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ICYMI: FindLaw Blogs Report on New Laws Comin' Atcha in 2015

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 31, 2015 12:53 PM

One of the major function of FindLaw's legal professional and consumer blogs is keeping each audience up to date on changes in the law, whether it's through statute or court ruling.

It's only March, but we've been busily reporting on new laws that will take effect in 2015 since at least August of last year. Here's a smattering of some of that helpful advice.

1. Party Time

Oregon and Alaska legalized marijuana in 2014, with laws set to take effect this year. We wrote articles both for consumers interested in taking advantage of the new laws and for legal professionals who might want to open up a new practice area. (Spoiler alert: Marijuana law is still rife with ethical peril, so now isn't quite the time to abandon a more prosaic estate law practice.)

2. Panic at the Disco

About 900 new laws will go into effect in California this year. In our California Case Law Blog for Golden State practitioners, we summarized just five of them. As of January 1, criminal defendants were no longer allowed to claim the "gay panic" defense to murder -- that the terror induced by meeting a gay person drove them into a reasonable heat of passion. The legislature also allowed undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses and, as of July 1, employers will have to give employees at least three paid sick days a year.

3. Marriage Equality

Over on the legal professional side, we've relegated new stories of federal courts striking same-sex marriage bans to the "dog bites man" drawer. After 65 state and federal court victories since U.S. v. Windsor, it's news when a court doesn't allow marriage equality. We expect the impending Sixth Circuit case at the Supreme Court to grant nationwide approval to same-sex marriages later this year.

4. Cyber Punks

Over in our Technologist blog, I wrote a post about federal technology laws that was actually sincere and approving of Congress. Though not passed yet, the existence of several pieces of good technology legislation is encouraging to those of us concerned that our lawmakers don't know how to turn their cell phones on (at least we know our Supreme Court justice don't). Among the issues some members wanted to address were reporting security breaches, requiring cameras in the Supreme Court, and fixing the Stored Communications Act. A lot of these laws don't have a shot at passing, but hey, at least some people in Congress are using their brains.

5. Digital Estate Laws

Existing estate law accounts for your tangible stuff, but what about all your Facebook posts and Instagram pictures of your breakfast? That digital stuff is covered by whatever each company's policies happen to be (in some cases, companies will refuse to allow even an executor access to a decedent's social media account). Delaware took the plunge with a law, which went into effect January 1, allowing an executor to get a court order to access the contents of social media accounts.

Of course, it's only March, so expect more updates on the law as the year progresses.

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