Changing The U.S. Tax Code Is A Challenge For Lawmakers

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to throw out the old tax system and replace it with a simpler system that reduces individual and corporate tax payments. But revamping a tax code that is out of control and totally confusing is not a simple task. The Republican effort to overhaul the tax system has hit a wall in the House of Representatives, and the wall is full of spending cut battles and infighting.
The House Budget Committee is not sending a budget resolution to the floor because conservation Republicans are adding billions of dollars in spending cuts to the basic blueprint of the budget. Trump needs House and Senate approval of a budget, so Republicans can avoid Democratic opposition in the Senate. But the proposed spending cuts on food stamps and Medicaid are not helping matters, and a stalemate could be “the political blue plate special of the day.” A stalemate means no movement on tax reform.

The fly in the political ointment seems to be gaining strength, according to Washington insiders who say “no budget, no tax reform.” The conservation House Freedom Caucus wants to cut $400 billion from programs that help the poor. And the chairman of that committee wants another $295 billion in spending cuts. There is a Republican agreement in place that will top spending levels for defense and nondefense programs, but other spending cuts are necessary so the national deficit doesn’t increase when a new tax system becomes a reality.

But cutting programs for the poor to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations is not the answer, according to many Democrats. And the initial Trump plan to cut tax rates from seven to three would not help average Americans if some of the itemized deductions go away. And there is talk of a reduction in itemized deductions, especially interest deductions.

There are House and Senate members who want a consumer-driven tax system or a consumption tax. A consumption system would eliminate all the complex paperwork and most of the daily functions of the IRS. But a consumption tax system is not in the cards on Capitol Hill this year. And if the infighting continues in Congress, any new tax system is out of the question. But one way or another Trump will get a new tax code. But just putting any tax code in place may not help solve the long-term tax system debacle.

Two Attorneys General Sue President Trump

Two attorney generals have decided to sue President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution by the founding fathers to prohibit representatives of the federal government from granting titles of nobility or receiving gifts and emoluments in exchange for preferential treatment.

The aim behind the clause tucked into section nine of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent foreign powers from exercising undue influence on the national interests of the United States and its people. Founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton positioned their opposition to attempts at foreign gifts and bribery in history. Both England and France in the late 19th century had fallen victim to corruption from foreign governments, and the founding fathers didn’t want to see that happen to the United States.

Bringing things back to today’s politics, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suspect that President Trump may be unconstitutionally profiting from his time in office. Both attorneys general sued the president earlier this month for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution and failing to divest himself fully from his family-operated business.

Technically, the two attorneys general are suing for President Trump’s alleged violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause. (An emolument is an antiquated term for a profit or a fee that one collects while serving in office.) In the language of the original emoluments clause, a sitting president must have the expressed consent of Congress before taking any kind of inducement or gift from a foreign power.

Attorney General Racine opined that President Trump has rode roughshod of the anti-corruption laws included in the U.S. Constitution. Both attorneys general suing the president are doing so partly to show that nobody is above the law. Each also believes that the state’s attorneys general have a binding duty to ensure that there are safeguards along the way to thwart federal politicians from bending the rules for material advantage.

Both Attorney General Racine and Attorney General Frosh have sought an injunction to prevent President Trump from continuing to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Many from around the country forcefully assert that the president’s duty is foremost to the American people; personal economic advantage should not enter into the picture. Attorney General Frosh concedes that he is spearheading the lawsuit partly to prevent this behavior from becoming more normalized.

Republicans Postpone Senate Vote on Healthcare

Republicans in the Senate have decided to postpone a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The bill is the next chapter in an attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ushered in to existence by democrats under President Obama. The newer Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 shepherded by Senate Republicans is the follow-up to the House of Representative’s American Health Care Act of 2017 passed under the stewardship of Congressman Paul Ryan.

Democratic senators have been vehement in their opposition to the Senate’s healthcare reform proposition, but it wasn’t until Republican senators like Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul began voicing their misgivings that Republican leadership understood the extend of opposition to the proposal. On Tuesday, June 27th the Republican-controlled Senate lead by majority leader Mitch McConnell decided to postpone a vote on healthcare reform under after the July 4th recess.

