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Yesterday, former Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated on Frontline that it is time to reschedule marijuana. While I would recommend descheduling marijuana, as I mention in several articles that I have written on the topic, this is a really important change from his statements during his tenure as AG. Because Holder may have some influence in the White House, it is possible that this issue could be addressed by the President before the next election.

Despite the enormous growth in social media, scant legal advice is available to help the many people who are posting online. Easy-to-understand, comprehensive, and current, Legal Guide to Social Media provides the latest information on case law and statutes. It covers everything from privacy laws to copyright issues to how to respond to employers’ requests for your social media passwords. This plain English legal companion offers examples of and solutions to the kinds of situations you can expect to encounter when posting online content, whether for personal enjoyment or on behalf of an employer. You’ll learn how to avoid liability for defamation and third-party posts, the legalities of copying and linking to content, how to protect your own content, and much, much more. http://www.kimberlyahouser.com

I have to admire a Judge who treats everyone the same. This Judge in Michigan has a strict no cell phone policy in his courtroom. When his cell phone rang during a trial (because he failed to turn it off), he fined himself $25 which he promptly paid. I admire integrity and am especially proud when I hear of someone in the legal profession demonstrating it.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/oops._judge_holds_himself_in_contempt_when_his_own_cellphone_rings_during/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=ABA+Journal+Top+Stories

The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case of Missouri v. McNeeley, No. 11-1425. At issue was whether or not the police must obtain a warrant prior to drawing blood from a person suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol. McNeeley was pulled over for speeding and failed the field sobriety test. After refusing the breathalyzer, McNeeley was taken to the hospital where after refusing to allow his blood to be drawn, had the blood forcibly taken from his body. The trial court threw out the evidence from the blood test as being an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The state appealed to the US Supreme Court asking that it declare that there is no need to obtain a warrant to draw blood. (Current law permits the drawing of blood without consent and without a warrant when alcohol is suspected after an accident with injuries). The state is asking for an extension of this rule to apply even when there is not an “exigent circumstance” such as an injury accident.

The state’s request is an example of everything that is wrong with our government today. I think reasonable people would agree that sticking a needle into your arm and forcibly withdrawing blood to be evaluated with the results being used against you in a criminal trial is not only an unreasonable seizure but would also violated your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. When you read dystopian novels popular in the early 1900s and again today, the cause the dystopianism is always government intrusion on individual’s rights.[i]

Although I do not agree that there are any circumstances which should permit the government to forcibly take your bodily fluids to be used against you in a criminal prosecution without first obtaining a warrant, I am especially concerned that a state would feel comfortable asking to be able to conduct this type of activity without regard to the Constitution. As our rights continue to erode through the unchecked increase in government intrusion into our lives, we have to ask ourselves, when will enough be enough?

 

 


[i] E.g., Iron Hall, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and more recently, The Handmaid’s Tale, Orxy & Crake, and the Hunger Games.

In Armour v. City of Indianapolis, (No. 11-161 6-4-12) the Supreme Court again decided to ignore the Constitution and side with the government on very unsteady ground. At issue was whether the City had to pay back to certain homeowners money it had collected for a sewer assessment that it was later able to obtain funding for (through bonds). While the plaintiffs in this case paid the entire assessment (some $9,000 up front), the other homeowners who elected to pay the assessment over time had the amounts remaining due forgiven. While this would seem to violate the Equal Protection Clause with the government favoring one group of citizens over another, the court disagreed. Because the right at issue was economic rather than a “fundamental” right, the court applied the “rational basis” test. In other words, did the City have a rational basis to make the distinction between the homeowners who paid the assessment up front and the homeowners who chose to pay it over time. The City’s “rational basis” was that it was inconvenient to issue the refunds.
To his credit, Chief Justice Roberts indicated in his dissent that: “The Equal Protection Clause does not provide that no state shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, unless it’s too much of a bother.’” Only Scalia and Alito joined the dissent, leaving this the current law of the land as stated by a majority of 6. Your economic rights can be trampled on by government. One can only dream of the time when the American public wakes up and starts electing libertarian officials to dismantle the non-working nonsensical unconstitutional parts of our government and demand that the Constitution be followed in a logical consistent way and that the rights given to individuals in the Constitution are resuscitated.

Employers Beware: What you need to know before checking the applicants Facebook page
As tempting as it may be to check an applicant’s Facebook profile as part of the screening process, there are some legal issues you should be aware of prior to doing so. First of all, a Facebook profile includes more than just work-related information. It could contain information about a person’s age, religion, race, national origin, sexual orientation, and associations. Making yourself privy to such information prior to hiring someone puts you at risk for a discrimination claim. If you wouldn’t ask for this information during an interview, you probably shouldn’t be collecting it from a social media site. If you are only checking Facebook profiles of those applicants who have profiles, you are treating your applicants differently. The overabundance of personal information on one candidate may cloud your judgment where it is not an issue with the candidate who does not have a profile. Facebook recently indicated that asking for a user’s password is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. There are also several U.S. states that are considering legislation that would ban this practice.
With the proliferation of social media sites such as blogs, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and their increasing prominence in the business realm, it is not surprising that employers have begun to access the information posted on these sites in the course of conducting background checks on prospective employees. It is not a good practice, however.

Before the advent of the Internet, when a person passed away or became incapacitated, family members or the executor of the Will would located the decedent’s personal and financial information in folders other tangible records found throughout the home. Photographs, letters, account information, etc. were all located physically in print. Today, you are more likely to find personal effects on the decedent’s social media accounts, like Facebook. Does your family know your password? In most cases, they do not.

While Facebook has terms of use for these situations, they may not accomplish what the decedent’s desires. As a result, people are now writing what is being called a Social Media Will which outlines the ownership (or deletion) of online information about them after their death. This can also be accomplished through your regular will or trust. As more and more people move their personal and financial information online protecting digital assets is becoming increasingly important. It is not only important for your family – we’ve all heard of cases where a “friend suggestion” of a deceased person pops up reopening the hurt, but also the risk of personal financial information to be obtained by hackers – this is especially likely when the information is no longer being monitored because of the owner’s death.

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