Texas School Fights Release of ‘Clock Boy’ Info

February 29, 2016
By David Lee
AUSTIN (CN) – The Texas school district being federally investigated for the arrest of “clock boy” Ahmed Mohamed has sued Texas to stop disclosure of details of the investigation.
The Irving Independent School District sued Texas and Attorney General Ken Paxton in Travis County Court on Feb. 25.
The Dallas-area school district made headlines in September when Ahmed, 14, was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to MacArthur High School. He also was suspended from school for three days.
A photograph of a handcuffed and bewildered Mohamed quickly went viral, with critics calling his arrest Islamophobia and racism run amok. President Obama responded by Tweeting “Cool clock, Ahmed,” and invited the boy to the White House.
Irving police had said the device “could reasonably be mistaken as a device” had it been left in a bathroom or under a car.
Ahmed was not charged and was released to his family, who have since demanded $15 million for civil rights violations, and an apology from city and school district officials. In October, the family decided to move to Qatar, to accept a Qatari government scholarship and get away from the controversy in Texas. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed in December that the federal government was investigating Ahmed’s arrest.
In the latest lawsuit, Irving ISD said it received a public information request in November for a copy of the Justice Department’s inquiry letter.
The school district asked Paxton for an opinion on whether the letter is subject to disclosure. Irving ISD claims the information is exempt from disclosure because it contains information on an ongoing law enforcement proceeding and information about a student protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Paxton concluded in a Feb. 11 letter that the information must be disclosed, resulting in the lawsuit.
Irving ISD said Paxton’s use of the anticipation-of-litigation exception is inconsistent with previous attorney general rulings and “is simply contrary to the common law understanding of anticipation of litigation.”
“The attorney general’s interpretation and application of the exception was overly narrow, and his analysis was incorrect and contrary to established law,” the 5-page complaint states.
The school district seeks declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction.
It is represented by Lisa A. Brown with Thompson Horton in Houston.

From Courthouse News.

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Sanders, Defeated in S.C., Rallies in Dallas

February 27, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Trailing Hillary Clinton into the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries, Bernie Sanders rallied a raucous crowd of 7,000 near Dallas on Saturday by attacking wealthy Wall Street campaign donors.
The over-capacity crowd at the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie patiently waited over three hours for Sanders to speak, enthusiastically chanting his name and shouting slogans including “This is democracy,” and “They got bail outs, we got sold out.” The crowd largely consisted of young people and young families, holding homemade signs saying “Feel the Bern” and “Texas Loves Bernie.”
Sen. Sanders, I-Vermont, told the crowd he thinks “there is a surprise coming on Tuesday.”
“It looks like Dallas is ready for a political revolution,” Sanders said as the crowd roared its approval. “Let me tell you, so are a lot of people all across our great country.”
Brian Crandall, of Fort Worth, brought his wife and young son to hear Sanders speak.
“I saw him speak in Dallas last year and his honesty and directness really spoke to me,” he said. “Bernie is the only politician who seems to genuinely care about people and have empathy for those that are struggling. That’s why he has my support.”
Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last year to little fanfare, yet he has quickly built a grassroots effort that went neck-and-neck with Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.
Sanders said his campaign was about “thinking big, not small,” that his campaign was about “revitalizing American democracy.”
“Democracy is not a football game, not a spectator sport,” he said. “All of you are enormously powerful people if you choose to use your power.”
Sanders touted his plan to publicly finance all elections in order to get Wall Street out of politics. He said the current campaign finance system is “corrupt,” where “we have billionaires trying to buy elections.”
“If you do not have the guts to hold a free and fair election, get another job,” Sanders said. “Washington and Congress are much more interested in representing wealthy campaign contributors than the needs of ordinary Americans. We need to turn that around where the needs and pain of the American people are heard, that’s what this campaign is precisely about.”
Sanders denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s “disastrous” ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in 2007, which allows unlimited election spending by individuals and corporations. He also attacked Clinton for being paid for giving speeches to wealth Wall Street banks, challenging her to release transcripts of the speeches.
“They must have been great speeches,” he said. “You must want to share them with the American people.”
Sanders was introduced by populist columnist and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, who denounced the “frackers, bankers and bullshitters” of the establishment.
“Let’s take the power back from the Wall Street greedheads and the Washington boneheads,” he said.

