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Walker signs bill inspired by cabin-owners' court fight
Lawyer News | 2017/11/28 14:06
Just five months after an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court had her in tears, Donna Murr was celebrating Monday after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that gives Wisconsin property owners more rights.

The Murr family fought for more than a dozen years, and all the way to the Supreme Court, for the ability to sell undeveloped land next to their cottage along scenic Lake St. Croix in western Wisconsin.

One of two property rights bills Walker signed Monday will give the family the right to sell or build on substandard lots if the lots were legal when they were created.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Murrs in June, but hours later state Rep. Adam Jarchow was on the phone with Donna Murr promising her he would take the fight to the Legislature.

"It's been a long road," Murr said after she and six other family members came to Walker's Capitol office for his signing of the bill Jarchow and Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, introduced. "It just felt like a culmination of everything we've worked for, coming to a head today after so many years of struggling and battling."

Donna Murr's parents bought two adjacent lots in the early 1960s and built a cottage on one but left the other vacant as an investment. In 2004, Donna Murr and her siblings wanted to sell the undeveloped lot to help pay for renovations to the cottage, but county officials barred the sale because conservation rules from the 1970s treat the two lots as a single property that can't be divided.

The regulations were intended to prevent overcrowding, soil erosion and water pollution. The county argued before the Supreme Court that not enforcing the rules would undermine its ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area.

But the family claimed those rules essentially stripped the land of its value and amounted to an uncompensated seizure of the property. They sought compensation for the vacant property they were forbidden to sell. The government argued, and the Supreme Court agreed in June, that it's fair to view the property as a whole and said the family is owed nothing.

Now with the law changed in Wisconsin, the Murr family can sell the vacant section. Donna Murr said she and her siblings will take some time to decide what to do next.


Florida man back at Supreme Court with 1st Amendment case
Lawyer News | 2017/11/07 16:58
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.

This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.

Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.

A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.


Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Lawyer News | 2017/11/06 16:58
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.


'Dirty soda' Utah court battle ends with legal settlement
Lawyer News | 2017/11/06 16:58
Two Utah chains that sell flavor-shot-spiked "dirty sodas" have settled their court battle over the sugary concept that's grown increasingly profitable in a state where sugar is a common vice, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Soda shops Sodalicious and Swig will pay their own expenses, court papers said. The documents offer no details of the settlement terms and attorneys for the two sides did not return messages seeking comment.

Swig had accused competitor Sodalicious of copying the trademarked "dirty" idea, down to the frosted sugar cookies sold alongside the sweet drinks spiked with flavor shots, fruit purees and cream.

Both shops are known for their soda mixology. Swig's concoctions include the Tiny Turtle, which is Sprite spiked with green apple and banana flavors.

Swig sued in 2015 for damages and an order blocking Sodalicious from using words and signs similar to theirs. A trial had been set for this week, but it was on hold during settlement negotiations.

Sodalicious fought back, saying dirty is a longtime moniker for martinis and other drinks. They said tongue-in-cheek nicknames for concoctions like "Second Wife" make their business distinctly different.

Other sodas on their menu include the Rocky Mountain High, made with cherry and coconut added to Coke.

The court fight unfolded as the sweet drinks grew increasingly popular and profitable in a majority-Mormon state where sugar is a popular indulgence.

Both shops have more than a dozen locations across Utah, and have also expanded into the suburbs of Phoenix.


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