Sources claim that Republicans were backed in to forcing a postponement of a vote on healthcare due to opposition within the Republican party. An additional inducement to postpone came from President Trump, who called Republicans to the White House in order to reconcile the divisions among their own ranks. The trouble is that Republicans have only a slim majority in the U.S. Senate – as opposed to the House of Representatives where Republicans enjoy a more robust majority – and any Republican opposition among Republican senators could greatly complicated speedy passage of H.R. 1628, or the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

Senator McConnell claimed that postponing the vote until after the July 4th recess was informed by a desire to make other senators feel comfortable with the bill and its implications. Opponents across the aisle claim that Senator Mitch McConnell didn’t have the necessary votes to see the bill’s passage this week and decided to take his chances until after the July 4th recess. Democratic senators, in fact, are unanimous in their opposition to the Senate’s healthcare overhaul.

Another factor that swayed the debate in democrat’s favor was the fact that the Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the Senate’s healthcare overhaul would leave over 20 million Americans without insurance over the next ten years. The new Senate bill would, however, chisel over $300 billion from the federal budget over that time frame, which is music to the ears of conservative politicians concerned about the federal deficit. Senators return July 10th.

Trump’s Attorney General May Go After Medical Pot Providers

Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator, and the current Attorney General of the United States is shaking the political trees and what is falling from those trees isn’t pretty. Sessions is a hard-nosed politician with extremely conservative views when it comes to criminal activity and the legalization of marijuana.


Session’s performance in front of Congress recently wasn’t as forthright as some lawmakers wanted it to be. But his performance did show a man who is not afraid to protect himself, and his reputation, at all costs. Some Washington insiders say Sessions is pushing hard to seek the maximum penalty in all criminal cases and to battle legalizing cannabis in order to protect his reputation as a narrow-minded lawmaker with antiquated beliefs.

The new attorney general sent a letter to Congress recently. Sessions wants the lawmakers to help him override state marijuana laws. Members of Congress could do that by not renewing the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which stops the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana decisions. Sessions believes marijuana is the primary cause of the current drug epidemic in the United States. But the facts show opioid addiction, not marijuana use, is the catalyst for the drug epidemic. According to a Washington Post article, there are fewer cases of opioid addiction and abuse in states where marijuana use is legal.

And Jeff Sessions didn’t stop shaking the trees when he stopped federal prosecutors from using their discretion in fitting the punishment to the crime. Sessions wants the maximum penalty possible in all criminal cases. Sessions wants to stop the recent crime surge in America. But statistics show between 2004 and 2014 crime fell in spite of the fact that prosecutors were treating crime with a sense of understanding.

The truth is, the minimum sentencing procedures put in place by former Attorney General Eric Holder, did not jeopardize the American public. In fact, for the first time in four decades’ crime fell. The severely over-populated prisons in the U.S. were less crowded between 2013 and 2016 because low-level drug offenders did not serve long prison terms.

But Jeff Sessions is on a mission to increase the prison population problem. U.S. attorneys must throw the book at all defendants even though some prosecutors think that is a bad idea. Throwing the book at low-level criminals is an attack on American taxpayers, according to the Washington Post and other news agencies.

Google Sued Record $2.7 Billion in Landmark Antitrust Case

The tech giant Google has recently been sued a staggering $2.7 billion by European antitrust officials. Announcement of the fine came on June 27th. Margaret Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, fined Google 2.4 billion euros on Tuesday. The move to fine Google so heavily provides a stark counterpoint to the lax attitudes taken by regulatory authorities in the United States.

The European Union’s antitrust officials grabbed headlines by forcing Apple to pay over $14 billion in back taxes that the antitrust commission felt was Ireland’s due. The more recent judgment with Google goes one step further. To date, the fine levied against Google is more than twice the amount paid out by the second-highest fined corporation.

Margaret Vestager claimed in a press conference that Google violated market competitiveness when Google favored its own products over those of its competitors. European Union antitrust authorities made the claim that Google seized advantage of its monopoly-like clout in online searches to steer customers towards Google’s proprietary shopping business.

