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Showing posts from October, 2014

Halloween and the Establishment Clause

What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Ghosts? Goblins? First Amendment jurisprudence?

If that last one sounds like a non sequitur, then you’ve probably never heard of Guyer v. School Board of Alachua County.* The case originated in Alachua County, Florida, where public elementary schools had put up decorations depicting witches, cauldrons, and brooms, and teachers had dressed up in costumes—some of them as witches in black dresses and pointy hats—in celebration of Halloween. A parent named Robert Guyer sued to enjoin the schools from using these decorations and costumes in future celebrations. In his supporting affidavit, Guyer argued that witches, cauldrons, and brooms were significant to followers of the Wiccan religion, and that the schools’ use of these symbols therefore violated the establishment clauses of the Florida and U.S. constitutions.† The Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of the school board, and Guyer appealed to the First District Court of App…

FTC Sues AT&T Over Data Plans

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced yesterday that it has filed a federal court complaint against AT&T Mobility, LLC, for what it alleges are deceptive practices related to the company’s unlimited data plan for smartphones. At issue is AT&T’s practice of “throttling,” or reducing data speeds after customers reach a monthly data limit. In many cases, speeds were reduced by 80 to 90 percent, making functions like audio and video streaming virtually impossible. The complaint charges that AT&T failed to adequately disclose this practice, which effectively imposes a limitation on the company’s “unlimited” data plan. The FTC is seeking “permanent injunctive relief, rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, the refund of monies paid, disgorgement of ill-gotten monies, and other equitable relief” for practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a).

Although the FTC was created in 1914 to address widespread concerns about trusts and an…

Texas Subsequent History Table Ceases Publication

This week, Thomson Reuters notified subscribers that publication of the Texas Subsequent History Table will be discontinued and no further updates will be produced, due to “insufficient market interest.” Practitioners have been extracting writ (and since 1997, petition) history from the tables since their initial publication in 1917 as The Complete Texas Writs of Error Table. The tables, later published by West, have been used for nearly a century to determine how the Texas Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals disposed of an appeal from an intermediate appellate court. The purpose of adding this notation to citations is to indicate the effect of the Texas Supreme Court’s action on the weight of authority of the Court of Appeals’ opinion.  For example, practitioners may prefer to use as authority a case that the Texas Supreme Court has determined is correct both in result and legal principles applied (petition refused), rather than one that simply presents no error that requires…

Today in Legal History: October 21, 1876

One hundred and thirty-eight years ago today legal research and the way we understand law changed forever. On October 21, 1876 John B. West, founder of West Publishing Company, published his first law reporter, The Syllabi. The eight-page pamphlet was published weekly, delivering to its readers the decisions of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Within a year, the publication enlarged to include the decisions of Minnesota’s federal courts, and notes from Wisconsin cases and other nearby jurisdictions. 
Though other case reports had existed in some states, The Syllabi was the first serial publication issued on a regular basis exclusively devoted to the publication of court decisions. West focused on publishing all of the court’s decisions, unlike American Reports, a popular publication featuring only outstanding decisions. This made his product attractive to practitioners, who were able to buy his reports more quickly and cheaply than certified copies from the court. West made his mission cle…

Law Library of Congress Offers Free Access to Historical U.S. Legal Materials from HeinOnline

The Law Library of Congress just announced that they will now provide free access to some historical U.S. legal materials through an agreement with William S. Hein & Co.These materials can be accessed through their Guide to Law Online: U.S. Federal and are pulled directly from the HeinOnline database.Users can download files up to 20 pages per download. 
The new collection includes four titles: