Law and Daily Life: February 2011 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

February 2011 Archives

Divorcing? Don't Forget to Update Your Will!

Happily married couples often have a mutually beneficial and comprehensive estate plan. This usually includes wills that give some or all of a deceased's property to a surviving spouse; trusts that list a spouse as a beneficiary; insurance policies and IRAs with survivorship; and durable powers of attorney.

These documents all serve an important purpose, making sure that a surviving spouse is taken care of.

But what happens when that marriage is no longer happy? After divorce, will all these documents still be valid?

Want Out of Jury Duty? Facebook Posts May Work

Facebook keeps popping up in unexpected places. The most recent: jury selection. Thanks to Facebook, jury duty just got more personal.

Something as simple as liking the show CSI on Facebook could tell lawyers that a prospective juror may have "unrealistic expectations that DNA evidence could be obtained from every crime scene," the Wall Street Journal reports. Facebook can also be useful to learn things like a potential juror's religion, political beliefs, hobbies and tastes.

Legalese 101: What's a Statute of Limitations?

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

Picture it. You're walking along the street when you come across a hideous sculpture. It's got high up shelves that only the tallest of the tall can reach. It's got that pair of jeans you just can't fit into. It's got a glass ceiling. And it's draped in yellow tape warning you not to get too close. It's a mixed-media piece, okay?

After a few minutes, it all makes sense. It's a Statue of Limitations!

New WeedMaps.com Offers Marijuana Coupons

Forget the street corners. Forget those dark back rooms. Hell, forget that sketchy friend of a friend. WeedMaps.com has just ushered in a new era of pot shopping, and it begins with medical marijuana coupons.

At first glance, WeedMaps.com looks like a Yelp.com for pot shopping. Limited to states that have legalized medical marijuana, a user can search via his zip code or for a specific "menu" item. The site then shows a map listing the corresponding dispensaries, all of which have been rated by users. Each listing also includes a full description of what products are offered and corresponding prices.

Defense of Marriage Act Dropped by Obama

Attorney General Eric Holder has sent a letter to Congress informing legislators that the Department of Justice will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

This is a big step for the Obama Administration, which, according to The New York Times, is being accused by critics of failing to live up to the president's promise to defend gay rights.

DMV Sued by Transgender Woman Over Privacy

Though no one enjoys going to the DMV, it's rare that anyone experiences more pain than that of boredom. Enter Thomas Demartini, one DMV employee you hope never calls your number.

Amber Yust, the woman behind headlines proclaiming "Transgender Woman Sues DMV," moved to San Francisco a few months ago. Having recently changed her name, it was time to get a new driver's license. While at the local office, Ms. Yust met Thomas Demartini, the clerk who handled her application.

Legalese 101: What exactly is a Grand Jury?

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

Today our topic is a phrase you hear a lot, though many people don't really understand what it is all about: the grand jury system. A grand jury is a type of jury that analyzes the evidence in a case brought by the prosecution and determines whether the evidence is substantial enough to go to trial.

A grand jury listens to the prosecution's side of the case without the presence of the defense and determines whether or not to issue an indictment. An indictment is a formal charge that the defendant has committed a crime.

Diabetic Sues: All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Discrimination

Raw fish aficionados across the world can easily tell you the difference between sushi and sashimi: one has rice, the other doesn't.

This simple fact seems to have escaped David Martin, who is now suing A Ca-Shi, a Studio City, CA restaurant, for diabetes discrimination.

A Ca-Shi offers all-you-can-eat sushi at the price of $28, a deal David Martin couldn't pass up. When his first order arrived, he began picking the fish from his rolls, leaving behind the rice. When the owner saw the sushi desecration, he told Martin he'd have to eat all the sushi to take part in the deal, reports the Los Angeles Times. But Martin couldn't--he's diabetic.

JabberJury: Online 'Jurors' Settle Disputes

Are dishes woman's work? Should you fart in public? Does a platypus make a better actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Is Pepsi better than Coke?!