From Courthouse News.

Blasts & Counterblasts in GOP Free-for-All Get Even Hotter

February 29, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Blaming “dishonest” newspapers for “negative and horrible articles” about him, Donald Trump told a Texas crowd this weekend that he would “open up our libel laws” so he could sue newspapers “and win lots of money.”
“I am going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles so we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump told a crowd of supporters in Fort Worth on Friday.
“We are going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece – which is a total disgrace – or when The Washington Post – which is there for other reasons – writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re protected.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1964 in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, that to prove defamation, public figures – people who thrust themselves into the public eye – must show the statements were published despite knowledge of their falsity, or with reckless disregard.
Montgomery Public Safety Commissioner L.B. Sullivan claimed that a paid ad in the Times defamed him with false statements about Montgomery police actions against civil rights protesters. Sullivan won a $500,000 judgment in state court, but the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that the standard for public figures was necessary to preserve vigorous debate about subjects of public importance.
Although Trump could not override Times v. Sullivan, he would be able to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, if he wins the Republican nomination and the presidential election.
“We are going to have people sue you like you have never been sued before,” Trump told the crowd.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia hedged on the Times v. Sullivan ruling in a 2011 speech. Republican senators have vowed not to call a hearing on any nominee President Obama chooses to replace Scalia.
In his speech at the Aspen Institute 2011 Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum, Scalia said: “Now, the old libel law used to be (that) you’re responsible, you say something false that harms somebody’s reputation, we don’t care if it was told to you by nine bishops, you are liable.
New York Times v. Sullivan just cast that aside because the court thought in modern society, it’d be a good idea if the press could say a lot of stuff about public figures without having to worry. And that may be correct, that may be right, but if it was right it should have been adopted by the people. It should have been debated in the New York Legislature and the New York Legislature could have said, ‘Yes, we’re going to change our libel law.’ But the living constitutionalists on the Supreme Court, the Warren Court, simply decided, ‘Yes, it used to be that … George Washington could sue somebody that libeled him, but we don’t think that’s a good idea anymore.'”
Trump’s threat to “open up” libel laws was quickly overshadowed by his refusal to disavow an endorsement from white supremacist and former Klan leader David Duke. When criticized even by fellow Republicans for that, Trump backpedaled on Sunday, saying he didn’t know who Duke was, then sent a Tweet saying “I disavow.”
That flurry of controversy quickly buried an aggressive Friday attack from Marco Rubio, who called Trump a “ con man ” who may have wet his pants during the Republican candidates’ debate Thursday night.
Sen. Rubio, R-Florida, told supporters at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas that Trump had a “meltdown” backstage during the Thursday night commercial breaks.
“He has called me Mr. Meltdown. Let me tell you something … he had this little makeup thing and applying makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches,” Rubio said with a grin. “He then asked for a full-length mirror. I do not know why because the podium goes up [to his chest]. Maybe to make sure his pants were not wet, I do not know.”
Several hundred Rubio supporters rumbled with laughter at the 10-minute attack that at times sounded like a comedy roast.
Donald Harris, of Dallas, said he was a Jeb Bush supporter until Bush dropped out of the race. Harris said he liked how Rubio was “taking it” to Trump now.
“Jeb was too timid and too slow in fighting back,” Harris said at the Friday rally. “I like how Rubio kept jabbing at him last night and I’m glad to see he isn’t backing down today.”
One hundred fifty-five Republican delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday in Texas, which is seen as a must-win state for Sen. Ted Cruz.
But it’s Rubio who’s increasingly seen as so-called establishment Republican’s last chance against Trump. Party regulars were energized by Rubio’s vigorous attacks on Trump past week, mocking his history of hiring illegal immigrants and being sued repeatedly for his so-called Trump University.
Rubio kept the heat on Friday in Dallas. “Friends do not let friends vote for con artists,” he said as the crowd cheered.
Holding a smartphone onstage, Rubio asked if the crowd wanted to “have some fun,” then mocked Trump’s poor spelling and grammar in his Twitter posts.
“Trump said, ‘Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night.’ No, this is what he said about himself, OK? He said ‘Great honer.’ I think he meant to say ‘great honor.’ I do not know how he got that wrong because the e and the o are nowhere near each other on the keyboard. This guy tweets so badly, I can only reach two conclusions. Number 1, that’s how they spell those words at the Wharton School of Business where he went. Or number 2, just like at Trump Tower, he must have hired a foreign worker to do his own tweets.”
Thirty miles west in Fort Worth, Trump supporters in line at the Fort Worth Convention Center cheered the news that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has endorsed Trump.
Saying he was “proud” to endorse Trump, Christie said: “He is a good friend, he is a strong and resolute leader and he is someone who is going to lead the Republican Party to victory in November against Hillary Clinton, which is the single most important thing we can do.”
Trump then turned his attention to Rubio, saying he was “under a pile of makeup” at the latest debate.
“I said ‘Marco, easy with the makeup,’ you do not need that much,” Trump said. Then he praised Christie for going after Rubio’s rehearsed lines and talking points in earlier debates.
“I thought he was going to die,” Trump said. “Good going, Chris.”
Speaking to several thousand of his supporters, Trump again mocked Rubio’s excessive sweating while taking a sip from a water bottle.
“Oh look, it’s Marco,” Trump said before spilling the bottle’s contents on stage, then tossing the bottle over his shoulder as the crowd cheered.
He called Rubio a “lightweight senator from Florida who is losing in the polls.”
Outside the rally, several shouting matches erupted between white Trump supporters and protesters.
An unidentified white man in a purple shirt and sunglasses yelled “Go back to Mexico” several time to a Latina protester who screamed profanities as he walked into the rally.
Inside the building, several protesters were escorted out of the rally after holding up signs saying Trump is anti-Muslim.

