Friday, December 29, 2017

New Tax Laws for Homeowners

Originally published by Aimee Hess.

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Trump has important implications for Texas home owners. The National Association of Realtors provides a concise summary of the new law on its website, which you can access here. These changes include:

Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence

  • The final bill retains current law and excludes gains on the sale of a principal residence from taxable income.

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Well-being task force’s 10 tips on fostering a healthy workplace

Originally published by Eric Quitugua.

A recent report by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being focused on solutions to prevailing mental health and substance abuse disorders among attorneys. Many lawyers, it found, neglect their own needs, inhibiting their ability to be at their best for clients, colleagues, and families. To counter that, the report emphasized the importance of fostering a supportive workplace, highlighting areas where firm leaders can make a positive impact on the health of their employees.

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Success and Fulfillment

Originally published by Cordell Parvin.

This could be my last post, but…maybe not. I’ve been asked to consider doing legal lateral recruiting and law firm mergers. I’m giving it serious thought, so…who knows?

In my novel, which by the way is finished, my character is striving for success, but her father points out she has become less focused on the person she is and the wants to become.

Both my dad and my mom passed away in the month of December. In 1980 on December 20, Nancy, Jill and I were getting ready to fly from Roanoke, Virginia to Chicago to be with our families over the Christmas holiday.

We received a phone call from my dad’s business partner who reported my dad had suffered a heart attack and had passed away. With sadness, we opened the gifts my dad planned to give each of us that year.

My mom passed away nine years ago this week and even now, nine years later,  I reflect on how much she and my dad influenced my life.

When I prepared to speak about her to her church family, I found a quote from poet Robert Frost:

You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular. The father is always a Republican towards his son, and his mother’s always a Democrat.

Using the political analogy, my mom was such a liberal Democrat raising me that she forced my father to be a tough love Republican. When I was grown, he frequently told me, he didn’t particularly enjoy that role. Even so, the combination served me well.

My dad taught me to live, my mom taught me to love. My dad taught me to be successful, my mom taught me to be fulfilled. My dad taught me to be confident and to make my own way, my mom taught me to be humble and faithful.

If you are a lawyer I coached over these last 12 years, you probably see both my dad’s influence and my mom’s influence in my coaching.

I believe lawyers cannot be truly successful and not be fulfilled, but we tend to focus more on our success. I want you to focus on both.

So, as you begin 2018, think about the one most important thing you can do in 2018 to be more successful. Write it on a sheet of paper. Then, think about the one most important thing you can do in 2018 to be more fulfilled (it might be something to make your family life even more fulfilling). Write it on a sheet of paper. Put the paper in desk drawer, so every time you open the drawer you see what you wrote.

Finally, make sure you actually do both things.

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Remembering My High School Law Teacher, Walter “Wally” Lubelczyk (1951-2017)

Originally published by Steven Callahan.

I learned about a month ago that my high school law teacher, Walter Lubelczyk, passed away at the young age of 66 after a courageous battle with a stroke. Mr. Lubelczyk taught high school constitutional law to thousands of students in Manchester, New Hampshire over the course of his 37-year career at Manchester High School West. I spent 20 years of my life in school. Mr. Lubelczyk was by far my favorite teacher. He was the Mr. Holland of West High School.

I know he was also many of my classmates and contemporaries’ favorite teacher, including Seth Meyers, who spent five minutes on his Late Night show remembering Mr. Lubelczyk. As Seth noted, a great deal of Mr. Lubelczyk’s students, including myself, went on to become attorneys. Mr. Lubelczyk instilled in me a love of the law and, after I finished his class, I knew I would become an attorney. There’s an old saying that, if you love what you do for a job, you’ll never work another day in your life. And, in large part because of Mr. Lubelczyk, I can honestly say that I’ve never worked a day in my life.

Mr. Lubelczyk taught a “case based” law class where students learned the law by actually trying cases each week. About two days each week, the class conducted trials where teams tried cases against each other. So, for example, we’d try the flag burning case (Texas v. Johnson), where one team would represent Texas and the other Johnson (the flag burner). One member of each team gave an opening argument, others acted as witnesses (the flag burner and the police officer who arrested him), and there’d be direct examinations, cross examinations and closing arguments. A student acted as a judge and ruled in favor of one side or the other, and articulated the judge’s reasoning. And then, inevitably, the losing side would shout “jury nullification” which sent the final decision to all of the students in the class who voted for a side by a show of hands, with the most-hands side declared the winner. Mr. Lubelczyk, sitting on a table at the side of the classroom (he gave up his comfortable desk chair for the student judge) acted as the “super judge” and all around master of ceremonies by, e.g., ruling on objections, making sure cases moved along in a timely manner, and otherwise providing guidance and wisdom. The next day, Mr. Lubelczyk told the class how the Supreme Court actually decided the case. He taught the class with humor, dignity, and a sense of seriousness and high purpose. And that’s how we all learned the law.

I’ve never been in a class, in high school, college, or law school, where the students were so passionate about the class, their roles, and learning the subject matter. It was truly magical. Our respect for Mr. Lubelczyk was so great that there was not one word uttered throughout the year by anyone in the class about anything other than the law. There was no gossip, no talking about other classes or other things, etc.—when we stepped into his class, everyone focused solely on the law. I’ve never seen anything like it and it is a true testament to his passion and the respect given to him by his students.

For many of us, Mr. Lubelcyzk’s class was synonymous with senior year in high school. He somehow managed to make every student, not matter how interested (or uninterested) in law at the beginning of the year, become passionate about the law by year’s end. And on those days where a particular team had a member absent, Mr. Lubelczyk would “pinch hit” for that team by becoming a member of the team—I cannot remember him ever stepping into a case and losing. I’ve dealt with a lot of attorneys over the last fifteen years—Mr. Lubelcyzk, although not formally an attorney, was better than 99% of the ones I’ve come across, myself included.

Back in 1996-1997, I learned more about the practice of law—the actual practice of law, including giving opening and closing statements, performing direct and cross examinations, and working as a member of a team to put on a case—in Mr. Lubelczyk’s class than at my two law schools and at some of the leading law firms in the United States combined. Ask me to choose between a random senior in Mr. Lubelczyk’s law class and a random attorney licensed to practice law in the United States to try an actual case, and I’d pick Mr. Lubelczyk’s student every time.

Mr. Lubelczyk was universally loved by his students, including by myself, and I’m sad for his family, his loved ones, and his students that he is no longer with us on this Earth. I can only hope that he is smiling down upon us from above, and that’s he’s proud of us and what we’ve become.

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New York Appellate Court Affirms Policyholder’s $58m Property Damage and Business Interruption Win

Originally published by Verne Pedro.

Never meet the enemy on their own terms. This memorable line from Rudolph Mate’s classis western, The Violent Men, motivates the hero, an embattled ranch owner, as he matches wits and brute force against a ruthless, greedy land baron. The hero’s struggle reminded me of the coverage showdown in National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. TransCanada,1…… Continue Reading


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Thursday, December 28, 2017

How can a step parent adopt their step child in Texas?

Originally published by Evan Hochschild.

