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Jr. College Fired Her For Answering A Student's Question
Court Center | 2008/07/18 14:40
A biology professor says San Jose Community College illegally fired her because a student claimed to be "offended" by her response to a question in a Human Heredity class. June Sheldon, who has a master's degree in biology, says she responded to a question about homosexuality by citing scientific research that indicates it may be related to maternal stress.

Sheldon says the student complained that Sheldon had spoken in class "about something that had no mention in the textbook," and that the student "found many parts of her lecture highly offensive and unscientific," leaving the student "horribly offended."

Be that as it may, Sheldon says, citing scientific literature in response to a question about human heredity in a human heredity class is not grounds for firing, under the college's own rules.

Sheldon says the student who filed the complaint objected to a comment she made in her class of June 21, 2007. She says that student dropped her class at 9:06 a.m. that day. The class met from 9 to 11 a.m.

Sheldon sued the seven trustees of the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, and its chancellor and vice chancellor. She is represented in Federal Court by David Hacker of Folsom.


New Jersey court strikes down sex offender residence laws
Court Center | 2008/07/16 14:30

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey on Tuesday struck down two municipal ordinances that prohibited convicted sex offenders from living near schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. The Appellate Division ruled that New Jersey's statewide sex offender registry program, known as Megan's Law, preempted the local ordinances and provided the state and all municipalities with a uniform rehabilitation and public safety plan. The court explained:

The far-reaching scope of Megan's Law and its multilayered enforcement and monitoring mechanisms constitute a comprehensive system chosen by the Legislature to protect society from the risk of reoffense by CSOs and to provide for their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. The system is all-encompassing regarding the activities of CSOs living in the community. We conclude that the ordinances conflict with the expressed and implied intent of the Legislature to exclusively regulate this field, as a result of which the ordinances are preempted.

The court added that the ordinances, which prohibited CSOs from living within 2500 feet of a variety of locations frequented by children, had the effect of barring CSOs from upwards of two-thirds of the towns which had enacted the ordinances, and violated provisions of Megan's Law that expressly prohibited disclosing CSO information for the purposes of denying individuals housing and accommodations. AP has more.

Courts in other states have also overturned or restricted laws seeking to limit housing options for registered sex offenders. In May, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned [opinion, a 2006 state law that prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, or youth center. Last November, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously overturned a state law that prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where children gather. Civil rights groups had criticized the law as overly strict, saying that the state's roughly 11,000 registered sex offenders would have been barred from living in almost any residential area. In February 2007 a federal judge ruled that California's Proposition 83, which prohibited California sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any place where children regularly gather, could not be applied retroactively to more than 90,000 paroled sex offenders because there was nothing in the measure to indicate that intent.



Ibuprofen Strip Search Violated Student's Rights
Court Center | 2008/07/14 14:30
School officials violated the Fourth Amendment of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her for two Advil tablets, a divided 9th Circuit ruled.

Judge Wardlaw, writing for the 6-5 majority, found that officials at Safford (Ariz.) Middle School were not protected by qualified immunity.

While searching for the source of a drug problem at the school, officials received a tip that a girl named Marissa had supplied students with Advil to take at lunchtime.

Marissa implicated another student named Savana Redding, an honor student who had never been in trouble before. Redding was summoned to the principal's office.

Although a search of Redding's backpack revealed no drugs, she was still taken to the bathroom by a school nurse and forced to strip to her underwear. She also had to expose her private parts to prove she had no drugs.

The only link to implicate Redding was the testimony of a student who was caught red-handed, Wardlaw noted. Even the anonymous tip about Marissa's drug possession did not mention Redding.

"Officials who strip-searched Savana acted contrary to all reason and common sense as they trampled over her legitimate and substantial interest in privacy and security of her person," Wardlaw wrote.

Judges Gould, Silverman, Hawkins, Bea and Kozinski dissented.


Court Shields Bloggers From Disclosing Names
Court Center | 2008/07/09 14:22
A group of Internet users successfully fought a subpoena seeking their identities for comments written on a blog, but they are not entitled to attorney fees, a California appeals court ruled.

Mordecai Tendler asked Google for subpoenas to get the IP addresses of Web users who allegedly defamed him on jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com.

