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•  Notable Attorneys - Legal News


Former Louisiana Democratic Party leader Karen Carter Peterson, who resigned from the state Senate last year year citing depression and a gambling addiction — and later pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud — was sentenced on Wednesday to 22 months in prison.

Peterson, who served in the Louisiana Legislature for more than 22 years, admitted in August to taking more than $140,000 in funds from her reelection campaign and from the state Democratic Party. The ex-lawmaker spent a “substantial amount” of that money on casino gambling, according to court documents.

Although the felony charge of federal wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance sentenced Peterson to significantly less, The Advocate reported.

“People trusted me and I breached that trust,” Peterson said in court, WDSU-TV reported.

At the sentencing, Peterson cried at the podium and repented for her criminal wrongdoing — apologizing to her constituents, family and friends.

Ahead of the sentencing, Peterson’s lawyers implored U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to consider an alternative to prison — such as probation or home confinement.

They said her gambling addiction resulted in “diminished mental capacity,” which can qualify a defendant for a reduced sentence, according to court filings obtained by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. In addition, they pointed to her Christian faith, her acceptance of responsibility for the crimes and her participation in Gamblers Anonymous.



The Supreme Court ’s conservative majority sounded sympathetic Monday to a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court.

The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

The lively arguments at the Supreme Court ran well beyond the allotted 70 minutes.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of three high court appointees of former President Donald Trump, described Lorie Smith, the website designer, as “an individual who says she will sell and does sell to everyone, all manner of websites, (but) that she won’t sell a website that requires her to express a view about marriage that she finds offensive.”

The issue of where to draw the line dominated the questions early in Monday’s arguments at the high court.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asked whether a photography store in a shopping mall could refuse to take pictures of Black people on Santa’s lap.

“Their policy is that only white children can be photographed with Santa in this way, because that’s how they view the scenes with Santa that they’re trying to depict,” Jackson said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor repeatedly pressed Kristen Waggoner, the lawyer for Smith, over other categories. “How about people who don’t believe in interracial marriage? Or about people who don’t believe that disabled people should get married? Where’s the line?” Sotomayor asked.



The company that makes Jack Daniel’s is howling mad over a squeaking dog toy that parodies the whiskey’s signature bottle. Now, the liquor company is barking at the door of the Supreme Court.

Jack Daniel’s has asked the justices to hear its case against the manufacturer of the plastic Bad Spaniels toy. The high court could say as soon as Monday whether the justices will agree. A number of major companies from the makers of Campbell Soup to outdoor brand Patagonia and jeans maker Levi Strauss have urged the justices to take what they say is an important case for trademark law.

The toy that has Jack Daniel’s so doggone mad mimics the square shape of its whisky bottle as well as its black-and-white label and amber-colored liquor while adding what it calls “poop humor.” While the original bottle has the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the parody proclaims: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” Instead of the original’s note that it is 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it’s “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly.”

The toy retails for about $13 to $20 and the packaging notes in small font: “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”

The toy’s maker says Jack Daniel’s can’t take a joke. “It is ironic that America’s leading distiller of whiskey both lacks a sense of humor and does not recognize when it — and everyone else — has had enough,” lawyers for Arizona-based VIP Products wrote the high court. They told the justices that Jack Daniel’s has “waged war” against the company for “having the temerity to produce a pun-filled parody” of its bottle.

But Jack Daniel’s lead attorney, Lisa Blatt, made no bones about the company’s position in her filing.

“To be sure, everyone likes a good joke. But VIP’s profit-motivated ‘joke’ confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill,” she wrote for the Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp., Jack Daniel’s parent company.

Blatt wrote that a lower court decision provides “near-blanket protection” to humorous trademark infringement. And she said it has “broad and dangerous consequences,” pointing to children who were hospitalized after eating marijuana-infused products that mimicked candy packaging.

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