Articles in the News Category
The biggest law news event of the year occurred recently with President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act passing the Supreme Court’s watchful eye with a slim margin. After a two-year legal battle in courts as to the Constitutional legality of the mandate set forth by the bill commonly referred to as ‘ObamaCare’, the healthcare law may have achieved a major legal victory but many challenges both legal and political lay ahead in the immediate and far future. The first potential obstacle for the Affordable Care Act is which way the Senate and Presidential elections sways this upcoming November; Republican candidate for U.S. President Mitt Romney has made his intentions of repealing ObamaCare plainly known to all and Republican senators will quickly pounce on the law if the power shifts to their favor in the upcoming election season. Even a Democrat-controlled Congress may have trouble stopping Romney from dismantling the Affordable Care Act which is seen as Obama’s shining achievement.
Even if Obama does secure another term next year legal experts agree that budget pressures may also affect the current form of the Affordable Care Act which carries a price tag of 1.7 trillion dollars.
The fact that the Supreme Court Justices were so split on the decision also may play a role in determining the legally rocky future of the healthcare bill. Four of the nine Justices opposed the bill which made it a 5-4 split, which is by no means unanimous. What is potentially dangerous for the bill is that the four dissenting Justices all proclaimed the bill to be in breach of constitutional standards which is not an allegation that is easily shaken off. Opponents of the bill will no doubt capitalize on dissenting comments made by the Justices against the bill which can rally up more opposition to the bill. Until the law is fully in effect later in 2014 it still faces many legal and political pressures and challenges.
Clifford White III, who is the director of the United States Trustess Program for the Justice Department, recently called for much more obvious and transparent billing statements by both lawyers and law firms. The reasoning for this action is to cut down on negative perceptions on ‘greedy’ lawyers as well as assist companies and private citizens who may already be drowning in debt. This is quite reasonable as it seems sensible that citizens or entities who are already in financial straits should understand exactly how much they are having to pay for legal counsel instead of being surprised by an overly expensive bill later. However, a few law firms and lawyers actually spoke out against this call for action as they declared that some of the minute changes White called for would actually increase the cost of legal counsel for bankruptcy and debt court proceedings. Many of these firms and individual lawyers who opposed the call to action by White were those who have been or are currently involved in cases where a debtor has over fifty million dollars in assets or liabilities.
Despite the protests by certain firms and lawyers, the call to action is being heeded by many in the legal realm. With the major economic decline of late 2008 to the present there have recently been numerous complaints about the degree of culminating and hidden fees that many law firms and lawyers benefit from. White and many people in the legal world who agree with him believe that increased transparency in billing is simply the most ethical thing to do as well as a way to make the legal process of debt cases more competitive which is good for everyone. White’s call to action for more obvious billing techniques employed by law firms and lawyers will have a major effect upon the legal world in how they do business.
William Adams, a judge who was seen beating his eldest daughter with a belt on Youtube, received a temporary restraining order that prevents him from having contact with his youngest daughter. Adams is not allowed to see his youngest daughter without getting permission from his ex-wife. Additionally, Adams is not allowed to drink alcohol within 24 hours of seeing his daughter if permission is granted. However, it is unlikely that his ex-wife, and mother of his children, Hallie Adams will allow visitation as she is seeking to have William’s parental rights denied or only allow him to see his youngest daughter under supervised visitation.
Last month, William’s oldest daughter Hillary posted a video of being physically beaten with a belt by her father. The 8 minute video caused a public outrage which led to many calling for Adams to lose his job as a judge. The videotaped incident was from 2004 when his daughter Hillary was around the age of 16.
Local and federal prosecutors are not pursuing criminal charges against Adams. However, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct is investigating the matter. Adams hasn’t presided over any cases since the video came out and it’s unclear when he will return.
On Monday November 21st, William Adams will appear in court for a hearing on his parental rights of his youngest daughter. State District Judge Kemper Stephen Williams will determine whether or not Adams will be allowed to see his youngest daughter. As of now, there have been no indications that Adams has abused his youngest daughter.
