Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

June 2014 Archives

Supreme Court on Hobby Lobby: 5 Things You Should Know

The U.S. Supreme Court waited until the final day of its 2013 Term to rule on what was for many the year's most anticipated case: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, involving Obamacare's birth-control mandate.

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court ruled that certain private companies can object to Obamacare's mandate that they provide coverage for birth control through their employee health insurance plans, Reuters reports.

Want to know more? Here are five key points from the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision:

School to Pay $10K for Denying Disabled Student's Service Dog

A New Jersey school district has agreed to pay $10,000 to the family of a disabled boy who was prevented from bringing his service dog to school or school-related activities.

As part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the school has also agreed to implement a service animal policy and train applies on complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), reports the South Jersey Times.

What does the law say about service dogs at school, and what allegedly happened in this case?

Ramadan at Work: 3 Legal Facts for Employees

With the holy month of Ramadan beginning this weekend, Muslims may need to give employers a heads-up about any accommodations they might need.

It can be a pain to remind your boss about Ramadan every year, as the Islamic (lunar) calendar doesn't track with the Gregorian (solar) calendar, but the law is on your side. Even if you aren't Muslim, being aware of other employees' religious observances at work is important.

To help you prepare for the holy month, here are three legal facts to remember about observing Ramadan at work:

NYC's Big Soda Ban Fizzes Out, Nixed by N.Y.'s Highest Court

New York City's proposed ban on big sodas has officially fizzled, as the state's highest court declined to reinstate the law.

The ban on sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces was first struck down in 2013 by a lower court judge who found the law to be "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences." A state appeals court agreed last July, setting the stage for the latest case in the front of the state's highest court, called the New York State Court of Appeals.

What did judges think of NYC's soda ban this time around?

5 Things a Real Estate Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

If you're looking to buy or sell a home or other property, you're probably already talking to a real estate broker and a mortgage lender. But what about a real estate lawyer?

There are many parts of a typical real estate transaction that can use a real estate lawyer's expertise. And if your real estate deal turns out to be atypical, having a real estate lawyer on your side can definitely pay off.

Here are five things a real estate lawyer can do that you probably can't:

The State of Gay Marriage in America, 1 Year After Windsor (Map)

It's been one year since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor. So what's the state of gay marriage in America today?

Since the Court's ruling last summer (on June 26, 2013), dozens of states have had their same-sex marriage bans challenged and even defeated in federal and state courts, with many state governments choosing not to defend their own laws.

Many courts that have struck down state gay marriage bans in the past year have cited Windsor as powerful precedent. Here's an overview of where the issue of gay marriage stands today:

Supreme Court's Aereo Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know

In a victory for broadcasters, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Aereo's online TV-streaming service violates copyright laws.

The ruling, issued Wednesday, could affect not only the availability of television broadcast content online, but also the future of cloud computing, Reuters reports.

Here are five things you should know about the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo:

Ind., Utah Gay-Marriage Bans Struck Down by Fed. Courts

Gay marriage advocates celebrated legal victories in Indiana and Utah on Wednesday, after two separate federal courts ruled the states' bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Indiana same-sex couples rushed to the courthouse after a federal district judge ruled that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Meantime, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached a similar decision with regard to Utah's gay marriage ban.

Although thousands of miles apart, what do these gay marriage rulings have in common?

Deployed Sailor's Child-Custody Hearing Delayed Until Oct.

A deployed sailor can breathe a bit easier, now that his child-custody hearing has been delayed until October.

Navy service member Matthew Hindes was ordered last week by a Michigan judge to appear in person in her courtroom for a hearing about custody of his 6-year-old daughter Kaylee. Though Hindes is currently deployed in the Pacific Ocean, he was threatened with contempt of court.

Hindes' situation drew more than 12,500 online signatures protesting the court's actions, which may have had something to do with the hearing being rescheduled, reports The Detroit News. So what exactly happened in this sailor's custody case?

Legal How-To: Responding to a Lawsuit

Knowing how to respond to a lawsuit can be incredibly valuable in warding off future legal issues. Failing to file a proper response can have serious consequences for your case.

