Monthly Archives: April 2015

New Jersey Still Fighting Hard to Legalize Sports Gambling

Posted by Adam Kutarnia.

People have been betting on sports for centuries, however, the multi-billion dollar industry is illegal in almost all parts of the United States except for four states – Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. Last summer, 29 men were arrested in New Jersey for running a sports betting ring that grossed approximately to $3 million during a 12-month period. New Jersey is one of the many states where sports gambling is illegal, but many are fighting to change the law.

While most of the world allows sports gambling, the United States has been strict about it since passing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibits sports gambling nationwide, excluding a few states. New Jersey has been pushing hard to legalize sports gambling in the last couple years, but has been unsuccessful due to four major professional sports leagues – NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL and NCAA blocking it.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christe has been a strong supporter of legalizing sports gambling in New Jersey, and even signed a law passed by the state legislatures to allow sports gambling in New Jersey’s casinos and racetracks, before the major professional leagues and NCAA blocked it. The plaintiffs argue that sports betting would harm the integrity of sports and violate federal law. As of right now, New Jersey is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue to offshore and organized crime.

New Jersey will get another shot at their case after a federal court hearing before a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals took place last month; a ruling in the case will be made on June 26.

Like the case above with the 29 men being arrested for running a sports betting ring, people want to bet on games and will do so whether it’s legal or not.

Adam is a business administration major with a concentration in finance at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

State Seeks to Introduce Prior Bad Act in Prosecution of Police Officer

A police officer in New Jersey is accused of witness tampering and official misconduct. The State claims the officer tried to contact a state trooper and convince him not to appear in court on DUI charges against his cousin.

The prosecutor seeks to introduce as a “prior bad act” an incident where the officer tried to intervene on a DUI charge against his uncle. The State’s key witness is a former municipal prosecutor who claims he was in a private meeting with the arresting officers when defendant tried to get his “attention” in the matter. The arresting officers indicated the arrestee was defendant’s uncle. The prosecutor allegedly exclaimed, “You should know better than this, ” and then later had the case transferred to another court. The officer’s lawyer argued to the court, “My guy said nothing. It’s unfair to conclude he was there to interject himself badly. That’s speculation.” He further argued that his client could have entered the room to talk about two other cases in which he was involved at the time. The officer was never charged with any misconduct.

That fact was argued to the the judge.  Because he was never charged, the attorney argued, to allow a jury to hear about it would be “‘very prejudicial . . . You’re asking me to try two cases in front of the jury at the same time.'”

The court questioned the prosecutor extensively as to why he was never charged, but the prosecutor contended the State could not prove the incident beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, the standard, the prosecutor argued, for prior bad acts was a “‘lower standard.'” The standard is clear and convincing evidence, and court inquired how was the evidence clear and convincing when the municipal prosecutor stated the officer did not say anything to him. The prosecutor, however, maintained that the officer made several calls to the processing room and “‘showed interest'” when his uncle was being booked. The judge indicated there was nothing in police department’s policy that prohibited an officer to inquire about the status of a family member.

The State has an uphill battle. It appears they have at least a preponderance of the evidence that the officer did anything to influence the municipal prosecutor but may fall short of the required clear and convincing evidence. Just showing up in a room without saying anything shifts the focus on the arresting officer’s statement to the municipal prosecutor that the arrestee was his uncle and the municipal prosecutor’s assumption that simply by his very presence he was there to influence him not to prosecute his uncle. This may not be enough to get over the hurdle.

New Jersey Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides, in material part, that:

evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the disposition of a person in order to show that such person acted in conformity therewith. Such evidence may be admitted for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident when such matters are relevant to a material issue in dispute.

The rule is substantially similar to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).  N.J.R.E. 404(b) exists primarily “to guard a defendant’s right to a fair trial by avoiding the danger that a jury might convict the accused because the jurors perceive him to be a bad person.” New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Services v. I.H.C., 415 N.J.Super. 551, 571 (App. Div. 2010).

