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A lawsuit was filed last August charging Deutch with engaging in “a heartless scheme that swindled people with tax problems,” according to then-Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.  “She promises to significantly reduce their IRS tax debts, but instead preys on their vulnerability, taking large up-front payments but providing little or no help in lowering their tax bills.”  Ads claim Deutch’s success rate in dealing with the IRS is as high as 99 percent, but the percentage of clients whose tax bills Deutch actually reduces is a mere 10 percent.

California’s new Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, filed an application in Superior Court asking that Deutch, an attorney, be held in contempt, charging that she has repeatedly violated the court’s orders.

“Deutch is an officer of this Court and a member of the Bar, which only serves to magnify the seriousness of Deutch’s violations of the Court’s orders. If anyone can be expected to respect and follow this Court’s orders, it should be those licensed to practice as attorneys before the Court. The harm caused by Deutch’s contempt is worthy of the most severe sanction,” Harris said in her court filing.

It seems immediately after Deutch had been ordered to “take reasonable steps to preserve every document” that might have a bearing in the case said Harris, “the very next day after the [court issued the order], Deutch conducted a purge of law firm documents that resulted in the shredding of nearly 2,000 pounds of the firm’s documents, or about 200,000 pages.”  Harris is asking the court to fine Deutch $1,000 and imprison her for five days for “each and every separate contempt” — $1,000 and five days in jail for each of the millions of pages of documents destroyed and each refund not issued.

Deutch also ignored a preliminary injunction that requires her to return all unearned fees to clients within 60 days and admitted that she has over $400,000 in refund requests that are older than 60 days, Harris said.

 

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Family Law attorney Judith Soley, 65, and her client were gunned down at a Bass Lake restaurant Feb. 16 by the client’s husband, who later turned the gun on himself.  Ms. Soley and Sandra Williamson, 65, her client, were leaving a restaurant during a break in court proceedings when Williamson’s estranged husband, James, began beating Soley, who was in her van at that time, and then shot her in the head.  He chased his wife into the kitchen of the restaurant, where he shot her in the head, before fleeing in a pickup.  Officers later found Williamson in his home, where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ms. Soley was the first woman president of the Fresno County Bar Association, and was active in both legal and community circles and was one of the first women to be certified as a family law specialist by the State Bar.  Ms. Soley became a lawyer when women didn’t frequently join the profession and she built a successful practice and, as a single mother, raised her daughter, who became her law partner.

Judith Soley, Esq.

Ms. Soley used a wheelchair all her life, but traveled the world, including visits to the Great Wall of China, Russia, England and Hawaii, as well as stints in Italy and Mexico to perfect her language skills. She graduated from UCLA and received her law degree from Boalt Hall, beginning her practice in 1971.

Ms. Williamson was a labor and delivery coach for 15 years and Mr. Williamson was a retired Los Angeles firefighter.  Friends of the couple said that Mr. Williamson was manic depressive and refused to take his medication, per reports to them by Ms. Williamson several years ago.  The parties’ divorce was an on again, off again action for the last seven years.  The initial divorce was filed in 2004 and the couple reconciled only to separate in 2007 when Ms. Williamson obtained a restraining order for domestic violence.  In 2010, she tried to have the restraining order renewed but was unable to locate the whereabouts of Mr. Williamson and was unable to have it served.

Sandra Williamson

There was also a civil action between the parties in which Mr. Williamson obtained a loan after he forged his wife’s signature on a deed to gain sole possession of the family home.  Ms. Williamson later had the deed voided in court — but not before Williamson took out a $942,000 bank loan based on the forged deed and transferred the money to a joint account he had with a nephew.  The civil suit was still pending at the time of the divorce proceeding.  This was by no means a simple divorce.  You can read the trial brief here prepared by Ms. Soley, which details the many alleged actions of Mr. Williamson.

Family Law can sometimes become very volatile when dealing with very emotional issues and those of us in family law are aware of the dangers that sometimes occur in divorce and custody matters.  If you talk to a Family Law attorney, you will no doubt hear of some opposing party who has become angry with the soon to be ex’s attorney, and has made some threatening comment or threatened some action against that attorney.

Working in family law, I have witnessed many times when this has occurred and have had to call in police assistance to escort the opposing party out of the law office during heated moments.  One former attorney I worked for has had to be escorted along with the client, from the courthouse to their vehicles by the bailiff, after being threatened in the hallway during negotiations with the opposing party, his counsel and the client.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Soley’s family and staff and Ms. Williamson’s family and co-workers.

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LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.
Image via Wikipedia

According to the Tennessee attorney general’s office, Charlene Carter was doing business as Carter’s Paralegal Service and allegedly advertised her legal services on Craigslist and through business cards and was providing divorces to consumers.  There was no mention of how many divorces were provided and if there were any problems or issues with these divorces in the article I read at WSMV.com.  Carter has agreed to pay restitution to customers who paid for legal services and has agreed to stop the alleged illegal activity, according to the attorney general’s office.

I don’t know what the rules for a paralegal in Tennessee are, but in California a paralegal cannot offer legal services to the public, even completing documents, without the direct supervision of an attorney unless the paralegal is a Legal Document Assistant, (LDA).  I would love to hear from Tennessee paralegals on what they can and cannot do as a paralegal and if they have LDA’s or a comparable.

