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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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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Defense Secretary Puts President Trump’s Transgender Ban on Hold

In the wake of President Donald Trump's proclamation that openly transgender individuals be discharged from the military, in addition to the lawsuits, there has been some pushback from an unexpected source: the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. After sources reported that the general was appalled by the president's proclamation, soon after, he came out with a plan that effectively puts the ban on hold. While socially, and politically, transgender rights are a polarizing and controversial issue, it may not be possible to read anything more than prudence into Mattis's actions. Making a sweeping change like this to the military requires careful planning and assessment. What's Mattis's Hold Up? The general, reportedly, has instituted the hold on implementing the newest ban in order to study the effects and strategically plan how to actually do it (and potentially even whether to do it at all). Although the president, in a series of Tweets, claimed to have met with his generals prior to implementing the ban, no general has corroborated this claim. As such, not only was the general caught off guard, but the new policy's effects had not been studied prior to the implementation. While it may be too soon for those on either side of this issue to celebrate, LGBT advocates are pleased that there is at least some relief from the abruptly announced policy that would have uprooted many people's lives. Constitutional Challenges and Civil Rights Laws The lawsuit by the ACLU that challenges the transgender military ban argues that there is no military basis for the ban. According to the ACLU's complaint, "The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly."The Trump administration also faces a lawsuit from Lambda Legal that challenges the constitutionality of the transgender ban. Lambda Legal's lawsuit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification."Although the new administration has taken a position that transgender individuals should not be protected under civil rights laws, there has been a steady trend in the law to protect transgender individuals. The number of states, and even federal courts, that have recognized transgender individuals as belonging to a protected class, and thus protected by civil rights laws, keeps growing. Related Resources: Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) The Rise of Anti-Anti-Discrimination Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Here's the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Knott’s Berry Farm Faces Second Log Ride Injury Lawsuit

Five-year-old Charles Miller was sitting in his father's lap on the Timber Mountain Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm in California when the ride came to a screeching halt after the last drop. According to a lawsuit filed against the theme park by his father, Miller flew forward, forcing his head to be "sandwiched between his father and the back of the seat causing an orbital blowout." Miller suffered a fractured eye socket, and the lawsuit claims Knott's Farm negligently maintained the ride. It turns out this is not the first problem with the log ride or the first lawsuit filed against the park: the family of a 6-year-old girl settled with Knott's Berry after she broke a bone above her right eye hitting her head on the ride, and the Miller suit cites ten other examples where guests were injured in similar incidents. Improper Water The problems for the log ride allegedly occur on the final descent into a large pool of water. According to the lawsuit: [T]he water sensing system for the Timber Mountain Log Ride was not properly monitoring the water level on the ride, especially at the bottom of the last drop, where there was improper water for proper braking, which increased the deceleration experienced by the guests in the log and contributed to their being injured by being thrown against the log's interior components. The suit also claims the California Division of Occupational Safety had previously inspected the ride, made Knott's Berry Farm aware the water sensing system was not working properly, and that the ride was operating out of compliance for almost two years. Contemptible Conduct "The conduct of the Defendants was so vile, base, contemptible, miserable, wretched and loathsome," the lawsuit claims, "that it would be looked down upon and despised by ordinary decent people." Along with compensatory damages for the child's injuries, the suit is also asking for punitive damages against Knott's Berry Farm as well as attorneys' fees. Related Resources: Child Battered by Knott's Berry Farm Log Ride, Family Says (Courthouse News) Who's Liable for Waterpark Injuries? (FindLaw's Injured) When to Sue for Theme Park Injuries (FindLaw's Injured) Disneyland Sued in 140 Injury Cases in 5 Years (FindLaw's Injured)
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ACLU, Lambda Legal Sue Trump Over Transgender Military Ban

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals. And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country." Animus Trump's memo reverses Obama-era guidance allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military and allowing defense funds to cover sex-reassignment surgery. The ban would remain in place "until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above." In the memo, Trumps says, "The Secretary of Defense ... may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," but that recommendation for change must be something that "I find convincing." The ACLU claims there is no military basis for the ban: The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly. News reports indicate that the Secretary of Defense and other military officials were surprised by President Trump's announcement and that his actual motivations were purely political, reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender, with a goal of gaining votes for a spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico. Amicus The claims may bear some truth. Mattis was reportedly caught off guard by Trump's tweets, and sources say he was "appalled." Lambda Legal's suit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification." This is not the first time Trump has been sued over an executive order or memo -- there are now at least three lawsuits regarding the transgender military ban alone -- and will likely not be the last. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says (The New York Times) Transgender Service Members Sue Trump Over Military Ban Tweets (FindLaw's Courtside) Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Easter Egg Hunt Injury Lawsuit: Mom Sues for $112K

