Tuesday, April 22, 2014

American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc.

  Bruce Springsteen back in 1992 sang a song called "57 Channels (And Nothin' On),” NPR this morning commenting on his being ahead of his times with our now having hundreds of channels -- like it or not --- most are part of your basic cable package --- bringing us to the “economic model  challenged today in the Supreme Court in a high-stakes legal battle between the broadcast television networks and a tiny startup, or at least tiny by broadcast standards.

  “The issues focus on copyright law,” NPR relates, “but the outcome could alter the face of broadcasting in the United States (with) the economic threat being so serious that two major networks, CBS and Fox, having said they would consider abandoning over-the-air free broadcasting if they lose, and instead broadcast only on pay cable channels -- the NFL and Major League Baseball similarly threatened to abandon broadcasting on free local channels.”

  “The essence of the legal argument,” the NPR article continues, “is Federal law requires that anyone rebroadcasting what is known as a ‘public performance’ — let's say NCIS, Modern Family, or the local news — is required to pay copyright fees. Those rebroadcasting fees provide an estimated $4 billion for the networks this year and double that amount in four years.

  “Enter Aereo Inc., with a novel idea and a new small, dime-sized antenna that picks up over-the-air signals of the network affiliate in New York, Atlanta, Boston and eight other cities. The antennas are centralized on circuit boards at Aereo locations in each city and activated remotely by individuals with an Aereo subscription. Using this system, subscribers can live-stream local stations and record programming onto a mobile device or a TV for a fraction of what it would cost to watch via cable — $8 a month for 20 hours of storage, $12 for 60 hours.

“… does the law allow a company like Aereo to essentially skim the network and local programming cream off for its own use without paying for it?

  ScotusBlog as always has its wealth of background & documentation, with Lyle Denniston & Amy Howe having previewed the case last week. Denniston had also posted earlier observations last October.  Newsweek and the L.A. Times were among those with  articles this morning.  

  The networks obviously said “no” observing that their programming costs lots to produce, and local stations pay lots for it, in addition to spending big bucks on local news and other programming. Erin Murphy, one of the lawyers representing the networks, says that what Aereo is doing has nothing to do with the public good, but circumventing copyright law. "If Aereo can do this, there's really no reason that a cable or satellite company can't turn around and create their own Aereo-like workaround.”

  Reuters, this afternoon following oral arguments on the case, reported “U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared unsure whether to rule against online TV startup Aereo Inc in the major copyright case, with several raising concerns about how a ruling in favor of broadcast networks could affect increasingly popular cloud computing services (and) the larger concern appearing to be the possible broader implications of a ruling against the company.

  “Several justices appeared troubled about a ruling that would deal a blow to increasingly popular cloud computing services in which personal files - including TV shows and music - are stored remotely on the Internet on servers from companies such as Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, DropBox Inc and Box Inc.”

  Justice Stephen Breyer told the networks' attorney, Paul Clement, that his legal argument "makes me nervous about taking your preferred route."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ohio Death Penalty Task Force Report Update

  Not all of the 22-member Ohio Supreme Court death penalty assessment task force were in agreement when they wrapped up their review of the state’s death penalty “administrative and procedural mechanisms” yesterday, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer reports this morning, with prosecutors on the task force saying  recommendations the panel considered would effectively curtail use of capital punishment in Ohio., especially that of creating a panel under the Ohio attorney general that would have to approve death penalty charges before cases proceed.
  A second Plain Dealer article revealed “the recommendation for a review panel had been closely debated with a subcommittee giving it  its backing last June by a vote of 8-6. Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young, though,  who co-chaired the subcommittee, said then that he wouldn’t be surprised if prosecutors opposed to the recommendation wrote a dissenting report” – a dissent now expected to be filed sometime next week.

  Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, the one article continues, was quoted as saying that “the goal of the Joint Task Force was not that of abolishing the death penalty, but the recommendations it was considering could effectively make capital cases so difficult that prosecutors won’t pursue them,” That recommendation, O’Brien said, would seem to clash with the discretion county prosecutors have to decide what charges to file and what cases to pursue.

  O’Brien is part of that group that intends to present a dissent to the recommendations, perhaps by next week, according to the Plain Dealer. Others are representatives for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and Hamilton County’s Joseph Deters.

  The task force, created in 2011, met much of Thursday to review 56 recommendations in the draft report. Dissents are due to the panel by April 22. The final report, including dissents, is to be ready by mid May.

  Coincidentally, the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project released its report of key findings of ABA State Death Penalty Assessments (2006-2013) at its National Symposium on the Modern Death Penalty last November, also announcing its beginning of its second round of assessments. The Project’s 2007  report titled “Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report”  was the catalyst behind the Task Force’s creation in 2011.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ohio Death Penalty Review Task Force Report

 The Columbus Dispatch this morning is reporting that “sweeping changes in how Ohio handles capital punishment, including banning executions of the mentally ill, requiring DNA evidence or a videotaped confessions and reserving the death penalty for the 'worst of the worst' crimes, are among a long list of recommendations by the Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force scheduled to be finalized later today.”

