French prisons to have landline phones installed in cells
France plans to install landline phones in prison cells in an ambitious attempt to improve rehabilitation rates and reduce rampant mobile phone trafficking behind bars. The justice ministry said it had called for bids to operate the service after successful tests at one prison since 2016. But inmates’ new freedom to call up to four pre-approved numbers at any time of the day will not come cheap, with one prisoner advocacy group warning that calls could cost up to 80 cents ($0.97) a minute.
Uganda president signs bill lifting presidential age limit
The Parliament of Uganda announced that President Yoweri Museveni has assented to a controversial bill removing the presidential age limit of 75 years. Section 102 of the Ugandan Constitution had previously required that a candidate for president be between the ages of thirty-five and seventy-five. The latter provision was especially relevant to Museveni, who at 73 would be precluded from seeking another term in 2023 if Section 102(b) remained in effect.
European High Court rules Uber must comply with taxi regulations
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Uber must comply with existing transportation regulations.In doing so, the ECJ found that Uber operates more like a transportation company than an online platform that merely connects riders with drivers. This ruling will require Uber operating in an EU country to abide by the transportation regulations of
an individual member state as opposed to the less restrictive e-commerce rules of the EU.
Legal action over whether UK can stop Brexit gets go-ahead
The Court of session in Edinburgh has said a legal action can go ahead to establish whether the UK can unilaterally stop the Brexit process if British voters decide the final deal is unacceptable. The petition, brought by a group of MPs, MEPs and MSPs from four parties in Scotland, excluding the Conservatives, will now be served on the UK government, which has 21 days to respond.
Australia legalizes same-sex marriage with House of Representatives vote
Australia’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, with just four votes in opposition. The new law changes the definition of marriage from “the union of a man and a woman” to “the union of 2 people”. This comes after years of resistance from conservatives. There had previously been 22 unsuccessful attempts to make this change since 2004. This particular vote was preceded by a national postal survey in which 61% of over 12 million
respondents were shown to be in favor of marriage equality. The response prompted the government to allow a free vote in Parliament.
Donald Trump’s lawyers threaten Steve Bannon with legal action
The former chief strategist is accused of defaming the president in a row over a new book. Comments attributed to Steve Bannon described the US President as being ‘poorly prepared’. Lawyers for Donald Trump have written to his former chief strategist threatening him with legal action for talking to the author of a book about the president.
Ethiopia officials using spyware to monitor government critics
Ethiopian officials have renewed their campaign of collecting intelligence against government critics abroad through the use of commercial spyware, Human Rights Watch said. According to Citizen Lab, an independent research group in Toronto, Ethiopia, along with other countries such as the US and UK, are spying on government critics through a spyware company, Cyberbit, by attaching documents in emails disguised as Adobe Flash updates and PDF plugins. If successful, these attachments infect the receiving computer with spyware, which can enable the spyware’s operator to access virtually any
information that is on the computer, take screenshots, enable the computer’s microphone, and activate the computer’s camera for heightened surveillance.
Sweden plans change in law to require explicit consent before sexual contact
Sweden is moving closer to making changes to its rape laws that would require people to get explicit consent before sexual contact. The deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin, said the recent #metoo anti-harassment campaign had “shown that there is a need” for the new legislation. Under the proposal, rape could be proved if the accuser hadn’t given their explicit verbal agreement or clearly demonstrate their desire to engage in sexual activity.
Recreational cannabis use becomes legal in California
California has become the largest state in the US to legalise recreational cannabis use. As of 1 January 2018, adults aged over 21 can possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of the drug and can grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Opponents say the law will lead to more driving under the influence of the drug and introduce young people to drug use. But business is eyeing what could be an industry worth tens of billions of dollars in the next few years.
Lancashire school dinner halal row faces legal challenge
Plans to ban schools from serving unstunned halal meat have been delayed pending a legal challenge. Lancashire County Council made the decision to stop using the meat in 27 council-run schools in October, saying it was “cruel” to not stun animals before slaughter. Lancashire Council of Mosques is now seeking a judicial review claiming the authority did not consult adequately over the decision.
US law firms increasingly ‘potent’ in London
US law firms have made a major impact on the London marketplace, gaining leading roles in big-ticket work and leaving UK law firms increasingly squeezed. Despite many of the 100 or so in London not covering all their costs, they are picking up lead roles on M&A and private equity transactions and corporate and securities investigations as well as pouncing on the best lateral hires. According to the 2018 Client Advisory report, a club of about 15 law firms have emerged, 10 US firms and five Magic Circle firms – which get the best work globally leaving the next tier of UK law firms on the sidelines when it comes to winning major transactions.
Brazil introduces tougher regulations on ‘Fake News’ ahead of 2018 elections
In early December 2017, Brazil’s government established a committee to monitor and possibly order the blocking of false news reports on social media ahead of the 2018 presidential elections. The news has raised concerns about censorship among the public. The “Consultative Council on Internet and Elections” proposed to create a tool through which users could file reports to the Council itself of news that appeared suspicious. This would work as an extension of existing hotlines and website forms where voters can submit complaints to report irregularities in traditional media.
