Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Come Back, E-mail!

Once sent, e-mail is hard to retrieve, as Brett Burney of Thompson Hine's Cleveland office describes in this set of e-mail tips. There is a common misconception that, just because your e-mail software has a "recall" feature, that it can recall a message sent out to the Internet. What usually happens, is that the e-mail sent by mistake is followed by a second e-mail seeking to recall it. Brett offers alternative suggestions as well as tips on keeping e-mail readable, through better subject lines, fonts and formatting. Brett is a regular contributer to Law Technology News and is a legal practice support coordinator at Thompson Hine

Monday, November 28, 2005

IRS website

The IRS has a new, redesigned, website debuting last week with “a fresh look, enhanced search capabilities, and easy access to tools for both the general public and tax professionals.” (See announcement)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also released its assessment of the Internal Revenue Service’s 2005 filing season performance, in which IRS’s previous website was praised. The report did, however, recommend that “IRS develop better information about the costs of mandatory electronic filing of tax returns for certain categories of tax practitioners and
establish a schedule for developing its long-term goals,” to which the Internal Revenue Service agreed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

10-Year Mark for PACER/ electronic federal case filing

The Federal Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system (PACER) reaches the 10-year milestone this month, having heard more than 24 million cases in that period.

The electronic filing system, launched in Nov. 1995 when a team from the U.S. Court Administrative Office assisted the U.S. District Court in Northern Ohio process in excess of 5,000 document-intensive asbestos cases, is currently used by 85 district and 91 bankruptcy courts, some of the federal appeals courts, including those in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky; the Court of International Trade, and the Court of Federal Claims. Not all federal courts are fully operational at this point, but are expected to be by the end of next year. (See press release, list of participating courts, and overview)

Last month, the Judicial Conference issued a set of proposed rule amendments addressing public access to electronically filed case material which are intended to implement portions of the 2002 E-Government Act requiring federal courts to make those filings available online while not sacrificing privacy or security concerns. The public comment period for those amendments is until Feb. 15, 2006. (Additional information)

Federal Legislative Site Gets New Look

Thomas, home to a wealth of U.S. legislative information hosted by the Library of Congress, has been given a face lift. The new look is more compact and is easy to navigate. There is more information available on the front page than before, although some might argue the smaller font means that it's harder to find the link to the Public Laws search. The current Congress' information can be searched quickly from the front page, using keywords, bill number, or sponsor's name. Some of the other search features - like combining multiple Congresses in a single search - are nice improvements, if not in functionality than in interface. The universal left side menu means that you can keep moving forward in your navigation to a new location, rather than having to return to the top of the site. Links to the Congressional Record and Treaties follow you around the site. The site's About Thomas page succinctly explains scope of databases and links to the search queries for bill text since 1989, bill summaries and status since 1973, and the multi-Congress search.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ohio commercial activity tax rule changes

The Ohio Department of Taxation has announced two revisions in its Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) rules, along with issuing a draft rule defining “nonprofit organizations” for CAT purposes

In a third revision, ODOT issued a release on the situsing of gross receipts from various services. The new version, CCH’s State Tax Review reported, indicates proposed situsing rules are still being developed with respect to construction contractors, contract manufacturing, directors’ fees, and transportation brokers. (See information release CAT 2005-06)

A second release was issued containing a draft of a proposed rule clarifying “common owners” for purposes of consolidated elected & combined taxpayer groups under CAT. (Release 2005-05)

Finally, in addition to a nonprofit organization’s being organized for purposes other than pecuniary gains or profit of members, directors, officers, or other private persons, ODOT has issued a draft rule adding that “the entity’s net earnings must not be distributable to those individuals, but that the payment of reasonable compensation for services rendered & the distribution of assets upon dissolution would not be considered pecuniary gain or a distribution of net earnings.’ (Release 2005-14)

Kentucky income tax pension exclusion

Kentucky’s personal income tax pension exclusion, CCH’s State Tax Review reports, remains unchanged at $41,000 for 2006 tax year, the annual inflation adjustment for the pension exclusion being repealed by the Tax Modernization Plan last March. (Press release)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Internet search engines/ Digital TV

The latest Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, released this morning, shows that while e-mailing is still the top Internet activity, search engine usage is climbing fast behind it, jumping 55% from June 2004 thru last September.

