New York attorney general orders daily fantasy sports firms to shut down – Daily fantasy sports Daily fantasy sports has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. Bryan Armen Graham in New York

New York’s attorney general declares daily fantasy sports games illegal

DraftKings, FanDuel contend their games are based on skill and not luck

Daily fantasy sports

Photograph: Stephan Savoia/AP

New York’s attorney general has ordered daily fantasy sports firms DraftKings and FanDuel to cease operations with consumers in the state, claiming their games constitute illegal gambling under New York law – the most significant blow yet in the mounting legal challenge facing what’s become a multibillion-dollar industry.

The cease-and-desist order from the state’s top attorney was first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The order from attorney general Eric Schneiderman comes less than one month after it was revealed that federal prosecutor Preet Bharara – the US attorney for the southern district of New York widely credited with shutting down the online poker industry in 2011 – was investigating whether the business model behind daily fantasy sports is in violation of federal law.

“Our investigation has found that, unlike traditional fantasy sports, daily fantasy sports companies are engaged in illegal gambling under New York law, causing the same kinds of social and economic harms as other forms of illegal gambling and misleading New York consumers,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Daily fantasy sports is neither victimless nor harmless, and it is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.

“Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York and not on my watch.”

Daily fantasy sports players handpick virtual teams corresponding with real-life athletes and compete for points based on the players’ statistics. Paid competitions varying in format and waged each day cost as little as $1 to enter, but advertise prizes that can reach $2m.

Industry-leading firms DraftKings and FanDuel, each privately owned and valued at over $1bn, have long operated beyond government sanctions on sports gambling under the precept that their games involve more skill than luck, not unlike day trading.


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Court again blocks Obama’s plan to protect undocumented migrants – Reuters in Washington Monday 9 November 2015 22.55 EST

Injunction is upheld against president’s measures that could prevent millions, including people who arrived illegally as children, being thrown out of the US

Demonstrators outside the White House in 2014 calling for an end to the deportation of undocumented children.

Barack Obama’s executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation has suffered a legal setback with an appeal to the supreme court now the administration’s only option.

A 2-1 decision by the fifth US circuit court of appeals in New Orleans has upheld a previous injunction – dealing a blow to Obama’s plan, which is opposed by Republicans and challenged by 26 states.

The states, all led by Republican governors, said the federal government exceeded its authority in demanding whole categories of immigrants be protected.

The Obama administration has said it is within its rights to ask the Department of Homeland Security to use discretion before deporting non-violent migrants with US family ties.

The case has become the focal point of the Democratic president’s efforts to change US immigration policy.

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7 times John Oliver perfectly captured what’s wrong with America — and triggered real reform – ADAM JOHNSON, ALTERNET SATURDAY, NOV 7, 2015 04:00 AM PST

The HBO host has accomplished what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert never could. Here are a few of his best segments

7 times John Oliver perfectly captured what's wrong with America -- and triggered real reform
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetJohn Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” is far and away the most refreshing thing on late-night TV. While other shows center around round-table chats and celebrity interviews, Oliver uses his massive platform to highlight overlooked but important political issues. Recently, he told CBS that his focus was “absurd public policies.”

By highlighting the absurdities of American institutions, he milks the injustice for a laugh while drawing the attention of millions of viewers to the issue. It’s a brilliant combination that, when it fires on all cylinders, makes for great comedy and sometimes even triggers reforms.

Here are his seven best segments.

1. Net Neutrality 

Arguably Oliver’s breakout hit, this segment masterfully dissected the knotty issue of net neutrality and its effect on free speech. Oliver explained why creating a two-tiered Internet was unfair, and even recruited the Internet’s “vile commenters” to spam the FCC’s website, which was taking public comment at the time. As a result, the website crashed and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler had to hilariously insist to the public that he “wasn’t a dingo.”

2. Abusive Animal Agriculture Practices

Possibly the least sexy topic his show has ever covered, Oliver took on huge poultry processing corporations that exploit small farmers and work to gut legislation that regulates the industry and protects animal welfare. In one of the more clear-cut political wins, the segment actually resulted in a pro-industry rider being left out of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill this summer for the first time in years. Several members of Congress cited Oliver’s segment for providing the political will to remedy the problem.

3. Bail System Exploits the Poor

America’s bail system is a two-tiered system where those who can afford to pay their bail go free and those who can’t are often forced to plead guilty or waste away in lockup before trial. Like many of the topics Oliver covers, it’s an injustice that exists largely due to inertia, despite being widely condemned as being unfair. One month after Oliver’s segment aired, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcedthe city was reforming its bail system to lessen the burden on low-level offenders, allowing a judge to release up to 3,000 defendants awaiting trial. While there were certainly other factors at play, many pundits insisted Oliver’s segment helped bring the topic to the forefront of public debate.

