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May 2008
Legal Report

U.S. Judicial Decisions: ADA

A federal appeals court has ruled that a hospital is not required to accommodate the restrictions on a nurse’s working environment brought about by her drug dependency. In the written opinion of the case, the court noted that “Dovenmuehler’s case is unique because her claimed disability has a peculiar feature. Certain behavior, while consistent with her claimed disability, also happens to be illegal. Such conduct is not protected by the ADA.”

    U.S. Federal Legislation: National Security

    The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on the Bush administration’s use of the state secrets privilege. Under the privilege, the government can keep information from becoming public if it believes that the data will harm national security. Witnesses at the hearing discussed  the concept of privilege as well as a bill (S. 2533) introduced by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) that would require that the executive branch obtain court approval from a federal court each time it invokes the state secrets privilege in a civil action to prevent information from being released. Under the measure, the executive branch would also be required to provide a report to Congress on each item within 30 days of invoking the privilege.

      U.S. Federal Legislation: Courthouse Security

      A bill (H.R. 660) that would increase courthouse security has been signed into law (P.L. 110-218). The law requires that the U.S. Marshals Service offer ongoing security advice to the judiciary. It authorizes additional funding to hire marshals to protect courthouses. In addition, the law makes it illegal to publicly disclose restricted personal information about a federal officer, witness, or juror with the intent to harm such individual. The law also makes it illegal to bring into the courtroom any item that could be used as a dangerous weapon.

        U.S. Federal Legislation: Border Security

        A bill (H.R. 3916) introduced by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) that would encourage the development of new border security technology has been approved by the  House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Under the bill, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be required to spell out the requirements, expected use, and operational concept of any new border or maritime security technology.

          U.S. Federal Legislation: Background Checks

          An amendment, introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), that would improve oversight of the FBI National Name Check Program has been included in the appropriation bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which has been signed into law (P.L. 110-161).

            U.S. Federal Legislation: Discrimination

            A bill (H.R. 3685) introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has agreed to consider the measure.

              U.S. Federal Legislation: Whistleblowers

              A bill (S.274) introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) that would expand protection for government whistleblowers has been approved by the Senate. The House of Representatives has not indicated whether it will consider the bill.

                State Legislation: New Mexico: Cyberstalking

                A bill (H.B. 9) currently pending in the New Mexico Legislature would establish a task force to study the use of technology by stalkers. The findings would be used to develop new laws to combat the crime.

                State Legislation: Idaho: Identity Theft

                A bill (S.B. 1357) introduced in the Idaho Senate would amend existing identity theft laws to add a new crime. Under the bill, enhanced penalties would be assessed if a person used false pretenses or misrepresentations to facilitate identity theft.

                  Elsewhere in the Courts: Discrimination

                  A federal district court has ruled that a company cannot compel plaintiffs in a discrimination case to produce their medical and psychological records. The court also ruled that plaintiffs did not have to provide arrest records as requested by the defense. The court pointed out that this request was especially egregious because the company did not conduct background checks on applicants to screen for prior arrests.

                    Elsewhere in the Courts: Drug Use

                    The California Supreme Court has ruled that a company that fired an employee for medical marijuana use did not discriminate against the worker. The court noted that nothing in the state law making medical marijuana use legal indicated that it was applicable to the workplace.

                    News & Trends

                    Intellectual Property Protection

                    The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an interagency mechanism created to coordinate federal intellectual-property-theft investigative efforts, has not achieved its mission, says a Government Accountability Office report.

                      FBI Bulletins

                      Researchers have found that most people will omit the truth rather than tell an outright lie. People will also choose words that camouflage the truth without knowing that they are leaving behind clues for investigators to piece together, according to a recent FBI bulletin.

                        SM Online

                        Voting Machines

                        States are continuing to explore ways to secure electronic voting after a New York University study found that electronic voting machines could be compromised, with software attacks easiest to pull off.

                          College Crime Day

                          Division-I college football games cause an uptick in crime, a new study finds, but it worsens when an upset occurs.

                            São Paulo Progress

                            Learn how São Paulo, Brazil, has cut murders by two-thirds since 2000 and may finally reduce homicides below the UN’s threshold definition of epidemic violence.

                              Web-Based Bugs

                              Got bugs? This month’s Site to See offers free e-mail alerts notifying companies if their sites are vulnerable to one of the biggest Web application vulnerabilities, cross-site scripting.

                                Threat Management

                                The RAND Corp. recommends that governments closely regulate GPS-guided mortars, as they do shoulder-to-air missiles, before terrorists acquire them.


                                  An organization cannot halt an internal investigation once a federal discrimination suit has been filed, an appellate court said, because it constitutes retaliation against the employee who made the complaint.


                                    Phishing scams cost Americans $3.6 billion last year, up 10 percent from 2006, according to Gartner Research.

                                      Hurricane Response

                                      Find out what the U.S. Geological Survey learned from recent hurricanes, including Katrina, to mitigate the effects of future violent storms.

                                        To Err is Human

                                        Human error leads to more hardware breakdowns and system outages than technology problems, according to three quarters of respondents to a new Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu survey.

                                          Emergency Response

                                          FEMA has replaced its post-9-11 National Response Plan with its National Response Framework, with a new emphasis on improving state and local preparedness.

                                            Workers' Compensation

                                            An impolite, unpleasant, and volatile woman does not deserve workers’ compensation for the psychological damage she incurred at work, an appeals court ruled, because she brought it on herself.

                                            Euro Counterfeiting

                                            Euros were said to be immune to counterfeiting, but officials last year admitted an increase in seizures of fake bills and coins. Find out how counterfeiters do it.


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