Norway Court rules against environmental groups to allow Arctic drilling
The Oslo District Court ruled that the government may allow Arctic drilling.The ruling was a defeat for environmental groups Nature and Youth and Greenpeace Nordic, which had argued that allowing the drilling would violate the country’s obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as the Norwegian Constitution. The groups had sued the government to invalidate drilling licenses. The Court rejected their arguments and ordered them to pay 580,000 kroner (USD $71,435) in legal fees.The groups have decried [press release, in Norwegian] the Court’s decision and are considering appeal.
Shenzhen admits first foreign law firm
Chicago law firm Brinks Gilson & Lione is the first foreign law firm to get approval to practice in China’s ‘Silicon Valley’. The Chicago-based IP law boutique, which has just launched its office in the city, was granted approval from China’s Ministry of Justice in August 2017. It is the firm’s first international foray and will be headed up by Brinks shareholder Harold Johnson, who lives in Shenzhen. Mr Johnson has more than three decades of experience in IP law and will be joined by Fei Hu who was, most recently, senior legal counsel for chipmaker ARM, a processor for mobile phones and tablet computers. He was previously senior legal counsel to Huawei Technologies which is headquartered in Shenzhen. Before that, he was corporate legal counsel to Tencent.
Chinese move to integrate AI into legal system in university link-up
Peking University Law School has joined forces with a Chinese data analytics and artificial intelligence company to establish the Peking University Legal AI Lab and Research Institute to focus on the analysis, development and application of AI across China’s legal ecosystem. The move follows earlier announcements by the Chinese government to establish a top global AI innovation centre, announced last year in its ‘Next Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’ with plans to specifically target the legal sector.
Israel legislature passes amendment requiring majority vote to cede land
Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, passed a constitutional amendment regarding status of land in the city of Jerusalem, now requiring a large majority vote of the Knesset to cede any land in Jerusalem to a foreign party.The amendment was passed by a vote of 64 to 51 with one abstaining vote. The amendment affects Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the part of the constitutional laws designated Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. Section 5 defines Jerusalem’s borders and was repealed. Section 6 prohibits the transfer of authority regarding land in Jerusalem to a foreign power, and Section 7 originally allowed for a majority vote to alter Sections 5 and 6. With this amendment, the language of Section 7 was changed to specify that the majority must be at least 80 members. The original law, passed in 1980 and subsequently amended in 2000, only required 61 of the 120 members to vote for any change in the status of sovereignty of land in Jerusalem.
Record-breaking year for law firm mergers
With 15 cross-border mergers and 102 US law firms signing deals, many law firms are turning to merger in a move to gain traction in a difficult marketplace. The US marketplace had a record-breaking year in 2017 with 102 law firms going down the merger route. This beats the previous record of 91 and is the highest annual total recorded in the eleven years by Altman Weil’s MergerLine
East Africa ready to compete with the world’s best for arbitration
Although international arbitrators from the United Kingdom, France and the United States are generally considered to be among the “best in the world”, Africa’s top international arbitrators can make a strong case for being included in those ranks. Africa already has six established centres for international arbitration, with a seventh being formed. Burundi, Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda and Uganda each have one such centre, while Kenya has two: the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration and the soon-to-be operational Law Society of Kenya International Arbitration Centre.
Japan needs to empower general counsel
Corporate scandals will only be avoided in Japan if general counsel get more respect from their companies. Japanese companies need to respect their general counsel more if corporate problems are to be avoided. It has been noted that the weak role of general counsel in Japan, have an ‘enfeebled role’ and that, with a few notable exceptions, the general counsel in Japanese corporations are not respected within their companies.
Kering strikes up landmark agreement with Alibaba over IP enforcement
French luxury group Kering, Alibaba Group and its affiliate Ant Financial Services have come to a groundbreaking agreement to cooperate in their efforts to protect intellectual property and take joint enforcement actions online and offline against infringers in order to provide the best consumer experience and a trusted environment. As part of the agreement, Kering has agreed to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Alibaba and Alipay, an Ant Financial subsidiary, in the US District Court in New York.
Don’t call “Xi the Bun” — Chinese Netizens are being jailed for chatroom jokes
In 2017, at least three Chinese netizens were arrested and jailed for making politically sensitive jokes in a chat room.Wang Jiang Feng, a netizen from Shangdong was sentenced to 22 months in jail in April 2017 after being convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” when he jokingly referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as Xi Baozi or “Xi the Steamed Bun”. The maximum penalty for this crime is five years in prison. “Baozi” or “Steamed Bun” has been Xi Jinping’s nickname online since his surprise visit to a Beijing chain restaurant in December 2013, in which he ordered buns, causing a flurry of state media coverage that many netizens felt overstated the significance of buns in Chinese cuisine. The nickname Baozi also has a negative connotation as the expression “Tubaozi” means “country bumpkin” in Chinese.
The Chinese Communist Party forbids members from celebrating Christmas, calling it a festival of humiliation
A number of Chinese Communist Party provincial headquarters issued notices forbidding their members from celebrating Western festivals. These include Valentine’s Day, Easter, April Fool’s day, Halloween and, most recently, Christmas. During the Christmas period, media outlets were instructed not to report any news related to Christmas, a celebration that the party feels is an unwanted reminder of China’s historical humiliation by the West. The movement against Western festivals emerged about a decade ago and was led by a group of contemporary Confucian scholars against a “Western cultural invasion”. Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping has embraced this idea of a national cultural revival.