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

June 2011 Archives

BofA Settlement: $8.5B for Fraudulent Mortgages

Bank of America's Board of Directors approved what is perhaps the largest settlement in the history of banking on Wednesday, agreeing to pay a group of 22 investors, mostly made up of financial firms, $8.5 billion.

Along with news of the BofA settlement, the bank also announced that it plans to set aside another $12.1 billion to settle similar claims, which stem from the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

How will this affect you, the ordinary investor?

Roe v. Wade: Landmark Case Reaffirmed 19 Yrs Ago

Like any landmark case, the influence that Roe v. Wade has on abortion rights is huge. Abortion law's development in the United States can easily be traced back to Roe.

The case was decided in 1973. And, in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld the major holdings of the case on this date in 1992.

Together, Roe and Casey have defined abortion law in the United States.

NY Same Sex Divorce Has NY Lawyers Cheering

For some attorneys, the New York gay marriage law means one thing: an increase in New York gay divorces.

It's not like the state is a stranger to gay divorce. Even before the passage of the new gay marriage law, New York recognizes gay marriages that are legitimately performed in jurisdictions that recognize gay marriage.

Though, that doesn't mean that the numbers of same-sex couples seeking divorce won't increase after the gay marriage law.

Ga. Immigration Law Partially Blocked by Judge

A federal judge partially blocked a controversial Georgia immigration law from coming into effect on Monday, a move that civil rights and pro-immigrant groups are hailing as a success.

The ruling, which is the fourth time in the last year a federal court has halted a state-backed immigration bill, will prevent what are the law's most arguably contentious provisions from going into effect until a full trial can be had at some point in the next year.

Will Gay Marriage Laws Spread Across the US?

With the recent development in same-sex marriage in New York, many have now wondered, is it time for other states to follow suit and legalize gay marriage? Gay marriage in America has been a heated topic for years, drawing both political lines and religious lines for many Americans.

There is some hope for widespread success for supporters of gay marriage. In recent years, public opinion seems to be swaying towards support for gay marriage, according to recent Gallup polls.

But, public opinion is only one piece of the puzzle. Gay marriage rights also hinges on legal issues, and the willingness of politicians and lawmakers to tackle on legislation that is impeding the advance of gay marriage rights.

TSA Didn't Require Woman, 95, to Remove Diaper

Ah, the TSA diaper incident.

Over the weekend, social media was up in arms after hearing the story of a 95-year-old woman who was reportedly forced to remove her adult diaper before being permitted to pass through security.

Well, it turns out that, while the woman's daughter did remove her diaper, it wasn't exactly forced.

No, in some ways, it was a choice.

Innocent Spouse Relief: When a Spouse Cheats (on Taxes)

Innocent spouse relief has nothing to do with that kind of cheating.

No, instead it deals with tax cheats. That is, when your former or current spouse is a tax cheat unbeknownst to you.

So if the IRS is trying to get you to pay up on a tax liability that you had nothing to do with, read on. You may be entitled to innocent spouse relief under federal law.

Is a NY Gay Marriage Lawsuit Coming Soon?

The Empire State may have become the largest in the nation to approve same-sex marriages on Friday, but how long will it last? And is a NY gay marriage lawsuit coming soon?

Given the fact that most successful campaigns for same-sex marriages have led to court challenges (Prop 8, anyone?), these are valid and important questions.

This is even more true in the state of New York, where Governor Cuomo gave religious objectors a bit more ammo than usual.

Age Discrimination Laws: How Old is Old Enough?

With the economy in a slump, older persons have had a more difficult time returning to and staying in the workplace. This, of course, has brought about a lot of questions regarding age discrimination laws and just when they apply.

Though some age discrimination laws do cover activities outside the workplace, such as in the provision of services, because employment discrimination is such a hot topic, we're going to focus on those laws that impact employees and job applicants.

'Call of Duty' Lawsuit: Fired Gamers Head to Trial

The "Call of Duty" lawsuit is proceeding, now that a judge has ruled that game developers Jason West and Vincent Zampella have enough facts on their side to support their claims that they were defrauded by Activision.

West and Zampella are co-founders of Infinity Ward, one of the heads behind the military-themed video game. "Call of Duty" is one of Acitivision's most successful video game franchises, raking in more than $1 billion in sales over its history, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

West and Zampella are often credited for the games' success. They were terminated by Activision after an internal investigation by the company, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Ex-Boyfriend's Abortion Billboard Ordered Down

In a really bizarre case, a New Mexico man has been ordered to remove an anti-abortion billboard that insinuates that his ex-girlfriend had undergone the procedure.

