The Washington Post is reporting that “President Trump threw his support Wednesday behind legislation that would loosen some mandatory minimum sentencing laws — a measure backed by powerful Senate Republicans and Democrats, but which could run into opposition from some tough-on-crime conservatives.” The New York Times opines “And now that Mr. Sessions is gone, a bipartisan collection of senators is pushing a plan that addresses some of the core shortcomings of an earlier House version of the legislation that was supported by the White House. The hope is to move the bill during the lame duck session, before the chaos of the new Congress, with its newly Democratic House majority, takes hold in January.”

From the summary of Robbery, Extortion, and Bribery in One Place: A Legal Overview of the Hobbs Act (R45395, Nov. 6, 2018): “The Hobbs Act proscribes obstructing commerce by means of robbery or extortion or attempting or conspiring to do so. The Act applies to individuals and legal entities alike. It permits prosecutions, although the impact on commerce may be minimal. It condemns the robbery -— knowingly taking the property of another by force or threat -— of drug dealers, mom-and-pop markets, and multinational corporations.”

Here’s the abstract for Peter Martin, District Court Opinions that Remain Hidden Despite a Longstanding Congressional Mandate of Transparency – The Result of Judicial Autonomy and Systemic Indifference (2018):

The E-Government Act of 2002 directed the federal courts to provide access to all their written opinions, in text-searchable format, via a website. Ten years later the Judicial Conference of the United States approved national implementation of a comprehensive database of those opinions through a joint venture between the courts and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). Despite the promise implicit in these initiatives, public access to many thousands of federal district court decisions each year remains blocked. They are effectively hidden. Many court websites lack a clear link to opinions, only a bare majority of district courts transmit decisions to the GPO, and far too many courts and judges fail to take the steps necessary for opinion distribution beyond the parties.

Using the large volume of district court Social Security litigation to measure and illustrate these failures, the article examines their dimensions, consequences, and causes. It concludes that the problem is a large one, that it poses a major challenge to those carrying out empirical studies and judicial analytics, and that the courts’ radical decentralization combined with judicial autonomy will continue to frustrate goals of public access unless serious measures are taken at the national level. Finally, it argues that inclusion in the GPO database of federal judicial opinions should cease being optional.

From the press release:

In the first analysis of its kind in 2018, the Brennan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup shows that lawmakers in eight states have introduced at least 16 bills making it harder to vote, and 35 restrictive bills in 14 states have carried over from previous legislative sessions. If passed, the laws would increase restrictions on voter registration and limit early and absentee voting opportunities, among other changes.

Legislatures in 22 states are considering a combined total of at least 144 bills that would expand access to voting, and in 23 states and the District of Columbia lawmakers are considering 263 bills that carried over from the previous session. This includes legislation to automate the voter registration process, a reform with bipartisan backing that increases voter turnout, along with accuracy and security of voter rolls. There are also bills to expand opportunities to register, restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions, reduce the burden of existing voter ID laws, and more.

The Verge is reporting that the US Senate has approved the Music Modernization Act of 2018, S.2334, with unanimous consent, bringing the first reform for music licensing in 20 years on the cusp of becoming law. The companion version in the House previously passed in April, also with unanimous consent. The bill now must be reconsidered by the House and then ultimately signed by President Trump. Both of those are likely to happen, so the Senate was the last major hurdle. The bill creates a streamlined process for online services to license music and federalizes the patchwork of state laws governing music recorded before 1972. That will mean effectively shortening the term of protection of older music published between 1923 and 1954—under current law, these songs may not fall into the public domain until 2067.

According to The Verge, “the bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act, combining three major pieces of legislation:

  • The Music Modernization Act, which streamlines the music licensing process to make it easier for rights holders to get paid when their music is streamed online.
  • The CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) for pre-1972 recordings.
  • The AMP Act (or Allocation for Music Producers Act), which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio. Notably, this is the first time producers have ever been mentioned in copyright law.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that aims to make the federal courts more transparent. Under Issa’s Judiciary Reforms, Organization and Operational Modernization, or Room Act, federal justices and judges age 70 and younger would be required to undergo a medical evaluation every five years. Those older than 70 would have to be examined every two years, and those 81 and older would have to go every year. — Joe

From Quartz: California governor Jerry Brown signed SB 10 into law last week, a bill that replaces cash bail with an algorithmic system. Each county will have to put in place a system to ascertain a suspect’s risk of flight or committing another crime during the trial process, whether that means using a system from a third-party contractor or developing one themselves before the October 2019 deadline.

H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

From California bill regulates IoT for first time in US, Naked Security (Sept. 13, 2018):

The State legislature approved SB-327 Information privacy: connected devices’ last Thursday and handed it over to the Governor to sign. The legislation introduces security requirements for connected devices sold in the US. It defines them as any device that connects directly or indirectly to the internet and has an IP or Bluetooth address. That covers an awful lot of devices.

The legislation says:

This bill, beginning on January 1, 2020, would require a manufacturer of a connected device, as those terms are defined, to equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device, appropriate to the information it may collect, contain, or transmit, and designed to protect the device and any information contained therein from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, as specified.

H/T PinHawk Legal Technology Digest (Sept. 14, 2018). — Joe

U.S. E-Cigarette Regulations – 50 State Review (2018) “is a snapshot of U.S. e-cigarette regulation, prepared by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (a program of the Public Health Law Center) and the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center at Northeastern University. The information is based on a 50-state (plus Washington, D.C.) survey of current state statutes pertaining to e-cigarettes in the following areas: definition of “tobacco product,” taxation, product packaging, youth access/other retail restrictions, and smoke-free air legislation.” — Joe

From the National Consumer Law Center’s executive summary:

Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) laws should be the backbone of consumer protection in every state. Yet in many states these statutes fall far short of their goal of deterring and remedying a broad range of predatory, deceptive, and unscrupulous business practices.

This report evaluates the strength of each state’s UDAP statute, and documents how significant gaps or weaknesses in almost all states undermine the promise of UDAP protections for consumers.

UDAP laws prohibit deceptive practices in consumer transactions and, in many states, also prohibit unfair or unconscionable practices. But their effectiveness varies widely from state to state.
In many states, the deficiencies are glaring. Legislation or court decisions in dozens of states have narrowed the scope of UDAP laws or granted sweeping exemptions to entire industries. Other states have placed substantial legal obstacles in the path of officials charged with UDAP enforcement, or imposed ceilings as low as $1,000 on civil penalties. And several states have stacked the financial deck against consumers who go to court to enforce the law themselves.

— Joe

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Thursday declaring “the press is not the enemy of the people.” The resolution, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to the Constitution’s declaration of the freedom of the press. According to the resolution, the Senate “views efforts to systematically undermine the credibility of the press as an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States.” — Joe

From Steven D. Schwinn, Constitutional Law Prof Blog: “President Trump late yesterday issued a breathtaking constitutional signing statement on the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The President called out dozens of provisions for impinging on the commander-in-chief authority, the foreign affairs authority, the appointments authority, executive privilege, and the President’s authority to recommend legislation. … Perhaps most alarming, the President identified 18 separate sections that require public disclosure or reports to Congress on various topics as categorically “protected by executive privilege.”.” — Joe

Today the US District Court for the District of Maryland rejected Trump’s attempt to stop a lawsuit filed by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland that alleges Trump is violating the anti-corruption emoluments clauses of the Constitution. Today’s ruling appears to mark the first time a federal judge has interpreted those Constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting president. Here’s the text of the ruling. — Joe