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Civil Rights Lawyer Discusses Ferguson, Staten Island event and Grand Juries.

It's unfortunate that I'm writing about something like the recent incidents that took place in Ferguson and Staten Island, considering that it's the year 2014. Being a civil rights lawyer, over the years I've seen and heard about a lot of injustice, and it continues to be disappointing and painful to try to understand how such events could've taken place in today's day and age. Yet, unfortunately, I hear about such discrimination and harassment every single week of my life given my calling.

It's not just about race-even though that's obviously the main issue. But what we need to focus our attention on is the injustice. The injustice of the grand juries and how-and let me emphasize again on how -they both came up with a no indictment.

As if one time in Ferguson wasn't revolting enough, a week later we get the same no indictment in State Island. This speaks volumes to the injustice of the grand jury process in these two matters.

Let me discuss a little about the grand jury process and then focus on how terribly erroneous the grand jury processes were in Ferguson and Staten Island. Not so much the process, but the behavior of the prosecutors.

Eroding Safety And Special Interests

The safety of "ordinary" citizens is regularly sacrificed in the face of motivated special interests. One company employing thousands of people is highly motivated to destroy protections for those workers. Each worker has limited resources to assert his or her rights, so the fight is one-sided. It is a problem that has compromised the rights and interests of almost every American. Special interests impact highway safety in the same way they affect everything else - things get worse for the majority so that a highly interested minority can profit. The latest spending bill being considered by Congress has now had a rider attached to it that could increase trucking accidents and deaths caused by exhausted truck drivers.

A Senator from Maine has chosen to attach a measure to the latest spending bill. The measure would change the maximum allowable work hours for truck drivers from 70 per week to 82. If you are wondering what that has to do with spending, that's a good question. The political reality is that is has nothing to do with spending and everything to do with destroying a hard fought and publicly debated safety measure in the name of trucking company profits. 

Safety Leader Promises Stronger Measures

The man nominated by President Obama to run the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested the agency would take a tougher stance under his leadership. Mark Rosekind also repeated the need for greater resources for the NHTSA if it is going to be effective in its mission to reduce injuries and deaths caused by traffic accidents. The statements were made during Senate hearings to determine if his nomination will be confirmed.

The NHTSA was widely criticized for its handling of two safety defects in automobiles and automobile products. Takata airbags and GM ignition switch defects have been tied to multiple deaths. Both defects were first reported years and years before the affected vehicles were finally recalled. Critics contend that the NHTSA has been too lenient on companies that release unsafe products to consumers. They also contend that the administration has moved too slowly in informing the public about potential safety hazards. 

Pregnancy Bias Case Reaches Supreme Court

Discrimination by another name is still discrimination. Employers have tried to disguise discrimination in many forms over the years. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of gender discrimination that has regularly been "hidden" behind work rules that may appear legitimate on their face. Whether a restriction is legitimate or not has been a matter contested in courtrooms all across the nation. A pregnancy bias case against the United Parcel Service reached the Supreme Court this week.

When a doctor ordered her to avoid lifting heavy objects during her pregnancy, a UPS employee requested light-duty work. UPS had a policy that limited such work to people who suffered workplace injuries, who were considered disabled under federal law, or who lost their driver certification. The policy led UPS to tell the pregnant employee that she could no longer work there, but that she should come back when she was no longer pregnant. UPS has defended the decision by stating that it did not intentionally discriminate against her based on her pregnancy. 

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Trial Lawyer Discusses Product Liability and Civil Justice System

Or . . . What Would Cars be Like without Trial Lawyers?

I'm proud of what I do. Without trial lawyers, you wouldn't be as safe from defective products, as protected from the consequences of carelessness, as secure in your personal and civil rights, as you are. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not. It's why every effort by corporate, banking and insurance interests to take those rights away starts with attacks on lawyers.

You want us on that wall. You need us on that wall.

Along those lines, this is the first in a series of blogs, the theme of which I'll revisit from time to time, wherein I talk about how important the efforts of trial lawyers are, and what a difference we make in the lives of our clients. And remember; there but for the grace of [our efforts to protect you, one case at a time] go thee.

Thanksgiving Advice From U.S. DOT

The U.S. Department of Transportation offers several pieces of advice to help families stay safe over the Thanksgiving holiday. Travel, particularly travel in poor weather conditions, can be hazardous. The added pressure of a holiday can place many drivers in positions they know to be unsafe. Winter holidays almost always see a sharp rise in car accidents and other transportation injuries.

The AAA reports that some 46 million people will be traveling at least 50 miles this Thanksgiving. The transportation system groans under the weight of traffic it normally doesn't hold. Traffic jams, crowded airport terminals, overflowing buses and trains, and the jagged nerves that only holiday travel can cause are a recipe for danger. It is important to stay calm, use good judgment and plan ahead to make Thanksgiving a safe and happy experience for you and your family. 