Coke, right? Diet, of course.

These are just a few of the questions being asked by users of JabberJury, a newly launched online jury site designed to settle everyday disputes by polling users. The site, which has been around since 2009, had its official launch last week, and is quickly gaining popularity. So what's the deal?

Businesses Refuse to Hire Unemployed, EEOC says

When speaking to the unemployed, discrimination is usually the last thing on their mind. After all, they're not employed, right? But once they settle in and start browsing the web for that next job, things change. Inevitably, they come across a promising ad, only to be devastated when the ad lists "currently employed" under qualifications. Discrimination has taken on new meaning.

Discrimination against the unemployed has finally come to the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has just announced that it is now investigating whether the practice is as widespread as anecdotal evidence suggests, and whether the practice of requiring current employment is illegal. Employment law experts are unsure what the EEOC will do, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Wisconsin Protests: Cut State Workers' Union?

Things are getting heavy in Wisconsin. The state's Republican-dominated Legislature is prepared to vote to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees. The measure has sparked Wisconsin state workers to protest.

The measure was so controversial that all 14 Senate Democrats boycotted the vote on a controversial bill and left the state, Fox News reports. The Wisconsin protests have also led many of the schools throughout the state to close for the second day in a row. The closures came after the state teachers' union called on members to join thousands of protesters in Madison.

Boy Sent to Psych Ward Against Mom's Wishes

Kids do funny things sometimes. Jack Dorman, 6, a student at a Los Angeles elementary school recently drew what school officials called a "disturbing picture." So what did they do? Take away his crayons? Call his parents? Send him to the principal's office?

No, they sent Jack Dorman off to a psychiatric center for a 72-hour hold. Now the mother, Syndi Dorman, is fuming mad and speaking out against the LAUSD after the incident went down at Taper Avenue Elementary in San Pedro.

Did Amanda Knox Parents Libel Italian Police?

A strange turn of events has occurred in the Italian murder proceedings involving Amanda Knox. Parents Curt Knox and Edda Mellas have been indicted by an Italian judge for libeling police.

Amanda Knox made national headlines when she was tried and convicted for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher while studying abroad in Italy. The trial was rife with controversy, with the defense alleging gross prosecutorial misconduct and tainted evidence. Amanda Knox also alleged police brutality.

Montana Repeals Medical Marijuana Law

It appears that not everyone is utterly enamored with the idea of medical marijuana. Take for example, the state of Montana, where the House of Representatives voted to repeal the state's medical marijuana law.

The law, which was six years old, was voted against 63-37. Under the law, overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004, those with a debilitating or terminal illnesses can use medical marijuana to treat pain and other chronic symptoms.

Is a California Shark Fin Ban Racist?

Is an environmental conservation law actually a clever racist attack?

Shark fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy for nearly 2,000 years, making its way onto menus even today. It can cost as much as $50 per person, as the collapse of an important shark population has put the price of shark fins near $500 a pound.

In response to the collapsed shark ecosystem, the federal government banned shark finning in U.S. waters this past December. The newly proposed California shark fin ban goes one step further: it also bans the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins, reports SF Weekly.

Arizona Defends Cut to Gay Partner Benefits

Federal law does not require that gay and lesbian couples receive health care benefits or any other benefits of marriage. Arizona state law also does not grant domestic partners these rights. However, prior to 2009, state employees were entitled to gay partner benefits, meaning health care and other insurance options. That year, citing budgetary reasons, Governor Jan Brewer cut the Arizona gay partner benefits from the state's budget.

Bringing suit on behalf of LGBT state employees, Lambda Legal argued at the District Court level that denying employees of the state of Arizona gay partner benefits discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. The judge issued an injunction, stopping the repeal from going into effect while the case is heard. An appeal of that injunction was heard yesterday in the 9th Circuit.

Walmart Can Fire Medical Marijuana Users

As reported a few weeks ago here on Law & Daily Life, medical marijuana users face hurdles at their places of employment. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia currently permit medical marijuana use, but only two protect patients from being fired when they fail a drug test.

