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

April 2013 Archives

Newborn Left on Beach Despite Safe Haven Law

A newborn was left on the beach in East Honolulu. The likely incredibly adorable full-term, 8-pound baby girl, who was abandoned right after birth on the beach, is alive and doing well, reports the Associated Press.

Turning the bummer situation into a teachable moment, officials in Hawaii are encouraging people to take advantage of the state's newborn safe haven law.

Holocaust Survivor Dies With $40M, No Heirs

Roman Blum, a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer, left a staggering fortune behind -- to no one. Why Mr. Blum would die without a will is nothing short of mind-boggling. His is the largest unclaimed estate in New York state's history, reports The New York Times.

With an estate worth $40 million and no heirs in sight, the state may soon claim the crown to a fairy tale ending worthy of "Anastasia."

Abalone Diving Is Legal, But There Are Limits

Abalone are prized for their beautiful iridescent shells and clam-like meat, but divers who hunt these mollusks may be biting off more than they can chew.

This weekend proved fatal for three divers hoping to get a jump on the legal diving season for abalone in California, and state park authorities hope that more divers avoid the dangerous rip currents, reports The Press Democrat.

Divers who are unaware of the state's fishing regulations may also find themselves in murky legal waters. Here are some common questions and answers about legal limits to abalone diving in California:

OK to Fire Medical Pot Patients: Colo. Court

The Colorado Court of Appeals handed down a major bummer for pot patients last week, confirming that it is OK for employers to fire employees who smoke medical marijuana.

The court ruled that since medical marijuana is prohibited under federal law, companies like Dish Network are free to terminate employees who test positive for pot, the Associated Press reports.

Still, after the voter initiative in Colorado that legalized recreational marijuana use, why is it OK to fire pot users?

Applying for a Job? 5 Tips for Resume Websites

The economy is growing, but the job market is remains pretty rough. When you're applying for a job, having your own website can increase your odds of success.

A personal resume website can add a spark of personality to your paper (or PDF) resume and cover letter. Before you know it, you might just have a real foot in the door to a new job.

Here are five tips for a successful -- and legal -- personal resume website:

What Is 'Spear-Phishing'? 3 Tips to Stay Safe

The New York Stock Exchange took a brief plunge Tuesday, when the @AP account was hacked in the latest "spear-phishing" attack.

A malicious email masquerading as correspondence from a co-worker was all it took for Associated Press employees to click on a link that somehow gave hackers access to the AP's sensitive account information, Slate reports.

While major corporations struggle to stay ahead of hackers, there are a few ways consumers can protect themselves from spear-phishing.

5 Tips to Get Out of a Contract

We sign so many things every day that it's almost inevitable that you will sign a contract -- and then later want to get out of it.

In general, consumers should be very careful when signing on the dotted line. But there are some legal options available if you need to cancel a contract.

For those times when either life or your mind changes, here are five tips for getting out of a contract:

20,000 Students Sue Calif. Over English Instruction

Some 20,000 students are suing the state of California and its education workers for failing to provide adequate instruction to non-native English speakers.

By its own records, the state isn't offering English instruction to nearly 20,000 students, causing children to be held back a grade or live with low proficiency scores due to the language barrier, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Under state and federal laws, schools are required to teach non-English speakers the language -- but how to teach it is another matter.

Do Stepparents Get Visitation Rights?

As we've learned from Hollywood families, stepparents often have a hand in raising children and form meaningful bonds with them. That's why when a child's parent and stepparent get a divorce, many states allow stepparents to petition for visitation rights.

In states that recognize stepparent visitation rights, courts will generally show preference to the birth parents' wishes. But they can also take a variety of factors into account.

Legal How-To: Checking Your Credit Report

Have you checked your credit report lately? A new FindLaw survey shows that a whopping 22% of Americans have never checked their credit report.

The survey found that between the genders, women are more likely to check their credit score than men, and those in the higher income brackets are more likely to check as well.

That's despite the fact that the process for checking your credit report is pretty straightforward -- and best of all, it's free. Here are a few simple steps to follow:

Twitter Hacking: 5 Ways to Prevent It

The Dow Jones took a brief plunge on Tuesday after the Associated Press' Twitter account was hacked, falsely tweeting that there had been two explosions at the White House.

The @AP Twitter account is one in a long string of accounts that have been compromised, including Twitter accounts for the news programs "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours," CBS News reports.

Of course, news organizations aren't the only ones who need be worried about Twitter hacking. Here are five strategies that can help any individual or business avoid being hacked:

5 Common Reasons to Deny U.S. Citizenship

Deceased Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev had his U.S. citizenship application delayed because of a prior FBI interview.

The interview was conducted in 2011 at the request of the Russian government, based on suspicion that Tsarnaev may have had links to terrorist groups, The New York Times reports.