“Several factors explain the quick rise in search activity,” a MercuryNews article (registration) this morning quotes Pew Director Lee Raine, “including the spread of high-speed Internet connections…. The ubiquity of broadband—70 percent of Internet users have access to it at work or home—is prompting people to shift from using phone books and other offline information sources to the Web.”

SearchEngineWatch has additional information along with a link to the 9-page PDF report.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives last Friday backed a plan to require television broadcasters to convert to digital transmissions by Dec. 2008, three months earlier than provisions in the Senate’s version of the same bill, according to a FindLaw article this morning. (H.R.921)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Automation Proposed to Replace Court Reporters

Hamilton County's Board of County Commissioners is proposing to require new judges to forego a court reporter and use video and audio recording equipment instead, according to the Cincinnati Post. The story, also picked up by UPI, discusses the costs of court reporters, alternative technology, and the opposition of some Hamilton County judges. The experience of judges in Northern Kentucky's Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties is cited for the benefits of an automated reporter system.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Proposed Ohio Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a set of proposed rules of professional conduct “reflecting current practices & ethical standards in the legal community which they are asking for feedback on.

A task force appointed by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in 2003, issued its report recommending rules of conduct more closely conforming to the ABA model rules, and replacing the current Code of Professional Conduct adopted in 1970. ABA model rules serve as a basis for ethical standards in 46 states.

At its initial meeting, the task force had identified six primary benefits resulting from adopting rules of professional responsibility based on the ABA model—one of the most frequently cited being “the substantial reliance on a body of rules that are a better reflection of the current practice of law and the subject of frequent updates,” according to the draft posted. Fifty-four changes are being proposed.

Copies of the proposed rules are posted on the Supreme Court’s website and also being published in the Nov. 14th. Special edition Ohio Official Reports Advance Sheets and the OSBA Report. (Press Release)

Public comments are being accepted until Feb. 15, 2006.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ohio third-party child custody

In June 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark third-party visitation decision, Troxel v. Granville, a Washington state case holding that state statutes regarding who—other than parents-- can get court-ordered visitation rights had to defer to parents’ wishes. It’s been a discussion since.

FindLaw columnist & Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman this morning looks at the way state supreme courts have been doing that—including the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision last Oct. 10th. in Harrold v. Collier. The article links to both cases, and Collier was briefed in the daily summaries on our website when it was issued.

Ohio’s child custody statutes are ORC § 3109.11 and 3109.12, Kentucky’s pertinent statutes are KRS §403.320 and 405.021 ; and Indiana’s are Ind. Code 31-14-14 and 31-17-5.

Bird Flu Pandemic resources

With world health experts estimating that combating a possible bird flu pandemic could cost some $1.5 billion, President Bush’s strategy for this country talks in terms of $7.1 billion and relys heavily on individual state & local government participation. Questions facing the states are whether they’d be able to afford that kind of effort, as well as what can or might be done, and a number larger companies—especially those with global interests—are looking at options from their perspective.

Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky all have plans posted on their health department websites. The national plan is under the auspices of the Homeland Security Council.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Procter & Gamble v. Amway

The 10th. Federal District Court of Appeals on Oct. 19th. reinstated the lawsuit brought by Procter & Gamble against Amway Corporation on allegations that Amway’s president at some point in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, told a talk show host that P&G’s president worships Satan and that a portion of their profits goes to the Church of Satan, according to a FindLaw article last Friday.

P&G had made several allegations suggesting that “the district trial court’s rulings at issue were so ‘plainly deficient’ as to demonstrate ‘serious antipathy’ toward P&G..”

The district court’s judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part, the case being remanded back to the district court for further proceedings.

Wisconsin abortion bills

Questions centering around abortion issues have been in the news since before Roe v. Wade back in 1973, and the last couple of weeks hasn’t been much different. Roe secured a woman’s right to have an abortion, but a reversal of that would not outlaw abortion nationwide, according to a recent CNN article; the issue reverting back to the states with a patchwork of possible consequences.

