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Archive for January, 2012

Free Speech v. Hollywood Media

January 18th, 2012 Comments off

Today we have the Internet protest concerning the proposed “Stop On-line Piracy Act” and the similar “Protect Intellectual Property Act.” The concern is protecting movie and other media companies from illegal copies of their products on the Internet. However, the way the laws are written creates a real danger that freedom of speech and the free flow of information on the Internet will be stifled due to the overbroad language and enforcement tools proposed in these acts. This was true of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed under Clinton at the behest of movie studies, but these proposed laws go much further.

The reality is that the pirates are beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement and will probably be unaffected by new legislation in the U.S. On the other hand, honest people are more likely to be affected and suffer inconvenience and/or censorship of speech as a consequence of the proposed laws.

The serious concern here is that Hollywood media companies make substantial campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, so there is bi-partisan support for some legislation regardless of whether it serves the public and/or tramples individual liberties. At least the Obama administration released a statement last week that it opposes the bills in their current form due to the concerns stated above.

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Discrimination Law

January 13th, 2012 Comments off

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision inĀ Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission raises some interesting legal issues. While the plaintiff was called a “minister,” she was basically a school teacher and her religious duties were limited to teaching a short (45 minute) religious education segment and walking the kids to the chapel.

Certainly a religious school can discriminate in hiring based on religious qualifications when the job requires teaching religion and/or religious training. That is not an issue. The issue is the clear and intentional discrimination against the employee because of her medical disability. The Court’s decision that a “minister” can suffer intentional discrimination that would be illegal in any other employment context is troublesome. Here it seems that the “minister” label was a sham and pretext to deprive a non-ministerial employee of her employment rights.

At the very least, the issue of whether an employee is a “minister” should be permitted to be presented in a court or administrative claim. Otherwise, potential plaintiffs are barred from stating any claim against a religious organization based on that organization’s reflexive invocation of the “minister” label to block such a claim under the First Amendment.

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Landlord and Tenant

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

I had a client with a landlord-tenant issue come up today. Some quick research revealed a lot of regulations regarding dealing with substandard buildings. A letter to the landlord citing the relevant law seems to have solved the problem. Sometimes the magic works.

I also ran across the new statute regarding political signs in rental housing–tenants are now guaranteed this 1st Amendment right.

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