The Biggest Legal Stories of 2015

2015 was a doozy. Here are some of its most important legal stories from around the world.

J-E-L-L-O’s image became irreparably tarnished when Bill Cosby was accused by more than 55 women of drugging them and raping them. Fewer people now claim to be friends with Bill Cosby. Cosby recently filed a countersuit against seven of his accusers after a federal judge in Massachusetts refused to throw out their suit against him.

Cosby has always denied the allegations and no criminal charges have ever been filed, but it was revealed that Cosby previously testified under oath that he bought Quaaludes with the intention of giving them to women he intended to have sex with.

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In the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nation-wide, prompting celebrations in San Francisco and crying elsewhere. Thirteen counties in Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas still refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In related news, in 2015 Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.

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Following controversial allegations by Edward Snowden, the U.S. Senate passed, and President Obama signed, the USA Freedom Act which for the first time imposed some limits on the bulk collection of telecommunication data on U.S. citizens by American intelligence agencies.

The primary limitations are: (1) Instead of receiving bulk quantities of data from telephone and internet companies the NSA will now be forced to request the information through a court order; (2) The data will also be stored on telephone and internet company servers rather than government servers; and (3) The request must be specific to an individual entity such as a person, account, or electronic device.

Edward Snowden continues to live in an undisclosed location in Russia eating cabbage while seeking asylum elsewhere.

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There were some big hacks in 2015: movie studio Sony, adult cheating site Ashley Madison, and the U.S. government. The Ashley Madison hack resulted in a massive class action lawsuit and the revelation that of the 37 million accounts hacked, only 23 belonged to actual women, some of whom were Ashley Madison employees posing as clients.

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An FBI and U.S. Attorney General-led investigation caused several high-level FIFA officials to be arrested. The investigation also caused FIFA ex-President and Darth Vader apprentice Sepp Blatter to resign and to be banned from FIFA for eight years.

Americans discovered what “FIFA” is thanks to John Oliver. One European commented on the New York Times: “If Bush had invaded FIFA instead of Iraq he’d have a street named after him in every European capital.”

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Over a million migrants are estimated to have traveled to Europe this year. The migrant crisis threatened the Schengen Agreement, which enabled passport-free movement across most of the 28-country EU bloc. The fact that many of the migrants are Muslim is seen as challenging to Europe’s identity and has fueled violent protests and backlash across Europe.

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Cuba and the United States reestablished full diplomatic relations, ending a 54-year stretch of hostility between the nations.

After Castro’s revolution in Cuba, hundreds of thousands of Cubans immigrated to the U.S. Before the 1980s, all refugees from Cuba were welcomed into the United States as political refugees. But starting in the 1990s only Cubans who reach U.S. soil were granted refuge under the “wet foot, dry foot policy”. Americans can now travel to Cuba without applying for a license.

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What news stories were most important to you in 2015? Let us know in the comments and have a fantastic start to your 2016!

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