The federal advisory committee notes state: “No mechanical solution is offered,” and deciding whether to admit evidence of other crimes depends on “whether the danger of undue prejudice outweighs the probative value of the evidence in view of the availability of other means of proof and other factors appropriate for making decisions of this kind under Rule 403.”

Under State v. Cofield, the prosecution must satisfy a four-prong test before evidence of a prior bad act can be admitted:

1. The evidence of the other crime must be admissible as relevant to a material issue;

2. It must be similar in kind and reasonably close in time to the offense charged;

3. The evidence of the other crime must be clear and convincing; and

4. The probative value of the evidence must not be outweighed by its apparent prejudice.

127 N.J. 328 (1992).

In State v. Collier, the appellate division upheld the trial court’s decision to permit testimony about a prior incident involving animal cruelty in order to show the defendant had a motive to rob and shoot the victim, because the defendant knew the victim told the police that defendant was involved in the animal cruelty incident. 316 N.J.Super. 181, 196 (App. Div. 1998).  The fact that both acts were dissimilar is not dispositive as to admissibility. Id. at 194.

In the present case, the State has to show that there was some motive by the defendant to contact the state trooper to stop him from testifying based on his prior act of entering a room when his uncle’s DUI was being discussed by the arresting officers and the municipal prosecutor. That appears to show more a pattern of behavior than motive as required by the rule. And whether or not it amounts to clear and convincing evidence of motive remains to be seen.

NJ Settlement with Exxon: Was it Enough?

Posted by Keith Cleary.

A lawsuit has erupted between Exxon Mobile and the state of New Jersey, particularly two industrial sites in New Jersey, Union and Hudson counties, according to the New York Times (Sullivan). The lawsuit, “which has been filed in 2004 and litigated by four administrations, is a $8.9 billion dollar lawsuit.” (Sullivan). The lawsuit is about the contamination that Exxon left on the marshes and forestland, and New Jersey is willing to pay $250 million dollars to clean up the 1,500 acres of petroleum contaminated fields. The $250 million dollars that Exxon offered to pay is not nearly enough to pay the amount it would actually take to clean the fields.

The amount that Exxon offered to clean up the fields, “infuriated environmentalists and a state lawmaker, after experts determined that it would cost billions to clean up the properties in northern New Jersey.” (Sullivan). In particular, the areas that the lawsuit covers are the facilities of the Bayonne and the Bayway sites, where surprisingly, the use of chemical production and petroleum refining goes back to a hundred years. Those years of spills also contributed to the contamination of the lands. “A report compiled for the state by Stratus Consulting of Colorado determined that it would take $2.5 billion to clean the site up, and an additional $6.4 billion to restore enough wetland and forestland.” (Sullivan).

Many people are questioning why the state decided to settle for such a low amount of money. Debbie Mans, head of NY/NJ Baykeeper, said, “I think it’s criminal to settle so low.” (Sullivan). Settling an almost $9 billion dollar lawsuit with $250 million is by far criminal. It is like paying $500 dollars for a $250,000 Ferrari. However, along with making the state accountable for the cleanup of the area, they were trying to “reimburse taxpayers for the years of lost use—the same way a victim of a car accident can seek lost employment wages from the responsible driver.” (Sullivan). So, not only are they trying to make up for the damages but also lost time.

There was also speculation about donations made from Exxon to the Republican Governor’s Association while Christie was chairman of the organization. “The Exxon Mobile Corporation contributed more the $500,00 to the association in 2014 during Christie’s tenure, and $200,00 in 2013.” (Sullivan). Even though all of these contributions were made, apparently none of it had anything to do with Christie being chairman. With the small settlement, it was called into question what it would be used for. Prior to this, Christie’s administration used $130 million of a $190 million settlement with a Passaic River polluter to the state’s general fund.

Keith is a business law student at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Tesla Triumphs in New Jersey

Posted by Rizzlyn Melo.

