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The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute (DADT), enacted by Congress in 1993, allows homosexuals into the military if they do not engage in homosexual conduct. Congress created DADT to preserve the morale and unit cohesion standards of the military, but the statute is often scrutinized in light of First Amendment principles. In Cook v. Gates, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered whether DADT’s requirement of separating service members for homosexual admissions violates their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The majority reasoned that DADT does not violate service members’ First Amendment rights because it treats their verbal admissions of homosexuality as evidence of homosexual conduct and does not punish for mere speech. Conversely, Judge Saris reasoned in his dissent that DADT’s presumption of homosexual admissions as evidence of conduct is a “dead letter” and “chills” service members’ speech. . . .
Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) as a means to govern employee-benefit plans.1 ERISA provides a cause of action to plan participants whose vested benefits were miscalculated or reduced by alleged employer misconduct. In Evans v. Akers, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered whether former employees have standing to sue their employer under ERISA for alleged fiduciary breaches that decreased the value of their retirement benefits account. The court determined that the former employees had standing to sue under ERISA because their claim was for benefits, not extra contractual damages.
Preventing child abuse is an important government interest that justifies excluding child pornography, as a class of speech, from First Amendment protection. Nonetheless, the First Amendment continues to protect computer-generated or virtual child pornography because its creation does not harm real children and therefore causes no child abuse. In United States v. Wilder, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered whether technical expert testimony is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an image actually depicts a real child. The court reaffirmed its previous decisions that fact-finders are capable of determining whether an image is real or virtual without expert testimony. . . .
Intellectual property rights in musical works theoretically arise at the moment of creation. The ability to enforce these rights in the face of infringement, however, requires that artists fulfill specific registration requirements with the United States Copyright Office; this includes submitting a “copy” of the original piece. In Torres-Negrón v. J & N Records, L.L.C., the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, addressing a matter of first impression, considered whether a copy of a song made without referencing the inceptive recording or lyric sheet qualifies as a “deposit copy” for registration purposes. Answering in the negative, the First Circuit determined that without some tangible reference to the original work, recordings constitute “reconstruction[s]” rather than copies, the former of which fails to satisfy the registrational prerequisite required to confer jurisdiction over an infringement action. . . .
Since the advent of the Internet, Congress, law enforcement officials, and the public have tried to protect children from online sexual predators. In 1996, Congress amended the Telecommunications Act, criminalizing the enticement of minors for sexual activity over the Internet. In United States v. Dwinells, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, as a matter of first impression, considered whether section 2422(b) required a double-intent element: that is, whether the defendant had to possess not only the intent to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, but also the intent that sexual activity occur. The First Circuit, joining with all other circuits that have decided this issue, upheld the conviction by interpreting the statute to require only the intent to entice. . . .
Protecting the expression of unpopular ideas lies at the heart of the First Amendment; therefore, free speech law inherently distrusts regulation. Acknowledging the First Amendment’s importance, the United States Supreme Court imposed a special appellate duty to protect free speech. In Sullivan v. City of Augusta, the First Circuit considered whether two city ordinances violated the First Amendment’s free speech and assembly protections. The First Circuit conducted an independent review of the record and vacated in part, reversed in part, and affirmed in part the district court’s unconstitutionality findings.