When Google refused to comply with the subpoena orders, Tendler requested similar subpoenas for the Blogspot addresses of rabbinicintegrity, jewishsurvivors, and newhempsteadnews. The unnamed Doe defendants fought back with a motion to strike.

Justice Mihara reversed the lower court's award of $42,000 in attorney fees and costs after Tendler ultimately withdrew the subpoenas. Mihara ruled that a request for a subpoena does not fall within the anti-SLAPP statute.

"Even the broadest interpretation of the (statute) cannot stretch it to cover a subpoena," the judge ruled. "A request for a subpoena is not a complaint."

Mihara also noted that the third-party subpoena request was not even served on the Internet users and could "not possibly be expected to initiate a 'cause of action' against that adverse party."


'Reality' Show Host Sued For Assault
Court Center | 2008/07/02 14:32
A security guard hired to work at Paris Hilton's unveiling of her clothing line claims "reality TV" host Stephen Glover aka "Steve-O" ordered his 6-foot-9-inch bodyguard to assault him, so that Glover, host of USA Network's "Dr. Steve-O" show, could crash the party.

Roland Cano claims Kitson's clothing store, a celebrity hangout, hired him to provide security for Hilton's Aug. 16, 2007 event. He says Glover demanded to be let in, and he did his job and refused him entrance. Glover then ordered his bodyguard, former professional football player and co-defendant Reggie Pace ("Big Regg"), to assault him, and Pace punched him in the face and head repeatedly, Cano says. Glover used the assault to enter the event, he says.

The complaint continues: "After defendant Big Regg struck Plaintiff's face and head, defendant Steve-O proclaimed, 'I just had my dude rip that security guard's face. ... It was awesome. ... I just needed to see my security guard rough everyone the fuck up!' Defendant Steve-O then hugged defendant Big Regg, stating, 'Nice work man. You made me so proud of you. ... We won!'" (Ellipses in complaint.)

Cano demands punitive damages for assault and battery, negligence and emotional distress. He also sued USA Networks' corporate parent, NBC Universal. He is represented by Joseph Barrett with The Cochran Firm.


Court sides with employee in benefits case
Court Center | 2008/06/19 17:11
The Supreme Court said Thursday that courts should consider an insurance company's potential conflict of interest when reviewing the denial of an employee's health or disability benefits claim.

The court ruled 6-3 in the case of an Ohio woman who sued MetLife Inc. over a disability claim. She contended insurance companies have a financial incentive to deny claims and that conflict of interest should weigh heavily in employees' favor when they challenge benefit claims in court.

A federal appeals court ordered Wanda Glenn's benefits reinstated. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said federal law imposes a special standard of care on insurers requiring full and fair review of claim denials. Breyer noted that MetLife had emphasized a medical report that favored denial, de-emphasized other reports suggesting benefits should be granted and failed to provide MetLife's vocational and medical experts with all relevant evidence.

Dissenting, Justice Antonin Scalia said the court is using the wrong standard in dealing with potential conflicts of interest. Scalia said there must be evidence that a conflict improperly motivated a denial of benefits. In the MetLife case, there was no such evidence, Scalia said. Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy also dissented.

MetLife administered a disability plan for Sears, where Glenn worked for 14 years. The insurance company paid benefits for two years but in 2002 said her condition had improved and refused to continue the benefit payments. MetLife saved $180,000 by denying Glenn disability benefits until retirement, her lawyers said in court filings.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Glenn's benefits reinstated in September 2006, ruling that MetLife acted under a conflict of interest and made a decision that was not the product of a principled and deliberative reasoning process. MetLife argued that the standard used by the 6th Circuit would encourage participants with dubious claims to file suit, which in turn would raise the costs of benefit plans to both companies and employers.



ACLU files suit against Texas juvenile prison system
Court Center | 2008/06/17 14:51

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit Thursday against the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), alleging that five girls imprisoned at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex were subjected to punitive solitary confinement, physical abuse and invasive strip searches. The ACLU alleged that the treatment violated the girls' rights under the US Constitution and international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. TYC officials responded that the agency is working to address the issues raised in the lawsuit.

In May 2007, TYC announced it would release 226 inmates after an investigation revealed that their sentences had been improperly extended in retaliation for filing grievances. In June 2007, Congress passed a bill to reform the Texas juvenile prison system, creating the Office of Inspector General to internally police the system. The Ron Jackson girls' facility is estimated to hold about 190 inmates.



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