Courts have been left to decide the fate of medical marijuana patients in the other thirteen jurisdictions, and patients in Michigan now know where they stand.

Clarence Thomas Too Biased to hear Obamacare?

When Ginny Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, stepped onto the political stage during the Obamacare debate, it was previously unheard of to see the spouse of a court member make a political statement. Ginny Thomas' ties to anti-health care reform groups, including her own Tea Party-aligned Liberty Central, may now be causing her husband some problems.

Seventy-four House Democrats have called for Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself should the health care reform law make its way into the Supreme Court, reports The Huffington Post. In a letter, they assert that Ginny Thomas' ties to, and financial gain from, anti-Obamacare groups raises questions of her husband's ability to rule impartially.

What is Appropriate Dress for Court?

Fashion is a must for celebrities out on the town, and for Lindsay Lohan, court appearances are no different. Facing charges of felony grand theft related to an allegedly stolen necklace, she made her way back into a Los Angeles courtroom yesterday. In a tight, white dress.

Did I mention that it was also short and paired with patent leather heels?

Though the entertainment media loves to rag on Miss Lohan, they actually made a good point: Lindsay Lohan's white dress was not an appropriate dress for court.

FindLaw For Consumers Now on Facebook

Like. Share. Discuss. All these features are encouraged on the newly designed FindLaw for Consumers page.

The recently launched page is designed to allow legal consumers to use Facebook as a chance to communicate with FindLaw, discuss interesting legal topics and share stories and resources with their friends.

FindLaw.com is excited for the chance to reach out to the Facebook community and share all the interesting legal knowledge FindLaw has to offer.

Legalese 101: What Does Per Se Mean?

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

Per se is a latin phrase that means "through itself." It also means "by itself or "in itself." Per se if generally used in a legal sense to mean that without referring to anything else, something must be accepted because it is self evident or inherent.

Here are a couple of examples of situations where per se often comes up:

Do I Get Paid Overtime on Federal Holidays?

Don't you wish you were paid overtime on Valentine's Day? Or given the day off? Wallowing is much easier when not stuck in a sea of cubicles.

Even if Valentine's Day was a federal holiday, you wouldn't be entitled to that well-deserved overtime pay or that impending three-day weekend. In fact, the law doesn't require that you be paid overtime on any federal holiday--not even Christmas. So President's Day certainly doesn't count. And forget about mandatory time off.

Navajo Start to Talk About Dying, Wills

Death is taboo in the Navajo community; if you think it, it will happen.

This belief has left many Navajo men and women without choice near the end of their lives. When Dr. Timothy Domer started a home-based health care program in the Navajo community near Fort Defiance, Arizona, it came to his attention that none (not a single one) of his patients had an advance health care directive or durable power of attorney, according to the New York Times.

Without these documents, it was difficult to preserve patients' autonomy and choice.

Facebook Divorce: Evidence from Wall posts

Facebook may not be good for your marriage, but it might be good for your divorce.

For users of Facebook, divorce is all the rage. Between news feed updates that notify friends when you go from married to single, and groups proclaiming that the social network ruined its members' marriages, Facebookers can't escape it. And some of them may not want to.

Arizona to End Birthright Citizenship?

Arizona just can't stay out of the headlines these days. The Grand Canyon State has been at the forefront of the immigration debate in the past few years. First with its labor policies and more recently with S.B. 1070. Now the state has set its sights on the 14th Amendment and the so-called "anchor-baby" clause.

The state legislature has begun hearings on two proposals, known as the Arizona birthright citizenship laws. The first proposal seeks to deny citizenship to children who are not born to a United States citizen, reports CNN.

The second seeks to create a two-tiered birth certificate system: "citizens" would receive the normal Arizona birth certificate while all others would receive a different document.

Legalese 101: What is Hearsay?

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

People seem to misuse the word hearsay a lot. Contrary to popular belief, hearsay isn't just something that someone else said about you that you don't like.

