Thursday, December 18, 2008

New York Decision on Animal Cruelty May Have Broad Implications for "Puppy Mills"

A New York City Criminal Court has concluded that a man who failed to provide medical treatment for his dog can be prosecuted for animal cruelty.

Writing in People v. Curcio, 2008KN021343, Judge Michael Gerstein held that the state law prohibiting “Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals [or] Failing to Provide Proper Sustenance for Animals” applied to a man who failed to bring his ailing 2-year-old dog to a veterinarian for at least a week after discovering a tumor on the dog’s hindquarter:

Defendant [allegedly] knew the dog had a mass on its rear end and that Defendant did not and would not take said dog to the veterinarian for medical attention. The Complaint further alleges that because of Defendant's failure to seek medical attention, saving the dog's life required surgery and six days of intensive care and that Defendant's lack of care caused [the dog] to suffer needlessly [and] are sufficient to establish a prima facie case.

This failure, the Judge held, could be construed as “further[ing] any act of cruelty to any animal, or any act tending to produce such cruelty" in violation of New York State Agriculture and Market Law.

Therefore, the court denied Mr. Curcio’s motion to dismiss and allowed his case to proceed to trial.

The court’s decision, if upheld and followed elsewhere, could have broad implications against operators of so-called “puppy mills,” in which dogs are often mistreated and over bred. Prior to this decision, many local jurisdictions refrained from investigating or prosecuting mill owners, due to questions regarding the application of state animal cruelty laws to situations where a dog had adequate food and shelter, but may have suffered in other ways.

However, the principles set forth in the Curcio decision could encourage those authorities to be more vigilant against large commercial breeders whose operations inflict needless suffering on companion animals.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lodi takes step to form planning board

From the Finger Lakes Times:
The Town Board Thursday passed a motion to begin the process of forming a five-member planning board.

[Supervisor Lee Davidson] has sought the assistance of attorney Steven Getman in enacting a local law to form the board.

Davidson has also consulted with Getman on the possibility of a one-year moratorium on new subdivisions within the town, in conjunction with the town’s effort to implement a Farmland Protection Program.

Town Clerk Lois Jennings said she was pleased to see a step toward town planning, noting that she frequently receives phone calls from attorneys asking about land use restrictions ....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Balancing the Rights of Farmers and Animals

The Town of Ovid's Farm law draft gets support:
The town board didn’t hesitate Wednesday night to support the final draft of grape grower Chris Verrill’s proposed “Right to Farm Law.”

Verrill, a planning board member who suggested such legislation several months ago, couldn’t attend the board’s meeting that night, so he missed hearing Supervisor David Dresser commend his and Town Attorney Steven Getman’s efforts to protect local farmers’ interests.

Dresser and board members had been contacted by numerous residents concerned that the original draft might leave a loophole for puppy mill operators. A paragraph in the new version specifically excludes protection for dog and cat operations and bars the law from being broadened to mean that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Working to Regulate Puppy Mills in New York

ROMULUS--Supervisor David Kaiser is pleased to report that the Town of Romulus has been recognized by a state animal welfare organization for efforts to regulate inhumane “puppy mills” in that town.

....Samantha Mullen, Chair of the New York State Humane Association Legislative Committee, praised the town for its recently-enacted moratorium on commercial breeding kennels, commonly known as “puppy mills.”

Kaiser said he was happy to receive the news and said that it was a testament to the hard work of the Town’s Planning Board, chaired by J. Barry Roach, which drafted the law with the direction of local attorney Steven Getman and board member Mickie Sanders-Jauquet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is Your License Plate Frame Illegal...or Protected Free Speech?

Most people have frames around their vehicle license plates, advertising their car dealer, a favorite sports team, or a pet slogan. Unfortunately, not all of them are legal.

From Rochester TV station R-News comes a story about Section 402-b of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (“VTL”):
It's not illegal to have a frame around your license plate. That is, unless the frame covers any lettering or numbers on your plate.
Police say it's a violation they do write tickets for.
And ignorance is no excuse.
“There are so many other laws people don't know about,” acknowledged Trooper Mark O’Donnell, New York State Police spokesman. “The fact you don't know about it is not an affirmative defense.”

However, depending on the nature of the plate frame design, enforcement of the law might be unconstitutional.