The Clakamas County annual Easter Eggstravaganza egg hunt is scheduled to proceed this year with 20,000 eggs, and the Easter bunny being flown in by Helicopter, just like tradition dictates. However, a recent lawsuit for $112,000 filed against the Eggstravaganza venue and organizer as a result of an injury that occurred last year is attracting attention in the lead up to this year’s event. Although the event is geared towards participants under 12, last year, an adult who was accompanying their child was injured when the crowd rushed in, knocking her over, causing her a severe knee injury. The injury required surgery and a protracted recovery. The lawsuit alleges that the venue and organizer were negligent in not providing sufficient staff, security, and/or crowd control to ensure the safety of attendees. Event Organizer and Venue Liability The organizers of an event, as well as the venue where an event takes place, can both be held liable if an event attendee is injured as a result of negligence, such as poor property conditions, or allowing overcrowding to occur. Generally, organizers and venues are responsible for ensuring the safety of their guests, and must take reasonable steps to do so. When reasonable steps are not taken, organizers and venue owners can be sued under a legal theory of negligence or premises liability. In the Eggstravaganza case, for instance, the plaintiff is alleging that the organizers and venue allowed overcrowding to occur, and did not have effective crowd control. The complaint explains that this was case, particularly, when people who were not supposed to be on the Easter egg field, ran onto the field and knocked the plaintiff over, causing her injury. Eggshell Plaintiffs An injury victim can sometimes seem to have a disproportionately large injury given the circumstances surrounding an accident or event. However, under the law, a person with a pre-existing condition, or a high-susceptibility to injury, is entitled to recover for the full extent of their injuries. In lawyer-talk, these types of individuals are often referred to as eggshell plaintiffs, and can include the elderly, disabled, or those with medical conditions. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) 3 Easter Injuries to Avoid (FindLaw’s Injured) Is It Legal to Dye Baby Chickens? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) First Grader Handcuffed After Easter Egg Tantrum (FindLaw Blotter)
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Can You Sue Your Parents for Child Abuse?

Technically, the law permits a child to sue their parents as a result of child abuse. There are no special rules preventing this type of lawsuit. However, what a child considers to be abuse may not actually be legally considered abuse. Parents are generally permitted to punish their children, which can include depriving children of luxuries such as video games, computers, internet access, a car, dating, seeing friends, or even dessert. A parent can make a child sit in the corner, go to their room, do chores, or worse, babysit their siblings. Depending on the manner in which it is done, even corporal punishment or spankings can be okay in the eyes of the law (so long as they are not excessive) . Why Children Sue Parents Even though it seems rather out of character for a child to sue their parents, it happens. Most frequently, like all lawsuits, it’s about money. Recently, the Canning family’s case in New Jersey made national headlines.The 18-year-old daughter, still in high school, was suing her parents after moving out over disagreements over the house rules. However, the legal complaint that was filed alleged all sorts of objectionable, questionable, and downright deplorable parenting, ranging from crude comments to irresponsible boozing. The matter did not make it very far, particularly after the judge denied the child’s request for an emergency child support order of $650 per week. When to Sue? In every state, the statute of limitations for a minor’s legal claims do not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. That means that if a state provides a two year statute of limitations on a particular claim, and a child is injured at age 12, they will have 2 years to file their claim after they turn 18 years old. Even if an adult child is suing a parent as a result of sexual abuse, or rape, there will likely be a short statute of limitations of no more than a few years after the child turns 18. Worthwhile to Sue? Regardless of whether the law supports an abused child’s case for damages against their parents, a prospective plaintiff may want to think twice before filing suit. Even assuming that the case is winnable, whether or not a judgment can be collected from a defendant is a wholly different issue. If a parent was convicted of a criminal act related to the abuse, or is presently incarcerated, there is a strong likelihood that any judgment a plaintiff secures won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.To find out if it’s worth your time to pursue a legal claim, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Student Suing Parents Loses 1st Round, but Case Isn’t Over (FindLaw’s Legally Weird) Son Sues Mom, Pop for Overtime at Family Biz (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Homeless Man Sues Parents for Not Loving Him Enough (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)
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Top 5 Child Abuse and Reporting Questions