The car-manufacturing company, Tesla, has been battling with New Jersey government officials for the right to sell their premium electric cars in the state. Tesla differs from other car-manufacturers because they sell their vehicles directly from small, independently-owned sites instead of large dealerships. Many of Tesla’s facilities are actually located in various malls in New Jersey. The issue with this practice is that under New Jersey law, cars can only be sold through registered dealerships. In the article, this legislation “was put into place at a time when small local dealers were perceived as vulnerable to the moves of major national manufacturers.” Because of Tesla, this law has been targeted and challenged by various carmakers and consumer-rights groups. Fortunately, it can be said that their efforts have not gone in vain. In March, Governor Chris Christie signed new legislation that allows Tesla to operate at four sites in New Jersey. Shortly after this was signed, New Jersey lawmakers approved an amendment granting zero emission car manufacturers the right to operate dealerships in the state.

Tesla’s success story in New Jersey shows that the market is modernizing. Legislation that was once effective in the past can actually be disadvantageous in the present day. While the law requiring sales through registered dealerships was once helpful to small businesses, it prevented a company from potentially helping the environment. Tesla only produces zero-emission, luxury cars. They are a company seeking to reduce society’s carbon footprint by introducing a sleek, fashionable car to the market that does not require gas. The government’s initial refusal to allow this company to conduct its business in New Jersey made legislators look like they would sacrifice an environmental advancement for the sake of large dealerships. Tesla’s win in New Jersey represents more than the right to sell cars; it is a win for the evolving market that is in need of environmentally friendly products.

Rizzlyn is a business administration major with a concentration in marketing at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

 

Corruption in Brazil

Posted by Rizzlyn Melo.

The practice of corruption in any company hurts every single person involved. This is certainly the case with Petrobras, a Brazilian state-run oil company. The corruption that has been associated within the large company has caused it exponential damages and has tarnished the reputations of both business executives and political figures. In the BBC article, it was reported that the company suffered an “overall loss of $7.2 billion” and an impairment charge of $14.8 billion that reflects the decreased value of its assets. These figures represent the first losses the company has suffered in decades.

The unfortunate circumstances Petrobras is currently facing are the results of various criminal activities. One of the most scandalous discoveries made against Petrobras is its members’ involvement in bribery. Bribery can be defined as the unlawful offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government or public official. Various government officials have been linked to these bribery allegations. Even Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has endured scrutiny for her alleged involvement. Rousseff was a board member of Petrobras during the time of the illegal activity. Thousands of Brazilian people have protested against their elected president. Later, however, an attorney general of any charges exonerated Rousseff. Another form of corruption Petrobras has been accused of is money laundering, which is the concealment of the origins of money obtained illegally. In this case, money laundering was employed to hide bribes as well as several illegal donations made to political parties.

At least forty politicians are currently under investigation. That number does not even include the numerous business executives that have lost their positions. The criminal activities of this one company have ruined countless lives and has shaken an entire nation. The corruption in Petrobras demonstrates how important business law is in keeping companies such as this in check. Petrobras has lost more trust than profit, and that is something it cannot easily make up.

Rizzlyn is a business administration major with a concentration in marketing at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

SCOTUS To Decide Whether Speciality License Plates Are Protected Under The First Amendment

Posted by Tommy Donofrio.

Every motor vehicle must display a license plate signifying that it has been properly registered with the appropriate state or local government. Symbols, colors, or slogans representing the cultural heritage of each state are typically included in the license plate design of each state or jurisdiction. Upon registration, a unique alphanumeric identifying number is assigned to the user. Sometimes, individuals, businesses or organizations remit additional fees to be able to display custom or personalized license plates. These plates, which may help raise awareness and funds for specific causes or groups, must adhere to particular guidelines. That is, perhaps, until now. Recently, the Supreme Court was called on to decide if the “decision to exclude the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) from the specialty license plate program violated the organization’s free speech rights under the First Amendment.”

Not surprisingly, this is the first time the Supreme Court is called on to clarify the law surrounding specialty license plates. The Supreme Court will determine if a message on a specialty plate is considered to be a form of “private” or “government” speech. If it is private, then the First Amendment protects the message. For the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this means that they have the right to display the confederate battle flag to “honor the reputation of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War” even though the state of Texas finds this message racist and offensive. Conversely, if the Supreme Courts determines that specialty plates are a form of government speech, as Texas officials claim, then the state “is allowed to select the message that it is willing to publicly support.” The Sons of Confederate Veterans will not be able to freely express their message.

