Berkeley College Settles Student Deception Suit with NYC

By TalksOnLaw Editorial

New York City Reaches Settlement with For-Profit Berkeley College to Provide Debt Relief to Students   In March 2022, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) reached a settlement with Berkeley College for $20 million in debt relief to former students. Berkeley College is one of the largest for-profit colleges in New York state and has campuses in New York and New Jersey. The settlement resolves a 2018 lawsuit filed by the DCWP in which the city alleged that Berkeley engaged in a variety of deceptive and predatory practices. What were the alleged deceptive and fraudulent practices, and what are the benefits of the settlement for students? DC...


Will Smith Slapped Rock – What Laws Are Implicated?

By TOL Social

Legal Liability for the Slap At this year’s Academy Awards (March 27, 2022), the surprise of the evening was a literal hit. During the ceremony, and very much on camera, Will Smith walked onto the stage and slapped Chris Rock after Rock (one of the evening’s presenters) made a joke about Smith’s wife’s haircut  — “Jada, can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2.” In this post, we’ll take a quick look at the criminal and civil liability that this raises.  (video published by The Guardian, YouTube)   Will Smith hitting Chris Rock — what crime was committed?  Can Will Smith be held criminally liable for slapping Chris Rock? In California, slapping another person is a form of cr...


Grandfather Clauses in Tobacco Laws

By TOL Social

In an effort to cut down on the health costs of tobacco use, two countries are pioneering a new approach to tobacco policy, grandfather clauses in nicotine laws – preserving legal tobacco use only for today's adults and prohibiting sales to adults of the future.    In New Zealand, lawmakers are working to pass one of the world’s strictest tobacco laws, outlawing the sale of tobacco and other nicotine products to anyone born after 2008. As soon as 2027, the legal smoking age could increase every year, effectively banning anyone born after the 2008 cut-off from legally purchasing tobacco products. Similarly, Denmark has announced plans to ban the sale of tobacco products to ...


Can You Inherit an Instagram Account?

By TOL Social

For many, Instagram or IG has become a part of our lives, a place to collect memories and to connect with friends. For others, Instagram can provide a source of income, allowing the account holder to monetize their social media account. But what happens to our accounts after we die? Are our IG accounts digital assets that can be bequested or inherited? The short answer is no. Transferring an IG account after death can be complicated.To get to the bottom of this legal conundrum, we need to understand two things: 1) the contract between Instagram and its users known as the Terms of Use and 2) some basic information about digital assets and how they are transferred.     INSTA...



Extradition Battle: Who Gets Julian Assange?

Who gets Julian Assange? The (in)famous Wikileaks founder was arrested on April 11 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  But with charges still pending in the UK (skipping bail), the possibility of a sexual assault case in Sweden, and a felony charge in the US for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” (helping Chelsea Manning take and release classified military docs), who will end up with custody of the famous white-haired hacker?  While many experts see the U.S. as the favorite for custody, Sweden is also a contender; Assange’s alleged rape victim is pushing Swedish prosecutors to reopen her case.  Another mystery yet unsolved – why after 7 years of asylum (plus Ecuado...

Published: April 11, 2019
Should Sending Nude Pics Be Illegal?

A Texas state senator, backed by the founder of the popular dating app Bumble, is pushing to criminalize unsolicited nude or indecent photos in Texas. The law would apply to images sent over text, social media, and dating apps.   Bumble founder, Whitney Herd, argued before the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, "If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or computer?” The bill, drafted by State Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) and co-authored by Rep Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), would criminalize sending photos of: "(A) a person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person's intimate parts exposed; or (B) covered genitals of a ma...

Published: April 1, 2019
Jussie Smollett–All Charges Dropped

In an example of the broad powers of prosecutorial discredition, Chicago prosecutors dropped all 16 felony charges against Jussie Smollett. The actor had been previously accused of staging a fake hate crime against himself and then lying to police about it.  Without reversing on the allegations from Chicago PD, the DA’s office dropped the charges after Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and perform community service. According to DA Kim Foxx, the crimes may not have been serious enough to merit pursuing further, given that Smollett wasn't likely to face jail time. Kim Foxx said, “This is a Class 4 felony — We recognize that the likelihood that someone would get a pri...