A few weeks ago I was doing consultations with prospective clients of the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan on a Saturday morning when a husband and wife walked in to speak with
us. I came to find out that the wife had two children from her prior marriage
and her current husband was interested in formally
adopting his step children. For all the children out there who don’t have
any parents who take a strong interest in them, I was happy to see that
there were two kids out there that probably have gone through some stressful
times that have two loving parents in their lives.

Make no mistake that this is not a consultation that the attorneys with
the Law Office of Bryan Fagan take on a regular basis. Step parents who
want to and are in a position to adopt their step children don’t
come along all that often. In many situations one parent of a child has
recently died or is no longer actively involved in their child’s
life. There is where the rub lies for most families- in order for a step
parent to adopt their step child there must either be a deceased parent
or a biological parent’s rights to the child must be

If you are a step parent who would like to begin to the process of attempting
to adopt your step child then this blog post is designed for you. As with
most things in the field of family law in Texas there are steps to follow
in our legal system to be able to complete a successful adoption. Let’s
discuss those steps and problems that you should be aware of.

Step parents can motion a court to become a person with rights and duties
for a child

Parental rights as established by a
family law court is what you are actually seeking through the adoption process of
your step child. Of course you have an ability to assist in the raising
of your step child, especially if he or she resides in your home, but
in the eyes of the law you do not have any rights to make decisions for
the child’s well being or any duties to provide certain things for
the child.

Step parent adoptions function basically the same as other “traditional”
adoption cases with the exception that step parent adoptions can occur
only in specific situations. Those situations are as follows:

Deceased parent. As stated earlier in this blog post, your step child may have a parent
who is deceased and you are willing to step into that void and become
a parent to the child in the eyes of the law.

Absentee parent. Unfortunately this is the situation that I ran into with the prospective
clients that I met with a few weeks ago. When a biological parent is not
taking an active role in their child’s life a step parent can intervene
and petition a court in order to gain rights and duties as to that child.

In addition to these circumstances being applicable, you as the step parent
must be married to the parent of the child who is actively involved in
their life.

How to actually petition a court for adoption of a step child

Now that you know the sort of circumstances that can lead to your being
able to adopt your step child, you will need to know the steps involved
in actually adopting him or her.

Like with a divorce or other lawsuit involving children, you will need to
file a Petition in order to have your case assigned to a family law judge in the county
where you live. It is possible to file a Petition for Step Parent Adoption
on your own but it is advisable to hire an attorney who has worked with
adoption cases before. Saving time and money are both possible with the
assistance of an attorney.

If your step child’s “other” parent is still living you
have the option to attempt to work with that parent to agree
to terminate their rights to your step child. If this is not possible then you will need to have
your petition heard through the
family law court to which your case has been assigned. As we have discussed in many
blog posts, the best interests of the child will be the guiding principle
that your judge uses to determine if you will be successful in your adoption attempt.

To assist the court in making their determination, there will be a
social study completed in the event that the judge believes that it is in the best
interests of your step child for your adoption attempt to continue. A
social study involves having a licensed social worker, therapist or similar
professional visit your home to evaluate your living conditions. Your
step child will be met with and interviewed as well as your spouse.

Finally, an
amicus attorney will be appointed by your judge in order to assist him or her in making
a final determination. The amicus will perform some of the same sort of
evaluations as the social study worker. Ultimately the amicus attorney
will make a recommendation to your judge as to whether or not you should
be allowed to adopt your step child. Ultimately if you are a devoted step
parent and have the best intentions for your child the odds are in your
favor once your case proceeds to this point.

Questions about step parent adoption? Please contact the Law Office of
Bryan Fagan

From Baytown to Brazoria and into The Woodlands, the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan represents clients across southeast Texas. In order to learn more about
our office and to schedule a free of charge consultation please
contact us today. We take a great deal of pride in assisting families like yours
with their legal situations and we would be honored to speak to you about
the possibility of helping you do the same.

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Law Career: Time to Start Thinking About 2018

Originally published by Cordell Parvin.

I must share with you at the outset that when Alabama plays Clemson, I will be cheering for Clemson. As a Virginia Tech grad, I want to cheer for the ACC team.

I also confess I wasn’t a huge Nick Saban fan. It’s a long story, but it stems from when he was the head coach at LSU and they came to Blacksburg Labor Day weekend, 2002. I wouldn’t mention it had Virginia Tech lost the game. The game summary is here.

But, after watching a 60 Minutes segment, I understand why he is an outstanding coach.

I was looking for something and found this quote attributed to him:

It’s not human nature to be great. It’s human nature to survive, to be average and do what you have to do to get by. That is normal. When you have something good happen, it’s the special people that can stay focused and keep paying attention to detail, working to get better and not being satisfied with what they have accomplished.
Nick Saban

In this last week of 2017, if you haven’t already started planning what you want to accomplish in 2018, this would be a really good time to start. Think about getting better, and don’t be satisfied with what you have accomplished.

If you have been a regular reader for a long time you won’t find anything new here. I’ve said it all before. But, perhaps you will find the reminder valuable.

When I was billing 2000 hours I did not have time to study or understand why some lawyers are successful and have a great family life and why others are not. I also did my client development activities instinctively and some things worked very effectively while other things did not work quite as well.

Now, that I’ve spent the last 12 years coaching and working with lawyers, I have a much better idea of the attributes of the most successful lawyers who also have a family life and I understand better why certain client development efforts work.

While each of you have unique talents, weaknesses, ambitions and practices, and there is no magic pill or formula, there are principles that I urge you to think about and try. If you are a long-time reader, each point below should be familiar to you.


I believe it starts with your attitude.  When you talk to yourself do you say: “Yes, but…” or “Sure, how…” do you say: “My problem is…” or “my opportunity is…” do you say: “I don’t have time to…” or do you say: “I will make time to…”


Next, you must have clarity on what you want in your career and in your life. Your time and energy are your most important assets.

If you do not have clarity, you will likely waste precious time. For me to have clarity, I think on paper with written goals and a plan for using my time.

Client Needs

Next, you need to focus on what your clients need. They do not want to be sold on how good you are or how good your firm is, and they do not care about what you do. They hire you to solve their problems, help them achieve opportunities or deal with internal or external changes.

To be relevant, what you do has to address those issues or it doesn’t matter. The best way to figure out what potential clients need, is to identify your target market and make sure you understand their industry.

Become the “go to lawyer’

You need to build your profile, so clients find you when they need a lawyer in your field. To borrow my favorite Seth Godin quote:

Being the best in the world is seriously overrated.

Over time think about what you can be the “go to lawyer.”  It should be something clients need and you are passionate about.

Building your profile gives you the opportunity to build relationships with clients and potential clients. Client development is all about relationship building.

Build your team

When you become more successful you need to build a team. Young lawyers who will later work with you will be thinking “what is in this for me to work with…?”

MAKE time for your family

Finally, you need to plan your personal/family time at the very least as well as you plan our work time. You need to be in the moment, not answering emails or texts on your iPhone X.  I learned from Dr. Stephen Covey that when you are with your kids, do things with them rather than for them.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Season and Divorce? Be the Happy Force for your children with the Sharing Attitude!

Originally published by Nacol Law Firm.

