Monday, March 28, 2005

Domestic Relations Internet Postings

The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts on April 4th. will be making additional changes to its website to better protect the privacy of individuals in domestic relation matters by blocking some 600,000 Domestic Relation filings.

Domestic relation filings other than the complaint, answer, and decree will be publicly accessible only at the Court's facility and no longer on the Internet. Access to the website will be restricted to judges, magistrates, and attorneys of record alone. Parties involved in a proceeding will be able to attain access to material by using user names & passwords which will be issued by the Court. To obtain Internet access a party has to apply in person at the Domestic Relations issue desk at 800 Broadway, 3rd. floor, between 8:00-- 4:00, Monday thru Friday; and have picture ID.

Documents currently blocked will remain so, even to those with user ID and password.

Additional information was posted March 8, 2005.

Friday, March 25, 2005

"Sunshine Week"

March 13-19 was "National Sunshine Week."

State laws for 30 categories of legal provisions relating to record requests were compared and ranked on an index for openness. The Citizen Access Project issued a press release and summary March 13 th.

Ohio's new open-records legislation was discussed in our posting on March 4th.

Yahoo v.La Ligue Contre

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to rehear Yahoo v. La Ligue Contre Le, case no. 01-17424, in the next couple of days or so. Originally heard back on Aug. 23, 2004, a court order to rehear the case was issues Feb. 10th.. This might be interesting because "the case isn't just about a fight over Yahoo's financial liability, it's also charting new First Amendment territory," according to a article. An Associated Press article carries more information.

Wal-Mart class action suit

The 9th Circuit will also be hearing Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a sex discrimination class action suit that should prove interesting. Wal-Mart's contention is that class-action status was wrongly granted and the issue should be handled on an individual store basis. That, according to an article posted by BusinessWeek Online "could tilt the playing field for virtually all these kinds of lawsuits."
A copy of the class action certification is posted on a site maintained by Wal-Mart, but "pursuant to a protective order, no party may post documents that have been designated as confidential."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Government Information Online

Government Information Online (GIO) is a national pilot project being sponsored by the Illinois State Library, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and the University of Chicago that "will establish a viable model for online cooperative virtual reference & information services."

Users can interact online with government information librarians during weekly chat sessions, or submit questions at any time using a e-mail interface. The pilot program is scheduled to run through November 14, 2005.

(Direct link)

Living Wills Addendum

Sabrina Pacific at has note about a free feature currently posted on the Wall Street Journal describing "selections of laws & regulations in various states regarding advance medical directives." A lot of good additional information is included in the article's link on the highlighted line "read more on living wills."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Living Wills, etc.

The continuing sage of Terri Schiavo has been drawing international attention of late, with both Reuters and the BBC carrying articles. An article that appeared on FindLaw yesterday, too, made the statement that the case has "spurred a push for living wills."

An article in this morning's Enquirer was titled "Living will best procedure for avoiding entanglements."

There is a wealth of good information available from several places, including Hamilton County's Probate Court website. The Ohio State Bar Association has articles on living wills, guardianship & advance care planning, and estate tax applications. And Ohio Hospice has several publications available.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

On July 2nd, 2004, Christopher Rezos was arrested & charged with attempted aggravated murder for trying to kill his wife, but, being a first-time offender, he was released after posting bond. Three weeks later, he tracked her down and shot her twice in the back of the head. While in jail, he tried to hire a hitman to kill his wife, her mother, and her brother. Last Wednesday he was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

This particular case is better known to us in and around Cincinnati because it happened here—at least up in Butler County, but, sadly, incidents such as this aren’t that rare of a thing. An article in the Enquirer the beginning of this month reported that “the Ohio Domestic Violence Network said there were 93, 436 domestic-violence calls in 2003, compared with 22, 486 in 2002; and in 2003, alone, there were more than 25,000 arrests on domestic violence charges.”

On May 21, 1999, Jessica Gonzales obtained a restraining order against her husband, in Castle Rock, Colorado. He proceeded, on June 22nd., to abduct and murder their three children, aged 10, 9 and 7, while she fought more with police and procedure. That case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court spawning from a civil action against the Castle Rock police department to determine their liability for failing to enforce the restraining order against the husband. The National Association of Women Lawyers/ National Crime Victim Bar Association’s brief is posted on the ABA website.

On Feb. 10th., largely through the efforts of Rezos’ wife and her family, H.B. 29 was introduced, seeking to strengthen the rules judges have to follow in determining bond for first-time domestic violence offenders, specifically that “a person charged with committing an offense of violence against a family or household member appear before the court for the setting of bail,” rather than the current requirement of being subject to a protective order. (S.B. 54 is a second version, now in the Senate)

Here in Cincinnati, the Abused Women’s Active Response Emergency (ABUSE) program was announced Wednesday, allowing victims to hit an alarm in their homes or in a pendant worn around the neck that will trigger a silent call for help from police. ADT Security Services, which is providing this service free of charge, initiated the program -- the first of its kind in the state-- back in 1992, implementing similar ones in 174 cities since. (See posting)

The situation as widespread as it is, most states have provision. Violence Against Women Online Resources has a linked summary of “individual state laws and policies regarding restraining orders” posted on the Internet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Local Sentencing Updates

In the Jan. 17th. issue of the National Law Journal (subscription) it was prophecised that following the Supreme Court's Booker/Fanfan decision "the key to whether federal sentencing guidelines retained any real effect for defendants and prosecutors may now rest with the federal appellate courts," and how they were going to define a "reasonable sentence." According to recent articles, such as one on last month (subscription), federal courts remain in something of a holding pattern.

