Legal Affairs

Senators Introduce Last-Minute, Bipartisan Bill To Prevent A Census Disaster

Here is an update to the ongoing saga of the multiple problems of conducting the 2020 U.S. census:

Senators unveiled bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to give the Census Bureau more time to finish the 2020 census ― an eleventh-hour effort to prevent a potentially severe undercount of the U.S. population, particularly in Native, minority and rural communities.

The census count, which is conducted every 10 years, was delayed for months because of COVID-19. Now the Trump administration is insisting on ending the count early, on Sept. 30, to meet end-of-year deadlines. The crunched schedule all but ensures that hard-to-reach areas, which are typically poor and minority communities, will be even harder to reach, if they are reached at all. The effects of an even lower count in these regions would be devastating: The areas would lose a lot of federal money and have weaker representation in Congress.

Judge Orders U.S. Government to Complete the 2020 Census

The Trump administration must, for now, stop winding down in-person counting efforts for the 2020 census, a federal judge in California ordered Saturday, while a legal fight over the shortened schedule for the national head count continues.

The temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California comes after challengers led by the National Urban League filed an emergency request as part of a federal lawsuit — both of which cite NPR’s reporting. The order is expected to remain in effect until a court hearing is held on Sept. 17 for the plaintiffs’ request for a court order that would require counting to continue through the end of October.

You can read more in an article by Hansi Lo Wang in the NPR website at: https://n.pr/3362D9U.

Federal Lawsuits Launched Against Three US Government Agencies for Failing to Produce Records Related to National Archives in Seattle

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuits today against three agencies involved in the January decision to close the Federal Archives & Records Center in Seattle, sell the building and move the records stored there to facilities more than 1,000 miles away.

Ferguson is also sending a letter to a fourth agency who is demanding tens of thousands of dollars to produce the requested records, informing them that if they continue to fail to produce the documents he is prepared to file a lawsuit against them, as well.

U.S. Census Bureau to Halt Counting Operation a Month Earlier than Expected

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that field data collection will end a full month earlier than originally planned.

It’s a sign that the Trump administration has abandoned its plan to extend the window for counting the nation’s population, which it earlier said needed to be longer because of the coronavirus pandemic. To be counted, households must complete the survey by September 30, rather than October 31, as the Census Bureau had announced when it adjusted plans due to the virus. The bureau will also end its labor-intensive efforts to knock on the doors of households that have not filled out the survey online, by paper form, or by phone.

Updated: Ancestry.com Hit With $250 Million Auto-Renew Suit In California

Ancestry.com violated California law by automatically renewing memberships without consumers’ clear permission, according to a proposed class action removed to California federal court Wednesday. The proposed lawsuit seeks over $250 million in restitution.

Information is available at https://www.law360.com/articles/1296611. Unfortunately, that is a website that provides information about lawsuits for a fee although a 7-day free trial is available.

UPDATE: Further details of the lawsuit and the complaint appear to be accessible on this website.
http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/ancestry-com-faces-250m-class-action-lawsuit-over-auto-renewals/

(Updated) Trump Signs Order Targeting Undocumented Immigrants in the US Census

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Tuesday that would exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in congressional districts when district lines are redrawn next year.

The memorandum marks the Trump administration’s latest effort to change the way US populations are counted and will advance the President’s immigration agenda, and, like previous efforts, is certain to end up in court.

Donald Trump stated:

Fate of Seattle U.S. National Archives Facility Still in Limbo

The Seattle facility of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) remains closed because of the pandemic, but is still likely to be sold; state officials are working to keep the priceless materials held in the federal facility from leaving Washington.

It’s been six months since the news services reported that the federal government, without any public input, intended to sell the Seattle facility of the National Archives and move its contents – millions of priceless maps, documents, photos and other records of Pacific Northwest history – out of state.

How to Apply for Australian Citizenship

With all the political upheavals in the world, along with various economic sanctions amongst countries, many people are finding the idea of obtaining citizenship in a different country can be enticing. Australia is certainly one of the more appealing countries, especially for anyone who speaks English either as their native tongue or else is already fluent in English as a second language.

Australia is one of the safest countries in the world. It is also a hub of information technology. People from all over the world are now moving to Australia as it provides exciting benefits to its citizens and to the people who have immigrated recently.