California LDA’s can prepare documents at the direction of the consumer, they cannot give legal advice, and cannot tell you what to put into the forms or select the forms for you.  An LDA must be registered and bonded in their county.  The California Association of Legal Document Assistants has a pdf that explains the differences between the Paralegal and LDA.

So, next time you think about making an extra buck, remember, it’s not worth it!

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It could become easier for California businesses to resolve civil disputes next year under a state law that streamlines trial procedures. The law by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, allows one-day jury trials with 8 instead of 12 jurors The catch? Both sides must agree.

California starts the year by downgrading possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Though the fine remains $100, there’s no jail time or notation on your criminal record.  Good news for those that use this herb.

Also in a cost-cutting move, the state will be releasing severely sick or dying inmates through medical parole. That’s causing public safety concerns among Republicans who call the guidelines too dangerous.  Not sure about this one, I am sure we will here more about it.

The paparazzi, known to surround or block celebrities while driving, just to take their picture, may be liable for damages under false imprisonment.  Yes, we must protect our celebrities, where would Cali be without them?

You also might see a Blue Alert on those highway signs telling you an officer is down and the suspect is still on the loose.  This is similar to our Amber alert and will be on the same signs from what I understand.

If you have one of those yellow hybrid stickers, you’ll still be able to use the carpool lane as a solo driver six more months.  The way our freeways are, I don’t think there are that many hybrid drivers using the lane.

Another new law creates a state commission to help beekeepers fight Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease that has devastated honey bee colonies in recent years. The cause isn’t known, but the commission will recommend ways to control it.  A world without honey just can’t happen!

California nursing homes will be required to post federal ratings of their facilities starting Jan. 1. The federal program gives ratings from one to five stars, depending on quality of care, making it easier for residents and their families to choose the right facility, according to supporters.

Nursing homes that fail to post the ratings can be fined.  Well, now I will be able to choose  a five star home that my grandkids keep telling me they will come visit me in, lol.

Lawmakers even went after some Internet users. It’ll be a misdemeanor to impersonate someone if the intention is to deceive or injure another person.

The real estate lending business will be affected by a change. Starting Saturday, the law protects homeowners who are “underwater” on their loans, preventing first deed lenders from obtaining deficiency judgments against the sellers in short sales.

A lender who approves a sale for less than what is owed must accept the sales proceeds as full payment.  This will certainly be good news to many who need to sell their homes.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Parents of children (kindergarten through eighth grade) are charged with a misdemeanor if the child misses 10-percent or more of the school year without an excuse.  The new California law can punish offending parents with up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.  Who doesn’t send their children to school?  Apparently enough parents to warrant this law.

In cases where a caregiver causes serious injury (such as a coma or paralysis) they will now be prosecuted for punishment which can now include life in prison.  The new California law includes relatives and non-relatives.

‘Chelsea’s Law’ ups the penalties for forcible sex acts against minors and creates a penalty of ‘life without the possibility of parole’ for specific acts and imposes lifetime parole for certain sex offenses.  The new California law also punishes such acts committed within public parks more severely.

It is a crime to conduct a “malicious, credible impersonation” through a social media site, email or website. The new California law punishes the harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding of another person online with up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Bakeries must stop using artery-clogging trans fat oil in 2011. California passed the law in 2008, but it didn’t affect bakers until now. Restaurants, fast-food outlets and cafeterias came under the prohibition a year ago.  Wonder if I will still enjoy the occasional donut without all that fat?

This is just a smidgen of the 700 new laws, yes 700, that go into effect on January 1, 2011.

Here’s a great video, with some wonderful “adult” signs to enjoy.  Happy New Year to all my fellow paralegals.  Stay safe, stay happy and see you all next year!

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McDivitt Law Firm of Colorado has done this for four years, and given away about 4,000 cab rides.  New Year’s Eve revelers will again have the option of a safe and free cab ride home, thanks to the McDivitt law office.

The Safe and Sober program is for adults who have been drinking or who don’t have a safe way home. Rides will be available in Colorado Springs (inside the city limits) from 10 p.m. on Friday, December 31, through 4 a.m., Saturday, January 1.

And just to be clear, the rides are provided to the rider’s residence, not to another drinking establishment.  So, if you are in Colorado Springs and need a safe and free ride home, call Yellow Cab of Colorado Springs and say thank you to the McDivitt Law Firm.

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Who says lawyers don’t have hearts?  In the Florida Times Union yesterday there was an article about a law firm who will give away 750 gallons of gasoline on Wednesday afternoon as members of the law firm and community leaders pump up to 10 gallons per vehicle.

The Chestnut Firm, based in Gainesville and with an office in Jacksonville, will sponsor the giveaway beginning at 4:30 at the Shell station at 2197 Kings Road in Northwest Jacksonville.

The law firm, headed by Chris Chestnut, said in a release that the second annual gas giveaway is a way to give back to the community, especially in a time when many people are struggling.

