Guardianships and conservatorships are used to protect people who are unable to handle their own affairs. Before imposing a guardianship, a court has to find that the protected person (Oregon uses this term instead of “ward”) does not have full capacity to handle his or her own affairs. Is that finding enough to take away the protected person’s right to make a will? The answer in most states is no, but the protected person might be found incapable on a case-by-case basis. A recent case from Washington illustrates the situation.
The Supreme Court has recently confirmed that public employees’ First Amendment rights extend to when they testify about matters they may have learned about on the job. They can’t be disciplined if they testify truthfully, do not violate confidentiality requirements or similar restrictions, and their testimony is not part of their ordinary job duties.
On the other hand, private employees generally do not have the same protection because the First Amendment applies only to government action.
Americans tend to file lawsuits fairly frequently, and some more than others. Occasionally, the courts will face someone with a tendency to sue repeatedly, or with grossly insufficient grounds, or in order to harass a defendant or leverage an unrelated concession. There are ways these actions can be prevented, but none of them are easy to implement. The law generally encourages access to the courts, and as a result only takes action against severe abuse.
Oregon divorce law focuses on when property was acquired in deciding how to divide it. Usually, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, and property acquired beforehand is not. The law presumes, very strongly, that both spouses contribute equally to marital property, and that contribution can be other than financial. As a practical matter, usually the courts will split marital property into equal totals and back out premarital property. One problem that sometimes arises is what to do with mixing marital and premarital assets. A recent cause illustrates how this is handled, and unfortunately it may require some expense for experts to work out the values.
Casey Kasem’s recent passing was sadly preceded by a court fight between his wife and his children by a previous marriage over who should make his medical decisions and what decisions he would have wanted. Sadly, even the rich and famous may not prepare themselves and their families for medical decisions and end of life decisions.
A federal appeals court has recently ruled that although ten Sherlock Holmes stories published from 1923 to 1927, are still under copyright, authors can use elements of the older stories that have passed into public domain without fear of suit for use of elements not introduced in the last ten stories. The court ruled that changes to “complex” characters do not prevent use of those characters in their earlier forms.
As I have discussed in a previous entry <http://danielreitman.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/dont-wait-too-long-to-file-suit/>, most lawsuits must be filed before a statute of limitations expires. The purpose of these statutes is to discourage plaintiffs from waiting until a defense cannot be presented, and to give defendants reassurance that potential plaintiffs have decided not to act. Most statutes of limitations, either by their own terms or by interpretation by the courts, begin to run only when the plaintiff knows of the claim or had enough information to find out about it. Sometimes, however, the law takes away a claim before it can be found – and many people agree with Dickens’ Mr. Bumble that the law is an ass.