In the case of Wooley v. Mayard, the United States Supreme Court held that a statute very similar to New York’s was unconstitutional. The Court held that the State's claimed interests in requiring display of the state motto on license plates were not sufficiently compelling to justify infringement of a driver’s First Amendment rights to obscure certain portions of a vehicle plate. In Wooley, the driver argued that he had a free speech right to cover the portion of the plate that displayed the state motto.

Based on the Wooley case, if the only part of the license plate covered by a frame were the motto “the Empire State,” one could argue that enforcement of VTL Sec. 402-b was also unconstitutional.

In most cases, a driver would probably not bother to challenge a ticket for VTL 402-b. They would decide the relatively low fine was not worth the time, effort and attorney fees. Others, however, might decide that defending the principle of free speech would outweigh any cost considerations.

In any case, whenever a person thinks his or her rights might have been violated by the police, even in a small way, he or she should consider speaking with an attorney to insure that he or she receives all the constitutional protections provided by law.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New State Program to Provide Funds to Help New York’s Neediest Heat More Efficiently

New York State officials have announced a new program to deliver $1.9 million to low-income home owners to help them cope with the high cost of home heating oil. According to the New York State Attorney General’s office:

This new program will offset the costs of installing high-efficiency furnaces, steam boilers, and household hot water systems, as well as insulation, weather-stripping, and other weatherization features. These oil efficiency measures are expected to save an average household approximately 224 gallons of heating oil per year. The new program will also pay for cost-effective electricity saving measures, such as lighting and refrigeration replacements, with estimated annual savings to average households of 600 kilowatt hours. Through these measures, the new program could save an average household up to $1,000 annually.

The program is also expected to result in substantial clean air benefits, including decreases in smog, acid rain and global warming pollution emissions that are equivalent to taking over 250 cars off the road each year.

For more information on this program, and ways to make your home more energy efficient, click here or call (877) NY-SMART.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween: Be Safe, Avoid Lawsuits, Have Fun

With the growing popularity of Halloween as a holiday, both children and adults are cautioned to put safety first.

Many law enforcement and public safety agencies are issuing reminders nationwide to follow simple safety tips to ensure a safe Halloween, including:
* Warn children about the dangers of crossing the street.
* Avoid Trick or Treating on very busy streets.
* Always have your children use a sidewalk when there is one.
* To increase visibility, have your children carry a flashlight or glow sticks.
* Apply reflect tape or stickers to costumes.
* Make sure the costume fits your child properly before they venture out, making sure they can see out of their mask.
* Always chaperone in groups.

The National Law Journal reminds us that holiday celebrations in the workplace can create legal issues for employers and that Halloween is no exception:
With Halloween just around the corner, labor and employment attorneys are warning employers that the annual holiday could get scary — in a legal way — if costumes, or a work party, get out of hand.

Specifically, costumes that carry a political or social message, or are simply too raunchy for the workplace, could lead to a liability nightmare down the road.

[A]nother potential liability with Halloween: personal injury suits.

Above all, simple common sense can do a lot to prevent tragedies--and resulting lawsuits--from happening. Halloween is an enjoyable holiday for the entire family. Stay safe, stay smart and have fun.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oil and Gas Leases: Know Your Rights

With the discovery of a large natural gas deposit in the Southern part of New York State, many property owners are being approached by energy companies looking to lease natural gas and mineral rights on area lands.

According to the Ithaca Journal, representatives of the New York State Attorney General and the Chemung County Farm Bureau recently cautioned that anyone considering leasing their property for natural gas exploration should know their rights:
The details of leases signed between landowners and gas companies are seemingly endless. They touch on everything from surface land-use to royalty and bonus payments or anything else landowners may want to include in their lease.

None of the leases pertaining to natural gas drilling and exploration are standard or non-negotiable, Michael Danaher, an assistant state attorney general from the Binghamton office, said. And negotiations don't pertain solely to bonus and royalty payments.

A landowner may want to negotiate a clause that requires the gas company to check the quality and quantity of the landowner's water [for example].

