COURT CUTS

Congress needs to restore funding to the federal court system or risk lengthy case delays, inadequate criminal defense counsel and reduced courthouse safety, an official with the Judicial Conference of the United States told Congress on March 20. Judge Julia Gibbons doubted the courts could function after the $350 million in sequestration cuts.

BP PROTESTS PAY OUTS

BP PLC’s U.S. ­subsidiaries have asked the trial judge to halt payout of Deepwater Horizon oil-spill claims under its $7.8 billion settlement, citing potentially billions of dollars in "absurd windfalls" to businesses with fictitious losses. BP asserted that claims administrator Patrick Juneau has agreed to calculate lost profits using a formula that violates the terms of the settlement agreement.

9/11 LIABILITY

American Airlines Inc. and other defendants sued in connection with the September 11, 2001, attacks can claim the act-of-war defense to strict liability under a federal hazardous-substance cleanup law, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York ruled on March 21. The act was a response to environmental damage at such notorious sites as Love Canal in New York.

LSAT WINS ENDORSEMENT

It appears the Law School Admission Test is here to stay as a requirement to get into law school. Members of an Amer­ican Bar Association panel in 2011 advocated dropping the requirement, but support for that idea has waned. The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar council on March 16 endorsed keeping the LSAT requirement.

FABRICATED EVIDENCE

The district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., moved to drop the indictment against a man who spent 23 years in prison after his conviction for murdering a prominent rabbi, and he was freed on March 21. A review turned up information about fabricated statements and improper police work in the prosecution of David Ranta in the shooting death of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in a botched diamond heist.

TEXAS LOANS SCRUTINIZED

The dust hasn’t quite settled from a 2011 controversy over faculty loans at the University of Texas School of Law. The Board of Regents voted, 4-3, on March 20 to conduct an outside investigation into the Law School Foundation’s handling of the matter. The loans were seen as a way to compete for top faculty talent with schools paying higher salaries.

FEWER CASES, WORTH MORE

The number of ­securities class action settlements has decreased since 2011, but the collective dollar amount of those settlements surged by more than 100 percent — reaching $2.9 billion, according to a report by Cornerstone Research. "Mega-settlements" worth more than $100 million made up nearly 75 percent of total settlement dollars in 2012.

M&A PROSPECTS GOOD

Mergers and acquisitions lawyers and bankers expect 2013 to be a very good year. An annual survey by the Brunswick Group found 97 percent of respondents expect an increase in North American deal activity in the coming year, up from 48 percent in 2012. However, specific drivers of deal activity were muted, the survey found, with no single force standing out.