Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Intern Rebecca here with questions about ex-con lotto winners…
If you’ve been playing the Mega Millions jackpot, you’ve probably heard that the second largest lotto prize in US history – $380,000,000 – was claimed by two folks last week: Jim McCullar, 68, of Washington, and Holly Lahti, 29, of Idaho. Lahti is the kind of* single mother of two.
*Kind of, because although Lahti is several years separated from her husband, Joshua Lahti, the two are not officially divorced, a technicality which is now haunting Holly like, well, the relentless memories of her horrible marriage…
While the papers were never served or filed, the evidence of their residency in Splitsville is plenty: Holly’s been living with her mother and children in the small town of Post Falls, Idaho, and has been so out of touch with Joshua that the Mr. heard of his sort-of-ex-wife’s winnings from a news reporter, not family or friends. He of course resurfaced in Holly’s life to claim his share of her winnings, but she’d already quit her job and ran the heck out of Dodge, asking the Mega Millions to give her a chance to get her life in order before she’s put on the daytime talk and late night interview circuit.
Unfortunately, Holly might also be using the time to seek serious legal advice. Idaho is a common property state, meaning all material wealth acquired during marriage is split 50/50. After taxes, Holly will be left with $80,000,000. Should she be forced to give her estranged husband $40,000,000?
But wait – this case is slightly more complicated that a mom and dad who forgot to make their separation legal. Turns out a big reason Holly left Joshua is because he’s not such a nice guy. The bumbling Neanderthal of a man, who looks like he could have been busted with Brett Favre’s sister at the meth lab last week, has 20 legal charges filed against him. He’s collected such gems as second-degree kidnapping, battery, a DUI, and violating a no contact order. Add stalking and burglary to the list and he’s well on his way to the Idaho Crime Hall of Fame, and perhaps a special appearance on America’s Most Wanted.
Here’s my big question: can a man who’s spent most of his life disobeying the law really use the law to gain $40,000,000 that’s not his? I hope the answer is no, for the sake of abused single moms everywhere.
Intern Rebecca here, with thoughts on greenery.
They say no news is good news when it’s New Jersey news, and that’s mainly because folks are sick and tired of Snookie, but it’s also partly because folks are sick and tired of Jersey’s other pesky resident – the multi-millionaire.
Take, for example, Dr. Oz. The Cliffside Park homeowner has had a hell of a time trying to shade his pool. He first attempted to use bamboo, much to the chagrin of his neighbors, who complained the bamboo noisily whipped against their house. And by house I mean castle.
Instead of flying in pandas to control the problem, Dr. Oz removed the bamboo and replaced it with three 30-foot cedars. Unfortunately for Oz, the nitpicky neighbors are back, and this time THEY’RE SUING.
Turns out the large cedars are much worse, as they obstruct the neighbors’ view of the Manhattan skyline. The Empire State Building was once visible from their house, but now the neighbors are forced to check secondhand sources to insure King Kong isn’t back for attack.
Being rich is such a burden.
The neighbors say Oz’s trees have lowered their property value by $500,000, and they want the trees gone, or want compensation. Do these folks have a case – a half a million dollars for trees? And, more importantly, can the common man sue anyone with ties to Oprah?
Intern Rebecca weighs in LiLo:
Lindsay Lohan recently announced that she can’t afford the pricey Betty Ford Clinic, and thus won’t be able to complete her court ordered time in rehab without first taking some time off to work.
I’ve never been sentenced by court to rehab, but it seems to me that if LiLo can’t do her time in the luxurious California clinic, there is one other place she can go for free for being found in possession of illegal drugs… JAIL.
Why would Lindsay be released early from rehab back into the real world when she broke the rules of the real world? If she can’t foot the bill, shouldn’t she do the bidding of the folks who now have to financially support her (and listen to yet another trying story about her woes and hoes) – the taxpayers?