Ultimately, both presenters indicated the most important thing to do before signing a lease of this kind was to consult a lawyer:
Obtaining the services of an attorney familiar with leasing and knowing that all land leases are negotiable are the most basic steps in protecting property, they said, and that knowledge can be useful if a company land agent comes knocking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What to Do if You Get a Speeding Ticket

Advice on how to fight a speeding ticket from, of all places, political magazine the American Spectator:
Even if you have a perfect driving driving record, each and every ticket is worth fighting with everything you've got. Reason? The presence of a single "moving violation" on your driving record -- no matter how minor (or bogus) -- can end up costing you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars over the three-to-five year period it will be visible on your DMV rap sheet....

* Hire a traffic lawyer: The cost to rent a legal eagle to handle a minor traffic case (normal speeding, not "reckless driving," DUI or a major charge that has a mandatory court appearance and the possibility you might get thrown in the clink) is typically between $300 and $700. It sounds steep, but for all the reasons outlined previously, it can be money well spent -- especially if you get another ticket at some point during the next three years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Fiscal Crisis Watch List: Don't Fall Prey to Crooked Investments

The uncertain economy has many people worrying about their fiscal health. As a result, you may find yourself vulnerable to unscrupulous individuals who try to exploit tough fiscal times with "get rich quick," lending and other scams.

The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) is advising individuals to stay alert to potential scams and questionable practices highlighted on the Agency's "Fiscal Crisis Watch List:"

• Credit Counseling and Debt Management Scams
• Questionable Loans (including Payday Loans and Home Equity/Debt Consolidation Loans)
• Work At Home Scams
• Online Job Search Scams
• Investment Scams

Follow these tips to avoid schemes or scams.

• Get information upfront and in writing and read the fine print.
• Ask questions about all offers received. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• Think carefully about every offer before accepting it.
• Never disclose credit card, bank account or social security numbers to someone who contacts you by telephone or internet. Use caution when considering a loan.
• Do not deposit a check or money order that you receive from a work-at-home offer or a sweepstakes.
• Never pay an upfront fee in order to collect a lottery or sweepstakes prize.
• Keep paperwork, including copies of any complaints you file against a business.
• Password-protect all of your computer accounts.
• Check your credit report for fraud regularly through one of three major credit reporting companies.

For more information on the “Fiscal Crisis Watch List” and ways to avoid being taken advantage of can be found here.

In addition, whenever possible, do not enter into any suspicious agreements without consulting with a competent attorney of your own choosing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Law Requiring Tenants Receive Environmental Disclosures

In December 2008, a new law will go into effect in New York, requiring property owners and landlords to disclose the results of environmental testing to current and prospective tenants.

Owners and landlords of both residential and commercial properties will be required to disclose test results that exceed federal or state air guidelines. Furthermore, owners of certain properties will be required to provide written notice of the testing on the first page of any lease agreement. The law also requires owners of those properties to give tenants a fact sheet and timely notice of any public meetings where the test results will be discussed, or face fines and penalties.

The law seems to be focused on indoor air contamination. However, it defines "test results" broadly. As a result, once the law is implemented it could be interpreted to include any tests conducted on air, groundwater and soil on the property.

The complete text of the new law can be found here.

Landlords and tenants concerned about this law, and their rights and responsibilties under it, should be sure to contact an attorney prior to executing any new leases, to insure compliance with the law.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beware of “Dog Rescue” Scams

News reports continue to surface regarding international scam artists using internet websites, online classified ads and emails to offer puppies to Americans interested in purchasing or “rescuing” them.

In most of these scams, the puppies are offered at a price that is much lower than the prices charged by U.S. breeders or kennels, often only a few hundred dollars to cover “shipping expenses” for dogs that traditionally cost over a thousand dollars when purchased from a legitimate breeder.

The ads or messages offer many different explanations for the low prices. Sometimes, the puppies have supposedly been "rescued" from closed kennels or abusive breeders. Other scam artists even claim to represent missionaries or relief organizations attempting to place unwanted puppies in good homes or claim to be helping low-income communities raise money. Often, the scammers claim to be looking for good homes for puppies, asking only that consumers pay the cost of shipping the dog to the United States. However, once payment is made, the scammer never sends the dog, costing the consumer hundreds, or thousands of dollars, as well as emotional heartbreak.

There are several ways to help spot a scam. They include:

• Use of a “free” email service, such as Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL.

• Refusal to speak with you on the telephone or to give you a number to call.