Although it may seem a trivial issue, it has far reaching ramifications. The Supreme Court’s decision is important because it will influence every state and local jurisdiction going forward. According to Richard W. Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, the ruling will effect “all of the many, many ways that government property and funds facilitate expression and communication.” If the court sides with the state, both individuals and businesses may be hindered from raising awareness and revenue through the use of personalized plates in the future. A decision is expected by early summer.

Tommy is a business administration major with a concentration in management at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Trenton’s Mandatory Sick Leave Affects Small Business

Posted by Briana Brandao.

This article, written by Jenna Pizzi, on March 02, 2015, argues whether or not a union of New Jersey business groups should be mandated to provide paid sick leave to its employees in Trenton. As of now, seven New Jersey municipalities possess a local paid sick leave law. A lawsuit was filed in state court on behalf of these New Jersey business groups on Monday, March 2nd. They claimed that the new law was unconstitutional. As stated by the business groups, “The ordinance allows the city to reach outside its given powers by forcing requirements on employers.” They also asked that the law be banned from taking effect within the upcoming week.

The reasoning behind this possible injunction is that business groups feel the new law tries to reach outside the boundaries of Trenton. As stated per the lawsuit, “The law as written seeks to reach outside the city boundaries to impose the law on business owners that are not located in Trenton but have employees that work here.” The business group’s attorney, Christopher Gibson, also argued, “Trenton’s mandatory paid sick leave ordinance is vague, ambiguous and . . . impossible to interpret, administer or implement.”

Although New Jersey business groups make valid points, the new ordinance faces great controversy as a vast number of voters approved it earlier on in November of 2014. Trenton spokesman, Michael Walker, even went on to say, “Trenton voters demanded that the ordinance become law and the city is preparing to enforce it.” If Trenton’s paid sick leave ordinance were to take effect, it would mean that for every thirty hours worked, a worker would be eligible to earn one hour of sick time. For New Jersey businesses with ten employees or more, it would result in a maximum of five sick days per year. For New Jersey businesses with less than ten employees, it would result in up to three paid sick days per year.

The increase in paid sick days would allow employees the opportunity to take care of themselves as well as any immediate family members who may need care. However, it is important to note, if employers offer better benefit packages, they are not required to award more paid sick time to their employees.

Briana is a business administration major with a concentration in management and fashion studies at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

The Importance of Transparency in Public Meetings

Posted by Briana Brandao.

This article, written by MaryAnn Spoto, brings to question whether or not Rutgers University violated the New Jersey open public meetings law, during one of their meetings held back in September of 2008. Francis McGovern Jr, a lawyer as well as audience member of this meeting, objected to the way these meetings were promoted and handled. McGovern noted that audience members waited over four hours while board members discussed issues behind closed doors. Once the board of governors finally reassembled, many audience members had grown tired of waiting and already left.

McGovern also noted that the Rutgers board of governors failed to mention topics discussed behind closed doors such as talk of Rutgers new football stadium. She stated, “This case is about governmental transparency,” and believes these long and tedious closed sessions dissuade public attendance. During her case, she asked that the court make it mandatory for Rutgers to hold public meetings first. She believed that by not bringing to light all issues discussed among Board of Governors, that Rutgers violated the law.

Although many may argue that McGovern had reason behind her case, the Supreme Court still ruled that Rutgers University was in compliance with the law. The court did not believe that Rutgers conducted their meetings in a way that discouraged public attendance. The court also stated that Rutgers Board of Governors did not violate the open public meetings law.

However, the court did agree that lawmakers should in fact look into tightening the law. Discussion of tightening this law would allow citizens the opportunity to challenge public organizations trying to get around the law. All in all, Rutgers University was pleased with the court’s decision.

Briana is a business administration major with a concentration in management and fashion studies at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

Embattled Apple and Samsung Settled Some Lawsuits

Posted by Keith Cleary.

