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

December 2011 Archives

'Nurse In' for Right to Breastfeed in Public

Target shopper Michelle Hickman organized a "nurse in" at Target stores across the nation this week. She wanted to make a stand in support of a woman's right to breastfeed. What many Americans may not realize is that breastfeeding laws often encourage and allow women to nurse in public.

It's a lesson that some Target employees in Houston hadn't learned.

Hickman was nursing her infant son in the store when she was stopped by store staff members. They told her to nurse in the fitting room. When she informed them she had the legal right to breastfeed in public, they still directed her to hide herself from view.

Internet Poker May be Legal as Feds Flip Flop

Is Internet poker legal? Is it illegal? Will we ever get an answer?

Well, we might have just gotten one and it comes in the form of an opinion released by the Justice Department. In a response to a request by Illinois and New York, the agency explained its take on the Wire Act of 1961 -- the federal law that purports to ban online poker.

And for some online poker players, the opinion seems to be a good thing.

Who Gets Custody of the Dog After Divorce?

Some divorcing couples treasure their pets as if they are children. That's why pet custody laws are becoming an increasingly important point of contention. Many couples might wonder: who gets ownership of a pet after a divorce?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Just ask Hugh Hefner and ex-fiancée Crystal Harris. The Playboy boss is currently in a pet custody battle over his Cavalier King Charles spaniel Charlie.

Who will get the dog? It's not a clear cut answer for Hefner. It also isn't clear-cut for you or me.

Obama Birther Lawsuit Thrown Out

The Obama birthplace lawsuit was dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday. The "birther" lawsuit was filed by several different plaintiffs including taxpayers, political rivals, and military officers. The suit sought to challenge President Obama's citizenship.

They claimed that Obama wasn't born in the United States, which would have larger ramifications. Only a "natural born" citizen can serve as president.

The "birthers" persisted despite the fact that President Obama released his "long-form" birth certificate. They claimed that Obama, who has a Kenyan father, was actually born overseas in Africa. The "birthers" said that Obama's Hawaii birth certificate was nothing more than a forgery.

'Sister Wives' Family to Help Legalize Bigamy?

The TLC reality show Sister Wives put bigamy back into the spotlight. The stars, including Kody Brown and his four wives, even filed a lawsuit in federal court last July.

The suit is still working its way through the system. The Browns essentially seek to challenge Utah's bigamy law. The law criminalizes marrying more than one individual. It also criminalizes cohabitation.

Brown is only legally married to one of his wives. The rest he wed in religious ceremonies. They consider themselves "spiritually married," reports the AP. But since Utah's law criminalizes cohabitation, not just marriage, the family could still be indicted.

Gather Around Tree to Make Legal Decisions

What better way to spend the holidays than talking about death? Or you know, what would happen if you were on the precipice of death.

It's a bit morbid, but the American Bar Association's Commission on Law & Aging has released a new publication offering a bare bones durable power of attorney. The organization thinks you should take some time this holiday season to talk about the future.

After dinner and presents, of course.

New Yorkers Can Now Be Buried With Their Pet

Do you want to be buried with your pet? Well, head to New York.

The state Division of Cemeteries had banned the practice earlier this year after learning about Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester. The cremated remains of about 700 people had been buried there since 1925.

But regulators have relented. Subject to restrictions, New Yorkers can now be buried in pet cemeteries along with their furry (or scaly) friends.

Teens Can Report Suicidal Behavior via Facebook Chat

Facebook and Lifeline, a national suicide prevention organization, are about to enter into a new partnership that may save lives. Facebook's new suicide chat feature allows someone feeling suicidal to directly interface with counselors over the web.

The way the feature works is relatively simple. Users who see their friends post suicidal comments can "report" the posting to Facebook.

Facebook will vet the comment to see if it's legitimate. If it is, it will send a user an email that will contain information about Lifeline's services. The email will also contain a direct link so that users can easily start a live chat with a Lifeline counselor.

Hawaii Bed and Breakfast Refused Room to Lesbians?