Published: March 27, 2019
Parents Charged with Mail Fraud for Cheating on College Admissions

Federal prosecutors have brought charges against dozens in a high profile admissions fraud case involving purchasing access to the nation’s top universities.  Parents, school coaches, and facilitators who profited from the fraud scheme face charges.  Notable parents include famous lawyers, celebrities (e.g. Aunt Becky from Full House 📸), and prominent CEOs.  The charges against the parents are particularly interesting; they're brought mostly under the broad federal mail fraud laws that ban fraudulent or illegal activities through the US mail systems or carriers and wire fraud, a similar crime that makes use of telecommunications or information technology. For the DOJ's press ...

Published: March 23, 2019
Heroes of Law

Celebrating the women of SCOTUS on International Women's Day!

Published: March 8, 2019
The Felonies of Jussie Smollett

Actor Jussie Smollett stands accused of faking an elaborate hate crime against himself: a choreographed, self-inflicted beating staged with two Nigerian brothers, pre-canned racial slurs, and an actual noose. So what are some of the criminal charges Smollett could face? UPDATE: He was charged with an additional 16 felonies for lying to police on different occasions.  See:

Published: March 7, 2019
Contested Paternity between Identical Twins

► TOL Foreign Law Update A woman is pregnant, and the father is one of two identical twins.  But what happens if each twin claims he is not the father? Well, according to a court in Brazil, both will pay. The twins, referred to by the court as Fernando and Fabrício, are alleged to regularly impersonate one another while pursuing women.  The judge, left unable to identify the father, imposed child support on both men.     Additional Resources For an in depth conversation on bioethics, including the ownership of sperm and contested paternity, watch this interview with Harvard Law Prof. Glenn Cohen.  Click here. For the legal decision (in Portuguese), click here.  ...

Published: April 3, 2019
EU Bans Single-Use Plastics

The European Parliament approves a new law banning single-use plastics by 2021.  The law bans items such as plastic straws, plates, q-tips and plastic cutlery.  Additionally, the new legislation calls for EU states to reach 90% collection targets for all plastic bottles by 2029.  “Today, we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this.” Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission. Additional Resources For details on the ban from the European Parliament, click here. For the EU's factsheet on the new rules reducing plastics and the damage of such plastics to the oceans, click he...

Published: March 28, 2019
Bump Stock Now Illegal

The federal ban on bump stocks is officially law as of March 26, 2019.  Bump stocks modify semiautomatic rifles, allowing them to fire continuously with one pull of the trigger.  Back in December 2018, the Dept of Justice provided owners with 90 days to turn in or destroy their bump stock before banning them outright.  Bump stocks are now included within the federal definition of a "machinegun" in the Gun Control Act (GCA) and the National Firearms Act (NFA). Possessing them can result in fines and a prison term of up to 10 years.  To learn more, read the official Bump-Stock-Type Devices Final Rule released by the Department of Justice December 18, 2018.

Published: March 26, 2019
Justice Thomas Speaks

#THOMASspeaks  Justice Thomas breaks a silence of over three years at the high court. The case involves racial bias in jury selections. Curtis Flowers, tried 6 times for the same murder charges, was convicted after the prosecutor was alleged to have repeatedly removed jurors for being black, violating the so-called Batson rule. What did he ask? He asked about whether jurors were excluded from the 6th trial by the defense and if they were white or black. They were white... Supreme Court Grant of Cert. {This is the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case.}

Published: March 21, 2019
It's Time to Teach Law to Kids

"KIDS DESERVE TO UNDERSTAND THEIR RIGHTS" Teaching teens about the law gives them much more than a bedrock of legal facts; it provides a tool for self-advocacy and a shield against abuse. Take racial or sex discrimination for example. Incidents of being “arrested while black” or being mistreated for being different are unlikely to disappear completely in the near future, so why not train students on how to respond intelligently while preserving their legal rights to combat such injustices. Deportations and immigration enforcements are increasing. Helping a kid learn some of the basic rules of immigration law not only increases awareness, but it can help her down a path to lea...

Published: March 7, 2019
Amazon's Tax Team Takes a Profit of $11B down to a $0 Tax Bill

Another reminder that our friends in tax law can do magic… This week we found out that Amazon, with 2018 profits of $11 billion, will pay $0 in federal tax. How? Well, we know the recent tax cut reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, but, so far, we don’t know which particular loopholes their tax wizards used to drill down from 21% to 0%. In fact, according to reporting from Fortune Magazine, Amazon’s tax team may have moved past zero and are looking to receive a $129M rebate.

Published: March 7, 2019