While the amount of unemployed decreased over the last month, the news isn’t so good for those employed in the legal sector as around 1,300 jobs were lost according to the Wall Street Journal. Even owing to the nearly 5000 new positions that were created over the summer months there has still a huge number of lawyers currently seeking work and the rate of unemployed lawyers has risen sustainably over the past year or so.
Indeed, it isn’t just the downturn in the economy that is causing such a dramatic rate of unemployment among some of the brightest minds in the country; computers are also responsible for many lawyers and legal assistants being out of work. While technology is often credited with causing unemployment in manufacturing or industry based professions, new software (such as E-discovery) is allowing fewer attorneys to do the work required. The New York Times actually claimed that this new software could allow a couple of lawyers to carry out the work and duties of some 500; so you can see the dramatic effect that it is having.
However, all is not lost according to legal experts and while corporate law may be happy with a computer doing all the work, others argue that if you specialise in family law then you should be safe. While these ‘robots’ can undoubtedly work at a much faster rate and speed than a human lawyer it cannot give clients the human and personal touch that is needed in sectors such as family law and many believe that the sector is not in such a bad state as the numbers would suggest.
A poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind ahead of a crucial referendum in New Jersey seems to indicate that its citizens want a change in the law to allow sports betting within the state. The New Jersey state constitution currently outlaws betting on professional sports games in the state however the new poll seems to show that a majority of residents – 52 percent – approve the change to the law. Only around 32 percent of New Jersey citizens believe that the ban should continue and many see it as a great revenue making venture.
However a simple passing of the non-binding referendum will not be enough to change the law in the state and, if passed, it will be up to the state legislature to overturn the federal ban on sports gambling. Even with Atlantic City, many people have been frustrated at being unable to place a bet on a major sports game owing to the legal code of the state however should the majority of the electorate be in favour of such a move then it is likely to be passed into law.
However the law will not change in relation to college sports – such as football – as a ban on being able to bet on these games within the state will continue. Sports betting has been illegal in the state since the federal ban in 1992 and political wrangling and squabbling have been attributed to the ban being in place for so long however the new poll and referendum looks set to change the law.
The ability to sell consumer legal services in both England and Wales is to be extended following the passing of the Legal Services Act into law. The new act means that, for the first time, supermarkets and banks will be able to offer consumer advice due to the new legislation and relaxing of previous laws.
Proponents of the change in the legal system argue that it will essentially open up new markets for law firms and allow them to expand into other areas of legal expertise – this has been tightly regulated beforehand. Furthermore, many believe that it will allow a greater freedom of choice for the consumer and, as such, the quality of legal services and advice should rise accordingly.
Solicitors are not able to contribute in this new legal change until it is reviewed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and barristers could be in for a brighter future as the new legislation means that they could effectively form partnerships themselves as, at the moment, they are currently classified as self-employed. A similar system is in place in Scotland where the Legal Services Bill was passed last year.
However the new change to the legal code has its fair share of critics. The legislation was first announced back in 2009 and has been under sustained attack from some quarters since; many argue that it could spell the end of localised law firms as the big supermarkets and banks will ruin the competition however the likes of Tesco have admitted that they are not currently seeking to enter into the legal business just yet.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, has urged the legal world to open up its doors and allow a greater diversity of people to work within the system. Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats that form part of the Coalition Government, has been a long standing proponent of social mobility and access for all and has stated that the legal system in the UK is, more often than not, dominated by white, middle class men.
Clegg argued that Britain must be built upon a fair society and he feels that opportunities, especially for ethnic minorities or immigrants, is lacking in the legal profession and it should do its upmost to try and rectify the current situation. Indeed, former Justice Minister Bridget Prentice first spoke out about the attitude towards immigrants and ethnic minorities within the legal system back in 2007 when she argued that they were essentially ‘pigeon-holed’ into certain parts of the legal profession such as immigration issues or family work and that their expertise could be better used elsewhere if they legal world was more open to them.
While Nick Clegg did acknowledge that the legal system had came on leaps and bounds over the course of the last century of so he still argued that it could be far more open and diverse than it currently is. Furthermore, he announced the doubling of a fund (to £1m) that will allow recent law graduates to go into schools and talk about their experiences both at university and within the profession in order to try and get more people, especially those from disadvantages backgrounds, interested in law as a career option.