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Racism Highlighted in a Green Marker – By Dahlia Lithwick NOV. 2 2015 5:48 PM

The justices seem appalled by a Georgia death penalty case.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks at the Museo del Barrio in New York in 2013. Photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks at the Museo del Barrio in New York in 2013.
Photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

Every so often, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reminds us that she isn’t quite the same as her colleagues when it comes to background and experiences. Sometimes it happens on Sesame Street. But—with increasing frequency—it can happen from the bench itself. Monday is one of those days.

The case is Foster v. Chatman, a dispute about how an all-white jury was seated in the capital murder trial of a young black man in Georgia. The year was 1987. The Supreme Court had only just decided, in a 1986 case called Batson v. Kentucky, that so-called peremptory challenges, which let prosecutors exclude a juror for no stated reason, could not be used in an attempt at “purposeful racial discrimination to bar African Americans from juries.” (Peremptory challenges stand in contrast to “for cause” challenges, where lawyers must explain to a judge why they are excluding a juror.) Of course, given the opportunity after the fact to proffer “a neutral explanation” for why they struck any one juror, most prosecutors—indeed most high-functioning middle-schoolers—can usually muster a reason that sounds reasonable and race-neutral. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall worried about the potential toothlessness of the ruling even as he signed onto the Batson ruling.

Timothy Tyrone Foster, a black 18-year-old, was charged in connection with the brutal slaying of Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old white woman. In seating Foster’s jury, the two prosecutors managed to strike all four prospective black jurors. Later, at a hearing to determine if they had violated the Batson rule, prosecutors justified striking each of these jurors by saying that, for instance, the candidates failed to make eye contact, or looked bored, or had a son who was close in age to the defendant, or was a social worker. White jurors who shared many of those qualities were not excluded.

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In Arbitration, a ‘Privatization of the Justice System’ – By JESSICA NAUDZIUNAS and POH SI TENG on  November 1, 2015.

When she bought her car, Tinker Martin-Bowen signed a contract with an arbitration clause that took away her right to a jury trial. Only later did she realize just what she had given up.

Deborah L. Pierce, an emergency room doctor in Philadelphia, was optimistic when she brought a sex discrimination claim against the medical group that had dismissed her. Respected by colleagues, she said she had a stack of glowing evaluations and evidence that the practice had a pattern of denying women partnerships.

She began to worry, though, once she was blocked from court and forced into private arbitration.

Presiding over the case was not a judge but a corporate lawyer, Vasilios J. Kalogredis, who also handled arbitrations. When Dr. Pierce showed up one day for a hearing, she said she noticed Mr. Kalogredis having a friendly coffee with the head of the medical group she was suing.

During the proceedings, the practice withheld crucial evidence, including audiotapes it destroyed, according to interviews and documents. Dr. Pierce thought things could not get any worse until a doctor reversed testimony she had given in Dr. Pierce’s favor. The reason: Male colleagues had “clarified” her memory.

When Mr. Kalogredis ultimately ruled against Dr. Pierce, his decision contained passages pulled, verbatim, from legal briefs prepared by lawyers for the medical practice, according to documents.

“It took away my faith in a fair and honorable legal system,” said Dr. Pierce, who is still paying off $200,000 in legal costs seven years later.

If the case had been heard in civil court, Dr. Pierce would have been able to appeal, raising questions about testimony, destruction of evidence and potential conflicts of interest.

But arbitration, an investigation by The New York Times has found, often bears little resemblance to court.

Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.

Beware the Fine Print

This is the second installment in a three-part series examining how clauses buried in tens of millions of contracts have deprived Americans of one of their most fundamental constitutional rights: their day in court. Read Part I »

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

Removing the Ability to Sue

A New York Times study of the increasing use of arbitration clauses in contracts, which has effectively forced millions of people to sign away their right to go to court.

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The biggest prisoner release in US history, explained – Updated by Dara Lind on November 1, 2015, 2:42 p.m. ET

Between October 30th and November 2nd, the government is releasing 6,000 federal prisoners — the biggest prisoner release in United States history.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at Nov 2, 2015 1.53

This wasn’t sudden: The release has been in the works for more than a year, and was actually delayed so the federal government would have time to review individual prisoners’ cases and build up its capacity to help ex-prisoners reenter society. And ironically — even though it’s happening at a time when elected Democrats and Republicans alike are making efforts to reduce mass incarceration, especially for drug crimes — neither Congress nor the White House deserves credit.

