How Roe v. Wade Could Affect Business Law In The Future

Abortion laws are front and center when it comes to Election Day 2022 and beyond. States governed by Republicans have started to adopt extreme new laws aimed at reducing the legal timeframe to acquire an abortion while allowing private citizens the right to sue when they couldn’t previously. This could result in large amounts of money spent to find the right candidate, fight radical laws, and sue without merit.

An anonymous lawyer for Robert Seder said, “The consequences of these new actions won’t truly be known for many years. What we can say is this: when you’re forcing women to carry a child when they would rather terminate the pregnancy, there are two obvious common outcomes. One is personal. Women are more likely to hurt themselves to abort the child outside of clean, safe clinics. The second is based on standard operating procedure for businesses. Owners will need to pay for parental leave more often than before, which costs money — and guarantees that the number of lawsuits will increase, and soon.”

There are four likely Republican candidates for governor of Pennsylvania come November. They lobby for loosening regulations of natural gas, guns, and corporate taxes. They also want to increase the regulations of abortion. Under current law, Pennsylvania residents can acquire a legal abortion at least 24 weeks into a pregnancy. A Republican governor would likely reduce the time frame available to pregnant mothers to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

State Senator Doug Mastriano promised to enact just such a bill. There would be no exceptions for pregnancies tied to rape or incest. 

Mastriano would prefer to restrict abortion completely. “I’m at conception, we’re gonna have to work our way towards that,” he said.

Other Republican candidates agree.

Recent polls found that around 60 percent of all Americans prefer that Roe v. Wade should remain intact, while only 27 percent believe it should be overturned. More than half of the states are likely to ban abortion entirely if Roe v. Wade is overturned in the Supreme Court.

Many states have “trigger laws” surrounding abortion — meaning they go into effect the second a federal law like Roe v. Wade is removed from the books. For example, Alabama has a near-total abortion trigger law ready to go into effect. The state constitution guarantees no protections under the law for those who perform or receive abortions. Pennsylvania has no such laws ready to be upheld, but a new governor might change that quickly.

In 2019, more than 180 CEOs with over 100,000 employees signed a national ad aimed at reasserting their commitment to reproductive care and less restrictive laws. These businesses included Bloomberg, Zoom, Yelp, Postmates, and H&M. 

These business owners explained that reproductive health is linked to overall health and economic security — and even equality. Take away a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body and you take away her equality.

Can A Good Friend File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Pennsylvania?

Let’s say your best friend, John Smith, was killed in a horrific car accident. You want to know what you can do on his behalf. Who is entitled to compensation? Can you sue John Smith for your friend’s wrongful death? The short answer is “it depends — but probably not.” Here’s what you need to know before you decide to hire an attorney or go to court.

First and foremost, Pennsylvania Rule 2202 governs wrongful death lawsuits and clearly explains that only a deceased individual’s “personal representative” may build such a case. You might be thinking that you could be your deceased friend’s personal representative as easily as any of his close family members, but that probably isn’t the case. Unfortunately, only the family can assign a personal representative. This representative is legally allowed to bring the case to court, but that doesn’t mean that the representative stands to benefit.

The only way you can be compensated for your friend’s death is if you were defined as a beneficiary in your friend’s will — in which case it won’t matter whether you bring the suit yourself or the representative does. Should the case prove victorious in court, the representative will become responsible for dispersing those funds to the appropriate beneficiaries. 

Should the family decline to appoint a personal representative within six months of the victim’s death, then anyone allowed to recover damages may file a motion in court to recover those damages. However, for a good friend to recover damages, they still need to be mentioned as a beneficiary in the will. Without this clarification, a friend cannot legally file suit.

A person or organization that was negligent in the death of the aforementioned individual can be sued for wrongful death. Beneficiaries stand to recoup funeral expenses, loss of benefits or services, estate administration costs, and lost income. Families can also sue for pain and loss.

Can Online Casinos Refuse To Pay A Player’s Winnings?

