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NYC Facing Red Light Camera Class-Action Lawsuit

New York City is facing a class-action lawsuit. The city is accused of rigging the lights to catch more drivers and write more tickets. They’re so-called “gotcha” cameras, mounted at intersections. Their photos catch and help ticket drivers running red lights. New York City had them first in 1998. By federal law, drivers have to have enough time to get through a yellow light — three seconds at the typical 30-mile-per-hour intersection. Back in October, engineers at AAA New York discovered a problem. At some city intersections with the cameras, the yellow lights were almost a half-second too fast. Red light violators who later had to pay up now feel set up. Hughes is part of a class-action suit, alleging fraud against the City of New York and its 150 red light cameras. They helped generate more than $235 million in fine revenue during the last five years — $47 million in the last year alone.The New York City Department of Transportation in a statement said, “There has been no substantiation that any red-light cameras in this report were improperly timed or led to any violation being issued incorrectly.” But this past June, New Jersey suspended its entire red light camera program. Turns out, 63 of its 85 cameras gave drivers too little time to make the yellow light, as required by state law.

U.S. Judge Gives Initial OK To Revised Facebook Privacy Settlement

A U.S. judge on Monday gave his preliminary approval to a second attempt by Facebook Inc to settle a class action lawsuit which charges t h e social networking company with violating privacy rights. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in California rejected a settlement in August over Facebook’s ‘Sponsored Stories’ advertising feature, questioning why it did not award money to Facebook members for using their personal information. But in a ruling handed down Monday, Seeborg said a revised settlement “falls within the range of possible approval as fair, reasonable and adequate.” In a revised proposal, Facebook and plaintiff lawyers said users now could claim a cash payment of up to $10 each to be paid from a $20 million total settlement fund. Any money remaining would then go to charity. If it receives final approval, the proposed settlement would resolve a 2011 lawsuit originally filed by five Facebook Inc members. The lawsuit alleged the Sponsored Stories feature violated California law by publicizing users’ “likes” of certain advertisers without paying them or giving them a way to opt out. The case involved over 100 million potential class members.

Calif. Judge Partly Blocks Gay Conversion Therapy Ban

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked California from enforcing a landmark law that bars therapy aimed at reversing homosexuality in minors, but he applied the ruling to just three people, Reuters reports. Two licensed therapists and one aspiring therapist filed a suit against the law, which is due to go into effect on Jan. 1. U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb ruled the trio would temporarily not be subject to the legislation pending resolution of a trial on their complaints. California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, in September signed into law a ban against the ‘conversion therapy’ for children and teenagers, making the nation’s most populous state the first in the country to do so. The law bars therapists from performing sexual-orientation change counseling with children and teenagers under 18 and was supported by the California Psychological Association. Gay rights advocates say the therapy can psychologically harm gay and lesbian youths, leading to depression or even suicide. They say the treatment, also called reparative therapy, has no medical basis because homosexuality is not a disorder.

U.S. Law Targeting Drug Smuggles In Foreign Waters Deemed Illegal

In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard spotted a wooden fishing boat without lights and a flag off the coast of Panama and reported the suspicious vessel to the Panamanian Navy. The Navy pursued the boat until its occupants jumped out and fled — then it found 760 kilos of cocaine on board. Panamanian authorities later arrested the four occupants on the beach and in the jungle, and turned them over to the U.S. government for prosecution in Miami. In a bit of a blow to the endless war on drugs, a federal appeals court has concluded the 1986 law used to charge the defendants is llegal. In November, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta vacated their convictions after finding that Congress exceeded its constitutional power when it passed a portion of that law that was used to prosecute them.  The Miami Herald reports an appeals court found that the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act could not be used for prosecuting drug smugglers arrested within the 12-mile territorial waters of foreign countries such as Colombia, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras. In the Panama case, three of the four defendants have already served their U.S. prison terms and have been deported, but one defendant is still serving a 7 1/2 year sentence.

Credit Agencies Win U.S. Legal Victory On Mortgage Ratings

Major credit rating agencies won a fresh legal victory on Monday when a federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit by Ohio pension funds that sought to recoup millions of dollars of losses on risky mortgage debt they said were based on flawed, inflated ratings. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the September 2011 dismissal of the lawsuit against Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. Investors, regulators and politicians have criticized the agencies for exacerbating the housing and financial crises by awarding high ratings to risky debt that soon turned toxic. The agencies have long said their ratings were protected opinions under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. five pension funds led by the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund said they lost $457 million by having made 308 investments in mortgage debt between January 1, 2005, and July 8, 2008, relying on “triple-A” ratings that proved “unfounded and unjustified.”  The three-judge appeals court panel unanimously ruled that the Ohio funds failed to show that the agencies should be liable under various Ohio laws, or for acting negligently in misrepresenting their ratings.

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