An independent federal commission has already been working to guide judges toward shorter sentences for drug offenders. This fall’s prisoner release is a matter of fairness: the result of the commission’s decision that just because someone was sentenced to a long prison term during the peak of the tough-on-crime era, he shouldn’t automatically have to serve more time than he’d get if he were sentenced today. It’s also a reminder that people throughout the criminal justice system are taking a hard look at incarceration and trying to reduce it — and that the biggest changes aren’t necessarily the highest-profile ones, or the most politically contested.

The beginning of a process that could release more than 40,000 prisoners

The 6,000 prisoners getting released between October 30 and November 2 are all serving time for federal drug crimes.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress (as well as the Obama administration) have stressed in recent years that too many people are going to federal prison for too long for nonviolent drug offenses. Both the House and Senate have introduced bills this summer to tackle one of the causes: mandatory minimum laws that require judges to sentence drug offenders to a certain amount of time. But mandatory minimums aren’t the only factor in determining how long someone goes to prison for; the exact sentence is set by a judge, with the assistance of federal sentencing “guidelines” that recommend a sentence within a certain length (based on the seriousness of the crime and the offender’s criminal history).

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Before Osama bin Laden Raid, Obama Administration’s Secret Legal Deliberations

WASHINGTON — Weeks before President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, four administration lawyers hammered out rationales intended to overcome any legal obstacles — and made it all but inevitable that Navy SEALs would kill the fugitive Qaeda leader, not capture him.

Stretching sparse precedents, the lawyers worked in intense secrecy. Fearing leaks, the White House would not let them consult aides or even the administration’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They did their own research, wrote memos on highly secure laptops and traded drafts hand-delivered by trusted couriers.

From left, Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel; Mary DeRosa, the National Security Council’s legal adviser; then-Rear Admiral James W. Crawford III, the Joint Chiefs of Staff legal adviser, and Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel worked secretly on clearing legal hurdles for the 2011 raid against Osama bin Laden. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; U.S. Government; Doug Mills/The New York Times 

Just days before the raid, the lawyers drafted five secret memos so that if pressed later, they could prove they were not inventing after-the-fact reasons for having blessed it. “We should memorialize our rationales because we may be called upon to explain our legal conclusions, particularly if the operation goes terribly badly,” said Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel, according to officials familiar with the internal deliberations.

While the Bin Laden operation has been much scrutinized, the story of how a tiny team of government lawyers helped shape and justify Mr. Obama’s high-stakes decision has not been previously told. The group worked as military and intelligence officials conducted a parallel effort to explore options and prepare members of SEAL Team 6 for the possible mission.

The legal analysis offered the administration wide flexibility to send ground forces onto Pakistani soil without the country’s consent, to explicitly authorize a lethal mission, to delay telling Congress until afterward, and to bury a wartime enemy at sea. By the end, one official said, the lawyers concluded that there was “clear and ample authority for the use of lethal force under U.S. and international law.”

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Slavery’s long legacy in a corner of Ohio – by Kevin Williams October 25, 2015 5:00AM ET

The ‘Gist Settlement’ for freed slaves leads to a legal fight 200 years later

The Man Who Defends Men Accused Of Campus Rape – By Jessica Roy October 22, 2015 3:12 p.m.

Photo: Rayon Richards

Photo: Rayon Richards

Last December, James Clark* was finishing his first semester as a sophomore at a prestigious New England liberal-arts college when he received an email saying the dean wanted to speak with him. On the phone, the dean informed him that a female classmate had reported Clark for sexual misconduct. An official process began. School investigators began conducting an inquiry into the incident, and a no-contact order was issued, requiring Clark to keep his distance from the accuser while dates for future interviews with the dean were scheduled. Clark was shocked — he’d thought what happened that night was consensual. As a transfer student, he was new on campus, but had made a few friends. They were supportive, but after that phone call, he was essentially alone. Just as their classmates were finishing finals and embarking on winter break, Clark and his accuser were caught in a narrative that would alter the course of their lives forever. From then on, they would be weighted down by the same albatross: She would be the woman who believes she was sexually assaulted, and he would be the man who believes he was falsely accused of assaulting her. [The Cut was unable to reach Clark’s accuser for comment.]

