Tuesday, April 26, 2005

~ federal legislation eyes employers ~

Congress may make it tortious for employers to maintain parking lot video monitoring if employees regularly change in and out of their work clothes in their vehicles. Bet Congress didn't think of that!

H.R. 582 - To protect employees from invasion of privacy by employers by prohibiting certain video monitoring and audio monitoring of employees by their employers, and for other purposes.
Summary: An employer may not engage in video monitoring or
audio monitoring of an employee of the employer when the
employee is in a restroom facility, dressing room, or any
other area in which it is reasonable to expect employees
of the employer to change clothing.
Status: Feb 2, 2005: Referred to House Government Reform

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

~ learning to ask questions is good for business and can raise the status of your law practice ~

The adage, "there's no such thing as a stupid question" may run counter to the culture of the legal world where one is supposed to be all knowing. This stance may obstruct the attorney's ability to elicit and respond to the clients' needs and to let them know you've heard their concerns. This issue and how to effectively conquer your resistance to question asking is explored by an attorney and marketer.

Attorney Carolyn Elefant offers an obvious piece of advise that we all overlook. Don't wait until the last minute to ask your question or to get reassurance on a strategy. I'm struck by how frequently attorneys will wait until the eve of a deadline to ask me to find a witness, conduct an interview or to gather a potentially critical piece of information. I gave useful timeline examples in an earlier post. It doesn't cost anything to call early in a case to get suggestions on an investigative strategy. Your trustworthy colleagues will be flattered to be approached by you on a question of law or procedure.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

~ the California Senate considers a bill to eliminate all access to personal information ~

private investigators could be prevented from providing witness information to attorneys
The California legislature is spinning out of earth's atmosphere in its attempt to ameliorate the misuse of personal data a la Choicepoint. State Senator Jackie Speier introduced SB 550, which has been re-referred to the Judiciary Committee. The broad language of the bill can be interpreted to apply to any information services enterprise.

SB 550, as amended, Speier. Data brokers.
(1) Existing law generally regulates a business that discloses personal information about a California resident to 3rd parties.

This bill would further regulate a data broker, which would be defined as a commercial entity that collects, assembles, or maintains personally identifiable information about a California resident for the sale or transmission of, or provision of access to, that information to any 3rd party.
The bill would amend SECTION 1. Title 1.805 (commencing with Section 1798.79), adding to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code. It defines data broker in such a way that many businesses, including private investigators, may not be able to gather information required for legal, litigation, due diligence and other business purposes. It states, in part:

1798.79. For purposes of this title:
(a) "Data broker" means a commercial entity that collects, assembles, or maintains personally identifiable information about a California resident for the sale or transmission of, or the provision of access to, that information to any third party, whether that collection, assembly, or maintenance is performed by the data broker directly or by contract or subcontract with any other entity.
Doesn't this mean that the private investigator can't obtain the name, address or telephone number of a witness and pass that to their attorney-client?

Adding to the potential of a fraud layered upon the documented frauds, this bill proposes to let consumers decide the information about them that will be retained by data brokers, then to opt out of the databases all together.

1798.79.2. (a) Every individual may request that his or her personally identifiable information be excluded from any report prepared by a data broker. Every data broker shall establish a notification system, including, but not limited to, a toll‑free telephone number, through which an individual can provide notice to that broker that the individual's personally identifiable information shall be excluded therefor.
And then you'll have to tell your clients' that a background report on a witness will cost $3000, plus attorney's fees.....

SEC. 2. Section 1798.84 of the Civil Code is amended to read:
(a) Any waiver of a provision of this title is contrary
to public policy and is void and unenforceable.
(b) Any customer or individual whose personal information is disclosed who is injured by a violation of this title may institute a civil action to recover damages.
(c) In addition, for a willful, intentional, or reckless violation of Section 1798.83, a customer may recover a civil penalty not to exceed three thousand dollars ($3,000) per violation; otherwise, the customer may recover a civil penalty of up to five hundred dollars ($500) per violation for a violation of Section 1798.83.

Read the bill. Contact Senator Speier.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

~ winning defense strategies in 2004 ~

The National Law Journal reports on the hurdles defense counsel have to overcome to arrive at a winning courtroom strategy:
plaintiff-friendly venues, astronomical damages at stake and the verdicts' potential effects on similar cases.

Topping the list of the 10 cases reviewed is Oracle's attempt to acquire PeopleSoft. Other defense approaches are highlighted through a personal injury case involving The Walt Disney Co.; IBM in a toxic tort suit; the acquittal of Tyco attorney Mark A. Belnick; and limitation of liability for World Trade Center insurers.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

~ financial disclosure database of judges ~

Judicial Watch has launched its searchable database of the financial disclosure reports of federal judges. Select the pdf reports by judge's name or specific court to reveal their associations, investments, reimbursements and gifts.

Judicial Watch has a bit of loftiness about its good works, in spite of offering this earth bound tool.
Judicial Watch is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization dedicated to reforming the legal and judicial systems and fighting government corruption. Judicial Watch is led by, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, a well known conservative activist. Utilizing the court system in a creative manner, Judicial Watch seeks to expose corruption at all levels of government and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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