It's actually a complicated legal term that is very frequently misunderstood, even by lawyers. But fear not, FindLaw is here to walk you through just what hearsay is (and what it isn't).

Insurers Check Your Facebook to Monitor Fraud

You're not paranoid if they really are stalking you, right?

It turns out that insurance companies may check Facebook and other social media sites, looking for evidence of fraud. The concept isn't completely new. We've also discussed divorce lawyers and private investigations searching for evidence of infidelity on Facebook and other social media.

Divorce is FindLaw's Most Searched Legal Term

Like it or not, Americans are thinking about and searching about all things divorce.

"Divorce" was FindLaw.com's most searched legal term of 2010, which is no surprise given that about half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. More and more people are turning to the internet to investigate divorce laws, trying to limit the financial impact of divorce in a stunted economy.

Marijuana in the Workplace: Bill Would Bar Firing

It seems like every employer is conducting mandatory drug testing these days. In states like California, where medical pot use has been legal since 1996, this can cause problems for employees legally using marijuana with a doctor's prescription. 

Enter state Senator Mark Leno, who this week introduced a bill to prohibit employers from firing employees who are using marijuana under California state law when not on the job. The bill would also make it illegal for employers to base a hiring decision solely on the fact that someone uses medical marijuana, the AP reports.

Lesbian Students Can Attend School Event as Couple

Two Minnesota lesbian students recently won a victory for gay students. Gay and lesbian teens have been in the news lately--and not for positive reasons. A rash of suicides has prompted a national discussion about cyberbullying and the harassment these youth face in schools across the country. 

One of those schools has finally got the message.

The Anoka-Hennepin district in Minnesota has been at the center of the gay and lesbian teen suicide crisis. In the last fifteen months the district has seen five suicides precipitated by anti-gay bullying. Despite this, one of the district's high schools went forth and changed policies to prevent two lesbian students from appearing at a pep rally together, reports the Pioneer Press.

Health Care Reform Decision: What's it Mean?

The new health care reform law (aka "Obamacare") has taken another hit in the courts. A Florida judge ruled the entire law is unconstitutional this week.

But the real question now is:

What does the health care decision really means for ordinary citizens? Especially now that some provisions of the law have already come into effect.

If I'm in Rehab, Must an Employer Hold My Job?

Charlie Sheen's drug problems aren't news to anyone, but his recent foray into at-home rehab is. While Sheen is tended to by an addiction specialist in the comfort of his home, CBS has begun planning for the future of Sheen's Two and a Half Men time slot.

While we may not all be celebrities raking in millions for our employers, the plight of Charlie Sheen raises an interesting question for the everyday person: must an employer hold your job if you need to take leave for rehab?

100 Sled Dogs Killed: Man Gets Workers' Comp

Man kills 100 sled dogs. And files for workers' compensation. Yes, you read that right.

An employee of a British Columbia's Outdoors Adventures, a company that offers sled dog tours, has filed a workers' compensation claim stemming from the post-traumatic stress disorder caused by having to kill 100 sled dogs in two days.

Despite having killed dogs previously (for euthanasia purposes only), the man was not mentally prepared for the task at hand. After a veterinarian refused to euthanize the dogs, the employee began his task, choosing to kill the dogs in their kennel, where, according to the Toronto Sun, the dogs panicked and had to be killed with both gun and knife. Covered in blood, he then buried the 100 sled dogs in a mass grave, further notes The Vancouver Sun.

New Breastfeeding Law to Help Working Moms

When it comes to breastfeeding at work, times are changing. MSNBC recently profiled mother Stacey Weiland, who said that when she was a new mother, she received little sympathy from colleagues who saw her requests to breastfeed as an inconvenience, like going out to smoke.

Women returning to jobs after childbirth often have had to choose between breastfeeding at work and their jobs, according to Chris Mulford, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. However, under the new health care law, that is about to change across the nation. (That is, assuming that the law isn't overturned or repealed.)