This is a serious charge with serious implications. Google has 90 days to pay the fine of $2.7 billion or face more serious fines that could have an impact on Google’s business. Although Google pulls in approximately $90 billion in annual revenue, the future looks somewhat bleak for the tech giant if they put off paying the fine levied by the European Union’s chief antitrust authority.

Executives at Google are taking the European Union at its word when it says that it plans on fining the parent company of Google, Alphabet Incorporated, as much as five percent of its daily revenue if the fine is not paid on time and in full. The European Commission is the official agency making these threats, and it alleges that Google flagrantly violated competitive laws in Europe.

How does Google do that exactly? Some claim that Google bolstered the search results of company-affiliated products when other products may have been better for consumers. Margaret Vestager informed reporters after her news conference exactly what had happened. She claimed that European consumers were denied real choice and effectively limited from taking advantage of recent innovations in the tech industry.

Astute macroeconomic observers believe that the European authority’s throwing down the gauntlet by singling out Google represents a more assertive posture in regulating the brave new world of online sales. In the meantime, Google is disputing the fine amid stock downturns.

Studies Find Law Firms May be Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

A cyber security startup called LogicForce recently released a report on the vulnerability of law firms to cyberattack. The results are pretty unsettling. In the wake of the devastating cyberattack on DLA Piper, a multinational law firm, law firms from around the country want to know how vulnerable their systems are to cyberattacks and ransomware.

The report released by LogicForce found that law firms are especially vulnerable to all kinds of cyberattacks. Disturbingly, the study found that corporate and government-affiliated law firms are also at risk. There may be billions of dollars at stake in the sense that ransomware could imperil huge swaths of a corporate client’s assets.

Some of the attacks may have already taken place. The LogicForce study showed that two-fifths of law firms were unaware that their systems were breached. Most law firms may be at risk since the study also found that the size, type, and complexity of the law firm had little or no bearing on whether that law firm was targeted for a sophisticated cyberattack.

Fewer than one-fourth of law firms surveyed in the study had cyberattack insurance. Admittedly, this is a brave new world with evolving threats, but more law firms should be protecting their clients’ confidential information and protecting their own assets. The cost of doing otherwise is simply too high.

So, how many total law firms are being affected by this ongoing onslaught of cyberattacks. The LogicForce study indicated that upwards of 65% of the 200 surveyed law firms had been breached with at least one cyberattack.

If there’s a silver lining to all of this it’s that about half of law firms tend to have an incident response plan in the event of a cyberattack. This means that lawyers are prepared to respond to threats of varying sizes with different strategies. That’s good news for mitigating the damage, but more proactive measures are needed to ensure that cyberattacks are kept to a minimum.

A similar though more comprehensive study undertaken by the American Bar Association (ABA) found that half of law firms with staff of 500 or more lawyers had an adequate incident response plan while 60 percent of law firms with 100-499 lawyers had such a plan in place.

The takeaway from all of these studies is that law firms should consider taking out cyberattack insurance and developing graduated incident response plans in case a cyberattack takes place.

Karl Heideck’s Guide to Pennsylvania Employment Law for Small Businesses

Do you operate a Pennsylvania business? There are a few things that you need to keep in mind regarding your workforce. Although labor laws are constantly evolving, it’s critical that you stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how employment regulations influence your compliance obligations and corporate future.

Critical Laws That Impact Pennsylvanian Companies

Employment law has a broad scope that touches on a vast range of practices. Some of the regulations that bind you may be specific to your industry or business model. For instance, if you employ legal minors, or individuals under the age of 18, then you’ll need to adhere to the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law, or CLL.

Other provisions are more broadly applicable regardless who’s in your workforce. Understand these critical rules:

Minimum Wage and Labor Practices: The Fair Labor Standards Act

This law, also known as the FLSA, lays down the rules for when you need to pay your employees minimum wage. It also covers overtime, your tabulation and recording of work hours, and your duty to post FLSA requirements visibly at your premises.

