Medicare recovery process demystified.

Practitioners for plaintiffs and defendants alike shiver upon hearing the words Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor. Fear not lawyers who have internet access, the MSPRC has availed itself of modern technology and done lawyers a huge favor at the same time with the the MSPRC website, which is robust, user-friendly, and full featured with forms, letters, tool kits, and contact information. My favorite part is the MSPRC flow-chart of the overview of the recovery process. The Letters section has a menu with codes that correspond to the various letters sent during the recovery process. Identify the code on your letter and find the corresponding menu. You can click for a brief description of the letter, but the best feature is the advice on what step to proceed to next on the flow chart. Very cool stuff for attorneys suffering through the process.

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In UK violent rape will carry tougher penalties.

In England and Wales policymakers propose a fifteen year minimum jail time for conviction of violent rape crimes. The Guardian U.K.  reports that the Sentencing Council responsible for research, revision, and establishment of punitive sentencing has made its first recommendation. The occurrence of sex crimes has swelled in the last decade and the sentencing committee spent two years reviewing penalties concerning sexual offenses. The outcome of years of work appears to address the most heinous cases of rape-instances where severe violence is employed. The committee should be applauded for taking up the issue of sex crimes, which is an unusual but much needed course of action.

Lawmakers in the United States should should follow the lead of our common law allies. Crimes against the most vulnerable members of the population should be prosecuted aggressively and carry heavy penalties. If rape is not a federal crime, it should be. Louisiana should lead progress and enact criminal statutes that balance the victim’s rights, as opposed to having knee-jerk reactions that place fault on the victim. Admittedly, there is much more work to do ahead in the U.K., but at least putting the issue on the table that violent rape is absolutely intolerable is step in the right direction.

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Should courts be televised?

What appears to be a progressive move, the court of appeal in England and Wales is expected to begin videotaping courtrooms while court is in session. On this side of the pond there has been some reticence to allowing court proceedings to be recorded for public consumption, especially after the sensationalism of the infamous O.J. Simpson trial. However, concerns surrounding broadcasting the British court are much more practical than the worry that judicial proceedings will be reduced to reality T.V. Among them are the possibility of profanity-such as reading testimony or statements that include language that may be inappropriate for some viewers. Protection of trade secrets, confidential, proprietary, information as well as the identity of witnesses who wish to remain anonymous (beyond the court room) is another concern. To address these matters the courts have simply placed the video journalist under the jurisdiction of the court, and must obey court orders. Including whether to pause or to enjoin the video of sensitive witnesses. Read more about the televising of courts in England on the Guardian’s website.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the United States has opposed video taping of any kind for decades. In fact, it is a federal crime to do so since at least 1946. On numerous occasions legislators have attempted to pass laws that would permit oral arguments to be documented by video, a move they say would increase transparency. Here is an interesting timeline on C-Span’s attempt to gain approval to record court proceedings which have been roundly rejected. Why is our Supreme Court so resistant to this technology? One reason is the fear that oral arguments will be reduced to “sound bites” rather than substance. There are plenty of articles available online about technology, and the Supreme Court of the United State’s adamant refusal to allow video in the court room.

At some point the Supreme Court will hopefully yield on this issue. The highest court in the free world regularly decides cases that impact broad swaths of the population, such as gay marriage, healthcare reform, and the impact technology has on Fourth Amendment protections. Counselors in most court rooms across the country are routinely recorded in both state and federal courts. It seems like a double standard to permit citizens and lawyers to be subject to video recording while the Supreme Court justices hide behind a veil of privacy.

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Let the food truck fight begin.

Food trucks around the country are facing strong opposition. It sounds counter-intuitive for municipalities to suppress small businesses, but these stories are popping up nationwide. The ABA recently reported a food truck vendor operating in Chicago faces anti-competitive ordinances. This includes laws that restrict the distance a food truck can operate from another business that sells food or beverages and caps on the amount of time a vendor can be parked in one spot.

Chicago is not the only political subdivision restricting free enterprise. Locally, Jefferson Parish passed several ordinances to “regulate” food trucks that popped up after Hurricane Katrina. Under the pretext of sanitation, Jefferson Parish effectively squashed any possibility of a thriving food truck industry. Meanwhile, food trucks in New Orleans are facing imminent danger of being regulated out of existence. Food trucks are pioneers of small business and everything should be done to allow these vendors to flourish.

Meanwhile, this author supports food trucks every last Wednesday of the month at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub in Mid City. Send a message that you support small businesses, free enterprise, and good local food by attending the monthly food truck rally.

ABC dubs former national security aid an “internet troll.”

A former director of the non-proliferation section of the National Security Staff at the White House was fired for being an internet troll. ABC News defines a troll as “anonymous Internet users who intentionally provoke others by writing inflammatory posts. They can be found in the comments sections of sites like YouTube and congregating in the darker corners of the Internet, on sites like 4chan.com.” Jofi Joseph was reportedly fired after making inflammatory anonymous remarks about senior administration officials on twitter. The article attempts to answer the age old question-why would someone squander such an elite position to be a petty internet troll?

Amazingly enough, psychologist have a theory about what makes a troll. You may be aware the anonymity of the internet is often attributed to lowering a person’s inhibitions. But, a hidden identify is not the sole cause of troll behavior. Researchers believe a troll’s behavior escalates over time if there is no negative repercussion for objectionable conduct. Consistent with this theory, Mr. Joseph publicly stated he originally intended to create an account that illustrates or mocks the “DC culture.” And at some point the mockery progressed to mean-spirited and inappropriate statements.

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