This Week in Opinions

Our Daily Caselaw Summary writers have served up some interesting cases this week:

In Colorado, the Supreme Court issued Air Wisconsin Airlines v. Hoeper, which found an airline was not immune from a defamation claim by an employee under the Aviation Transportation Safety Act. In that case, the employee was authorized to carry a firearem on the planes he flew, but was reported by a trainer to be “disgruntled” and that he posed a threat with a gun. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the defamation victory, adding that the airline was not immune from suit or defamation under the ATSA and that the record supported the jury’s finding of clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.

In Homan v. Branstad, the Iowa Supreme Court found that the governor improperly vetoed several provisions in an appropriations bill passed in the General Assembly. Primarily at issue was $8.66 million the legislature appropriated in section 15 for the operation of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) field offices. The Supreme Court found that portions of the vetoes did not comply with the item-veto amendment of the state constitution and because the Governor unconstitutionally item vetoed “conditions or restrictions” on the appropriations without vetoing the accompanying appropriations; and when the Governor impermissibly item vetoes a condition on an appropriation during the pocket veto period, the appropriation item fails to become law.

The United States Supreme Court issued a patent opinion this week in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories. The Court held that the process of measuring matabolite levels in a patient’s blood to determine the proper dosage of thiopurine drugs to treat autoimmune diseases was not patentable. The court explained that the claimed process was based on a law of nature and involved well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field. At the same time, upholding the patents would risk disproportionately tying up the use of the underlying natural laws, inhibiting their use in the making of further discoveries.

Finally, in Wachovia Secs. LLC v. Banco Panamericano, Inc., the 7th Circuit allowed plaintiff Wachovia to pierce the corporate veil to collect a judgment from the so called “Bad Boys of Chicago Arbitage” [I had to look that up: Arbitage means “The simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset”]. The “bad boys” (and they really were, it seems) tried to funnel assets through several holdings to avoid debt on a margin call from Wachovia. The district court pierced Loop’s corporate veil, found the owners personally liable, and voided as fraudulent Banco’s lien, the “compensation”  payments, and payments to the golf company, and the 7th Circuit upheld.