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SCOTUS Slams Boston Flag Policy ... and Other Legal News You May Have Missed

By Richard Dahl on May 03, 2022 2:29 PM

As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the City of Boston a resounding defeat May 2 over its 2017 decision to bar a Christian group from flying its flag at city hall.

Boston refused to allow the group, Camp Constitution, to fly its flag on the grounds that it would amount to government endorsement of religion. The group countered that the city had created a public forum with its flagpole and therefore muzzled free speech.

In a unanimous ruling, the justices agreed with Camp Constitution. Although the case involved issues of religious freedom, justices agreed that the bigger issue was free speech rights.

"When the government encourages diverse expression — say, by creating a forum for debate — the First Amendment prevents it from discriminating against speakers based on their viewpoint," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, "Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or religious speech as second-class."

California Targets Industries Creating a 'Plastics Pollution Crisis'

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is launching an investigation into fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in creating a "plastics pollution crisis."

On April 28, Bonta issued a statement saying that those industries promoted recycling even though they knew it would never keep up with growing plastic production.

He called it a "decades-long plastics deception campaign," and said his intention is to determine whether it has violated state law.

Rideshare Companies Promise Drivers Protection From Abortion Lawsuits

Lyft and Uber announced they will fully cover any legal fees for their drivers who are sued under Oklahoma's restrictive new abortion law.

On April 28, the Oklahoma House passed a bill patterned after a recently enacted Texas law that gives citizens the right to sue anyone aiding abortion procedures, including drivers who transport women to clinics where they receive abortions. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to sign it.

Last September, both rideshare companies promised to cover abortion-related legal fees for their drivers in Texas.

Maine Hunters Claim a 'Right to Food'

File this one under "predictable":

A lawsuit in Maine targeting the state's longtime ban on Sunday hunting argues that the prohibition runs counter to a "right to food" constitutional amendment passed by state voters last November.

The suit, filed April 27 in Kennebec County Superior Court by a married couple, contends that the Sunday ban is archaic and unconstitutionally prevents them from harvesting food for their family.

The "right to food" amendment was the first of its kind approved by voters.

A legal battle has broken out between two fake-meat companies over the use of heme, the legume-based ingredient that gives plant-based burger juice its bloody appearance.

Impossible Foods, one of the most recognizable names in the plant-based meat industry, sued a Boston startup, Motif, in March for creating a product "that too closely resembles Impossible's patented version."

The Silicon Valley company claims it found a way to make heme using genetically modified yeast and fermentation techniques, which it patented. The lawsuit claims that Motif's Hemami ingredient, which also contains heme produced by fermentation, infringes on its patent.

On April 20, Motif signaled it is willing to get into the ring with Impossible. Motif filed a petition to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office saying that Impossible's patent claims lack merit because it did not invent heme and the process it patented has been common knowledge for years.

Impossible's immediate reaction was not exactly amicable.

"Motif's stunt is a baseless and meritless attempt to distract from the fact that they have infringed on our patent and are unlawfully using our technology to build their business," the company said.

This one could get bloody.

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