Transocean Ltd. will pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties and fines for its role in the 2010 oil spill that pumped nearly 5 billion barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on January 3. The settlement “brings us one ­significant step closer to justice for the human, ­environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said.


A federal judge declined to order the Obama administration to divulge its legal rationale for the targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including American citizens, without trial. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret,” U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon wrote.


The Federal Trade Commission on January 3 closed its antitrust inquiry into Google Inc., requiring the company to license patents essential to the interoperability of electronic devices but securing minimal agreements on what many viewed as the heart of the case: Google’s dominance in the search market. “Anyone in charge of an antitrust agency would like to bring the big case,” chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “But more important than that is faithfully executing the law.”


President Obama has renominated 33 individuals for federal judgeships, chastising the Senate for failing to act on the nominations before they expired at the end of 2012. Obama resubmitted seven nominees to the federal appeals courts, 24 to federal district courts and two to the Court of International Trade.


Governor Tom Corbett and the state of Pennsylvania have sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association over sanctions it issued against Pennsylvania State University and its football program in response to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. Corbett told reporters the federal antitrust action would address what he called “unlawful and overreaching” sanctions, including a $60 million fine.


A handful of dissenters have raised objections to the Dewey & LeBoeuf estate’s plan to repay its creditors and emerge from Chapter 11 protection. They cited confusion over the degree of protection former partners would be afforded under a settlement with the estate, which owes approximately $600 million. Meanwhile, advisers to the estate have asked to be paid $14.8 million for work done thus far.


Fewer states carried out executions in 2012 than at any time in the past 20 years. Nine states out of 33 that have the death penalty on the books — Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas — sponsored executions in 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. As in 2011, 43 executions were carried out. But the number of executions has dropped by 56 percent since 1999.