February 2018 Archives

Some lawyers are irked by attorney's fake bar associations--ABA Journal

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BY DEBRA CASSENS WEISS


A Louisville lawyer is creating some bar associations on paper that have no actual members.

One of entities created by personal injury lawyer Richard Breen is the Shelby County Bar Association, though it's not actually in Shelby County, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.


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Tax Reform | Internal Revenue Service

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Tax Reform Resources for Tax Professionals

To help the tax community understand the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the IRS has created a landing page on IRS.govhighlighting provisions of the new law. The page includes a "one-stop" listing of legal guidance, news releases and frequently asked questions related to the TCJA. The page will be frequently updated. 

Also be sure to visit Basic Tools for Tax Professionals for information on your responsibilities as a tax pro, tools to file returns for your clients and more. 



By Colby Hamilton 


Licensed gun owners in New York City do not face (full text) an undue Second Amendment burden imposed by regulations that ban traveling with a gun to firing ranges and homes outside of the city, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Friday.

The panel of Circuit Judges Rosemary Pooler, Gerard Lynch and Susan Carney affirmed the previous order granting summary judgment in favor of the New York City Police Department issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet of the Southern District of New York.

State law requires firearm owners to obtain locally issued firearm licenses. In New York City, the police department issues those licenses, which come with restrictions. Absent a special carry license, individuals are not allowed to transport their weapons out of the gun range where they're registered to practice.

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From John Jay College of Criminal Justice:

The New York Slavery Records Index is a searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War.

Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.

Our goal is to deepen the understanding of slavery in New York by bringing together information that until now has been largely disconnected and difficult to access. This allows for searches that combine records from all indexed sources based on parameters such as the name of an owner, a place name, and date ranges.

To access the index or to learn more about its construction, use the navigation bar above:

  • SEARCH is the portal for inputting parameters to access particular records.
  • Search Instructions provides tips on how to get started.
  • Sources lists the types of records included in the index; bibliographic references; and all the database fields used to construct the index.
  • Project Team describes the faculty and students responsible for assembling and organizing the index.
  • Comments provides access to a survey for users to offer suggestions, identify additional records and collections of records to be indexed, and also to identify errors that we would correct.

Former Skadden Associate Charged in Mueller Probe | New York Law Journal

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By Cogan Schneier 

Special counsel Robert Mueller has charged Alex van der Zwaan, a former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom associate and son-in-law of the Russian oligarch German Khan, of lying to investigators, according to a court filing. 

Van der Zwaan faces charges of making false statements last November, according to a document filed in court last week and made public Tuesday. Van der Zwaan is expected to plead guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon. A Skadden spokeswoman said in an email that the firm fired van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with the matter.

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The Justice Department's special counsel announced a sweeping indictment Friday of a notorious Russian group of Internet trolls -- charging 13 individuals and three companies with a long-running scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

The Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, was named in the indictment as the hub of an ambitious effort to trick Americans online into following and promoting Russian-fed propaganda that pushed 2016 voters toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and away from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

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Full text of the indictment...



WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers of a quickly growing scam involving erroneous tax refunds being deposited into their bank accounts. The IRS also offered a step-by-step explanation for how to return the funds and avoid being scammed.

Following up on a Security Summit alert issued Feb. 2, the IRS issued this additional warning about the new scheme after discovering more tax practitioners' computer files have been breached. In addition, the number of potential taxpayer victims jumped from a few hundred to several thousand in just days. The IRS Criminal Investigation division continues its investigation into the scope and breadth of this scheme.

These criminals have a new twist on an old scam. After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, these criminals use the taxpayers' real bank accounts for the deposit.

Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, and their versions of the scam may continue to evolve.


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Lawyer fashion evolves to reflect personality and tradition--ABA Journal

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BY LIANE JACKSON


It wasn't long ago that professional dress for lawyers was constrained and predictable. Womenswear was derivative of menswear, closets were full of monochromatic color schemes, and nude pantyhose or a jacket and tie were part of the daily uniform. It was an era of boxy-shouldered suits, when business casual was an oxymoron and dress codes were often strictly enforced.

These days, legal fashion has loosened up. Depending on where you live and your practice area, women are sporting sleeveless dresses at work and men are wearing dress shoes with no socks.

"We have a generation that has never worn pantyhose in their life, and that's great," says Tasha Brown, an attorney and business development executive at DLA Piper's Chicago office. "I remember going to stores and stocking up on nude hosiery--that was what you did. That's a change and a welcome one. I also see more color and flair where everything used to be navy and black. That's nice--it's good to have pops of color where we didn't even have those before."


Read much, much more...longest ABA Journal I've seen in years and its about how lawyers dress....

BY STEPHANIE FRANCIS WARD


Michael D. Cohen, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, said Tuesday that he used his own money to pay a porn actress $130,000 who is alleged to have claimed to have had an affair with Trump before he became president. But the statement, made to the New York Times, has raised ethics questions.

The payment made to Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as the pornographic movie actress Stormy Daniels, was first reported in January by the Wall Street Journal. The payment was made shortly before the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports. Cohen has previously said that Trump denied having an affair with Clifford.

But some attorneys--and an article in Above the Law by its executive editor--question whether such a payment would violate New York State Court's Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.8(e) prohibits attorneys from advancing or guaranteeing financial assistance to clients related to considered or pending litigation, with some exceptions for court costs.





Fears that Congress would kill the federal tax credit for purchase of a plug-in electric car were laid to rest in December when that incentive survived the $1.5 billion tax-cut bill.

Now Congress has added back a handful of other tax credits related to electric cars and greener transportation in the $400 billion budget bill it passed in the wee hours of Friday morning, quickly signed by the president.

