2017 Federally Mandated Cap On Local And State Tax Deductions Upheld By New York Judge

The 2017 legislation placed a cap on deductions at $10,000 for state and local taxes (SALT). Democrats are often slammed for trying to increase taxes, but this particular deduction from federal taxes was very popular in blue states — it gave those states the ability to increase their own taxes to prioritize their own citizens’ wellbeing over everyone. It’s a particularly Republican thing to do, but the Republicans are the ones who enacted the deductions cap. 

It’s almost as if they don’t really have states’ rights at heart, like they always say they do. In this way, Republicans can say they’ve reduced taxes — federal taxes — even though the obvious consequence is an increase in state and local taxes to balance out the budget.

According to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the SALT tax cap is “unprecedented, unlawful, punitive and politically motivated. We disagree with the court’s decision and are evaluating all options including appeal.”

The states that opposed the new bill were New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland. Those states filed a lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Internal Revenue Service. They wrote that the bill was “an unconstitutional assault on states’ sovereign choices.”

Judge J. Paul Oetken did not agree, and subsequently dismissed the suit. He explained, “The cap, like any federal tax provision, will affect some taxpayers more than others and, by extension, will affect some states more than others. But the cap, again like every other feature of the federal Tax Code, is a part of the landscape of federal law within which states make their decisions as to how they will exercise their own sovereign tax powers.”

Staff at the Government Finance Officers Association said that SALT is all about a working partnership between different governing entities in local, state, or federal levels. The SALT laws have been successful for over a century, they said, and “the deduction is fundamental to the way states and localities budget for and provide critical public service, and a cornerstone of the U.S. system of fiscal federalism.”

Based on a 1964 extension of the Revenue Act of 1913, people can deduct property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes. These deductions prevent taxpayers from paying tax on income more than once — which is generally a favorable thing from the perspective of most American taxpayers, who like to keep a firm hold on their money.

Democrats believe that the deductions on property taxes and sales taxes respectively promote home ownership and spending, thereby stimulating economic growth year by year. By placing a cap on the deductions, the economy might not see as much movement.

Opioid-Related Court Battles Against Purdue Pharma To Expand

After nearly 1,000 lawsuits were planned to combat Purdue Pharma, an opioid manufacturer owned by the Sackler family, a possible settlement is ongoing. Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the news on September 12, 2019: he would sue the Sackler family for instigating the growing addiction to prescribed pills.

Shapiro’s statement outlined his arguments: Purdue Pharma “seems to be concerned with only one thing — keeping their hands on the ill-gotten gains they made while pumping our commonwealth full of OxyContin. Through our negotiations with Purdue Pharma, it became crystal clear the Sacklers have no intention of taking any ownership for engineering an epidemic that claims the lives of 12 Pennsylvanians each day.”

Eight counties in Pennsylvania are pursuing the same court agenda. They include: Crawford, Beaver, Washington, Lawrence and Westmoreland. Robert Peirce & Associates are pursuing the litigation.

Robert N. Peirce Jr. said, “It’s about time that they admitted responsibility for their role in bringing about this crisis, and this problem. But negotiations are still ongoing. It’s too early to give any predictions as to how much is being paid to whom. And we anticipate at least another week of negotiations.”

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state pulling the trigger — Miami launched a separate civil case in Miami-Dade County Court. Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach Counties have launched suits, as have 250 cities throughout the country.

Similar complaints have been filed across most of these lawsuits. According to court-released documents, Purdue and other opioid manufacturers routinely try to flood medical offices around the country with apparent misinformation to falsely indicate OxyContin’s efficacy. 

The potential settlements for 1,000 lawsuits — out of a total 2,000 plaintiffs — are “a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family’s destruction and greed,” Shapiro said. “The Sacklers’ mission to avoid accountability and transparency stops here.”

He continued, “The lawsuit I filed on behalf of all Pennsylvanians seeks to require this family of billionaires, who orchestrated opioids into as many doctor’s offices, pharmacies and medicine cabinets as possible, takes responsibility for the pain they caused.”

Whatever the outcome of the cases against Purdue, it’s clear that many plaintiffs won’t tolerate the subject being swept under the rug as it has been for so many years.

Shapiro plans to hold the Sackler family accountable for liability claims. Many of the relevant cases are slowly making their way through federal court in the Northern District of Ohio, Cleveland. 

Purdue did not respond to requests for comment.

New Lawsuit Blames Pleasant Acres Nursing Home For Death Of Resident

Nancy Young, 89, was a resident of Pleasant Acres Rehabilitation and Nursing Center when she died on December 15 last year. Now the care facility is being blamed in a wrongful death lawsuit that alleges Young was the victim not only of another resident’s negligent actions, but also of an improperly staffed nursing home.

