Friday morning docket: Tailgate edition

January 30, 2009

ballCongress continues to wrangle with President Barack Obama’s plan to stimulate the nation’s economy as new indicators show the fiscal crisis is just getting worse. Meanwhile, Obama is reported to be hosting group of union leaders at the White House today, where he will undo several Bush-era executive orders that have been criticized as anti-union. And all is quiet at One First Street, NE, as the Supreme Court is on a nearly month-long hiatus.

As you prepare your Super Bowl party menus, here’s a quick look at legal news headlines:

Preempting preemption? Bad news for preemption proponents: Obama is ushering in a new era of “progressive federalism” by giving states more leeway to regulate environmental, consumer protection and other issues. (NYT)

A sticky situation: Lawmakers are looking into stricter regulations on food producers to prevent massive and costly recalls of dangerous products, like the recent peanut butter salmonella fiasco. (NYT)

No illegal credit? GOP sources say the new economic stimulus plan making its way though congress expressly bars illegal immigrants and nonresident aliens from receiving tax credits. But Democrats say the bill has nothing to do with immigration, and accused the GOP of scare tactics. (AP)

Cramdown bill advances: A bill that would give bankruptcy judges more leeway in adjusting homeowners’ mortgage terms has advanced in Congress. (Lawyers USA)

Another E-Verify delay: The federal government has again delayed implementation of a rule requiring all companies working on federal contracts to electronically check the legal working status of their employees through the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system. (Lawyers USA)


Senator to Microsoft: lay off foreign workers first

January 29, 2009

Sen. Chuck Grassley has something to say to Microsoft about the way the company plans to implement its recently-announced layoffs: Axe the foreign employees first to save more Americans’ jobs.

But such a plan might violate anti-discrimination laws, some legal experts say.

grassleyGrassley, who has often decried the of the use of “special occupation” H-1B visa program in the tech industry, sent a letter to Microsoft last week after the company announced it would eliminate 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months.

Noting that last year Microsoft executives went to Capitol Hill to urge for an increase of H-1B visas, Grassley urged the company to prioritize American employees.

“H-1B and other work visa programs were never intended to replace qualified American workers,” Grassley’s letter stated.  “Certainly, these work visa programs were never intended to allow a company to retain foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American workers, when that company cuts jobs during an economic downturn.

“It is imperative that in implementing its layoff plan, Microsoft ensures that American workers have priority in keeping their jobs over foreign workers on visa programs….Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times,” Grassley continued.

Grassley went on to ask the company which types of positions were being eliminated, how many are held by American workers and which are filled by foreign guest workers, and how many guest workers will remain after the reduction in force is completed.

But Cletus Weber, partner at the immigration law firm Peng & Weber, told The Seattle Times that targeting H-1B visa holders might be a legally risky move for Microsoft.

“I know of no immigration law that would require Microsoft or any other U.S. company to lay off its lawfully employed foreign workers first,” Weber told the paper. “To the contrary, I believe arbitrarily laying off lawfully employed foreign workers first would subject these companies to potential legal liability under federal anti-discrimination laws.”


Yuletide wrap

December 24, 2008


DC Dicta will be taking a holiday hiatus until after the New Year. But before you rush off to do all that last-minute gift shopping, here’s one last look at the legal news:

Chamber’s suing mad: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the legality of a Bush administration rule requiring all companies working on federal contracts to electronically check the legal working status of their employees through the E-Verify system. (Lawyers USA)

IRA help must wait for New Year: Congress has passed a bill that will suspend the rule requiring retirees over the age of 70 1/2 to withdraw a certain amount from their retirement accounts in 2009. But the Treasury Department announced that no such similar suspension will be made for 2008, meaning anyone who has yet to meet the minimum distribution requirement must do so by Dec. 31. (Lawyers USA)

Holiday Pardons: President Bush issued 19 pardons this week – but none was for Scooter Libby. (Washington Post, New York Times)

FDA takes another look at BPA: First the FDA called the chemical safe, then a wave of scientific reports questioned that finding. Now the FDA is taking another look at the chemical bisphenol-A, a controversial component found in products such as baby bottles. (New York Times)

Pleading the Fifth – a little too late: A witness in convicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ corruption trial said he should have evoked his constitutional right not to testify instead of taking the stand and incriminating himself. (AP)

Luck be a justice tonight: How does someone become a Supreme Court justice? Says retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: be “the right person in the right spot at the right time. Simply stated, you must be lucky.” (USA Today)

The year that was: As the year comes to a close, here’s a look at the most popular online stories of the year from Lawyers USA. (Lawyers USA)

Happy Holidays!

Most deportation defendants go without lawyers

September 3, 2008

More than half – 58 percent – of defendants facing deportation hearings in immigration courts do not have legal representation, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the courts, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.

Immigration advocates looking for a solution for the problem say they are hampered by the complex nature of immigration laws, making it hard for lawyers in other areas to take on pro bono cases effectively. Advocates say that the only way to solve the attorney shortage is a public defender-type program.

Unlike in criminal courts, immigration court proceedings do not come with the constitutional right to legal counsel.

This issue comes as the federal government vowed to increase raids and other measures designed to apprehend people living in the United States illegally. The Washington Post reports that most of the immigrants detained – including hundreds detained at a single Mississippi plant last week – are not charged criminally.