LeBron James hit with trademark suit over his barbershop-based web series


Trademark Law

LeBron James and his multimedia platform, Uninterrupted, were sued by a Detroit barbershop that claims trademark infringement over the NBA star’s web series.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Sebastian Jackson, owner of the The Social Club Grooming Co. He says the concept for James’ web series, The Shop, is his own. Courthouse News Service, Law360 and the Washington Post also have stories.

Jackson says in his suit that the Social Club is “a dual-purpose barbershop and content studio whose mission, in addition to providing haircuts, is to support cultural discussion, building community, personal growth and diversity.”

Jackson says that out of this business he created the Shop Talk concept, a program “where guests consist of local and national celebrities who share their business success stories and other insights while getting their hair cut.” He trademarked Shop Talk through his company, Adventure Enterprises, in 2016.

According to the lawsuit, Jackson started pitching the idea to Uninterrupted executives in 2014, seeking to partner with the multimedia platform. The discussions lasted until December 2016, when Uninterrupted aired the first episode of The Shop on James’ website “without Adventure Enterprises’ knowledge or consent.”

Jackson claims in his suit he was told by an associate of the defendants that James’ show was a “one-time thing.” However, two more episodes of The Shop have since aired, even though Jackson sent the defendants a cease-and-desist letter last August.

Adventure Enterprises seeks an injunction that prevents James and Uninterrupted from using the “confusingly similar” mark.

In addition to trademark infringement, the lawsuit alleges service-mark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, conversion and conspiracy.

The suit comes weeks after James sent an infringement letter to the University of Alabama raising concerns about its Shop Talk web series’ similarities to The Shop. The University of Alabama renamed its series Bama Cuts after the first episode.



Ex-Dolphins cheerleader files complaint claiming religious and gender discrimination


Labor & Employment

Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ann Ware filed a complaint against the team and the NFL earlier this month claiming she was discriminated against because of her religion and gender.

Ware’s complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations said she was subjected to a hostile work environment, ESPN reported, and that as a cheerleader she was held to different standards than players regarding social media and outward expression of her Christian beliefs. Ware was a cheerleader with the team for three seasons through 2017.

According to Law360, Ware said in her complaint that cheerleading director Dorie Grogan, other coaches and squad representatives harassed her after she posted a photo of her baptism on social media during the 2016 off-season.

The Washington Post reported Ware told her teammates during a bus trip conversation that she intended to remain a virgin until marriage because of her religious beliefs. Ware’s complaint said Grogan then told her she could talk about her virginity in private but never around the team. According to the complaint, when Ware told Grogan she shared the personal information only when asked, Grogan interrupted her and said: “As far as we are concerned, you have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful, and you’ve made it dirty.”

Ware’s complaint claims that while both cheerleaders and football players represent the Dolphins, only players can express their religious beliefs in any manner they choose—via social media or even on-field prayer—without censorship or discipline. Ware said when she wrote a post for the team blog, it was edited to remove religious references.

“The NFL and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws.”

In a statement, the Dolphins said: “We are seriously committed to providing a positive work environment for everyone associated with the organization. We hold every member of our organization to the same standards and do not discriminate as it relates to gender, race and religious beliefs.”

Sara Blackwell, Ware’s attorney, told Law360 that it was “not abnormal” for NFL cheerleaders to face harassment and discriminatory policies. Blackwell also represents former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis, who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last month, Law360 reported. Davis claims she was discriminated against when the Saints fired her over an Instagram post in which she was wearing an outfit the team claimed violated its rules and rumors she had been at the same party as a player.

Players have no rules about social media postings and are not punished for violating the team’s anti-fraternization policy, her complaint alleges.

The goal of Ware’s complaint is to get the Dolphins and NFL to revise their rules and enforce existing anti-discrimination and harassment rules, Blackwell told Law360.


Riley Safer names managing partner who may be the first black female to lead a national law firm

Law Firms


Patricia Brown Holmes/Photo by Wayne Slezak.

Riley, Safer, Holmes & Cancila has named co-founder Patricia Brown Holmes as its first managing partner in what may be a precedent-setting appointment, according to the law firm.

Holmes, an African-American female, may be the first black woman to lead a national law firm of more than 50 lawyers that is not women- or minority-owned, according to a press release. The American Lawyer and Law360 have stories.

