As a new school year begins with new classes, new students, and a whole lot of new work, I thought it might be nice to provide a link to another law related blog that is insightful and interesting, Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid (www.abovethelaw.com). Yes, I know this is not an academic blog with in-depth articles written by the many skilled legal minds across the country. However, it provides a very honest and no BS approach to what new, and returning, law students should know about the profession that they have chose to dedicate their lives to for many years to come. If you want to know what firms are hiring or firing, what morale is like in many of the most prestigious firms, and the overall state of the legal market, Above the Law is the place to go. It is also a great place to go to get some quick information about the current legal decisions that are handed down by courts across the country. So, if you haven’t checked it out, take a quick look and share it with others if you like what you read.
The Supreme Court of the United States recently decided a case that is counterintuitive at first glance. In order for a suspect to invoke their right to remain silent and end any interrogation, they must verbally say that they are going to remain quiet. While this may seem like a drastic change, it may also be viewed as an alignment with a suspect’s other 5th Amendment right to attorney which must be verbally invoked in order for an interrogation to cease. This 5-4 decision is in favor of the police and allows officers conducting interrogations to continue those interrogations until they are explicitly told by the suspect that he/she wants to remain silent. There is less chance for error that a police officer will interpret a suspects silence one way while the suspect himself will interpret it another way, resulting in a question of admissibility of anything divulged during an interrogation. However, this decision runs counter to Miranda, so it is anyone’s guess as to the overall impact moving forward. To learn more, please read here.
In an interesting case concerning consumer privacy when making online purchases, Amazon.com filed a lawsuit against North Carolina tax collectors in order to bar a request for consumer information. The North Carolina Department of Revenue had demanded that Amazon provide it with the full details, including the name of the consumer and their home address, about the nearly 50 million purchases made in the state via Amazon between 2003 and 2010. This information request was accompanied by North Carolina officials traveling to Seattle and explaining to Amazon that any non-compliance of their request would result in some sort of retribution in North Carolina. In order to combat the North Carolina demand, Amazon filed its suit saying that such a demand is in violation of consumer privacy rights and the 1st Amendment. For more information click here.
The North Carolina Department of Revenue’s basic contention is that it has been grossly underpaid for the taxes that should have been collected on all of the purchases made on Amazon in the state. Because Amazon does not have any physical connection with the state while conducting business, it is not obligated to pay the requisite sales tax on each purchase made. Instead, the state must rely on consumers paying the requisite use tax on the items that they purchase. However, it is safe to assume that many consumers are not aware of their tax obligations because most purchases are subject to sales tax paid by the seller and not use tax paid by the buyer. All in all, this is a fight pitting 1st Amendment protection against a state’s rights to collect its taxes. I wonder who is going to win.
There have been a number of articles in the news over the last couple of years concerning the Westboro Baptist Church. The Church is led by Fred Phelps and its congregation consists of about 70-80 family members. Why is this group so controversial? For a number of years they have been protesting the funerals of American soldiers as a way to show that America is in violation of God’s will by accepting homosexuality. One of these funerals that was protested was for Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, who was not himself a homosexual, but the Church still targeted his funeral to show its disdain for current policy. Now, many would argue that the things said and written on signs during the protest could amount to hate speech, or qualify as an analogous situation as yelling, “Fire,” in a crowded theater which does not allow constitutional protection. However, others would argue that this speech, while hateful and despicable, is still protected under the 1st Amendment and any limiting of the protests would have a far-reaching impact on free speech rights.
This issue is going to be argued before the Supreme Court in the fall with Matthew Snyder’s father leading the charge in support of limiting such speech, while Westboro continues to defend its position that it was engaging in lawful free speech. How this case turns out will have a substantial impact on free speech rights moving forward. To learn more, please read this article.
With the United States economy slowly emerging from a prolonged recession and many employers still hesitant to expand their workforce due to the cost, many students rely on unpaid internships or clerkships to gain experience. However, the federal Labor Department is setting its sights on employers that offer these types of work opportunities because unpaid internships are often in violation of the mandated minimum wage standards. While the Labor Department has stepped up its investigations, it often has difficulty finding students that are willing to step forward and report a violation has occurred.
The students are often worried about finding future employment and don’t want to negatively impact any prospective employment relationships that they have gained through their internship by reporting a violation. Another problem that arises for students is that they are often not considered employees at the company where they are conducting their internship and employment discrimination laws do not apply to them. To read the details click here.
President Obama’s recently signed health care legislation has the many benefits of extending health care to over 30 million uninsured Americans while reducing the national deficit over the next decade; however, there are a number of immediate costs to large corporations with thousands of insured employees. Today, Boeing announced that first quarter earnings would be reduced by 20 cents due to a $150 million income tax charge because of the health care legislation. See here.
Just last week Caterpillar took a $100 million tax charge, while Deere & Co. too a $150 million tax charge. See here. Additionally, AT& T will take a $1 billion tax charge while cutting health care benefits to current and retired workers. See here. These are only a few of the large corporations that have announced the added costs that they are suffering due to the passage of the health care legislation. While the new health care legislation has some definite benefits, the costs to businesses trying to recover from the worst economic recession in recent history are real and may put a damper on recovery.
President Obama’s term in office was accompanied with an outcry by gun lovers that the President was going to severely limit their Second Amendment rights. These staunch Second Amendment supporters flooded gun stores in an attempt to buy as many guns and as much ammunition as possible before the Presidential crackdown on gun rights. However, any limitation on a person’s right to bear arms has not been limited; rather, in many instances gun rights have been expanded rather than limited.