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April 02, 2011 By: admin Category: Legal Corner



The Women’s Law Project issued a press release commending the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice for its investigation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) where it found major deficiencies and constitutional violations.  Particularly significant was the landmark finding of widespread and pervasive gender bias in NOPD’s handling of crimes involving violence against women. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that a police department has been investigated for gender bias,” said Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.  Ms. Tracy testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs last September about what she characterized as “the chronic and systemic failure” of police departments in many cities, including New Orleans, to properly investigate sex crimes, the victims of which are disproportionately female. 

The Department of Justice Report mirrored Ms. Tracy’s testimony:
We find that NOPD has systematically misclassified large numbers of possible sexual assaults, resulting in a sweeping failure to properly investigate many potential cases of rape, attempted rape, and other sex crimes. We find that in situations where the Department pursues sexual assault complaints, the investigations are seriously deficient, marked by poor victim interviewing skills, missing or inadequate documentation, and minimal efforts to contact witnesses or interrogate suspects.  The documentation we reviewed was replete with stereotypical assumptions and judgments about sex crimes and victims of sex crimes, including misguided commentary about the victims’ perceived credibility, sexual history, or delay in contacting the police.

Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department
US Department of Justice.  March 16, 2011.  Page xi.

The Report also found systemic deficiencies in NOPD’s policies and practices in responding to domestic violence cases, while acknowledging recent improvements due in large part to the creation of the New Orleans Family Justice Center.

“This is a long overdue acknowledgement of gender bias in police practice and we hope police departments throughout the United States will begin self-audits of their practices,” Carol Tracy added.

The Women’s Law Project led a successful reform effort in Philadelphia a decade ago when The Philadelphia Inquirer uncovered similar practices in sexual assault and domestic violence cases in the Philadelphia Police Department.

Equity in Athletics

January 16, 2011 By: admin Category: Legal Corner

Women’s Law Project

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Title IX Audit: Girls Have Fewer Athletic Opportunities, Inferior Facilities, Equipment, Coaching, Publicity

A recently released audit of the nine high schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools system has revealed a stark pattern of gender inequality in athletic programming for female students. 

The audit, released on April 7, 2010, was the work of Peg Pennepacker, an independent auditor with High School Title IX Consulting Services.  The audit was conducted at the request of the Women’s Law Project following complaints from parents and student athletes that girls were being treated unfairly.


The audit revealed that not a single high school is offering girls a fair share of athletic opportunities.  In order to give girls the same access to athletic opportunities that boys have, the school district has to create 784 new athletic opportunities for girls. 

The auditor noted numerous “moderate disparities” in the treatment of female athletes in areas including facilities and locker rooms, scheduling of practices and competitions, number of competitions, coaching, equipment and supplies, training, and publicity.  Among the findings:


•The boys’ locker room at Oliver High School holds 55 lockers, but the girls’ locker room holds only 43 lockers—along with all the equipment for the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams. 

•Brashear High School provides the coaches of football, boys’ basketball and baseball with office space, but there is no office space for the coaches of girls’ teams.

•At Langley High School, football and wrestling are given necessary protective gear, but the girls’ volleyball team does not have enough knee pads to go around.

•All high school football teams and six of the nine wrestling teams are supplied with protective gear, but none of the girls’ teams are: instead, they must buy their own.

•The girls’ basketball coach at Perry High School notes that many girls’ games are played without an athletic trainer on site, a problem the auditor characterized as “a serious liability concern.”

•The girls’ varsity, JV and middle school basketball teams at Brashear practice in the auxiliary gym, which is not regulation size, while the boys’ teams practice in the main gym.

•At Schenley High School, while the baseball team has access to the main gymnasium for practice during inclement weather, there is no indoor practice space for the girls’ softball team.

•Girls are unwelcome in the weight rooms at several schools.  One female student-athlete reported that the Oliver weight room is “for boys only.”  Female athletes at Schenley and Westinghouse said they would like more time in the weight room.

•The Westinghouse High School boys’ track team practices at better facilities (Schenley Oval or Oliver) than the girls’ track team, which uses a “poor to average quality” facility behind the high school at which hurdles are not available for the girls’ practices. 

•A Carrick female tennis player said that “sometimes our team doesn’t get a practice bus. We can’t walk to our courts,” which are 2.5 miles from the school.

•The varsity football teams of all nine high schools compete at Cupples Stadium, a “premiere facility” to which no girls’ team has equivalent access.  Football competitions are scheduled at the most convenient and desirable times; no girls’ sport receives equivalent treatment.