A lawsuit filed by two Southern California women accuses Hawaii's Aloha Bed & Breakfast of engaging in sexual orientation discrimination in 2007.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford called the establishment and requested a room with a single bed. Owner Phyllis Young then asked if they were lesbians, to which they answered yes.

Allegedly, Young then declined to rent them a room, citing her religious views and discomfort at having lesbians in her house.

Nearly half of New York-area immigration lawyers are "inadequate" or "grossly inadequate," with private immigration attorneys faring the worst, a survey of immigration judges finds.

Still, immigrants facing deportation fare far better with lawyers than without, the survey finds.

The survey found immigration lawyers were often poorly prepared, and sometimes failed to show up for hearings at five immigration courts in and around New York City, The New York Times reports.

'Charlotte the Deer' Gets a Governor's Pardon

It’s a Christmas miracle! Despite not being of the rein variety, Charlotte the deer has been saved!

Or at least pardoned. She can thank Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker — and her original savior, Marvin Graaf.

Graaf rescued baby Charlotte 15 months ago after her mother was hit by a car. He nursed her with a bottle and puppy formula while trying to find her a good home. But then the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stepped in.

5 Ways to Get Fired Over Your Facebook Posts

Everybody gripes about their job at some point. But bear in mind that if you do so over the web, you face the risk of being on the receiving end of a social media firing. We've all heard stories about people getting fired over Facebook.

Many tend to forget that their Facebook and Twitter feeds often aren't as "private" as you would think.

So what are some ways your career can meet an early demise due to a social media misstep?

With just days before Christmas, 'tis the season for last-minute holiday shopping. But if you're planning to make up for procrastination by clicking online, you may want to pay closer attention to the fine print.

A new Internet shopping survey by FindLaw.com finds more than half of U.S. consumers say they quickly read, skim, or just plain ignore online legal agreements.

You know what we're talking about: Those dense paragraphs and annoying pop-ups that contain so much fine print, most people just scroll to the end and click "Agree."

Only 19% of consumers say they read every word, the FindLaw survey finds. Another 26% say they try to understand most of what's written.

Only ½ of US Adults Married, and Dropping

Americans are getting married later and less often, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Only 51% of adults are married, and only 20% of those aged 18 to 29.

Though marriage is down, cohabitation is up. More couples are either not marrying or are living together before tying the knot. Unfortunately, such living arrangements present a slew of legal issues for the persons involved.

However, cohabitation agreements can help fill in those gaps.

Teen Girls Still Need Rx for 'Morning After Pill'

Teen girls under the age of 17 will still require a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive medication. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has reportedly rejected Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' application to sell Plan B to teens without the age restriction.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the agency was prepared to grant Teva's request until they were directed by Sebelius not to.

If the FDA had approved, Plan B could have been sold on drugstore shelves next to other family-planning products like condoms.

5 Things to Remember About Holiday Donations

This season, consider giving the gift of a charity. Many consumers give charitable donations (and get tax deductions as an added bonus) during this time of year.

If you're considering making a donation, brush up on tax law first. This way, you can ensure you get the most out of your contributions. So, what are some issues you should be aware of?

'Dirty DUI:' Man Sues Wife, Ex-Cop Over Scheme

Divorce isn't often the basis of a civil rights lawsuit and a request for punitive damages. Well, except when your divorce involves a "dirty DUI."

Mitchell Katz has filed a lawsuit against his estranged wife, Alicia Spenger, and private investigator Chris Butler over such a scheme. The pair allegedly set up a rouse that ended in Katz being arrested for driving under the influence.

Spenger is believed to have paid Butler $8,100 to make it happen.

It was a date with destiny more than three decades in the making. A deadbeat dad who had moved out of state was nabbed on a 36-year-old child support warrant and taken to jail.

Stephen Schmidt, 70, of Jonesboro, Ga., hadn't returned to Wisconsin in three decades, Reuters reports. But on his first trip back to the Badger State on Friday, Schmidt was pulled over for a traffic violation.

A Wisconsin state trooper spotted Schmidt driving without tail lights, and noted his car exhaust was too loud, Milwaukee's WISN-TV reports. The trooper ran Schmidt's drivers license and found a warrant for unpaid child support -- dating back to 1975.