According to the lawsuit, Young had been injured only one week before she passed away. The injuries occurred as the result of another resident’s carelessness. While leaving from a visit with this other resident, Young had the door slammed behind her. She fell, breaking her wrist and hip. No one witnessed the event, but these were the injuries that led to Young’s unfortunate death.

The York County Coroner’s Office described the death as a result from a combination of blunt force injury and age-related illnesses such as heart disease. As a result, the death was ruled a homicide and the Springettsbury Township Police Department investigated it as such.

Unfortunately the police decided that there was no reason to file criminal charges. It was a “terrible tragedy” according to the York County District Attorney’s Office, but could not be reasonably described as a criminal act.

The subsequent lawsuit, filed by daughter-in-law Barbara Young (the executor of the Young estate), alleges that Pleasant Acres had inadequate staffing to care for Nancy or the other residents, and that the conditions there led to Nancy’s premature death. 

The law may be on her side.

Care facilities are regulated by very strict laws. Pennsylvania law mandates at least 2.7 hours of care be provided to each resident for every 24-hour period that elapses. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pleasant Acres facility had only been providing an average of 2.44 hours of care for each resident when they visited on October 26, 2018 — less than two months before Nancy Young’s death.

The state asked them to correct the issue, but they had failed to do so before another visit in November, even after enacting plans to correct the issue.

According to the lawsuit: “In their efforts to maximize revenues/profits, Defendants negligently, intentionally, and/or recklessly reduced staffing levels below the level necessary to provide adequate care to residents, which demonstrated a failure to comply with the applicable regulations and standards for nursing home facilities.”

Now the burden is on the home to prove that the issues were indeed corrected by the time Nancy incurred her injuries.

Changing Controversial Fireworks Laws In Pennsylvania: Here’s What You Need To Know

The Fourth of July is a celebration for the masses, and depending on where you reside it might just be a celebration measured by the inevitable nighttime light show. This presents a problem in Pennsylvania, where changing fireworks laws have left Pandora’s Box hanging wide open. One of the issues is that most people are ignorant of changes in the law since last year, but that pales in comparison to the bigger problem: many of the hottest brands have issued recalls for their products.

Old laws allowed Pennsylvania residents to buy fireworks that are branded specifically for consumer purchase. These typically contain less than 50 mg of explosives. Popular products are the ones you’ve heard of before: bottle rockets, firecrackers, and Roman candles to name a few.

Now residents will not be allowed to purchase anything that travels through the air — not at popular pop-up roadside tents, anyway. Instead consumers will have to head to brick and mortar stores to make their purchase. It’s not a coincidence, either. Many of these brick and mortar retailers sued the other suppliers based on “safety” concerns. They argued that the brick and mortar locations had tighter security and better safety measures in place than the tents.

Another facet of the argument was that brick and mortar locations couldn’t compete (in fireworks sales, anyway) with the pop-up tents because the latter have much smaller overhead costs.

Those who get their hands on legal fireworks can only set them off when they are at least 150 feet away from a structure designed for occupation. It is also illegal to use fireworks on private property without the owner’s express permission. You may get arrested for trying to use fireworks while under the influence, or for setting them off from the inside of a vehicle.

These are general state laws, but if you plan to enjoy your next holiday with fireworks you would be well advised to check with local laws and regulations. In many municipalities they remain illegal during certain times of the year.

Keep in mind that fireworks displays can be extremely uncomfortable for pets, and there is basically no way to protect them from the bright lights and loud noises they experience all night long. 

Unfortunately, many law enforcement officials openly acknowledge how useless most of the laws and regulations actually — in part because so many people don’t know about them or openly ignore them, or because police are simply spread too thin to enforce them.

What To Do When Your Home Explodes Into Smithereens!

An explosion on Tuesday June 27, 2017 at 1717 Hercules Avenue in Evansville, Indiana was reported at 8:45 in the morning. Sharon F. Mand and Kathleen Woolems were killed when the home was leveled in the blast. A two-year statute of limitations was about to expire when three victims (Michael Kneer, Tara McKnight and her son) filed a lawsuit against a CenterPoint Energy Company currently merging with Vectren, which is allegedly responsible.

Initial reports and a number of subsequent rumors suggested that the blast had occurred because of a faulty oxygen rank or even a meth lab. Needless to say, the rumors didn’t get the story quite right.

According to a news release, “The multiple investigations of this incident by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Evansville Fire Department, the Evansville Police Department, and the attorneys for the victims did not reveal any evidence to support these rumors.”

Continuing, it said, “Investigators for the government agencies and the parties carefully sifted through the debris and found no evidence of a drug lab or oxygen tanks. Instead, the evidence supports the conclusion that, given the magnitude of the overpressure event which was heard and felt by numerous eyewitnesses and neighbors, the tragic explosion occurred due to the ignition of accumulated natural gas in the home.”

Such an accident due to accumulated natural gas is extraordinarily rare. Even when these gases are ignited, they are normally fast-burning and there is rarely enough pressure to result in so much damage. So why did this explosion occur?

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have requested that Vectren provide service records to shed light on the blast’s origin, including when technicians for the company were last present at the home and what they were doing. Vectren did not cooperate. Assumedly this information will be provided with the relevant documents via court order should a judge allow the case to move forward as expected.

A statement by Vectren suggests that the company does not take responsibility for the tragic accident: “Pursuant to a third-party investigation, which was completed immediately following the incident, it was determined neither Vectren natural gas nor electric facilities were at fault for the explosion.”

If that’s true, then why don’t we know how the explosion occurred yet?

The company is currently seeking approval for a new power plant that would replace an older coal-burning model. The proposed power plant will generate between 800 and 900 megawatts of energy using natural gas — which might not sound so great when homes are exploding due to natural gas buildup!

When Is The Prosecution Of A Crime Not Restricted By A Statute Of Limitations?

A statute of limitations places a cap in the amount of time in which criminal or civil litigation can proceed. This idea was conceived as way to preserve evidence. The more time passes before a case is tried, the less evidence will exist. The more time passes before a case is tried, the less likely it is for witnesses to come forward. A statute of limitations makes it more likely that cases will be tried soon after a crime is committed, but in some cases this cap will tie the prosecution’s hands, making it impossible to try someone for a serious crime.

A good example of this is rape. Dozens of states still have a statute of limitations for cases involving sexual assault, ranging from an absurd three years to a more reasonable three decades. California changed its own laws following the slew of accusations levied against former comedian Bill Cosby, most of which could not be tried. He is currently serving three to ten years in prison for the crime.

The crimes he allegedly committed were so serious, and it begs the question: are there any crimes for which the prosecution is not restricted by a statute of limitations?

The number is few. In order for this burden to be lifted, a crime has to meet a specific standard: society as a whole must feel the crime is unthinkable. Most of the time murder fits this mold. However, it should be noted that judges can, and do, dismiss murder charges if a long period of time has elapsed between the crime and the prosecution. Usually these cases were already cold.

Many states lift the statute of limitations when crimes are committed against or using minors. Kidnapping is an example of a crime that almost always carries no statute. Others include sex offenses (only against minors), violent crime, and arson. Surprisingly, forgery often falls into this category as well. The latter is a stark reminder that we have a lot of work to do as a society when it comes to categorizing crimes and punishments and limitations in a way that can be deemed proportional.

Some states levy or lift a statute of limitations based on categorization of felony. Some categories have one, and some don’t. This is dependent on the crime itself, and some states don’t abide by this rule.

How Do You Prepare For A Deposition?

The court system can be a scary environment for those not accustomed to working in it each and every day–and heck, it can be just as scary for the lawyers and prosecutors and judges who spend so many hours each day with people’s lives on the line. A deposition is a sort of pretrial motion during the discovery process. During a deposition, sworn testimony and evidence is presented.

Depositions function as a means to streamline the court process. They make it faster and more efficient so judges have more time to hear more cases. They’re part of the reason that your right to a speedy trial is possible.

That said, depositions are something for which you need to prepare. You should take it as seriously as if you were in court at trial.

  1. Don’t lose your temper. Both the lawyer and prosecutor will be attempting to gauge your personality and responsiveness in certain situations of stress. Is it easy to get the required information? Is it easy to trick you into providing information that may damage or repair someone’s case? Could you be used to misguide a jury into believing something that isn’t the truth? Prepare your responses.
  2. Don’t answer without hearing the question. Make sure you think. Know exactly what you intend to say before you say it, and listen to your own response before your lips form those words. Questions are often meant to be confusing, so ask for clarification if you need it. A pause before you respond to the question will also help the court reporter accurately transcribe. Provide verbal responses. “Yes” or “no” when applicable. Don’t mutter.
  3. Don’t make assumptions or guesses when providing testimony. If you’re unsure of the accuracy of your information, then respond as such. “I don’t know” and “I don’t recall” will better serve you during a deposition. If you need to approximate an answer, then use words that define it as such. Never make up information simply because you think you should have the answer for which they’re looking.
  4. If there are documents used during a deposition, read them through before you arrive. Check with your lawyer to see what’s available to you.
  5. Whenever you feel too tired or confused, nod to your lawyer in order to call for a break. Don’t be caught in a lie or contradiction because you were too afraid to ask for a short recess.

New Pennsylvania Law Addresses Improper Personal Drone Use

Although parodied in an episode of South Park years ago (see video below),  Pennsylvania is finally addressing improper drone usage when Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 78 on October 12. Drones have been available for the average everyday consumer for quite a while and while some use it to take videos of nature, aerial views of properties or weddings, some use it to well, take surveillance of their friends and neighbors unsuspectingly.

Now, Pennsylvania will start imposing criminal penalties on improper drone use such as using the device to spy on other people. The new law goes into effect around December 12th so for those peeping toms out there, now is the time to launch. But in all seriousness, the law also prevents municipalities from regulating drones, which is at least a step in a positive direction. The bill’s sponsor was Rep. Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County not a representative from Midland and Odessa.

The new law will impose a fine up to $300 if someone uses a drone to invade someone’s privacy or if the drone puts someone in physical harm. The new law also addresses people using drones to deliver contraband to inmates or patients in a mental hospital. It classifies this act as a 2nd-degree felony. There’s a serious penalty of up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

However, this law just imposes fines on everyday civilians. Law enforcement officials, government employees, first responders and utility companies are exceptions. This is not the first state to pass this type of law. Other states include California, Florida, and Mississippi.

General Information About Arbitration

Lenzo and Reis, New Jersey Employment Attorneys, explain that arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution, and it is seen as being that of a private judicial resolution to some form of dispute rather than arguing your case in court. When you proceed with an arbitrational hearing, most times one arbitrator or a tribunal is utilized. The tribunal generally consists of the desired odd number of arbitrators which have been administered by that of a legal system. The odd number is solely for the purpose of eliminating the issue of the result being tied since no real decision would be able to be made in such a case.

Most times either three arbitrators or simply one arbitrator is used. As a result, the parties which are in a dispute have wilfully handed over their power to an arbitration or a tribunal to decide the outcome of their situation. However, it should be noted, that an arbitration process is widely considered to be the alternate method when compared to that of taking a matter to court. And, it is both binding and final as if it were in a court, therefore, there are no negotiations, conciliations or mediations.

Typically, the principles of arbitrators are quite simple and are briefly explained in the following. An arbitrator’s main purpose is to attain the most unbiased resolution to any situation without delays or expenses which are truly unnecessary. The parties which are involved should be granted the freedom of their agreement or disagreement in the way that their dispute should be resolved. In addition to what was already mentioned, any court of law should never get involved in any arbitration process.

Both tribunal members and arbitrators are generally appointed by one of three ways which are briefly illustrated in the following. Arbitrators as well as tribunal members are commonly appointed by the parties who are in dispute, this is done when they agree mutually or when each party appoints one arbitrator. They are also appointed by that of any existing tribunal member, this falls into the case where both parties have appointed one arbitrator and then one of the two arbitrators appoints a third member to join the tribunal. And, the third method of appointment is by that of an external party such as an institution, an individual or the court.

In addition, arbitrations are also classified into three categories which will be briefly described in the following. The first is that of commercial arbitrations, and just like its name, these arbitrators settle common disputes between two parties, or more so, two commercial enterprises. The second is that of consumer arbitration, these arbitrators aid in settling any dispute which may arise between a supplier of services or goods and a supplier. And last but not least, a law arbitration is that which involves the settling of employment disputes which are divided into an interest arbitration and a rights arbitration.

As we conclude our article, we have just looked at what is arbitration. We have also looked at the core principles of arbitration as well as how both tribunal members and arbitrators are appointed. And, we have also looked at the three categories of arbitrations and where they fit into society.

PA Lawmakers Might Change Statute of Limitations After Sexual Abuse Report

The Catholic Church was delivered a bombshell after a shocking report detailing the deepest levels of sexual abuse of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. The report outlined that since 1947, within 6 dioceses, there were more than 300 “predator priests” and over 1,000 reported victims, many of who are not within the statute of limitations to file criminal charges. Pennsylvania lawmakers are preparing to vote on whether to either eliminate the statute of limitations and make the window for filing lawsuits longer.

As it currently stands, a victim of child abuse has 18 years to file charges against their abuser. If that time has expired, the law states that the victim can file civil charges against their abuses until they are 30 years old and they can file criminal charges until they are 50 years old. The new bill, SB 261, that is being presented to the state House would remove the time limit completely and raise the civil lawsuit age to 50.

The grand jury that released report recommended removing the statute of limitations stating that “no piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward.” However, this new bill does not help the current victims of sex abuse who have aged out. It will not apply retroactively so to speak. But there are lawmakers who are fighting for those who have been wronged such as state Representative Mark Rozzi who wants to amend the bill to include a 2-year window for anyone who has been a victim to file charges regardless of how long ago the abuse happened.

This isn’t the first time a bill like this has been proposed in the State Senate but they have failed to reach votes. Due to the current controversy House Majority Leader Dave Reed expects this to get to the voting stages this fall. The bill has been passed in the Senate unanimously.