So whether it's knowing when you're actually being sued or knowing when your response is due, the ability to respond properly to a lawsuit is key.

Here are the basics for how to respond to a lawsuit:

Nat'l Parks Ban Drones Temporarily; New Rules Being Considered

The National Park Service is temporarily banning the use of drones over land and water administered by the agency while it crafts rules that may severely limit their future use in national parks.

The move comes after national parks such as Yosemite began enforcing individual bans on the use of unmanned aircraft amid increasing numbers of visitors using drones to shoot video or observe wildlife in the parks, reports The Huffington Post.

What led to the park service's new anti-drone stance?

Is It Legal to Leave Kids Home Alone?

It may not be sterling parenting to leave kids home alone, but is it legal?

Leaving a minor in your house without a babysitter or guardian may be asking for trouble. Then again, society doesn't expect every single parent to afford daycare or a nanny until his or her child is 18.

Maybe by examining the following legal precepts, parents will have a better understanding of whether it is legal to leave their kids home alone:

Can You Fight an IRS Summons? Supreme Court Says Maybe

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a taxpayer can challenge an IRS summons, only if the taxpayer can meet a minimum standard of proof.

The Court's unanimous decision in United States v. Clarke held that taxpayers can ultimately challenge IRS summonses (yes, that's the plural of summons) as long as there are some specific facts that show they were issued in bad faith.

Reports in the news about this case have been a bit misleading, so here's what the High Court actually said about fighting an IRS summons:

I Know What You Did Last Summer, Thanks to Social Media

"I Know What You Did Last Summer" was a book that became a cheeseball '90s horror flick starring Jennifer Love Hewitt (who has moved on to star in a blockbuster lawsuit over her right to publicity).

No less horrifying, however, is the modern version of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" that plays out every day on social media, starring you, your prospective and current bosses, police, and anyone else looking to find out more about what you do and how you do it.

A FindLaw survey last summer found that more than one in four 18- to 34-year-olds feared that something in their social media posts could get them fired. That's not just idle paranoia, either. Here are some ways that social media can come back to haunt you, next summer and beyond:

Deployed Sailor in Child-Custody Fight Ordered to Appear in Court

A deployed U.S. sailor serving on a submarine has been ordered to appear in court in a child custody battle over his daughter, but he's not likely to make it.

Matthew Hindes, a Navy submariner serving in the Pacific, has been ordered to appear in Michigan to fight his ex-wife's bid for custody of their 6-year-old daughter Kaylee. ABC's "Good Morning America" reports that Hindes was initially awarded permanent custody of his little girl in 2010, but now his legal status is in jeopardy.

If the active Navy member can't make it to court, will the judge hold him in contempt?

Are Raves Legal?

While ravers rush to EDM (electronic dance music) events to dance and sweat, some may be wondering: Are raves even legal?

One of the biggest events of the rave season is the Electronic Daisy Carnival (EDC), which kicks off today in Las Vegas. According to USA Today, some 345,000 people are expected to attend this rave party -- not to mention the after parties.

But with the constant presence of illegal drugs and their "underground" past, are raves themselves technically legal?

Top 5 Tips for Subletting Your Apartment

Subletting your apartment can be a great way to pay your rent while you're on an extended vacation or away for work. But there are some legal pitfalls you'll want to avoid.

Short-term subletting is more popular than ever thanks to online services like Airbnb. However, these same sublets are also increasingly leading to eviction and even lawsuits. Case in point: a New York artist who's being sued for renting out her rent-controlled loft; she allegedly charged renters three times what she herself paid in rent, according to The New York Daily News.

Don't let that happen to you. Here are five tips to help keep you out of trouble if you're thinking about subletting your living space:

Flying a Drone: Legally, What Can Happen?

Drones are now available at a more affordable price point, but there are still plenty of legal issues to deal with while flying one.

Whether you're planning on flying one for fun or for profit, these tiny, buzzing aerial copters can be a magnet for trouble -- legal and otherwise.