The truth of the matter is, Lindsay has done only one thing well in the last few years: destroy her career. Alec Baldwin and Mel Gibson wish they could wreck their trains as hard as LiLo. Now that Lindsay has to face her problems head on, she’s using an empowered working woman rap as an excuse – and not a very good one. No one – especially a party girl – in their inebriated mind would leave mandatory time at what is basically a resort to go back to work. Unless, of course, they can get something at work that they can’t get at the resort… like cocaine.
Can Lindsay really get away with this? And for folks who aren’t Lindsay Lohan, is work really a viable legal excuse for evading your sentence?
Intern Rebecca here with thoughts on being fierce…
Beverly McClendon, the mother of a 15-year-old who appeared on Tyra’s show as a self-proclaimed sex addict, has filed a lawsuit against the former model, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and the executive producers of The Tyra Banks Show, get this, for NEGLECT.
McClendon claims the show did not secure the proper paperwork from her daughter – no consent from the parents – and violated Georgia state labor laws by failing to do so.
Good point, kind of. The legal paperwork conveniently forgets that McClendon’s baby girl was flown to New York and put up in a hotel by the show, and also received compensation for her time on air. I was certainly never spotted cruisin’ round Midtown sippin’ on yak as a teen, but that’s probably because my mom knew where I was at all times.
McClendon’s also adamant that her daughter is not a sex addict. Here’s a thought for the troubled parent: just because you think she isn’t, doesn’t mean she isn’t. Sounds like it’s time for a heart to heart so the real neglect in this situation can be reversed.
All that said, mommy dearest is still attempting to withdrawal a whopping three mil from the A(N)TM at T-Banks. Should the transaction go through? Does she have a case?
Rebecca, Gloria Steinem and I applaud you. I will point out that in order to be a contestant for Miss America, a young lady needs to be between the ages of 17-24. So while this old married lady actually was married at the ripe old age of 22, the average age of marriage in this country is older than 24 which could be why you don’t see more married women beating down the doors of the competition. That said, the fact that my husband made an honest woman out of me at such a young age should not prevent me from strutting my stuff in the pageant. The size of my stuff, however, is more likely my barrier to entry.
The fact is that the Miss America pageant–and really every beauty pageant–seems steeped in what now seem like a completely politically incorrect endeavor–the entire industry is essentially devoted to leering at a girl in a bikini. For those of you who think that Miss America is about more than beauty, I dare you to tell me the talent of Miss America 2009. The fact that it doesn’t seem unsavory to stare at any woman, but only unsavory to stare at the half naked body of another man’s wife is in itself a throwback. But since female chess matches don’t make for good tv ratings, the pageants will go on.
I do think you’ve hit upon a really interesting issue: why is it that a pageant is able to get away with such obvious age and marital status discrimination? Under the law, an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of age or marital status in making a decision about interviewing, hiring, or promoting any applicant. So the first issue is whether or not the ability to participate in the Miss America Pageant is, in fact, a job application. I would argue that it is; becoming Miss America confers a title on a person who receives money from the pageant management in exchange for the completion of duties. Hard to see how that doesn’t qualify as employment.
As for whether or not allowing entrants ages 17-24 constitutes age discrimination, I’d say it does not. First, it’s not everyone who is protected by age discrimination prohibitions–only employees or applicants ages 40 and over. And since I don’t see a lot of 40 year olds (myself included) actually applying for the title I’d say it’s a non-issue. Additionally, I think there’s some argument that no one wants to see the 40+ crowd strutting around in a bikini so I’m comfortable with the argument that the age range is actually a bona fide occupational qualification for the job.
But back to your point: what’s marital status got to do with it?
How is it legal for the Miss America Pageant to discriminate against women who are married? Ultimately, I think that it isn’t legal.
The problem is that in order to file a discrimination lawsuit, you actually have to have standing to do so. And by standing, I don’t mean standing around in a bikini and high heels. I mean legal standing–a vested personal interest in the case. So until the next Leona Gage comes along–a woman who actually is a valid Miss America contestant harmed by the discrimination on the part of the pageant–and is willing to take up the case, the rules will likely stand until either the pageant management realizes the error of its ways or the EEOC steps in (which seems unlikely given its already overburdened caseload and complete lack of popularity already).
