Law and Daily Life: April 2010 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

April 2010 Archives

Are Petition Signatures Private Speech?

When you sign a petition, can your name be made public? 

The Supreme Court will answer that question, after having heard the arguments Wednesday in Doe v. Reed. Besides presenting an interesting constitutional question, the case is noteworthy as it is the last case that will be argued before Justice Stevens, who retires at the end of this court term. The case began in Washington state when same-sex marriage opponents petitioned to overturn Washington's domestic-partnership law.  

Missouri Sued over Mental Health Services for the Deaf

Sheri Cerame has a chilling story about problems in Missouri with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her deaf son was reportedly assaulted and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and became a danger to himself and others. Following a psychiatrist's advice, she took him to a state mental health facility. 

2 CA Cities Consider AZ Boycott Over New Law

The backlash against the new Arizona illegal immigration law continues to grow as the possibility of an Arizona boycott emerges. As Tanya Roth wrote in a prior post, the state recently passed a tough immigration law that is drawing some powerful critics, including President Obama, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder. The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona illegally.    

 

Big Bro's Insurance Woes: Update in School Spy Case

The folks at the head office of the Pennsylvania Lower Merion School District must think karma is a, well, you know. The latest hit in the long parade of such, since Blake Robbins and family sued the school for allegedly spying on the high school sophomore with the webcam on his school issued computer, is that their insurance company is -- out. The Graphic Arts Insurance company claims it has no duty to pay for damages arising from or provide a defense in the Robbins v. Lower Merion case. 

The Ritz: No Guest Request Too Big, or Too Bigoted?

Ahhh, the Ritz. A hotel chain famous for its storied level of luxury and service. In Paris, it was home to the likes of Coco Chanel. In Naples, Florida, it is allegedly home to some extraordinarily racist guests. At least, that is, according to the lawsuit filed by one of the Naples Ritz-Carlton's long- time employees, who is suing the hotel for race discrimination for complying with a guest's request that they not be served by anyone of color.

Arizona Immigration Bill Signed by Governor Brewer

Last Friday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the controversial Arizona immigration bill into law. Despite President Obama's comments last week that the bill was a "misguided" attempt to control the state's problems with illegal immigration, and despite growing protests, the Governor pressed forward.

Obama: Arizona Immigration Bill "Misguided"

As discussed in a prior post on this blog, the Arizona legislature has recently passed what is being called the strictest anti-illegal immigration bill in the nation. Supporters say the new law steps in to help the state control immigration since the federal government has failed to do so. Opponents say the Arizona bill will do nothing but encourage racial profiling by local law enforcement who will be required to question the status of anyone they have reason to believe is in the country illegally. Last Friday, President Obama weighed in with his opinion of the bill (now law).

Update: TX Same Sex Divorce, One Less Marriage

This blog has been following the developments of two cases of same sex divorce moving through the Texas courts. On April 21, a three-judge panel in the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas, heard oral arguments in the case of two Dallas men who are seeking a divorce from their legal marriage, performed in Massachusetts. The appeal was brought by the Texas Attorney General from a lower court ruling granting the divorce. Texas voters passed a ban on same sex marriages in 2005.

Texts and Employees' Privacy: High Court Hears Case

| 1 TrackBack

Do you have an expectation of privacy with regard to text messages sent from your company phone when you pay part of the bill? The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this issue Monday. 

As discussed previously in this blog, this is the first federal appellate level case attempting to reconcile company issued electronic devices with employees' privacy rights under the 4th Amendment.

When Kiva created a system to encourage lending to entrepreneurs, small businesses worldwide took notice. However, until last year, U.S. entrepreneurs were unable to participate. 

Now after a successful pilot program which began in June 2009, Kiva.org now offers small business loans, or "microloans" to U.S. entrepreneurs. FindLaw's Free Enterprise blog noted at the time that other microlenders were under investigation by the SEC, as their loans could be classified as securities.

The SEC's Goldman Sachs Suit

Last Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced they had filed a complaint against Goldman Sachs & Co and one of its vice-presidents, Fabrice Tourre, for defrauding investors with misstatements about a financial product backed by sub-prime mortgages and offered by the company just as the U.S. housing market was beginning to fail. The SEC is seeking damages from Goldman Sachs and Tourre which include the disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest and financial penalties.

Core Principle: How Apple Gets Its iPhone Back

The tech blogosphere is all atwitter (literally) about the silicon soap opera wherein one yet-to-be released, next-generation iPhone goes missing in a Redwood City bar and ends up for all the world to see on Gizmodo.com. All discussions about whether the lost iPhone was real (clearly, it was), whether it was purposefully left by some Machiavellian marketer (clearly, it wasn't), or whether this was a one time oops by a young engineer out drinking for his b-day (clearly, that's what it really was) have been done. So, if a legal blog is not going to update you on the hot fuss about missing Apple products straight out of the Valley, what will we discuss? Replevin.

Caught Napping: Pics in School Spying Case Emerge

This time, life imitates art. In 2004, British artist Sam Taylor-Wood produced a video portrait of soccer legend David Beckham, peacefully asleep. In a eerily parallel scene, the on-going case against the Lower Merion School District for allegedly spying on students via webcams attached to school issued laptops produced in the latest court papers, similar pictures of one plaintiff, Blake Robbins, sound asleep.