From Courthouse News.

Porn Convention Gives Dallas a Last Chance

February 24, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Organizers of the Exxxotica pornography expo will not sue Dallas if it retracts its unconstitutional ban on the annual event at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, their attorney said Tuesday in a final warning to the city.
Attorney Roger Albright sent a 2-page letter to City Attorney Warren Ernst on behalf of expo organizer Three Expo Events. The Dallas City Council voted 8-7 on Feb. 10 to ban the erotica expo as an impermissible use of a public facility under City Code.
Mayor Mike Rawlings led the opposition, saying he did not believe the event was “good for our city’s brand,” and that it should not be held at a city-owned property. Rawlings acknowledged that the ban would probably bring a lawsuit.
Albright gave the city a last chance to retract the ban, attaching to his letter a copy of the complaint he will file in Federal Court for violations of his client’s First Amendment rights.
“This is not a lawsuit which I want to file nor do I think this litigation is in the best interest of the city,” the letter states. “Our collective tax dollars can be much more wisely spent than hiring yet more lawyers to defend what I consider an unnecessary lawsuit and/or presumably paying my fees as might be awarded by the court.”
Albright says he believes there is “a sound basis” to go after individual council members for damages.
“At this state, this dispute remains a relatively simple matter of whose convention center it is, how might the convention center be managed or marketed and/or the economic losses my client has and will suffer by being denied access,” the letter states. “If, instead, this becomes a culture ware between competing values and beliefs fomented by outside forces, then the City of Dallas, its citizens and the First Amendment all will lose.”
Albright’s warning came one day after Justin “Chino” Salas sued the city, Rawlings and the seven members of the council who voted for the ban.
Suing as an Exxxotica vendor and a private citizen, Salas said the council voted for the ban despite of the city attorney’s advice that the First Amendment allows Exxxotica to use the public facility. City Attorney Ernst said the city’s sexual-oriented business ordinance does not apply because Exxxotica is a temporary event, not a fixed business.
Police Chief David Brown told the council his officers saw no crimes at last year’s expo, nor an increase in prostitution.
“Exxxotica does not engage in obscenity or any other form of unconstitutional speech or expression,” Salas’s complaint states. “As such, the exposition does not run afoul of any City of Dallas Municipal Ordinance [n]or is an impermissible use of the convention center.”
The 2015 Exxxotica expo was a “huge success,” and city officials invited it to return this year in May before Rawlings proposed the ban, Salas said.
“The resolution violates also the constitutional guarantees and procedural due process right as a governmental ban drawn and enforced arbitrarily and subjectively by officials relying not on legal bedrock, but a political and moral agenda disfavored by our sense of ordered liberty and justice,” Salas’ complaint states. “The political officials that orchestrated Exxxotica’s ban are subject to political whim.”