Other minority females leading law firms include include Faiza Saeed, who became Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s presiding partner in 2016, and Graciela Gomez Cowger, who became CEO of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt last year, according to The American Lawyer.

“To be the first to shatter the glass ceiling, I think, is an enormous responsibility,” Holmes told The American Lawyer. “But I’m hopeful that what it means is that fairly soon, in the next five to 10 years, it’s commonplace.”

Riley Safer was created in 2016 with lawyers from Schiff Hardin. Riley Safer now has 73 lawyers. Fifty-two percent are women and 29 percent are minorities.

Holmes is a former Cook County, Illinois, judge and prosecutor, and is currently serving as a special prosecutor for Cook County in a case accusing three police officers of a cover-up in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

She told the ABA Journal in a feature last December about a battle with lymphoma after being told in 1999 that she might have only six months to live. “I tend to be tenacious and determined,” Holmes said. “I didn’t accept the prognosis. I assessed the situation and found ways to fight.”


Fewer entry-level positions in most job categories for 2017 law grads, new ABA data shows



Entry-level hiring has decreased at law firms, in the government and public interest arenas, and in academia, according to employment data released Friday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

According to the data, 26,293 members of the class of 2017 had long-term, full-time jobs that require law degrees or are considered “JD advantage” positions roughly 10 months after graduation. For the class of 2016, there were 26,923 members who had long-term, full-time jobs in those categories—630 more than last year.

There is a slight percentage increase of of graduates in those positions—from 72.6 percent in 2016 to 75.3 percent in 2017—but that’s because of a 6 percent decrease in the size of the graduating class, according to an ABA news release.

This year’s data includes data tables by year.

The year-over-year percentage decreases in jobs for the class of 2017 by type:

    • • Academia: 18 percent decrease.


    • • Business and industry:15.4 percent decrease.


    • • Government: 5.7 percent decrease.


    • • Law firms: 2.3 percent decrease.


    • • Clerkships: 1.9 percent decrease.


    • • Public interest: 1.2 percent decrease.


Focusing only on long-term, full-time, JD-required jobs for the class of 2017 (and removing solo practice jobs) there’s a 1.2 percent increase from 2016, says Bernard Burk, a former assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Burk recently spoke about the job market for new law school graduates at a summit sponsored by Florida International University College of Law.

“I would predict that the number of entry-level law jobs will continue to grow roughly proportionate to the gross domestic product, which is basically flat​,” says Burk, a former litigation partner with Howard Rice (which is now Arnold & Porter).

A total of 24,008 members of the class of 2017, or 68.7 percent, had jobs that require bar passage, including jobs that are not long-term or full-time, according to the data. Comparatively, out of the class of 2016, a total of 23,928 members, or 64.5 percent, had jobs that required law degrees, the ABA online table said.

There was a 21.7 percent decrease in the number of all entry-level JD-advantage jobs between 2016 and 2017, according to the data.

Much has been said in the past year about an increase in law school applicants, sometimes referred to as a “Trump bump.” If law schools increase their class sizes now, Burk says, employment outcomes will likely deteriorate proportionately, with perhaps a few exceptions for stronger schools.

“The job market for entry-level lawyers is 25 percent smaller than it was 10 years ago, and we are in the midst of a very strong economy. There is no reason to believe that the number of entry-level ​law jobs ​will increase any faster than the economy grows, which is roughly 2 percent a year,” he says. “Anybody who tells you that the job market for entry-level lawyers is good​ or is getting much better ​is wrong. There is no intellectually honest argument for that.”


7th Circuit blocks disability abortion ban; partial dissent labels the procedure a ‘super-right’

Constitutional Law


A federal appeals court has upheld a permanent injunction blocking an Indiana law that banned abortions based on race, sex, ancestry, Down syndrome or other genetic disorders.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, report the Indianapolis Star, the Indiana Lawyer and Reuters. How Appealing links to the decision.

“The provisions prohibit abortions prior to viability if the abortion is sought for a particular purpose,” Judge William Bauer wrote in the majority decision. “These provisions are far greater than a substantial obstacle; they are absolute prohibitions on abortions prior to viability which the Supreme Court has clearly held cannot be imposed by the state.”