For almost a half of a decade now, over 40 patent lawsuits have been going on between “the two largest smartphone companies, Apple and Samsung.” (Chowdhry). However, the two companies came to terms on ending all of the patent lawsuits that are outside of the U.S. These countries are all over the world including Britain, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Even though these two technology giants are dropping their lawsuits against each other internationally, they still have not ended their lawsuits against each other in the states. A few years ago, “a jury in California awarded Apple with $119 million out of a $2.2 billion lawsuit against Samsung three months ago”(Chowdhry). Even, though they settled their disputes overseas, the two competitors are still relentless with their lawsuits.

Some of the lawsuits are driven by a patent lawsuit filed in 2011. Steve Jobs was actually behind the lawsuits in 2011 saying, “I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” (Chowdhry). “This” meaning the lawsuits filed in 2011 were over Samsung’s Android. The two companies have tried to work out their differences through a mediator but to no avail. Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court was actually really hoping for a resolution. She stated, “If all you wanted is to raise awareness that you have I.P. (Intellectual Property) on these devices, messages delivered. In many respects, mission accomplished. It’s time for peace.” She further stated, “If you could have your CEOs have one last conversation, I’d appreciate it.”(Chowdhry). She realizes that the two companies do not want each other copying off their designs and property.

The comical part about all of this is that, with all the lawsuits going on, Samsung and Apple are business partners. Samsung supplies major components to Apple’s products, such as memory chips and processors. However, it does not look like this relationship will last forever. While Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest customers, it looks like their taking business elsewhere—“Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company,” to be exact. (Chowdhry). Apple buys chips and other components from them.

The good news is that Apple is reducing the amount of lawsuits against Samsung. Apple dropped one of their lawsuits for patent infringement and the two companies settled another lawsuit with the U.S. International Trade Commission regarding an important ban on Samsung’s products (Chowdhry). With the dropped lawsuits, there is a chance for amends and a new relationship between them.

Keith is a business law student at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Bad “Yelp” Reviews Should be Protected by the First Amendment

Posted by Jen Suarez.

To what extent is defamation? From my last blog article, I defined defamation as “malicious and damaging misrepresentation,” where an organization was falsely accused of rape. However, can anyone play to the “defamation card” if they don’t like what other’s have to say? For example, Yelp.com is a website where consumers can post and rate the quality of businesses anonymously. The Rhodes Group, which is a Collin County Texas real estate firm, received a poor review on the Yelp website and is now suing on the grounds of defamation; they are requesting the name of the customer, whose username is “Lin L.” The Rhodes Group does not even believe that “Lin L.” is a real person. In fact, they openly suggest that this username belongs to someone from a competing organization, trying to ruin The Rhodes Group’s reputation. The Rhodes Group, however, is fighting in court against Public Citizen, which claims that revealing the user’s identity violates the user’s right to privacy. Though the negative Yelp review has been removed, there is no confirmation its removal was due to the impending lawsuit.

The Public Citizen lawyer, representing Yelp, stated that there is no justification for revealing the user’s identity, especially since The Rhodes Group did not file any complaint until well over a year after the review had been posted. According to its website, “Public Citizen maintains that the Rhodes Group’s claim violates the one-year statute of limitation for libel suits and, additionally, that the subpoena was issued in the wrong state and therefore cannot be enforced by the Texas court.” The Rhodes Group is fighting back stating, “You can’t use the First Amendment as a shield to make false and defamatory statements about an individual, particularly in a commercial arena.”

The Rhodes Group is absolutely right that Yelp cannot hide behind the “First Amendment Shield,” however, Yelp and Public Citizen are correct that the user’s identity should remain anonymous and there is no justification to reveal it. Bad, anonymous reviews, whether they are fake or genuine, are part of the online world. Millions of users have the ability to hide behind a keyboard and this allows us to bestow harsher criticism without fear of consequences. Freedom of speech does not include libel. Therefore, the result of this court case could determine how “free” freedom of speech actually is on the World Wide Web.

Jen is a business administration major with a concentration in management at Montclair State University, Class of 2017.