From Courthouse News.

Okla. Supreme Court OKs Abortion Restrictions

February 24, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law that bans off-label use of abortion drugs, but acknowledged that restrictions on abortions harm women’s health.
In a 6-1 ruling, the nine-member court reversed a trial court ruling that House Bill2684 violates the Oklahoma Constitution. Chief Justice Tom Colbert and Justice Joseph Watt did not vote.
“We also must recognize that, by the states’ own evidentiary materials, more restrictions on abortions result in higher complication rates and in decreased women’s safety,” the 23-page opinion states. “Because H.B. 2684 is the only effective Oklahoma legislation restricting abortion at this time, we need not address the impact of future abortion-related restrictions on H.B. 2684’s constitutionality.”
The trial court upheld the law, but suspended portions that subjected abortion providers to legal liability
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa Nova Health Services sued the state in September 2014, claiming the law denies due process and equal protection to women seeking medication-based abortion.
They said the law illegally delegates authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by requiring physicians who provide mifepristone and misoprostol for abortions to comply with out-of-date FDA protocols.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appealed the trial court ruling in November, saying H.B. 2684 is not an unconstitutional special law nor does it violate equal protection because it regulates all similarly situated drugs in the same manner.
“Even if H.B. 2684 is a special law, it is ‘reasonably and substantially’ related to the protection to the protection of material health, and is thus permissible,” his brief stated.
The high court agreed, finding the law does not illegally delegate to the FDA because it restricts the use of only mifeprex, misoprostol and methotrexate when they are used to induce abortions.
“In doing so, it does not allow the FDA any authority,” the opinion states. “Simply, H.B. 2684 is not unconstitutional as an improper delegation of legislative authority.”
The high court agreed with the plaintiffs that H.B. 2684 is a special law, but said it is permissible “as the legislative aims are reasonably and substantially related to the class H.B. 2684 seeks to protect.”
Pruitt said he was “pleased” with the ruling.
“The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in catastrophic consequences for women nationwide, and I appreciate the Oklahoma Legislature’s efforts to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry,” he said in a statement.

From Courthouse News.

American Airlines Makes Nice With WiFi Firm

February 23, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – American Airlines has dropped its lawsuit against in-flight Internet provider Gogo, but still plans to solicit offers from competitors with faster WiFi speeds.
American filed a notice of nonsuit without prejudice in Tarrant County Court on Monday.
It sued Chicago-based Gogo on Feb. 12 for declaratory judgment, claiming Gogo refused to abide by their 2012 contract that allows American to “notify Gogo of competitors that offer connectivity services that materially improve on Gogo’s air-to-ground system,” which relies on ground-based cellular towers.
Gogo dominates the in-flight WiFi market, controlling 80 percent it and providing service to more than 9,000 aircraft, American said in its complaint. The airline said new competitors, including satellite-based ViaSat, offer better “pricing and business models” for airlines and their customers.
American says in-flight WiFi has “profoundly impacted” the airline industry, with its availability affecting flight selections of 66 percent of passengers.
“Whereas Gogo’s system provides 3 Mbps (or at most, 10 Mbps) of bandwidth shared among all users on a flight, and blocks most video content, these new satellite-based services offer 12 Mbps per device – more than enough for passengers to stream music, movies, and television,” the complaint stated. “Also, with antennas facing up to satellites, instead of down to cell towers, these competitors can offer gate-to-gate WiFi access for customers, even over oceans.”
American dropped the lawsuit one week after Gogo filed a Form 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying it plans to submit a new proposal under the contract.
“Earlier this month, American notified Gogo that it considers a competitor’s connectivity service to offer a material improvement over our early generation air to ground service with respect to a portion of American’s fleet representing approximately 200 aircraft,” the 8-K filing states. “We plan to submit a competing proposal to install our latest satellite technology – 2Ku – on this fleet. We believe that 2Ku is the best performing technology in the market and look forward to discussing our offer with American.”
Gogo declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said American is a “valued customer” and that it looks forward to resolving the “disagreement regarding contract interpretation” that led to the lawsuit.
American spokesman Casey Norton said the airline will no longer pursue the case.
“Gogo can still submit a proposal and we will evaluate their proposal when we receive it,” he said Monday.