 Other recommendations include creating a statewide “capital litigation fund” to pay for death penalty cases and eliminating death penalty eligibility for some crimes, such as kidnapping, rape, and aggravated arson, robbery & burglary, all of which can be considered capital crimes under the current law.
 While not following through on a recommendation to establish a special committee to deal with geographic disparities among Ohio’s counties, the Dispatch’s article noted the issue as being “particularly obvious in Hamilton County which has sent a disproportionate number of killers to death row,” and the Task Force’s proposing a similar review committee on racial-disparity issues being set up by the attorney general.

   The task force was convened two years ago by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association to review the manner in which the state prosecutes & administers its death penalty, though specifically being instructed “not to review whether Ohio should or shouldn't have the death penalty.”

   Some of the proposed changes in the 71-page document would have to be approved by the General Assembly, the Dispatch’s article says, and signed into law by the governor, while others are going to require changing administrative rules & procedures having to have accrediting agencies sign off on them.  

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court’s resolving of traffic camera issue

  Parts of a controversy that’s actually nation-wide may soon be resolved at least in this state when the Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments over the legality of traffic cameras Friday.

  A Cleveland Plain Dealer article yesterday related that “while the case specifically involves the city of Toledo, the court's ruling will affect drivers across Ohio and every community that uses cameras as traffic cops  --- Toledo appealing a ruling in the Sixth District Ohio Court of Appeals that said the method that city used for processing the tickets deprived motorists of due process and equal protection under the Ohio and U.S. constitutions. (Docket for Walker v. City of  Toledo )
 A Columbus Dispatch article back in January reported “appeals courts in Toledo and Cleveland had ruled that city ordinances making red-light and speed-camera violations in-house administrative matters illegally deprive municipal courts of jurisdiction to handle moving traffic violations.

 Cleveland’s case, meanwhile, is a certified conflict between. Jodka v. City of Cleveland, 8th Dist. No. 99951  and Walker v. City of  Toledo, 6th Dist., No. L-12-1056.  
 In the case of Pruiett et al. v. Village of Elmwood Place et al., here in Hamilton County, following the First District’s subsequently dismissed both its appeal and a motion for reconsideration this past May, the Supreme Court similarly unceremoniously denied jurisdiction last October.

  An NBCNews article back about the same time as the Dispatch’s heralded "Lights, cameras, reaction: Resistance builds against red-light cameras," noting, "A rarity 15 years ago, red light cameras have become ubiquitous in many U.S. cities. Communities in 24 states and Washington, D.C., now use the cameras to try to decrease illegal -- and sometimes deadly -- traffic violations. Supporters say it's worked…… Critics of red light programs worry about the Big Brother aspect of using cameras instead of cops, and many are saying the cameras, systems & procedures behind them -- generally run by private companies -- have spread not because they make streets safer, but because they mean profit for cities and companies.

  Cincinnatians, by the way Mr. Twain, were the first voters in the country to decide whether their municipality should be able to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights -- favoring a ban on such cameras  six years ago.
[ See Charter Art. XIV, City of Cincinnati ]

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Supreme Court decision against political donation limits won't affect Ohio -- at least for now

  FoxNews, along with the others, yesterday morning reported the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that limits on the total amount of money individuals can give to candidates, political parties and political action committees are unconstitutional -- splitting the court's liberal and conservative justices – and “being  hailed by Republican congressional leaders as a First Amendment victory, removing the cap on contributions, which was set at $123,200 for 2014. It does not change limits, though, on individual contributions for president or Congress, currently set at $2,600 per election. (See McCutcheon v. FEC, 12-536 )

  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects… If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades – despite the profound offense such spectacles cause – it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opinion.”

   Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the dissenting side, though, described the ruling as a major blow to vital campaign finance rules and took the unusual step of reading a summary of his opinion from the bench saying the “decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”

  A Cleveland Plain Dealer article, however, has some observers saying the decision won’t have much effect on Ohio in the short term.

  Ohio State University law professor Dan Tokaji said the ruling in the short term won’t have much effect on Ohio elections or campaign finance laws.

  “In the 5-4 decision," the Plain Dealers' article said, "the Supreme Court struck down on free-speech grounds a federal law limiting how much money an individual can give in total to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees. That federal cap is currently set at $123,200, including $48,600 specifically to candidates’ campaigns. But Ohio doesn’t have similar overall limits on donations to candidates, parties or PACs. The state does restrict how much money a person can give to an individual legislative or statewide candidate, but that kind of limit wasn’t affected by Wednesday’s ruling.

  “But over time, he said, this ruling could lead to challenges to Ohio’s individual donation limits. That’s because the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has stated in this decision and others that the government can only restrict political contributions when the donation appears to be outright bribery”.

Ohio Supreme Court Adopts Interpreter Services Improvements

  The Ohio Supreme Court’s news service Monday announced that the Court had approved rule changes that will provide better access to the state’s judicial system for people who need language interpretation, amending Rules 80-88 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio that govern foreign and sign language interpretation in Ohio’s courts.

 The changes that will take effect July 1, 2014