Disney has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis alleging that he has been using the government's power to damage the company amid a prolonged dispute over a contentious classroom bill. The complaint claims that DeSantis orchestrated a campaign to penalize Disney, which now threatens the corporation's business. This escalates the lengthy fight between DeSantis, who is expected to be a top Republican contender in the 2024 presidential race, and Disney, one of Florida's biggest employers. Disney opposed a Florida bill that restricted classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, and DeSantis and his allies subsequently aimed at the specific tax district that has allowed Disney to largely govern its Florida operations since the 1960s. On the same day the board of supervisors, which DeSantis picked to assume control over Disney's Orlando-area parks, filed the lawsuit, it moved to overturn a development agreement that it claims Disney made to thwart its authority. The suit claims that this action was the "newest strike" and that the development contracts "laid the foundation for billions of Disney's investment dollars and thousands of jobs." Disney is asking the court to declare the legislative move illegal and unenforceable. DeSantis' office responded by suggesting that the fight was about Disney's unique tax and governance privileges, not political retribution.
For more on the DeSantis-Disney debacle, check out the soon-to-be-recorded latest episode of Esquiring Minds. My co-host, Jacob Schumer, is the expert on the subject and we’ll be delving in to all things Disney when we record this evening. The episode should be up late tonight, or early tomorrow morning.
A hearing in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit could determine the legality of hundreds of OSHA workplace safety requirements. The case, brought by Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC of Waterville, Ohio, challenges the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to decide which safety hazards require regulation and what protections should be implemented. If the court rules against OSHA, it could strike down safety regulations dating back 50 years, covering hazards such as falls and electrocution. OSHA argues that over 50 years of court decisions support its safety rule-making powers, and that it is limited to issuing standards that are economically and technologically feasible. If OSHA standards were to be cancelled, state laws, workers’ compensation, industry consensus standards, and fear of lawsuits may fill the regulatory gap. Judges Deborah Cook and Richard Allen Griffin, both appointed by President George W. Bush, and John Nalbandian, appointed by President Donald Trump, will hear the case.
The U.S. Senate is set to vote on Thursday on a measure that could allow the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to be added to the Constitution, but it is likely to fail due to Republican opposition. The amendment, first proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972, would entitle women to equal pay and secure their rights in legal matters. Virginia became the 38th state to adopt the amendment in 2020, and a resolution now before the Senate would remove the deadline so that the amendment could go into effect. Proponents argue that the ERA is crucial at a time when women's rights are under threat, while opponents claim it could lead to making abortion rights constitutional and force women into military service. Regardless of the vote outcome, the ERA will face legal challenges, as some states that initially ratified it later rejected it – which is a perfect microcosm of the current state of toxic political discourse.
Microsoft's president, Brad Smith, criticized the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for blocking its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, saying it had shaken confidence in Britain as a destination for tech businesses. The CMA, which operates independently from the government, blocked the deal on Wednesday, saying it could hit competition in the nascent cloud gaming market. Smith said the decision sent the wrong message to the global tech industry about the UK and that if the government wants to bring in investment and create jobs, it needs to look hard at the role of the CMA, the regulatory structure in the UK, this transaction, and the message that the UK has just said to the world. However, a spokesman for the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said Smith's comments were "not borne out by the facts". Microsoft said it would appeal the decision with "aggressive" support from Activision. Appeals against CMA rulings are heard by the Competition Appeals Tribunal.
Legal AI startup Harvey has raised $21 million in fresh investor cash led by Sequoia Capital in a Series A fundraising round. Harvey, built on OpenAI's GPT-4, builds custom large language models for law firms. Several major firms have signed deals to adopt new AI products, such as Casetext's AI legal assistant product, CoCounsel, which uses GPT-4 to speed up legal research, contract analysis, and document review. Even early adopters of AI are cautious and highlight the need for testing and guardrails to protect confidential client data and avoid errors.
As the use of AI in the legal space continues to grow, concerns around privacy and accountability are becoming increasingly relevant. The use of large language models and generative AI tools can potentially lead to the mishandling or exposure of confidential client information, which could have severe legal and reputational consequences for law firms. Additionally, AI systems can introduce bias into decision-making processes, perpetuating existing inequalities and injustices. This isn’t just hypothetical, there are real world examples of this occurring, as in the Dutch AI tax case. There, AI was scapegoated as the cause of a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities being denied benefits and charged with fraud. The reality wasn’t that the AI was racist, but the lawmakers that employed it were. It is crucial for policymakers and even law firms as well as AI developers to establish clear guidelines and protocols for the ethical and responsible use of these tools, including regular audits and risk assessments to ensure compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks.
The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, has declined an invitation to testify at an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focusing on judicial ethics. The committee's chairman, Senator Dick Durbin, had asked Roberts to appear before the panel to address potential reforms to ethics rules governing the justices, citing a "steady stream of revelations" regarding justices falling short of ethical standards. Roberts declined the invitation, saying that such appearances by chief justices were rare due to concerns about the separation of powers between the three branches of the U.S. government.