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Alabama Employer’s Ban on Dreadlocks Okayed by Appellate Court

Dreadlocks banned in AlabamaThe 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the federal appellate court for Alabama cases, recently ruled that a Mobile company’s ban on dreadlocks for their employees does not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of an African American woman who wore her hair in dreadlocks. The woman’s job offer was terminated after she refused to change her hairstyle.

Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, who authored the unanimous opinion, acknowledged such determinations are often difficult: “We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn.” The full opinion of the case, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, is available here.

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Clowns Are Creepy. Can They Also Be Criminal?

Scary ClownMany folks have questions about the differences between certain misdemeanors that seem to cover the same behavior: “Menacing”, “Reckless Endangerment”, “Harassment” and “Disorderly Conduct”. They all seem to protect against the same sort of intimidating and threatening behavior, so how are they different?

Recently, there have been plenty of reports of clowns scaring people all over the country. These terrifying carnival folk are carrying weapons, following and chasing people, and even trying to lure children into local wooded areas. In a strange way, these clown sightings help explain the differences in the misdemeanors I discussed above. Let’s run through some “creepy clown” hypotheticals together to give you a better understanding… and get in the Halloween spirit!

Menacing – 13A-6-23

“A person commits the crime of menacing if, by physical action, he intentionally places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury.”

The criminal act must be intentional and it must place the victim in fear of imminent serious physical injury. Typically, serious physical injury means death or grave bodily harm close to death. Thus, often times, menacing is charged when a weapon is used to intimidate or scare someone.

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Alabama Among States Suing to Block New Rule on Overtime Pay

Overtime Pay Money - Huntsville, ALA coalition of twenty-one states and several businesses and industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are suing to block the new overtime-pay requirements set to take effect in December. They argue that the new policy is unconstitutional, unduly burdens the states, and violates the Tenth Amendment, which reserves powers to the states. The lawsuit was filed in a Texas District Court and is available here.

The rule is designed to boost lower and middle-class wages by raising the salary threshold for overtime pay, and is considered a significant policy milestone for the Obama Administration. By the Department of Labor’s estimates, over four-million people will be impacted by the new rule, including 60,000 workers in Alabama. The rule applies to all employees, including managers, executives, and other professionals, unless they fall under an exempt occupational category.

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Beat a Potential Fed Rate Hike by Refinancing/Buying a House Now

Huntsville, AL HouseLast week, the Federal Reserve voted to hold key interest rate at current levels. Nevertheless, three board members voted for a rate hike, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said the “case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.” The decision came as a surprise to some economic observers who were expecting a small hike in interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s decision is good news for homebuyers and those looking to refinance at a low rate. If you are a potential buyer on the fence about purchasing a new home, your window of opportunity to lock in a great rate may be starting to close.

The federal funds rate is the interest rate by which banks lend money to each other, which the Federal Reserve uses to impact the amount of money in circulation. In turn, this rate effects how expensive it is for consumers to borrow money to buy houses, cars, and other large purchases. Even a small quarter-point rate hike can lead to a sizable difference in interest paid by the borrower over the term of a thirty-year mortgage.

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Restoring Your Day in Court to Prosecute Nursing Home Abuse

Elder AbuseNursing home patients and their families won a major victory Wednesday when the Department for Medicare and Medicaid Services banned arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements for all nursing homes that receive federal funds. The decision will allow nursing home victims of elder abuse, sexual abuse, wrongful death, and other forms of mistreatment to pursue justice in a court of law, rather than being relegated to secretive arbitration. Admitting a family member into a nursing home is often an extremely stressful time, and families rarely have the chance to negotiate the binding arbitration provision in the admittance contract.

An arbitration agreement is a contractual provision between a consumer and a corporation where the parties agree to settle any potential legal disputes in a private proceeding with limited recourse. In contrast to the regular court system, arbitration settlements are kept confidential and parties do not have the right to appeal. Arbitration also allows a company to keep embarrassing and potentially costly mistakes and practices from being heard by the public. It is a system favored by many corporations that prevents a consumer access to the court system.

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Martinson & Beason Partner, Doug Martinson, Becomes Madison County Bar Association President

Doug Martinson, II - AttorneyFollowing his election to the position in August of 2015, Doug Martinson, II has officially assumed the office of Madison County Bar Association President. Doug has been an attorney at the law firm of Martinson & Beason since 1990 after graduating from law school at Washington & Lee University and undergraduate at the University of Alabama.

To make this presidency even more meaningful, Doug’s father, the late Douglas C. Martinson served as the Madison County Bar President from 1987-1988.