• A contract that states they are not responsible for any injuries or existing medical conditions as soon as you gain possession of the dog.

However, the best way to avoid a pet adoption scam is to rescue your pet from a reputable local animal shelter. Locally, these include the Beverly Animal Shelter, in Waterloo, New York, and the Tompkins County SPCA, located just outside of Ithaca.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Before You Repair Your Home: Know Your Contractor

For most Americans, their home is their single biggest investment. Before hiring a contractor to repair or renovate their property, homeowners should check for consumer complaints against home improvement contractors here.

In the event of a dispute with a contractor, homeowners have many rights. If you think you were the victim of an unscrupulous home repair service, an attorney may be able to get you some or all of your money back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 17 is Constitution Day

On Sept. 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was signed by thirty-nine brave men who changed the course of history. Now Constitution Day is a time for us to continue their legacy and develop habits of citizenship in a new generation of Americans.

Learn more about this event here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Home Equity Theft Prevention Act: Your Rights Under the Law

As of February 1, 2007, certain sales of homes that are in foreclosure or default are now governed by a New York State law known as the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act.

If your home is in foreclosure or default and you are planning to sell it, you should be aware of your rights under this law, and know what to expect from a legitimate buyer.

If your sale is protected by the law, and the buyer fails to fulfill any of the requirements listed below you may be able to void or legally cancel the contract you have with the buyer and the sale, even after it has been signed and executed. You may also be able to sue the buyer to recover any damages.

More information about the law can be found here.

Not all sales of properties subject to foreclosure fall under this law. However, if the sale you are considering falls under the Act, you should not enter into any agreement without first contacting a qualified attorney to give you information about your rights, options and other resources you should consider.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New York Revises Law on Adverse Possession

From New York Newsday:

New Yorkers will no longer be able to simply mow a neighbor's lawn for 10 years to claim the property as their own.

A law signed yesterday by Gov. David A. Paterson says "adverse possession" of another's land also will not happen simply because a fence, hedge, shrub, shed or other minimal, nonstructural item is placed across the deeded property line.

Under New York law, an owner has 10 years to claim land back from encroachment. The old law said the land had to be "usually cultivated or improved," which could mean regular maintenance like mowing or a fence. The revision requires encroachment "sufficiently open to put a reasonably diligent owner on notice" or a "substantial enclosure."

The full text of the law can be found here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Binding Contracts Created by Email

As e-mail exchanges become more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, the courts are beginning to hold that e-mails can create binding, written, contracts. As noted here:
[F]or good or for ill, parties now can conclude a contract, or amend an existing contract, via e-mail....

As ... recent decisions reflect, e-mail contracting can be an effective way to form an enforceable contract. They can however be a boon or curse. E-mail is a casual and speedy form of communications, previously unheard of in the practice of law and which belies its potential legal import.

Parties wishing to avoid the impact of a ruling that e-mail communications have created contractual obligations (or have amended an existing contract) should do what parties do in the traditional context: Make it clear that they do not intend for a contract to be formed until all documentation is fully completed and signed.

In other words, everyone should stop and think before hitting "send."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beware of Another Tax Scam

With the arrival of the economic stimulus checks comes news of yet-another scam aimed at your taxes:
In the economic stimulus payment scam, people call or e-mail residents, saying they work for the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. They ask for personal information, including Social Security and bank account numbers....
Remember: as a general rule you should never give out your social security or bank information to any one who calls you on the telephone.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Seneca County honors judges on Law Day

From the Finger Lakes Times:
100-plus people filled the courtroom of the Ovid Courthouse on May 1 - Law Day - to pay tribute to the 20 judges who have presided over Seneca County Supreme Court since the mid-1800s....

In dramatic voices, readers introduced their subjects. A brief biography of Judge David Herron was read by Attorney Steve Getman; followed by Ovid Town Supervisor David Dresser reading that of Judge James K. Richardson; Judge John E. Seeley by Mary Lou Seeley Schwartzberg; and Judge Sterling G. Hadley by John Porter. Ben Franklin offered details of the life of Judge George W. Franklin; Casey McDonald read the biography of Judge Addison Knox; Judge Josiah T. Miller was presented by Seneca County Assistant District Attorney Mark Sinkiewicz; Judge Gilbert Wilcoxen by Peter Wilcoxen; Judge Peter H. VanAuken by Barry Roach; and Judge William C. Hazelton by Romulus Town Supervisor David Kaiser.