The Wisconsin Assembly, Tuesday, passed a measure which would add a new requirement for women seeking an abortion at or beyond their 20th week of pregnancy that there is suggestion that the unborn fetus has the physical structures at that age necessary to feel pain, and that abortions can cause substantial pain to a fetus. A comparable measure was passed by the Wisconsin Senate earlier, although Gov. Jim Doyle has indicated that he would veto the measure.

Although fetal pain is an unsettled medical question, Arkansas, Georgia, and Minnesota all have similar provisions in effect.; and both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have pending legislation on the matter.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sixth Circuit Rule 31 amendment

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has amended 6 Cir. Rule 31 with the addition of a new section (c), which allows parties to file their briefs in CD-ROM format in addition to the required paper copies of the brief. Rule 31 as amended is effective August 12, 2005. The rule does not just apply in those cases in which briefs have yet to be filed; counsel in pending cases who have already filed their brief may file a CD-ROM version, as set forth in the rule, if they choose to do so. (http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/internet/documents/ntc_CA6-RevisedRule31.pdf )

Sexual Predator Residency cases

The U.S. Southern District Court of Ohio yesterday ruled that convicted sex offenders who had sued to block enforcement of Ohio’s sexual predator requirement barring residence 1,000 feet from a school, lacked legal standing to pursue their case.

An Enquirer article this morning quotes David Singleton, a lawyer with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center as saying that the position taken by the Court was “completely wrong,” and that he hopes it will reconsider in order to avoid appealing it.

The OJPC has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the matter of Doe v. Miller, an 8th. Circuit case upholding Iowa’s sex offender residency statute which has a 2000-foot requirement. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) argues in that brief that “research has shown that criminal offenders with stable housing, employment, and social support are less likely to commit new offenses compared with those who lack stability,” and assert that “residency requirements like those passed in Iowa, Ohio, and other states, deprive sex offenders of those things (which) may increase the risk of recidivism.”

OJPC’s press release of the brief makes the statement that “the Iowa case, if taken by the Supreme Court, could have enormous implications for sex offender residency statutes nationwide. If the Supreme Court declares Iowa’s statute unconstitutional, it’s likely that similar statutes across the country would also be found unconstitutional.”

Friday, November 04, 2005

Deer Season

Pennsylvania ranks first in the number of accidents in which deer on hit on the nation’s highways, according to a CNN/Money article this morning.

Second & third highest were Michigan and Illinois, followed by Ohio and Georgia.

Indiana, eighth on the list, is adopting a program modeled after one in Iowa in which hunters killing antlerless deer on the first weekend of the firearms season, are being offered a coupon for their replacement deer licenses if they donate the meat to area food banks.

EPA rule proposal: stationary pollution controls

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule that would allow power plants to modify existing facilities without having to install more modern pollution controls if their hourly emission rates don’t increase. This changes the EPA definition of emissions increase to “an increase in maximum achievable emissions measured on an hourly basis, as opposed to being measured over the course of an entire year,” according to a U.S. Law Week article last week.

The article notes that the 4th. Circuit Court of Appeals held on June 15th. that “an emissions increase occurs only when a modification increases a plant’s maximum potential hourly emissions rate.” (U.S. v. Duke Energy, 411 F3d. 539), but a week later, on June 24th., the District of Columbia Circuit Court ruled in favor of the current annual emissions test. (New York v. EPA, 413 F3d. 3). These are addressed in the proposed rule, which is seeking a remedy to uncertainties between the two cases and the associated regulations.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 19th.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

US Supremes: Pro Se Not Guaranteed Law Library Access

A right to law library access is not clearly established, nor is there any specific legal aid owed to a pro se criminal defendant by a State, according to the U.S. Supreme Court per curiam opinion in Kane v. Espitia. The Court noted that appellate circuits were split as to whether Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), "which establishes a Sixth Amendment right toself-representation, implies a right of the pro se defendant to have access to a law library." The opinion notes our own Sixth Circuit's opinion in United States v. Smith, 907 F.2d 42 (6th Cir. 1990), which found that a pro se waives access to a law library when he waives his right to counsel.

The Court commented that, by electing to be pro se, Espitia "had declined, as was his right, to be represented by a lawyer with unlimited access to legal materials."