The Madison County Bar Association has over 700 attorney members and is the governing body for the attorney members. The purpose of the Bar is to elevate the legal profession to the highest possible standard of competence, integrity, morality, dignity and courtesy; to regulate its practice; to maintain closer relationships and cooperation with the Alabama State Bar and within the framework of the principles here enunciated; and to cherish the spirit of camaraderie among its members.

Doug’s main goals for the Bar this year are to establish a mentoring program for young attorneys and solo practitioners and to increase attendance at the Bar meeting and other functions.

Doug has an extensive record of service and leadership not simply in Huntsville, but across Alabama: As a former member and President of the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education, as a past President of the Huntsville Rotary Club, and as Vice Chairman of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Board. He is also active in several non-profits such as Cap and Gown (which takes disadvantaged students on college tours), the Tennessee Riverkeeper and Hudson Alpha Professional Advisory Committee.

Doug’s practice primarily focuses on wills and trusts, estate planning , as well as elder law and elder exploitation. Doug also currently serves as the Madison County Guardian and Conservator.

Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Fall

Energy Efficiency in AlabamaThough it may not feel like it, we officially entered fall as of September 21st. With the changing seasons, we wanted to highlight a few ways you can become more energy efficient by adapting to the season. The cooler weather can bring many savings to your utility bill with minimal effort on your part.

Even though it’s still hot outside, now is a good time to begin preparing your house for winter. After all, who wants to winterize when it’s 10 degrees outside? As you begin to switch over to heat, make sure your attic is well insulated to minimize the amount of energy lost through the ceiling. Consider that the builder of your house likely only installed the minimum required amount of insulation. Today’s insulation standards are different than those of yesteryear, and you likely can achieve energy savings by adding more or better insulation.

Next, double check that outside air is not seeping into your house around windows or doors. Cut down on a drafty house by adding weather stripping or caulking around openings. By cutting out drafts in a house, you can achieve savings of 5% all the way up to 30%. [Read more…]

Here’s What Happens to Your Facebook After You Pass Away

Social Media After You Pass AwayHaving a well-crafted estate plan is an enormous benefit to your family and loved ones. Proper use of estate planning tools can minimize the tax burden to your heirs, while easing the transfer of assets. But what about the matter of your online/social media presence once you pass away?

You might be surprised to learn that Facebook has applied a lot of consideration regarding what can happen to your account once you pass away. In fact, there are a number of ways to utilize your Facebook to preserve your final thoughts and memories. Facebook allows you to designate a “legacy contact.” This person will be allowed to pin a post on your Timeline after your death, such as a funeral announcement or obituary. The contact won’t be able to log in as you or read your private messages, but will be allowed to respond to new friend requests, update your cover and profile photos, archive your Facebook posts and photos.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Hillary Clinton

The parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, two of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a report by the New York Times. In the suit (available here), the parents allege that Hillary Clinton negligently contributed to their sons’ deaths by using a private email server and purposefully passing along incorrect information. This case presents interesting legal questions what a plaintiff must prove in terms of jurisdiction, statute of limitations, and causation to win a wrongful death claim in a court of law.

Jurisdiction and Venue

Two of the initial steps in bringing a lawsuit are establishing jurisdiction and venue. It’s important to point out that most wrongful death lawsuits are filed in state court and are governed by state wrongful death statutes. These statutes and state civil procedure can differ dramatically between the states. However, the lawsuit filed against Hillary Clinton was filed in federal court. In order to have a case heard in federal court, the plaintiff must establish that a federal district court can exercise jurisdiction over the matter. [Read more…]

New distracted driving bill could ban drinking, eating, and more while driving

Distracted Driving Laws in AlabamaWhile 46 states currently ban text messaging while driving, other forms of distracted driving are still technically not illegal. In fact, over 70% of respondents in a recent survey admitted to eating while driving. Even more prevalent was drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) while driving, at 83%. However, this may be changing soon. In Maine, lawmakers have passed a bill that fines drivers up to $500 for distracted driving. The New Jersey legislature is considering a similar law in response to a study that shows about half of accidents in New Jersey involve distracted driving.

The New Jersey law would prohibit drivers from doing anything “unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle,” including drinking, eating, using a navigation system, talking to passengers, putting on makeup, watching a video, or reading a map or book. In other words, that morning cup of coffee on the way to work would have to wait until you reach your destination. While these behaviors seem innocent enough, anything that takes the driver’s focus off the road poses an immediate danger to passengers and other motorists.

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