Law and Daily Life: September 2012 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

September 2012 Archives

5 Tips to Protect Your Deceased Relative's Identity

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Having your identity stolen is a horrible experience. It can take months of corresponding with the three credit bureaus to fix your credit report. Plus, you feel violated and vulnerable.

Yet, it is even more heartbreaking when identity thieves take advantage of the deceased.

The increase of identity theft for deceased individuals is alarming. And it is the last thing you want to worry about when grieving the loss of a family member.

Be sure to do these five things to avoid the theft of you deceased loved one's identity:

Legal for Landlord to Automatically Renew Lease?

It's time to move out of your apartment. You throw a going away party and pack your things. But then you find out your landlord automatically renewed your lease. Can she do that? Are there any lease laws that prohibit automatic renewal?

Landlord-tenant law varies by state but there are some generalized rules that most jurisdictions tend to follow.

Here is a rundown of some important lease and rental laws that all tenants should be aware of:

Do Online Petitions Lead to Identity Theft?

Both online petitions and incidences of identity theft have gone up in the last few years. Could the two be connected?

It's no secret that online petitions require personal information. Most states require a petition signature to include the signer's legal name and address to verify the validity of the signature.

Websites like Change.org are popular for signing online petitions on a variety of topics but many of them are not secure and information sent online is not encrypted. Information that's not encrypted is easier for hackers to access and that can be bad news.

Don't reject the petitions entirely but before you sign make sure you're protecting your identity as much as you can.

How to Change Judges in a Hearing

A judge is meant to be a fair and impartial party in any hearing, even if the case will be decided by a jury. But if the judge is biased you may want to consider making a change.

In most cases there shouldn't be any problems. Judges are trained to look at both sides and not be swayed by anything other than the facts. Most judges are fair and while they may not be friendly, they do a good job of deciding cases based on the merits rather than the personalities of the parties.

But in that small number of cases, having a biased judge can change everything. If that happens to you, it's important to know how to deal with it.

TX School Changes Paddling Policy After Outcry

A Texas school policy that allows administrators to paddle students has come under fire after a high school sophomore, Taylor Santos, was hit with a paddle.

Santos allegedly let another student copy her schoolwork although she denied knowing the student did it, reports NBC News. To avoid a second day of in-school suspension she accepted paddling as an alternative punishment and her mother agreed as well.

But her mother didn't realize what she was agreeing to. Her 15 year old daughter was paddled by the male-vice principal hard enough to leave a mark.

Legal to Bring Your Gun to Work?

The right to carry a gun is limited in certain places and having a gun at work is a touchy subject. But that doesn't always mean you can't carry your weapon with you.

In general, state laws don't expressly allow gun owners to bring their weapons into the office. That decision is usually at the discretion of the company's owner. But there are state laws that stop just short of allowing guns at work.

Those laws don't affect state and federal requirements for gun permits and concealed-carry licenses. But they do give legitimacy to people who want to keep their guns nearby for protection.

NC Kids Fined for Trashing Teachers Online

North Carolina passed a law that makes it a crime for students bullying teachers on the Internet.

The law provides that students face misdemeanor criminal charges for intimidating or tormenting faculty online, reports The Wall Street Journal. Students convicted of the crime could face a $1,000 fine and possible probation.

The North Carolina law is interesting as many states have been pushing to pass laws that make it illegal for students to cyber-bully other students. This is the first state that makes it illegal for students to bully teachers.

TX Cheerleaders Can Use Bible Banners: Judge

In Texas, about the only thing as loved as high school football, is someone's faith in Jesus Christ. So when Kountze High School cheerleaders started putting Bible verses on signs and banners, almost everyone in town embraced it.

Well, almost everyone.

One parent was not so keen on the signs with religious statements and filed a complaint with the school district. The school superintendent checked with legal counsel and decided to impose a ban on the religious signs. But before the ban went into effect, a Texas state judge stepped in and said that the signs can stay, reports ABC.

3 Ways You Can Stop a Foreclosure

Despite it being an election year, the economy remains in limbo. That means home foreclosures will continue to occur at an alarming rate. This does not need to be the case.

There are a number of legal and non-fraudulent ways that you can stop foreclosure. No loan modification companies or forensic audit scams necessary.

