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

SEC Seeks Court Order in Investigation
Of Chinese Cyberattack Against Law Firm

     A Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of a Chinese cyberattack is being opposed by some of Washington, D.C.’s biggest law firms.
     The SEC says it is trying to investigate the extent of 2020 cyberattacks in the United States, such as the one that penetrated computer servers of Covington & Burling and 298 of the law firm’s corporate clients.
     The law firm says it seeks to protect the confidentiality of its clients by refusing to turn over the information.
     The dispute in federal court coincides with an SEC proposal last week of more stringent cybersecurity rules for corporations, particularly in the financial industry.
     In one set of 2020 attacks, the Chinese government is accused of compromising data of pharmaceutical companies doing COVID-19 research to steal their data on vaccines, treatments and other intellectual property.
     In addition to monitoring financial transactions of the largest U.S. corporations, the SEC is appointed by Congress to ensure their cybersecurity. They can face fines for lax cybersecurity.
     The SEC issued a subpoena to Covington & Burling last year asking the firm to turn over the names of clients that might have been affected by a Chinese military cyber intrusion.
     When Covington & Burling refused, the SEC filed a lawsuit in January asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for an order to enforce the subpoena.
     Covington & Burling, along with 83 law firms that joined in an amicus brief, argue the information sought by the SEC is confidential information protected under the Sixth Amendment as attorney-client privilege.
     Covington & Burling also said in a Feb. 14 opposition brief filed in the case that the SEC hid its true motives.
     The SEC is conducting a "fishing expedition" to target the firm’s clients, "despite the absence of any evidence to suggest that those clients or anyone else violated the securities laws," Covington & Burling said in its brief.
     In addition, "The SEC has not pointed to any suspected violation; instead, it is using the threat actor's wrongful access to Covington's network as an excuse to rummage through protected information to which the SEC would never otherwise have access," the firm said.
     The SEC responded by calling Covington & Burling’s accusations “hyperbolic and exaggerated."
     Instead, the agency said, "The Commission needs this list to fulfill its congressionally-mandated mission of protecting investors and regulating the public securities markets. And the Commission has subpoenaed Covington because Covington alone possesses this information."
     Joining the amicus brief for Covington & Burling were Big Law firms Morrison & Foerster LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
     In a separate move, the SEC is considering proposals it calls resilience projects to protect financial industry customers, such as the ones hit by the collapse last week in California of Silicon Valley Bank and by the financial crisis of 2008.
     The commission’s leading proposal would require financial brokers, dealers, investment companies and investment advisors to adopt written policies on responding to unauthorized access to customer information. It would include procedures for notifying anyone affected by the security breaches.
     SEC Chair Gary Gensler explained the need for the new cybersecurity procedures by saying his agency "has a responsibility to help protect for financial stability."
     The lawsuit in federal court is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Covington & Burling LLP, case number 1:23-mc-00002, in the U.S. District 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.

Deputies Charged with Murder
In Death of Mentally Ill Man

     Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on second-degree murder charges in the death of a patient at a mental health facility.
     Prosecutors said the man, Irvo Otieno, 28, was “smothered” to death by deputies when he became disruptive during the intake at Central State Hospital in Richmond.
     The incident was captured on video that Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill described as “extremely clear, extremely alarming.”
     Police encountered Otieno after getting a call of a burglary and observing him picking lights off a private lawn. His family described it as a mental health crisis.
     A Crisis Intervention Team put him under an emergency custody order after observing signs of possible mental illness in him. Virginia law allows qualified persons to place someone under an emergency custody order if there is evidence they might hurt themselves or others as a result of mental illness.
     Police took Otieno to a local hospital, where he became “physically assaultive towards officers,” police said. They arrested him on three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.
     Otieno was first transferred to the Henrico County Jail West then Central State Hospital.
     “The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost,” Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement.
     The seven police officers involved were placed on administrative leave. They are scheduled to appear before a grand jury on March 21.
     Otieno’s family said he was taking medication to control his mental illness but was unable to take it while he was in custody.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Space Force General Demonstrates
New Liabilities from Orbiting Debris

     A military briefing to Congress last week underscored a recent National Aeronautics and Space Administration warning about emerging damage and liability risks. 
     Space is getting congested with satellites and cast-off equipment, making a collision or catastrophic fall to earth increasingly likely.
     NASA and international space agencies say new laws and treaties are needed to avoid the kind of damage that is unavoidable without them.
     General B. Chance Saltzman described congestion in space as one of the obstacles the U.S. Space Force faces as it plans for a shift in defense strategies.
     He spoke to the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces about why the U.S. Space Force recommends “Proliferated LEOs” as the preferred strategy for confronting Chinese and Russian threats.
     Proliferated LEOs (Low Earth Orbit) refers to putting large groupings of small satellites into low earth orbit over U.S. adversaries. The current strategy relies on a few large satellites in higher orbits.
     As China and Russia develop sophisticated anti-satellite systems, the high-orbit satellites are easy targets, said Saltzman, who is chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force.
     “More satellites creates a targeting problem,” Saltzman told the strategic forces subcommittee.
     He acknowledged the strategy could lead to more space congestion.
     “We’re getting close to 100 launches a year,” Saltzman said.
     Last month, NASA deputy administrator Pam Melro recommended to the National Space Council that it develop space regulations that would avoid "future barriers" to space exploration. The barriers could include orbiting debris that interferes with space flights.
     About 9,000 satellites orbit Earth. The number is projected to surpass 60,000 by 2030, largely as a result of proliferated LEOs.
     In addition to working satellites, the orbit below 625 miles is strewn with unusable hardware, debris from previous collisions and old rocket parts. About 100 tons of debris that is not tracked by radar is in orbit, risking more collisions.
     “The cost of delaying the protection of Earth’s orbit should not be underestimated,” a group of space scientists wrote in a recent issue of Science magazine.
     They recommend making satellite makers and operators liable for any damage their equipment might cause.
     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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