Although Tamerlan's interview succeeded in delaying his citizenship application, that's not the only way such an application can be delayed or denied. Here are five common reasons why even law-abiding immigrants can be denied citizenship:

3 Tips When Donating to Your Alma Mater

When you first graduated from school, the last thing you probably thought about was giving what little money you had back to your school. But now that you are doing better in life, you may be considering donating to your alma mater.

Giving back may seem like a win-win for you and your school, since your charitable donation (in most cases) is tax deductible. But how can you be sure your money is actually going toward something that you deem worthwhile?

Here are three tips you may want to consider:

What Is Nepotism? Can You Sue for It?

Nepotism is a decidedly negative word. But if you threaten someone that you're going to sue for nepotism, will you be laughed out the door?

If you phrase it that way, you might get some strange looks. But favoritism at work can be a form of discrimination, as Demand Media explains. In some cases, you may even have a right to sue.

There are few, if any, laws that specifically prohibit nepotism. But there are many laws, both state and federal, that prohibit discrimination. It's where the two overlap that there may be grounds for an employee to file a lawsuit.

Customer Sues for Racial Slur on CVS Receipt

A CVS store is in hot water this week over a racial slur that appeared on a customer's receipt. Customer Hyan Lee was more than dismayed when she found that her CVS receipt for photographs read "Ching Chong Lee."

Lee was furious when she learned that CVS had merely disciplined and counseled the employee responsible for the slur, and has filed a $1 million lawsuit, The Huffington Post reports.

Given the current state of anti-discrimination laws and policies, Lee likely has more than one legal leg to stand on.

5 Legal Issues for LandLords

Landlord-tenant relationships are notorious for being less than pleasant. Some end up being more unpleasant than others. For the sake of civility, landlords should always try to deal with potential problems before a lease or rental agreement is signed.

Here are five legal issues for landlords to keep in mind:

Adoption: What's the Indian Child Welfare Act?

In a painful adoption case involving a child with Native American ancestry, the Supreme Court justices are recognizing that some cases might have no clear happy ending. "Domestic relations pose the hardest problems for judges," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. The case involves a Cherokee biological father, a non-Native American adoptive couple and a little girl named Veronica.

At the center of the case is the Indian Child Welfare Act, which gives tribes and relatives a strong say in decisions affecting a Native American child.

Marathon Explosion: Good Samaritan Laws

In the wake of the events of Newtown, Aurora, and 9/11, it is all too clear how tragedy has the capacity to bring us to our knees. Yet, it is often in these bleak lit moments that our finest and most noble virtues shine through. This was clear in Boston on Monday, where despite a hellstorm of confusion and injuries, many Bostonians were running to the rescue and into the melee.

Good Samaritan laws act as a legal shield for those individuals who risk the fray to save lives. Those rushing to help after the Boston Marathon explosion may soon discover how effective that shield is.

Google Inactive Account Manager: Control Your Data After You Die

We've all wondered about our posthumous digital existence and our emails just sitting there in limbo. However, it looks like Google's Inactive Account Manager can now put your digital soul to rest. The company unveiled a new service that lets users decide how their data should be disposed of after they pass away.

Here's what you need to know about Google's Inactive Account Manager feature:

Outside Court: 5 Other Things Lawyers Do

On Matlock, The Good Wife, and [insert your favorite legal drama here], the attorneys and their clients put their game faces on, suit up, and get ready to sue or be sued for a saucy legal issue that has arisen. But in reality, not every attorney is an Alicia Florrick, appealing to the judge and jury with grand gestures and a winning smile.

On the contrary, transactional attorneys do the bulk of their work behind the scenes. They pen contracts on a variety of legal issues and stay far, far away from court. In general, a good transactional attorney will almost never see the inside of a courtroom.

Here are 5 things transactional lawyers do -- possibly without you even realizing it:

7 Steps to Selling Your Home

The real estate market is slowly picking up and you may be looking to sell your home.

However, you may not be the only seller with this idea, and in certain parts of the country the market may still be rough.

As a result, you will need some guidance on the basic steps to selling your home. Here’s a quick overview of the home-selling process:

Google Workers Owe Tax on Free Lunch?

There may be no such thing as a tax-free lunch. Even when one of the best perks of working at high-tech companies like Google and Facebook may be that employees literally get a free lunch. However, that perk may lose some of its luster as the tax man may come after the workers.

Some tax experts say that these free lunches should be counted as taxable fringe benefits, reports the Huffington Post.

But does this mean that the individual employees now has to amend his taxes? Are the employees even individually responsible?

Hooters Waitress Fired for Post-Brain Surgery Look?

Hooters is being sued in federal court by a former employee who alleges that she was forced to quit her job when her appearance changed after brain surgery.

After having a cranial mass removed, former Hooters waitress Sandra Lupo returned to work with buzz cut hair and a healing scar, ABC News reports. When she said it was too painful to wear a wig, Lupo was allegedly pushed out of her job.