Yes, it is the Holiday Season and no, you are not happy! Yes, there is A Grinch who is trying to steal Christmas, but it does not have to be you.  From personal experience, sometimes when you personally are at a very low point in your life, think about others (children, other family members, and friends) who love you and need someone to make their lives happy!

From practicing family law for a long time now, I believe there are elements in divorce that will never change:

  1. You can not make someone love you and stay with you if they choose not to.
  2. The only person that you can be completely responsible for in behavior is YOURSELF!
  3. If you choose to have a bad attitude and try to hurt your EX by alienating your children, then not only are you not winning the divorce game, but you are causing serious damage to your Children. Even if you win, you are a loser. The Kids didn’t ask for this Divorce, they are often stuck because Mom and Dad couldn’t be happy together!

After considering these ideas and deciding no, you are not happy, try giving some effort to help make your family happier this Holiday Season., Like the Grinch, maybe your family’s joy will help you feel just a little bit better!

Here are my “New Divorce No No Rules” that will make the Holiday Season happier for the entire family including your EX:

  1. No talking bad about the other spouse! This is your battle, not the kids! The kids are still related to their other parent and love that parent.
  2. Work on new traditions that involve all family members with their likes and desires.  Mommy and Daddy are not together anymore, a great time for some fun changes in the Holidays. Look to a wonderful new future and adventure for the family and don’t look back!
  3. Get with your ex-spouse and determine the holiday schedule.  Share this schedule with the kids so they will know what is going on and what time will be shared with both parents. Meanness will not be tolerated, be nice!   
  4. Talk with your ex-spouse about coordinating presents. Many divorcing couples try to one up the other parent and this really puts the child into a very uncomfortable situation. Also, a smart money saving idea.
  5. Talk with the children on their ideas for the Holidays. If they would like to have the entire family together for possibly Christmas Eve, or Christmas Morning, this may be a great idea! Remember: this is not totally about your feelings, it is about the love and needs of your family.

“The more you give in to the love of your family, the better you will feel in your heart.”

You, my friend will eventually get over this hurt and go on with your life, but it is always the decisions you make to help your children cope with this family split that will determine your true character as a parent and a person.

Hoping you and your family will have a wonderful Holiday Season and this blog has help to put a smile on your face!   —-Mark A. Nacol

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Holiday Cartoons

Originally published by lawschool academicsupport.

Please enjoy these holiday cartoons from the internet. (Kirsha Trychta)

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What’s The Average Car Accident Settlement?

Originally published by Hutchison & Stoy.

If you have been involved in a car accident, you’re probably dealing with medical bills, insurance payments and emotional distress. Auto wrecks always seem to happen at the wrong time, and they can leave you hassling with issues that you never thought you would have to deal with.

A car accident settlement can reimburse you for the money that you’ve paid out. It can also make up for lost wages, physical or psychological trauma and the cost of replacing your car.

Where does the average auto accident settlement come from?

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, your insurance or the other driver’s coverage might be responsible for compensating you for injury and damages. If you have collision coverage on your own vehicle and the crash was your fault, the insurance company will pay a certain amount to fix your car. If the cost to repair the damages is more than the value of your vehicle, the insurance company may consider your car totaled and give you a lump sum based on how much it’s worth.

When the wreck was caused by another driver’s negligence, his or her insurance company should compensate you for any losses, damages, pain and suffering. The sum that the company offers may be much lower than you expect.

It’s easy to get reimbursed for funds that you’ve paid out. It’s challenging to put a fair price on pain and suffering.

Hire a lawyer

Should you call a lawyer for my car wreck?

Working with a car accident lawyer can help you receive reasonable compensation that may exceed the amount that the insurance company would offer you on your own. An automobile injury attorney will help you present every detail about your case to the insurance company or a judge. He or she might bring up information that you would have missed if you did the negotiations yourself.

Reimbursement for your car repairs and medical bills will almost always be determined by the amount that you paid. The lawyer will help you negotiate an adequate settlement for pain and suffering.

It’s the insurance company’s job to offer you the lowest acceptable amount for a settlement. That’s how the organization makes the most of their own income and profits. An insurance adjuster may try to prove that you underwent unnecessary treatment. They may attempt to say that you were able to go to work.

A lawyer will help you take the measures that are necessary to protect yourself if you’ve been injured in an auto wreck. You’ll need to document everything related to the accident. When a doctor can vouch for missed work days and the treatment that you have received, you should be able to recover the money that you’ve lost.

If you want to maximize your settlement, you’ll need to do more than submit a claim through an insurance company. An attorney will help persuade the insurance company that they should look into the matter further. A lengthy investigation may be initiated, and the personal injury lawyer will negotiate the settlement with the insurance company.

You don’t always have to file a lawsuit to get a settlement payout for whiplash or another auto injury. The insurance company and your attorney may reach a suitable agreement. If they don’t, you may need to take the matter to court. A car wreck attorney can answer your questions about suing after a car accident.

Accident settlement amount

What kind of settlement should I expect from a car accident?

One guideline for determining a settlement is that the total will be about three times the cost of your medical bills. However, a variety of factors go into deciding the average settlement for a car accident.

A judge will take into account the type of injury, treatment plan, length of therapy, loss of income and severity of the wreck. In most cases, a settlement is only offered when the medical treatment has been completed. Permanent injuries will influence the amount of compensation that you receive.

If you’re working with an insurance company after a car wreck, let them know if you’re still going through medical treatment so that you don’t settle for less than you deserve.

How car accident settlements are calculated

The insurance industry doesn’t have an exact formula for calculating the average car accident settlement amount. If you only sustained damage to your car, you’ll typically be reimbursed based on the policy limits.

Pain and suffering compensation is only given when you have been injured. Therefore, it’s important to be examined by a doctor immediately even if you don’t think that you’ve been hurt.

Some automobile crash injuries, such as whiplash, don’t become evident until a few days after the crash. If you’ve already negotiated your settlement or waited too long to get medical care, you might not be compensated for the injury.

If you want to get a rough estimate of how much to expect from a car accident settlement, add up your expenses for medical bills, car repairs and lost wages. Multiply that sum by three.

For example, let’s say that you injured your back in a car accident and paid $5,000 in doctor’s bills. You were out of work for a week, which made you lose $2,000 in income.

Your average car accident settlement might be approximately $21,000. It is likely to fall somewhere between $14,000 and $28,000.

The settlement is generally higher for more severe or permanent injuries. You’ll also get paid more if the other driver was found to be driving under the influence.

When you’re filing an injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you’re limited by their policy maximum.

For example, if you sustained $30,000 in damages but their insurance limit is $20,000, you might need to sue the individual separately to reclaim the additional $10,000. You might be able to file with your own insurance company if you have under-insured motorist coverage.

What’s next?

If you’ve been hurt in an automobile accident, make sure that you move quickly. You typically have one or two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. A minor can file a lawsuit any time before their 18th birthday.

Working with a personal injury lawyer can help you go through the process with minimal distress. You’ll be more likely to get adequate compensation, and you won’t be left wondering if you could have done more to recoup the value of your pain and suffering.

Contact a Fort Worth car accident lawyer immediately after your car accident so that you maximize your ability to get the compensation that you deserve.

The post What’s The Average Car Accident Settlement? appeared first on Warriors For Justice.

