The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides that children and their parents, when the child’s educational performance is adversely affected by particular disabilities, are afforded special education rights over and above regular education rights. School districts are legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities. Specifically, IDEA ensures a free, appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet the unique needs of disabled children and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. Disability, as defined by IDEA, includes mental retardation, hearing impairment (including deafness), speech or language impairment, visual impairment (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, specific learning disability, and other health impairments. Children, who meet the IDEA standard of disability, will have access to an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) from the school and parents will play a key role in the planning, goals, and regular communication related to that plan. Children who don’t qualify for services under IDEA may qualify for a 504 Section plan instead. Parents with a concern about their child’s IEP, 504 Section Plan, or qualification under IDEA should first address the concern in writing with the school principal and the child’s teacher or school intervention specialists as appropriate. An education attorney can advise parents about the rights and responsibilities afforded by IDEA and options to consider if parental concerns are not answered.
Disciplinary issues and disputes with schools, principals, and/or teachers about a child’s education can be very emotional. Parents and family members are encouraged to work as cooperatively as possible with schools to resolve disagreements and to understand that schools must have disciplinary policies in place for the benefit and safety of all students. Parents can positively advocate for their child with the school while still requiring calmly but firmly that the child accept responsibility for misbehavior. Public schools must follow particular procedures and levels of hearings and appeals when dealing with disciplinary issues. An education attorney can advise parents about their rights related to education, discipline, and school disputes.
Eminent Domain refers to the legal right of a city or state over all property within its boundaries, even private property, for the betterment of the public or the community. The process is also known as "condemnation" and the land taken by eminent domain must be acquired from the owner at a reasonable compensation (fair market value) and meet requirements related to the degree of public use or community improvement that will be served. Eminent domain often comes into play when a city or state acquires property to build or improve a road, park, or utility system or to redevelop a blighted neighborhood or area and the property acquired may be complete, partial, temporary, or the obtaining of an easement or right of way. The definition of what development meets "public use", what constitutes "blight" in an area, and whether an offer truly meets "fair market value" is a matter of strong public debate, especially when property owners don’t want to sell. Courts in several states have recently determined that using eminent domain for economic development purposes is inappropriate in situations where the city attempts to acquire property for developers from owners who didn’t want to sell. Several states are considering legislation that may restrict and/or prohibit the use of eminent domain in cases involving economic development. An attorney who practices in eminent domain can advise, negotiate, and advocate for property owners facing eminent domain efforts.
Invasion of Privacy commonly refers to the violation of the right to privacy initially granted by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which states "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The 4th amendment grants protection against searches and seizures conducted by the government only, not private citizens. The government’s freedom to monitor citizen activities increased under the Patriot Act, enacted following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York. The Patriot Act created the new crime category of "domestic terrorism" and granted increased powers of surveillance to various government agencies and bodies. Other laws were enacted or strengthened along with the Patriot Act allowing the government increased surveillance of foreign entities and greater abilities to investigate and prosecute the financial supporters of terrorism. In 2006, the Patriot Act was reauthorized with increased civil liberties protections.