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Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Ruled Constitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection protocol. In a unanimous ruling, a three judge panel upheld the district court's previous decision denying death-row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Alva Campbell their request to enjoin their pending executions. It's the latest case in a string of stories concerning the state's method of execution. Ohio's Death Penalty Drama The Buckeye State's execution protocol has been a recurring news item. In November 2017, the state's attempted execution of Alva Campbell (one of the plaintiffs here) was cancelled when prison officials couldn't find a vein to inject the lethal mixture of drugs. Campbell was sentenced to death in 1998 after killing 18-year-old Charles Dials during a jail break attempt. Campbell's legal team has also requested execution by firing squad on numerous occasions, a request that state officials are (extremely) unlikely to grant. According to the state's current execution schedule, Raymond Tibbets's execution will occur next week, on February 13th, 2018. That's a date subject to change, however, as eleventh hour postponements are common. Tibbetts was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of his wife and landlord in 1997. Death Penalty and the Law State death penalty cases are among the most heavily-litigated cases. Trials commonly take years, appeals generally go through state and federal courts for decades, and last minute stay requests or clemency petitions are common. Challenges to the method of execution as violating the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause have been common in recent years. An approaching execution is a common time for reigniting America's long-running debate over the wisdom -- and constitutionality -- of capital punishment. Related Resources In re Ohio Execution Protocol Litigation (FindLaw's Cases and Codes) Appeals Court Say Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Constitutional (Cleveland.com) Ohio May Give Botched Execution Another Try (FindLaw's Blotter)
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If I Get Into a Fight at Work, Can I Still Get Workers’ Comp?

It's not common, but workplace fights do happen. Tensions build. Voices are raised. Tempers flare. And, in the extreme, shoves, punches, and piledrivers may get thrown about. Whether it's started by an argumentative customer upset about their caramel macchiato or two colleagues having a heated debate about something-totally-not-worth-fighting-about, injuries can result. So when you're injured in a fight at work, is workers' compensation still a thing? What Is Workers Compensation? Workers' compensation is a workplace insurance system for work-related injuries. Injured workers may have medical costs, lose wages while out of work, and sometimes suffer long-term disabilities as a result. That's what workers' compensation is for. Construction workers, delivery drivers, even dishwashers who die taking out the trash can receive workers' compensation benefits. Police and fire departments often carry extensive (and expensive) workers' compensation policies due to the physically taxing and dangerous nature of their jobs. Workers' Comp for Workplace Fights So long as it's a work-related injury, it's potentially covered. But it shouldn't surprise anyone that the law imposes limits on workers' compensation eligibility when fights occur. Under California law, for example, a worker who's the initial aggressor isn't eligible for workers' comp. Purely personal disputes that overflow into a place of business might not qualify either. The idea behind the entire system is compensating injured workers, after all. The further the facts stray from that legal standard, the more tenuous the case. Find Out If You're Eligible for Workers' Compensation Workers' compensation cases can be complicated. Claims are heard through state agencies, and when an employer contests a claim, the going can get tougher. If you're injured following a fight at work, speaking to a workers' comp attorney is a smart move. Related Resources Find a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Workers' Compensation Laws by State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can I Get Workers' Compensation If Assaulted at Work? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Model Can Seek $1.5M for HIV Ad Featuring Her Image

Those that ascribe to the "any PR is good PR" mantra might be tempted to tell a model that any use of her image would be a good use. But what about a use that implies she is HIV positive? That happened to model Avril Nolan after New York's Division of Human Rights ran a full-color, quarter-page ad featuring her face, beside the words "I am positive (+)" and "I have rights," all without her permission. Nolan sued, claiming the ad was defamatory and that the DHR violated state civil rights laws. And a state appeals court agreed, with the defamation part at least. Per Se Bad Publicity The court's ruling is a bit dicey, politically speaking. Nolan is claiming that the unauthorized association of her image with HIV is a particular kind of defamation per se. Normally, in order to succeed in a defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that the false assertion caused some tangible damage to her reputation. But some false statements are considered so damaging that they are deemed defamatory on their face, and don't require the same proof of damages. One category of defamation per se is an indication that a person has a "loathsome," contagious, or infectious disease. The state tried to argue that an association with HIV wasn't inherently damaging, highlighting recent cases where courts ruled that merely calling someone gay was not slanderous, and even pointing to celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Magic Johnson who remain popular despite publicly affirming their HIV-positive status. But the Supreme Court of New York's Appellate Division wasn't on board: Further, claimant, in countering the State's anecdotal evidence regarding public figures with HIV, cites several sociological studies establishing that HIV continues to be a significant stigma. For example, she cites to academic studies from 2014 and 2015 that conclude that people fear getting tested for HIV because of the perceived social repercussions of a positive result. Since it can still be said that ostracism is a likely effect of a diagnosis of HIV, we hold that the defamatory material here falls under the traditional "loathsome disease" category and is defamatory per se. So while the intent of the ad campaign might've been to reduce the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis, enough of that stigma still exists to make a false association regarding such a diagnosis defamatory. Rejected Civil Rights Claims Nolan also alleged the DHR's unapproved use of her photo violated state civil rights laws that prohibit the nonconsensual use of a person's image for commercial purposes. The appeals court was less sympathetic to this claim, finding "DHR was engaged in a decidedly noncommercial campaign designed to advance its mission of promoting civil rights." Still, Nolan may recover up to $1.5 million in damages for the emotional distress she says she suffered after publication of the ad. Related Resources: Find Defamation Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Injured) What's the Difference Between Libel and Slander? (FindLaw's Injured) Invasion of Privacy: False Light (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Is Invasion of Privacy? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit

Recently Alexandra Shapiro was successful in overturning the corruption conviction of Dean Skelos, a former New York state senator and majority leader.  Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, had been charged in 2015 by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) with bribery, extortion and conspiracy relating to accusations that the father’s office pressured a developer, a medical malpractice insurer and environmental company to give his son consulting work that resulted in hundreds of thousands of payments. The father and son were convicted at trial in December 2015. Alexandra represented the ex-senator on appeal and another lawyer represented the son. Both convictions were overturned.  This isn’t the first time Alexandra has been victorious at the Second Circuit.  We have blogged about her seemingly golden touch before in a blog post, Alexandra the Great. The grounds for appeal were largely based on the United States Supreme Case ruling in McDonnell v United States which limited the application of the federal bribery statute 18 U.S.C. §201.  The Court ruled that an official act is a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” and that it must involve the formal exercise of a governmental power, be something specific and focused that is “pending” or “may by law be brought” before a public official.  The Court clarified that setting up a meeting, talking to another official or organizing an event, without more, does not qualify as an “official act” per McDonnell. In the Skelos appeal, the panel found that the jury instruction given in the Skelos case was too broad, and considering the ruling in McDonnell, the definition of “official acts” provided to the Skelos jury could not be ruled harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Skelos appeal ruling was instant big news and reported in the New York Daily News and in the New York Times, where Shapiro was quoted as stating that Dean Skelos was grateful for the ruling and that “[w]e believe that as events unfold, it is going to become clear that this is a case that never should have been brought.” Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the SDNY has already indicated that the office intends to retry the father and son and was quoted in the New York Times as stating, “We look forward to a prompt retrial…” Oddly enough, even former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who no longer would need to comment, felt compelled to weigh in on the ruling on Twitter. Regardless of what the future holds for this case, this victory lap is sweet and another well-deserved win for Alexandra Shapiro, who has her own firm Shapiro Arato, in New York City.  Alexandra continues to be at the center of many of the most influential white-collar appeals in this last decade and she continues to be a shining example of the great work that women are doing in our field. The post Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Can You Be Fired for Having Your Period at Work?

'Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them,' said Alisha Coleman, 'but I never thought I could be fired for it.' It's not a legal question often asked, but Coleman should know better than most. She was fired from a 911 call center in Georgia, allegedly after experiencing heavy menstrual symptoms related to the onset of menopause while at work. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, she is now suing her former employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, for gender discrimination. "I don't want any woman to have to go through what I did," Coleman stated. Working Woman According to her suit, Coleman was experiencing symptoms of premenopause at the time of her firing, which can include "irregular and unpredictable sudden onset menstrual periods, which could be heavy at times." In August of 2015, Coleman "unexpectedly experienced a sudden onset of her menstrual period that resulted in her accidentally leaking menstrual fluid on her office chair." She reported the event to her supervisor, who advised her to leave the premises to change clothing. Soon after her supervisor and HR Director warned her "that she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow." In April of 2016, some menstrual fluid unexpectedly leaked onto the carpet when Coleman got up to walk to the bathroom. Despite immediately cleaning the spot with bleach and disinfectant, Coleman was terminated, allegedly for her failure to "practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty." Workplace Legal Protections Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination of "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." The question Coleman's lawsuit raises is whether either or both laws apply to women undergoing menopause. The Bobby Dodd Institute argued against that proposition in its motion to dismiss the suit, and said Coleman wasn't targeted for being female. A district court judge agreed and dismissed her case in June, ruling it was not clear that Coleman's treatment for "excessive menstruation was treated less favorably than similar conditions affecting both sexes," or that "male employees who soiled themselves and company property due to a medical condition, such as incontinence, would have been treated more favorably." The ACLU took up her case, filing an appeal on her behalf. "Employers have no business policing women's bodies or their menstrual cycles," said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director in a statement. "Firing a woman for getting her period at work is offensive and an insult to every woman in the workplace ... That's wrong and illegal under federal law. We're fighting back." Related Resources: Find an Employment Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Pregnancy Discrimination Warning Signs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons You Can't Be Fired From Your Job (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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DeVos Plans to Dismantle Standards for Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations? Out With the Old In 2011, Obama's Department of Education issued what is known as a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the requirements of colleges and universities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in regards to sexual violence on campus. Schools must "take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence," including a prompt investigation of any incident the school knows of or reasonably should know of, and apply a "preponderance of evidence" standard to determinations based on sexual harassment allegations. According to DeVos, this system "has failed too many students." "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved," she said, adding, "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." In With What Now? What the new approach will be, however, isn't immediately clear. DeVos announced plans to "launch a transparent notice-and-comment process" to formulate new guidance on sexual assault investigations, presumably to standardize procedural elements and protections across all schools. One of the issues that many, including the American Bar Association, have highlighted in prior critiques is the lack of due process protections for both victims and accusers in on-campus hearings, along with the lack of uniformity in schools' reporting, investigating, punishment, and appeals processes. "We can do a better job of making sure the handling of complaints is fair and accurate," DeVos promised, but how that job will be done remains to be seen. Related Resources: DeVos Announces Plan to Revamp Obama Administration Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations (ABA Journal) Columbia Settles Title IX Lawsuit Filed by Student Accused of Rape (FindLaw's Decided) University May Raise Tuition to Fund Sexual Assault Investigations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are Schools Using Student Privacy Laws to Cover up Crimes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Tips for Handling a Child Care Notice of Action

For low-income families, access to child care can be crucial. After all, if you can't trust that your child will be cared for while you're at work, you're probably not going to work. But as many parents know, finding affordable child care is a challenge. So there are local, state, and even federal programs in place to help working parents afford day care for their children. While these services can change the lives of low-income families, the subsidies themselves are subject to change. When that happens, parents will often receive what is known as a "Notice of Action," advising them of the change. This can be a scary process, so here is some information on the notices and how to handle them. Don't Panic Subsidy programs may be complicated, with overlapping rules, regulations, and requirements, all of which seem like they can change at any moment. Many parents can become overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of it all, or get lost in a program's details. Just know that a Notice of Action doesn't necessarily mean the end of your child care subsidy, and that you can navigate the subsidy process. Do Appeal You have the right to appeal any change in your child care services. But beware -- the time is short. In most cases, you will only have 14 days to file an appeal, and must do so through a local agency, either a child care provider or a city or county entity. There are generally two levels to the appeals process: a hearing at your local agency, or a letter to the state department of education. Contact information for your local agency to request a hearing can be found on the Notice of Action. Don't Ignore It Not all changes to the child care subsidy require a Notice of Action, so even if you didn't receive a notice, your subsidy could change. If you didn't receive a Notice of Action -- if you were notified regarding a change in your subsidy by phone, for instance -- you can request a notice. Don't wait on a formal document, or think that because you didn't get a notice, your subsidy can't change. Be proactive in the appeals process. Do Seek Help If you have questions about the subsidy appeals process or want help appealing a change to your child care subsidy, there are organizations that can help. And you may want to contact an experienced family law attorney as well. Related Resources: Find Family Law Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Power of Attorney for Child Care (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Be Tax Savvy! Deduct Daycare Expenses (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Legal Tips for Choosing a New Daycare (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Fair Housing Act Protects LGBT Couples