In a partial dissent, Judge Daniel Manion said he agreed that the law violates Supreme Court precedent, though he would have upheld a provision requiring abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains. He went on to criticize the precedent that required the court to strike down the discrimination provisions.

The Supreme Court case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey “treats abortion as a super-right, more sacrosanct even than the enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights,” Manion wrote. “The purported right to an abortion before viability is the only one that may not be infringed even for the very best reason. For an unenumerated right judicially created just 45 years ago, that is astounding.”

Vice President Mike Pence signed the bill into law in March 2016 when he was governor of Indiana.


I Actually Like New York’s Double Jeopardy Loophole The Way It Is, But We Can’t Have Such Nice Things

i-actually-like-new-yorks-double-jeopardy-loophole-the-way-it-is-but-we-cant-have-such-nice-things.jpgNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to close New York State’s double jeopardy “loophole,” in a clear attempt to protect prosecutions from possible Trump pardons of his cronies. Normally, prosecutions at the federal level do not preclude prosecutions at the state level. But New York has this weird rule where jeopardy attaches for state purposes if a defendant pleads guilty or a jury is sworn-in even for a federal case, subject to a few exceptions.

It means, potentially, that a person — say, Michael Cohen — who is tried by federal prosecutors, convicted, and pardoned by President Donald Trump could not later be prosecuted for state crimes, even though the president technically has no authority to pardon state crimes.

Given that our current president has as much respect for the rule of law as a tornado has for the structural integrity of a trailer park, it seems likely that Trump will pardon his buddies in exchange for their silence. The New York loophole might be big enough to drive the Russian oligarchy right through it.

So Schneiderman asked the Republican-controlled New York State legislature to close the loophole. It’s an election year here, so we don’t really know how the politics of that will play out. Obviously, there’s a feeling that time is of the essence to cut off this possible Trump escape hatch.

I can’t disagree with the political calculation. Schneiderman has to do what he has to do. Our failing republic is now nothing more than an application of raw power against raw power, and I’m excited for Democrats to start fighting the decades-long GOP war against normalcy with their own fire.

But… from a legal-theory standpoint, the “loophole” makes a lot of sense to me, and I’d rather see it preserved or even expanded rather than done away with. I’m old enough to remember when progressives stood against prosecutors hounding people all across the damn country.

I think “dual sovereignty” — the theory that says the federal government and the state government have separate standing to charge people for crimes arising from the same act — is kind of dumb. If I kick a puppy, the state and the feds should get together and decide which one wants to charge, or do it together, or whatever, but they should get ONE SHOT at ruining my life. The whole concept behind double jeopardy is that you shouldn’t be able to put me through an endless series of legal proceedings and forum shopping, until you finally find a jury that will do to me what you want them to.

Of course, I say that as a person who isn’t the biggest fan of federalism anyway — not withstanding the fact that federalism is right now the only thing standing between us and the Kingdom of the Aggrieved Whites.

I’m also a little worried that this proposed change seems designed to go after Michael Cohen, and I’m pretty sure that whole “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed” thing is an important part of a free society.

But, Professor Lawrence Tribe says I have nothing to worry about there.

It really does bring us back to “Trump’s situation.” There really are three types of lawyers right now:

A. The ones concerned about Trump who still want to pretend the law can contain him.
B. The ones concerned about Trump who believe he is a unique threat to the rule of law.
C. The ones who are not concerned about Trump.

Group C can shove a snifter of brandy right up their white privileged asses. There’s a bigoted despot on the throne who may have assaulted 19 women, mercilessly attacks the fourth estate and the third branch of government, and is probably being blackmailed by the Russians. YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED.

But between groups A and B, there is a lot of legitimate disagreement. Group A looks at all the things Trump hasn’t been able to do, says “the law is working,” and concerns itself with what will be left standing in the post-Trump world.

Group B looks at all the things Trump has already done, decides that they will not be reduced back to a state of humiliation and bondage just because an executive order says so, and is absolutely willing to burn to the ground what they can’t defend from Trump’s forces.

I count myself among Group B. If I can’t defend a fort from Trump getting his dirty hands on it, I’m gonna blow up the fort. Trump is an occupying force, my DUTY is to make things hard enough on him that he and his people give up and go back home to their WWE matches.