So what exactly can happen, legally, when you're flying a drone? Here are a few possible scenarios:

5 Things an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Your estate plan is your legal legacy. And while you may be able to make end-of-life plans on your own, the question is: should you?

An estate plan is a lot more than just a list of your assets and who gets them when you die. Even if your wishes are relatively straightforward -- "I want everything to go to my kids" -- making sure those wishes will be legally effective can sometimes be more complicated than you might think.

Here are five things that an estate planning lawyer can do that you probably can't:

Is It Legal to Elope?

Couples caught up in the rush of young love may wish to elope instead of going through the rigors of a formal wedding.

But hold on there, all you Romeos and Juliets. Not that things didn't work out just peachy for the Shakespearean couple, but you should be familiar with what the law has to say first -- especially whether it's even legal to elope in your particular situation.

Here's what you need to know:

Legal How-To: Using Twitter as Evidence

As a public, real-time record of what people are doing and thinking, Twitter can be a tremendous resource for gathering evidence. As police have already learned, anything you tweet can potentially be used against you in a court of law.

But how can you go about gathering, storing, and getting Twitter posts or data admitted into evidence in your own criminal or civil case?

It can get a bit tricky, but here are a few general tips for using tweets as evidence in court:

Americans Hate Airline Fees: FindLaw Survey

Americans really hate airline fees, a new FindLaw.com survey reveals. And who can blame them?

Airlines are increasingly charging fees for services that were once included in the typical flight experience. Nowadays, some airlines are charging for carry-on bags, and even for window and aisle seats.

So just how many Americans hate these add-on airline fees, and is there anything consumers can do about them?

How Does Severance Affect Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance can be a boon when you're suddenly laid off, but getting severance pay may pull that financial cushion out from under you.

Like an unemployment check, severance pay is also intended to ease your transition to your next job. Yet some states may ask you to choose between the two.

So when and how does severance affect unemployment insurance? It depends on your particular situation, including which state you live in. Here are a few possibilities:

Window Tint Laws: How Dark Is Too Dark?

Window tinting may be a welcome privilege in bright or warm climes, but state laws often keep dark windows from being too dark.

Frustratingly, there is no national standard for window tint, despite the fact that drivers often travel across state lines. However, there are some generalities among state laws with regard to car window tints.

So how dark is too dark for car window tinting?

Top 10 Legal Tips for Dads of All Ages

Father's Day is a great time to recognize the hard work and abundant rewards of being a father.

But it's also a great time for dads of all ages to take stock of their legal situation and to remember the great responsibility that comes with being a dad.

For this Father's Day, here are our Top 10 legal tips for dads:

Celebrate Flag Day With 3 Fun Legal Facts

Like the Rodney Dangerfield of holidays, Flag Day seems to get no respect.

But since being declared a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Flag Day has been a day to commemorate to adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the then-13 states that comprised the United States of America in 1777.

To help celebrate Flag Day, here are three pretty cool facts about Old Glory:

Inherited IRAs Not Protected in Bankruptcy, Supreme Ct. Rules

One of the most popular ways of passing on retirement savings, inherited IRAs, have little protection from bankruptcy after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday.

While other retirement devices are typically protected from creditors during a bankruptcy, the High Court determined that inherited IRAs were not for "essential needs" in the same way as other retirement structures, Reuters reports.

What does this mean for the future or present use of inherited IRAs?

How Did Father's Day Become a Holiday?

Father's Day is a great day for dads and their children, but how did it become a holiday?

The federal recognition of Father's Day didn't occur until the 1960s, more than 50 years after the country had begun celebrating American mothers through Mother's Day.

So how did Father's Day as a holiday come to be?

Montana Is Last State With No Texting-While-Driving Ban

When South Carolina's new law against texting while driving went into effect on Monday, Montana officially became the last state in the nation with no statewide ban on texting while driving.

But as The Associated Press reports, Montana isn't far behind: Currently, a dozen cities and two counties in the state prohibit texting while driving, and state legislators have plans to introduce a bill to ban the use of cell phones while driving in 2015.

So aside from portions of Montana, what can happen if you get caught texting and driving anywhere else in the United States?

