US House group files motion in gay marriage suit

Gays and lesbians are not entitled to the same heightened legal protection and scrutiny against discrimination as racial minorities and women in part because they are far from politically powerless and have ample ability to influence lawmakers, lawyers for a U.S. House of Representatives group said in a federal court filing.

The filing Friday in San Francisco's U.S. District Court comes in a lesbian federal employee's lawsuit that claims the government wrongly denied health insurance coverage to her same-sex spouse. Karen Golinski says the law under which her spouse was denied benefits — the Defense of Marriage Act — violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

But attorneys representing the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group counter that DOMA is subject to a lower level of court scrutiny because gays and lesbians don't meet the legal criteria for groups who receive heightened protection from discrimination. Under that lower standard, DOMA is constitutional, they argue.

Court says Microsoft must pay in patent case

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Microsoft Corp. must pay a $290 million judgment awarded to a small Toronto software company for infringing on one of its patents inside its popular Microsoft Word program.

The high court unanimously refused to throw out the judgment against the world's largest software maker.

Toronto-based i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool used in Microsoft Word. The technology in question gave Word 2003 and Word 2007 users an improved way to edit XML, which is computer code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document's contents.

The lower courts say Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft willfully infringed on the patent, and ordered the world's largest software maker to pay i4i $290 million and stop selling versions of Word containing the infringing technology.

Microsoft wanted the multimillion dollar judgment against it erased because it claims a judge used the wrong standard in instructing the jury that came up with the award.

The software company said a jury should determine a patent's validity by a "preponderance" of the evidence instead of the more heightened "clear and convincing" evidence standard instructed by the judge.

The Supreme Court said the "clear and convincing" standard was the correct one.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the court's opinion, said the courts have interpreted the law the same way for 30 years. During this period, Congress has often amended the patent law, she said.

Supreme Court to hear another arbitration argument

The Supreme Court will consider a plea from companies that cater to people with bad credit to keep disputes with their customers out of court and in the more business-friendly forum of arbitration.

Days after handing businesses a huge victory by limiting class action claims against them, the court said Monday it will take up a new arbitration dispute in the fall.

The new case involves consumer complaints about companies that issue low-rate credit cards to people with bad credit ratings. The consumers said they were promised an initial $300 in available credit, but were charged $257 in fees in the first year they had the credit card.

The consumers sued in federal court, but the companies say the dispute must be handled by an arbitrator, under an agreement the customers signed to receive the card.

The federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, says consumers have a right to sue, which the federal appeals court in San Francisco interpreted as a right to go into court, rather than be forced to submit to arbitration. Appeals courts in Atlanta and Philadelphia have ruled otherwise in evaluating the same language in the law.

Firm hired by GOP ends work on gay marriage ban

A prominent law firm hired by Republican lawmakers to defend the federal ban on gay marriage said Monday it was withdrawing from the case amid criticism by advocacy groups, prompting the partner leading the work to quit.

The move by Atlanta-based King & Spalding is the latest flashpoint in the public debate over gay rights. Chairman Robert Hays Jr. said the firm chose to divorce itself from the controversy after determining that the decision to take the case wasn't vetted properly, but gay rights groups had also been pressuring the 800-lawyer company with plans for a protest Tuesday in Atlanta and with calls to its other clients. The groups cheered the move.

The decision, however, was sharply criticized by conservative groups, legal observers and the partner who had been handling the case, a former high-ranking Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. Washington-based attorney Paul Clement said he's moving to another law office so he can continue the work.

Clement had been retained by House Republican leaders after President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department in February to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. His administration said it believes the 1996 law, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.

Liberals Press Obama to Dump GE CEO From Economic Panel

Jeffrey Immelt, the head of GE, is facing backlash from left-leaning groups who say that he shouldn’t be on the White House Jobs Council or any other panel in light of reports that the company last year made $14.2 billion in profit, paid zero in corporate federal taxes and actually received a $3.2 billion tax benefit.

GE disputes that claim and says it did pay all kinds of taxes last year, though notably, not federal taxes. But it also claims that it didn’t pay because it took hits for investment and other spending that is exactly what the tax code allows and is encouraged to help job creation.

Whatever the case, the optics are bad news for GE, which is facing increasing anger from the likes of former Wisconsin Sen. Feingold, MoveOn and even Jon Stewart.

In January, Obama named Immelt to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as part of an effort to improve the White House's strained relationship with the business community. Now Obama's relationship with liberals is on the rocks.

 

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