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Can Your Insurance Policy Cap Recovery for Emergency Mitigation Services?

Originally published by Iris Kuhn.

After a loss, a policyholder has a duty to take necessary measures to protect the property from further damage resulting from a covered peril. The question then becomes what costs associated with the emergency mitigation services are covered and is there a cap? It is becoming more common in Florida for insurance policies to contain…… Continue Reading


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These Sprinkles are NOT Safe to Eat

Originally published by Candess Zona-Mendola, Unsafe Foods Editor.

By: Pooja Sharma

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that the silver sprinkles (or the dragees) are not safe to eat even though they are all right to decorate on your holiday treats. So, next time you come across a perfectly fine cake or double chocolate chip sugar cookie covered in these little silver balls, just stay away from them – or remove these silver harmless-looking dragees before indulging in them.

These silver decorations (also known as dragees) that look like small balls and taste like hardened sugar are a popular sight on holiday cookies, cakes, and pastries during the Christmas and New Year season. Silver has been banned by FDA as a food coloring additive since 1906. But, FDA guidelines allowed the silver dragees to remain a part of the decoration of the holiday treats even though they are considered unfit and unsafe for human consumption.

The guidelines clearly stated that when these small silver balls – also known as the ‘silver dragees’ – are sold exclusively for decorating cakes and are used under conditions which do not include their consumption in the confectionery. So, they will not be considered under the category of food or confectionery. There is no authority under the color additive regulations which permits silver to be used as a color.

Silver Dragees are banned in California, Thanks to a 2003 Lawsuit….

Today, the silver dragees are still available at many stores all across only in 49 states. The one state where you cannot buy these silver balls is California – thanks to a lawsuit that was filed in 2003 by a Napa lawyer who alleged that the dragees were toxic. He started suing to force these silver balls out of the market in the early 1990’s. He was successful in getting the spice giant, McCormick, to take them out of shelves. He sued Stewart, India Tree along with some 2 dozen other distributors and retailers and got them to stop selling these decorations, at least in California.

He pointed out that his motivation was not if someone was hurt or suffering because of these silver dragees or not. He did not even state in his case if any victim existed at the time. But, he was sure about dragees having the potential to put consumers, especially the children at a risk. Silver is a toxic metal and can build over time inside the human body. It is a subtle poison. Having silver sprinkles will unnecessarily increase burden of these chemicals inside your body. If children start off with heavy doses inside their body, then they might start out behind the race. He even labelled the sprinkles as ‘fraudulent and frictional’ as everyone has them anyway especially the kids.

Both federal and state authorities list down the silver as a toxic metal at certain levels – especially for silver miners whose regular work involves breathing in strong concentrations of silver daily. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dealt with the dragees by requiring the manufacturers to label the packets and jars of silver dragees ‘for decoration only’. But, maybe, this warning on jars is not enough because they do not pass on once the dragees are put on cakes and cookies to be sold as a final sale.

Silver toxicity or Argyria:

Argyria or Argyrosis can be caused by excessive exposure to compounds of elemental silver or silver dust. The most dramatic symptom that can result due to silver toxicity is your skin turning grey or purple grey. Generalized Argyria can affect larger parts of the body so it is much more visible while local argyria shows up in limited regions of the body and appears as patches.

A medical report on a woman, who is now in her 50s, developed discolored skin due to her increased exposure to silver. At 11, she was given nose drops for allergies. When her skin turned grey, a biopsy at 15 revealed that nose drops had silver in them that lead to presence of silver deposition.

Possible implications of silver are not yet known, but there have been some studies that show that silver toxicity can lead to decrement of liver function and loss of some sort of eye vision.

Do not worry about those little decorations still touching your food. They are safe for decorations and just like any other craft that you use for to fancy up your holiday treats, but take off these silver balls before eating. Just change your decorations, there sure are plenty other options you can use. Some other edible ways to decorate your Christmas cake includes: Fondant icing, sprinkle icing, etc. You can also buy some ribbons, frills, craft cut outs, stands, etc. for decorating cakes and other treats.

Other food safety tips to look out for this Christmas:

Here are some common, yet forgettable, safety tips:

  • Plan out how you would manage your freezer, deep freezer, and fridge items to separate raw meat, cooked meat etc. from each other. Since Christmas is such a busy time, we tend to forget these little things which can cost a lot. Also, decide how you would keep all the hot things hot and cold food cold while they are out to be served at room temperature.
  • Cook all meat to a proper temperature (165 degrees F). Also, recook any leftovers to the same temperature too.
  • Do not thaw any meat on the kitchen counter. Thaw in refrigerator or in an oven. Those are the safest options.
  • Make sure that you wash your hands frequently and your guests do so too. Have a proper hand washing station at your home. More than half of the people carry Staph bacteria which they can easily pass on with contact.


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Every New Business Really Needs to Review This Checklist

Originally published by Manfred Sternberg.

It’s just about the end of the year, and you have a great idea. After all, with 2018 just around the corner, it makes sense to start off fresh. However, Santa isn’t the only one who needs to make a list and check it twice. Truth be told, every new business really needs to review this checklist.

No doubt you can search the internet and find some great business tips. However, the advantage of securing professional advice is peace of mind. Without question, you need an accountant and a business lawyer at the start of your new venture. Not sure, why? This checklist will help.

New Business Checklist

As you can see, we’ve already pointed out the first important points on your new business checklist. Make sure you retain the services of an experienced business lawyer, as well as the accountant. Surely, the need for both is self-evident. Of course, you also need to put together a business plan and include these crucial considerations:

1. What will your company be called? Does the name need to be registered?

2. How will you arrange financing?

3. What type of business entity works best for your business model and why? Have you considered the tax consequences?

4. Where will you conduct business? Will you need to execute a commercial lease or real estate purchase agreement?

5. Will you have employees? Do you need to worry about non-compete agreements?

6. What about intellectual property owned by your company? Do you have protections in place?

7. Are there licensing requirements for your business entity? Do you need to register with any government entities?

8. Have you put together an operating or partnership agreement that delegates responsibilities?

9. Do you have plans to keep your business in compliance with environmental or other concerns?

10. How will you divide up your profits and losses?

These items should be on your top ten list when it comes to formulating any start-up. All things considered, they are not a wish list. In fact, they are all critical to ensuring that your business gets a great beginning and flourishes.

Contact Us

At Manfred Sternberg and Associates, we have been assisting new businesses for more than a couple of decades. We love entrepreneurial and enterprising ideas. Our diverse practice can help you get started on the right track. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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My Favorite Holiday Card

Originally published by John McFarland.

Every year I look forward to receiving William Osborn‘s holiday photo. William is an Austin oil and gas attorney, an amateur historian, a historic preservationist, an alley gardener, an all-around renaissance man, and my cousin. Every December for the last twenty-five years he has sent a photo to his clients and friends documenting the history of the oil and gas industry in Texas, along with an article explaining its historical context written by William. He has collected all of those photos and articles on his Texas Compound website, and you can view them here. Below is one of his photos:

Of this photo, William wrote: “On July 29, 1918, the Fowler Farm Oil Company S.L. Fowler Number 1, located on the northern edge of the Wichita County community of Burkburnett, blew in at a rate of 2200 barrels of oil per day from a completion depth of 1,734 feet. Within three weeks there were more than 50 drilling rigs operating in the immediate area. The Fowler Farm Oil Company drilled a second well on the same lease and then sold its entire interest in the tract to the Magnolia Petroleum Company for the sum of $1,800,000.00.” By June 1919 there were more than 850 producing wells in “the world’s wonder oilfield.”

