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Three rulings: on paralegal fees, money laundering

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a prevailing party in a contract dispute with the federal government may recover the fees of paralegals at market rates. In a second decision, it ruled that mere concealment of money during a transport is not enough to support a conviction for money-laundering.  And, in another money-laundering case, the Court ruled that the crime of using the proceeds of illegal activity applies only to the profits involved, not the total amount of money.  Both of the money-laundering decisions went against the federal government’s preferred interpretation.

The Court granted no new cases for review.

Among the cases denied review were these:

** An attempt to hold credit card companies liable for copyright infringement for the financial services they provide to Internet websites that give access to pirated music, movies, TV shows and other creations. Perfect 10 v. Visa International, et al. (07-1026).

** An appeal by major league baseball and its players, claiming an exclusive right to control the use in fantasy games on the Internet of players’ identities and playing records. Major League Baseball Advanced Media v. CBC Distributing (07-1099).

** A new test, this time from Washington State, of the authority of states to require public disclosure of the finances of organizations that run ads that support or oppose specific political candidates.  Voters Education Committee v . Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (07-1153).

The Court took no action on a new appeal — the third — seeking to overturn a $79.5 million punitive damages award against the tobacco company, Philip Morris USA, in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a smoker. The case is Philip Morris v. Williams (07-1216).  The Court has now considered the case at two Conferences; it is rescheduled now for Conference this Thursday, according to the Court’s electronic docket.