As each biography was read, recently retired Seneca County bailiff Webb Rankin drew the audience's attention to the accompanying portraits hanging on the wall. The originals, displayed at the Waterloo courthouse, were borrowed and cleaned, reproduced and framed as permanent additions to the Ovid courtroom.

As one of the participants, I would like to think Dan Motill, President of the Friends of the Three Bears, for his work organizing this ceremony and for his other work on behalf of the historic Ovid complex.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1 is Law Day

Since 1958, our nation has set aside each May 1 as Law Day, to celebrate “the principle of government under law."

Locally, the Seneca County Criminal Justice Advisory Board and the Friends of the Three Bears are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of this important event by staging a number of events throughout the county.

In the morning the Criminal Justice Advisory Board will assist local high school students with a review of the local legal system:

Students will accompany attorneys, judges, police officers and other government officials during their day to day activities. They will be able to observe court cases, police activities and other functions of the legal system.

Later that evening, the historic court complex in Ovid, New York, known as the “Three Bears,” will host a “Tribute to the Judges.” During that event, members of the legal community and others will discuss some of the history of the old courthouse and the judges who presided there.

More information on each event can be found by clicking on the links above. For information about the history of Law Day nationally click here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fighting Abuses by Credit Card Companies: Know Your Rights

As the economy tightens, many people are beginning to take notice of tactics allegedly being used by the credit card companies to limit the rights of cardholders.

For example, on Friday (April 25), the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York reinstated a class action lawsuit against several large credit card companies. According to Reuters:

The credit cardholders "alleged that the banks … illegally colluded to force the cardholders to accept mandatory arbitration clauses in their cardholder agreements," according to the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The cardholders argued the banks had violated antitrust laws "by refusing to issue cards to individuals who did not agree to arbitration," according to the decision.

The cardholders want the court to stop the banks from compelling arbitration, prevent them from "continuing their alleged collusion" and invalidate the existing mandatory arbitration clauses.

This ruling is not a finding of wrongdoing by the companies, however. It is only a decision that the lawsuit against them may proceed.

In the meantime, a number of state and federal lawmakers are exploring legislation to remedy what they see as abuses by the card companies. For example, Michigan Senator Carl Levin has stated:

[O]ver a dozen bills are now pending in the House and Senate to correct credit card abuses [including] bill [to] stop credit card companies from piling on excessive fees; charging interest on debt that is paid on time; charging so-called "trailing interest" that is added between the time a bill is sent out and the date the bill is paid; increasing interest rates on cardholders who pay their credit card bills on time (employing so-called "universal default"); and applying higher rates retroactively to pre-existing credit card debt…there is a shared focus on provisions to halt unfair practices that attempt to squeeze more money out of even the most responsible cardholders.

Of course, not everyone agrees that such measures will improve the situation. Eli Lehrer, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writes:

[T]he new restrictions that self-styled “consumer advocates” and their trial lawyer allies envision will result in immediate, sizeable interest rate and fee increases for the majority of Americans who pay their credit card bills on time. Quite simply, efforts to cap, reduce, and ban penalty fees and interest-rate hikes for bad customers will axiomatically lead profit-minded companies to seek returns elsewhere. Many will hike the annual fees and interest rates for everyone else. New ways to litigate likewise will create another lawyers’ payday while doing nothing to help ordinary Americans.

Those who live on limited incomes or fail to pay their bills on time—the supposed beneficiaries of the proposals—will also see themselves hurt. Many will be denied credit that bureaucrats decide they “can’t afford.” More will find they only qualify for the “secured credit cards”—which require a bank deposit against the credit line—that predominated in the dark days before deregulation helped banks figure out ways to extend credit to everyone.

As these cases make their way through the legal system, and the proposed laws make their way through the legislature, it is important for consumers to know their rights and to be very careful when applying for any credit card.

The Federal Trade Commission has information for consumers on line. In addition, persons facing mounting debt and legal action to collect credit card fees may wish to consult with an attorney who can assist them in asserting their rights during any collection process.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Note On Contracts

A recent court case in New York City (as reported in the New York Post) serves as a reminder on the basics of contract law.