Though part of a protective order his ex-girlfriend sought on the grounds of harassment and violation of privacy, Greg Fultz vows to fight the decision, claiming that the judge's ruling violates his First Amendment rights.

Does it?

Texas Affirmative Action Upheld by 5th Cir.

The University of Texas (UT) affirmative action policy has survived. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to review an earlier decision by the court that upheld the existence of affirmative action at the University of Texas.

The 5th Circuit's denial was by a 9-7 vote, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

The original lawsuit against the affirmative action policy was started in 2008 by two plaintiffs, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michaelewicz. The two contended that UT's admissions policy, which considered race and ethnicity in its decisions, was unconstitutional, according to the American-Statesman.

$1M NY Neighbor Dispute Gets Federal Judge to Visit

It's not often that a judge visits property that is at the center of a dispute, but legendary Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein did just that this week after becoming curious about the strip of land that caused one squabbling neighbor to file a $1 million lawsuit.

The land, located between two homes, is about 3 feet in width, and has sparked an ownership battle that, at times, has bordered on the bizarre.

Tex. Mom Sentenced for Spanking: Gets 5 Yrs

In an incredibly hypocritical story out of Texas, mom Rosalina Gonzales has been sentenced for spanking her 2-year-old daughter, though the practice is technically legal under state law.

Punished with 5 years of probation, a parenting class, and a $50 fine, Gonzales was also given some interesting advice by presiding Judge Jose Longoria.

"You don't spank children today."

AZ's Mexican-American Studies to Overthrow Govt?

Arizona's superintendent of schools John Huppenthal has declared that the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American Studies Program violates state law.

The ACLU, however, says that former superintendent of schools Tom Horne wrote the law specifically to get the Mexican-American Studies Program out - and that the program is not illegal.

Arizona's ethnic-studies law forbids classes that are promoting the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment toward other ethnicities.

No Attorney for Deadbeat Dads Facing Jail

If the Supreme Court got the numbers right, as a result of Tuesday's deadbeat dad ruling, there will soon be significant changes to a court's ability to enforce child support orders against parents who fail to pay.

Though it rejected the argument that parents are entitled to free counsel if facing jail for non-compliance with a support order, the Court still offered deadbeat dads some Constitutional protections.

Namely, a parent who fails to pay child support can't be punished if he actually can't afford to pay.

Law Firm Offers Free Divorce: Churches Object

Publicity has been showered on Follett Stock Solicitors, a law firm that offers free divorces if you apply before the June 30th deadline.

"Do you need a divorce? Would you like a lawyer who is straight talking and hates jargon? Would you like to have a FREE divorce? If you answered YES, YES, YES then Follett Stock is the law firm for you," reads advertisements posted by British firm Follett Stock Solicitors, according to The Daily Mail.

Usually, divorces in the U.K. can cost up to £600, so a free divorce would save would-be divorcees no small amount of money.

Netflix Sued by Deaf Group: No TV Subtitles

Though it is poised to take over the world of in-home entertainment, all is not well in the world of Netflix.

Sued by deaf advocacy group National Association of the Deaf, the purveyor of streaming video and television is being accused of violating the American with Disabilities Act.

According to the lawsuit, the company only offers closed captioning on about 100 of its titles.

Homeless Max Melitzer Found, Told He is Rich

For Max Melitzer, pushing his belongings around in a shopping cart in Salt Lake City, Utah, was part of his daily life. That is, until David Lundberg, a private detective, found him and told him some startling news.

Melitzer's brother in New York had recently passed away. And, he had left the homeless Melitzer a small fortune - around $100,000.

Melitzer hadn't seen his brother, Morris, for nearly fifteen years, reports the Daily Mail. Melitzer's cousin, Richard Goldfarb, had hired Lundberg to find Melitzer two months ago.

Snake House: Idaho Home Was on Snake Sanctuary

If you are in the market to buy a new home, be sure that your home isn't actually a "snake house." Located in Idaho, a "snake house" turned one couple's dream home into a living, breathing - and slithering - nightmare.

Ben and Amber Sessions moved into the home thinking that it was a great deal. They originally paid less than $180,000 for the five-bedroom home.

As it turns out, the picturesque home was actually located on sanctuary for garter snakes, ABC News reports.

Cyberbullying Lawsuit: Houston Dad Sues Kids

What does attorney Jason Medley do when his child is the victim of cyberbullying? File a cyberbullying lawsuit. Or, more accurately, a defamation lawsuit.

Jason Medley, a Texas attorney, recently filed a lawsuit against three middle school girls. He says that they made defamatory and false statements about his daughter.