Citizenship by Descent

The easiest method of obtaining Australian citizenship will happen to those who have at least one Australian parent. It will not apply to anyone with Australian grandparents. Although this will appeal to a small number of people, the process is simple. A person born outside Australia to an Australian citizen parent can acquire Australian citizenship in the following ways:

Canada Has Completely Changed The Rules On Who Can Automatically Become A Citizen

Some people are born citizens, some become citizens, and some have citizenship thrust upon them. For that last group, a Canadian citizenship change is making new rules about who can automatically gain legal Canadian citizenship status. Now, the interpretation of who a parent is has shifted completely and it’s a game changer for same-sex couples and more.

On July 9, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced a change in the Citizenship Act. Under the act, the interpretation of who is a parent is different than it used to be.

Florida Becomes First State to Enact DNA Privacy Law, Blocking Insurers From Genetic Data

Florida on Wednesday became the nation’s first state to enact a DNA privacy law, prohibiting life, disability and long-term care insurance companies from using genetic tests for coverage purposes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1189, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. It extends federal prohibitions against health insurance providers accessing results from DNA tests, such as those offered by 23andMe or AncestryDNA, to the three other insurers.

Sprowls, the House speaker-designate, called the legislation a “major victory for Floridians” that “will make Florida the leader in the nation in protecting our residents and our citizens’ genetic information” when it was adopted by the House, 110-0, and the Senate, 35-3.

Yonkers, NY Birth and Death Records Go Online For First Time

Reclaim the Records claims another victory for genealogists! The following is from the Reclaim the Records announcement at: https://us11.campaign-archive.com/?u=5f700fdc65a51d3813e67dab2&id=c08aa3aa97:

HELLO, YONKERS!
RECLAIM THE RECORDS WINS OUR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FIGHT FOR
19th + 20th CENTURY BIRTH AND DEATH RECORDS FROM YONKERS, NEW YORK

THEIR FIRST-EVER PUBLIC AVAILABILITY, NOW ONLINE AND FREE!

Hello again from Reclaim The Records! We hope everybody has been hunkered down safely and soundly for the last few months, maybe working on some genealogy from home with some of the records we’ve helped release online over the past few years. Well, we’re back to announce some great new records you might want to check out while you hunker in your bunker. And as always, these new records we’ve acquired and published are totally free.

After literally years of negotiating and haggling (although luckily stopping short of yet another lawsuit), we are pleased to announce the first-ever publication of tens of thousands of late nineteenth and early twentieth century births and deaths for Yonkers, New York. We’ve photographed the alphabetical indices, and for most years we were able to photograph the full birth and death registers, too!

And none of these record books had ever been available to the public to use or browse before, not even on microfilm at a library. And the people listed in these records were generally not in the statewide birth and death indices that we previously acquired and published for New York.

These photos are all new, and they’re gorgeous:

Click on the above image to view a much larger version.

Congress Members Express Concerns About Politicizing the U.S. 2020 Census

The following is a message sent by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

The 2020 US Census has already experienced a number of problems, including going to the US Supreme Court over a citizenship question, inadequate funding, and a delay in the contractor contracts. Now there is concern expressed in an article in the New York Times that two new top level positions were filled with outside the agency political appointments which is unprecedented –and that is what is raising concerns about making the census partisan.

Until now only the Director of the Census Bureau, its Congressional liaison and its spokesperson have been political appointees. “For decades, the agency’s directors and top managers have been career statisticians, economists and survey methodologists — sometimes eminent ones.”  The new appointees are:

Census Has New Method for Privacy but Researchers Want Proof

The Census Bureau claims to have improved its ability to provide accurate data without risking the privacy of its responses, but experts are concerned there isn’t time to test the method before the data is published. The tweaks to the new method are critical to an accurate population count, one that will affect legislative mapmaking and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funds.

“Unfortunately, the tabulation, documentation and quality control processes required for public releases of data products are enormously time and labor intensive,” Michael Hawes, the Census Bureau’s senior adviser for data access and policy, said in a statement. “With the 2020 Census now underway, we are unable to support the release of another full demonstration product.”

2 Sentenced to House Arrest in Long-Running Scheme to Steal Rare Books

I wrote about this crime when the accused were arrested. My earlier articles may be found at https://bit.ly/37NRKLT and https://bit.ly/30ZNUOD. Now the two men have been tried and sentenced. According to an article at https://bit.ly/2YisB99:

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

“A former archivist and a bookstore proprietor who had been accused of stealing about 300 uncommon books and different artifacts from Pittsburgh’s central library — objects that may price greater than $eight million to interchange — had been every sentenced Friday to a number of years of home arrest, prosecutors stated.