Imagine you spent your pandemic months playing online casino games through a big, well- known manufacturer. You were delighted when you won big, hitting the jackpot during a round of slots. Then, the casino gave you the bad news: “Sorry, there was a bug in our system. We’re not going to pay you!” Are they legally required to pay simply because you saw the words on your computer screen? And what if there really was a bug? Aren’t they responsible for their faulty computer programming?

That’s the case before the U.S. District Court in Camden, which was filed late last year.

Yardley, Pennsylvania resident Lisa Piluso said, “I’m an experienced online player, and I was shocked when AGS officials, including the company president, told me they weren’t going to pay, even when I showed them the screenshot that I made of the $100,000 jackpot.”

She added, “They said I actually won about $300, but they then offered me $1,000, saying we were ‘nice people.’ How many other players have been in the same situation but agreed to settle for a fraction of their winnings after being told they, too, were ‘nice people?’”

CM Law representatives in New Jersey said, “It’s not unusual for online casinos to refuse to cash out winnings. Many casinos have wagering requirements, ID requirements, et cetera, but what is strange is for a reputable company to fail to pay a legitimate winner. Whoever was responsible is probably taking some heat for the ‘bug’ right now, if it’s even real.”

In this case, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement took Piluso’s concerns seriously. But a subsequent investigation found that AGS had reported a bug in their system. Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Russo-Belles wrote, “This error caused the patron(s) to believe that their bonus round winnings were higher than the actual winnings.”

AGS was fined $1,000 for failing to make the game run properly online. Attorneys for AGS failed to respond to the Associated Press when asked to comment.

Piluso’s lawsuit — which is joined by 13 other gamblers — says that the company is guilty of consumer fraud and has made other allegations. The case is still making its way through court.

What should you do when an online casino refuses to pay you? First, be sure that you provided the casino with the appropriate ID and documentation. Be able to show that you made the wagering requirement. Take screenshots of the apparent victory. Document the gaming and payment history, balance, and save any email correspondence between you and the casino. What does customer service have to say? Keep all of this communication recorded. Put everything you know in a folder. Then contact gambling commissions to find out what you can do. 

The last resort is filing a lawsuit. Although it wasn’t the case with Piluso, many “online” casinos are based outside of the United States. That means a U.S. lawyer won’t necessarily be able to take your case. It also means the process could be more expensive.

What Laws Were Violated When A Pittsburgh Pipeline Exploded?

ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC was slammed with nine counts of violating the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, which governs a company’s responsibility for dumping pollutants. The subsidiary of Dallas-based company Energy Transfer LP was tasked with constructing a natural gas pipeline to deliver the utility to neighboring Butler County. During construction, an explosion was reported near Pittsburgh.

Several private vehicles, a barn, and a home were destroyed by a blaze triggered by the explosion — which occurred after a landslide in 2018. No one was injured.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the “explosion happened because of Energy Transfer’s negligence as they built the Revolution pipeline.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection slammed the company with a $30 million fine following the accident.

It’s unlikely the explosion will be the last incident.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1842 was advanced late last year, and would provide the DEP with 12 month to resolve questions about how much of specific pollutants companies can legally dump before reporting. Currently, companies must report spills no matter what the pollutant is or how much is spilled. The law’s opposition argues that the new law isn’t pragmatic and will make enforcement nearly impossible.

Representative David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster) sponsored the bill. He said, “DEP is all about writing reports and issuing fines, but cleaning up actual spills and determining them as true pollutants seems to not be their forte.”

Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) argued, “We are being asked to force DEP to anticipate every possible spill scenario ahead of time and write regulations dictating the regulatory requirements for each one.”

Consider that most new regulations take at least 24 months to write, and you have an idea that Frankel is on the right track.

Governor Wolf opposes the new law. His administration released a statement saying the bill  “makes it easier to pollute our waters by eliminating critical safeguards in the Clean Streams Law that protect our waterways.”

