Kentucky Responds to Cyberbullying

The Kentucky Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of using offensive text messages as a form of bullying in a case out of McCracken County in Beasley v. Com., 2011-SC-000129-MR (Ky. 2012)   It was determined that the “content of the messages themselves tends to show that such communication served no legitimate purpose and reflected [the Defendant’s] intent to intimidate, harass, annoy, or alarm.”  The case deals with the subject of harassing communications which is forbidden by KRS 525.080

The Supreme Court case did not involve school bullying.  But it does raise the subject of how offensive text messages and other forms of electronic communication can be addressed by schools since texting is so pervasive among school students.

According to this article in The Kentucky Law Journal published by the University of Kentucky College of Law, the legislature should empower school officials to tackle the subject of cyberbullying.  Schools are already required to develop student conduct policies as described in KRS 158.148  The author of the Kentucky Law Journal article believes that Kentucky’s General Assembly needs to enact an amended version of the school conduct statute to address geographical limitations related to off-campus harassment and that the law also needs to provide a definition of cyberbullying. The author believes that such changes would recognize that the existing geographical limitations might be inadequate for schools to provide a safe and productive learning environment.

Regardless of what the General Assembly decides to do, rapid innovations mean that technology is often advancing more rapidly than the law … and that means that the law will frequently be faced with playing catch-up in order to keep pace with new technology in order to prevent its misuse.

Remember to Regularly Review Death Beneficiary Designations

When a person names new beneficiaries in a Will, it is important to remember to also change the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, pensions, payable-on-death accounts at banks, life insurance policies, and similar financial products that have automatic death-beneficiaries.  Those types of accounts pass outside of probate and probably won’t go to the Will drafter’s intended beneficiaries unless he or she also changes the death beneficiary on such accounts.

In spite of the fact that he named his children as his beneficiaries in his Will, one family found out, much to their dismay, that their father’s Individual Retirement Account would not pass to them, according to this article on Yahoo Finance.

This article should serve as a reminder that, regardless of the named beneficiaries in a Will, persons should regularly check the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and the like in order to make sure that funds passing outside of probate will go to the intended recipients.

Electronic Filing Coming To Kentucky State Courts

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Electronic filing of legal pleadings is already a fixture in our federal court system.  And now the Kentucky state court system is taking steps to make the transformation to e-filing.  A special announcement will be made today at the Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention:

eFilng is coming to Kentucky state courts and attorneys can learn more about the program during the KBA Annual Convention. Legal staff from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will be on hand from 10:40 a.m.-12:40 p.m., Wednesday, June 18, to present a session entitled “The Past, Present and Future of eFiling in Kentucky’s Courts” in Ballroom C of the convention center. The presentation will include an overview of plans for the pilot project, an explanation of the rules and a full demonstration of the eFiling program. The session will also provide information on the judicial branch’s strategic vision and five-year plan to transform court technology inside and outside Kentucky courthouses.

Those who participate in the session will be invited to visit the AOC’s eFiling lab, where they can complete training and receive eFiling credentials. Training is required in order to be able to eFile. The lab will be in the multipurpose room of the Kenton County Justice Center in Covington. The AOC will also have a booth at the annual conference where attendees can see eFiling demonstrations and ask questions about the process.

“Moving from a paper-based environment to one that is primarily electronic will transform the way Kentucky courts do business,” Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., said. “The cost savings to the court system will be substantial and the state’s entire legal system will become more efficient when we process court cases electronically.”  

Source: Kentucky Bar Association

 

The Legal Profession in Popular Culture

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Although the “real life” practice of law seldom resembles the movies, the public’s perception of lawyers is frequently shaped by how attorneys are portrayed in the popular media.  Sometimes the portrayals are for good and sometimes not so good.

The American Bar Association Journal selected the top 25 legal movies (plus 25 more honorable mentions) concerning the legal profession.  The list is here: ABA Journal Lists Top 25 Legal Movies

The Advertising Process for Kentucky Lawyers

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By Kerry D. Smith

McMurry & Livingston, PLLC

Kerry Smith is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association Attorneys’ Advertising Commission

The Kentucky Rules of the Supreme Court regulate the content and the manner by which Kentucky lawyers can advertise.  One of these rules, for instance, requires that the phrase “THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT” appear in the ad.  On the other hand, certain types of communication are exempt from the advertising rules.  Although all advertisements must be submitted to the Kentucky Bar Association Attorneys’ Advertising Commission, the lawyer submitting the ad must pay a fee in some instances but not in others.

The different treatment for information about a lawyer’s services (why the Rules cover certain communications but not others, why a fee is owed for some submissions but not others, etc.) is explained in the following chart, based upon the current version of the Rules:

Ky. Attorney Advertising Flowchart

It is important to remember that if an attorney is in doubt about whether a proposed advertisement complies with the Rules that he or she has the option to submit the ad, in advance, to the KBA AAC for an advisory opinion. 

Mapping Out The Judicial Process

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By Kerry D. Smith

McMurry & Livingston, PLLC

According to the old saying, “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been.”

It’s easy to get lost when navigating through the court system.  Like a traveler setting out on a journey, it’s useful to have a map in hand before departure.

Below are links to two flowcharts generally depicting the stages of a lawsuit, one chart for a civil case proceeding through federal court and the other chart for a civil case making its way through state court in Kentucky:

Federal Flow Chart Civil

State Flow Chart Civil

The primary difference is that in federal court, there is a scheduling conference conducted after the initial pleading stage but before the discovery stage in order to set deadlines and ground rules.  In Kentucky state court, the discovery process usually proceeds with less court supervision until one party or the other brings a motion to schedule the case for trial.

Of course, a case can run into detours or roadblocks depending upon developments along the way.  But if the parties have a good understanding of where they are going and where they have been then hopefully the journey can be streamlined to move as efficiently as possible.

We the People ….

constitution

The National Constitution Center website provides an interactive guide to the United States Constitution.  You can read the foundation document for the Nation’s legal system.