It might as well have been set in stone. A contract
written on notebook paper is legally binding - and worth $10.5 million to a Brooklyn Internet exec, a federal jury has ruled.

The decision is but the latest victory for Alfred West, 46, who has spent years battling the Newark, NJ-based telecommunications firm IDT over the pact's legality…. IDT had argued that the handwritten pact had no legal standing.

Many people do not realize that a written, binding, contract can be created very simply. Under New York law, a written contract is often created merely by the following:

  • An offer or promise;
  • An acceptance of that offer;
  • Some form of consideration or payment.

In addition, not all contracts need to be in writing to be enforceable. In many cases, an oral agreement, supported by appropriate consideration, will create a binding contract.

Failure to abide by a binding contract can result in money damages or an order of “specific performance,” where the court directs a person to act in a particular manner to fulfill an existing contract. Furthermore, a contract may provide for additional penalties, or directives as to how a dispute between the parties will be tried before the court.

Consumers should be very careful whenever asked to sign any document. Furthermore, when in doubt, it is always wise to consult an attorney who can provide advice on contract law.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Defensive Driving Course Offered for Local Seniors

Seneca County's Office for the Aging is offering a defensive driving course in May:

This 2-day accident prevention course will be held on May 12th and 14th, 2008 at the Seneca Falls Community Center, 35 Water Street, Seneca Falls, NY.

This is for New York State drivers’ ages 50 and older. The course includes the effect of aging and medication on driving, adverse road conditions, vision adjustments, and accident prevention measures.

Participants MUST complete both days of the 2-day course to be eligible for a 10% reduction for 3 years of the liability, collision, and no-fault portions of their automobile insurance and a four point reduction on their driver’s license. There are NO TESTS and all materials are furnished as part of the $10.00 registration fee. CLASS SIZE IS LIMITED. The class will run from 1:00 pm – 5:00 PM.

For further information, please contact the Home Economics Program at (315) 539-9251. Registration is required.

Regardless of age, I encourage all drivers in New York State to participate in a defensive driving class every few years. As noted above, these classes can reduce insurance premiums and, in certain circumstances, reduce the "points" on a driving record caused by traffic tickets.

More information about defensive driving courses in New York State can be found here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beware of Email "Phishing" Scams

"Phishing" is a scam in which unscrupulous people use e-mail and fake web sites to obtain your confidential information, including your financial information. Once they have this information, they can steal your money, your credit or even--in some cases--your identity.

New "phishing" scams appear nearly every day. Some of the most recent ones involve:

The FDIC has created a web site to help people recognize potential phishing scams. They also give advice on what to do if you suspect that you've been a victim:

[I]mmediately contact your financial institution and, if necessary, close existing accounts and open new ones. Also contact the police and request a copy of any police report or case number for later reference. In addition, call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 800-680-7289) to request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report.

In addition, in some cases, an attorney may be useful to assist you in obtaining reimbursement or protecting your rights.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty

From the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injection executions Wednesday, likely clearing the way to resume executions that have been on hold for nearly 8 months.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, turned back a constitutional challenge to the procedures in place in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates. Similar methods are used by roughly three dozen states.

[The] opinion did leave open subsequent challenges to lethal injection practices if a state refused to adopt an alternative method that significantly reduced the risk of severe pain.

Executions have been on hold since September, when the court agreed to hear the Kentucky case. There was no immediate indication when they would resume.

The Court's decision will not affect New York State's death penalty law. That law was declared unconstitutional by the New York State Court of Appeals in 2004 on other grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely at this time that this state will pass legislation to cure the flaw in the New York law.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

State levies fee on child-support payments

From Gannett News Service:

More than 345,000 parents who get child-support payments will have to pay the state almost $4.5 million in service fees annually starting immediately, state officials confirmed Monday.

The payments, $25 a year, were enacted as part of the state budget passed by lawmakers last week to meet a new requirement of the federal government.

The fee applies to all parents who receive child-support payments who are not on welfare and get more than $500 a year in benefits from the non-custodial parent.

Tax Scams - How to Recognize and Avoid Them

Be on the look out for tax scams as you prepare and file your income tax returns today.

A complete list of this year’s most common tax scams can be found here.