5 Things a Contracts Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Contracts are some of the most ubiquitous legal documents in our modern society, and the average person doesn't know half of the problems they can cause.

Before you decide to sign that agreement, contract, or waiver, consider how much information you're missing out on -- info that a contract lawyer could provide.

Don't believe us? Here are five things a contracts lawyer can do that you probably can't:

Calif. Teacher Tenure Ruling: 5 Things to Know

A Los Angeles County judge ruled Tuesday that California's teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional. The decision could spark similar lawsuits nationwide.

As reported by Reuters, the ruling in Vergara v. California strikes down five laws that education reformers claim make it difficult to fire teachers who do a poor job. Teachers unions and state educational officials opposed the suit, calling it an attack on teachers.

Here are five things you need to know about the suit, the ruling, and what's next in this ongoing legal battle:

When Can Lawsuits Be Consolidated?

When can lawsuits be consolidated? Cases that are similar enough in fact or in the legal issues presented can often be grouped together and heard at the same time. That's what's happening with more than 80 lawsuits alleging economic injury from GM's ignition-switch recall.

Both criminal and civil cases can be consolidated, although courts have to consider the potential risks and benefits to each party before granting or denying a motion to consolidate.

Here are some of the more common times when a lawsuit can be consolidated:

Will Obama's Executive Order on Student Loans Pay Off for You?

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to lessen student loan obligations for as many as 5 million federal borrowers, calling on Congress to take similar steps.

The order directs the Secretary of Education to propose changes in student loan regulations that would potentially cap payments at 10 percent of each borrower's monthly income.

But how will this new student loan order affect actual borrowers?

Legal How-To: Showing Proof of Service

Depending on where you live, your lawsuit may not officially begin until you can show proof of service. And as your case proceeds, you'll likely need to show proof of service for other legal documents as well.

Now you may not be quite sure exactly what proof of service entails. But one thing is certain: messing up a proof of service will prevent you from proceeding with your lawsuit in a timely fashion; it may even come back to haunt you later.

Let's try to keep things simple with this general overview of how to show proof of service:

Is the Noncompete Clause in Your Work Contract Legal?

Noncompete clauses are fairly common in work contracts, but they have a habit of sneaking up on former employees.

Take Colette Buser, a 19-year-old college student with years of summer camp experience, who was seemingly barred from working at any camp in Massachusetts because of her contract with her prior employer. You typically think of these sorts of contract issues affecting high-level managers and investment brokers, but as The New York Times reports, these noncompete clauses are increasingly required of employees in any industry.

So is the noncompete clause in your work contract legal?

Do You Need a Social Media Prenup?

There's a new trend emerging in prenups: social media restrictions. After you and your spouse enter blissful matrimony, a social media prenup could potentially be used to prevent embarrassing or "ugly" pictures of you from being posted on Facebook or Instagram.

This definitely sounds like a lawyerly solution to a first-world problem. But should you consider a social media prenup?

Do You Have a 'Right to Be Forgotten' From Google?

The Internet never forgets. But the Internet's largest search engine Google soon might, after a European privacy court ruled that citizens of particular European countries have a "right to be forgotten" from search results.

In response to the ruling, CNET reports that Google has created an online form by which users can request that links be removed from search listings.

How does the form work, and who can now invoke this new online right?

Wis. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down; Ore. Marriages Continue

A federal judge has overturned Wisconsin's gay marriage ban, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt gay marriages in Oregon.

Gay marriage supporters cheered after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling on Friday, striking the laws preventing same-sex couples from marrying in Wisconsin. The state's first same-sex marriage licenses were issued Friday afternoon.

In a separate case, Justice Anthony Kennedy responded Wednesday to an emergency stay request by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a non-profit dedicated to opposing gay marriage. Kennedy's order flatly denied the group's request to stop marriages in Oregon.

N.D. Gay Marriage Suit Leaves No Marriage Ban Unchallenged

North Dakota's gay marriage ban was challenged in federal court Friday, leaving no state in the union with an unchallenged same-sex marriage ban.

