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New HIPAA rules create burdens for providers (access required)

Health-care entities can expect to keep busy in the coming year reviewing and revising their privacy notices and updating their contracts with related businesses in light of new proposed HIPAA rules. The rules spell out the HIPAA obligations that Congress included in the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, which passed in February 2009. Most of the rules were expected, explaining how covered entities must update their privacy notices and detailing how penalties will be assessed for privacy breaches.

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Panel: College’s police force violates First Amendment (access required)

It's not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case. But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional. "We hold that the delegation of police power to Davidson College ... is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power' to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion before his departure to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen Brotherton, who represented the defendant, said he thinks the opinion should have an impact on the way campus police departments on all church-affiliated schools in the state operate.

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District court judge inquires about propriety of driving school (access required)

A district court judge has written to the state attorney general and N.C. State Bar counsel about his concerns over the relationship among the district attorney's office, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the local courts and the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina - a nonprofit organization that offers defensive-driving courses to ticketed motorists. Former Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney Sean P. Smith (pictured), who was terminated after he gave an interview to Charlotte's FOX affiliate on July 9, first raised the issue publically.

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Copiers’ memories can cause information leaks (access required)

Most copy machines in use today are digital. The reason they can do so many things so quickly is because they have hard drives that can store tens of thousands of pages of documents. And if that hard drive isn't cleaned before the copier is returned to a rental agency or resold, that information has left the law office. Erik Mazzone (pictured), director of the N.C. Bar Association's Center for Practice Management, said that copiers are expensive items, and most law firms lease theirs. When those copiers are being returned to the leasing agent, attorneys need to make sure the hard drive is clean.

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Building setbacks at issue in Court of Appeals cases (access required)

The future of one pricey Charlotte property is uncertain after a Court of Appeal reversal involving building setbacks. In another case, a neighbor upset by what he saw as the excessive height of his neighbor’s house will have to live with his frustrations. The first case involved setbacks in deed restrictions while the second involved setbacks in zoning ordinances. "We have two levels of setbacks," said Charlotte attorney Roy H. Michaux (pictured) of K & L Gates, who represented the defendants in Irby v. Freese (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-07-795 , 13 pp.). The Court of Appeals issued the decision Tuesday morning.

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Res judicata no bar to bad-faith claim against Allstate (access required)

An Allstate customer's unfair-trade-practices and bad-faith claims have been reinstated by the N.C. Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision. The case - Lee v. Allstate Insurance Company (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-16-0779 pp.) - may now go to trial in Cumberland County. An attorney representing the plaintiffs, Brenton D. Adams (pictured) of Dunn, said he doesn't anticipate a settlement in the case, which includes a claim for punitive damages.

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Lousy real estate market makes it harder for couples to split

The collapse of the real estate market and the effects of the recession have thrown the once relatively predictable practice of family law into turmoil, with attorneys having to learn new skills, work harder to calm down anxious clients, and even wait longer for payment. "It's presenting a whole new set of challenges, and we weren't especially well equipped to do that," said Lee Rosen, who practices family law with The Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh. "This is requiring us to relearn what we do. We have to be very creative."

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Gay lawyers say North Carolina’s climate is better but not perfect (access required)

Dan Ellison (pictured) graduated from UNC Law School in 1984 with the same anxiety about passing the bar exam that all lawyers-to-be face at the beginning of their careers. But it wasn't just a commonplace case of the nerves for him. On the contrary, he faced a worry that an unknown number of his classmates might have faced at the same time - whether being gay would affect his ability to become an attorney in North Carolina.

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