The case raises the classic and re-occurring Hooters question: Can a physical condition affecting appearance qualify as a protected disability? Let's break it down.

'Anti-Govt' Parents Kidnap Kids, May Be at Sea

A man described as being "anti-government" has allegedly kidnapped his kids in a strange case of parental child abduction.

Police say that 35-year-old Joshua Hakken kidnapped his two young sons from their grandmother's house and may be trying to make his getaway via sailboat, reports NBC News.

Hakken allegedly broke into his mother-in-law's home in Tampa, Florida, and tied her up before making off with his sons. Police believe that Hakken and his wife Sharyn may be traveling together in a 25-foot sailboat.

Is It Legal to Hand Out Flyers?

Have you ever been annoyed by the guy handing out flyers in the street? Or worse, have you ever been yelled at by someone while you're trying to hand out flyers for a cause you believe in? Ever worried or wondered about whether it's legal to hand them out?

Maybe you don't worry about those kinds of things but never fear; we worry about it for you. And because we worry, we wanted to let you know, it's probably OK.

Or at least, putting up flyers and handing them out in general is OK. But how, where and when you put them up can potentially get you into trouble.

5 Reasons to Potentially Sue Your HOA

If you're not happy with your homeowner's association (HOA) or housing development, you may be able to sue.

When you moved into a condo or housing development, you may have been asked to read and sign an elaborately worded tome called "Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions" (CC&Rs).

Generally, CC&Rs spell out what you can and cannot do in and around your home. If you violate these rules, you could potentially be sued by your HOA, forced to move out, or forced to conform.

Judge Overturns Morning-After Pill Restrictions

A federal district judge has overturned an FDA ban that prohibited women under 17 from purchasing the popular Plan B "morning-after" pill without a prescription.

Judge Edward Korman directed the Food and Drug Administration to make the contraceptive pill available over-the-counter to people of all ages. In doing so, he called the FDA's ban "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable," reports The Washington Post.

Currently, Plan B One-Step is available to teens under 17 by prescription only. Older women can access the pill by requesting it from a pharmacist. But that could soon change.

52% Support Pot Legalization: Pew Survey

For the first time, a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana, a Pew Research Center poll has found.

Some 52% of Americans now say pot should be legal, up from 41% in 2010. The survey indicates a dramatic shift since the late 1960s, when a Gallup survey found a mere 12% in favor of legalizing "Mary Jane," while 84% were opposed.

Not surprisingly, Pew's 2013 poll found that older Americans are more opposed to pot legalization than younger generations. It also found men are slightly more likely to favor legalization than women.

In general, the numbers shed light on how Americans' attitudes toward marijuana have changed.

Legal How-To: Writing an IOU or Loan Note

Loaning money to family and friends can be a delicate subject. You don't want to be too formal with the terms of the loan. Yet, if you don't write a proper loan note or a legally binding IOU, you could be kissing your money goodbye.

It's generally a good idea to protect yourself by putting the terms of the loan in writing. If your friend or relative protests, you could say that there are tax consequences and you'll need the note to keep the IRS off your back.

Here's what you need to know about writing a legally binding IOU or loan note:

What Is 'Mudding'? Is It Legal?

The recent death of MTV's "Buckwild" star Shain Gandee has thrust "mudding" into the spotlight. Many people are now wondering just what is mudding and whether mudding is legal.

Generally, mudding involves driving an all-terrain vehicle or sport utility vehicle off-road through wet fields, streams, lakeshores, lakebeds, or other muddy areas, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Individuals who go mudding generally race through these areas, spinning their tires and throwing mud.

In the process, they also may rip up vegetation, create unsightly holes, and destroy property. So is mudding legal?

What Stockton's Bankruptcy Means for Residents

The city of Stockton, California, is eligible for bankruptcy protection, a federal judge has ruled. The ruling rejected creditors' arguments that the city was not truly insolvent when it sought protection and failed to seek pension concessions.

The city fully paid its obligation to California's retired workers pension system, but imposed losses on bondholders and bond insurers, reports Reuters.

Stockton will now be permitted to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, making it the largest U.S. city ever to file for municipal bankruptcy. But what is Chapter 9, and how will it affect residents?

Building a Fence? Don't Offend Your Neighbors

"Good fences make good neighbors," according to a famous Robert Frost poem. But that's only if the neighbors agree.

As home improvement season kicks into high gear, fences can be a tricky subject -- especially if one neighbor wants a fence and the other doesn't. Part of the issue is that boundary fences are technically owned by both property owners, unless they agree otherwise. That means responsibility for maintenance falls on both people.

But a fence doesn't have to cause a neighborhood argument. Laws are set up to hopefully avoid disputes over where a fence should or shouldn't be.