No one will be indicted for the death of Sandra Bland, a grand jury in Texas decided. The 28-year-old black woman was arrested on the 10th of July 2015 and was found dead in her cell only three days later. She was pulled over for making an improper lane change and was promptly arrested and charged with the assault of a public servant after an altercation occurred when she had refused to get out of her car. Official reports have claimed that her death was a suicide by hanging. Bland’s relatives and supporters have questioned these findings as the footage found on the dashboard camera, as well as the CCTV footage available, has appeared to have missing parts. They also claim that Bland had not shown suicidal tendencies in the days prior to her arrest. Her supporters have suspected foul play as Attorney Larry Rogers also claimed that the incident “screams of a cover-up”. All the while, Bland’s mother and sisters have expressed their distrust of the grand jury, though they filed a lawsuit and claimed the situation warranted a claim of wrongful death. Prosecutor Darrell Jordan, however, has said that the grand jury has not made a decision on whether or not the Texas police officer who had arrested Bland, 30-year-old Brian Encinia, should be charged for his arrest of Bland.
The state of Nevada passed earlier this year a school voucher program that radically diverts from other similar programs launched by other states across the United States. As the Las Vegas Sun reported last August 27, Nevada lawmakers have allowed any family whose child is currently attending the public school system to benefit from a stipend of around $5,000 for concerns such as tutoring, distance education, and even private school tuition. In other states, such programs are only available for lower income families or those with children that have special needs. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the state of Nevada to put an end to what they call an “unconstitutional program”. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the ACLU sees the voucher program as “[tearing] down the walls separating church and state erected in Nevada’s constitution”. This assertion comes from the fact that the program will be relying on public funds. ACLU executive director Tod Story says that majority of these funds will be used to fund tuition or services schools and other institutions that are “explicitly religious in nature”. The constitution of Nevada states that “no public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.” The ACLU asserts through their lawsuit that this is a mandate being ignored by the school voucher program. Amidst the criticism, over 2,500 parents have already applied to the program after only a few weeks since the enrollment in schools first opened.
David Mueller, previously a Denver radio DJ with a career that spans 20 years, has filed legal action against Taylor Swift for an accusation that resulted in his termination from the Colorado-based station. The accusation states that Mueller, during a meet-and-greet in June 2013 for the station (KYGO), inappropriately touched Swift by lifting up her skirt and touching her buttocks. Mueller and his girlfriend (and co-worker), Shannon Melcher, were immediately removed from the premises following the allegation. The singer’s management team made quick contact with the station and Mueller was promptly fired from his position. Mueller’s legal team states that the accusation is false as the photograph maintains that her skirt remains in place and there is reportedly no evidence of his touching her in an inappropriate fashion. His team has not made the photograph of the three of them (Melcher was also in the photograph as she and Swift were hugging and smiling, reportedly) public. Swift’s legal team has also commented that the grounds of his termination were actions independent of Swift herself, insinuating that she could not be held accountable for the actions of Mueller’s employers. The lawsuit demands compensation for the loss of wages where Mueller had previously been making $150,000 a year with his job at the radio station.
A Kentucky county clerk is denying marriage licenses to gay and heterosexual couples in rebellion against the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down bans on gay marriage across the United States. In fact, one Rowan County Clerk denied marriage licenses to four couples. Now the two same sex couples and two heterosexual couples are suing the clerk who cited religious reasons for her actions. This is just one example of a clerk in the South who cited religious reasons for denying couples marriage licenses. The clerks are claiming that their right to “religious freedom” gives them the right to not give marriage licenses. However, officials are warning the clerks that they could face civil liability. Since the ban on gay marriage was lifted in all states, clerks could be facing criminal charges of official misconduct or misdemeanor that could result in a year in jail. This comes soon after a gay couple in Texas sued a clerk in Hood county after being denied a marriage license. Although the clerk cited religious reasons as well, the couple was granted a marriage license just 12 hours after filing the lawsuit. Actions are being called against clerks by many activists claiming that the denial of marriage licenses is unconstitutional. The debate remains heated over what actions the constitution protects in terms of the clerks.
During the Cannes Film Festival, Voltage Pictures has been heavily promoting a new film starring Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. The movie, titled Colossal, will revolve around a woman who feels connected to a monstrous giant lizard that’s destroying the City of Tokyo in Japan. If this plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in another blockbuster hit before. Toho, the Japanese company that holds the rights to the Godzilla franchise, certainly thinks so. Last Tuesday, May 19, Toho filed a lawsuit in the California federal court against Voltage Pictures on claims of copyright and trademark infringement. According to Toho, aside from the close similarity the movie has to previous Godzilla movies, Voltage Picture’s blatant use of their character’s name and likeness is also a clear violation of the law. As pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, the main focus of Toho’s lawsuit is the way that Voltage Pictures “are brazenly producing, advertising, and selling an unauthorized Godzilla film on their own.” Their main issue is the way the production company had been continuously using their copyrighted content and trademarks in order to promote their new movie. Colossal writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, who was previously noted to have said that his movie is “going to be the cheapest Godzilla movie ever”, is a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Toho, represented by lawyers Aaron Moss and Chuck Shephard from Greenberg Glusker, are specifically suing Voltage Pictures for “copyright and trademark infringement, trademark dilution, Lanham Act violations, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.” They are looking to have the production of Colossal halted on top of damages.