Our December issue features what we believe to be the Top 20 legal news stories of the year—the stories that held our attention, and the legal industry’s, throughout 2012. We painstakingly pared down our list from all the stories we’ve written about this year, but we were interested to see if our readers would have chosen differently.
So we put it to a vote, and these are InsideCounsel readers’ picks for the year’s most important stories.The results are in order from the stories that received the most votes to those that received the least. An asterisk indicates the entries that our readers chose, but which didn’t make it onto our list.
1. Obamacare Upheld: The Supreme Court ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional in a highly-anticipated 5-4 decision on June 28.
2. Apple v. Samsung: The long-running patent dispute between the two electronics giants went to Apple in an Aug. 27 decision that ordered Samsung to pay $1.05 billion in damages.
3. Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Downfall: NY law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf filed for bankruptcy on May 28, after the departure of many partners, and had to “clawback” money from many former employees to help pay its debts.
4. Defense of Marriage Act Struck Down: Both the 1st and 2nd Circuits found the definition of marriage as one man and one woman unconstitutional.
5. Arizona Immigration Decision: The Supreme Court’s affirmation that the federal government has the right to control immigration policy and enforcement meant three of four Arizona immigration law provisions were struck down.
6. Penn State Scandal: The fallout from the sexual abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University reached far and wide. The affair received some closure when perpetrator Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
7. Law School Litigation: Law school grads angry about allegedly misleading jobs data sued their alma maters. Many of the suits have been dismissed.
* 8. SOPA Shut Down: Websites all over the Internet shut down to protest the Stop Online Privacy Act, and ultimately, the copyright bill did not proceed.
9. Whistleblower Reward: The Securities and Exchange Commission issued its first award—$50,000—under the whistleblower program created under Dodd-Frank to encourage reporting of corporate wrongdoing.
10. Transgender Protection: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission added gender identity as a protected class and will now accept complaints of discrimination against transgender employees.
11. Wal-Mart’s FCPA Woes: Wal-Mart’s Mexican unit was accused of covering up rampant bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
12. Pharmaceutical Settlements: Both GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson settled enormous off-label marketing suits for some of their top-selling drugs. GSK’s deal was the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.
* 13. Oil Spill Deal: After a long waiting period, BP finally announced it will pay $4.5 billion and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
14. An End to the Election: With President Barack Obama re-elected, Republican efforts to overhaul or repeal Dodd-Frank and Obamacare were foiled. Other regulatory changes are sure to come out of Washington in the coming years.
15. Gupta’s Conviction: Rajat Gupta was convicted of insider trading on June 25, and faced a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. The judge was lenient, though, because of Gupta’s involvement in philanthropy. He received 2 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
16. Visa/MasterCard Settlement: The largest antitrust settlement in history, a $7.2 billion deal between credit card companies, banks and a class of retailers over fees incurred by merchants when customers pay with cards, received preliminary approval on Nov. 9.
17. Social Guidelines: The NLRB published several decisions guiding employers on how to craft social media policies to protect confidential information without prohibiting protected concerted activity.
* 18. Facebook IPO: Facebook’s enormous initial public offering suffered some setbacks, including a computer malfunction at NASDAQ, which resulted in an investor suing the stock exchange for negligence.
* 19. Housing Crisis Settlement: The country’s five largest mortgage lenders and 49 state attorneys general reached a $25 billion settlement over foreclosure abuse.
20. Tie: The following stories were all tied for 20th place:
- The dispute over the patentability of human genes
- Judge Peck’s promotion of predictive coding in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe
- * Google and publishers settle a long-running dispute over e-books
- The expansion of generic top-level domains, the end portions of website names, such as .com and .org
- Mayo v. Prometheus cuts back on the types of inventions that are patentable
- * News Corp.’s phone hacking scandal draws litigation from all sides