I have no affiliation with this firm and I don’t know anyone who works for them but I think this is a great community spirited thing to do.  So, I would like to say thank you to the Chestnut Firm and Merry Christmas too!

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Wow, this week has been a busy one for me personally and professionally.  In the area of law I am working in at this time, Family Law, it either becomes busy right before the holidays or extremely slow.  This year, it is crazy busy.  I don’t know why, but I have an idea it has to do with the economy.  Work has been keeping me so busy, that I haven’t had time to read my personal e-mail, until last night.

Imagine my surprise to find not one, but two e-mails from two separate sources announcing that my blog has been listed as one of their resources.  I am both proud and pleased to be mentioned with many of my favorite paralegal bloggers that I myself follow.  Rasmussen College offers some online degrees in Criminal Justice and you can find my mention here.  Paralegal.net offers information on many online paralegal schools as well as information regarding paralegal salary’s, job descriptions and much more.  You can find my mention here. I want to thank both Rasmussen and Paralegal.net for mentioning my blog.

Some of the other mentions are Lynne DeVenny, Daphne Drescher, Chere Estrin and Kim Walker.  I think I’m in good company, don’t you?  Oh, yes, and as to my Mom (who has said on many occasions), “I read your blog but I have no idea what most of it means”, I just want to say, someone out there does get it Mom, and it’s okay if you don’t, just keep reading because I need all the followers I can get!

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We Californians love to be first, just try driving down the freeway and you will see what I mean.  While voters did not approve Proposition 19 which would have legalized pot, making us the first state to do so, we have elected the nation’s first transgender Superior Court Trial Judge.

As reported in LGBTQNation.com , Victoria Kolakowski, who is 49, was elected in Alameda County as a new judge.

Victoria Kolakowski

In an interview with student journalist Alexa Sasanow of The Tuft’s Daily newspaper, Kolakowski said:

“The trans thing isn’t the first thing I talk about.  I talk about my experience, things I’ve done as a lawyer, things I want to do as a judge, and when there’s time, I say something about being transgender.  It’s not what I lead with, and a lot of people don’t know.  I’m not hiding it, but it’s one of the things that is difficult when you’re running a race; how do you address this issue? You don’t want to be hiding something about who you are, if you’re out, but you also don’t want to say, ‘Vote for me. I’m wearing a rainbow flag.”

Kolakowski was part of a group of transgender candidates across the nation that was recently profiled in the New York Times, and she cited some of the online comments on the article as indicative of a culture of homophobia and transphobia that still exists in the United States in many forms.

While I don’t know Ms. Kolakowski and Alameda is not the county in which I assist attorneys at this time, I think she will bring some great life lessons into the courtroom with her.  I would love to hear from paralegals and their attorneys in Alameda on their thoughts  about this election and on Ms. Kolakowski herself.

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Get Organized With Gmail’s New Features « Cyber-Esq.  A great article written by my friend and colleague, Eric G. Young, with a little input from yours truly.  Be sure to check it out!

via Get Organized With Gmail’s New Features « Cyber-Esq..

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As a Paralegal, sometimes it is left to us to figure out what to do when the attorney we work for is disabled or heaven forbid, dies while we are in their employ.  I don’t know if either of these has happened while you have been working for an attorney, but it has happened to me and it can be downright scary to figure out what to do.  Clients and heirs of California attorneys who die or become disabled can be left with the same sorts of issues faced by families of an individual who does not leave a will or living trust behind: what happens to client files and any funds that may be on deposit in a trust account? With the approval of a surrogacy agreement last month, the State Bar Board of Governors made it both easy and free to avoid such problems. The first to take advantage of the new “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future” was bar President Bill Hebert, who designated his law partner, James Quadra, to administer his practice in the event Hebert could not continue to work.

The sample agreement, available to all lawyers, spells out the responsibilities of the primary attorney and his or her successor.  Currently, if a lawyer dies or becomes incapacitated without having made any arrangements about the future of his or her practice, the State Bar seeks a superior court order to take over the practice.  It collects the attorney’s files and attempts to return those files to the client, although it does not try to find a new attorney to take over cases.

However, if a lawyer designates a successor using the new sample contract, the designated surrogate goes to court for appointment as the practice administrator who can take control and dispose of the practice. A lengthy list of duties is part of the contract and includes the ability to open mail, become a signatory on bank accounts, notify clients and transfer files, pay bills and handle funds, and accept the original attorney’s clients and cases. The practice administrator also will have the power to sell the practice.

The agreement includes a requirement that clients must be notified in engagement letters that a successor attorney has been designated.  Murray Greenberg, who for 15 years has handled State Bar takeovers of attorneys’ practices, whether for death, disability or discipline, said the numbers vary from year to year. He’s seen an uptick recently, probably due to the graying of the profession in general, he said.  He shares Oldman’s belief that many attorneys aren’t well-prepared for the unforeseen: “No one expects to become disabled.”

The California State Bar also has guidelines for closing or selling a law practice, which can be found here. As a paralegal, we have lots of responsibilities and while you may not think this should be one of them, I believe we should make sure that our attorney(s) know about this contract availability and that they make sure that their clients and yes, even their paralegals are assured of how things will be handled in the event of their death or disability.

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