Everyone's situation is different, so you'll need to do a bit of research and consult with experts. But one of the following options may ultimately save your home and credit.

Teacher Put Duct Tape Over Child's Mouth

A nine-year-old student in a Louisiana elementary school allegedly had his mouth duct-taped by a substitute teacher.

To no one's surprise, the mother of the fourth grader has said she will pursue legal action against the teacher, reports NBC. The teacher has already been internally disciplined by the school.

The child's mother said that she noticed her son was upset and that he told her that he did not want to go back to school any more. The child never fully revealed what caused him to be so upset, and school officials only discovered the alleged duct-taping incident after interviewing about 100 students.

HOA Wants Family Evicted for Being Too Big

A family of eight thought they found the perfect town home in a Florida community. However, the large family was in for a rude awakening as they were given an eviction notice for being too big.

In 2006, a couple took their six children out to the pool of the town home community. One of the residents of the complex reportedly asked the family if all the kids were theirs. Upon receiving an affirmative response, told the couple that it would be a problem, reports Tampa Bay Online.

Apparently, the HOA had a rule against having more than six residents, and the large family was given 30 days to comply or face eviction.

The Right to Breastfeed: CO School Case Settled

A Colorado teacher who was fired allegedly because she needed to pump breast milk at school has received some justice after all. Heather Burgbacher's lawsuit against her previous employer was settled Friday.

Burgbacher was a teacher at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen (RMAE) when she had her second child. When she returned to work RMAE failed to provide a private place for her to pump breast milk or to assist her in scheduling the short breaks she needed to pump.

She complained about the lack of support and RMAE responded by firing her. The ACLU took up Burgbacher's case and sued RMAE for discrimination.

Girl's Family Sued Over Too Pink Playhouse

Becky Rogers-Peck built a pink playhouse in her backyard for her granddaughter but if she'd known it would lead to a lawsuit, she might not have bothered.

Her Homeowner's Association is suing over the playhouse's color which is pink with purple doors. It's a cute getaway for her 4-year old granddaughter but the playhouse doesn't match Rogers-Peck's house which is painted brown.

The HOA requires that 'sheds and garages' must be the same color as the house. So they're going after Rogers-Peck for the mismatched building.

Can camping out for the iPhone 5 (or any other much-awaited product release) lead to legal issues?

Alas, there's no app to answer that question, and Siri isn't much help either ("I found 15 campgrounds... 12 of them are fairly close to you"). But patient iPhone line-waiters may want to review a few legal rights, lest there be any problems with police or other iPhone fanatics.

Here are 5 legal issues that may arise:

Gold Bars, Coins Worth $7M Found in Man's House

There are several different ways of learning that you've struck it rich. Some may see their winning numbers on a television screen. Others may hear the door knock as Publisher's Clearinghouse waits outside. In Arlene Magdanz's case, she got a phone call telling her she was Walter Samasko Jr.'s closest living relative.

Who is Walter Samasko Jr. you may ask?

Well, not that many people may know as the Carson City, Nevada man was a recluse. In fact, he was dead for a month before anyone even realized. And that was only because the stink of his house was overpowering his neighbors, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

Philly Mom Ticketed When Son, 2, Pees in Street

A Philadelphia mom, Caroline Robbey, received a $50 ticket because her two-year-old couldn't hold it any longer and urinated on a street.

Philadelphia cops have a reputation for being tough, and that certainly was the case with Robbey. The Philly mom was with her three kids (all under the age of ten) at a Johnny Rockets diner when they left to shop at a clothing store across the street.

When Robbey asked the clothing store if her children could use the restroom, the store told the mother that she could not, reports NBC. And so the mom went back to Johnny Rockets.

5 Signs You Should Get a New Lawyer

If you've ever had to deal with a lawyer, you've probably thought to yourself multiple times whether it's time to change attorneys.

Luckily for you, if there's anything this country doesn't lack, it's attorneys.

Regardless of your legal issue, there may be hundreds of qualified attorneys in your area. It's a buyer's market, and you have the power. So if you're not comfortable with your lawyer, or think he's doing a rotten job, you may want to get a new attorney.

Here are five signs for when you should think about changing attorneys:

Circumcision Consent Forms Approved in NYC

Circumcision is both a traditional religious ceremony and a modern medical practice depending on who you ask.

