CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

September 2013 Archives

All Same-Sex Spouses Have Employee Benefit Rights: Labor Dept.

Legally married gay couples are entitled to participate in employee benefit plans, even if the state they live in does not recognize gay marriage.

Same-sex spouses can now participate in private retirement and healthcare plans overseen by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Department of Labor said in a landmark memo (full-text document attached below).

The terms “spouse” and “marriage” under employee-benefit rules now apply to gay married couples. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, which extended federal benefits to those in same-sex marriages.

In effect, a gay couple that is legally married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage will be considered married regardless of where they live.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the ruling a “historic step forward” and said the department would work to implement it in a way providing “maximum protection” for American workers.

Yelp Sues Law Firm for Posting Fake Reviews, Testimonials

Do legal consumers use Yelp, the consumer review website best known for reviewing restaurants, to help them choose an attorney?

A San Diego law firm apparently seems to think so. Enough so that it allegedly used its staff and five fellow attorneys to write fake, beaming reviews of its bankruptcy practice. Yelp has sued the McMillan Law Group for violating Yelp's terms of service and eroding its value to consumers in a damning complaint (attached below).

The company's complaint states that a series of favorable reviews of the firm were written by McMillan employees -- sometimes from the office itself. Yelp further alleges that five San Diego lawyers also wrote glowing, quid pro quo reviews for the firm.

"The McMillan Law Group's efforts to mislead consumers are particularly brazen and disappointing given they have targeted some of the most vulnerable consumers of all -- individuals who may be facing bankruptcy," claims the lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court.

Firm owner Julian McMillan, meanwhile, says Yelp is actually after revenge. She claims Yelp's lawsuit is in response to her firm winning a small claims court case against the website last year.

"I'm the only business that ever sued them and won," McMillan told The Recorder. "And now, I'm the only business they've ever counter-sued."

3L Sues Law School for Forcing Him to Retake CivPro Class

A law student who failed Civil Procedure II has sued the Thomas Jefferson School of Law for making him retake the course before graduating.

The 24-page complaint is full of biting put-downs for the private, San Diego law school. Third-year law student Jackson Millikan exalts his academic and legal accomplishments while mercilessly bashing Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL). The complaint (attached below), includes these gems:

"TJSL operated an abysmally substandard legal writing program."

"Mr. Millikan was instructed by a young family law attorney, another adjunct professor, who would discuss basketball, his latest divorce case, and his favorite rock bands every day."

"During final exam in Business Associations, Mr. Millikan had to stand up and approach the proctor because the two large exam rooms full of students had been given the answer key instead of the exam."

"As rankings and public persona make abundantly clear, one cannot go much lower than TJSL."

The school apparently is holding firm on its requirement that all students, including Millikan, pass Civil Procedure II before graduating.

(Hat tip to Above The Law.)

A California law that bans the sale of foie gras made from force-feeding birds has been upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 2012 California foie gras law prohibits the sale of products made from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers. Foie gras is a delicacy featuring the fatty liver of a force-fed goose or duck.

A three-judge panel held that the lawsuit filed by foie gras producers was unlikely to succeed on constitutional grounds. Legally speaking, the lawsuit is being consistently shot down by federal courts in California.

The plaintiffs appear undeterred and vow to continue the legal fight.

"This isn't like fireworks, nobody is being harmed by foie gras," Marcus Henley, operations manager of a New York farm, told The Associated Press. He also noted some California consumers continue to legally order foie gras online.