By Charles Otey
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Legal Profession Progressing (Sort of) into the Digital Age, With Aid of BBA
Just when most of the seasoned practitioners among us were becoming skilled in the use of multi-faxes, e-mailing letters and sometimes even documents, along came the once unheard-of concept of scanning, reproducing and protecting vital documents detailing the inner-most secrets and plans of our clients.
So expect a lot of eager veteran barristers to show up at 123 Remsen St. the evening of Dec. 5, when the Brooklyn Bar Association presents a CLE-accredited program entitled "Scanning & Electronic Document Production Techniques and Ethical Concerns."
Moderating this exploration in the new world of technology will be attorney Danielli with presentations by Chris Bilello, director of Business Development, Konica Minolta Business Solutions; Richard Klass (quaintly described as "Your Court Street Lawyer"); and Perry D. Krinsky, who often presents seminars dealing with legal ethical concerns.
The course promises to cover both the practical aspects of protecting confidential information and ethical concerns regarding scanning and electronic document production.
Topics will include (a) functionality of today’s copier and scanning equipment (b)Methods of protecting data that might reside in equipment, (c) assessing the risks of disclosure of attorney-client privileges and (d) ethical concerns regarding confidentiality and accidental disclosure.
Sponsoring these highly technical presentations are Steve Cohn and the aforementioned Richard Klass as co-chairs of the BBA’s CLE Committee and the BBA’s Volunteer Lawyers Project through Executive Director Jeannie Costello.
The event gets underway 6 p.m. and offers two CLE credits, one in Practice Management and one in Ethics.
The BBA is headed this year by Domenick Napoletano assisted by president-elect Andy Fallek, First Vice-President Rebecca Woodland, Second Vice President Arthur Aidala, Secretary Hon. Frank Seddio and Treasurer Aimee L. Richter.
* * *
Don’t Miss Tonight’s
Brooklyn Bar Dinner
When the Brooklyn Bar Association holds its annual dinner tonight at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott with a cocktail hour starting at 5:30 p.m., just about everyone there will fondly recall the late Court of Appeals Justice Theodore Jones.
It was always been a pleasure reaching across the block-long BBA dais table to shake hands with him and chat whether we talked about golf or the myriad challenges he once faced as Kings administrative judge. He remarked one night that it was more difficult “herding the cats” at 360 Adams St. than serving on our top bench.
His loss – sure to be noted by many tonight -- has sent ripples of shock and dismay through the Kings legal community and beyond.
Many prominent jurists will share the spotlight tonight at the Marriott with many outstanding lawyers. Receiving the BBA’s prestigious Annual Award will be Hon. Michael Pesce, presiding justice, Appellate Term; Kings Justice Sylvia Ash, and past BBA presidents Allen Lashley and Andy Fisher.
Retiring are Court of Appeals Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Appellate Division Justice Ariel Belen, Appellate Division Justice Anita Florio and Civil Court Judge Sara L. Krauss. Once again, it’s sure to be a smoothly run affair – for the past two weeks BBA Executive Director Avery Okin and President Napoletano have been meeting and planning regularly in Avery’s office at 123 Remsen St.
* * *
May Die With Tax Change
Everyone – even, at times, Gov. Mitt Romney – speaks glowingly of our middle class and how important it is to our system of government because it enables even the financially humble to aspire to a higher quality of life for them and their families.
The American middle class – once the most shining proof that this was indeed the land of opportunity -- was kicked for a loop by the criminal behavior of big banks and mortgage firms in a massive swindle which is apparently too big to fail.
The collapse of the housing market is especially bad for people whose only way to move up into the middle class was to buy a house, then save for the long term as the value of their home goes up.
Now the fickle, feckless bureaucracy known as Congress is on the verge of enacting a measure that would spell the end of the American dream, blaming such an action on the imperiling fiscal cliff.
Most real estate practitioner as well as realtors are infuriated that one measure under consideration in Washington might require the elimination of the tax deduction homebuyers receive as they annually deduct each year the interest of a long-term mortgage.
"Just do the math,” one barrister, a Republican, told us. "Someone, say a bus driver with a steady income, who bought a house 20 years ago was ultimately able to deduct tens of thousands dollars on mortgage interest. The house they bought for $60,000 is now probably worth six or seven hundred thousand dollars!" he stated.
This was and is just about the only way for people earning $40,000 or $50,000 a year in a steady, secure job to create their own pathway to comparative affluence.
* * *
Realtors Predict a Crisis
If Tax Law Is Changed
Many of the ivory-towered fiscal planners describe the mortgage interest deduction as a perk, according to a story in the New York Times. It may be a perk for multimillionaires buying their second mansion or beach house, but it’s absolutely necessary for the millions of Americans who still aspire to home-ownership.
The think-tank people see this deduction as a gift to realtors or a homeowner’s perk. But, in reality it’s much, much more: killing this deduction would, in the opinion of all real estate people and barristers we’ve talked with, send the housing market down precipitously. It would stifle the progress of millions of Americans still working hard, striving to own their own home and built a nest egg for their retirement at the same time.
The National Association of Realtors "believes a removal of the deduction could reduce property values by 15 per cent,” according to a report issued last year from its top economist Lawrence Yun, according to the same Times story.
Our housing market suffered a terrible blow when unscrupulous lenders siphoned off and/or obliterated about $2 trillion in American wealth over the past six years. With the middle class shrinking due to other factors—e.g. unions that helped guarantee adequate, steady wages -- have lost most of their clout since the days of President Reagan, the loss of the mortgage interest deduction would accelerate the shrinkage dramatically. That’s why Democrats and Republicans are writing their local congressmen—including Dem. Jerrold Nadler, R-C. Michael Grimm, Dem. Nydia Velazquez and Dem. Hakeem Jeffries— to ensure that these representatives fully appreciate the risks, financial and political, which would inevitably ensue should this deduction fall off the fiscal cliff on which congress seems to permanently reside.
* * *
Is Hi-Lo a Forklift
Or a Trial Lawyer’s Device?
Since many attorneys don't try cases they would be surprised--along with lay folk-- to learn that even though a Kings County jury recently awarded a plaintiff just $8,740 she still walked away with over $ 1 million dollars. That's right--ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
How was this possible? The answer is known to all trial attorneys
as a High-Low deal. First the facts (some of them) in the case of Suzette Jamerson v 2025 Regent Realty, tried here by Justice Arthur Schack. This case is reported in “Survey of Verdicts and Settlements in Kings Supreme,” edited by Justice Donald Scott Kurtz and attorney Michael Treybich in the latest edition of the Brooklyn Barrister, the official publication of the Brooklyn Bar Association.
The plaintiff was injured when a " falling fragment" of her ceiling struck her, causing injuries to her neck, back and shoulder.
Though she was taken by ambulance to hospital, she received little treatment–a fact that the defendant claims people were very much aware of. She had three separate surgeries but defendant disputed whether these were connected with her accident.
Also raising red flags for the defendant's carrier were the following:
1. She returned to work four days after the accident
2. Her three surgeries did not begin until a full two years after she ceased outpatient therapy
3. She'd sustained similar injuries in an earlier accident.
4. The plaintiff's medical records showed that prior to this accident she suffered "chest pain that radiated to her neck and shoulder."
* * *
Jury Rejects Claim, ‘Hi Lo’ Saves Day For Plaintiff
Plantiff's attorney Michael Romenus was probably concerned the jury might award his client might lose the case if the jury decided that the instant accident was not the proximate cause of her injuries. He accepted a high-low (in court parlance, hi-lo) overseen by Justice Schack and put on the table by defense counsel James Whalen. It was agreed by the parties that no matter what verdict the jury returned -- this was a damages-only trial -- the plaintiff's recovery would be no more than $5 million and no less than $1 million.
The jury rejected most of plaintiff's contentions, coming in with a total sum of $8,470! They compensated her only for lost wages and medical expenses. The plaintiff's gross recovery amounted to the stipulated $1 million.
Hi-los aren't that rare. Next week we'll tell about another one – reported by Justice Kurtz -- involving a $1 million stipulation reached in a trial before Justice Mark Partnow.
* * * * * * * *
PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to
Notice: Readers seeking legal representation on a Pro Bono Publico basis should not contact this columnist. Rather, they should seek out the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project at 718 -624-3894.