Kids Vulnerable To Sexual Abuse In State Prisons

One of the most controversial aspects of the American system of incarceration is that many prisons operate on a for-profit basis — meaning that prison administrators have financial incentives to keep prisoners locked away for as long as possible. In Pennsylvania, this resulted in a “kids for cash” scandal where two judges were convicted for bribery when they sent kids away to juvenile facilities in return for money. The increased occupancy allowed administrators to reap the rewards until they were caught.

At face value, proponents of these for-profit systems tend to argue that keeping dangerous individuals locked away for longer is hardly a danger to society at large.

But others look at the rising tide of sexual abuse in juvenile prisons around the country. In juvenile prisons in particular, there is a concerning level of sexual activity — much of it defined as assault. In 2012, 9.5 percent of young adults housed in these facilities were sexually active. The number has fallen slightly in the years since, but is still an epidemic problem.

An anonymous lawyer for said the “kids for cash” scandal is one of the best examples of why the system needs changes at the most fundamental level: “Any system that allows others to profit from the incarceration of an individual who is supposed to have constitutional rights, both at the state and federal level, should be dismantled and rebuilt. We need change, and more people are starting to realize that.”

Former National Prison Rape Elimination Commission officer Brenda Smith said, “Sexual abuse of any kind, even with the best reporting system, is always underreported. There needs to be education. The kids need to have training. They need to have access to confidential ways of reporting. I don’t see it happening at the state level until there is a scandal.”

Executive Director of Texas Appleseed (a reform non-profit organization) Deborah Fowler said two years ago, “It’s just not a system that makes sense in 2020. We know a lot more today than we did [when detention centers were created] about what kids need and what works, and how to structure a system so that kids’ needs are being met and they are not being victimized.”

One of the biggest reasons why opponents of for-profit juvenile prisons say they don’t work is that judges act as both adjudicators and wardens — meaning they hold the authority both to shut these prisons down and send inmates to reside in them. This leaves the system without checks and balances that other aspects of government use to reign in power imbalances.

Fowler said, “I would like to see every single one of those youth prisons closed because I don’t believe they’re ever going to be effective or safe places for young people. The problem with the system is not that PREA, [a law that allows sexual assaults to be reported] is flawed, the problem with the system is that the system is flawed.”

Will New PA Laws Affect The 2024 Elections?

Not sure what could happen in the 2024 elections for the presidency, House of Representatives, and Senate? Look no further than Pennsylvania, one of many states where the G.O.P. is trying to radically change voting laws. Governor Tom Wolf has prevented new voting restrictions from being implemented in the state, but a new Republican governor could pave the way. Want mail-in voting? Tough luck.

Republicans want to almost completely eliminate the practice.

“Trump is looming over this whole thing. Everyone knows if Trump comes out and endorses a candidate, then all bets are off,” said Republican organizer Val Biancaniello.

Republicans want to change voting procedures to reduce fraudulent voting (which is already not a concern when it comes to swaying elections) when justifying attempts to make it more difficult to vote in largely Democratic jurisdictions.

State Representative Seth Grove (Republican-York), introduced a bill that would overhaul the election system with additional measures like stricter voter ID requirements, mail ballot signatures, etc.

Other measures make more sense. The law would allow counties to process mail-in ballots before Election Day, allow early voting (but only beginning after the 2024 election), expand the mail-in ballot deadline, and allow voters to “cure” ballots that were thrown away. 

Grove said, “I view this as our method of doing our best to protect voting rights. We do that through increased accessibility, we do that through increased security, and we do that through modernization.”

The bill would have been called the Voting Rights Protection Act (HB1300). House Speaker Bryan Cutler (Republican-Lancaster) said, “Pennsylvanians must have faith in their elections and this bill is another piece of restoring the public’s trust.”

Of course, much of that trust was eroded by the “Big Lie.”

Governor Wolf described it as “a voter suppression bill.”

Senator David Argall (Republican-Schuylkill) said, “I feel like I’m working in a room filled with gasoline fumes, and there’s more than a few people running around flickering their lighters.”