Arizona Passes Controversial Immigration Bill

Yesterday, the Arizona state Senate voted 17-11 to pass what some call the country's strictest and most controversial immigration bill, requiring police to question people about their status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally. The bill would also allow individual lawsuits to be brought against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws and make it illegal for employers to hire or knowingly transport illegal immigrants for day labor.

Next Please: Senate Passes Jobless Benefits Bill

On April 15, the Senate passed the next in a line of stopgap bills designed to extend unemployment benefits to some of the millions of Americans still out of work. The 59-38 vote allowed the bill, which would also keep Medicare reimbursements to doctors at the same rate, to go back to the House for final approval. The House is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Obama for signature.

Virginia Ex-Felons: Write an Essay, Get a Vote

Here is a story about the creative use of gubernatorial power. Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) has decided he wants the nonviolent ex-felons under his jurisdiction to get creative and write an essay about their contributions to society since their release from prison. The result? If the secretary of the commonwealth likes the essay, they can have their right to vote back. Considering this is the governor just recovering from the bad grades he received from the likes of President Obama for his other creative proposal, that his state name April "Confederate History Month," but not include any mention of slavery, you might think Governor McDonnell would consider toning down the creative efforts pouring forth from his administration. But such is not the case.

Judge Orders Desegregation in Mississippi Schools

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Fifty-six years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated, "separate but equal" schools were a violation of the Constitution, the courts are still ordering schools in the state of Mississippi to desegregate. On April 13, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee ordered a school district to stop a program allowing students to transfer to schools outside their residential area leaving district schools and even classes effectively segregated by race.

Supreme Court Will Hear Funeral Protest Case

There is a famous case most law students learn about that illustrates the sometimes painful consequences of the First Amendment. In 1977, the National Socialist Party of America (a Neo-Nazi group) planned a march in Skokie Illinois, the home of many Jewish Holocaust survivors. The Supreme Court upheld this act of speech, as distasteful and ignorant as it was, to be a rightful exercise of free speech and assembly under the First Amendment. It is possible that Albert Snyder's case against the Westboro Baptist Church will be another example of the price of this particular freedom.

DA Threatens Teachers: Don't Follow Sex Ed Law

Ignorance is such bliss. Perhaps bliss is what Juneau County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Scott Southworth is looking to spread around his jurisdiction. That, and fear of criminal prosecution. In a letter sent to Juneau County school districts, DA Southworth warns teachers they could face criminal prosecution if during their state sanctioned sex education classes, they teach students how to use contraception in the proper manner.

Cities Sue Wells Fargo for Discrimination in Lending

This week, Wells Fargo Bank announced it had settled a lawsuit with the NAACP over its lending practices. However, on the same day, the cities of Memphis and Baltimore announced suits against the bank over what they claim are its predatory lending practices.

Son Sues Mommy Dearest for Harassment on Facebook

Facebook, a great way to connect with friends and family! Sometimes, though things just go too far. An Arkansas teen has filed harassment charges with local prosecutors because his Facebook page was hacked, his password was changed and mean comments were posted - by his mommy. Beware friends, this time mom's the hacker.

Four More States Join AGs' Suit over HealthCare

A growing number of states have joined the Florida-led attempt to bring suit to challenge the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law. Lead by Florida's Republican Attorney General, Bill McCollum, the list has now expanded from the original 12. Bill McCollum is a candidate in the 2010 Florida gubernatorial race.

Senate Takes a Break, So Do Jobless Benefits

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to extend for one more month the already extended benefits allotted to those who are out of work. However, if the Senate did not also act to approve the bill, the extensions would face a gap during the chamber's spring recess. They did not, and about 400,000 Americans will see their benefits go on vacation as well.

Noble Experiment: CA's Citizen Redistricting Committee

As ever, the state of California is the home of the experimental. Think Silicon Valley. Think Haight-Ashbury. Think Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time it is the Citizens Redistricting Commission. This Commission, brought into existence by California voters passing Proposition 11 in 2008, provides for a committee of real, live citizens (as opposed to politicians) to redraw the boundary lines for the state Assembly, state Senate and Board of Equalization voting districts.

Update: AG too Late in TX Same Sex Divorce Case

As discussed in prior posts on this blog, the question of how to handle same sex divorce in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage is an on-going dilemma for the courts, attorneys and soon to be un-married folk of Texas. The State Attorney General Greg Abbott has attempted to intervene in the two same sex divorce cases that are currently in the courts of the state. The first, in Dallas, is on appeal before the Texas 5th District Court of Appeals. The trial court judge in that case did not allow the AG to intervene. In the second, in Austin, the judge has just ruled that Abbott was a day late. Literally.

When can you deduct the interest on your mortgage to lower your income tax amount? There are allowable deductions for mortgage interest, but the federal income tax law is riddled with complex definitions.

Sometimes, it can go over your head. But it does not need to be that complicated. Here's a simple primer on deducting your mortgage interest.

"Qualified residence interest" is deductible. But what does that mean?