From Courthouse News.

Pornography Vendor Takes Dallas to Court

February 23, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The Dallas City Council ignored the advice of its city attorney when it banned a pornography expo from returning to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, a vendor claims in court.
Justin “Chino” Salas, sole proprietor of GenTX Media, sued Dallas, Mayor Mike Rawlings and seven members of the City Council on Monday on constitutional grounds in Federal Court.
The council voted 8-7 on Feb. 10 to ban the Exxxotica pornography expo as an impermissible use of a public facility under City Code. Mayor Rawlings introduced the resolution, saying he did not believe the event was “good for our city’s brand,” and that it should not be held at a city-owned property.
The mayor acknowledged that Exxxotica would probably sue over the ban.
Exxxotica is not a party to the lawsuit.
City Attorney Warren Ernst told the council before the vote that the First Amendment allows Exxxotica to use the public facility and that the city’s sexual-oriented business ordinance does not apply because Exxxotica is a temporary event, not a fixed business.
Former Sen. Bailey Hutchison and several local religious and business leaders appeared at the vote to support the ban.
Police Chief David Brown told the council his officers observed no crimes at last year’s expo, nor an increase in prostitution.
“Exxxotica does not engage in obscenity or any other form of unconstitutional speech or expression,” Salas says in complaint. “As such, the exposition does not run afoul of any City of Dallas Municipal Ordinance [n]or is an impermissible use of the convention center.”
Salas, who also goes by Justin Harp, adds “that Exxxotica is a ‘lawful event, well within its constitutional rights to lease exhibit space, and that the city would most likely be sued and lose, potentially costing the city and taxpayers a large sum.'” (The interior quotes refer to a statement from City Attorney Ernst.”
Salas says the 2015 Exxxotica expo was a “huge success,” and that city officials invited it to return this year in May before Rawlings proposed the ban.
“The resolution violates also the constitutional guarantees and procedural due process right as a governmental ban drawn and enforced arbitrarily and subjectively by officials relying not on legal bedrock, but a political and moral agenda disfavored by our sense of ordered liberty and justice,” the complaint states. “The political officials that orchestrated Exxxotica’s ban are subject to political whim.”
Suing as a private citizen and doing business as GenTX, Salas beat Exxxotica’s organizers to the federal courthouse to sue the city. His attorney, Gary Krupkin in Richardson, said Salas and Exxxotica have a “divergence of interests” though there are common claims against the constitutionality of the ban.
“There’s a possibility – and I am not saying it’s going to happen – but a possibility this might turn into a class action suit where the city could be prosecuted by everybody who would like to attend Exxxotica,” Krupkin told The Dallas Morning News. “And joining them would be commercial vendors too. To that extent, what Exxxotica would file would be a suit particular to them. My suit offers the possibility of having other class members join at some point in the future.”
Exxxotica organizers have vowed they will hold an expo in Dallas this year.
“Today Dallas officials acknowledged our First Amendment rights,” it tweeted on Feb. 10. “And then voted against them.”
Salas told the Morning News he wants to attend the show as a visitor as well as a vendor. His Facebook page says he is the owner of Gentlemen’s Texas Magazine, which is circulated free to strip clubs, and of the website ToplessFinder.com.
The GenTX magazine website calls Salas’ publication “Dallas Fort Worth’s official strip club magazine.”
The Exxxotica website advertises a four-city tour this year, beginning in Dallas, “pending approval.”
Salas seeks an injunction against the ban as violation of his First and 14th Amendment rights under the Constitution and concomitant provisions under the Texas Constitution.

From Courthouse News.