The procedure is fairly mainstream in the U.S. and some health officials claim that it decreases the spread of STDs. But now parents in New York City will have to sign a consent form before their child can have a traditional Orthodox-Jewish circumcision.

The issue isn't the procedure itself. It's that the religious practice includes a step that could spread serious diseases to infants.

Each Special Needs Child Has Educational Rights

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), every special needs student aged 3 to 21 completing his or her primary or secondary schooling in this country is entitled to a "free and appropriate education."

School districts are required to identify disabled students; conduct comprehensive annual assessments of their needs; create an Individualized Education Program that provides the child with a uniquely tailored curriculum; and pay for any required services, such as speech therapy and equipment.

Though more difficult, public school districts must also do the same for students enrolled in private schools.

Bankruptcy's Long-Term Effects On Your Credit

The decision to declare bankruptcy is never entered into lightly but one of the drawbacks that isn't often considered is the long term effects.

Declaring bankruptcy is by no means a quick fix. It's a complicated process and requires a lot of paperwork and time going through the proceedings. But several years after the case closes you can hope to have put the debt behind you and moved on.

Not so fast. That dream does come true in some ways, but the decision to declare bankruptcy will follow you for a long time.

Landlord, 80, Traded Housing for Sex

An 80-year-old landlord agreed to settle a housing sexual harassment lawsuit for a whopping $2 million. This is reportedly the largest settlement ever brought under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Rawland Leon Sorensen, of Bakersfield, California, owns about 55 properties, mostly single family homes. As a landlord for over 30 years, Sorensen is accused of sexually harassing 25 women tenants, reports The Associated Press.

Sorensen allegedly traded housing benefits for sex and retaliated against women who refused his advances. The octogenarian landlord denied the claims, but said he settled the case because he didn't want to risk losing in court, reports the AP.

How to Collect Child Support from Your Ex

In an ideal world, child support is the money a custodial parent receives every month from the other parent. It arrives on time, it's for the right amount, and you never have to argue over the amount or the delivery.

The world is far from ideal.

For many exes with children the reality of child support is much messier. But while you're waiting for the check to arrive there are still clothes to purchase, food to buy, and bills to pay.

The law recognizes that not getting your monthly child support checks is a big problem. So there are ways that you can use the law to get the money owed.

Monkey Hopped Up on Frosted Flakes Bites Woman

Frosted Flakes aren't the right diet for a monkey and grumpy monkeys can bite. That's the lesson a woman in Paso Robles, California learned when her Javan macaque bit her several times.

The woman was hiding the monkey in her home and feeding it a diet of mostly Frosted Flakes and juice. That apparently wasn't the best choice.

But the worst choice was keeping the monkey in the first place. Now that woman not only has injuries, she's also the subject of a legal investigation, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Lifeguards Fired for 'Gangnam Style' Parody

14 California lifeguards were fired from the city's aquatic center for a parody video they made of the popular 'Gangnam Style' music video.

Several lifeguards in El Monte, CA participated in the video but others were fired just for being in the background while it was shot. The pool manager was also fired even though he doesn't appear in the video.

The city was upset that the lifeguards used the public facility as the background and that they're wearing their uniforms in the video. But instead of issuing a warning or asking them to take it down, all the lifeguards lost their jobs.

Since the story hit the news there's been public outcry at the unfairness of the situation, reports the Los Angeles Times. But being unfair and being illegal aren't always the same thing.

Parental child abductions are a major concern in contentious child-custody cases. They're also more common than you might think.

More than 200,000 children are kidnapped by a relative each year, usually by a parent, according to the Polly Klaas Foundation. That's more than 75% of all missing-children cases in the United States.

A recent case in California shows the extremes that a parent can go to in an alleged child abduction: Christopher Maffei, 43, allegedly took his 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter from their grandmother's house, then stole a boat and sailed away with them. The Coast Guard took Maffei and his children into custody off the coast of Monterey, CBS News reports.

Like prime real estate, handicap parking spaces are all about location, location, location. But they're also about the law.

Chances are, you've seen a few able-bodied drivers illegally parked in handicapped spots. Some do so blatantly, while others hide behind handicapped permits for which they may or may not be qualified to hold.

