Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Supreme Court Refuses To Hear ACLU Challenge to Bush Wire Taps.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday 19 Feb 2008 turned down a legal challenge to the warrantless domestic spying program President Bush created after the 9/11/2001 Muslim terrorists' attacks on the WTC.

The American Civil Liberties Union had asked the justices to hear the case after a lower court ruled the ACLU, other groups and individuals that sued the government had no legal right to do so because they could not prove they had been affected by the program. They lacked legal "standing" to sue.

The civil liberties group also asked the Supreme Court to make clear that Bush does not have the power under the U.S. Constitution to engage in intelligence surveillance within the United States that Congress has expressly prohibited.

President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez authorized the program to monitor international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a court warrant. The program's disclosure in December 2005 caused a political uproar among civil liberties activists.

The administration abandoned the program in about 2007, putting it under the surveillance court that Congress created more than 30 years ago.

The appeals court based in Cincinnati dismissed the case because the plaintiffs could not state with certainty they had been wiretapped by the government's National Security Agency.

Bush Administration lawyers opposed the appeal and said further review by the Supreme Court was unwarranted.

The Supreme Court sided with the Bush Administration and rejected the appeal without any comment.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Girls and Boys and Sex Toys in Texas.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a statute outlawing sex toy sales in Texas, one of the last states _ all in the South _ to retain such a ban.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the Texas law making it illegal to sell or promote obscene devices, punishable by as many as two years in jail, violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Companies that own Dreamer's and Le Rouge Boutique, which sell the devices in its Austin stores, and the retail distributor Adam & Eve sued in federal court in Austin in 2004 over the constitutionality of the law. They appealed after a federal judge dismissed the suit and said the Constitution did not protect their right to publicly promote such devices.

In its decision, the appeals court cited Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 opinion that struck down bans on consensual sex between same-sex couples.

"Just as in Lawrence, the state here wants to use its laws to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct," the appeals judges wrote. "The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the state is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct. This is an insufficient justification after Lawrence."

The Texas attorney general's office, which represented the Travis County district attorney in the case, has not decided whether to appeal.

Phil Harvey, president of Adam & Eve Inc., said the 5th Circuit Court's decision was a big step forward. He said his business plans to expand to sell in stores and at home parties, something company consultants had been fearful of doing because of the Texas law.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Looking At A Woman's Breasts Can Create A Hostile Environment.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a federal jury should be allowed to consider a lawsuit brought by a female secretary against the Grafton, Massachusetts town administrator in which she complained that her boss created a hostile work environment by frequently staring at her breasts, a federal appeals court ruled today.
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV erred when he sided with the town and the retired town administrator, Russell J. Connor Jr., and dismissed the suit by Nancy M. Billings on the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

The three-member appeals court panel said that Billings' suit had raised serious claims of sexual harassment, including that Connor had created a hostile work environment by staring at the breasts of several town employees and had retaliated against Billings for complaining to the board of selectmen by transferring her to another municipal job.
"Taken in the light most favorable to Billings, the evidence depicts a supervisor who regularly stared at her breasts for much of the two and a half years they worked together," the appeals court said in its 42-page decision.
"Based on these and other aspects of Billings's response to Connor's alleged staring, we disagree with the defendants that no reasonable jury could conclude that the staring unreasonably interfered with her work performance or altered the terms and conditions of her employment as a matter of law," the appeals court added.
The appeals court said that a hostile work environment is an imprecise term under federal law but that it need not include touching, sexual advances or overtly sexual comments.
"We cannot reasonably accept...that a man's repeated staring at a woman's breasts is to be ordinarily understood as anything other than sexual," the court said.
Connor retired as town administrator in February 2006. The court referred the case back to Saylor, allowing the suit to proceed.