DOJ Retaining Its Position on GPS Tracking

In a surprise move on Thursday, the federal government notified an appeals court that it reserves the right to secretly place GPS tracking devices on privately owned vehicles without first obtaining a warrant. Many wonder what the Department Of Justice is thinking since the long-anticipated ruling in January by the Supreme Court on just this issue. In January, the Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously in the United States vs. Jones case that the practice of law enforcement placing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle without first obtaining a warrant was unconstitutional and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In the Fourth Amendment it protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

According to a Department of Justice spokesperson, “A warrant is not needed for a GPS search, as the Supreme Court did not resolve that question.” However, the Department expressed restraint when using these practices. The government made this argument to the 9th Circuit of Appeals, claiming that the Supreme Court intentionally left their language vague as a loophole in the law.

The media has been covering the argument of warrantless GPS tracking as well as other privacy related issues for quite some time. If the reader of this article believes that the government’s argument is based solely on physical GPS tracking devices used by law enforcement agencies, you would be wrong as the significance goes much deeper.

Tracking The Average Citizen

Whether you are aware of it or not, the ability to track your whereabouts is already in place. Even without GPS tracking technology, your cell phone can be tracked by cellular triangulation where cell towers can roughly pinpoint your location. However, most modern electronics, especially smart phones are equipped with a GPS receiver due to low cost modules and popular applications that help Americans locate services, navigate, etc. Cellular triangulation is inaccurate and unreliable whereas GPS pinpoints your location within a few feet.

Manufacturers of GPS tracking devices design portable and hard-wired devices as a tool that improves business productivity, provides peace of mind for parents of teen drivers and location of elderly parents, as well as the tools for law enforcement investigation. The question of the US government’s position should not be whether or not they are protecting the law enforcement agencies use of devices for investigative purposes. The real question lies whether they are setting the stage to separate the existing Supreme Court ruling as specific to law enforcement investigations. Therefore, monitoring mobile devices is not part of the existing law. The government will always have the ability to state that they are monitoring the device, not the individual. This is a slippery slope that most likely leads to the Supreme Court in the future.

Drive: Tapping Into Lawyers’ Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel H. Pink’s 2009 book entitled “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (“Drive”) is filled with information that is highly relevant to the legal profession today.

The central thrust of Drive is that motivating professionals like lawyers requires law firms to go beyond the traditional use of sticks and carrots, punishments and rewards. Pink argues that instead of focusing on these external motivators, what law firms need to do is tap into the intrinsic motivational drive of their lawyers. This will result in more engaging and ultimately more satisfying work. Pink argues that this will not only reduce lawyer turnover and burnout, but that it is in fact the secret to high performance.

Pink highlights three key aspects of work that make it more inherently satisfying: (i) autonomy; (ii) mastery; and (iii) purpose. He argues that these components of intrinsic motivation are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – that, like the legs of a tripod, the apparatus of excellence cannot stand without each component in place.

If there is any merit to Pink’s argument, then law firms would be well advised to pay careful attention to each of the three components of intrinsic motivation in their human resource strategies. Here are some ideas on how to do so:

(i) Autonomy: There are five main ways firms can increase their lawyers’ overall sense of autonomy. These include giving lawyers greater leeway over: (i) what to work on (subject autonomy); (ii) when to do their work (time autonomy); (iii) where to do their work (place autonomy); (iv) who to do their work with (team autonomy); and (v) how to do their work (technique autonomy). The idea here is not that firms have to grant their lawyers full autonomy over all aspects of their work. It is simply that law firms have at their disposal five separate channels along which to promote greater lawyer autonomy, and that an increase in autonomy along any one of these five channels will result in a higher level of work satisfaction.

(ii) Mastery: Law firms can promote lawyer mastery by aligning the difficulty of certain tasks with their lawyers’ overall level of skill or development. Pink calls these “Goldilocks tasks” – tasks that are neither too hard nor too difficult. The idea is that in order to develop mastery it is important for lawyers to be engaged; and in order to be engaged they must be presented with challenges that are well suited to their skill level. Tasks that are too challenging result in a sense of being overwhelmed; tasks that are too easy result in boredom; tasks that are neither too hard nor too easy, but “just right” result in engagement. Engagement, in turn, leads to mastery. Law firms that care about developing masterful lawyers should ensure that they are neither overwhelmed nor bored – that overall they are engaged by their work. If firms are able to strike this balance, their lawyers’ work becomes its own reward.