Although the FLSA governs the minimum wage, it’s important to remember that these federal rules don’t override state laws. For instance, as of June 2017, most Pennsylvanian workers who earned minimum wage received the same $7.25 hourly rate that the FLSA set. Since 2016, however, individuals who worked for the state’s government or contractors that bid on state jobs earned $10.15 when making minimum wage. If you’re unsure whether you need to pay federal or state minimum wage, the general rule is to pick the higher of the two.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Also known as the FMLA, this federal law ensures that eligible employees are allowed to take leave when it’s related to their family or medical needs. During someone’s FMLA leave, you don’t have to pay them, but you can’t penalize them by firing them from their job or cut back their group health insurance eligibility.

Employees covered by the FMLA may take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Valid reasons for taking leave include when workers

  • Need to care for their children, parents or spouses who have serious health problems,
  • Are having a new baby or need to care for one who was born less than a year ago,
  • Are adopting or foster parenting a new child,
  • Can’t perform their job due to their own serious health issues, or
  • Have military spouses, offspring or parents who get injured.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Employees are getting older, and employers must afford elderly workers the same rights that they’d grant their younger counterparts. If you fail to do so, you could face discrimination lawsuits or fines.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, dates back to 1967. It was originally intended to stop bosses who employ more than 20 people from discriminating against workers above the age of 40. Navigating this law isn’t as simple as determining whether you meet these basic tenets, however. For instance, if you operate a consumer research organization, then you may have a valid reason for restricting certain employment offers based on applicants’ ages or other demographics.

The ADEA applies to government institutions and contractors. As workforces grow progressively older, however, legislators may expand the law to protect more employees.

IRS Worker Classification

Should you withhold income and Social Security taxes from your workers’ paychecks? There’s a big difference between part-timers and independent contractors. Bodies like the IRS apply various rubrics to gauge how much control you exert over your workers and determine whether they should be classified as employees.

It’s critical that you understand these distinctions so that you don’t fall afoul of tax regulations. Also, remember that the federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA, that you must pay the IRS are separate from the sums required by the state’s unemployment contribution law.

Hiring, Harassment and Discrimination: Equal Employment Laws

While the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or EEOC, may be the first agency you think of when it comes to employment discrimination claims, it’s not the only body with jurisdiction. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, or PHRC, also fields claims, and the state’s Human Relations Act may mean that you’re subject to anti-discrimination guidelines that the EEOC excludes.

The PHRC typically deals with companies that have between 4 and 14 workers, but the EEOC handles enterprises with at least 15. Both prohibit hiring and employment discrimination based on protected classes, like race, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age.

Situation-specific Laws

In addition to state-level laws, federal legislation and rules that only impact your industry, you may be subject to statutes imposed by your city, county or township. For instance, in 2017, Philadelphia barred employers who do business in the city from asking about new hires’ wage histories.

Employment law is exceedingly complex, but this isn’t an excuse for falling behind. Many small business owners find it helpful to consult with legal experts about their obligations.

More by Karl Heideck:  Career Spotlight: Litigation with Karl Heideck

About Karl Heideck

Karl Heideck is a Philadelphia-based contract attorney who works hard to help businesses do right by their employees. Karl Heideck firmly believes in assisting firms that strive to adhere to the spirit of the law and not just its letter.

Karl Heideck has practiced in various fields of employment and contract law for more than a decade. In addition to coming directly to the aid of companies that would otherwise struggle to master the complex nuances of their regulatory obligations, he routinely contributes to online news sources and blogs by explaining the evolution of Pennsylvanian law and its impact on businesses.

During the time he spent as a Pepper Hamilton LLP project attorney and a Conrad O’Brien associate, Mr. Heideck gained invaluable experience fighting for enterprises and individuals alike. Karl always looks forward to applying his exhaustive knowledge in challenging new cases.

For more information, connect with Karl Heideck on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Constitutional Law Expert Sujit Choudhry Presents an Analysis of Freedom of Speech

Understanding Freedom of Speech 

It’s important to comprehend the legal parameters of the freedom of expression in particular jurisdictions. The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Human Rights Law. Freedom of speech is basically the right to articulate opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or societal sanctions. The United States Constitution is a document understood best in context form. There have been 27 amendments to the United States Constitution since its inception as America’s founding political document. The First Amendment primarily focused on protecting political as well as religious expressions. In essence, this Amendment was designed to protect the people from government pressure. As late as 1798, the scope of free speech was still up in the air when President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Based on the First Amendment, Americans receive protections from exercising their spiritual beliefs freely without government restrictions. Free speech and a free press are protected under the Constitution on citizens assembling peacefully, but the confusion in this scenario arises when people don’t understand what each of those two things means.

