What the Supreme Court Abortion Ruling Means for Pennsylvania

Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

A ruling by the Supreme Court today overturning parts of an abortion regulation law in Texas has ties to Pennsylvania.

The Supreme Court specifically cited the case of Philadelphia’s Kermit Gosnell in its ruling today on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. “Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong,” the court wrote in its majority opinion. “But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior.”

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

“The Court has affirmed what we already knew: strategically over-regulating healthcare facilities that provide abortion care so that they are forced to close does nothing to protect women’s health, despite the disingenuous claims of anti-abortion lawmakers, in Texas and here in Pennsylvania,” said Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Philadelphia-based Women’s Law Project (which had its amici brief cited in Ginsburg’s concurrence). “These mean-spirited, misguided attacks on women’s health are plainly unconstitutional and they need to stop.”

The Texas law, passed in 2013, required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and mandates all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers — including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. It shrunk the number of abortion clinics in the state from 41 to 18. The Supreme Court ruled those parts of the Texas law to be unconstitutional. Read more »

Philly Lawyer Fires Back at New York Times

Alan Kaplinsky, partner at Ballard Spahr.

Alan Kaplinsky, partner at Ballard Spahr.

In the fine print of contracts that nobody reads lies language big corporations use to ban customers from joining together in class-action lawsuits — thus removing a big tool allowing citizens to fight against powerful corporations. Instead, people are relegated to arbitration hearings, where they’re on their own.

That’s the narrative of this article from the New York Times. But a Philly-based attorney quoted in the article thinks it just furthers a myth about how consumer law works.

His name is Alan Kaplinsky and he’s a partner at Ballard Spahr who splits time between Philadelphia and New York. For years, he’s led the charge to make arbitration the standard way for consumers to solve disputes with corporations. Class-actions, he argues are long, expensive and ineffective. Read more »

Boxing Promoter Sues Harrah’s, Valley Forge Casinos

Boxing trainer and promoter "Joey Eye." (YouTube)

Boxing trainer and promoter “Joey Eye.” (YouTube)

Boxing promoter Joey Intreiri, better known as “Joey Eye,” has filed a civil lawsuit against Valley Forge Casino Resort, Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and former business partner David Feldman — the brother of celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman. Intreieri claims that David Feldman disparaged his reputation — claiming Intreiri had mob ties — which led to Joey Eye Boxing Promotions going out of business.

Intreiri is requesting $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a permanent injunction preventing the defendants from barring his access to promote shows at the two casinos. The suit was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Read more »

$20 Billion Racial Discrimination Suit Against Comcast, Al Sharpton Tossed

gavel

A California district court judge has thrown out a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast, Al Sharpton and others. The suit was brought by the National Association of African-American Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks Inc. who alleged that Comcast and Time Warner Cable discriminated against African-American owned media stations by shutting them out of its TV lineups. The suit was filed in February, before the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal fell through.

The Hollywood Reporter highlighted the case’s major argument: According to the complaint, the two companies “collectively spend approximately $25 billion annually for the licensing of pay-television channels and advertising of their products and services, yet 100 percent African American–owned media receives less than $3 million per year.” Read more »

Delaware Losing Favor as Corporate Haven, Report

 

Wilmington

(Wilmington, Del./Wikimedia Commons)

Delaware, long known as a corporation-friendly state, could be falling out of favor with companies who believe it makes them vulnerable to shareholder lawsuits.

Dole Foods Co. has been shipping its fruit products from countries in Central America to Wilmington, Del. since the 1980s — and in 2001, the company was so attracted by Delaware’s friendly attitude towards businesses that it moved its corporate headquarters from tropical Hawaii to Wilmington, the Wall Street Journal reports. Read more »

Could Brandon Tate-Brown Family File Criminal Charges if D.A. Won’t?

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray's police-custody death. | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The event in Philadelphia follows days of unrest in Baltimore amid Freddie Gray’s police-custody death. Photo | Matt Rourke, AP

So D.A. Seth Williams won’t bring criminal charges against the officers who shot Brandon Tate-Brown. That doesn’t means the chances for a criminal prosecution in the case have been completely eliminated.

Tate-Brown’s family could still try to press criminal charges. So could activists groups here.

Pennsylvania law allows private citizens to initiate criminal complaints, a feature of the law that is mostly used in relatively minor cases. But a similar law in Ohio is being used by activist groups to press criminal charges against the officers who shot the teenager Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Philadelphia activists say they’re watching that case, and are willing to follow suit in similar cases here.

“I do think there are situations — perhaps the situation of Brandon Tate-Brown — that we should use that law to exercise our rights for justice in Philadelphia,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, the activist organization that has helped organize #BlackLivesMatter protests in the city in recent months. (He also plans to join Tamir Rice protests in Cleveland during an upcoming trip to the city.)

It might not be easy, however. Read more »

Six Burning Questions About Grand Jury Leaks

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looks on before newly elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature are sworn in, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Republicans who control both the Senate and House picked up additional seats in the November election. In the House, Republicans outnumber Democrats 119 to 84 and in the Senate, 30 to 20. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looks on before newly elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature are sworn in, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Republicans who control both the Senate and House picked up additional seats in the November election. In the House, Republicans outnumber Democrats 119 to 84 and in the Senate, 30 to 20. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The scepter still hangs over Kathleen Kane’s head.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the Inquirer reported that a grand jury recommended the Pennsylvania attorney general be indicted for leaking the secrets of a previous grand jury. And it’s been nearly as long since the Inquirer revealed that two of its reporters had been subpoenaed for the apparent leak of information from Kane’s grand jury.

