News Roundup

Weekly Briefs: SCOTUS asked to hear high school admissions case over race; utility company faces suit after Hawaii wildfires

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Supreme Court could hear high school admissions case involving race

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday was asked to hear a Virginia high school admissions case over race. The Coalition for TJ, a group of parents and students, filed the petition for writ of certiorari in response to the Fairfax County School Board’s overhauling of its admissions policy at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. According to the coalition, the adopted changes are racially discriminatory to Asian American students and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. In June, the Supreme Court cited the equal protection clause when striking down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. (The Washington Post, the New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg Law)

Maui County sues Hawaiian Electric over deadly wildfires

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Maui County, Hawaii, alleges that the Hawaiian Electric Company contributed to the catastrophic wildfires in historic Lahaina and other parts of West Maui that caused the deaths of at least 100 people in early August. According to Maui County’s suit, Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries allegedly failed to shut off its power lines, despite dry conditions and high winds caused by passing Hurricane Dora. The utility company recognized that high winds “would topple power poles, knock down power lines and ignite vegetation,” the lawsuit said, according to the Associated Press. “Defendants also knew that if their overhead electrical equipment ignited a fire, it would spread at a critically rapid rate.” (CNN, NPR, Courthouse News Service)

Covington & Burling partner will head FTC’s Bureau of Competition

Henry Liu, a partner at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., will become the new director of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, the federal agency announced Tuesday. Lina M. Khan, chair of the FTC, noted that Liu’s “experience and expertise will equip the commission to continue tackling unfair methods of competition and protecting the American public from unlawful business practices.” Liu, a graduate of Yale Law School, practiced litigation and antitrust at Covington & Burling and has litigated complex antitrust cases for more than 14 years. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

AstraZeneca hit with lawsuits over COVID-19 vaccines

Global pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca is facing two lawsuits over its COVID-19 vaccines in England, the first country to roll out those vaccines in early 2021. Reuters reports that Anish Tailor, whose wife died in March 2021 after receiving her first dose, filed a product liability suit against the company Aug. 4. Jamie Scott, who was diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenia after receiving AstraZeneca’s vaccine, filed a second product liability suit Monday. Tailor’s lawyer Peter Todd reportedly told Reuters that nearly 50 other clients also are preparing to sue AstraZeneca. (Reuters)

Actress Susan Sarandon sues construction company over litany of home’s issues

Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon is suing a construction company for allegedly causing “extensive problems” at her $2 million home in Vermont. In the Aug. 17 complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Sarandon said DeGrenier Contracting and Property Management and owner Chad DeGrenier were responsible for 47 issues, including buckled siding, cracked foundation and exposed outdoor pipes. “Any of these construction defects are due to Mr. DeGrenier’s consistent failure to select and manage qualified, independent contractors and his practice of selecting friends and family members to construct or install specific portions of the home,” the lawsuit says. (Reuters)

Gibson Dunn visiting lawyer faces insider trading allegations

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged a Brazilian attorney who was working at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., with insider trading. According to the U.S. attorney’s office of the District of Columbia, Romero Cabral Da Costa Neto had been working as an international visiting attorney at the law firm on a one-year J-1 Visa. He allegedly accessed internal firm files and traded on information about drugmaker Swedish Orphan Biovitrum’s acquisition of CTI BioPharma in May. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. (Bloomberg Law, Reuters,

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