Gay Marriage Nears Supreme Court With Inevitability Tag

If a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage looks inevitable, perhaps it is. Since a pivotal high court ruling 13 months ago, gay-marriage advocates have tallied more than two dozen lower court victories without a single defeat. With this week’s decision in Virginia, two federal appeals courts have now backed same-sex marriage. Courts have consistently read last year’s ruling, U.S. v. Windsor, as undercutting any rationale for state bans. “I can’t think of any Supreme Court decision in history that has ever created so rapid and broad a lower-court groundswell in a single direction as Windsor,” said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. “Nor can I think of any historical examples in which lower courts have so overwhelmingly and universally read a Supreme Court decision one way, only to have the court say ‘Never mind, you’ve all gotten it wrong.’”

Banks Cash In on Inversion Deals Intended to Elude Taxes

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, “I love America.” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, “Investing in America still produces the best return.”Yet guess who’s behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs…“This is an economic game. There are no virgins anywhere,” said Stephen E. Shay, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former deputy assistant Treasury secretary for international tax affairs in the Obama administration. “We can’t look to the banks to stop inversions. They will not look at this based on morality. They will look at it on the basis of fees.”

Senate Panel Takes On Tax Inversions

The chorus of voices on Capitol Hill calling for an end to corporate inversions grew louder on Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the issue of American companies reincorporating abroad, and legislators proposed new punitive measures against inverted companies…But while agreeing that the current system is broken, Mihir A. Desai, a professor of law at Harvard University, said punitive legislation could be counterproductive. “Legislation that is narrowly focused on preventing inversions or specific transactions runs the risk of being counterproductive,” he said. ”For example, rules that increase the required size of a foreign target to ensure the tax benefits of an inversion can deter these transactions but can also lead to more substantive transactions.”

FDA Regulation of Mobile Health Technologies

An op-ed by Nathan G. Cortez, I. Glenn Cohen, and Aaron S. Kesselheim. Medicine may stand at the cusp of a mobile transformation. Mobile health, or “mHealth,” is the use of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets for medical purposes, including diagnosis, treatment, or support of general health and well-being…However, mHealth has also become a challenge for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulator responsible for ensuring that medical devices are safe and effective. The FDA’s oversight of mHealth devices has been controversial to members of Congress and industry,10 who worry that “applying a complex regulatory framework could inhibit future growth and innovation in this promising market.”11 But such oversight has become increasingly important.

A 21st Century Fox-Time Warner Merger Would Narrow Already Dwindling Competition

The much-admired Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black may be rolling in his grave at the prospect of a merger between 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc., which would reduce control of the major Hollywood studios to five owners, from six, and major television producers to four, from five…“The situation is already terrible and this would make it worse,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor in intellectual property at Harvard Law School. Coupled with giant cable and Internet distributors, like Comcast and AT&T, “you’ve got two highly concentrated markets that need each other to survive and protect their profits,” Professor Crawford said. “The public interest side of this conversation is hopelessly outgunned.”

Obamacare Has a Scary Day in Court

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, the judges in Washington took another big chomp out of the Affordable Care Act. No, not the Supreme Court — this time it was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a 2-1 panel decision on partisan lines, the appeals court ruled that the tax subsidies for insurance coverage purchased from federal exchanges are illegal. The effect of the decision is to drastically undercut Obamacare by enabling all 36 states that don’t have their own exchanges to exempt millions of people from the individual mandate that they buy insurance. Meanwhile, across the Potomac River, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled the opposite way.

Time No Barrier to Law Professor Ronald Sullivan Getting to Truth

…Fleming’s case is one of many that are now under review at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office since District Attorney Kenneth Thompson took charge last January. Eight have already been exonerated out of scores of potentially wrongful convictions. Under Thompson’s direction, the old Conviction Integrity Unit has expanded to become the Conviction Review Unit. The objective of the new unit is simple: to bring the innocent to justice and restore faith in the legal system…Thompson has brought in Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard law professor, as a consultant on the design and operation of the new unit. As both a professor and attorney, Sullivan has real-world experience and a sophisticated eye for the legal process.

What the Hobby Lobby Ruling Means for America

Last month, as you’ve probably heard, a closely divided Supreme Court ruled that corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. The so-called Hobby Lobby decision, named for the chain of craft stores that brought the case, has been both praised and condemned for expanding religious rights and constraining Obamacare. But beneath the political implications, the ruling has significant economic undertones. It expands the right of corporations to be treated like people, part of a trend that may be contributing to the rise of economic inequality…Minority shareholders have little power to influence the choices that corporations make. Benjamin I. Sachs, a law professor at Harvard University, notes that while federal law lets union members prevent the use of their dues for political purposes, shareholders do not have similar rights. “If we’re going to say that collectives have speech rights, then we should treat unions and corporations the same,” Sachs told me.

When U.S. companies dodge taxes, is it unpatriotic?

The rush is on for big U.S. companies to lower their tax bills. They do it by merging with foreign companies in countries with lower rates and officially moving their home base. The strategy is called “inversion,” and it’s legal. But is it un-patriotic? …The trend of U.S. companies moving abroad is more a testament to, among other things, “the importance of non-U.S. markets for U.S. firms,” said Mihir Desai, a Harvard professor of finance and law. “Rather than questioning the loyalties of executives it is critical to understand these underlying … forces.”