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

October 2011 Archives

FindLaw's Halloween 101 Has Got it All

It's less than a week to All Hallows' Eve,

so it's time for some of FindLaw's wonderful things.

Whether you're curious about Halloween laws

or the best costume yet,

we here at FindLaw are your best bet.

We know about nunchucks and sobriety tests;

also how to get through Halloween

without an arrest.

So before you dress up and head out to drink,

give the following posts a bit of a think.

In other words, below you'll find a collection of some of our best posts about Halloween laws and other related legal information. Remember, a police-free holiday is a happier holiday for all involved.

PETA Sues SeaWorld for Orca's 13th Amend. Rights

Animal rights activist group PETA has sued SeaWorld in a strange legal twist. PETA's SeaWorld lawsuit alleges the company infringed upon 5 orca whales' 13th Amendment rights.

The group has accused SeaWorld of enslaving their killer whales.

"The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orcas are, by definition, slaves," said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk in a statement. True, these whales are working at the theme park for no pay.

But does the U.S. Constitution extend civil rights to animals?

Can Obama Reduce Your Student Loan Payment?

Beleaguered students across the nation have called upon the current administration for student loan forgiveness. Some young Americans graduate from higher education institutions saddled with debt. Many face unemployment. Now, a new plan has been implemented aimed at helping students with loan consolidation.

The new plan also lowers monthly payments under the income repayment plan.

How exactly will these new programs work?

MA Foreclosure Sales in Doubt After Court Ruling

A ruling by the state supreme court has possibly put thousands of Massachusetts foreclosure sales in jeopardy.

In Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez, the court ruled that a bank must own a mortgage before it can foreclosure on a piece of property. Otherwise, when the bank later sells the property, it does not transfer title.

This is a big problem for those who took advantage of cheap prices at the height of the housing crisis. Foreclosure buyers may now face claims brought by original owners.

NYC Man Suing for Age Bias Says Judge Too Old

Martin Stoner, 60, is a musician. He's also in the midst of suing the non-profit organization Young Concert Artists for age bias.

But Stoner is now embarking down a path that some might call ironic. He is arguing that the judge presiding over his case, 88-year-old Manhattan judicial veteran Robert Patterson, is "too old."

Stoner alleges that Judge Patterson is "slow-witted and unable to function." He also says the judge can "barely see unless he put his face almost on top of a document."

When Can a Landlord Enter My Apartment?

Your landlord may be a snoop. Or he may want to replace those ugly blinds. Either way, you don't want him in your living space.

Can you deny him entrance? What limits are there to a landlord's right of entry?

These are pretty common questions amongst renters out there, and for good reason. People want their privacy, and unexpected guests are rarely welcome.

Landlord right of entry laws vary by jurisdiction, but most states apply the following rules:

Top 3 Halloween Lawsuits of All Time

If there's one thing that gets a lawyer giddy this time of year, it'd have to be the Halloween lawsuit. And not because it brings in the money.

No, Halloween lawsuits are a reprieve from the seriousness normally attributable to the courts. They can be silly, ghoulish, and downright bizarre. They involve haunted houses; eggs and shaving cream; and a good deal of childish behavior.

In fact, Halloween lawsuits are so amusing, that we'd like to share our top three.

NYC Bus Accused of Sex Discrimination

If you’re a woman who tries to ride on the B110 bus line in New York, you may be asked to sit in the back. At least this is what some investigatory journalists allege. And it has to do with religion. Reporters say that the sex discrimination on the bus line arose because the route runs through the Hasidic Jewish community.

The incident was investigated by reporters who tried to sit in on the bus. Several female reporters were asked to move to the back by bus drivers.

In fact, one bus driver became so irate when a reporter declined to move that he refused to drive until she conceded.

Is Disneyland's 'Electronic Whip' Illegal?

Disneyland Hotel laundry workers answer to what they call the "electronic whip."

Basement laundry rooms are outfitted with large flat screen monitors that keep track of employee efficiency. Each person is listed, followed by a number representing their current speed.

Everyone can see who is the quickest--and slowest--inciting both competition and dissension amongst colleagues, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Do Young People Need a Will?

When you have youth and health on your side, you tend to think that you're invincible. Unfortunately, none of us are. Which means in some cases, even young people need wills. Have you ever meditated on the question, "Do I need a will?"

Whether you have or not, you should probably get one.

If you die without a will, that means your estate will pass down through the laws of intestacy. These laws vary depending on what state you live in.

US Flag Pin Gets Man Fired at FL Hotel

A controversy is brewing in St. Augustine, Fla., where resident Sean May was fired over an American flag pin.

The front desk supervisor at Casa Monica Hotel had worn the lapel pin for two years. But last Thursday, he was told to take it off, as its presence violated company grooming policies.

May refused, and was sent home. He was later fired.

Are Oral Contracts Enforceable?

Despite popular belief, oral contracts are enforceable. They usually are not in your best interests, and end in a "he said, she said" battle. But as long as there is enough evidence, a court will enforce an oral agreement.

However, there is one particular exception to this rule, and it's called the Statute of Frauds.

The centuries-old law is designed to prevent deceitful conduct when contracts have high stakes or long durations.

Gay Navy Vet Sues for Disability Benefits

An 18-year Navy veteran, Carmen Cardona recently learned that the military does not award disability benefits to gay couples.

Cardona has received disability benefits since 2000. When she married her now-wife in 2010, she applied for a monthly increase as provided by the rules. The Department of Veterans Affairs denied that application, citing two federal laws.