No Justice For Slain Pennsylvania Immigrant

The family of a murdered Jamaican immigrant who lived in rural Pennsylvania has called the killing a “modern-day lynching” and wants to see justice. 29-year-old Peter Bernardo Spencer was invited on a nature outing by a former coworker. He accepted. He was then found dead in the neighbor’s front yard. Crimes might be common in southern states, but in Pennsylvania such an allegation is rare.

The legal expertise necessary to find a DA willing to prosecute such cases was unexpected for the family’s lawyers, who say that the amount of evidence against the three possible culprits was staggering. Police found firearms, drugs, and ballistic evidence in addition to the body. But still, no one has been charged.

How can that be?

One lawyer for said, “We see a number of cases involving immigrants and their families who have experienced hate crimes in New Mexico. Our firms receive dozens of related complaints every month, but that’s not something a lawyer in Pennsylvania is likely to be familiar with. That’s why we help each other out every once in a while.”

The shooter has claimed self-defense. But Spencer was shot at least nine times, and the autopsy report suggested many of the shots were fired from behind. The body was found face-down.

Pathologist Cyril Wecht said, “My initial thought is that it’s absurd to talk about self-defense with nine gunshot wounds.”

One of Spencer’s siblings prepared a GoFundMe page for the family’s legal expenses, and wrote, “He was slaughtered and killed in what I consider an act of modern-day lynching.”

Spencer’s mother said, “My son was not perfect, but he did not like anyone around him who did not work. He worked hard, and he was always encouraging others, motivating them to do better.”

The man apparently dreamed of opening a restaurant — but that dream will never be fulfilled now.

Chair of Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus William Anderson has attempted to contact Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the United States Department of Justice in order to ask that charges be made — but so far, to no avail. Many have asked if racial bias has anything to do with the case. Others have asked whether or not an arrest would have been made if the details were in reverse: What if Spencer were the shooter and claimed self-defense against the white man, found with nine gunshot wounds face-down in the dirt?

The family’s hope has been revitalized now that the public seems to be taking an interest in the case.

Anderson said, “This is now a national and international issue. The cat’s out of the bag, this is no longer a secret. Now we are following the blueprint of past civil rights activists that have gotten justice for Black people in this country by involving Blacks around the world to get justice and demanding justice for Peter Spencer.”

Jamaica Diaspora Northeast USA representative Dr. Karren Dunkley said, “When this story was brought to our attention we could not believe that anyone Black or white, but here you have a Jamaican national, 29 years old, shot nine times, no one is arrested. There is not a clear narrative of what happened.”

New Pennsylvania Laws You Should Know About

Many new laws will be incorporated into the Pennsylvania legal doctrine beginning in the New Year or shortly thereafter. As always, there are only a few you really need to know about. Of the thousands of laws that were introduced into the state House and Senate, only around 100 were actually signed into law. Here are the most important ones.

Pennsylvania residents voted to limit the emergency powers of the governor, which will prevent the person in office keeping in place a state of emergency longer than necessary.

The courts also stripped the executive’s power to issue mask mandates in schools without using processes already in place (slow ones).

Are you a senior in need of prescription assistance? You might have an easier time now, because the caps were recently raised substantially.

A new law allows retired teachers and even educators with expired certification to help fill the void left by a substitute teacher shortage. This law is active until the end of the 2023 school year.

Another law will allow some students to take nurse aide training programs online. The purpose of the law is to provide students with the power to complete the training programs as quickly as possible by making them easier to schedule.

Government boards must now publish an agenda at least 24 hours before a meeting takes place. This law was written to eliminate the tradition of surprise votes before the public has an opportunity to make an opinion.

One law increases the penalties for anyone who helps a disabled person or minor commit suicide. 

Pennsylvania will enact the first state Persian Gulf Veterans Day on March 6, Global War on Terrorism Veterans Day on October 7, and First Responders Day  on September 27.

Lastly, a new law will stiffen penalties for those convicted of possessing, creating, or disseminating child pornography. The law also jumpstarts a new task force to review current child pornography laws in order to improve them.

