Monday status conference: election gets local

Good morning. The justices of the Supreme Court return from their recess on Friday, when they are scheduled to conference in advance of next week’s resumption of oral arguments. Expect some new decisions to be on the way as well.

In Congress, lawmakers could unveil the much-anticipated energy bill this week. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, whether you call it the Potomac Primary or the Chesapeake Primary, the presidential hopefuls are on the stump all over the greater DC area in anticipation for tomorrow’s election. (WaPo)

Here’s a look at what’s in this week’s issue of Lawyers USA. (Subscribers can click the link for the full story).

A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board late last year makes clear that employers can ban union solicitations on their e-mail systems. Management attorneys say that the ruling isn’t surprising because employers generally maintain control over their company e-mail systems. But union advocates complain that the decision makes employers’ property rights paramount, to the detriment of employees’ right to communicate about union-related matters. More here.

Courts in Oregon and California have reached dramatically different conclusions in reviewing punitive damage awards in two tobacco cases. Both suits involved individual plaintiffs who sued Philip Morris for negligence and fraud associated with decades of covering up the harmful effects of smoking. In California, a jury had awarded the plaintiff $28 billion in punitives; in Oregon, the jury awarded almost $80 million.
The Oregon case, Williams v. Philip Morris, was eventually argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated the punitive award and remanded the case for reconsideration. More here.

In a move designed to aggregate for the first time information on national bankruptcy filings, as well as detect and stamp out fraud, the government wants to require debtors to use special data-encrypted “smart” forms from which filers’ financial information can be quickly obtained. But some attorneys, fearing that invisible financial data in the forms can be easily accessed by third parties, say the move could leave their clients’ privacy unprotected. More here.

As a federal court in Washington, D.C. continues the lengthy process of determining whether a link exists between childhood vaccines and autism, other developments are casting doubt on the likelihood of a connection. More here.

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