The Fair Housing Act, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, protects renters and home buyers from a variety of discrimination based on everything from sex, race, and national origin to religion, marriage status, and pregnancy. But until Wednesday of this week, no court had extended those protections to include lesbian, gay, or transgender people. That all changed when a federal court in Denver ruled that sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, including discrimination motivated by outdated stereotypes about how men and women should act and with whom they should romantically partner. Judicial Protection Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and her wife Tonya Smith attempted to rent a townhouse for themselves and their two children in Boulder, Colorado, but were denied, according to their lawsuit, because the landlord did not approve of their "unique relationship." In a ruling their lawyer believes is the first of its kind, the court found that LGBT renters are protected from such discrimination under federal law. "This is the first case under the Fair Housing Act dealing with gender identity where there's been liability found for discrimination based on stereotypes," Omar Gonzalez-Pagan told the Washington Post. "It demonstrates the importance of bringing these cases. Housing discrimination is a significant unreported problem" for LGBT people. Judicial Reasoning The district court's ruling mirrored one issued a day earlier by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. There, the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both courts found that sexual stereotyping is a form of sex discrimination, and therefore illegal under federal statutes that bar discrimination based on "sex." In doing so, the courts relied on a 1989 Supreme Court case holding that male partners and managers discriminated against a female employee when they said she needed to "walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry" in order to advance. In the Smith's case, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore wrote, "Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping." Such sexual stereotyping is illegal under federal law, and therefore the landlord's refusal to rent to the Smith's based on their relationship violated the Fair Housing Act. Related Resources: Find Landlord-Tenant Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can Landlords Discriminate Against Unmarried Couples? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Housing Discrimination for LGBT Couples (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Understanding Your Rights: Housing Discrimination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Protects Gay, Lesbian Workers From Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Because it was enacted in 1964, many have wondered whether gay and lesbian workers were also protected under the law. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question this week, ruling that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court reasoned that the statute's ban on sex discrimination also prohibited sexual orientation discrimination because, among other reasons, the discrimination is based on outdated gender stereotypes. Here's a look: Stereotypical Discrimination The plaintiff in the case, Kimberly Hively, contends that she was passed over for full-time employment at Ivy Tech Community College because she is lesbian. Her central claim, as it pertains to Title VII, is that this discrimination was based on her sex or gender -- that, had she been a man, she would not have been discriminated against for being sexually attracted to women. And the majority found it persuasive: Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual ... Hively's claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction, and policing. The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man). Essentially, Hivey was still discriminated against based on her sex in that she did not conform to stereotypes about female sexual orientation. A Definitive Decision? The court's decision is groundbreaking. Until now, the majority of courts interpreting Title VII have held that it did not cover discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. While the Second Circuit found that sexual-orientation discrimination wasn't explicitly prohibited by Title VII, it recently found that gay workers who were subject to gender stereotyping still had the right bring sex discrimination claims. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue, but may need to soon, giving the disagreement between circuits. For now, the Seventh Circuit's ruling applies only to its own jurisdiction: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Related Resources: Find Employment Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Seventh Circuit Holds That Title VII Forbids Anti-Gay Job Discrimination (The Washington Post) LGBT Worker Protections Missing in Mississippi and Most States (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Signs of Employment Discrimination (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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So You Married a Criminal? 3 Legal Tips

While accidentally marrying a criminal sounds more like the subject of TV drama (or comedy) than a real life occurrence, it does happen in real life. Unfortunately, even when a person marries a criminal on accident, there could be real life consequences. Most often, legal consequences for uninvolved spouses stem from organized, or white-collar, criminal activities. For instance, spouses that agree to put things in their names, or sign checks, or take other relatively passive roles, can find themselves looking at actual jail time. Alternatively, spouses that merely reap the financial benefits, completely passively, without being involved at all, can usually expect to minimally have those benefits seized and forfeited. Here are three legal tips on what to do if you accidentally marry a criminal: 1. Annulment May Be Possible If you were tricked into the marriage, you may be able to qualify for an annulment based upon fraud. Unlike a divorce, an annulment will dissolve a marriage and treat it like it never happened. There may be some complicated issues when it comes to separating joint property, but it could potentially protect an innocent spouse from liability. State laws differ about how and when a person will qualify for an annulment, but generally state laws require a showing that the innocent spouse materially relied on a significant misrepresentation in agreeing to marry. If an annulment isn't possible, divorce or legal separation can be pursued. 2. Consult and Retain an Independent Attorney So long as you are not actively involved in the criminal enterprise, you can consult with an attorney on how to keep on the right side of the law. Depending on your situation, this may involve legal separation, divorce, annulment, or maybe not. If you get involved with the criminal enterprise, an attorney will not be able to assist you in continuing to break the law, but may be able to help keep you out of trouble if you are arrested. It is also important to retain your own attorney, rather than rely on joint representation, particularly for a spouse that is not actively engaged. 3. Maintain Separate Accounts Maintaining sufficient separation of financial accounts may not be possible if the criminal enterprise is the sole source of income. However, if there are premarital assets, or you earn legitimate income, these should be maintained separately and diligently tracked. In the event that a criminal prosecution occurs against the criminal spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, being able to trace separate legitimate income may be what prevents it from being seized by the authorities. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Potential Ways to Get an Annulment (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is the Spousal or Marital Privilege? (FindLaw Blotter) How Marriage Annulments Differ from Divorces and the Grounds for Obtaining a Marriage Annulment (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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