We’re still waiting to find out if the Montgomery County District Attorney will accept or reject the grand jury’s recommendation. But there’s an obvious absurdity in this scandal, now that we’ve reached the point that a leak about a leak is being investigated.

How did we get to this point, anyway? The answer may be easier to find if we understand Pennsylvania’s grand jury process. We talked with several experts who were unconnected to the Kane case, and would not comment specifically on it — choosing instead to describe the grand jury process in general terms. (We also relied on the Pennsylvania code concerning grand juries.)

Read more »

INSIDE TAKE: End the Judicial Fundraising Charade

Gavel Money Court

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

It’s a part of the campaign process which gives many a sense of the oogies; the relentless quest for cash in which candidates for office call their friends, colleagues, former colleagues, ideological sympathizers, anyone who’s given money to people like them, anyone who might have a beef with the other candidates, and then, inevitably, all these same people again next week.

Read more »

Ajay Raju Profile: The Big Raju

The Dilworth Paxson CEO in his $3.1 million Society Hill home. Photography by Chris Crisman

Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju in his $3.1 million Society Hill home. Photography by Chris Crisman

Might as well start with the hair.

“My life,” he says, “is driven by my obsession with my stupid hair.”

“My wife,” he says, “hates my hair. She wants me to have no gel.”

“When I discovered gel,” he says, “it was like Aha! Caveman discovers wheel.”

“My brother,” he reports, “says, ‘It’s a previously frozen raccoon that died on the road and was tarred over and then they put it on Ajay’s head.’”

“I’m the Indian Don King.”

Born near Bhopal, brought by his parents to Northeast Philly at the age of 14 speaking no English, Ajay Raju has transformed himself from a kid who felt insecure ordering at McDonald’s to a polished 44-year-old law partner who is quickly and deferentially seated at his preferred table (rear corner near the bar, where he can see everyone come and go) in the posh 1862 dining room at the Union League. He nonchalantly requests dishes not on the menu — tonight, grilled salmon and salad, since his weight is his other obsession. “I’m a peacock,” he’ll say, again and again.

“He has one quality that you definitely do not see in the legal class — pizzazz,” says one of Raju’s friends. “They buy their clothes at Joseph A. Bank. And obviously Ajay does not shop there.” In fact, Raju appears in advertisements for Boyds; his shoes, which can run up to $12,000 a pair, come from Tom Ford.

“We’ll see whether the personal flamboyance undoes him in this town,” this observer says. “At this point, it seems not. He’s going to be a player.”

It’s not as if he’s waiting on the bench now. On this late-winter night, Raju is little more than a month into his new job as CEO and co-chairman of Dilworth Paxson, one of Philadelphia’s most storied law firms. He moved there after nearly a decade at Reed Smith, a much larger firm with an international presence, where he managed the Philadelphia office and was acknowledged as a top rainmaker among 1,800 partners worldwide.

There are those who think Raju’s move to a smaller, more Philly-focused shop is really about having a home in a politically connected firm and dressing himself in the double-breasted, pin-striped aura of Richardson Dilworth, the legendary mayor and political reformer. He already sits on a dozen nonprofit boards around town, ranging from the Art Museum to the Zoo. He has his own political action committee — Center PAC — that has helped raise money for Tom Corbett and Bob Casey. Raju, possessed with what he calls “immigrant impatience,” has been raising money for politicians since he was a teenager. (As a young peacock, he disguised fund-raisers as fashion shows.) Raju calls Center PAC an “incubation platform” and plans eventually to help launch the political careers of civic-minded business types. People like him.

During talks about his move to Dilworth with its longtime partner Joe Jacovini, who stepped aside from running the firm for Raju to move in, the two men had a number of meetings right here in full view at the Union League. “They thought a merger was happening — this crowd,” Raju says, glancing across the table to the full and noisy bar area. “It’s almost like they analyze your stools to see what you ate this month. In New York, nobody would give a rat’s ass. Here, they watch everything.”

Of course, he’s a guy who doesn’t mind being watched. Peacocks don’t try to hide. While he may not be ready to run for mayor, he’s long been running for something. At this point, he has a self-appointed position; call it ch­eerleader-in-chief. Ajay Raju is making a deliberate effort to make sure people don’t just look — he wants them to look and listen.

It’s the reason he’s spending hours tonight dining with someone who can bring him no legal business, who offers no new connection in the guarded back corridors of power and influence. He’s here despite the objections of those around him.

“I can honestly tell you that every friend and adviser tells me not to talk to you right now,” Raju tells me just before — diet be damned — ordering dessert, his third helping today of Union League brownies with peanut butter ice cream. (It’s a long story that involves having two lunches.) “‘You can gain nothing with a profile of you; nothing good comes out of it. It doesn’t get you anywhere.’

“But I think it’s the perfect time. I have this idea, and I want the message to get out there.”

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