Perhaps Gloria Steinem was onto something, though. Maybe if we rename it the Ms. America Pageant, we wouldn’t have silly rules about whether or not someone who has committed herself to another should have the right to strut her stuff in a bikini and high heels while twirling a baton and whistling Dixie.
Intern Rebecca here, with thoughts on Miss America…
A bit of sad news flew in today from LaLaLand: Former Miss America Leona Gage died Saturday at the age of 71. It’d be nice to say her legacy as Miss America died with her, but unfortunately that passed merely one day after Leona was rewarded the title.
For those of us who are hazy on our Miss USA trivia, Leona, posing as a single virginal woman in 1957, was in fact on her second marriage and mother to two children while competing for the crown. News of her scandalous life leaked soon after she stepped up to the throne, and Leona was promptly told to step back down, then run far, far away and never return.
53 years later, not much has changed – married women are still not allowed to compete for the title of Miss America. Divorced women? Sure. But married is out of the question. (The logic here baffles me. If you don’t uphold your wedding vows, you’re somehow more “wholesome” and living up to the Miss America “Character Criteria” better than a woman who is married and committed to her husband?)
Even though the pageant is currently flailing through the cable-time continuum, and even Mario Lopez can’t seem to save it, there may be a married women or two out there who’d like to compete. Or, Heaven forbid, a woman who’s been working her whole life to be Miss America, but who would also like to marry her boyfriend.
Isn’t there anything women can do? Can we somehow legally call for change to this seemingly archaic contest?
Intern Rebecca gave us a lot to think about when she asked her questions about the rights of roommates and issues of privacy.
Rebecca, I applaud your fearlessness. No one–NO ONE–has taken the side of the posters. Honestly, I had never even thought of a single justification for their actions, which they probably saw as a prank until the tragic happened.
The question I think we need to ask when we assign a level of culpability is: could they have foreseen that their actions would lead to so terrible an outcome? And should forseeability be determined by what a reasonable adult would be able to foresee, or what a thoughtless 18 year old would foresee. And of course, ultimately the question comes to the one people are not asking: is there something that the victim would see as more shameful in the fact that the sex was homosexual?
I think ultimately the heterosexual posters could not have forseen the shame that the victim would feel when he discovered that his sexual orientation was out in full view of the blogosphere. Until sexual orientation discrimination–the last bastion of legal discrimination–is wiped out I think that we need to be more sensitive to those who are persecuted. So ultimately I disagree with you; I think that if we need to teach sensitivity by punishing those thoughtless enough to post the sexual antics of their unsuspecting roommate on line, so be it.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce a new voice to the So Sue Me blog, and that’s the voice of Rebecca Bohanan, a brilliant grad student at New York University, attending the Dramatic Writing program on a Tisch Fellowship for the Arts. Rebecca received her BA in Screenwriting from Chapman University in Orange, CA. This summer, she biked 700 miles down the West Coast, and she’s just now mustered enough courage to attempt bicycling through the streets of Manhattan. Rebecca regrettably, or perhaps luckily, doesn’t have much experience with the law… Except for her ongoing lawsuit against Justin Timberlake, for his failure to recognize her contribution in bringing sexy back.
As you’ll see in the coming weeks, Rebecca’s a big thinker — she’s not just posing to look pretty in the New York Public Library (that happened purely by accident… and because happens to be a stunner) — so we’ve asked her to give her opinion on various legal stories that are making news. She’ll introduce subjects and the Epstein sisters will occasionally jump to add other opinions and/or legal responses. The thoughts and ideas Intern Rebecca presents here will be her own and won’t necessarily reflect what Amy or I believe, which is to say feel free to cheer her, argue with her and retweet her musings, but don’t assume because it’s on this blog that it’s legal advice we’re giving to you. (And if that sounds like a disclaimer, yep, b-i-n-g-o.)
So without further ado, Rebecca Bohanan:
Intern Rebecca here, with some tricky questions on college roommates.