(iii) Purpose: To make their lawyers’ work more satisfying, law firms would also do well to consider increasing the emphasis they place on meaningful, not just profitable, work – that is, work that gives their lawyers a sense that they are making a positive contribution to something greater than themselves. This does not mean rejecting profit as a motive; it simply means making greater room for non-profit driven contributions. This might mean crafting a mission or vision statement that espouses genuine non-profit related values, and ensuring that incoming lawyers share those values. It might also mean placing greater emphasis on pro bono work, and perhaps including it as part of performance reviews. It might even mean hiring professional coaches to work with their lawyers. Whatever the approach, taking steps to instill a greater sense of purpose into the work life of many lawyers will ultimately make them more committed, creative, resourceful, and yes: satisfied.

It is no secret that lawyers are, in general, a notoriously unhappy lot. It is also clear that lawyers are the most important resource of any law firm. Firms that value this resource would be well advised to take seriously the ideas put forth in Drive. In the end, when lawyers are satisfied with their work, everyone stands to win – not just the lawyers themselves, but their colleagues, their firms, and most importantly their clients.

US Immigration Made Easy by Attorney Ilona Bray

I helped my wife, at the time my fiance, emigrate to the U.S. while I was attending law school. I was not yet an attorney, nor had I taken any classes on international law or immigration. Unfortunately, finances were such that it necessitated that I do the work myself, rather than hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist me. That proves that it can be done by yourself. As an attorney, I assisted a number of people with immigration matters, and it varied from doing just about everything for them, and just having them sign where I told them to at times, to reviewing self-done work to offer limited advice due to the finances of my clients. I provided the services they needed, or wanted to pay for. While I found a number of websites, including the official government website, to be quite helpful, I wish I would have had “U.S. Immigration Made Easy” by Attorney Ilona Bray when I was a law student working at getting my fiance to the U.S. The book would also have been good to help when I was assisting clients with immigration matters, and I would have suggested it to a few of them that wanted to do more of the work themselves.

The book’s cover says it is the most complete immigration book available, and at nearly 600 pages, this claim is most likely true. I have not checked all books available, but this certainly is a complete work on immigration, aimed, like all Nolo published books, at non-attorneys. The book makes a complex subject more accessible to those without law degrees, but even with my law degree, I appreciate the easy to understand language used in the book.

The book is logically organized, making it easy to find what you need. After a one-page introduction, the book is divided into twenty-four chapters that are arranged in three main parts. Part One focuses on getting started and eligibility and procedures for immigrating to the U.S. The chapters include: Where to Begin on Your Path Toward Immigration; Are You Already a U.S. Citizen?; Can You Enter or Stay in the U.S. at All?; Dealing With Paperwork, Government Officials, Delays, and Denials; Special Rules for Canadians and Mexicans; and How and When to Find a Lawyer. Part Two provides an introduction to Permanent U.S. Residence (Green Cards).

The chapters consist of: Getting a Green Card Through Family Members in the U.S.; Getting a K-1 Visa to Marry Your U.S. Citizen Fiance; Getting a Green Card Through Employment; Getting a Green Card Through the Diversity Visa Lottery; Getting a Green Card as an Investor; Getting a Green Card as a Special Immigrant; Humanitarian Protections: TPS, DED, Asylee, and Refugee Status; and After Your Approval for a Green Card. Part Three is on Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visas, and the chapters cover: Getting a Business or Tourist (B-1 or B-2) Visa; Getting a Temporary Specialty Worker (H-1B) Visa; Getting an H-2B (Temporary Nonagricultural Worker) Visa; Getting a Temporary Trainee (H-3) Visa; Getting an L-1 (Intracompany Transferee) Visa; Getting an E-1 (Treaty Trader) Visa; Getting a Treaty Investor (E-2) Visa; Getting a Student (F-1 or M-1) Visa; Getting a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa; and Getting a Visa as a Temporary Worker in a Selected Occupation (O, P, or R Visa).

As you can figure out from the proceeding paragraph, one would not have to read this book cover to cover. Certain chapters will have no bearing on particular cases. As someone who helps different people periodically with immigration matters, this is a great reference to have. If you are doing it yourself, you will need to select what chapters your particular case falls under and use that chapter to assist with your immigration matters and the strategy you will use to accomplish your goals.

The book does lay everything you need out very well, and it includes checklists to assist with making sure nothing falls through the cracks. (Believe me, you don’t want things to fall through the cracks, because it can then delay things in an already timely process.) I also like that this book has a lot of practical inside tips that you don’t find on forms and websites. Bray’s experience and insights are very useful and add to the practicality of this book.

Like any legal book, laws can change. For this reason, it is always good to have the most recent editions, and to check to ensure any law you are relying on is still good law and has not been changed. Government websites can assist with this, or obviously, seeking the assistance of an attorney who is up to date on the law. Bottom line, this is an excellent book for anyone considering emigrating to the United States or helping someone who is.