Understanding Hate Speech 

Americans across the board are widely in support of the idea of freedom of expression and yet there is a growing movement that is promoting social justice as well hate speech restrictions. From a legal point of view, those ideas entirely contradict. In a broader sense, there is no constitutional prohibition distinctively addressing hate speech despite the fact that some states have enacted laws that target hate speech. Hate speech may fall under the category of “Fighting Words and Offensive Speech.” According to the First Amendment of the Supreme Court of 1942, the spoken or written works that would likely cause violence are not protected under the law. The general statement against a group that causes emotional distress under the umbrella of free speech cannot be restricted.

Free Speech and College Campuses 

In the United States College Campuses, free Speech is more volatile. It’s believed that colleges are strongholds of democratic deliberation and critical thinking. Moreover, in the last decade dramatic shift in mutual attitudes at institutions of higher learning has been noticed. College environment illustrates why free speech is important and some universities remain devoted to protecting the free exchange of ideas. Many institutions in America are in support of freedom of expression simply because student activism has indeed changed school policies. The concept of human nature apparently helps people to relatively narrow the range of thought and ideas. The only way to broaden these perspectives is to challenge them with competing ideas in favor of emotional growth along with human understanding. Therefore, free speech is fundamental.

Role of Social Media 

The transfer of information was a slow process for the most of America’s history. It’s evident that the transmission of information from coast to coast took weeks before the existence of radio, telegram, and telephones. In the last 50 years, the internet has turned the world into universally acknowledged social standards and people can interact with an increasingly different pool of acquaintances. However, social media exposes a variety of political opinions in real time by bringing new as well different ideas right on your front door. The United States Constitution lawfully protects your fundamental human rights by valuing free speech and advocating generation of new ideas. This promotes respect and creates the safest public atmosphere for all citizens transversely to every political stripe and social issue.

Who is Sujit Choudhry? 

Sujit Choudhry is the Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions. He is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law California University, Berkeley school of Law, where he served as a dean. Choudhry is an expert in comparative constitutional law. Previously Choudhry was the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University, and the Scholl Chair at the University of Toronto. Born in New Delhi in 1970, Sujit is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. He holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, as well from Harvard. Professor Sujit was a Rhodes Scholar in which he served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He combines a wide-ranging research agenda with in-depth field experience as an advisor to constitution building processes since he has lectured in over two dozen countries including Jordan, Nepal, Libya, South Africa, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Professor Choudhry generates and mobilizes knowledge in support of constitution building by assembling as well as leading international network of experts to produce thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners and agenda-setting research. Up to date, the Center for Constitutional Transitions has worked with more than fifty professionals from more than twenty-five countries whereby it partners with a global network of multilateral organizations such as think tanks and NGOs.

Professor Choudhry’s research addresses a wide range of issues in comparative constitutional law along with politics. He has written extensively on Canadian constitutional law. The fields he has concentrated more includes; constitutional design as an instrument to manage the change from violent conflict to diplomatic democratic politics, constitutional design in ethnically divided into societies, constitutional design in the context of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, basic methodological questions in the study of comparative law, minority and group rights, official language policy, Bills of rights and proportionality. He also discussed issues related to federalism, decentralization, and secession. Professor Choudhry has published over 90 articles, book chapters, working papers, along with reports. Central to such an endeavor, the books include; “The Migration of Constitutional Ideas” (Cambridge, 2006), “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation?”(Oxford, 2008), “The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution” (Oxford, 2016), and “The Constitution Making” (Edward Elgar, 2016). In collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Professor Sujit Choudhry is currently co-leading three global collaborative research projects. The projects are; “Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions,” “Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies” and “Security Sector Oversight” which will yield a series of research and policy outputs to be published in 2017.