As a second year grad student, I’ve spent the last six years living with people who aren’t my immediate family. There have been great times, and there have been frustrating times – like the time I bought a pack of Oreos, only to come home to find the empty packaging in the trash, or the time my roommate borrowed my car, only to crash it (equally as upsetting at the Oreos).
Possibly the most trying situation, however, was a year I refer to as SEXGATE 2006 – The Raging Hormone Hootenanny. Long story short, my roommate (and former friend) liked to have sex with her boyfriend while I was in the room. Didn’t matter if I was doing my homework, socializing with my own friends, or even sleeping. At a reasonable hour. Like 4 AM. Nothing fazed this girl!
We had many chats with each other, and with our RA, but nothing ever changed. It’s a free country, I’m told, so I guess people are free to have sex whenever they want? Or isn’t there something in the law that protects roommates from having their space infringed upon by unwanted sex?
My confusion over my legal rights came rushing back to me this week when I heard the heartbreaking story of Rutgers college freshman Tyler Clementi. The 18-year-old committed suicide after his roommate streamed video of Tyler and another male having sex live to the Internet. Twice! Tyler left a message in a chat room, saying, “I don’t want to report him and then have nothing happen except him getting pissed at me.”
I understand exactly how Tyler felt, and, though I do not in any way want to defend his actions, I can also feel a little bit for Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi. When you leap head first into the real world, without much guidance on “adult issues,” it can be hard to know what’s right and wrong, what you’re entitled to and what you’re not. If you’re sharing a room with someone, each of you should be able to have sex in your room whenever you want to… right? Or is it that no one can have sex? Or what’s the difference? And when things get complicated, who can you really turn to for help, when campus RA’s can’t do much?
Certainly one should never ever turn to streaming live to the Internet, but what can you do when you feel a stranger in your own home, either from invasion of privacy or invasion of sex?
A proud day here at SSMJ! Amy is consulted by one of her longtime heroes, Randy Cohen (yes, that’s right, the New York Times’s Ethicist), in his column today. Here’s the story…
A family member, who owns a small business, and his sole employee took out life-insurance policies on each other. The employee left the business about 10 years ago, but my relative still keeps up the insurance on him, something the ex-employee does not know. I think this is unethical; my relative thinks I am “hard-nosed and narrow-minded.” You? M.T., KIRKLAND, WASH.
Illustration by Matthew Woodson
The former employee should be told about this arrangement, but if he consents to it and your relative does nothing to hasten his death — no inviting him over for nightly steak-and-fried-egg dinners washed down with a quart of heavy cream and a pack of Marlboros — I see no problem.
State insurance laws vary, according to Amy Feldman, a lawyer I consulted, but “key employee” policies like the original arrangement you describe are generally permitted — “to protect a company from the financial losses that would result from the death of a key player,” she says. Feldman adds that “there is nothing illegal about continuing to pay premiums on the policy after the employee departs.”
What the law usually forbids, Feldman says, is insuring a random passer-by, when the temptation to reach for the heavy cream might prove irresistible: “Insuring a total stranger who may or may not have any redeeming qualities for all you know tips in favor of murder when you begin to consider how much better off you’d be without said stranger walking this earth.”
Perhaps that’s why your relative’s actions feel ghoulish. He has a stake in his former employee’s hasty demise: he’s betting on it. The quicker the ex-employee keels over, the fewer monthly payments your relative must make, the more he profits. Life-insurance companies are in the converse situation: the longer a policyholder lives, the more money the company makes. It would be great if there were immortality potions or rather elixirs just shy of that: no death, no need for life insurance.
Feldman notes that the prohibition on insuring a stranger “doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from his death.” She cites viatical settlements, the purchasing of the benefits of a life-insurance policy from someone still living. This was debated, starting in the late 1980s, when some AIDS patients made such deals. They immediately gained desperately needed cash; purchasers of the policies eventually scored a big payout. Happily, improvements in AIDS treatment and greater access to health care have reduced, at least somewhat, the sad urgency of those transactions.