Medley's daughter was the subject of a Facebook video, created by the three girls and posted to the social media site. The video allegedly made statements about her sexual impropriety and threats to physically harm the girl, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Gold Teeth Added to Saratoga HS Yearbook Photo

Students at Saratoga Springs High School in upstate New York were a bit amused on Tuesday when the 2011 Saratoga yearbook was released and visibly missing two photos.

To rectify a prank that left senior Maya Kurchner with two gold teeth, after getting permission from both Maya and a fellow student, school staff spent the last day of class cutting her picture out of 1,000 yearbooks.

The school's principal was made aware of the doctored photo on Tuesday when he was greeted by Maya Kurchner's father and attorney, reports The Saratogian.

'Toddlers and Tiaras:' Child Abuse in the Making?

After watching a few episodes of the hit TLC show, one can only wonder - is Toddlers & Tiaras child abuse being played by pageant moms for our viewing pleasure?

The "Botox Mom" might have turned out to be a hoax, but the reality is that the parents featured on shows like Toddlers & Tiaras sometimes do seem to be teetering on the edge of being a bit too forceful or controlling over their child's grooming, and about the competition itself.

For example, the recent premiere of the new season of Toddlers & Tiaras has two mothers pitting their daughters against each other in some sort of faux rivalry - one is 6, and the other is 5.

Weiner Resigns: Top 3 Reasons He Didn't Have To

The subject of a flurry of criticism and backlash from his fellow Democrats, Anthony Weiner resigned from his Congressional post this morning, though his wife Huma Abedin was not-so-curiously absent from his side.

Even though this is probably the best move--for both his sake and that of his wife--the fact is that Anthony Weiner didn't have to resign.

Here's why.

Unclaimed Money: Could Some Be Yours?

Good Morning America's unclaimed money story has informed Americans and given many hope about finding missing money. It's kind of like a modern-day treasure hunt, except you're hunting for your own lost treasure - and there's actually a realistic likelihood that you'll find a few bucks.

There's at least $32.877 billion dollars of unclaimed property and missing money being safeguarded by state treasurers and other agencies, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

All states tend to have some program that is aimed at returning this unclaimed property to their rightful owners - and some of that money can belong to you.

Wisconsin Union Law to Take Effect: Wisc. S. Ct

The state's highest court deemed the controversial Wisconsin union law legal yesterday despite widespread protests from Democrats and union activists across the country.

In upholding the law, which severely curtails the collective bargaining rights of public employees, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blasted the lower court for "usurping" legislative power.

Indeed, the entire decision came down to the court's interpretation of the age-old doctrine of "separation of powers."

Texas Abortion Law: Suit Challenges Sonogram Rule

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in federal court on Monday, challenging Texas' abortion law requiring a sonogram, which is slated to go into effect on September 1.

The law, which mandates that, prior to receiving an abortion, a woman must undergo a sonogram and sit through an explanation of the fetus' current stage of development, is being challenged on the grounds that it infringes upon a woman's reproductive rights and violates physicians' rights against compelled speech.

Supporters of Texas' abortion sonogram law are not surprised by the lawsuit, reports The Dallas Morning News. In fact, they claim that they wrote the legislation so that women were still given some choice.

Vaughn Walker: Can Gay Judge Rule on Gay Rights?

Former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's court hearing over his sexuality might be leading to a strange precedent. It has probably been the first challenge over a gay judge's ruling based on his sexuality.

Walker presided over California's Proposition 8 trial about the state's ban on same-sex marriage. He declared Proposition 8 an unconstitutional violation of civil rights.

In February, after Walker stepped down from his judicial post, he publicly revealed that he had been with his same-sex partner for 10 years, according to the AP.

Athesists Sue Little Rock Over Godless Bus Ads

Would you like to place a "godless" bus ad on the side of your bus? The United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR) really wants to, and has filed an atheist bus ad lawsuit against the Central Arkansas Transit Authority so they can place their ads, reports Reuters.

UnitedCoR's ads read, "Are you without God? Millions are," and is set against a backdrop of blue sky and clouds.

The coalition had wanted to put about $5,000 worth of ads across 18 buses. But, in order to do so, the coalition needed to pony up $36,000 as an insurance fee, reports Reuters.

Alabama's Tough New Immigration Law Signed

Move over Arizona, a new Alabama immigration law has hit the books and it blows yours to smithereens.

Alabama enacted perhaps the country's toughest immigration law on Thursday when Governor Robert Bentley signed HB 56 into law.