Child abuse can manifest in physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological cruelty, or a combination of these. States define abuse in statutes, and there may be some variation in the wording of the law from place to place, but all states prohibit cruelty to kids. Children are especially vulnerable to abuse and less able than adults to articulate complaints, which means that adults in certain professions have an obligation to look out for and report suspected mistreatment. But we should all be aware of child abuse and do what we can to stop it. Let's consider the top five child abuse and reporting questions. 1. Mandatory Reporting Laws: Report Child Abuse ImmediatelyNo one wants to be a busybody but you can't just let child abuse go unreported. In some states and some professions it is more than a moral imperative -- it's a legal one. Depending on your state laws and your particular profession, you may be required to report any suspected abuse and subject to punishment for failure to do so. 2. Legal Responsibility of Teachers to Report Abuse States all have different statutes that define abuse and outline who is under obligation to report it. Teachers very often fall into the mandatory reporting category because they have extensive daily contact with kids. In addition to the state statute that dictates who must report abuse, the time frame for reporting, and who to tell, individual school districts may also have obligatory internal reporting procedures. 3. What Should You Do If You Suspect Child Abuse Abuse can be difficult to spot but not always. If you have encounters with a child who is continually injured or marked, that may be the result of a rough and tumble approach to play or it may be a sign that someone in the child's life is being physically abusive. When you have real reason to suspect abuse, call the authorities. Many states do have toll-free hotlines that take these kinds of calls and you will not be liable if, happily, it turns out you were wrong about the abuse. 4. What to Do If You Suspect Your Ex of Child Abuse Accusing someone of child abuse is a big deal. But if you are a divorced parent and think you see signs of abuse when your child comes home from visits with their other parent, you must protect your family's most vulnerable members. Don't be rash in your accusations but do not let abuse go unremarked upon just because it's a difficult topic. 5. Emotional Abuse Laws: When to Seek Legal HelpJust because an abuser doesn't leave bruising on a kid's skin does not mean that there is no serious harm resulting from their emotional cruelty. When an adult manipulates a child through intimidation or otherwise terrorizes the kid, that can qualify as a crime. Talk to a Lawyer If you're concerned about your obligation to report suspected child abuse or have any other legal concerns, talk to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk to you. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Abuse Overview (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Child Abuse Laws State-by-State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Child Abuse Cases (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Preparing to Meet a Real Estate Attorney

When you are meeting a lawyer for the first time on a real estate matter of any kind, it's a good idea to make a list. Before your appointment, know your concerns and questions. That's the first step. But it is a big one and will help with what's next, which is meeting your lawyer. So let's break down this list. Don't worry, it's not complicated. Making a List Why are you meeting with the lawyer? Are you seeking a specific service with respect to a particular place or general guidance? Whatever the issue is, try to boil that down to a few sentences. Write them down. Once you know your general goal for consulting with a real estate attorney, you'll have a better sense of what to ask. If you are buying a home, say, and want a lawyer to review the documents -- of which there are many -- consider all your concerns and gather all the paperwork. As you put your file together, questions will arise. Jot them down. Now you have a list. It is natural to have many questions when buying a home. There is a lot to the process apart from finding the right place -- securing financing, passing inspections, filling out endless forms with terms that are confusing and contain new vocabulary. If you're involved in a dispute, that too will involve paperwork, complaints, letters, evidence. Getting help is a good idea and getting organized in advance ensures you get the best guidance. Whatever the reason for your meeting, the key to preparation is gathering your thoughts and relevant documents. When you talk to the lawyer you'll be able to convey your concerns and needs clearly and provide context. Those are the most important steps. Next, you need to meet with the attorney. Consult With Counsel If you are dealing with a real estate matter, or just contemplating one, it's important to get good information and independent guidance. If you are buying a home, for example, the agent won't be your representative. Similarly, if you're dealing with a dispute, having wise and reliable counsel is critical. Get help. Related Resources: Find Real Estate Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Checklist: Are You Ready to Buy a Home? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Types of Legal Fees (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Getting Legal Help With a Tenants' Rights Issue (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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5 Best Cities for Working After Retirement

When you're 30, you can't wait until the day you can retire and spend your days sipping Pina Coladas on a white sand beach. When you finally retire at 65 or 67, suddenly you miss going to work every day. Either you're restless or didn't save up enough for retirement, and now you want to return to work in retirement. Here are the best cities, according to US News, for working after retirement: Best Cities for Working After Retirement Some cities are filled with youngsters and start-ups. Other cities are more senior friendly: Washington D.C. -- More than one-third of the over 60 population in Washington, D.C. Most people find jobs with the federal government and contractors. Salt Lake City, Utah -- If you like education jobs or government positions, Salt Lake City is great place to work after retirement. Over 33 percent of the senior citizen population in Salt Lake City are still employed. Bridgeport, Connecticut -- Bridgeport is a great city for older workers in the health care industry. Omaha, Nebraska -- A little less than 33 percent of seniors work in Omaha. Austin, Texas -- The economy is strong in Austin with big tech companies offering plenty of jobs. A little over 32 percent of seniors continue working after age 60. Obstacles to Working After Retirement As you continue working during your retirement, you may encounter a few obstacles such as age discrimination or reduced social security payments. Age Discrimination Sadly, many senior workers have had to deal with age discrimination in the workplace. However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination against employees or potential employees older than 40 years of age. Refusing to hire an applicant or firing an employee solely because of age is age discrimination. Making harassing comments about someone's age can also be age discrimination. If you are being discriminated against because of your age, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Social Security Retirement Benefits If you are able to continue working or get a new job after retirement, just be aware that you may be giving up money to make money. You can still work and collect Social Security retirement benefits. However, if you retired before full retirement age off 65-67, the Social Security Administration may reduce your retirement benefits by about one-third to one-half of your outside earnings. If you are being discriminated against at work because of your age, consult with an experienced employment attorney for help. Related Resources: Browse Employment Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) After an Age-Discrimination Claim, What Happens? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) When Can I Retire? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Tips for Older 'Encore Entrepreneurs' (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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