The attitude reflected in the audit’s findings can be summed up in a quote from an unidentified Westinghouse coach:  in Pittsburgh, “girls’ sports are not that important.” 

The audit, which left many questions unanswered (for example, the audit apparently did not examine or analyze the schools’ athletic budgets), is an important first step in addressing systemic sex-based discrimination in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  We applaud the school district for taking this critical first step, and challenge the school board and PPS leadership to take prompt and decisive corrective action.

U.S. Department of Labor Amends the Definition of “Parent” for Medical Leave Purposes

November 01, 2010 By: admin Category: Consumer Education, Legal Corner

 Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act, making the definition of “parent” significantly more inclusive. The decision came from Nancy J. Leppink, the deputy administrator for the department’s Wage and Hour Division, who asserted that “neither the statute nor the regulations restrict the number of parents a child may have under FMLA.”

As a result of the ruling, the words “son and daughter” in the FMLA can now be interpreted as a “biological, adopted or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.” This means that whoever cares for a child on a daily basis is eligible for unpaid medical leave, regardless of the person’s legal obligation to the child. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Leppink’s ruling acknowledges that more people care for children than just biological parents.

A win for non-traditional families in general, the ruling is especially important to same-sex partners who relationships are not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act. The amended law also makes it possible for stepparents, grandparents, or other relatives or guardians who are otherwise responsible for a child’s daily well-being to be recognized as parents without engaging in a formal adoption procedure.

“What does this mean in the real world? It means children can get the support and care they need from the people who love them and are responsible for them,” said Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor. “It means we recognize the importance of a partner who shares in the parenting of a child in a same-sex relationship.”

However, as Ms. Magazine wrote in June, same-sex parents still can’t take time off to care for one another when they are ill – the ruling just applies to taking care of a sick child. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York wants to further expand FMLA regulations to allow medical leave to take care of a same-sex partner. She introduced a bill that would modify the definition of “spouse” to include “a same-sex spouse as determined under applicable state law” – an amendment that works within the confines of DOMA, but would improve conditions for same-sex couples with state-recognized unions.


November 01, 2010 By: admin Category: Legal Corner


When parents become of a certain age, they start thinking about transferring their home into the names of their children for various reasons.  Some want to avoid probate and taxes, and some want to protect it from being taken should they enter a nursing home and need medical assistance.


In either case there is some careful consideration that needs to take place.  It is important to understand that when a parent deeds their real estate to their children, their children are now the owners of the property and their problems may become your problems. 


For example, should a child lose their job and have creditors looking to collect, your house can be taken by their creditors.  Even if they file for bankruptcy, your house may not be protected, because they can only unusually save their primary residence.  This same problem might occur if they are involved in a lawsuit for any reason, including a car accident in which they were under insured.


Another factor to consider is the tax consequences.  Although, if you transfer the real estate and live a year past the date of transfer, there is no inheritance tax, unless your child dies first.  In which case, you have to pay inheritance tax from inheriting it back from your child.  This may be rare, but I have seen it happen.


Capital gains tax may also be of concern when transferring the property.  If your children inherit the property, they pay inheritance tax of 4.5%.  By paying the tax, their basis in the property is the value of the property on your date of death.  If the property is transferred for little or no consideration, their value is the carry over basis, which is essentially what you paid for the house, adjusted for improvements.  When your child goes to sell your house, they may have to pay capital gains tax.


Your biggest concern, however, may be making sure that the home gets passed along to the next generation and is not taken should you enter a nursing home.  A useful planning tool for you may be an Irrevocable Income Only Trust.  The sooner this tool is utilized the better.


As long as you do not need to qualify for medical assistance in the next five years, or you have the money to private pay for a period of time, your house will be protected, passed along to the next generation as you wish, and also have some tax benefits.


Another useful tool may be a Caregiver Agreement.  If a child is living with you and taking care of you, and you wish to leave your home to such child for their help, it is important to have an attorney draft a Caregivers Agreement, to make sure your wishes are carried out, and it can also be used to save the real estate from being taken to help repay a Medicaid claim.


In all cases, simply transferring your real estate to your children may render you ineligible for medical assistance, depending on when it is transferred. 


I know this is a lot of information, and there is a lot more information to be given depending on your individual situation.  Therefore it is important that you consult with an estate and elder law attorney prior to making any real estate transfers.


I am always happy to give a free educational sessions / free consultations, so please do not hesitate to contact me.