William, whose interests include the history of railroads in Texas, has also built the Texas Compound on Highway 290 West, west of Austin. Since 1986 he has moved several historic buildings onto his compound, including a Santa Fe Railroad Depot from Dumas and Texaco bulk fuel warehouses from MCamey and Spur. He has also restored several old railroad cars on the property, including three “Texas Zephyr” railroad passenger cars and two Southern Pacific “Sunset Limited” passenger cars.  William’s Texas Compound website includes historical photos of his restored buildings and passenger cars. A visit to his compound is worth the trip. He has also written a history of Jim Crow laws and Texas Railroads, “Curtains for Jim Crow: Law, Race, and the Texas Railroads,” published in Southwestern Historical Quarterly, which can be found here, along with his other writings. Below is a historic photo from William’s collection showing the inside of the coffee shop in Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Pride of Texas.”

Continue reading →

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Robert Doggett named new executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Originally published by Eric Quitugua.

Robert Doggett will succeed David Hall as the executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid beginning January 6, 2018.

Doggett has spent 27 years litigating precedent-setting cases for TRLA and other legal aid groups as a general counsel.

“We are fortunate to have someone like Robert take on leadership of TRLA,” Hall said. “He has been a powerful, tireless advocate for low-income Texans, acting as counsel or co-counsel in cases that have benefited not only our individual clients but also their larger communities. Under his leadership, TRLA will continue its trajectory as an aggressive defender of the people often least able to defend themselves.”

Hall led TRLA through its 40-year development, serving about 25,000 Texans each year. Since 1970, the non-profit organization has provided free legal services across 68 counties in Texas. TERLA attorneys specialize in more than three dozen areas of law, including colonias and real estate, civil rights, environmental justice, labor and employment, and border issues.

“TRLA is an exemplary legal services program because of the dedication, passion, and talent of its staff,” Hall said. “I am leaving with full confidence that those attributes will sustain this program for decades to come as a zealous force for the communities it serves.”

Doggett described his new role as “a great honor, and greater responsibility. David has cut the path for us for 40 years, and I intend to help keep us on it.”

For more information about TRLA and its services, go to

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Compliance Man Goes Global Special – Christmas & New Year Edition

Originally published by tfoxlaw.

Welcome to Special Episode of Compliance Man Goes Global podcast of the Compliance Report-International Edition. We will be celebrating Christmas soon. In many countries, on December 31st people will be celebrating New Year as well. It is the right time to talk about compliance and gifts giving. We will explore this matter in a plain […]

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Adopting a Child From Your Local Community

Originally published by Family and Criminal Law Blog.

What is the process to adopt a child from foster care?

Recently, Bastrop County held a special adoption day.  Twenty-eight children from 17 different families found forever homes at the Bastrop County Courthouse as a part of November’s National Adoption Awareness Month.  In a courtroom lovingly decorated with balloons and banners, adoptions were processed one by one.  The newly formed families cheered as their long-held dreams became a reality with the adoptions finalized.  

Consider Adopting From Foster Care 

There are currently over 3,900 children waiting to be adopted in the state of Texas.  Nationally, there are more than 100,000 children in foster care.  Children enter the foster care system through no fault of their own.  These children often come from families with a history of neglect, abuse, incarceration, drug issues, and the like.  Children taken from their homes are placed into foster care while the birth parents are allowed an opportunity to reunite with their children if they can complete a specific set of requirements developed by the court.

Fewer than half of all foster children are ever returned to their birth families.  The remainder of children will become available for adoption.  Children in foster care range in ages from infants to teens.  Foster care children desperately need loving families to provide them with security.  For parents interested in adopting from foster care, the process is far faster and less expensive than most other types of adoption. 

The Process of Adopting From Foster Care 

As you start the process of potentially adopting a child from foster care, you will need to first do your research.  Schedule a consultation with an adoption attorney who can walk you through the adoption process and explore your adoption options.  You will need to prove to the court that you are financially stable and responsible in order to adopt.  You need not be married.  You will have to complete a home study which will include discussions with all members of the family. 
Adopting can be the first step towards completing your family.  Contact an adoption law attorney today to start the adoption journey.  Adoption can be confusing and nerve-wracking, but with the help of your adoption lawyer, you can experience the joys of adding to your family.

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Top 10 from Texas Bar Today: Nominalizations, Outer Space, and Roads Not Taken

Originally published by Joanna Herzik.

10. Circuit SplitsJason P. Steed of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP @KTS_Law in Dallas

9. Want to Learn How to Sell? Pay Attention to How Others Sell You!Cordell Parvin @cordellparvin of Cordell Parvin LLC in Dallas

8. The Case for Humane Slaughter Laws for Poultry – Kate Delany of Robins Cloud @heardrobins in Houston

7. Immoral or Scandalous Marks: Federal Courts Continue to Chip Away at Trademark Rules – Peggy Keene of Klemchuk LLP @K_LLP in Dallas

6. “The Road Less Traveled” – Scott Johns of the Law School Academic Support Blog

5. Insights from the Trenches: Proven Strategies to Combat Harassment in 2018 from Seyfarth Shaw at Work (SSAW)Seyfarth Shaw LLP @seyfarthshawLLP

4. May the Podcast Be With You-Part I, A New Hope and RiskThomas Fox of TomFoxLaw @tfoxlaw in Houston

3. Tips for Concision 12: Revise unnecessary nominalizations.Wayne Schiess, Senior Lecturer, The University of Texas School of Law @UTexasLaw in Austin

2. 2017 Ag Law Year in Review – TexasTiffany Dowell Lashmet @TiffDowell, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Agricultural Law with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension in College Station

1. One Step Beyond: Trial Lawyers and Outer SpaceSigmon Law, PLLC @SigmonLawPLLC in Houston

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Role of Deeds as Estate Planning Tools

Originally published by Gerry W. Beyer.

A property deed is a legally binding document that may be utilized as a means to transfer various types of property. In order for the deed to be valid, it must be signed by the individual transferring the property and…

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2017: The Year Out-Of-State Firms Moved Into Texas and Lateral Hiring Got Hot

Originally published by Texas Lawyer.

Texas continued to see a host of new law offices, firm expansions and lateral moves in 2017.


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Latest & Greatest – Advising Small Businesses

Originally published by Lori-Ann Craig.