Interviews with Sujit Choudhry: 

Ideamensch

CEO/CFO

Daniel Budzinski Podcast

I-CONnect

False Memories and False Confessions – NPR Discusses the Case of the Beatrice Six

In 2009, six individuals from Beatrice, Nebraska were exonerated for the crime of murdering an elderly woman in 1985 after new DNA evidence was brought to light proving their innocence. Even so, many of the members of the “Beatrice Six” still report having memories of committing the crime the night it happened. In a recent report from NPR’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, host Audie Cornish talked with The New Yorker writer Rachel Aviv about why this may be.

During their discussion, they talk about what happened at the scene of the crime. Police could find no leads as to who could have be the perpetrator despite large amounts of physical evidence left behind. An informant implicated JoAnn Taylor and Joseph White as suspects, who were arrested. Neither could remember the events of the night due to being intoxicated and were convinced of their wrongdoing by police threats.

After being told to recount who else was responsible for the crime through dreams by psychologist Wayne Price, Taylor and White eventually implicated Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Kathy Gonzales, and Debra Shelden as accomplices. All were eventually tried and convicted for crimes they never committed.

Aviv goes on to explain why Doctor Price asked them to do this, talking about how the idea of recovering repressed traumatic memories through things like dreaming was a popular idea in psychology at the time. Calling it an “epidemic”, she goes on to say it was quickly discredited after reaching its most pervasive form.

Despite not having committed the crime, two of the Beatrice Six still to this day report having vivid memories of what happened that night. Aviv then talks about the idea of implanting false memories into people and how it shapes who they are, planning to expand on the topic in a future issue of The New Yorker.

For JoAnn Taylor and Joseph White, this is what happened. Despite not having committed any crimes, they were convinced that they had by the police’s detailed descriptions of what could have happened, implicating four unrelated parties based on poor advice from a psychologist.

At the time of their release, the true culprit of the crime was caught based on the same DNA evidence that freed the Beatrice Six. The five surviving members (White died in 2011) are currently engaged in a lawsuit against Gage County, Nebraska over false imprisonment and police misconduct.

Bill Cosby’s Trial Ends in Mistrial

After 53 hours of deliberation, the judge in Bill Cosby’s trial says that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. Judge Steven O’Neill  says that he hopes to schedule a new trial within 120 days in the case where Cosby is accused of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand who is director of operations of Temple University’s women’s basketball team in 2004 when the alleged assault occurred. Bill Cosby plead not guilty, although he had paid Constand an undisclosed amount of money following her civil suit in 2006.

Why Cosby’s Mistrial?

The jury in their sixth day had already asked the judge 12 questions including the definition of reasonable doubt. Five of them were requests to review what Constand and Cosby said in court. In the end, however, the jury asked the judge for a definition of reasonable doubt shortly before the mistrial was declared.

Camille Cosby’s Statement

While Bill Cosby who is now 79 made no statement after the mistrial was declared, a spokesman for Cosby’s wife Camille read a statement which included calling the:

  • District attorney-heinously and exploitively ambitious
  • Judge- Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the district attorney
  • Counsel for the accuser- Unethical
  • General media- Blatantly vicious entities

What did Bill Cosby Allegedly do in 2004?

Bill Cosby admits that he had sex with Constand in 2004. He, however, says that it was consensual. He also says that he gave Constand three half-pills of Benadryl. About a year later, Constand told her mother that Cosby raped her. She reported the incident to the police a few days later. At that time, the district attorney did not press charges because there was a lack of evidence.

Cosby’s Health

Cosby’s lead attorney says that he is very worried about his client’s health on the day after the mistrial was declared. Cosby who is 79 years old is legally blind. He uses a cane for mobility. Cosby was arrested in December 2016, and he appeared to stumble entering the building where his passport was revoked. At that time, bond was set at $1 million.

Possible Outcome

If the district attorney retires the case, then Cosby could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He would also have to register as a sex offender if found guilty. While the district attorney has said that he will retry the expensive case, he has not filed the paperwork to start the process again.