And so this is why we can’t have nice things. New York’s double jeopardy loophole must be lit on fire and destroyed so Trump can’t use it.

Too bad. It was a nice little rule. I will add its passing to the ledger of things Trump has taken from us.

NY AG: To allow state prosecutions of pardoned Trump aides, change double jeopardy

Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at elie@abovethelaw.com. He will resist.


Fees and fines threaten judicial independence

Defending Justice


Matthew Menendez

For more than a decade, state court systems have been chronically underfunded. The ABA’s Task Force on the Preservation of the Justice System has called it “one of the most critical issues facing the legal profession.” But rather than support courts and the justice system through general tax revenue, states are increasingly relying on criminal fees and fines charged to defendants.

The purpose of the judiciary is to administer fair and impartial justice, yet we place courts in a dangerous position when we make them dependent on the funds they collect. The dynamic risks undermining judicial independence.

Criminal fines are intended to deter and punish crime, and the amount levied on an individual is typically based on the severity of the offense. Fees shift the costs of the system from taxpayers to the “users” of the courts. These revenues are not only used to pay for critical aspects of the justice system, they are frequently diverted to programs that fall far from the paramount goal of the criminal justice system: protecting public safety. In Florida, for example, fee and fine revenue may go the state’s general revenue fund. In New Mexico, defendants are charged a fee for the state’s Brain Injury Services Fund, providing resources to brain injury victims. While this may be a worthy project, it is hardly central to the work of courts.

Unlike the federal government, states must run balanced budgets. Over the last several decades, that’s been made considerably more difficult by the growth of the criminal justice system across the country. While the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for approximately 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. Locking people up is expensive, and we increasingly pay for America’s mass incarceration with fees and fines. This subverts the incentive structure of the courts, as they are increasingly relied upon to fund governmental operations. A study by NPR and the National Center for State Courts found that, between 2010 and 2014, 48 states criminal and civil fees, added new fees, or both. And when so many fees are dedicated to courtroom costs and salaries, the public’s confidence in judicial impartiality can be undermined.

This isn’t just a theoretical or hypothetical concern. A 2015 report by the Department of Justice found that in Ferguson, Missouri, the city had “allowed its focus on revenue generation to fundamentally compromise the role of Ferguson’s municipal court.” The DOJ concluded it led to violations of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee, which predominately harmed black Americans and threatened public safety. The report concluded that the focus on revenue collection had done much to undermine community trust in law enforcement and the courts.

The human consequences from this dependence on fees and fines can be staggering. Although debtors’ prison has been deemed unconstitutional in every state in the nation, defendants often face jail time for their inability to pay fees and fines. In many states, failure to pay results in a driver’s license suspension, which can dramatically limit a person’s ability to work or care for their family. Often, additional fines and fees accrue and interest is levied, leaving people thousands of dollars in debt, trapped in a cycle of poverty, and spinning through the revolving door of the criminal justice system. It’s a situation that can devastate low-income communities and sow deep distrust between citizens and the government.

Beyond the subversion of the core judicial function and the human cost, fees and fines are an inefficient means of collecting revenue for the government. Between police officers arresting subjects, court clerks and judges assessing and levying fees and fines, probation and parole offices attempting to collect fines, and jails housing those unable to pay, a tremendous amount of taxpayer money is diverted to collect the money. Because these public employees work across a variety of agencies that are often decentralized, it is difficult to know just how much the taxpayers are spending to raise fee and fine revenue. The Vera Institute of Justice has found that in New Orleans, the amount of revenue generated by fees, fines, and bail costs the city more than it collects.

Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our democracy. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist called independent courts “the crown jewel of our system of government.” Relying on the judiciary as a revenue generator threatens this independence, as well as the confidence of the public in our institutions. In addition to the very real human costs, the system is extremely inefficient. Our courts, and our criminal justice system, should be focused on applying impartial justice and protecting public safety. They should not be forced to pay for our government.

Matthew Menendez serves as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, where his work focuses on judicial administration and reforming the criminal justice process. Menendez is also an adjunct professor at NYU School of Law, where he teaches the Brennan Center Public Policy Advocacy Clinic. He received his B.A. degree in economics and political science from Swarthmore College in 1999, and his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2007.