National Roundup

Georgia
Court to consider warrantless phone tracking

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal appeals court in Atlanta is set to hear arguments in a Florida case over warrantless cellphone tracking.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June ruled that investigators must obtain a search warrant to obtain cellphone tower tracking data that is widely used to show that suspects were in the vicinity of a crime.
The federal government asked to have the decision reconsidered by the full court. The court granted that request and heard arguments Tuesday.
The issue arises from the Miami case of Quartavious Davis, who was sentenced to serve 162 years in prison for a string of violent armed robberies. Cellphone tower data used at trial placed Davis near six of the armed robberies for which he was convicted.

New Jersey
Prosecutor: Man collected dead dad’s benefits

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Authorities say a New Jersey man collected his father’s Social Security benefits for 29 years after he died, stealing more than $243,000.
Nicholas Severino Jr. was indicted Monday on a theft charge. The 62-year Paulsboro man could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman says Severino’s father had worked a second job using a false name and obtained a second Social Security number using that name.
Hoffman says after the father died in April 1984, Severino continued to collect benefits paid in connection with that false identity.
The Social Security Administration stopped paying benefits in August 2013 after the agency tried unsuccessfully to locate Severino’s father.

New York
Court nixes marchers’ suit over mass arrest 

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled against more than 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters who say police misled them into a mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Reversing its own position, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ordered the lawsuit dismissed in a ruling Monday evening.
The city Law Department and protesters’ lawyers had no immediate comment on the ruling.
Police said protesters ignored warnings to stay on a bridge pedestrian path in 2011. Demonstrators said they weren’t properly warned and thought police decided to let them on the roadway.
The appeals court says that while police stopped blocking the protesters, that wasn’t an invitation to go ahead, and the arrests were valid.
The same court last summer said the suit could proceed. Police then sought a rehearing.

Massachusetts
Judge: Tsarnaev supporters can demonstrate

BOSTON (AP) — A judge has rejected a request from lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) to bar demonstrations near courthouse entrances by people who believe the bombings were part of a government plot.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that the fairness of his trial could be harmed by a small group of demonstrators who purport to be Tsarnaev’s supporters. Some have said they believe the causalities from the bombings were faked.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers asked the court to ensure that survivors and witnesses can leave court without having to pass through a “gauntlet of demonstrators bearing insulting and inflammatory messages.”
The judge denied the request Tuesday.
The 2013 bombings killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
Jury selection is ongoing.

Virginia
Redskins lawyers: ruling infringes on free speech

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — A federal government decision to cancel the Washington Redskins’ trademark because it may be disparaging infringes on free-speech rights and unfairly singles the team out, lawyers argued in court papers filed Monday.
The team wants to overturn a decision last year by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Redskins’ trademark on the grounds that it may be offensive to Native Americans. But the team’s attorneys say the law barring registration of disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
The trademark board’s decision unfairly singles out the Redskins “for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins’ name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate. This the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate,” the lawyers write in their brief.
The lawyers argue that the government has no business deciding that a name such as Redskins is disparaging and undeserving of trademark protection while deeming other names such as Braves to be content-neutral and allowable for trademarks.
The team still disputes that Redskins is a disparaging term and has asked the judge to rule in the team’s favor based on that argument. But the court papers filed Monday focus on the constitutionality of the law that bans registration of disparaging trademarks.
The government has intervened in the civil lawsuit to defend the law’s constitutionality. In similar cases, government lawyers have argued that the law doesn’t ban disparaging speech; it just denies the protection of a federal trademark to those words. For instance, the Redskins would not be prohibited from calling themselves the Redskins just because they lose the trademark case — they would just lose some of the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark.
The team says free-speech protections should be understood more broadly. The team says the First Amendment can be violated by government restrictions that burden speech even if they don’t ban it outright. The team argues that canceling a trademark represents such a burden, especially for a football club that has used the name since 1933.
A lawyer for the group of Native Americans that sought cancellation of the trademark did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
The team also argues that canceling the trademark after decades of lawful registration amounts due a denial of due process because of the difficulty in trying to defend itself so many years after the fact.
A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 5.
 

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