Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

May 2007 Archives

Immigration Application Fees Set to Increase

Applicants for permanent residence in the U.S. and people filing for U.S. citizenship will pay substantially higher fees beginnning on July 30, 2007, under a new fee schedule recently released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Total fees associated with obtaining a permanent resident visa (or "green card") will increase from $325 to $930, while the cost of filing an application for U.S. citizenship will rise from $330 to $675. The new few schedule includes an increase in fees associated with almost all other immigration services. According to a USCIS press release, the new fee schedule provides "necessary funding for the agency to continue strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system, improving customer service, and modernizing business operations for the 21st century."

Supreme Court Limits Pay Discrimination Suits

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on timing requirements for filing a lawsuit over alleged pay discrimination in employment. A plaintiff bringing a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. Tuesday's decision involved how to apply that 180-day deadline, and whether each paycheck issued after an allegedly discriminatory decision could be considered a discriminatory act. The Court concluded that "because the later effects of past discrimination do not restart the clock for filing an EEOC charge," Lily Ledbetter's Title VII claims against her employer (Goodyear) were time-barred.

Contact Lens Solution Recalled

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert to health care professionals and their patients who wear soft contact lenses, about a voluntary recall of Complete MoisturePlus Multi Purpose Solution manufactured by Advanced Medical Optics of Santa Ana, Ca. The recall was initiated because of reports of a rare but serious eye infection (Acanthamoeba keratitis) caused by a parasite. The FDA is advising consumers who wear soft contact lenses to stop using Complete MoisturePlus solution, discard all partially-used or unopened bottles and replace their lenses and storage container.

U.S. Congress Passes Minimum Wage Increase

On Thursday, both branches of Congress voted to increase the federal minimum wage, by a 348 to 73 vote in the House, and an 80 to 14 vote in the Senate. Once signed by the President (as expected), the new law will raise the federal minimum wage in three stages -- from its current level of $5.15 an hour to $7.25 per hour -- over the next two years. The last increase in the federal minimum wage took effect in 1997.

FindLaw's "Family Law Center" Expanded

FindLaw for the Public's "Family Law Center" has been expanded and updated to include new content sections and up-to-date information. New additions to the Family Law Center include the following content sections:

Beyond the addition of these new sections, existing topics in the Family Law Center have also been expanded to include additional information and resources: Browse the Family Law Center.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on the obligations of parents seeking to enforce the educational rights of their special needs children. The Court ruled that parents do not need to hire a lawyer in order to sue a school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), declaring that "[b]ecause parents enjoy rights under IDEA, they are entitled to prosecute IDEA claims on their own behalf," without having to hire a lawyer. Under the IDEA, special needs students are entitled to a "free appropriate public education" under the terms of an "individualized education program" (IEP) that is developed by the parents, school officials, and others.

Diabetes Drug Linked to Heart Disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a Safety Alert on the diabetes drug Avandia and its links to heart risks. The alert was issued shortly after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) suggested a link between use of Avandia and an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. The NEJM article concludes that "patients and providers should consider the potential for serious adverse cardiovascular effects of treatment with rosiglitazone [Avandia] for type 2 diabetes." Avandia is used by more than 2 million people to treat "type-2" or "adult-onset" diabetes, and is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

The FDA is advising patients who are taking Avandia -- especially those who are known to have underlying heart disease or who are at high risk of heart attack -- to talk to their doctor about this new information as they evaluate the available treatment options for their type 2 diabetes.

Deal Reached on Immigration Reform

Democratic and Republican senators have reached an agreement with the White House on proposed legislation that would reform current immigration law to -- among other changes --  allow immigrants who are currently in the U.S. illegally to begin the process of establishing permanent residency in the U.S., after paying a fine and processing fees. The proposed law also contains provisions for a temporary guest worker program and fortification of U.S. border security.

Yolanda King, the eldest child of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died on Tuesday, May 15th in Santa Monica, California at the age of 51.  "She was an actress, author, producer, advocate for peace and nonviolence, who was known and loved for her motivational and inspirational contributions to society," the King family said in a statement.

Yolanda King earned a B.A. degree with honors from Smith College and a Masters degree in Theatre from New York University.  She is co-creator of the book "Open My Eyes, Open My Soul: Celebrating Our Common Humanity," a collection of stories and poems from a diverse range of people including Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou.  An accomplished actress, Yolanda King's performances illustrated her commitment to social justice and included a portrayal of Rosa Parks in the NBC-TV movie "King," and of Medgar Ever's daughter, Reena, in "Ghosts of Mississippi."  Yolanda King was the CEO of Higher Ground Productions, a company she founded in 1990.

A memorial service will be take place May 24th at Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizons Sanctuary in Atlanta.  Details are sitll being finalized for a second memorial service to be held in Los Angeles.