The 652-page Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (HR 1892) restores a tax credit for installation of alternative-vehicle fueling property that had expired at the end of 2016.

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Taxpayers who purchased or installed a home charging station for electric cars during 2017 will find the forms and rules for individual returns here.


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Ravi Ragbir and Immigrant Groups Lawsuit Against ICE Et Al

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By Andrew Denney



Suit Alleges That ICE Is Targeting Immigrant-Rights Advocates

A prominent New York City immigrant-rights activist recently released from custody by immigration authorities alleges in a lawsuit filed on Thursday that he and other activists are being targeted for deportation because of their political speech. READ MORE » (may require free limited subscription or paid subscription)


Read the Complaint...

 by Gwynne Hogan

About 75 public defenders walked out of Bronx Criminal Court Thursday afternoon in protest of the sudden detention of one of their clients following a routine court date.

The walk-out dramatized the ongoing dissatisfaction by immigrant advocates with federal agents, whose presence at the courthouses they say intimidates witnesses and victims from coming forward for fear of being deported.


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By Rose Hackman

In Bay View, only practicing Christians are allowed to buy houses, or even inherit them. Prospective homeowners, according to a bylaw introduced in 1947 and strengthened in 1986, are required to produce evidence of their faith by providing among other things a letter from a Christian minister testifying to their active participation in a church.

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The Christian exclusionary component was introduced in the 1940s. This was a time of heightened racial anxiety and antisemitism in the US, with swaths of Jewish refugees denied asylum from Europe - an act supported by a majority of the American public.

The Christian-only clause was introduced together with a white-only clause, which the association eliminated the following decade. Catholics were given a 10% quota, which was eventually dropped. Over the years, however, the Christian-only requirement was, if anything, reinforced.

The lawsuit charges that Bay View Association, although private (some private entities including gentlemen's clubs or the Boy Scouts, for example, historically have been able to discriminate), acts in effect as a governmental entity, endowed with the powers to police and enforce laws.

As such, the lawsuit claims, it is engaging in religious discrimination in violation of the US and Michigan constitutions, Michigan's civil rights act and the Fair Housing Act.

Mike Steinberg, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, believes the lawsuit is an "open-and-shut case".


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Resources for Tax Law Changes | Internal Revenue Service

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IRS Creates Special IRS.gov Page for Tax Reform

To help the tax community track information related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the IRS has created a special page on IRS.govto highlight provisions of the new law. The frequently updated page will include a "one-stop" listing of new legal guidance, news releases, Frequently Asked Questions, and other information related to TCJA. 

Tax professionals should bookmark the page and check it regularly for the latest information as the IRS works to implement changes. 





t's a sign of the times. Starting next week, electronic devices will be permitted in New York's 19th century Madison Avenue courtrooms during proceedings. It marks the first time that any of the departments of the Appellate Division have adopted a written policy allowing lawyers and litigants arguing pro se to use laptops, tablets and smartphones during oral arguments.



BY DEBRA CASSENS WEISS


Setting cash bail without considering an accused person's ability to pay is unconstitutional, a judge in New York state has ruled.

Judge Maria Rosa of Dutchess County ruled Jan. 31 in a suit filed on behalf of Christopher Kunkeli by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York Law Journal reports. Rosa said setting bail without considering ability to pay violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. A NYCLU press release is here.


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Drug-Infused Legal Docs Lead to Jail Crackdown - Greedy Associates

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If your criminal defense attorney is also a cannabis attorney, better be careful about any legal papers you get.

At one Pennsylvania jail, officials discovered inmates were smoking drug-infused legal documents. Fifteen employees got sick from the fumes.

As a result, the jail now strip-searches inmates after meeting with their lawyers. That's right, grass can be a pain in the ...


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When President Donald Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, the fate of about 700,000 young adults was thrown into doubt. With DACA recipients set to begin losing their status in March, and no legislation yet agreed upon, could they find a safe harbor in Canada?

Read the Nunes Memo, Annotated - The New York Times

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House Republicans released a previously secret memo written by Republican staff members of the House Intelligence Committee and declassified by President Trump. The memo claims that F.B.I. officials abused their authority and favored Democrats in the early stages of the Russia inquiry.

The documents released on Friday include a letter from the White House counsel to the head of the House committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, and the memo itself. Read our reporters' analysis below. 

Original document (pdf) | More coverage »


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Product Note: iPhone X | Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

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By Nicole Black: 

When Apple announced the release of the iPhone X,* a revamped iPhone with, among other things, an improved camera and larger display, I was intrigued. But I had an iPhone 7 that worked fine, and I was initially able to convince myself that there was no need to upgrade.

My resolve lasted all of a few weeks before, in typical geek fashion, I caved. The new iPhone X was too appealing to pass up. So, I headed over to the Apple Store and upgraded my phone. I was already enrolled in the Apple Upgrade Program, so I traded in my iPhone 7 and received a credit toward the purchase price of the iPhone X.


Read Nicole's complete review here...

Thinking Smartly About Smart Contracts-Dennis Kennedy

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My first published article of 2018 has appeared in Law Practice magazine and it's called "Thinking Smartly About Smart Contracts."

The editors of the magazine approached me a while back to see if I wanted to write a blockchain article that would introduce lawyers and others to the blockchain concept and its implications. I told them that I felt that the article Gwynne Monahan and I wrote last year ("Lawyers Get Ready, There's a Blockchain Coming") was still a good starting point. However, I said, I was willing to write an article that was a primer about "smart contracting," which is a next big step in blockchain evolution. They liked the idea and the result is this article.

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Purpose/Background. This Directive sets forth U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy regarding civil immigration enforcement actions inside federal, state, and local courthouses. 

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