Thursday, May 27, 2010

Litigation Group Takes On Class-Action Bans

Public Citizen Litigation Group's next Supreme Court argument (our 57th) comes in a case of crucial importance to consumers and employees. The question to be decided is whether companies ban class actions in their take-it-or-leave-it contracts.
If you have signed up for a credit card, purchased cell-phone or cable service, or taken a job with a large employer, the chances are good that you have signed a mandatory arbitration agreement. Increasingly, many of these agreements not only force people to arbitrate any disputes, rather than having the option of going to court, but they include clauses that purport to strip consumers and employees of the right to seek classwide relief - whether in court or in arbitration.
Whether corporations can enforce class-action bans is a vigorously disputed question in consumer and employment law. The answer matters because class actions are often the only way to stop companies from getting away with practices that cheat large numbers of people out of small amounts of money. As Judge Posner has written, "[t]he realistic alternative to a class action is not 17 million individual suits, but zero individual suits, as only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30."
On Monday, May 24, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which presents the question whether the Federal Arbitration Act preempts rulings that particular class-action bans are unconscionable under generally applicable state contract law. Along with attorneys at Hulett Harper Stewart and at Nicholas & Butler in San Diego, the Litigation Group represents the respondents, Californians who seek to sue AT&T for imposing fraudulent charges for cell phone service.
You can read AT&T's cert. petition and our brief in opposition on our website

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Casino Counseling Program Using Extortion?

I-Team: Ch. 8, LV, Nv.
Posted: May 25, 2010 5:09 PM EDT Updated: May 25, 2010 5:29 PM EDT

LAS VEGAS -- Imagine you get into a drunken fight at a casino and find yourself getting tossed into a backroom. Any other place you'd get thrown out. Here, you watch a video and are given a choice.

Las Vegas Metro Police Officer Jose Montoya tells you United States Justice Associates could save your career. Just admit you're guilty, waive rights to an attorney and pay $500 immediately, and all your problems go away.

Robert Draskovich is the attorney representing USJA and its owner. He says using the private counseling service kept Metro from dealing with petty crimes and that the program and video just streamlined a normally slow process.

See the USJA Detainee Form (click link below for original article w/ working link to Form)

"It was easier, not only for the casinos personnel, it was easier on Metro. It was easier on all those involved in the justice system," he said.

"Basically saying, 'Hey, we've got you now and we'll call the police unless you give us money.' There is a word for that: it is called extortion," said Allen Lichtenstein with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lichtenstein was disgusted with the video and USJA's tactics. His opinion echoes that of Metro's investigation: twice over the last seven months, police raided USJA looking for evidence of extortion and the "very threatening" nature of the program.

"The casinos do not have the right to pretend that they are the police," said Lichtenstein.

He says the legal threats are exaggerated and the theatrics and official tone are misleading. The county, the courts or Metro have not given any true approval and Lichtenstein says it scares people into complying.

One account they didn't snag was MGM Mirage. Corporate security chief Tom Lozich questioned the legality, and the intent, of the program. For every $500 fee, the casinos got $100 in return. Lozich says that's incentive to haul people in.

"When you look at it from an integrity standpoint, that kind of brings that into kind of a questionable area," he said.

Station Casinos security chief Bill Young did like the program. He says security officers can decide guilt or innocence best in most cases.

"It reduces the need for a prosecutor being involved -- a public defender," he said.

But Young not only runs security for Station, he's the former sheriff of Clark County and says he used USJA at the urging of Chief Judge Doug Smith. In a letter supporting the counseling program, Smith said he has "never used one that is better" and that he "wholeheartedly, without reservation" recommends using it.

Smith declined to comment, but USJA was in court Tuesday trying to find out more about the raids.

Despite the investigation and court activity, Young stands his ground. He thinks the program does not look like extortion and their tactics shouldn't be criticized.

"I don't know who's pushing this. I don't know if it's the ACLU, but it's a crock of s*** as far as I'm concerned. Excuse my language," he said.

Casinos in charge of the law. No oversight, no accountability but finally some scrutiny making its way into the backrooms.

Shortly after Sheriff Doug Gillespie came on board, the officer in the video was taken out and replaced by an actor. Metro never approved this program or signed off.

Bill Young and Stations ended their contract after learning USJA was not actually forwarding cases to prosecution if the person failed to follow through on counseling.