More of us are more directly concerned with state level aspects of the sentencing issue, and moreso with local cases.

In two Michigan cases back in October, State v. Hanf and State v. Sam, both DUI cases having a question of whether the "correct sentence" was incarceration or probation, it was held that "the traditional role of the jury has never been to determine which defendantrs go to prison and which do not... an offender's amenability to probation is not a fact which increases the offender's penalty."

Indiana's supreme court, last week, ruled that parts of the state's sentencing laws were unconstitutional, forbiding judges from going beyond standard parameters without a jury's approval, but, as did the U.S. Supreme Court, stopping shy of throwing out the sentencing guidelines altogether. (See Houser v. State of Indiana, Case 57S00-0310-CR-433).

Indiana Senate Bill 96, however, could remedy the constitutionality of their sentencing system.

Finally, a Cincinnati Enquirer article yesterday reported the 1st. District Court of Appeals' pair of decisions that held "Hamilton County Common Pleas judges can impose only a minimum sentence for anyone who has never spent time in prison, and cannot impose a maximum prison term." [See State v. Montgomery, 2005-Ohio-1018 and State v. Bruce, 2005-Ohio-373]

Friday, March 11, 2005

Senate Bankruptcy Bill

The U.S. Senate passed its version of SB 256 yesterday, representing what ABC News calls the "biggest rewrite of bankruptcy laws in 27 years," but which opponents said would hurt working poor, single mothers, minorities, and the elderly.

Thomas Legislative Service has a 17-page summary posted, and CNN an article on the bill's key features.

ID Theft -- Again

By now just about the entire universe knows that LexisNexis was hacked yesterday and some potentially sensitive material stolen, but this morning, too, social security numbers and other personal data was reported stolen from Seisnt, another internet data warehouse.

Data theft is by no means a concern restricted to this country, and the BBC, Edinbourgh Scotsman, and International Herald Tribune have all addressed the issue.

The House of Representatives' Energy & Commerce Committee, yesterday, approved the "Antispyware" bill (H.R. 29), and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, later this afternoon, was scheduled to hold a hearing-- "Identity Theft: Recent Developments Involving the Security of Sensitive Consumer Information."

Last Friday, the Washington Post had an article entitled "New Industry Helping Banks Fight Back: Sleuths hit online identity thefts with 'takedowns,' 'poisons.'"

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Jury Duty Reforms

The Enquirer this morning reported Gov. Taft's having signed into law, last month, jury reform measures for the State of Ohio. Among other things, the bill will reduce the time an individual serves on a jury to two weeks, unless involved in an ongoing case.

The Ohio Supreme Court, back in February 2004, issued recommendations from its "ask force on jury duty," and the American Judicature Society, last year, expanded its website to include information on jury duties & selection. Both sources suggested shorter service time for jurors.

A perhaps less technical exploration of the subject was the topic of a article (subscription) published at the beginning of last month.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Senate Bill 9: Ohio's Patriot Act

An article in this morning's Enquirer discuses Senate Bill 9: "Ohio's Patriot Act.

Proponents of the bill say it would make the country safer and help uncover any terrorist activity in the state. Critics, however, are saying it contains vague language and could end up being an encroachment on individual freedoms.

Lloyd Snyder, associate dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and general counsel to the Board of Directors of the Ohio ACLU, wrote in a letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week that "Ohio's version of the Patriot Act goes too far," and that "while its intentions are good, many of its remedies are misguided."

The Ohio American Civil Liberties Union has a posting on its website about the bill, and, the Plain Dealer this morning is saying Congress should "re-examine, and do away with, some of the most dangerous elements of any legislation it ever passed." (The federal Patriot Act)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Public Records house bill

An Enquirer article this morning relates Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's stressing to lawmakers this week the importance of passing a bill which would push governments to do a better job of granting citizens access to public documents.

An audit conducted in June 2004 by the Ohio Colition for Open Government, representing more than 40 newspapers, the Associated Press, Ohio University, and the University of Dayton, sought to determine how accessible public records were in the State. 50.1 % of those records requested were obtained on request, with another 2.6% made available the next day. According to Tom O'Hara, managing editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of the biggest compliance problems stemmed from public officials' ignorance of the State's public records law.

House Bill 9, introduced Jan. 24th., has several key provisions, including the requirement that the Attorney General "develop, provide, certify, and require all elected public officials to attend training programs and seminars on the Open Records Law."