In a far-reaching recommendation, the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday called on all 50 states to enact across-the-board cell phone bans for drivers -- even when going hands-free.

The NTSB plan would prohibit all drivers nationwide from texting and making non-emergency cell phone calls from behind the wheel, The New York Times reports.

The use of hands-free devices while driving should also be barred, the NTSB says.

"No call, no text, no update is worth a human life," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told The Times.

A class-action Hooters lawsuit settlement will bring an end to "indignities" suffered by the restaurant chain's waitresses, an attorney for the workers says.

The suit, filed in March 2010 in Sacramento, involved about 400 Hooters workers at the chain's central California locations who claimed the company violated their rights as employees, KCRA-TV reports. Hooters is known for outfitting voluptuous waitresses in tight-fitting t-shirts.

The workers alleged they weren't allowed to take breaks as required by law, had to pay out-of-pocket for their uniforms, and were held financially responsible when customers bailed on paying their checks.

The nation's $15 trillion debt is now a few million dollars smaller, thanks to a Florida man who left his savings and his historic $1 million house to the U.S. government in his will.

James H. Davidson Jr., who died a year ago without children, gave the U.S. government $1 million in his will to help pay down the national debt, The Miami Herald reports.

Davidson also donated his home -- a 1929 Spanish-style structure that's been designated a historic landmark. The home was sold for more than $1.1 million at auction this weekend, the Herald reports.

5 Things Holiday Air Travelers Should Know

It's holiday air travel season, which typically means crowded airports, inclement weather, and delayed flights. For some, it'll also mean lost luggage, TSA pat-downs, and unwelcome requests from crew members.

There's not much you can do to prevent any of these events, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything should they occur. After all, airline passengers have rights.

But remember, they also have some responsibilities. Take a look at the list below.

AZ's Immigration Law Goes to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration law, adding yet another blockbuster case to its docket. Oral arguments in Arizona v. United States are expected in April, which would place a final decision sometime in June.

The Court's decision will impact the nation's immigration policy on a grand scale. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have all passed similar anti-immigration laws. The future of those laws will also be decided in this case, as they are also said to infringe on federal immigration powers.

Military mortuary staffers cremated the partial remains of at least 274 U.S. troops and dumped them in a landfill. Relatives of the fallen soldiers were reportedly not informed.

The secret practice ended three years ago, reports The Washington Post, which first uncovered the landfill story last month.

The Post initially reported just one incident in which a soldier's ashes were sent from Dover Air Base in Maryland to a landfill in Virginia. The follow-up reveals the landfill dumping occurred on a much wider scale from 2004 to 2008.

The report follows a federal investigation which found "gross mismanagement" at the Dover mortuary, where remains of service members killed in action are received from overseas.

Top 5 Tips for Holiday Shoppers

You're frantic, stressed. You really aren't thinking straight. This can only mean one thing this time of year -- it's time for some last-minute holiday shopping.

If you're amongst the masses participating in this ritual, you're probably in need of a bit of advice. And while we have no idea what you should buy your long lost cousin, we've got a few holiday shopping tips to help make your search a little less painful.

Hey, it's better than nothing at all. Right?

Couple Collected $135K in Welfare in $1.2M Home

A chiropractor and his wife collected more than $135,000 in federal housing assistance, all while living in a $1.2 million waterfront home in Seattle. David Silverstein and Lyudmila Shimonova were sued by the U.S. attorney's office for welfare fraud.

Prosecutors demand that they pay back the funds and thousands of dollars in fines.

Shimonova claimed that stated she lived alone with her two children in the Seattle home. She represented that Silverstein was her landlord, and that she only had assets of less than $5,000.

A Nevada baggage handler has been cleared to return to her job, weeks after being fired for reporting a severe case of animal abuse. The move may also serve to fend off a potential lawsuit.

Lynn Jones, 56, was loading baggage and pet carriers onto planes last month at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. One pet's plight in particular caught her eye: An emaciated pointer with bloody paws, its body covered in sores.

Jones claims her supervisor told her to look the other way, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. Jones, in tears, called authorities instead.

TSA Strip Searched 3 Elderly Women?