 

Excessive Fee Litigation by Mutual Funds Face Serious Implications with the Passing of the Financial CHOICE Act by the House

The passing of the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) on June 8, 2017, along House party lines aims to replace and repeal several clauses of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Financial CHOICE Act is a big reform for financial regulation which will contain possible amendments to section 36(b) of the 1940 Act that will raise the burden of proof and heighten the standards of pleading for plaintiffs in situations of litigation fee that are excessive. It was passed 233-186 along the party divide.

Investment advisers face a fiduciary duty imposed by section 36(b) instead of the compensation they receive for the advisory services they provide to funds which give the shareholders of the funds a private action right to enforce the duty against all the affiliates and their advisers who receive the compensations from the funds. By a preponderance of the available evidence, the burden of proof will be on the plaintiffs who will be required to show that the fee they pay for advice is excessive. In other words, they will need to give evidence that the services the defendant rendered and the fee charged are so disproportionate that they do not bear any relationship, and that the negotiations could not take place at an arm’s length.

Therefore, the Financial CHOICE Act will impose a requirement that under Section 36(b) any complaint brought should state all the peculiar facts that establish a breach of fiduciary duty, and to prove that if any such alleged facts are based on existing beliefs and information, the complainant shall use all means to state the peculiarities on which the facts and opinions are based or on which the opinion are formed. Apart from the raised or stricter standards of pleading that the complainants will have to face, the plaintiffs will also be confronted by heightened burden of proof imposed by the Act from a state of legal “preponderance of the evidence” to a legally acceptable state of “convincing and unequivocal evidence.”

The new rules will not make the playing field any simpler for all the parties involved, and in the event of a process of litigation, it is clear that the cases will be long-drawn and complicated. Under the Financial Choice Act, the shareholder of a fund will have the burden to prove that there was a breach of fiduciary duty by convincing and clear evidence.

 

Trump’s Justice Appointed, Debate Over Travel Ban Rages On

The travel ban, or immigration pause as the lawyers are calling it, has been held up in court once again. As this is being weighed, Donald Trump visited the Supreme Court this last week to attend the appointment of his newly-appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch.

Donald and Melania Trump attended, but did not speak at, the event honoring the appointment of Gorsuch to the nation’s highest court. Justice John Roberts offered Trump favorable words in his opening comments.

Gorsuch has been the subject of controversy for some time, since the only reason he was able to be appointed was that the Republican-led Senate refused to consider Obama’s pick for justice, Merrick Garland, for most of last year.

As the 5-4 conservative majority is now restored, things may be looking up for Trump’s travel ban which is slated to be weighed by the justices on its constitutionality. The court is also looking at a request to allow the ban to go into effect preemptively until litigation can be thoroughly carried out. It’s possible that Gorsuch may be the linchpin in these proceedings in favor of the Trump administration.

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked the travel ban, calling it unconstitutional and clearly a religious ban, despite the rhetoric of the Trump administration. The appeals process has now sent that up the pipeline to the Supreme Court and its newly-appointed justice.

While justices are supposed to be apolitical and judge solely on the legality of a matter, the fact of the matter is the political and judicial worlds are far more entangled than many may think. A justice newly appointed by Trump may also be more likely to assist in pushing through a Trump agenda, but there’s no way of knowing for sure until litigation is completed.

The Trump administration currently has a lot of legal battles to fight. Trump is also under investigation by a special committee for obstruction of justice in his recent firing of James Comey.

Further Analysis Of Dakota Access Pipeline’s Environmental Impact Ordered

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been a major source of debate in the political and environmental spheres as of late. Now, a U.S. federal judge had ordered that debate to continue.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not analyze the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill to satisfactory levels. Such an oil spill could have negative effects on the livelihood of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, he claims. The judge found that federal permits issued for the pipeline violated the law by not thoroughly completing this investigation.

As of now, the pipeline has not been stalled again, but pending the results of an investigation, it could find itself dead in the water again. The Corps will be required to resume their investigation and will need to reconsider certain aspects of its past investigation.

