See you in court
October 4, 2019

After facing allegations in 2018 that he sexually exploited students at his acting school, James Franco is being taken to court.

Two former students of Studio 4, the school Franco founded, have filed a lawsuit against him, alleging he and his partners "engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects," The New York Times reports.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who filed the lawsuit Thursday, also allege the inexperienced women at the school were "routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry," per the Times, and that the school aimed to get around California's regulations that forbid requiring actors to pay for auditions, NPR reports. Franco's lawyer says the actor will "fully defend himself" against the "debunked" claims.

The two former students told NPR that women who were willing to do nude scenes and "push the envelope" in Franco's Sex Scenes class, which did not inform students about industry standards like nudity riders, were rewarded with offers of work, most of which required nudity.

Allegations of misconduct at Franco's school, which closed in 2017, emerged in a Los Angeles Times piece last year, for which Tither-Kaplan was interviewed. Violet Paley, an ex-girlfriend of Franco's, additionally told the Times he coerced her into performing oral sex. In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert shortly before the Times' piece, Franco said, "In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I've done ... If I've done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to." Brendan Morrow

September 10, 2019

Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser and convicted felon, appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, and finally received a sentencing date: Dec. 18.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's U.S. ambassador, and he subsequently cooperated with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors. Tuesday's hearing was called because federal prosecutors and Flynn's attorneys were not able to agree on whether Flynn was ready to be sentenced, CBS News reports. Flynn's sentencing had been postponed several times, in order for him to continue cooperating with the government.

In June, Flynn hired a new attorney, vocal Mueller critic Sidney Powell. In two August court filings, Powell accused prosecutors of misconduct and manipulation, and claimed in court on Tuesday that Flynn never would have accepted a plea deal if the government had come forward with evidence favorable to Flynn. Federal prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, a member of Mueller's team, denied all of Powell's allegations. Catherine Garcia

August 5, 2019

Puerto Rico's effort to find a new governor is only getting messier and messier.

After Ricardo Rosselló on Friday stepped down as governor in light of a corruption scandal and the leak of offensive private chats, Pedro Pierluisi, who Rosselló had picked as secretary of state earlier that week, was sworn in; the secretary of state position would place Pierluisi next in the line of succession. But this immediately sparked legal questions and controversy, as by Friday afternoon, Puerto Rico's Senate had not actually confirmed Pierluisi as secretary of state yet. Some said that Pierluisi could be sworn in just with the House's approval, which he received, while others contended he needed approval from the Senate, too.

Now, Puerto Rico's Senate has filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Pierluisi, The Associated Press reports, with Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz saying, "Puerto Rico is living a situation without historical precedent." San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz also said on she would file an appeal challenging Pierluisi, NBC News reports.

The Senate's lawsuit will now be heard by Puerto Rico's Supreme Court, reports CBS' David Begnaud.

In a statement on Monday, Pierluisi said he would respect the result of the Senate's upcoming vote on his secretary of state position after previously saying he would resign were the vote not successful. Were he to do so, the next in line would be Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, who previously said she has "no interest in occupying the position of governor." Brendan Morrow

July 2, 2019

House Democrats have officially filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department over its refusal to provide them with President Trump's tax returns, The New York Times reports.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee had previously issued a subpoena for Trump's tax returns, but the Treasury Department, led by Secretary Steven Mnuchin, refused to comply. In a letter to Democrats, Mnuchin in May argued that this "unprecedented" demand "lacks legitimate legislative purpose." Democrats had requested six years of Trump's tax returns under a 1924 law that says the IRS "shall furnish" tax returns when requested by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Now, Democrats on the panel are suing the Trump administration to get their hands on these tax returns in a legal battle that The Washington Post notes may ultimately end up in the Supreme Court. The complaint accuses the defendants, including Mnuchin, of mounting "an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight," arguing Mnuchin and others in the Trump administration "gravely misunderstand the operative law." Brendan Morrow

June 25, 2019

The Justice Department is suing Omarosa Manigault Newman, President Trump's friend turned foe, accusing her of not filing a financial disclosure report after she was fired from the White House.