The owner of USJA, Steven Brox, has not been charged on this case. Because of the Metro raids, the program has temporarily been shut down.

http://www.8newsnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=12541509

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ALS Grad to Study Hudson River Corridor

Albany Law Scool Grad of ’12, was awarded fellowship to study land use on Hudson . Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 10:04am

Nikki Nielson ’12 was recently awarded a Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship to spend the summer researching conservation easements along the Hudson River corridor stretching from New York City to Troy, N.Y.

At the end of the summer, she will present her findings to the Hudson River Foundation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the two entities who administer the fellowship.

“Ulster County alone has 11 land trusts, and there are many more throughout the Hudson Valley.” explained Nielson, who operated her own grant writing and project management firm in New Paltz, N.Y., prior to enrolling at Albany Law.

“My work will be to step back and try to determine how this type of land can best be used while preserving environmental benefits.”

Many historic properties along the Hudson River - estates of industrialists, religious retreats and agricultural lands - have been converted over the years from private ownership into a mixture of public, private and quasi-public ownership. One of these conversion mechanisms has been for the landowner to grant conservation easements to restrict development of their property.

However, there is currently a lack of information about the implementation of conservation easements, as well as some confusion as to the legal implications of such a designation. Nielson will spend the summer surveying the quantity and types of easements along the Hudson River, analyzing existing case law and legal research on the topic, and developing analysis and recommendations for future implementation.

She hopes to publish a paper based on her work.

“Ultimately, my goal is to inform the public policy discussion on how best to move forward with a comprehensive plan while still protecting the land for future generations,” she said.

The Polgar Fellowship provides a summertime grant and research funds for up to eight college students to conduct research on the Hudson River. The program’s objectives are to gather information on all aspects of the Hudson River and to train students in conducting estuarine studies and public policy research.

Professor Keith Hirokawa, who taught Nielson’s Property class, will act as her advisor during the fellowship. “He’s the one who encouraged me to apply,” she recalled.

After teaching in the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, Calif., Nielson moved to the Hudson Valley in 2001 and took a position developing grants and managing projects for municipalities and regional organizations.

She launched her own firm, Arcady Solutions, in 2008, where she provided writing, research, needs assessments, project development, fundraising and project management services for organizations in the fields of economic development, environmental sustainability through the protection of open space and educational equity.

“I’ve always wanted to go to law school,” she said. “And now, based on my prior work experience and current interests, I really feel like I have direction in terms of what kind of law I want to pursue.”

Nielson, who lives in New Paltz with her husband and their daughter, holds a B.S. from the University of Rochester, and a M.A. from Teacher's College, Columbia University, in politics and education.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Partnership Property & Conflict of Interest w/ the Appraiser

(Under) assessed by Holden Associates in 2004 at $120,000 (hired by Defendant Robert Jubic for his divorce) http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=19+cross+street,+troy,+ny&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=19+Cross+St,+Troy,+Rensselaer,+New+York+12180&ll=42.705875,-73.697644&spn=0,0.003653&t=k&z=19&layer=c&cbll=42.705714,-73.698665&panoid=5evbHRJpynOktXQYIUgCgw&cbp=13,81.25,,0,7.05
and re-accessed again in 2007 (hired by the court) also by Holden and Associates at the same $120,000 value~!

At the time of the second (court ordered appraisal) Defendant Robert Jubic was the only one accompanying the appraiser for the walk-through of the building. There was no one else there to witness if a "bribery" had occurred. However,

Do you think there is possibly "too cozy" of a relationship here between the Defendant Robert Jubic and his regular appraiser Holden and Associates to have had allowed Holden do the re-accessment three years later for the court? Isnt it strange how the court just pulled "Holden and Associates" out of the hat to do the second appraisal? Isnt it really strange that this BEAUTIFUL 5 unit apartment building was (under) appraised (for the defendants divorce) in 2004 at $120,000 and then again re-appraised in 2007 ("for the courts) at the same figure of $120,000? Isnt it strange that the defendant didnt notify the court of the conflict of interest when he found out that (his personal appraiser which he uses on a regular basis for his numberous OTHER income properties) ? We did not become aware of the fact that Holden had appraised the building for the defendant in 2004 until after the (damage) of the 2007 appraisal was done.

Isnt it strange that between the years of 2004 and 2007 this BEAUTIFUL commercial income-generating 5 unit apartment complex did not appreciate in value by even one dime, while other commerical properties in the area increased by about 8% ? Me thinks so. How about you?

http://holdenappraisers.com/

The IRS Describes What is a Partnership

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p541.pdf

See also NYS Partnership Law

Determining When a Partnership Exists

Determining "What is a Partnership" under the Uniform Partnership Act;
http://www.usyd.edu.au/lec/subjects/associations/notes/Winter%2006/Partnership.pdf