People on both sides of the issue are disturbed by this outcome. Those against the pipeline are upset that the pipeline hasn’t been definitively stalled to allow the investigation to run its course. Those in support of the pipeline are worried that the findings in the Corps investigation could persuade the court to take further action to dismantle the pipeline once and for all, killing their considerable investment.

The Corps themselves believe they will be able to persuade the court to allow construction to continue while they address the discrepancies in their analysis. They believe that the errors found can be addressed quickly and will not require much time or effort to warrant a halt to construction.

Donald Trump famously pushed the pipeline through with an executive order shortly after he was sworn into office. However, that rush he placed upon the Corps has now been found to be unlawful and may not only endanger the pipeline but come back to bite him politically as well.

 

President Trump Adds Lawyer From Washington To His Legal Team

The president has a new lawyer on his legal team now. He chose to add a veteran lawyer named John Dowd to his team. Mr. Dowd was added to represent the president in the recent allegations about the possible collusion in Russia with the Trump campaign. This investigation also includes the criminal probe which is being lead by special counsel Mueller.

Lawyer John Dowd has represented many white-collar criminal cases and will be in partner with other lawyers in Trump’s team which includes a defense lawyer from New York named Marc Kasowitz. Dowd is known for representing United State’s Senator John McCain during an investigation on congressional ethics charges in a bank scandal in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Mr. McCain was cleared on all charges in the matter and owed it to the hard work of Dowd.

The investigation including the President states that Russia denies any interference and that the White House denies to have had any collusion with Moscow in the situation. A special counsel is currently looking into the matter to find out whether Trump is trying to obstruct the investigation. Mueller is turning his investigation around to find if there are any possible ties between the government in Russia and President Trump’s campaign. There are allegations stating that some U.S. officials were meddling in the election in 2016.

James Comey, the former FBI Director, has testified earlier in the month that the president had asked him to stop the bureau’s investigation that is ongoing of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. Both the House Intelligence Committees and the Senate are performing their own investigations about the possible ties between the government in Russia and president Trump’s campaign. According to Reuters.com, the legal team for Trump are also expecting a new lawyer to be added for fighting these allegations on the president.

Suicide by text – Guilty!

Michelle Carter faces 20 years in prison after a Massachusetts judge found her responsible for the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Conrad killed himself in 2014 by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

In presenting his rationale for the manslaughter conviction Judge Lawrence Moniz called Ms. Carter’s actions “reckless” with a “wanton” disregard. Ms. Carter opted for a trial by judge and rejected her right to a jury trial.

The case stems from a situation where Mr. Roy, a severely depressed young man, had told his girlfriend and confidant, Ms. Carter, that he wanted to die. He told her he was going to kill himself but wasn’t sure how he should do it. After research by himself and Ms. Carter it was decided he would kill himself by placing a generator in his vehicle and seal off any fresh air from the carbon monoxide.

Some say the guilty verdict in this suicide by text message is a “slippery slope” against free speech, assisted suicide, and that it muddles the water regarding criminal liability versus personal responsibility. Little focus was placed on earlier text messages where Ms. Carter initially suggested Mr. Roy get help and possibly go into a “mental hospital”.

“But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life,” she texted on July 19. 2014.

Roy, 18, committed suicide in 2014. The Massachusetts District Attorney held fast that had Ms. Carter contacted someone who could actually help, Mr. Roy would not have been successful. Their claim was Ms. Carter helped to instigate the suicide when, among other things, sent a text to Mr. Roy “ordering” him to get back into the vehicle and go through with it. She went as far as to text that his parents would “get over it”.

Now, 20 years old, Ms. Carter’s defense team presented expert testimony from Dr. Peter Breggin wherein he stated she was “involuntarily intoxicated” because of the anti-depressant she was taking. The expert explained it is an SSRI pharmaceutical Celexa and caused her to have “erratic” behaviors. The DA countered with its own expert who simply said there is no such thing as “involuntary intoxication” cause by Celexa.

The full accounts of the texts conversations can be read here

Sources:
http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2017/06/teen-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-encouraging-friends-suicide-with-texts.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4612636/Conrad-Roy-s-parents-speak-Michelle-Carters-trial.html

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a10017083/michelle-carter-involuntarily-intoxicated-defense-claims/