Undocumented Immigrants Could Be Eligible For Drivers Licenses

One of the biggest sticking points in conservative circles is that undocumented individuals have no accountability. Although this is a verifiably false statement, it does make sense to ask undocumented immigrants to obey the same laws and rules as the rest of us. The Pennsylvania organization “Driving PA Forward” would like to see Pennsylvania House Bill 279 passed into law. The bill would extend the right to a drivers license to some undocumented individuals.

An anonymous lawyer for the Law Office of Robert Freeman explained that similar programs in other states work: “Ultimately, pilot programs aimed at giving undocumented individuals access to drivers licenses makes our roads safer and allows them to acquire insurance — which reduces the impact of insurance rate hikes for the rest of us. Most undocumented workers in states across the country have to break the law to drive to work. That gives anti-immigration groups the ammo they need to call all undocumented individuals ‘criminals.’”

The purpose of the law is the “passage of legislation regarding accessibility of a standard driver’s license with strict privacy and data protections for all Pennsylvanians regardless of immigration status.”

H.B. 279 would nix the current portion of the law that requires individuals to show proof of lawful status to be eligible for a license. 

Other advocates of similar programs in other states say that the push could even reduce the current supply chain shortages. 

President Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council wrote, “Immigration reform can help the Wisconsin economy at a time when the demographics of an aging society are chipping away at the state’s workforce, from its kitchens, farms and resorts to its research laboratories and tech companies.”

Currently 16 states and Washington D.C. allow undocumented individuals to apply and receive drivers licenses regardless of legal status: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Undocumented individuals still need to work to fulfill basic needs, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that at least 30 percent of jobs in the United States require a private vehicle. Undocumented individuals should be allowed to fill about 30 percent of the available jobs in the United States, and it should not be made more difficult than it already is. 

Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera said, “The absence of driver’s licenses for undocumented workers at the state level impacts the construction industry.”

According to HousingWire, the “construction worker shortage has reached ‘crisis’ levels with there being currently 300,000 to 400,000 open construction positions on a monthly basis.”

Currently, Wisconsin is home to around 32,000 people who are ineligible to receive a license because of legal status. Other states are home to many more. 

Republicans have long argued against these measures, contending that undocumented workers would have an easier time voting illegally with valid identification — even though our system makes this near-impossible.

Should Marijuana-Related Crimes Be Expunged?

Many states are legalizing recreational marijuana. One of the biggest ideas has been to let everyone who was arrested for possession out of jail — and then subsidize starting a marijuana business for those individuals. Others go beyond “good ideas” and want legal action taken to expunge the records of those who were convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses. It’s not hard to figure out why. Society is starting to consider marijuana arrests, both past and present, as silly.

A bipartisan bill drafted by Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio and Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York would fund these expungement programs at the state level.

Even this is difficult, though, because the government still classifies the drug as Category I — which, right along with heroin, is the most dangerous classification a drug can possess. Of course most of us know that the reasons behind these classifications are hardly scientific. No, they’re political.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agrees. He tweeted, “The message across the country is clear: The vast majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. @RonWyden, @SenBooker, and I are working to pass our Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to end the federal prohibition and repair the harm done by the War on Drugs.”

The war, of course, was an abysmal failure — unless its underlying goals involved putting an enormous number of disproportionately African Americans in jail for non-violent crimes. 

Naturally, others have raised concerns to the presented legislation. Senator Robert Portman (R-OH) worries that marijuana will be laced with fentanyl to become much more dangerous than it is right now. 

And Representative Jay Obernolte (R-CA) tweeted his concern for “illegal marijuana operations in California that are stealing our water, inserting harmful pesticides into our ecosystems, and wreaking havoc on our public lands.”

It’s amazing how worried Republican representatives suddenly become regarding the environment when recreational marijuana filters into the debate! 

We’ll see where the legislation goes. But it seems unjust to continue putting people in jail for non-violent crimes that most states no longer criminalize.