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Today we are speaking with Peter Riley of the Tom Riley Law Firm about a variety of questions from viewers. We begin with a couple of great questions from our last episode.
This question comes from Tiffany, and Peter, she asks, “Can the IRS legally hold and amended tax return refund for over six months after it was turned in?”
Peter explains that the IRS does have time to review and determine whether to grant a refund. He said he knows that the IRS has been playing catch-up because of the pandemic, “because of remote working, they literally had trailers of correspondence to go through.” Peter says he has been dealing with an estate, since early 2020, and he and the estate are still waiting for a refund. He says they’ve closed the estate, and assigned the rights over to the parents/guardian of the minor children involved. Peter says there are certain instances where the IRS may have a legal obligation to pay interest. “But unfortunately, there aren’t that many strict requirements” for the IRS, and he says they are still recovering from the pandemic backlog.
Peter, our next question comes from Sylvia, and she says, that her cousin works at a meat packing plant in northeast Iowa, and feels the working conditions are very unsafe. So far, his requests for safer conditions have been ignored. He needs the job to pay his family bills and feels he has no legal options. What do you suggest he do?
Peter says that his only suggestion is that Sylvia’s cousin should make sure he documents these concerns. “The fundamental problem is an employee only has rights against the employer under the Workers Compensation laws, and so if there was a work injury, or a work illness, and you can show it’s related to the work, then there might be a right to benefits,” Peter says. General damages cannot be recovered for conditions of the premises, though, unless “gross negligence can be established. Peter said that is set at a very high standard, though.
The next question comes from Royce, saying, “The Ahmaud Arbery murder trial and Georgia has been very polarizing. How is it possible that only one African American sits on the jury, in a county where 25% of the citizens are African American?”
First, Peter says there is a constitutional rule that you have to have diverse juries, but more fundamentally, not exclude them. “After the jury selection was finished, the prosecutor in that case objected, because of the fact that there was only one Black juror.” He said the defense lawyers said they could show that they had picked the jury on a non-racial basis. Following that, the judge said that he was unable to declare a mistrial under the circumstances, “though he did feel that exclusion of Blacks was going on,” Peter said. He said that choice might have been different, if the defendants were minorities.
The next question, with name redacted, asked, “Recently, I learned that several pictures of me engaged in a sex act with my former partner, is on the internet. I’m convinced that this is a case of ‘revenge porn.’ Can the local police department help me? It’s very embarrassing and I don’t know what to do.”
Peter says he would definitely contact the police to file a report. He says that in the last several years, legislation has been passed that makes posting ‘revenge porn’ without someone’s consent is a crime (a misdemeanor). He says that individuals also have rights to make a civil claim for invasion of privacy. He shared details about a case of Photoshopping someone topless onto another photo, and how damages were recouped in that instance.
The next question comes from Maria, and she says, “My parents have been my executor since I was hospitalized at the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics child psych at age 15. Now, I’m 25 years old, living on my own out of state, and I want to emancipate myself from their control. How do I do it?”
In this instance, Peter says a lawyer would need to be hired, and if you cannot afford one, to contact legal aid services. In Iowa, Peter says there are guardianships and conservatorships. Conservatorships govern the property of someone who is a minor or incompetent, while a guardianship governs the rights and lifestyle decisions, like where you live or similar things. Once the minor is 18, a court appearance with a lawyer would likely be needed, to have a judge evaluate the case. He recommended looking over those court files.
The next question comes from Kathy, and she says, “I was on a ventilator with COVID, and my boss cut off my unemployment early, saying ‘people need to go back to work.’ I was on PEUC when they did that, and we had until September 6th. But now, I’m still under doctors care and can’t work. Trying to get my unemployment back, how do I get it back?”
Peter says that question is a difficult one. The right to unemployment depends on whether or not it was a justified termination. In this case, Peter says it sounds like the employer recognized the unemployment, but that unemployment can run out. He said Iowa’s governor, among others, also rejected some extended federal unemployment benefits. He said the best course of action might be to contact legal aid, and see if they have someone who can help out.
Another question comes from Nate, who asks, “How is former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, legally allowed to spread clearly false and dangerous lies about the 2020 Presidential election, without being charged with libel or sedition? He has also advocated armed insurrection against the government and the military, in spite of his title of general in the Army. He’s now advocating for one religion in the United States. Is he legally allowed to escalate tensions without repercussions?”
Peter says that under the First Amendment, he has the right to free speech. Because so very few limitations are made to speech rights, it allows for discussion and spreading of many ideas. Peter did say that suggesting one religion in the U.S. will not gain a lot, if any, traction. Peter says that in the case of sedition, there might be some criminal ramifications. Citizens also have the right to sue, if they feel defamed.
Another political legal question comes from Mario, who asks, “Does Gov. Reynolds face criminal charges for falsifying records and misuse of federal COVID funds to pay her office staff? No matter how she spends and lies, it seems that only a few short years ago, this kind of abuse would lead to her resignation, if not criminal charges.”
Peters says that criminal charges are very rare in these circumstances, because you have to prove that the person involved was actually intending to commit a crime. He also shared a few instances of cases where some misused money had to be repaid.
Viewer Matt says, “A local Cedar Rapids restaurant recently refused to allow me entrance because I refused to wear a mask. Our state does not allow mask mandates other than schools and medical buildings. Where does my freedom begin, and end, in Iowa when liberal establishments try to tell me how to live?”
Peter said in general, business owners can set what rules govern there establishments, so long as they are not discriminatory against a protected class, based on race, religion, sex, gender and the like. He referenced ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service’ signs seen at businesses in many places, saying businesses have the right to impose reasonable conditions, that aren’t discriminatory.
The final question comes from Mike, who said they were still appealing FEMA, in relation to derecho damages. He said FEMA has stopped responding, and hasn’t responded for more than 120 days. He said that FEMA will not accept complaints. Mike asked, “Is there an agency to file a complaints with, that oversees FEMA?”
He said the the U.S. Congress could help, so Peter suggested writing to your U.S. Congressperson and Senators. There isn’t another agency that really oversees FEMA. A lawyer could also be hired, but a specialized lawyer might be needed to help.
For more information you can visit the Tom Riley Law Firm website.