By Steven C. Alberty Published by Thomson Reuters KF 1659 .A94 1989

By Steven C. Alberty

Published by Thomson Reuters

KF 1659 .A94 1989

It’s Small Business Resource Month here at the Harris County Law Library. Today, we’re looking at one of the featured resources: the aptly titled, Advising Small Businesses by Steven C. Alberty. Written for lawyers who represent and counsel small businesses, Advising Small Businesses, offers practical information on all aspects of small businesses from their organization through their operation and ultimately their termination. Detailed and exhaustive, this three-volume treatise offers its readers a thorough analysis of the following topics:

  • Choice of entity, including the advantages and disadvantages of each and the tax implications arising from each type of entity;
  • Available financing options, such as debt financing, government financing, and venture capital financing;
  • Applicable state and federal securities laws;
  • Corporate operations, including shareholder voting, buy-sell agreements, and powers, duties, and liabilities of corporate directors and officers;
  • Business transactions, such as insurance coverage, antitrust laws, franchising, and intellectual property;
  • Employee relations and compensation; and,
  • Dissolution and liquidation.

As a companion to this treatise, the Harris County Law Library also has in its collection, Advising Small Businesses: Forms. This indispensable set provides attorneys with practical tools in the shape of “ready-to-use” forms and checklists, which include sample letters, operating agreements, employment policies, and closing documents.

If you an attorney who owns, operates, manages, or advises small businesses, we hope you’ll find this resource helpful. For additional resources that you can find here at the Law Library and online, visit our Events page.

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"The Road Less Traveled"

Originally published by lawschool academicsupport.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost We are all travelers in this journey of life. It seems…

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Getting Property Damage Coverage After a Hurricane Hits Your Shopping Center

Originally published by Denied Insurance Claim Blog.

The ceiling has fallen in this abandoned shopTexas businesses must weather hurricanes on a regular basis, and many are only able to make repairs and reopen due to their insurance coverage. As a successful shopping mall owner, you know how important it is to keep your assets protected—but you must also keep your insurance payments low enough to keep your enterprise profitable. Attorney Bill Voss explores common problems shopping center owners experience after a hurricane, as well as how to avoid surprises when making a claim.

How Much Will You Receive for Hurricane Damage to Your Shopping Mall?

Liability coverage and property damage coverage are typically merged into one document called a business owners policy (BOP). This policy protects against both physical and intangible forms of damage, shielding you from many different hazards and types of losses. It is vital to consider your coverage selections carefully to make sure as much of your losses as possible will be covered.

Shopping center owners can get payment after a hurricane through many different portions of their policies, including:

  • Buildings and contents. All owners should have some form of coverage for property damage to the building and its contents, including spaces that are empty, have been newly acquired, or are under construction by the owner. Owners do not need to cover the contents of individual stores that have been leased; renters should have their own insurance policies for these losses. Everything in the structure, from the roof to the foundation, should be covered, including boilers, heating systems, plumbing, electrical systems, and sewage and drainage. The amount collected from a claim can vary widely depending on whether owners have chosen ACV or RCV coverage.
  • Electronic data. Owners may suffer losses to their security systems, cameras, alarms, recording devices, and software and databases that keep rental and financial records. A policy with a data recovery option can help owners rebuild lost record, and may even cover damage to remote servers.
  • Business income and extra expense. Your renters likely won’t be able to reopen for some time, and may not be able to pay rent while the center is under construction. Businesses income coverage can provide much-needed payment while you rebuild, while extra expense coverage can help with costs not covered under standard policies, such as costs incurred to upgrade older structures to new building and safety codes.
  • Business auto insurance. Business auto has two forms of coverage: liability when employees are involved in a crash, and property damage from an adverse event. If you have one or more business vehicles, this coverage can repair or replace shattered windshields from downed trees, flooded interiors, and other weather-related losses.
  • Cleanup costs. Unlike other storms, the damage caused by hurricanes is often extensive, continuing for several miles inland. A strong policy should cover the costs of cleanup that may be necessary before repairs can begin, such as the cost of debris removal, fans and drains to remove standing water, and measures to remove rotted wood and prevent the spread of mold.
  • Umbrella coverage. Umbrella insurance provides extra protection against large-scale events. If your business owner’s policy has reached its maximum payment levels, this form of insurance provides additional coverage.
  • Flood coverage. Much of the damage from a hurricane is caused by flooding, which is usually not covered under commercial policies. Owners will have to secure flood coverage separately through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Unfortunately, property damage from a large-scale event often makes it more difficult for people to collect payment. Insurers may receive hundreds of thousands of claims all at once, and may delay or underpay as many as possible in order to maximize their profits. If you are struggling to collect fair payment from an insurer after a hurricane, we can help. Simply fill out the form on this page today to contact the Voss Law Firm or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.

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May the Podcast Be With You-Part IV, The Force Awakens and Disruption in Compliance

Originally published by tfoxlaw.

Welcome to the Day 4 of the five-day podcast series Jay Rosen and I are producing in honor of the latest Star Wars movie The Last Jedi. Each day over this week, Jay and I will review a Star Wars movie and discuss it from the compliance perspective. Today, we consider Episode VII, The Force […]

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Insights from the Trenches: Proven Strategies to Combat Harassment in 2018 from Seyfarth Shaw at Work (SSAW)

Originally published by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

By Philippe Weiss and Erin Dougherty Foley

Seyfarth Synopsis: In the last in a three-part series addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, we asked Philippe Weiss, Esq., Managing Director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, to share insights from the front lines, that can help organizations credibly and effectively ensure their company culture is respectful and not tolerant of discrimination, harassing behavior or other inappropriate workplace conduct.

Q.  Based on your client and agency interactions, how have leadership and organizational mindsets changed since the rash of harassment scandals started to make national news?

A.  Daily headlines detailing high-profile harassment scandals clearly have many company executives and compliance professionals talking and worried. (Our call volume at SSAW has spiked and, notably, a significant number of callers are C-Suite members, themselves.) High-level executives have sought out our attorney-trainers and asked about strategies to avoid becoming an unwitting enabler.  We sense a wake-up call among many of those in key positions of power.

In-house legal and HR teams are reporting to us that they are now more fully appreciating how uncomfortable it can be for employees to confront those who cross a respect line and to report misconduct by higher-ups.  Organizations realize that they need real solutions that will be impactful and help reinforce a culture of non-tolerance for harassment in the workplace.

Q.  What kind of an opportunity has this created for compliance professionals? Do you and your group view the current momentum as sustainable?

A.  We see a significant opportunity for compliance professionals, as organizations are now willing to invest and prioritize harassment prevention and EEO – with longer term, comprehensive, and more strategically designed initiatives.   We have seen line items suddenly open-up in many annual budgets for compliance and conduct programming. Organizations are also increasingly investing in climate and employee surveys/focus groups, which (of course) must be handled delicately and skillfully – but which can also powerfully inform training and communications.

It is certainly challenging to predict the future and determine whether the current momentum is sustainable.  But given the depth and breadth of the publicity and #MeToo movement and related issues being raised, we see a clear shift that shows no signs of abating.

Q.  Given the apparent failure of passive and cookie-cutter training programs, what training solutions have you and others in the field found actually achieve buy-in and create meaningful behavioral change?

A.  There are a number of different things companies should be considering:

From a training planning standpoint:

  • Consider your claims history, internal complaint records, climate surveys, questions and concerns raised by employees, and organizational environment industry factors in program development.
  • Ensure that policies, codes of conduct and statement of values are just where you want them, in terms of content, core messaging and design.