Seven same-sex couples joined a federal suit filed in U.S. District Court in Fargo, North Dakota, alleging the state's laws denied them their constitutional rights. The Associated Press reports there are now gay marriage cases pending in all 31 states with gay marriage bans; the other states have legalized gay marriage.

What does this recent suit mean for gay marriage in the United States?

Is It Legal to Record People at a Gym?

Recording people working out at the gym is super lame, but privacy advocates may be dismayed to learn it may not be illegal.

President Barack Obama got a nasty taste of the dark side of secretly being recorded in a gym this week, when a video of him working out at a Polish hotel's gym leaked to the media. According to the Los Angeles Times, a fellow exerciser surreptitiously captured the Commander in Chief keeping fit using his or her smartphone.

It's certainly rude to record people at the gym, but can you get into legal trouble for doing so?

What Is a Speed Trap? Are They Legal?

Most drivers have probably heard the term "speed trap" and likely haven't heard very complimentary things about them.

But what exactly is a speed trap? And more importantly perhaps, are speed traps legal?

Here's what drivers need to know:

Is It Legal to Go Fishing Without a License?

Fishing is an incredibly relaxing and inexpensive way to spend a day off from work. But is it legal to go fishing without a license?

Whether you're fishing off a dock with a $10 Pokemon-themed pole or standing waist-deep in a river fly fishing, chances are you'll probably need a fishing license -- though there are a few exceptions.

To make things clear for future anglers out there, here are the reasons it is most likely not legal to go fishing without a license:

What Is a 'Morality Clause'? Is It Legal?

You can contract for all sorts of things, but is it legal for a contract to contain a "morality clause"?

That's the question many are asking after several teachers at California Catholic schools run by the Oakland diocese have chosen to resign rather than sign a new clause in their contract that requires teachers to model their private lives after church teachings.

Can an employer make you contractually agree to be subjectively "moral"? And where else might "morality clauses" pop up?

Selling Your Car? 5 Legal Mistakes to Avoid

Selling your car can be a hassle, but you can save yourself a good deal of frustration by avoiding some common legal mistakes.

Yes, it's difficult to get a buyer interested enough to purchase your car without all the extra legal mumbo-jumbo, but you still want to protect yourself in the process.

Check out these five easy legal mistakes to avoid:

Top 5 Tips for Child Custody and Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a time to relax, not to renew old fights with your ex over custody of your kids. You may want to take your children to the Bahamas, while he or she may only get the kids during the summer.

It's important to sort out these not-so-little details before making your summer vacation plans. With that in mind, here are five tips to make child custody one less thing to worry about:

Legal How-To: Finding Assets in a Divorce Case

One of the more contentious aspects of any divorce proceeding is the division of property and assets.

Legally, both spouses are supposed to fully disclose any and all assets they have. But sometimes, a spouse may attempt to hide assets from the court, potentially skewing the property division unfairly in his or her favor.

How can you make sure your ex isn't hiding assets from you? Here are a few pointers to consider:

Landlords: Don't Enter a Tenant's Unit Without Notice

Many landlords wish to go into their tenants' units unannounced, but entering without notice can have real legal consequences.

While entering a tenant's unit without notice may be permissible in cases of emergency or abandonment, it's still a good idea to provide some form of notice.

So listen up landlords. Here's what you need to know about giving notice, and what can happen if you don't give proper notice before entering a tenant's unit:

Unmarried With Children: 5 Legal Issues to Plan Ahead For

Sorry Al Bundy, but when it comes to love and marriage, you can have one without other.

For many young couples, marriage is no longer a prerequisite to living together or starting a family. However, there are some legal issues that are unique to those who choose to forego marriage and just skip to the happily ever after.

Here are five things to be aware of if you're planning on living with your partner and child(ren), but without getting married:

What's the Law Say About Recycling Plastic Bags?

Recycling plastic bags in line with the law seems to be very locally focused. Californians and New Yorkers may watch the plastic bag scene from "American Beauty" and wonder why this litter is being tolerated.

So what's the law say about recycling plastic bags?