Fewer Cell Phone Calls Does Not Mean Safer Drivers

Surveys conducted by State Farm have shown that the number of people making cell phone calls while driving has actually dropped since 2009. Unfortunately, drivers have replaced calls with smart phone activities such as checking e-mail, surfing the Internet, checking Facebook or accessing Twitter. Over that time period, the percentage of people who text and drive has remained steady despite the proliferation of laws banning the practice. The total percentage of people using their cell phones in some way while driving has gone up in each of the past six years.

The survey supports the arguments that texting and other cell phone laws have been ineffective and that cell phone use may have an addictive quality. Drivers should be better informed about the dangers of splitting their attention between driving and cell phone use, but that information has not curbed the dangerous behavior. Distracted driving accidents will continue to be a major problem as long as so many people feel free to mix driving with cell phones. 

Hall of Lawsuit Hypocrites: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Employment and Civil Rights Lawyer Discusses The Hypocrisy of the United States Chamber of Commerce

Webster's defines a "hypocrite" as: (1) a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue; (2) a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

Well, how apt.

As an employment and civil rights lawyer, my professional life is dedicated to protecting the 99% of people in this country who aren't corporate fat cats, power-brokers and the elite; in other words, all the workers at all levels of the economy. We don't represent corporations. We don't represent the government. We hold corporations accountable for what they do to workers. We fight discrimination, workplace harassment and abuse, retaliation and wage and hour abuse.

Now, that said, I'm also an employer. But I'd be a hypocrite if, as an employer, I engaged in discrimination, retaliation or workplace abuse. Why? Because I can't be "opposed" to the very conduct I myself engage in. If I did, I'd be putting on a "false appearance of virtue" and acting in "contradiction to my stated beliefs."

So that said, let's talk about the the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There're a few things you need to know about them.

First, they're not a government agency promoting "commerce." In another classic example of lying, they call themselves by a name which implies "official" status, government affiliation, etc. But what they are is a private organization of business interests who lobby for "pro-business" policies and alteration of the way the Courts work to advantage corporate interests at the expense of working people. They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying elected officials to give immunity to the chamber's multinational corporate members. They're "business for business." Not for you.

Third Circuit Upholds New Jersey Ban on 'Gay-Conversion' Therapy

Or . . . You Can't Fix What Isn't Broken - Redux.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Trial Lawyer Kevin Costello Discusses 3d Circuit's Upholding of New Jersey's Ban on 'Gay-Conversion' Therapy

I posted a Blog in December of last year which followed on a Blog of even earlier than that about the subject of "Gay-Conversion" Therapy. As I get older, I've become more blunt and less apologetic about calling bullshit what it is.

My first Blog on the subject was about the Bill which sought to ban this type of "therapy" in New Jersey. Before we go on, let's stop calling it "therapy" and call it was it is: mental abuse disguised as "therapy" which is in turn cover for religious terrorism. Calling it "therapy" nicely protects this brainwashing from exposure as nothing more than an attempt by religious people (the parents as well as the "therapist") to force gay people - usually very young, very vulnerable gay people - into being "cured" of sexual orientation in accordance with religious doctrine. The therapy might not mention religious doctrine, but it's always at the root of this bullshit "therapy."

Sometimes, sadly, people in charge of their own fates do it to themselves, because they've been raised in such a doctrinaire environment that they can't get that mental poisoning out of their heads, and they live with guilt over the fact that they're homosexual and hate themselves for it. Obviously, the vast majority of the victims, on the other hand, are minor people under the age of 18 who have little choice but to abide by their parents' or guardians' wishes in undergoing this "therapy." They may even hope to succeed or attempt willingly and wholeheartedly to buy into it, but this "therapy" can't "fix" or "cure" homosexuality because homosexuality isn't a choice or a disease, it's simply a biological condition. It's like offering a dog a "cure" so he can be the "cat" "nature" (deity) "intended."

So now that we know what this "therapy" actually is, let's discuss.

How Unsafe Trucks And Truck Drivers Remain On The Roads

There is no shortage of regulations aimed at the trucking industry. Many of these regulations are intended to ensure that truck drivers are well rested, properly trained, have safe driving records and are monitored. Trucks are supposed to be carefully maintained, properly loaded and designed for safety. Trucking companies are supposed to employ competent, safe drivers, keep their trucks in good working order and provide a working atmosphere that is conducive to safety. As with many regulations, these are often ignored when they get in the way of profit.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration monitors trucking companies. Unfortunately, it is possible for a company to compile a lousy safety record over a long period of time while still maintaining the right to drive on American roads. Bad employers are allowed to operate in ways that almost guarantee an accident. Drivers may be pressured to drive unsafe hours and falsify log books to keep their jobs. Trucks may be "maintained" by unqualified or even incompetent mechanics. Repeated violations may not draw a strong response until someone is killed. 

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