Related Information:

At least 115 California consumer and community organizations have asked six top mortgage lenders to help stop the nationwide trend of home foreclosures and predatory lending. According to the California Reinvestment Coalition, a group which advocates for the rights of low-income communities (and which organized the request), "the lenders are being asked to declare a temporary moratorium and direct homeowners to financial solutions that will allow them to keep their homes."

Dishwashers Recalled Due to Fire Hazard

About 2.5 million General Electric dishwashers are being recalled nationwide, because leaking rinse solution dispensers can short circuit the appliance's wiring and cause a fire, according to an announcement from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The recall includes GE built-in dishwashers sold between September 1997 and December 2001, under the brand names Eterna, GE, GE Profile, GE Monogram, Hotpoint, and Sears-Kenmore. See the CPSC Press Release for detailed information on affected brands and models.

According to the CPSC, consumers should stop using the recalled dishwashers immediately and contact General Electric for a free repair, a $150 rebate towards the purchase of a new GE dishwasher, or a $300 rebate towards the purchase of a new GE Profile or GE Monogram dishwasher. Consumers can call General Electric toll-free at (877) 607-6395 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday.

"Top Safety Pick" Vehicles Named for 2007

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given its 2007 "Top Safety Pick" award to the 2007 Acura MDX luxury SUV and the 2008 Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable large family cars. According to the IIHS, vehicles earning the "Top Safety Pick" designation must "afford superior overall crash protection among the vehicles in their class. To qualify for "Top Safety Pick," vehicles must earn the highest rating of good in all three Institute tests -- front, side, and rear." The Acura MDX and the Taurus/Sable join 15 other vehicles that have also been awarded 2007 "Top Safety Pick" honors.

Oregon OKs Domestic Partnerships

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has signed a law that gives same-sex couples in the state the right to enter into a "domestic partnership" beginning on January 1, 2008. A domestic partnership is a legally-recognized relationship which offers many (but not all) of the benefits of marriage. Oregon becomes the third West Coast state (along with California and Washington) to allow domestic partnerships to its same-sex citizens.

Movable Soccer Goals Can Cause Injury

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a warning that movable soccer goals can fall over and cause serious injury to children who climb on or hang from them. CPSC states that since 1979 it has received reports of at least 28 deaths caused by homemade and professionally-manufactured soccer goals falling over. CPSC is offering safety suggestions to help prevent injuries associated with soccer goals.

FindLaw's Criminal Law Center Expanded

FindLaw for the Public's Criminal Law Center has recently been expanded and updated to include new coverage of topics including Juvenile Crimes and Juvenile Justice, Evidence and Witnesses, Sex Offenders and Sex Offenses, Capital Punishment, and more.

New Hampshire to Raise Minimum Wage

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has signed a law authorizing a two-step increase in the minimum wage for many of the state's hourly workers. The New Hampshire minimum wage, currently at $5.15/hour, will increase to $6.50/hour on September 1 of this year, and will rise to $7.50/hour on September 1, 2008. The new law, signed on May 3, marks the first New Hampshire minimum wage increase since 1997.

FBI Warns on Wireless Network Security

Users of wireless Internet or network connections should take steps to ensure they have the best possible security measures in place, according to a warning issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to the FBI press release, the warning is based on information indicating that "computer hackers in Europe have developed a method for cutting through the security provided by the WEP [Wireless Encryption Protocol] within a matter of seconds," and the FBI is concerned that use of this method could soon become more widespread.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that makers of all antidepressant medications update the existing "black box" warning on their products' labeling to include warnings about increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior (known as "suicidality") in young adults ages 18 to 24 during the first one to two months of treatment. The FDA announcement applies to all antidepressants, including Celexa, Effexor, Fluvoxamine, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Seroquel, Symbyax, and Zoloft,. The FDA advises people currently prescribed antidepressant medications to continue taking them, but to notify their health care providers if they have concerns.

May 1st is Law Day

May 1 was designated "Law Day" in the U.S. by Congress in 1961, to "strengthen our great heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law," according to the Library of Congress. The theme for Law Day 2007 is Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), which offers a number of Law Day participation and classroom ideas, "Law Day programs are designed to help people understand how law keeps us free and how our legal system strives to achieve justice," and this year's theme "prompts us to listen to the voices of young people and consider how the law can better serve their needs and interests."

FindLaw Receives Webby People's Voice Award

As a follow-up to the blog post FindLaw Selected as Webby Award Nominee, the Webby Award winners were announced today.  In the Law category, FindLaw received the People's Voice Award and LawHelp.org (powered by probono.net) received the Webby Award.  We're honored to receive this award and will continue to work to deliver the best possible services to our users.