Author Archive for Peter Clarke

Could Rolling Stone Magazine Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

If Sued, Will Rolling Stone Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled, “A Rape on Campus,” describing the brutal gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a Phi Kappa Psi party at the University of Virginia. As a result of the story, Greek activities on the UVA campus were suspended. Multiple protests of Greek life were held on the UVA campus criticizing the initiation and pledging process of its fraternities.

Rolling SInvestigations into the case have found that the Rolling Stone story was, in fact, not truthful. Rolling Stone has since issued an apology for the story, stating that their trust in Jackie was “misplaced.”

In recent months, many have raised the question whether Phi Kappa Psi or any other fraternity with a UVA chapter could sue Rolling Stone for defamation based on the false story.

What’s Required for a Libel Lawsuit against Rolling Stone?

In order to be found liable, it must be proven that Rolling Stone had actual malice. In other words, it must be established that Rolling Stone knew that the story was materially false. Also, it must be found that the story damaged the fraternity chapter and its members.

Damages include material damages such as being displaced for the period that their fraternity house was closed resulting in hotel costs. Fraternity members could also claim damages in less tangible ways such as emotional distress.

As a result of the story, there were multiple protests throughout the campus. Protests were aimed at a “fight against this victim blaming, slut-shaming culture we have that sexualizes women, yet shames them for being sexual,” as stated in the UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily. Fraternity members could argue that they were wrongfully demonized as a result of the article.

While the issue of sexual assaults at fraternity parties remain the subject of intense focus, UVA fraternity members could argue that the focus switched to them specifically, as they were named in the article. The University Phi Kappa Psi President said they will consider all options, though they have not come to a decision as to whether or not they will sue.

When it comes to whether the University of Virginia could possibly sue, the answer is clear. Government entities, such as the University of Virginia, cannot sue for defamation, regardless of whether it can be proven that Rolling Stone knew the article was false when it was published.

 

Walmart Joins the Trend to Increase Minimum Wage

Minimum wage has always been a controversial topic. Proponents argue that minimum wage protects the working poor. Others feel that minimum wage slows job growth and discourages employers from hiring new employees. For most of America’s history, there was no minimum wage. While a first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage came in 1933, it wasn’t until United States v. Darby Lumber Co in 1944 that the Supreme Court held that Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to regulate employment conditions.

minimum wage increase walmartIn November 2014, many states put the question of whether minimum wage should be raised to a vote. Voters in a number of those states have voiced overwhelming support in favor of higher minimum wage. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, Delaware, Virginia, Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts have passed higher wages that have been implemented as of January 2015. Cities such as Seattle, Portland, Louisville, and San Francisco have implemented higher minimum wages to support and grow their local economies.

Most recently, Walmart made headlines when it announced that it planned to give its lowest paid employees a wage hike. By April, all employees would earn a minimum of $9 per hour. By February of 2016, the wage will be increased to $10 an hour. The wage hike will affect 500,000 workers.

Walmart can’t take credit for paving the road, however, as GAP and Ikea implemented higher minimum wages for employees last year. While the motive behind the move is mixed, there’s no denying that many other companies are likely to follow in the footsteps of the corporate giant. In fact, today Marshall’s and TJ Maxx announced that they plan to increase the wages of their employees to $9 an hour by June 2015.

Proponents of raising the minimum wage argue that it could have far reaching positive effects on the economy—both on local and national levels. Raising the minimum wage means that those workers are earning more and have more money to spend, thus stimulating the economy. The logic then follows that as people spend more, businesses grow and create an environment that requires more employees.

Additionally, supporters argue that if workers are surviving on higher minimum wage, they are not as likely to rely on social programs for support as they can now support themselves. As a result, there is less stress and expense placed on social programs. Additional positives noted are less turnover as employees with more earning potential are happier in their jobs and less likely to leave.

Needless to say, despite the positives, minimum wage increases has many worried. In fact, in San Francisco, Borderlands Books, a small science fiction, horror and fantasy, was set to close its doors on March 31st due to the wage hike. The wage hike was calculated to result in a 39% increase in wages for his employees in four years—a cost too high for the bookstore to maintain. (Note: Due to savvy business ideas, Borderland Books was able to keep its doors open—for 2015—through the implementation of membership programs and sale of bookstore memorabilia.)

Additional negatives that many believe are created by a minimum wage hike are layoffs, price increases, fewer hirings and increased competition. Smaller businesses simply cannot compensate the same number of employees at a higher wage and thus layoff many. In order to generate enough income to support the increased costs of wages, many business owners will raise the cost of their product. Small businesses also worry that they will not be able to increase their workforce because they won’t be able to afford to pay new employees.

No matter which side of the fence you stand, there is no doubt that minimum wage will be making headlines for the foreseeable future. The question is the impact it will have on the economy.

If Justice Scalia Is Right, Then Let’s Make Law School 7 Years

Earning a law degree takes three years. The only thing worse than the absurd cost of law school is the fact that the third year is generally regarded as a waste of time. Many legal academics and even President Obama have contended that law school should be shortened to two years.

justice scalia law schoolThe Honorable Justice Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court recently spoke on this issue. Convinced that law school should remain three years, he states that law school isn’t a trade school, but something more. To quote: “[Law school] is a school preparing men and women not for a trade but for a profession—the profession of law.”

Although Justice Scalia’s sincerity is touching, and although the high regard he holds for the law is inspiring, his words fail to address the issue at hand: can someone learn to be a successful lawyer in two years? If the answer is “yes,” then what is the actual value of the third year of law school?

I agree that education is important. However, at the end of the day, education is a means to an end. The purpose of law school isn’t something mystical. The purpose of law school is to learn to be a lawyer.

If Justice Scalia is right—that is, if law school is meant to be something more than a “trade school”—then why settle for three years? Why not stretch it out to five? People with Ph.D.’s in medieval studies often go to school for that long—or even longer. Why not elevate the J.D. to the status of the M.D. and keep law students in school for seven years?

It would be one thing if an extra year was just an extra year. A little more education never hurt anyone. However, in the case of law school, an extra year means an extra $50,000+ of debt.

 

Authored by Peter Clarke, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Content Manager. Peter Clarke is also a freelance writer and curates Screenplay Lists.

“Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers”

Going paperless is not only a trendy movement, it’s also a highly practical step to achieving an efficient law office. Many large law firms are already there. However, if you are a sole practitioner and you don’t have your own IT department to carry out the technicalities, then going paperless probably sounds more like a hassle than a revolution.

paperless in one hour for lawyersPaperless in One Hour for Lawyers” by Sheila M. Blackford and Donna S. M. Neff provides a quick and easy guide that is specifically intended for solo practitioners and small firms. Ms. Blackford, a paperless attorney in Oregon as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Law Practice magazine, clearly explains the benefits of going paperless. For example: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is an enormous loss of productivity when you spend even fifteen minutes a day searching for a specific document. If your billable rate is $200 an hour, the cost of fifteen minutes of unproductive time is $50 a day…or $13,000 a year.”

Important information found in “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers” includes a guide to the essential hardware and software you will need, a review of the apps that are available, and an overview of the business practices that should be implemented. The sections are easy to follow and graciously concise. Read the book in one sitting—in one hour—and you’ll be good to go.

Authored by Peter ClarkeLegalMatch Content Manager