From a training content perspective:

  • Focus on encouraging and simplifying internal reporting; in this regard many clients are asking for more extensive skill-building around “Responding to and In-taking Complaints and Concerns” to be added into their programs;
  • Focus on “Gateway Conduct” – such as leaders dressing down subordinates, which many have seen devolving into more egregious behavior, over time;
  • Focus on encouraging and creating a “step-up” culture of bystander intervention. Clients we work with report real value in referring to bystanders in the positive – as in “Accountable Allies” or “First Responders.” They have also found critical value in both championing and equipping bystanders with credible skills and simple scripts. “Accountable Allies” must be trained to:

** Spot colleagues’ discomfort;

** Support colleagues, using a safe, step-up, speak-up model;

** Employ distraction and extraction strategies, as appropriate;

** Know when and how to call in reinforcements.

We have known for some time that this is all about surmounting barriers of unease and reluctance to appropriately, safely and collectively “check” those starting to cross a line of conduct/norms (including peers at the C-Suite level). That is why the simplest, most user-friendly and tailored scripts can prove surprisingly effective, when built into a larger and cohesive culture strategy.

From a training design and delivery methodology standpoint:

  • Deliver training in everyday language that emphasizes real-world skill-building and avoids “legalese;”
  • Utilize organizational policies, corporate value statements, and best practices as core aspects of the messaging;
  • Wherever possible, arrange content around a set of practical thematic core elements. Choose central concepts and mantras so that delivery is not perceived as a litany of do’s and don’ts;
  • Sessions should all be engaging and fully interactive. This feature is essential. While always calibrating for an audience, the rule is: the more true interactivity, the better. (Having said that, individuals should not be singled out and “compelled” to answer questions.) Post-training surveys show that participants learn little from a “talking head” instructor. They learn and buy-in from collaborating and seeing how their colleagues respond to relevant situationals – and by building a consensus.
  • Ensure that best practices answers come from the group.
  • Keep to a minimum the use of PPTs, videos, and other relatively passive tools.
  • Because the credibility and impact of the presenter is critical for effective training, facilitators should be qualified attorney-trainers with practice and business leadership experience, who are also (importantly) entertaining and professional presenters with a recognized facility for high-energy delivery and an ability to draw-out individuals and powerfully connect their answers.

An added forward-looking defense bonus is deploying a course that has been evaluated and cited as a credible “culture changer” by federal agency-designated monitors in consent decrees. (Editor’s Note – SSAW has such programs! SSAW has participated in numerous EEOC and DOJ consent decrees where the long-term impacts of various communication and training strategies targeting harassment were comprehensively – and positively – evaluated.)

Q.  What additional top-down communications solutions are most effective in the current climate?

A.  One common approach is an all-employee memo re-articulating the organization’s commitment to respect – a “dignity-declaration” of sorts.

Beyond that, many forward-thinking organizations are employing a “wrap around” training communication cascade/approach. Like the training program itself, communication cascades should use simple terms, statements and values – the simpler, the more memorable.  Communications should be delivered through as many valuable and resonant mediums as possible – from team meetings, to emails, to postings on portals, to delivery of hard copies – and should be presented in differing and creative ways, whether virtually, visually or verbally.  With some forethought, organizations can calibrate the timing and variety of such communications so they impact without becoming redundant.

Of course, the most effective communication strategy is one where management at every level consistently refers to your harassment prevention and conduct training mantras and take-aways.

If you have questions about training or how to work toward a more respectful culture within your organization, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney or Seyfarth Shaw at Work directly.

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Circuit Splits

Originally published by Jason P. Steed.

There’s a split over whether federal courts exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction should apply federal choice-of-law principles or the choice-of-law principles of the forum state. See here at 5-6.

Circuits disagree over whether the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s fee cap and hourly-rate cap apply when the claim does not involve “prison conditions.” See here at 22-23.

There’s disagreement over whether a First Amendment free-exercise claim proceeds under a different framework than claims brought under RLUIPA or RFRA. See here at 15 & n.7.

There’s a split over whether multiemployer ERISA plans are “conflicted” under Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 554 U.S. 105 (2008). See here at 4-5.

Courts disagree about whether pro-hac-appearance fees are recoverable as costs. See here at 2.

Courts disagree about whether a criminal defendant’s previous term is “undischarged” if he is on parole—and also about whether courts may apply § 5G1.3(b) after accepting a conditional plea agreement. See here at 13.

And there’s a split over the interaction between Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the RA, and the types of injuries cognizable under § 504. See here at 30-34.

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Hurricane Harvey FEMA Claims vs. Inverse Condemnation Claims: Do You Know Your Recovery Rights? (Part I)

Originally published by Beaujeaux de Lapouyade.

The Hurricane Harvey floods in Texas impacted property owners (i) with sufficient flood insurance to cover the loss, (ii) with insufficient flood insurance to cover the loss, and (iii) without flood insurance all together. The different avenues of recovery and the rights of the different property owners are important issues to understand. In short, there…… Continue Reading


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Key Client Development Tip: You Have to Be Curious to Create Your Own Opportunities

Originally published by Cordell Parvin.

When I practiced law, I was asked by our HR director, what attributes I looked for in associates. I think he assumed honesty and integrity and expected beyond that I would say hard-working, great attitude and all the normal things.

When I told him that curiosity was very high on my list he looked confused. He asked me to explain and I told him about how my curiosity helped me attract business. I want to share what I told him so you can find a way to make it work for you.

During my career, I was very blessed to have helped contractors who were building very complex and difficult bridge construction projects, including a design-build bridge project in Maine and a bridge that sunk while under construction in Washington state.

I was blessed to have helped contractors who were constructing many complex tunnel projects including the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (I-664) in Virginia, Metro Tunneling for the Green Line in Washington, DC, and a copper mine tunnel in Libby, Montana.

How did I get the opportunity to work on those complex construction projects and why should it matter to you? I hope I got those opportunities because the clients thought I was a good lawyer. But, I know there was more to it than that.

Contractor clients hired me to advise them and help them with contract issues on complex bridge and tunnel projects because I was insatiable learning how bridges were designed and constructed and how tunnels were bored or placed in deep water, or underground in a metropolitan area.

In the 80s I worked on a big contract claim for additional compensation involving the construction of a complex segmental bridge in Richmond, VA. I started reading books on bridge design and construction, and American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) articles.

I sensed that bridge was not the only one with time and cost overruns, so I made a Freedom of Information Act request of the Federal Highway Administration on all cable-stayed and segmental bridges constructed that had either time or cost overruns. After I gained greater knowledge, I wrote about the construction of bridges and tunnels in a way that demonstrated I had spent time learning. That led to speaking opportunities

I was not a better lawyer than the many others who could have been hired, but I anticipated there would be bridge construction contract disputes before other lawyers, and I worked very hard to learn about design and construction.

So, what about my experience can help you?

You can create your own client opportunities by outhustling the competition. You read what they are not reading and see the problems your clients will encounter. Many, if not most, lawyers with whom you compete think they are too busy to spend the time it takes to be more valuable to clients.

So, here’s the key marketing tip.

if you are willing to make the effort to learn what your clients expect you to know, you don’t have to sell yourself, clients will find you.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

FCA and public disclosure

Originally published by David Coale.

