Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pay discrimination claim fails

A sex discrimination wage claim was thrown out by the Supreme Court this week, nullifying a previous jury award for damages. Lilly Ledbetter had sued Goodyear after retirement, claiming she has been discriminated against during her 20 years of employment. She filed suit under 42 USC 2000e-2(a)(1). Although her salary lagged behind her colleagues by 15 to 40% by the time of her retirement, the court held that since no discriminatory acts occurred within 180 days of the claim, the statute barred evidence of discrimination prior to that period. The dissent, written by Justice Ginsburg urges Congress to review the statute to take into consideration the fact that most workers do not know the salaries of their co-workers.
The Boston Globe has a story. We also have a topical page on discrimination.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Google Patent Search

Google now has a patent search feature. According to their FAQ, "Google Patent Search covers the entire collection of patents made available by the USPTO—from patents issued in the 1790s through those issued in the middle of 2006. We don’t currently include patent applications, international patents, or U.S. patents issued over the last few months, but we look forward to expanding our coverage in the future." Use the advanced search to search by patent number, inventor, assignee, class/subclass and more. Results include all drawings as well as the textual material.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

SJC Adds Caselaw Access

The SJC Reporter of Decisions' site has always had the earliest access to new Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court decisions, but the site's usefulness had been limited by the fact that they only provided access to the most recent two weeks' decisions. Now, without much fanfare, they have added access to cases for the last five years in their Opinion Archive section. Excellent news! Since we firmly believe in public access to public information, here's hoping they continue to add to the archive to increase the time period covered.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whistleblowing for taxes

Now that the high season for taxes is over, this bit of code caught our attention. In December, a new federal tax whistleblower statute took effect. The federal statute, title 26 section 7623 is brief, and interesting. It will award payments of between 15 and 30 percent of the amount the IRS collects as a result of information about tax fraud and underpayments. In cases of corporations, this could become quite lucrative. Using Form 211, a taxpayer can claim their reward. To report the suspected fraud or underpayment, the person can use a form, write a letter, or call. Interestingly, the IRS does not include information about whistleblower rewards on their page, but mentions the possibility of a reward, almost as an afterthought at the end. They have appointed a person to head the Whistleblower Office, but we can't find any more information about the office. The Wall Street Journal reports it is quite a success.
For more tax info, see our taxation page.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Coakley on Same-Sex Marriage

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley stated on Friday, May 11, that the proposed state constitutional referendum seeking to ban gay marriage may be unconstitutional. She warned that placing such a referendum on the ballot may trigger prolonged litigation if legislators approve the ballot measure and voters endorse the change in the Massachusetts constitution. Speaking before the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, Coakley noted that even though the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that such an amendment could be placed on the ballot if the legislature approved it, at least two SJC justices have opined that the landmark Goodridge v. Mass. Department of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309, 798 NE2d 941 (2003) decision legalizing same sex marriage “may be irreversible because of its holding that no rational basis exists, or can be advanced, to support the definition of marriage” as between one man and one woman. Coakley also stated that the amendment would discriminate against same-sex couples by removing rights they already had been granted.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sex By Fraud Isn't Rape

In Suliveres v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Judicial Court held yesterday that "intercourse where consent is achieved by fraud does not constitute rape." In Suliveres, the Commonwealth had alleged that the woman believed she was having sex with her boyfriend, when in fact it was her boyfriend's brother. This decision upheld the court's 1959 decision in Commonwealth v. Goldenberg, 338 Mass. 377, which held that "it is not rape when consent to sexual intercourse is obtained through fraud or deceit." They then called on the Legislature to amend the rape statute, G. L. c. 265, § 22, if they felt that sex through fraud should be categorized as rape. See Mass. Law About Rape for links to this and other rape laws.

Monday, May 07, 2007

SJC upholds libel verdict again newspaper

The Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that the $2 million jury verdict in Murphy v. Boston Herald will stand. The court unanimously ruled that the reporter knowingly published false statements with actual malice about Judge Ernest B. Murphy. The Boston Globe reports here. To better understand the law about libel or slander, see our page about defamation.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Eviction upheld for criminal activity

The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday released a decision which allowed the Lowell Housing Authority to evict a tenant for criminal activity that did not occur on the premises. In LHA v. Melendez, the court held that the statute allows for eviction for criminal activity that "threatens the health, safety, or right to quiet enjoyment of any LHA housing development by other tenants." The language, from the lease, is taken verbatim from section 1437d of title 42 of the US Code. The court considered the violence of the criminal activity, and the threat of continuing violent and threatening behavior a real danger to other tenants. See also our page on Eviction.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Law Day : Liberty Under Law...

...Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy. In 1958, President Eisenhower established Law Day as a national observance dedicated to the principles of government under law. It was designated by Congress in 1961 to be officially celebrated on May 1st. This year, the American Bar Association has chosen a theme which asks us to listen to youth, and improve the way our laws protect and serve them. We encourage youth to understand their rights and responsibilities under our law. Take a look at our page on Juvenile Justice, and Child abuse and neglect.