News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: Supreme Court to hear juvenile sentencing case; Led Zeppelin wins ‘Stairway' fight

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Supreme Court takes another case over juvenile life-without-parole sentences

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to determine if the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment requires the court to find a juvenile “permanently incorrigible” before giving him or her the sentence of life in prison without parole. Brett Jones, who was 15 when he killed his grandfather in Mississippi, was sentenced in 2004 to life without parole, the mandatory sentence for murder in the state. He was granted a new sentencing hearing after the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama in 2012 that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders were unconstitutional, but he was given the same sentence. The Supreme Court was set to weigh in on the issue in a previous case argued in October, but it was dismissed last month after a new Virginia law made juveniles eligible for parole after serving 20 years of their sentences. (New York Times, Courthouse News Service, The Hill, Bloomberg Law)

Appeals court upholds Led Zeppelin win in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ copyright case

On Monday, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a 2016 decision that Led Zeppelin’s song, “Stairway to Heaven,” did not infringe on the copyright of Spirit’s 1968 instrumental song, “Taurus.” The decision comes in a long-running legal dispute, in which a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled in 2018 that the original trial—that Led Zeppelin won—involved “erroneous jury instructions” and ordered a new trial. In its ruling, the 9th Circuit also overturned a long-standing precedent known as the “inverse ratio rule,” which holds that if one party shows a higher degree of access to a work, the less substantial the similarities need to be to prove infringement. “To the extent ‘access’ still has meaning, the inverse ratio rule unfairly advantages those whose work is most accessible by lowering the standard of proof for similarity,” the court wrote. (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, New York Times, Rolling Stone, March 9 opinion)

Nonprofit legal defense firm provides free service to clients facing eviction

The attorneys at BASTA, a legal defense firm that focuses on tenants’ rights and housing in Los Angeles County in California, have helped prevent more than 40 evictions, waived rent worth nearly $530,000 and secured relocation costs of more than $50,000 in just the first three months of a free program it offers to people in danger of becoming homeless. “BASTA Universal!” was launched in November at 11 courthouses in the county in response to a new state law that created rent control and limited no-fault evictions, and as a result, spurred an increase in landlords issuing eviction notices. (Long Beach Press-Telegram)

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