Clark immediately called his parents, and they were distraught. What do you do when your 18-year-old son is the accused in a campus sexual-assault case? The accuser had not reported to the police, so the case was being handled through the school’s system, which involved an investigation, a hearing, and, if found guilty, an academic punishment. James’s mother, Susan*, thought he needed a lawyer anyway. She began frantically reaching out to attorneys, desperate to find someone to represent Clark in his school’s sexual-misconduct hearing. Most lawyers the Clarks contacted weren’t interested in defending James — this wasn’t technically a legal case, and what would be the benefit to them, especially given the debates about campus sexual assault raging? But after several phone calls, they found their man: Andrew T. Miltenberg, a New York–based business litigation attorney who had begun to make a name for himself defending young men whom some consider indefensible.

“I remember it was New Year’s Eve. He called us back and we talked about it and he said, ‘I think I can help you,’” Susan tells me. “I said to my husband, ‘I think this man is going to work very hard for our son.’”

Miltenberg is an advocate and resource for some of the thousands of male students who are accused of sexual misconduct on college campuses every year. The process at most schools involves a hearing or hearings where both the accused and the accuser are allowed to have an advocate attend to make sure their best interests are served. Miltenberg has acted as an adviser for over 60 students in college hearings, and he’s currently representing male students in a number of civil lawsuits filed against universities where they feel they were mistreated.

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Is Life Retroactive? – By Dahlia Lithwick OCT. 13 2015 7:46 PM

Montgomery v. Louisiana could affect the fates of prisoners sentenced to life without parole as juveniles. Sakhorn/Shutterstock.

At the white-hot center of retroactivity doctrine and federal/state jurisdiction roils an oral argument that may or may not have something to do with sentencing juveniles to life without parole. This morning, during arguments in Montgomery v. Louisiana, we hear a good deal from the Supreme Court about the forced incarceration of witches and lots more about the eternal raging war between “substantive” and “process” changes to the law. Whether that will come to mean much of anything for the more than 2,000 people sentenced as juveniles to life without parole before the Supreme Court ruled that such sentences—when mandatory—violate the constitution is anybody’s guess.

Back in 2012, the high court decided in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for young people who committed their crimes as juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment. The court left open the possibility that life sentences could be on the table if the sentencing judge carefully considered a host of factors that took the offender’s age into account, “among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.” Following Miller, some state courts or legislatures opted to re-examine LWOP sentences. Fourteen state supreme courts decided to apply Miller retroactively. Seven and some federal appeals courts don’t think it looks backward.

So the issue in Montgomery is simply whether, post-Miller, every state must offer a new sentencing or parole hearing to anyone serving life for crimes they committed before age 18. Retroactivity is a bit like The Matrixall flawless internal logic that goes down easier with vodka. But before the justices can wade into the question of whether Miller can be applied retroactively, they need to decide whether they even have the authority to hear the case. Over 75 minutes, four attorneys argue those two questions, on which hang the fate of more than 1,000 juveniles.

The young person at the center of the case is Henry Montgomery, who in 1963 was a black teenager convicted for the murder of a white deputy sheriff in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, amid a backdrop of racial strife. Montgomery was 17 at the time of the shooting. He is 69 today. He has spent the last 52 years in prison. He was sentenced to death in a trial that was so compromised by Ku Klux Klan threats that the original conviction was tossed. After a retrial, Montgomery was sentenced to mandatory life without parole. In the wake of Miller he sought to revisit that sentence, but Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled Montgomery wasn’t entitled to a new sentencing. He’s at the court today asking whether he really has to die in prison, even though the Supreme Court has said youthful offenders should not.

But before we do battle over retroactivity, the court needs to sort out whether it can even hear the case—because if the Louisiana Supreme Court decided Montgomery’s appeal based on state law rather than federal law, the supremes might not be able to wade in. Since both parties believe the court has jurisdiction to hear this case, the court reached out and appointed Richard D. Bernstein to argue that it doesn’t.

Everyone seems to agree that this is one of those all-eyes-on-Kennedy cases. So it may or may not be important that one of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s few questions at oral argument is: “If a State says, we acknowledge that we are holding a prisoner in contravention of Federal law but we choose to do nothing about it, the State can be required under the Supremacy Clause, under its own procedures, to enforce the Federal law?”

Justice Stephen Breyer asks a hypothetical question about masses of Americans incarcerated under a sedition law the Supreme Court then finds unconstitutional. Doesn’t the court have jurisdiction to hear the case when “there are human beings who are in prison, who are there without having violated any valid law, because it was always protected by the First Amendment?” Or, as he rephrases the question: “I mean, why doesn’t it violate the Constitution to hold a person in prison for 20 years, for conduct which the Constitution forbids making criminal?” When Bernstein evades the hypothetical, Breyer changes it up, now proposing that the masses of people unconstitutionally rotting in prison were charged with being witches. In Massachusetts. Before that was found to violate the constitution. In 1820.