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

Recently in Civil Rights Category

Mandatory Court Fees Ruled Unconstitutional Against Poor Californians

Imagine trying to dig your way out of the mud without a shovel. Or stuck in an endless loop with no one to pull you out. That's how indigent people feel when faced with mandatory court fees for criminal convictions. But one court is putting a stop to it, at least in its own jurisdiction in California.

Birth Certificates in NYC Have General Neutral Option Now

New York City is now allowing its birthers to designate their own gender on birth certificates. Though this is limited to just those born in New York City, it is a major win for transgender and gender-neutral individuals, since it allows individuals to select their own gender, without requiring a doctor's note. 

"You don't need a doctor to tell you who you are and you shouldn't need a doctor to change your birth certificate to reflect your true self," states New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. NYC now joins the ranks of other states that allow for personal designations, and these numbers are expected to rise in the coming years.

You Must Now Be 21 to Purchase an Assault Rifle in Washington

Semi-automatic rifles, the weapon of choice for mass shootings, will now be as hard to buy as a pistol in the state of Washington. Voters approved I-1639, an initiative that will change many facets of gun control in the state. But some believe the new system will be confusing and complicated, and may appear more as a patchwork of bandaids rather than a total solution to curbing gun violence.

Some holiday decorations are universally beloved: garlands and candles, electric lights on trees and homes, and the odd snowman (or even fake snow or icicles). Some displays, however, are a little more controversial. Nativity scenes, for example, which depict the birth of Jesus Christ, seem to be the target of annual litigation. And 2018 is no different.

Here are just a few of the legal battles ongoing over the public display of Nativity scenes this year:

Texas Lawmakers Push to Remove Outdated Anti-Gay Law

Texas is going to get another chance to get it right. Is it wishful thinking that they will finally remove an illegal anti-gay statute still on its books? Or will it punt again, dragging this out another two years?

If Border Agent Searched Your Phone, U.S. May Still Have Your Info

You may have had your phone unsuspectedly searched by federal agents when coming into America. And the data on your phone may have been downloaded to scan for national security information. Odds are high no incriminating data was found on your phone. But as it turns out, odds aren't so high that the border patrol deleted this data upon realizing you aren't a security risk.

Can a Parent Get Out of Jury Duty to Take Care of Kids?

Almost every parent has faced the logistical horror of receiving a jury summons. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent of infants or a double-income parent of middle school children, the thought of getting to the courthouse by 8:30 a.m., potentially for weeks on end, is enough to give you an ulcer. Can a parent get out of jury duty to take care of children? The answer depends on your local jurisdiction, and some are more lenient than others.

Yesterday was Human Rights Day, and although our remembrance is a little late, it did serve as a reminder to how far human rights have come in the past 70 years, and how much of the progress has been made in the courtroom.

While the work is far from done and we still have far to go to ensure equal rights for all human beings, here are five cases decided or laws passed in recent years that advance that goal:

One of the misconceptions concerning the First Amendment is that its free speech protections protect any speech at all. Not quite. There are all kinds of restrictions on speech and expression, from bans on nudity and obscenity to prohibitions on hate speech and incitement of violence. And, in many cases, advocating or instigating illegal behavior is illegal as well.

But even exceptions to rules have exceptions themselves, as the Ninth Circuit ruled when it struck down a federal statute banning speech that encouraged a person to violate immigration laws. The problem wasn't so much that it prohibited speech that promoted law-breaking, but that the statute, as written, was "unconstitutionally overbroad." Here's what that means.

Walking the tightrope of free speech, political opinions, and office culture is a challenging balancing act for any employer. Now imagine you're the federal government. On the one hand, the Constitution's First Amendment protections apply directly to you, more so than private employers. On the other, how do you keep politics out of anything you do?

The goal is to at least provide the appearance that civil servants are politically neutral. So you can't have federal employees participating in political campaigns or attempting to influence elections. And you certainly can't have them talking about the possible impeachment of the president or chatting publicly about "the Resistance."