One law defines "spouse" as a person of the opposite sex. The other, popularly known as DOMA, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

It's hard to plan your final wishes. That's why many Americans put it off. But what exactly happens if you die without a will? Where do your assets go? It all depends on the laws of intestacy in your jurisdiction.

When you die without a will, you die "intestate." That's why a state's intestacy laws exist.

Intestacy laws will pass down your assets to your heirs as the statute mandates. All 50 states in the nation have intestacy laws.

How exactly your assets will be divided will vary depending on your state's laws. But the goal of intestacy statutes is to ensure that assets are distributed the same way an average person would have wanted if they had written a will.

Missed Jury Duty? Face Fines, Jail Time

Unless you're really enamored with the law, most Americans dread getting a jury summons in the mail.

But if you're thinking of playing hooky when it comes to jury duty, you might want to reconsider. After all, did you know that missed jury duty can result in fines and sometimes even jail time?

This is something that jurors in Florida and Texas probably wished they knew before they decided to skip out on jury duty.

One Texas judge has issued letters to about 294 individuals who failed to report to jury duty in late September. These jurors will be asked to show cause in a hearing (i.e. explain their absence to the judge). And yes, they all could face jail time or fines.

Pot Brownies at Funeral Send Elderly to Hospital

Would you bring pot brownies to a funeral? Apparently someone from Huntington Beach, California did. And you'll never guess who consumed the pot brownies: three senior citizens, all in their 70s and 80s.

All three were attending a funeral service for a friend when they ate the drugged delicacies.

They didn't know that the brownies had weed. After consuming the chocolate desserts, all three complained of nausea, dizziness and an inability to stand without assistance. They were hospitalized.

Can 'Joe The Plumber' Get Elected to Congress?

How would you feel about Joe the Plumber in Congress?

Joe the Plumber, who became a household name during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, is considering running for Congress. Samuel Wurzelbacher--Joe the Plumber's real name--filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission last week. Though he has yet to make a final decision, his tentative plan is to seek election in Ohio's 9th Congressional District.

But Wurzelbacher actually lives in Ohio's 5th District.

How can he run for office in a different district from which he lives?

Can Feds Block Alabama Immigration Law?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has agreed to expedite an appeal concerning the controversial Alabama immigration law.

On September 28, a lower court declined to grant the Department of Justice an injunction blocking the law's enforcement. The government had requested that it be put on hold until the court could decide on its constitutionality.

The lower court's denial is at odds with decisions blocking similar immigration laws in Arizona and Georgia.

I Quit. When Do I Get My Final Paycheck?

So, you and your last employer have split ways. You're absolutely over. Except for one little thing. He won't give you your final paycheck!

Sadly, this is not that uncommon. Employment situations can end badly - it happens. Employers are often unaware of laws that govern final pay.

If you find yourself waiting payment on hours you've worked, consider utilizing the following information.

Legal for Telemarketers to Call My Cell Phone?

Is there anything more annoying than a telemarketer calling your cell phone? There is a way to avoid this: put your cell phone number on the national Do Not Call Registry.

After all, no one wants to answer a phone call only to hear an automated advertisement.

Especially when it comes to cell phones. Most Americans have cell phone plans that only allot a certain number of minutes that can be used for outbound and inbound calls.

Did you know that it's generally illegal for telemarketers to call your mobile phone?

Top 3 Ways to Collect in Small Claims Court

Winning a case is often just the first part of a civil court battle. The second part: judgment collection. Even if you win in small claims court, you may be left wondering how to collect a judgment.

And it can seem like a daunting task. Defendants generally don't like losing. They also don't like paying up.

How can you collect what you're owed? Here are some simple tips to help you collect:

Do You Qualify for Medicaid?

If you're wondering whether you qualify for Medicaid, you've come to the right place. Despite a number of systemic changes and budgetary constraints, Medicaid still exists.

Though it is a federal program, Medicaid eligibility is generally state-dependent. There are certain groups of people states must cover. Beyond these groups, each state determines which low-income and disabled residents it serves.

The following are general Medicaid eligibility guidelines, but if you can, consider consulting state-specific rules.

Should Child Cage Fighting Be Legal?

Images of child cage fighting have sparked controversy in the U.K. The story might make some parents wonder: Is it safe for children to engage in cage fighting, also known as "ultimate fighting" or "mixed martial arts"? Are these types of sports with children even legal?

In the U.S., there are no federal laws that specifically prohibit child boxing. About 18,000 children and teens under the age of 19 are estimated to participate in the sport in America.

Boxing and cage fighting are fundamentally different sports, however. In boxing matches, participants wear protective gear such as gloves. In cage fighting, participants wear little to no protective gear.

Legislature Repeals Missouri Facebook Law

It looks like the Missouri Facebook law has met its end.

In late August, the law was put on hold by a state judge, who found that its enforcement "would have a chilling effect" on the First Amendment rights of teachers and students.

And late last month, the state legislature overwhelmingly voted to repeal clauses that prohibit all private internet communications between teachers and students.

The provision will instead direct local school districts to develop their own policies.

2/3 of Parents Worried About Kids on Internet

Are you worried about your child's safety on the Internet? If so, you're not alone.

About 67% of parents are worried about their children's safety on the Internet, according to a new survey.

Still, 20% of parents surveyed said they were "not very worried" and 14% said they were "not worried at all."

What are some of the most popular methods to control Internet usage and safeguard children?