U.S. Supreme Court Notebook

U.S. high court rejects appeal in Batmobile copyright case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is staying out of a copyright dispute involving a California man who produced replicas of the Batmobile for car-collecting fans of the caped crusader.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said the Batmobile's bat-like appearance and high-tech gadgets make it a character that can't be duplicated without permission from DC Comics, the copyright holder.

Mark Towle produced replicas of the car as it appeared in the 1966 television show featuring Adam West as Batman and the 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton. He sold them for about $90,000 each.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year sided with DC Comics in finding that the Batmobile is entitled to copyright protection.


U.S. Supreme Court rejects Apple appeal over electronic books

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Apple Inc. and left in place a ruling that the company conspired with publishers to raise electronic book prices when it sought to challenge Amazon.com's dominance of the market.

The justices' order on Monday lets stand an appeals court ruling that found Apple violated antitrust laws in 2010.

Apple wanted to raise prices to wrest some book sales away from Amazon, which controlled 90 percent of the market and sold most popular books online for $9.99. Amazon's share of the market dropped to 60 percent.

The 2-1 ruling by the New York-based appeals court sustained a trial judge's finding that Apple orchestrated an illegal conspiracy to raise prices. A dissenting judge called Apple's actions legal, "gloves-off competition."


John Deere, more turn to U.S. Supreme Court on auto dealer law

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Lawyers for John Deere and other farm and heavy equipment managers are taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court following a state court decision that rejected most of their challenges to New Hampshire's Auto Dealers Bill of Rights law.

The law, signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2013, was expanded to include manufacturers of tractors and yard and garden equipment. Hassan said it leveled the playing field between manufacturers and dealers, but a judge barred it from taking effect after Deere and others filed suit.

Those manufacturers say the law looping them into protections designed for automobile and truck dealers unconstitutionally interferes with their equipment dealer contracts. They said they were improperly lumped in with auto manufacturers. The state Supreme Court rejected most of their arguments in December.

The manufacturers asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to halt enforcement of the law so they can petition the court to review their case by the end of March.

"The equipment industry does not operate in the same way as the motor vehicle industry," lawyers for the manufacturers wrote. "It sells different products for different uses to different individuals and entities, and it contracts differently with its distributors and dealers."

The lawyers say the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision "raises critical questions about the standard to apply in a contract clause analysis." They also say the law will terminate the manufacturers' dealership agreements, creating "substantial uncertainty" in the marketplace.

The state had argued that the law is a merger of regulations that dealt separately with automobile manufacturers and farm and tractor manufacturers. It bars manufacturers from terminating contracts with dealers without just cause, limits mandatory upgrades to facilities and requires proper reimbursement for warranty work done by dealers.


High court voids ruling against lesbian adoption

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Alabama's top court went too far when it tried to upend a lesbian mother's adoption of her partner's children.

The justices threw out a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in a dispute between two women whose long-term relationship ended bitterly.

Before their breakup, one partner bore three children; the other formally adopted them in Georgia. The Alabama residents went to Georgia because they had been told Atlanta-area courts would be more receptive than judges in Alabama.

Alabama courts got involved when the birth mother tried to prevent her former partner from regular visits with the children.

The Alabama Supreme Court sided with the birth mother in refusing to recognize the other woman as a parent and declaring the adoption invalid under Georgia law.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily set aside the Alabama decision as the justices decided whether to hear the woman's appeal. The issue was whether the actions of one state's courts must be respected by another's.

On Monday, the justices said in an unsigned opinion that "the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit."

The case is V.L. v. E.L., 15-648.


High court rejects appeals of 2 former Stanford executives

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected appeals from two defendants convicted of helping disgraced financier R. Allen Stanford cheat investors out of more than $7 billion in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.

The justices on Monday let stand the convictions of Gilbert Lopez Jr. and Mark Kuhrt. Both were found guilty in 2012 of wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors said Lopez and Kuhrt helped hide Stanford's misuse of investor funds. Lopez is a former chief accounting officer of Stanford Financial Group Co. Kuhrt is a former global controller of Stanford
Financial Group Global Management.

The men claimed there was not enough evidence to convict them and that certain expert testimony was improperly excluded.
They each were sentenced to 20 years in prison.