Backed by overwhelming legislative support, the new law covers a broad array of topics, many of which have civil rights groups questioning the law's legality and whether it was primarily motivated by bigotry.

Phonehenge Builder Convicted of Code Violations

If you've ever wanted to take a peek into desert playhome Phonehenge West, you better get moving.

A California jury has convicted its creator, Alan Kimble Fahey, of violating building codes and unlawful use of land, which means that the oversized maze of a home may be no longer in just a few short weeks.

How sad.

Wyoming Same-Sex Divorces Approved by Court

Where there is marriage, there is divorce. 

This is particularly true of Wyoming, where the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that, though the state doesn't generally recognize same-sex marriages, state courts still have the jurisdiction to grant a same-sex divorce.

Before you jump for joy or bemoan "activist judges," keep in mind that this is a very narrow decision that in no way impacts the definition of marriage.

Student Credit CARD Loopholes on Campus

One of the purposes of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, known to some as the student credit card law, was to protect college students from the perils of racking up large sums of credit card debt prior to graduation.

Turns out that, since the law came into effect in early 2010, it hasn't been doing such a great job at meeting its goals.

Taking advantage of loopholes and vague language, credit card companies are continuing to market to college students, leading them towards thousands of dollars in debt.

Gay Officer Andrew Johnson Can March in Uniform

Want to wear your uniform at gay pride? Gay corrections officer Andrew Johnson now can, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Johnson had filed a request to wear his uniform during the West Hollywood gay pride parade. He intended to march with other gay law enforcement officials, reports NBC Los Angeles. Johnson is a member of the Gay Peace Officers Association.

His request was denied. Johnson then filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections, alleging sexual discrimination.

Transgender Inmate Sues for Sex Change

After yet another failed self-castration, Virginia prisoner Ophelia De'lonta is suing the state in federal court, seeking a ruling that commands the state to pay for inmate sex change operations.

Though she's already receiving hormone replacement therapy, she believes that a sex change operation is the final step in treating her gender identity disorder.

While this may be true, should states have to pay for inmate sex change operations?

Gay Officer Can't Wear Uniform to LA Pride Parade

After being denied the ability to march in his uniform, LA Pride Parade participant and California corrections officer Andrew Johnson is now filing suit against the State of California and the Department of Corrections, alleging that he is the victim of sexual orientation discrimination on the job.

According to written responses from his warden and another official, permitting him to wear his uniform at the gay pride parade would "discredit" the department.

The California Department of Corrections has a policy that prohibits corrections officers from wearing their uniform to events if doing so would discredit the department, reports the Daily News. Amongst listed examples are bars, casinos, nightclubs, political protests and picket lines.

Calif. In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens Survives

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a California Supreme Court decision that upheld in-state tuition for illegal aliens who graduate from a California high school.

With more states considering extending in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens, and Congress mulling over the DREAM Act, the Court's refusal to hear the appeal may be an indication that it believes that the issue is best dealt with by the states and legislators, not the federal courts.

As long as a student has spent three years at and graduated from a California high school, he can take advantage of lower in-state tuition rates, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A student's immigration status is irrelevant.

Will Conn. Be Next State to Decriminalize Marijuana?

Will Connecticut decriminalize marijuana? It might be the next state to do so - Connecticut's marijuana laws might be revamped after legislation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana passed through the Senate.

The next stop for the bill will be the state's House of Representatives where it will receive its final legislative vote, reports the AP.

Proponents of the bill argue that the decriminalization will be a positive effect. Decriminalizing small amounts would allow younger adults who are arrested on possession charges evade a criminal record, which may hurt their chances at a career or at a college, according to the AP.

TSA Pays $2,350 for Exposing Woman's Breasts

Lynsie Murley's TSA breast exposure lawsuit's settlement documents has been revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request. The price that the TSA had to pay for revealing Murley's breasts at a Texas airport? $2,350.

Murley, 24, sued the TSA for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress after her humiliating run-in with TSA officers at the Corpus Christi airport in Texas in May 2008, reports the Daily Mail.

TSA agents singled her out for extended search procedures and then pulled down her top in front of other airport security and guests, according to Murley.

Apartment Leases: Do I Have to Take Property As Is?

When you are looking over your apartment lease agreement, many questions may come to mind. What are my tenant's rights? Does the landlord have to come by to fix things? What is the implied warranty of habitability?

For one, checking your lease over is something all tenants should do. After all, the lease is essentially a legal contract. When you sign it, it becomes a binding and enforceable agreement between you and your landlord.

So what do you have to look out for? And, most importantly, do you have to take the apartment "as is," and are there any rights you have in the law that requires a landlord to maintain the property?

