CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

March 2014 Archives

Northwestern University football players on scholarship are university employees and may unionize, a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer ruled on Wednesday.

The first-round legal victory by Northwestern players has the potential to shake up the world of big-time college sports. But the fight has just begun, as this is likely just the start of a long, arduous legal battle.

Still, the Northwestern football union ruling (attached below) is groundbreaking and could prove revolutionary.

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr ruled that ex-Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and current players are employees and entitled to form a union.

Universities have long argued -- successfully in court -- that athletes are not employees.

But Ohr disagreed, ruling Northwestern's players work between 20 and 50 hours per week and generate millions of dollars for their institutions. He illustrated how they perform services under a contract of hire (scholarship), subject to the other party's control (coaches) and in return for payment ($61,000 per academic year at Northwestern; $76,000 for those players who attend summer school).

Northwestern promptly announced it plans to take the case to the full NLRB in Washington.

"This is a landmark decision," William Gould IV, a former chairman of the NLRB, told the Chicago Tribune. "This is going to rattle the universe of universities."

The legal battle for compensating college athletes just began in earnest.

A New Jersey father has been ordered to pay half the cost of his daughter's law school education at Cornell Law School, with his portion to be about $112,500, a New Jersey appeals court has ruled.

James Livingston must pay half the law school tab thanks to the terms in his divorce settlement agreement, according to the attached decision by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division.

Livingston, a history professor at Rutgers University, must give his daughter the $112,500 so she can pay the $225,000 tab to attend Cornell Law School. When Livingston and his ex wife divorced in 2009, they agreed to split the cost if their daughter attended law school and maintained at least a 'C' average, the suit said.

After the divorce, Livingston had a falling out with his daughter and they stopped talking, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports. Even so, Livingston offered to put up $7,500 per year if she attended Rutgers Law School and lived at home. His daughter opted to go to Cornell instead.

The New Jersey appeals court judges sided with the daughter, saying that the divorce agreement did not explicitly give the father a say about which school she could choose.

New Jersey children suing their parents for for college tuition has been national news of late. New Jersey honor student Rachel Canning sued her parents last week for college expenses. There is no contract or divorce settlement in play in the Canning case.

'Upskirt' Photos are Not Illegal, Mass. High Court Rules

It is not illegal to secretly photograph underneath a person’s clothing (known as “upskirting”), Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled in privacy decision that may prompt lawmakers to update state law.

The state’s highest court ruled (see decision below) that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of women on the Boston subway did not violate state law because the women were neither nude nor partially nude.

“A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is ‘partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,” wrote Justice Margot Botsford of the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The high court overruled a lower court decision that upheld charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police who set up a sting after getting reports that he was using his cellphone to take photos and video up female riders’ skirts and dresses.

Robertson had argued that it was his constitutional right to take the photos. Existing so-called Peeping Tom laws in Massachusettsprotect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms when nude or partially nude. But the law does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court said.

At least one prosecutor has urged state lawmakers to act.

“Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing,” Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement Wednesday. “If the statute as written doesn’t protect that privacy, then I’m urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does.”

NJ Student Sues Parents to Force Them to Pay Her College Tuition

A New Jersey honor student has taken the unorthodox step of suing her parents for immediate financial support and to force them to pay for her college education.

Rachel Canning's lawsuit (attached below, complete with email exchanges) alleges that her parents threw her out of their home when she turned 18 and now refuse to pay her way through college. But Rachel's father, a former police chief, says Rachel moved out when she refused to abide by the house rules.

Both sides have lawyered up and spent Tuesday afternoon at a hearing before Morristown Judge Peter Bogaard.

Rachel Canning's lawsuit seeks a judge's declaration that she is non-emancipated and dependent as a student on her parents for support. She asked the judge to order her parents to pay an unpaid high school tuition bill, cover her current living and transportation expenses, and commit to a college fund for her.

"We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It's killing me and my wife. We have a child we want home. We're not Draconian and now we're getting hauled into court," Sean Canning told The Daily Record.