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Legal News Roundup: March 28, 2016

by Marie Claire

on 30 March, 2016

Let’s take a look at this week in legal news.


Utah becomes the first state with a white-collar criminal registry

This week, Utah became the first state in the U.S. to create an online registry for felony white-collar criminals. The registry was approved by the Utah state legislature in 2015. It will include recent photos of criminals convicted in the last ten years of second-degree fraud-related felonies. Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes said that the user-friendly nature of this type of database will be a critical tool in protecting consumers. Utah is a state particularly vulnerable to what is known as affinity fraud – perpetrators preying on groups with strong social ties, like religious and ethnic communities. With the state of Utah’s population being over 5o% affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, it has become a particularly vulnerable state due to the close religious ties of many residents in the state. Reyes estimates fraud losses in Utah to be hundreds of millions annually.

The registry is expected to grow to over 200 listings in the next few months. As studies suggest that around half of white-collar criminals become repeat offenders, the registry should help Utah residents identify potential risks. Convicted individuals can avoid listing on the registry by fully complying with court orders and paying their restitution in full. However, with the SEC still yet to collect more than half of the $18 billion sanctions applied in the last five years, it’s not as likely that this registry will incentivize full restitution from the offender to the victim. However, the public shaming may be incentive enough. No such luck for those with three or more offenses, though – these repeat offenders are listed permanently in Utah’s white-collar criminal registry.

Judge Palin, presiding in 2017

While Sarah Palin doesn’t actually hold a law degree, she may soon play a judge on television. Palin signed a deal to preside over a courtroom in a new arbitration entertainment show. The show hasn’t been made or sold yet, but it is expected to come out in the fall of 2017.

The same team who found legal TV talents like Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown was a part of picking Palin for the role. While she’s no Judge Judy, she does have a sharp tongue and a knack for catchy if not always accurate turns of phrase. Stay tuned for Judge Palin in 2017.

Donald Trump v The Mighty Bald Eagle

Donald Trump has a special place in his heart for the bald eagle, but the feeling doesn’t seem to be mutual. Trump has run into bad luck with the iconic eagle, starting with an ill-fated Time magazine photo shoot at Trump Towers. The bald eagle was none too pleased to be a part of the photo shoot.

Ever eagle-hopeful, Trump pushed forward with images of a bald eagle included on signs, merchandise, and other Trump campaign media. The issue at hand? The campaign doesn’t own the image, nor did they request use of the photograph in question. Trump’s presidential campaign is now facing a copyright lawsuit from the owners of the bald eagle portrait, Wendy Shattil and Robert Rozinski, photographers who specialize in nature and wildlife photography. The suit claims that the Trump campaign misappropriated their photograph for campaign signage and has incited an “epidemic of third-party infringement.” The lawsuit claims that Trump for President refused to resolve the infringement privately. Will the Donald stay arm-in-wing with the bald eagle? Plaintiff’s lawyer Joshua Bressler is working hard to ensure that he won’t.

Walk-and-text may lead to fines and jail time in New Jersey

You know the scenario: you’re crossing the street, minding your own business, only to be sideswiped by a person whose head is at a 90 degree angle, completely engrossed in the text message they are composing. They curse under their breath and keep moving, and you wonder where humanity has gone wrong.

New Jersey state assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt wants to put a stop to the potentially dangerous – both socially and physically – act of talking or texting on a cell phone while crossing the street. Lampitt proposed legislation to impose a $50 fine and up to 15 days in jail for committing the offense. “Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” she said in a statement. “As people’s behaviors change so must our policy.”

While the intent of the law is good, similar legislation has been shot down in Arkansas, New York, Nevada and Illinois. In the meantime, we’ll have to resort to citizen’s arrest for those careless walk-and-texters.

Walk-and-text bucket truck collision pays out a $161K award

That isn’t to say, though, that the walk-and-text doesn’t always pay for the offending party. A Georgia woman turned her walk and text fiasco into a $161,000 payout.

DeToya Moody ran full on into a bright orange ladder attached to a bucket truck while she was walking and texting, suffering a mild concussion, headaches, and a slight dent on her forehead as a reminder of the accident. Moody passed the truck three times, but the fourth time the ladder was lowered. Moody, expecting the ladder to be raised as it had been the last three times, ran right into the ladder on her fourth pass.

The company who owned the truck offered a settlement of $5,000. Moody’s attorney countered with a demand for $75,000. At an impasse, the case went to trial. A sympathetic jury awarded Moody over twice as much, at $161,000. Someone, somewhere, owns a bucket truck and wishes they had chosen the simpler settlement.

Rewind and return or face criminal restraint, 14 years later

In days gone past, who hasn’t tucked a VHS or DVD under the couch, forgotten all about it, and discovered a $20 fine when they went to rent a new video? James Meyers Jr. suffered an extreme version of that misfortune when Concord, North Carolina police stopped him for a broken brake light only to discover a warrant out for his arrest for failing to return a video . . . from 2002. To add insult to injury, the video in question was a horribly reviewed Tom Green “comedy” whose title isn’t worth naming in a family-friendly column. With Meyers 10-year old daughter in the car, Meyers was taken out of the car but not arrested. He turned himself in at the police station later in the day, was handcuffed, and ordered to appear in court in April. While he could face a criminal record for posessing stolen property, it is unlikely, because prosecutors have to prove that Meyers actions were deliberate; and no one would willingly possess a Tom Green movie for 14 years.

It must be said that Tom Green came out looking good in this whole fiasco. After hearing about the incident, Green personally called Meyers, sang some tasteless songs for him over the phone, and offered to help with legal fees. Fingers crossed that Meyers escapes a permanent criminal record based on renting the worst movie ever.