Bad News: SB 372 Passes Georgia’s Legislature

The following was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

On June 18, 2020, the Georgia House of Representatives passed SB 372 by a vote of 157 to 2. In March, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52-0. Despite letters from the genealogical community to House Committee and leadership the Georgia Legislature seemed unwavering in their determination to enact a provision in their public health and modernization bill with the NAPHSIS advocated embargo periods. The bill changes the birth records embargo from 100 years to 125 years and death, marriage and divorce records from 75 years to 100 years.

Lagerfeld’s Fortune: Seven ‘Heirs’ Left in Limbo, an Accountant Who’s Gone Missing, a Suspicious Tax Tangle… And a Cat That May Get Millions

Oh, the life of the rich people. However, when they pass away, the legal problems of probating the will can be very complex.

According to an article by Alison Boshoff in The Daily Mail website:

Karl Lagerfeld in 2014

Karl Lagerfeld — the titan of Chanel and Fendi — loved nothing more than to create a sensation in life. And, following his death in February 2019, a final scandal has been brewing which once again is captivating the fashion world. At stake is the ‘Kaiser’s’ fortune which is said to stand at £178 million ($224 million US), but may in fact be closer to £400 million (more than $500 million US).

His heirs are now bickering among themselves over who Lagerfeld loved best, and who will therefore be getting the largest slice of the loot. Lagerfeld’s beloved cat, Choupette, may become a very rich kitty as well.

This article has it all: money, a Rolls-Royce, a house in Vermont, another in Biarritz, a £25 million ($31 million US) apartment at the top of a block in Monaco with 360-degree views, traveling only by a private jet, and sex. The article really belongs in a Hollywood gossip magazine but I suspect genealogists will enjoy reading about sorting out the heirs. After all, we are used to reading old (and usually simpler) wills. This one is different!

Use of Genealogy DNA in an Iowa Cold Case Conviction Was Unconstitutional, According to the Defense Attorney’s Claims

The state’s use of genetic testing to convict an Iowa man in a 40-year-old cold case was unconstitutional, according to a motion filed in Linn County court.

Jerry Lynn Burns, 66, was found guilty in February of first-degree murder in the 1979 stabbing death of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids. While waiting to receive the mandatory life sentence that comes with a conviction on that charge, Burns’ attorney has asked the court to give the Manchester man a new trial.

“Those were issues that we raised earlier and we wanted to reurge them in hopes that the court reexamines them,” Leon Spies, Burns’ attorney, told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

Reclaim the Records Wins Long-Running Lawsuit for Missouri Birth Index and Death Index

Reclaim The Records has won again! The following announcement was written by Brooke Schreier Ganz, the President and Founder of Reclaim The Records:

RECLAIM THE RECORDS WINS LONG-RUNNING MISSOURI SUNSHINE LAW BATTLE FOR FREE PUBLIC COPIES OF THE STATE BIRTH AND DEATH INDEX!

JUDGE AWARDS ATTORNEYS FEES, AND ALSO ORDERS FINES ASSESSED AGAINST THE MISSOURI DEPT OF HEALTH AND SENIOR SERVICES FOR FOUR SEPARATE ‘KNOWING AND PURPOSEFUL’ VIOLATIONS OF THE SUNSHINE LAW

JUDGE REPORTS ON AGENCY’S ‘SECRET PLAN’ TO ILLEGALLY WITHHOLD
GENEALOGICAL RECORDS FROM THE PUBLIC

Hello again from Reclaim The Records! We’re your favorite little non-profit organization that picks fights with government agencies, archives, and libraries for better public access to genealogical records and historical materials. And we’re back in your mailbox today to announce that we’ve just won yet another lawsuit! And oh boy, did we win this one! 🎉

Trump Says He Will Ask for a Delay to the 2020 U.S. Census

President Donald Trump said Monday that he will ask for a delay to the 2020 Census to make sure it is completed safely and accurately.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the plans during a conference call with lawmakers. Federal law requires some of that data be compiled before the end of this year.

The Commerce Department acknowledged the timeline changes and said in a statement it is “seeking statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts.”

April 1 – Today is Census Day in the US

Today is the official Census Day in the US. You may have received your census form a few weeks ago but the information submitted is supposed to be accurate as of April 1, 2020. If you have not already filled out your census form and submitted it (online or on paper) , you should do so today. This is also the first time the census can be completed online.

Reminder: Submitting the census form information is not optional! Participation in the census is required by law. In fact, it is a requirement of the U.S. Constitution, a requirement written in 1787 and still in effect today.  However, there are numerous other, non-legal, reasons to comply with the law.