So should you report handicap parking violators? Here are some issues to consider before calling for backup:

Chicago Teachers Strike, Parents Scramble

It's back to school time in most of the country but the Chicago teachers' strike has put a halt on that for parents in the Illinois capital.

It's only the second week of school but there's been tension between teachers and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a while. The previous contract between educators and the city expired in June and negotiations have been ongoing for months.

Those talks broke down Sunday and resulted in strike Monday morning, reports Reuters. That means problems for parents all over the city.

Texas Toll Road Boasts 85 MPH Limit

Leave it to Texas to boast the country's highest speed limit.

Construction crews in the Lone Star State are reportedly putting in place 85 miles per hour speed limit signs along a pending section of toll road on Texas' State Highway 130, reports NBC.

The toll road between Austin and San Antonio will allow motorists to zip along, much to the chagrin of some safety groups.

Potty Training in Restaurants is a Bad Idea

Potty training is a hard job for any parent but one Utah mom has been publicly scolded for training her twins in a restaurant.

This mom was in the Thanksgiving Point Deli with her twins when she took out their potties and helped the girls undress. At the table. Another diner snapped a photo of one of the little girls with her clothes around her ankles sitting on the potty in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

Diners were shocked but no restaurant staff noticed the incident until it was over. If they had the mom would have had a bigger problem that public shaming.

Service Animals Allowed in 'No Pet' Apartment?

Q: What happens when an apartment's 'no pets' policy comes up against a prospective tenant with a service dog?

A: Nothing good for the landlord's policy.

Service dogs and other assistance animals as classified by the Americans with Disabilities Act are specifically considered separate from 'pets.' These animals are trained to assist their owners with a diagnosed disability

Since service animals are covered by the ADA, landlords need to provide 'reasonable accommodations' for their owners. Which is great if you know what reasonable accommodations are.

Airline Denies Boarding for Boy with Down Syndrome

American Airlines stopped a boy with Down syndrome from boarding a flight on Sunday, which his family says was discrimination.

Robert and Joan Vanderhorst and their son Bede, 16, were flying from Newark, N.J., to Los Angeles over the holiday weekend. They upgraded their tickets to first class but when it came time to board, they were told they couldn't get on the plane.

The airline says the decision was made based on safety concerns. But the Vanderhorsts are planning to file suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

State Marijuana Laws: Legal to Grow Marijuana Now?

It's a refrain likely heard around the country these days: "Is it legal to grow marijuna?" Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed marijuana laws that allow certain individuals to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, reports ProCon.org.

Recreational marijuana use is still banned in every state, but these state marijuana laws may allow both the use and cultivation of cannabis for medical reasons. Keep in mind these laws are very state-specific, so you will definitely want to consult an attorney or doctor before lighting up a joint or installing grow lights into your basement.

Here is a brief overview of the state marijuana laws as provided by ProCon.org:

Sex-Change for Convicted Murderer Granted

Michelle Kosilek, a convicted murderer who was born Robert Kosilek, is entitled to a sex-change paid for by Massachusetts taxpayers, according to a court ruling Tuesday.

Kosilek was convicted in 1990 for killing his wife. Twelve years ago, he sued the state corrections department for the right to receive treatment for gender-identity disorder. He won and began receiving hormone therapy but later petitioned for gender-reassignment surgery.

'He' is now living as 'she' and is being held in an all-male prison. The judge ruled that Kosilek is entitled to the sex-change operation because of the Eighth Amendment.

Ripping Your Ex on Facebook Can Cost You in Divorce

The things you say on Facebook can come back to haunt you, especially if they're comments about your ex during a divorce.

Facebook is such a part of everyday life for many people it's easy to forget that it's a public forum, not just a personal diary. Airing your dirty laundry in public is definitely on the list what not to do in a divorce.

Freedom of speech still applies on the Internet but that doesn't mean you can say anything. Whether or not you get sued, there are still ways nasty Facebook comments can affect your divorce.

Top 3 Ways to Fight a Speeding Ticket

Do you know how to fight a speeding ticket? If you contest a speeding ticket in court, what will happen?

Whether or not you decide to contest your ticket is up to you.

But, if you do decide to fight the speeding ticket in court, make sure you're well prepared. What are some tips you should know about before entering that courtroom?