Manigault Newman met Trump while appearing on the first of several seasons of his show The Apprentice, and she parlayed that relationship into a job as one his top aides. She was fired in December 2017, after less than a year in the White House. Once a government employee leaves their job, they are required to file the disclosure report, and in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department said Manigault Newman was sent reminder emails but ignored them. The department is asking Manigault Newman pay a $50,000 penalty.

Manigault Newman's attorney, John Phillips, told USA Today this appears to be a case of the White House using the Justice Department to retaliate against his client. After she was fired, Manigault Newman became a fierce critic of Trump, writing a book about what she witnessed while working for him (in turn, he went on the attack, calling her "wacky"). Phillips said Manigault Newman wrote emails and made phone calls asking for seven boxes of documents she needed to fill out the report; she was told they would be sent to her on May 10, after the deadline to file, but they never came, Phillips said. Catherine Garcia

June 11, 2019

Ten state attorneys general on Tuesday sued to block the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, saying the $26 billion deal would result in consumers paying more for their wireless phone plans, with low-income and minority customers hit the hardest.

This is "exactly the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing mega merger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent," New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said. T-Mobile, the third-largest wireless company in the U.S., and Sprint, which follows in the No. 4 spot, announced the proposed merger in April 2018, and said the goal was to get the deal approved by July 2019.

T-Mobile and Sprint say that by coming together, they'll be able to expand the country's 5G network. Last month, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai said the merger would close "the digital divide in rural America" while "advancing United States leadership in 5G." It's believed FCC commissioners will vote on the merger soon, and the Justice Department is expected to make its decision on the merger sometime in the next few weeks, The New York Times reports. Catherine Garcia

June 11, 2019

House Democrats are turning their subpoena threats up another notch.

On Tuesday, the House voted 229-191 on a resolution to take its subpoenas of Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn to federal court. The party line vote will let the House Judiciary Committee challenge Barr and McGahn's noncompliance with the committee's requests for their testimonies and documents, but doesn't formally charge the two with contempt.

As NPR puts it, Tuesday's vote "clears the way for more lawsuits against Cabinet departments, administration officials, bankers, accountants, and more." But it also represents a retreat from previous promises to hold Barr in contempt after he failed to show up for a House hearing last month. It also pales in comparison to some Democrats' calls to impeach Barr altogether.

The move comes just a day after Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced he'd reached a deal with the DOJ to see previously withheld "key evidence" from the Mueller report. Nadler said in a Monday release that he'd give the DOJ time to comply with the deal before moving to "enforce our subpoena in court," but that didn't seem to apply to the subpoenas issued directly to Barr and McGahn that were in question Tuesday. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 3, 2019

The Trump Organization is being sued by the owner of a Panama City hotel, who alleges the company "made fraudulent and false claims to the Panamanian tax authorities" in order to "cover up its unlawful activities."

The Trump International Hotel and Tower opened in Panama City in 2011, and the Trump Organization was set to manage the property through 2031, The New York Times reports. In 2017, a businessman named Orestes Fintiklis bought 202 of the hotel's 369 units, and soon after took the Trump Organization to court, saying the hotel was struggling financially due to the company's mismanagement. In 2018, the Trump Organization was removed as managers, and the property is now a JW Marriott.

In a legal filing made Monday in Manhattan, Fintiklis and his companies allege that the tax evasion scheme was discovered in 2018 when Panamanian tax authorities conducted an audit. The filing also claims the Trump Organization did not pay taxes on fees it collected for managing the hotel's daily operations and underreported employee salaries to the Panamanian social security agency, possibly to reduce social security tax payments, the Times reports. Combined, these actions made "the financial and operational performance of the hotel appear in a false light," the filing said.

Fintiklis and his companies are seeking $35 million in damages, while the Trump Organization argues it is owed at least $3 million since being ousted as the property managers. The Trump Organization did not respond to the Times' request for comment. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads