24 States And Washington D.C. Sue Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency

The world is changing. It’s no secret that the Trump administration is less worried about the environment than the rest of the world. It’s also no secret that Trump has installed officials into positions for which they’re not really qualified — like the new heads of NASA or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), neither of whom believe in man-made climate change. 

This is a cause for concern for many state governments and the people who reside in those states because they rely on protections put into practice by those agencies to keep the air they breathe — or the water they drink — clean and free of pollutants.

Dozens of states — Pennsylvania included — have filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration and the EPA for rolling back emissions standards. Even coal and oil companies have said that these moves were a bad idea, and they’re the ones who supposedly benefit from these “business-friendly” policies!

The most recent coalition action was filed in the DC Circuit court system in order to allow California to set its own “Advanced Clean Car Standards” so that the rest of the states might follow suit. The Trump administration has argued that a single state should not have the ability to influence national policy on such a level. But the fact is, most states want cleaner air, and California has been the leader for these policies for a long time.

Attorney General Kaul said, “Today’s filing is part of the multi-state effort to protect the ability of states to keep leading the fight against climate change. It’s always important that states have the opportunity to lead efforts to protect our national resources, and it’s especially important now, as the Trump administration has abandoned efforts to protect our environment.”

California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program for many types of road vehicles was first adopted in January 2012. It sets standards for these vehicles and helps reduce smog and other dangerous emissions. This forces automakers to change their own standards because the population of California is so high. Ignoring the consumer base there isn’t an option, which means changing standards is the most cost-effective solution. 

States included in the lawsuit are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Municipalities of Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City are also attached to the comprehensive lawsuit.

Even if the Trump administration wins in court, it is unknown whether or not automakers would actually reduce standards to reflect the change.

Medical Marijuana Patients Sue Lebanon County In Pennsylvania Over Restrictive Policies

Is it fair to limit the use of medical marijuana to the general population of law-abiding citizens? Or rather, is it fair to prohibit the use of legalized medical marijuana from those who are on probation or lawful supervision? Those are the questions being asked to the Lebanon County court in Pennsylvania by three patients who would like to continue using medical marijuana for doctor-approved treatments.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the three patients in Commonwealth Court to bar the proposed policy change from continuing to prohibit medical marijuana based on legal status. The law went into effect only last month.

According to the lawsuit, the enacted law is in direct violation of certain provisions of the 2016 medical marijuana laws already in effect. The lawsuit requests that court intercede on behalf of the three medical marijuana patients so that they may lawfully continue treatment until a final decision can be made. The lawsuit also requests approval for class action status, which would allow others affected by the law to add their names to the suit. 

The suit says, “More than sixty people with serious medical issues in Lebanon County must now decide whether to discontinue their lawful use of a medical treatment that safely and effectively alleviates their serious medical conditions, or risk revocation of their probation and possible incarceration. It is a choice between risking severe health consequences or going to jail.”

Many medical marijuana-related treatments use these drugs to manage pain more effectively than addictive painkillers like opioids, which are having a disastrous effect on communities around the country.

Lawyers under the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts’ payroll are representing the Lebanon County judicial district. Thus far those advocates are refusing to comment on the lawsuit.

Vic Walczak, a lawyer for the ACLU, said that the restrictive policies are also apparently in effect in some smaller state counties. They are notably absent from larger districts like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.

Walczak said, “Many of the countries, we don’t know [about]. So if there are people out there who can tell us that other counties are not complying with the law, we’d like to hear from them as well.”

Lebanon County President Judge John Tylwalk was responsible for signing the policy into law, an act he justified by falling back on marijuana’s status under federal law. It remains illegal under the “most dangerous” classification of illegal drugs. He said that the court “should not knowingly allow violations of the law to occur.” 

This is a blatant circumvention of Pennsylvania law, however, which went into effect years ago. At this point, it also looks like recreational marijuana is on its way to legalization in the state.

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.