Three elderly women from Florida allege that they were the victims of a TSA strip search while leaving JFK Airport last week. Each of the three suffers from an ailment requiring a medical device. One has a defibrillator and back brace; another wears a colostomy bag; and the third wears an insulin pump to treat diabetes.

Lenore Zimmerman, 84, was the first to go public. She claims that she was intimately searched after requesting not to go through the body scanner. However, the TSA disputes her story.

Rape Victim Must Pay Alimony to Her Attacker

California woman Crystal Harris, 39, was sexually assaulted by her husband. The primary breadwinner for her family, the rape victim was then ordered to pay alimony to her now ex-husband.

Her ex, Shawn Harris, is currently serving time in a state prison after being convicted of the assault in 2008.

The ruling has shocked some experts, who believe that this is the first time that a sexual assault victim has been forced to pay their convicted attacker.

TSA Stops Girl for Carrying Gun Purse

Vanessa Gibbs is mad. The 17-year-old pregnant teen wasn’t permitted to board her plane in Norfolk, Va. last week after TSA agents spotted her unique purse.

She was carrying a Western-style clutch adorned with a small, hollow pistol about 4 or 5 inches long. Though she had flown with the gun purse before, airport security decided that it either had to be checked or tossed.

When she pushed for answers, the agents allegedly told her that carrying the purse was a “federal offense because it’s in the shape of a gun.”

Police Refuse to Evict Atlanta Woman, Age 103

Can police refuse to evict someone?

That's the question currently being asked by everyone who has heard of Elvinia Hall, the 103-year-old woman who almost lost her home. Hall, along with her 83-year-old daughter, has lived in the Northwest Atlanta home for 53 years. But a few years ago, Hall's grandson failed to make mortgage payments, causing the home to go into foreclosure.

A long legal battle over the home ended late last year, and Chase Bank decided it was time to evict. But when Sheriff's deputies showed up last week, they just couldn't do it.

Study Shows HIV Discrimination in Health Care

This year, December 1 marked World AIDS Day, a worldwide event meant to unite individuals across the globe in the fight against the HIV virus. Americans have made strides in the fight against HIV discrimination. Yet, a new study by the Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law, seems to demonstrate that individuals living with AIDS may still face an uphill battle for health services.

The study focused on 612 dental offices in Los Angeles County, and found that 5% of dentists surveyed had a blanket policy against admitting HIV-positive individuals as patients.

The report also indicated that 55% of obstetricians, 46% of skilled nursing facilities, and 26% of plastic surgeons would refuse medical service to those living with AIDS.

Milton Hershey School Denies Teen with HIV

The Milton Hershey School, founded by chocolate-maker Milton Hershey, operates in Pennsylvania and was founded in 1909 to educate socially disadvantaged and low-income students for free. Now, the school has reportedly denied admission to a HIV-positive student because of his status in a move that may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 13-year-old student requesting the school reverse its decision and admit the student. The suit also requests that the school be forced to conduct sensitivity trainings to its students, and pay costs and punitive damages to the student and his mother.

Comcast Workers in IL Called 'Ghetto Techs'

Eleven current and former employees of Comcast Corp. filed a federal lawsuit this week in Chicago. Their complaint accuses the company of race discrimination against both the African-American employees and their predominately African-American customer base.

The workers were mostly employed in Comcast Corp.'s South Side facility in Chicago. Employees say that the work environment was hostile, and that they were often called names including "ghetto techs" and "lazy techs," reports the Chicago Tribune.

The employees allege that the facility was poorly maintained, leaked, was infested with cockroaches, and rats. Technicians say they were forced to install cable equipment into their predominately African-American clientele's homes even if they were defective or infested with pests.

A Florida father, named as the prime suspect in the People’s Court missing mom case, has regained custody of the couple’s young children.

The 3-year-old twins of Dale Smith, 40, and his ex-fiancée Michelle Parker, 33, must be returned to Smith’s custody, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Child welfare agents removed the twins Tuesday from the Orlando home where Smith lives with his parents, the Associated Press reports. Authorities were concerned that Smith showed abusive behavior in the past.