Solomon brought a False Claims Act case allleging improper billing on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his claim under the “public disclosure bar,” examining three disclosures under this test: “We are not concerned . . . with the overall probability of someone inferring fraudulent activity from the public disclosures. The focus is on whether they could have made the inference.” Solomon v. Lockheed Martin Corp., No. 17-10046 (Dec. 19, 2017).

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The Case for Humane Slaughter Laws for Poultry

Originally published by Candess Zona-Mendola, Unsafe Foods Editor.

By: Kate Delany

According to the USDA, nearly 9 billion chickens were slaughtered for meat last year, along with 243 million turkeys, and 27 million ducks. Unlike cows, pigs, and other animals raised for meat, chickens, and other birds are not covered by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). This November, the non-profit organization Mercy for Animals (MFA) filed a formal petition with the USDA, asking them to close this gap in HMSA coverage. The organization’s detailed request, complete with comprehensive and disturbing details of inhumane slaughter, has garnered media attention. The group hopes it will also lead to a rethinking of how America’s most popular meat is processed.

Originally passed in 1958 and revised in 1978, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is a federal regulation designed to decrease the suffering of livestock during slaughter. The requirements mandate that animals be rendered unconscious by electrical, chemical or other means before being killed. In 1978, the law was updated to allow the USDA to suspend operations on any slaughtering line engaging in observable cruelty. In 2002, an amendment to the Farm Bill emphasized the need for thorough enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Law.

Tom Super, National Chicken Council spokesperson, has alleged that HMSA regulations wouldn’t be effective in dealing with chickens, calling it a “square-peg-round-hole situation” but others disagree. Animal rights groups such as PETA, Compassion Over Killing and the Humane Society have long been critical of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act for its exclusion of chickens and other birds. Their undercover slaughterhouse exposés have documented cases of live chickens having legs and wings cut off by malfunctioning beheading machines or drowning in scalding water. Within their petition, MFA lists other inhumane practices in chicken slaughter, such as shackling birds upside down and slitting their throats while conscious, suffocating live birds with gloved hands and ripping feathers off conscious birds.

Violations of this sort would result in punitive action if they occurred in beef or pork processing. However, since the HMSA doesn’t apply to poultry, the industry is left to regulate itself. As Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) has publicly noted, “There is no specific federal humane handling and slaughter statute for poultry. However…regulations do require that live poultry be handled in a manner that is consistent with good commercial practices, and that they not die from causes other than slaughter.” Currently one profitable commercial practice in chicken slaughter is live shackling, which is illegal as a method of slaughter for all other food animals.

In addition to the clear ethical concerns, the lack of humane slaughter regulations for poultry poses safety problems. The current standard slaughter practices demand that workers slit the throats of live chickens at the speed of 25-35 chickens per minute. Many birds urinate and/or defecate during this process. Live chickens also frequent enter the electrical water bath, increasing the risk of fecal contamination. As MFA cited in their petition to the USDA, “97 percent of chicken breasts purchased at grocery stores across the nation contained bacteria, and over half were contaminated with fecal matter.” The CDC cautions that raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria. The USDA’s own data has found that a quarter of all chicken parts sold in the US is contaminated with salmonella.

 The changes proposed by Mercy for Animals would aid in reducing the contamination that comes with live handling, overcrowding and extra animal stress during slaughter. The group has asked the USDA to mandate Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CSA) as the new standard in poultry slaughter. In this process, stunning gas renders birds unconscious and insensitive to pain before slaughter. If made universal practice, it could be beneficial to the animals as well as to workers who are frequently scratched and pecked by live birds. In replacing live hanging of chickens, it could also reduce the incident of occupational injury. As OSHA notes, “[t]he incidence rate of CTS in the poultry processing was more than seven times the national average in 2013.”

Perdue has begun implementing gas stunning in their factories, beginning first with one facility in Maryland to test the process. A spokesperson from Perdue told The Portland Press-Herald, “There are a lot of reasons for us to move forward on better care. It’s good for the chicken, farmer and the meat.” Perdue’s new animal welfare practices follow on the heels of sharp criticism by MFA and other organization. At present, five companies–Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Perdue, and Koch Food, account of more than half of the U.S.’s chicken production and collectively earned over $28.1 billion in revenue in 2015. The top three companies alone – Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson – produce approximately half of the nation’s chicken. Getting these corporations overboard with humane methods of slaughter for poultry would be a major victory for MFA and all others concerns with ethics and safety in food production.

The post The Case for Humane Slaughter Laws for Poultry appeared first on Unsafe Foods.

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Think Twice & Use Proper Safeguards When Developing Sales Incentives

Originally published by Joe A. Garza, Jr..

Sales incentives are a great way to motivate sales teams, and they can be a boon to corporate bottom lines, but without the proper safeguards, they can also be ripe for fraud and abuse. Here’s one such tale of woe: A large company, Gree D, Inc., implements a sales plan designed to drive more revenue […]

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Alan Sugarman’s Review of Challenging Westlaw’s Copyright Claims in the 1990s

Originally published by Greg Lambert.

We take a break from Casey’s BS series and point you to a historical review of the “cutthroat” legal research industry as it moved from print, hardbound reporter sets, to the online legal research systems which we know today. Whenever an industry is disrupted by a new technology, the players within the industry can play hardball with each other, and that typically leads to litigation as everyone scrambles to protect their stake in that industry. Legal publishing was completely disrupted in the 1990s, and Alan Sugarman from HyperLaw was on the front lines of this battle. Sugarman tells his story to Sam Glover, over at The Lawyerist, and it is definitely worth a listen.

Sugarman describes the history of his battle with Westlaw and their claim to copyright on a number of issues, but primarily Sugarman’s discusses his suit against Westlaw’s claims of copyright on the text and the citation of court opinions. It’s a fascinating listen on how the legal research industry shifted to online research and the different issues surrounding the transformation.

It reminds me of my days with the Oklahoma State Court Network ( and when we adopted the vendor-neutral citation system we adopted and made official in the 90s. Sugarman talks about the vendor-neutral system and his stress on including the docket number of the court decisions within the vendor-neutral cites.

Hat’s off to Alan Sugarman for his rebellion in the 1990s. Take a listen to “The Lawyerist Podcast #151: How Westlaw Lost its Copyright, with Alan Sugarman.” Without the likes of Sugarman and others who challenged the behemoths of the legal publishing world, we wouldn’t have products like Google Scholar, Fastcase, and other legal research resources today.

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What Information Can Your Attorney Obtain After a Tractor Trailer Accident?

Originally published by Travis Patterson.

To give you the best chance at winning your accident claim, it’s important that your lawyer starts an investigation as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can start collecting the evidence outlined below. Access to the Tractor-Trailer’s Record of Duty Log The “record of duty” is one of the […]

The post What Information Can Your Attorney Obtain After a Tractor Trailer Accident? appeared first on Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyers | Patterson Law Group.

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Madoff Victims near Full Recovery of Principal with New Payout

Originally published by Gerry W. Beyer.

The trustee tasked with unwinding Bernie Madoff’s company is set to issue nearly $600 million to victims of the Ponzi scheme early next year. This payout will bring the grand total to almost $11.4 billion. The checks issued to former…

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