Weiner Will Not Resign Over Photo Scandal

The Anthony Weiner photo scandal took yet another strange twist Monday. Despite lewd Twitter photos and "internet affairs" via Facebook, Rep. Anthony Weiner will not resign. Weiner admits that photos sent from his Twitter account, which he originally claimed was hacked, were from him, the politician said at a New York news conference today.

The scandal came to light after a picture of a man's bulging crotch was sent through Weiner's Twitter account. Then, a second woman came forward, claiming that she had received images of a man's shirtless torso through e-mail. To add icing to the cake, another woman claimed to have received over 200 explicit messages from Weiner through her Facebook account, reports Fox News.

Illinois Civil Unions, Same-Sex Divorces Begin

A new Illinois civil union law has made it the 6th state in the U.S. to recognize civil unions. And now, Illinois' first same-sex couple has also filed for a same-sex divorce just as many gay couples lined up for a civil union license.

Mark Bayer and Nathan Frederick married in Quebec in 2006. The couple is now divorcing, and the new civil union law is allowing them to do so, reports the Peoria Journal Star.

The new civil union law grants same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, including the right to divorce.

Hotel Maids Face Sexual Harassment From Guests

The dark side of the hospitality industry - hotel sexual harassment and sexual abuse of maids - has made headlines lately.

First, there was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former IMF chief, who is accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the Sofitel in New York City. Now, there is Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, an Egyptian businessman, who is accused of a similar assault at the Pierre, also in New York.

Employers at the two hotels are so concerned about employee safety that they are giving their housekeepers panic buttons, according to CNN. The panic buttons will give workers the ability to quickly alert a central security office if they feel threatened.

How Do Attorneys Charge You for Legal Representation?

How do attorneys charge clients? What is on an attorney's bill?

If you've ever looked into hiring legal representation, you've probably asked that very question, and were probably met with some confusing information.

The fact is that legal billing methods vary between attorneys, law firms, and even states. They also include strange terms like "retainer fee" that are rarely self-explanatory.

To help ease the pain of hiring an attorney, here's a basic explanation how attorneys charge clients.

Billionaire Larry Ellison Settles Tree Lawsuit

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's tree lawsuit finally came to an end on Wednesday, settling a years-long battle between the eccentric multi-millionaire and his downhill neighbors who have allowed their trees to block his view.

Larry Ellison's tree lawsuit began when his new downhill neighbors allowed their monstrous trees to grow so high that they partially impeded his view of the San Francisco Bay, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Though a huge joke amongst San Francisco natives, the tree lawsuit poses an interesting question:

Can you forcibly cut down your neighbor's tree if it blocks your view?

Renters Legal Rights: Top 5 Rental Fees to Avoid

If you've ever been a renter, you've undoubtedly met a landlord who has attempted to saddle you with a host of rental fees.

Between application fees, overnight guest fees, late fees, repair fees and cleaning fees, you might have ended up paying a lot more than you bargained for.

To avoid a repeat, here are the top five rental fees that deserve a bit of your skepticism.

Adoption 101: Top Three Legal Issues to Consider

Ever thought about adoption or how to adopt a child from outside the U.S.? Any individual or couple considering the adoption of a child has three major legal issues to consider--who is involved; open vs. closed adoptions; and how to get started with the adoption process.

So where to start?

Every state has its own laws regarding adoption, and different states' rules are not uniform. But here's a good base to start from:

1. The Parties Involved: State laws determine who may adopt, who may be adopted and who may place a child for adoption. Generally, any single adult or a married couple can adopt. But 33 states add more requirements, including parent age minimums and state residency requirements.

Can You Write Your Own Will?

Everyone knows that it's important to have a will. Not everyone, however, can afford to pay someone to write a will. This, of course, leaves the curious wondering whether or not it's even possible to write your own will. As in, without an attorney.

The basic answer is yes, you can write your own will.

Of course, the more complicated answer is that, depending on how you wish to gift your property and state law, it might not be the best idea.

A will basically does two things: disposes of your property at death and names a guardian for any underage children.

What is a Right to Work State?

Upset that the National Labor Relations Board is intervening in a labor dispute between Boeing and unionized workers over the relocation of a manufacturing plant, Senate Republicans have introduced the Right to Work Protection Act.

Related laws are currently being considered in Maine and New Hampshire, and are expected to see consideration elsewhere.

Though federal law undoubtedly protects workers' right to form and participate in a union, it has left it up to states to decide whether union membership can be made mandatory if a union already exists.

So, what exactly is a right to work state and why should you care about it?