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Court rules that Kushner firm must disclose partners' names
Attorney News | 2018/01/22 09:56
A federal judge ruled Friday that the family company once run by Jared Kushner isn't allowed to keep secret the identity of its business partners in several Maryland properties.

A U.S. district judge in the state rejected the argument that the privacy rights of the Kushner Cos. partners outweigh the public interest in obtaining judicial records in a lawsuit before the court. The decision means the company tied to President Donald Trump's son-in-law might be forced to provide a rare glimpse into how it finances its real estate ventures.

The ruling backed the argument by The Associated Press and other news organizations that the media has a "presumptive right" to see such court documents and the Kushner Cos. had not raised a "compelling government interest" needed by law to block access.

U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled that Westminster Management, a Kushner Cos. subsidiary, must file an unsealed document with the identity of its partners by Feb. 9.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by tenants last year alleging Westminster charges excessive and illegal rent for apartments in the state. The lawsuit seeks class-action status for tenants in 17 apartment complexes owned by the company.

Westminster has said it has broken no laws and denies the charges.

In addition to its privacy argument, the Kushner subsidiary had said media reports of the Maryland dispute were "politically motivated" and marked by "unfair sensationalism." Disclosure of its partners' names would trigger even more coverage and hurt its chances of getting an impartial decision in the case, it had said.

In Friday's ruling, the judge said these are not "frivolous concerns," but the public's right to know is more important.


Court says man deserves new trial because jurors slept
Attorney News | 2017/10/26 01:03
The highest court in Massachusetts says a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter should get a new trial because two jurors at his original trial slept during testimony.

The Supreme Judicial Court said Thursday the judge in the 2011 trial of Anthony Villalobos erred by failing to question the jurors about what they had missed while napping.

Villalobos was one of a dozen men charged in what was called the "tuxedo killing." The suspects, some wearing black tuxedos with red vests, went to a Boston club in August 2009 after attending a funeral and got into a fight with another group outside. Jose Alicea died of injuries sustained in the fight.

Prosecutors called Thursday's decision "disappointing and frustrating" but have not yet decided whether to retry. Villalobos has already been released from prison.


Supreme Court to consider American Express fee dispute
Attorney News | 2017/09/25 01:07
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.



California hits Gatorade in court for "anti-water" videogame
Attorney News | 2017/09/21 10:11
Gatorade has agreed not to make disparaging comments about water as part of a $300,000 settlement reached Thursday with California over allegations it misleadingly portrayed water's benefits in a cellphone game where users refuel Olympic runner Usain Bolt.

The game, downloaded 30,000 times in California and 2.3 million times worldwide, is no longer available.

The dispute between the sports-drink company and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was settled in less than a day after Becerra filed a complaint in Los Angeles County.

Becerra's complaint alleges the game, called Bolt!, misleadingly portrayed the health benefits of water in a way that could harm children's nutritional choices. The game encouraged users to "keep your performance level high and avoid water," with Bolt's fuel level going down after drinking water but up after drinking Gatorade, the complaint alleged.

The settlement should serve as a warning to companies that falsely advertise, Becerra said.

"Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it's morally wrong and a betrayal of trust," he said in a statement.

Gatorade agreed to the settlement but has not admitted wrongdoing.

"The mobile game, Bolt!, was designed to highlight the unique role and benefits of sports drinks in supporting athletic performance. We recognize the role water plays in overall health and wellness, and offer our consumers great options," spokeswoman Katie Vidaillet said in an email.

In addition to agreeing not to disparage water, Gatorade agreed not to make Bolt! or any other games that give the impression that water will hinder athletic performance or that athletes only consume Gatorade and do not drink water. Gatorade also agreed to use "reasonable efforts" to abide by parent company PepsiCo's policy on responsible advertising to children and to disclose its contracts with endorsers.

Of the settlement money, $120,000 will go toward the study or promotion of childhood and teenager nutrition and the consumption of water.


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