Thursday, December 8, 2016

SMILE AND THE FOUNDATION WILL SMILE WITH YOU!


Let me start by saying I do not own stock in Amazon.com, nor do I know anyone in the upper echelon of Amazon.  I don’t really know how they fare politically or environmentally, I just know that I love them. Or, rather, I love using the site.  In my house, Amazon is a verb, as in, just Amazon that stuff (G-rated version)!

Some may say the ease of the site makes shopping dangerous. Oh, I MUST have that silicone Mana-Tea manatee tea diffuser! How could I live without it? But I maintain, living in rural Vermont, that it can be safer, more convenient and often, dare I say, faster to order that _____ (fill in the blank: pen, frame, fabric glue, gift) not available at the local store by Amazoning it.  Also, you avoid the risk of filling your physical cart with 20 other unwanted items you see at the store by just ordering that one thing on Amazon prime with no shipping costs. And no travel time or gas! Now, I still endeavor to shop locally where possible, but sometimes Amazon is the way to go and the below tip may lessen any guilt you may feel when using the site.

What does this have to do with the VBA blawg? Well, with the not-so-grueling effort of typing in just SIX extra characters, you can make a difference! Before ordering your gifts, household items, etc. this holiday season, just type in those 6 characters: “S, M, I, L, E, .” before Amazon and you will automatically be making a donation to the Vermont Bar Foundation with your purchase at no extra cost to you! By using www.smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate a small percentage of each purchase to the Vermont Bar Foundation.  All you have to do is choose the VBF as your charity, as a one-time effort, and the VBF will always be your recipient. Also, next time you use Amazon, you should automatically be signed in, especially if you use smile.amazon as your bookmark.   


For more smiles, check out the newly redesigned VBF website at https://vtbarfoundation.org.  The website shares some of the amazing stories about how the VBF grants make a difference in the lives of Vermonters.  It also encourages you to donate what you can to support their important work.  Reading the touching stories will certainly put a smile on your face, and donating will spread that smile across Vermont. Donating at no extra cost to you is a smile-smile, win-win for everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Constitution Day/Month/Year Success!

Lauri Fisher and Ted Kenney at BFA Fairfax

When lawyers are admitted to the bar, when judges are sworn in and when elected officials take office, they all pledge to uphold the Constitution.  Pledging to uphold the Constitution is of course easier said than done, as interpretations can vary.  But it remains the foundation for our government and for our governance among all those who live in the United States.

The United States has the shortest constitution in the world, and also the longest living Constitution at nearly 230 years.  It has approximately 4,400 words, without amendments and 7,500 with amendments. Compare this to say, the Affordable Care Act which clocks in at over 360,000 words and which covers only one thing, healthcare!  Our Constitution was designed to govern our society in its entirety well into the future, despite its brevity.  The Constitution is our backbone, and our glue, and is responsible for keeping this diverse nation functioning since its founding. While interpretations evolve as society evolves, it is the genius in the checks and balances system created therein that insures freedom, justice, thoughtfulness and equality within our society.

Constitution Day is typically celebrated on September 17th each year to honor the signing of the document on September 17, 1787.  What is less known is that it could as well be celebrated on November 26th, as George Washington established the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789 to give thanks for the new Constitution!  Perhaps this Thanksgiving families should include the Constitution among the things they recite as being thankful for as the topic is passed around the dinner table.  Here at the VBA, while we celebrated Constitution Day with an open-to-public presentation by judges on September 21, 2016, we have continued the celebration right through and will continue to honor it in the weeks and months to come.

As part of our Constitution education initiative, the VBA has been handing out pocket constitutions to members who are willing to go to schools, towns or service clubs and give educational presentations about the constitution.    Since September we have given out approximately 2,500 constitutions and have ordered 2,500 more.  The VBA has also provided suggested presentation outlines and materials to those wishing to volunteer.  Here are highlights from some of our members:

·        Caroline Earle spoke at the Barre Rotary and received very positive feedback.  Rotarians found it to be ‘incredibly interesting’ and remarked that they would have listened to the presentation for another hour! They enjoyed the pre-election refresher on the balance of powers and their pocket constitutions.

·          Lauri Fisher and Ted Kenney gave three presentations to 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th graders at BFA Fairfax, reaching nearly 200 students. The students were extremely excited and asked a ton of questions.  The teachers asked them to come back in January!

·          Adrian Otterman presented at the Cornerstone Kids Homeschool Coop which consists of 60 homeschooled kids age K-12. He gave a short presentation on the Constitution and discussed the Bill of Rights.  He discussed the Framers idea of limited government and the checks and balances provided by our 3 branches, encouraging them to read the entire constitution as he believed they liked the presentation. 

·           Lisa Chalidze recounted administering tests to college freshmen where they either watch a Youtube video (typically 1-2 minutes) of, for example, a police shooting, or a controversial protest, or read parts of a court opinion, then take the factual scenario apart almost moment by moment to analyze with reference to the relevant Amendment (Fourth, First, etc.). She can now freeze a video at any point and ask the class: "What amendment are we talking about here?" and they shout out the answer: “Fourth!” or whatever as the case may be.
  
      Lisa reiterates that she asks each student to write their name in the Constitution and emphasizes: this is "your Constitution", both literally and figuratively. She has distributed 45 copies over the last few months to undergraduates, as well as another 40 or so to students at Rutland High School where she was assisting with a mock trial held at the US District Court in Rutland.

·          Will Baker met with about 18 fifth and sixth graders at Doty Memorial School in Worcester, and handed out Constitutions.  They had a fun and interesting discussion focused more on the bill of rights than the Articles or three branches, which is pretty complex for the age group.

·             Mark Sciarrotta and Jennifer Emens-Butler spoke both to the Orchard Valley Waldorf School 8th graders and the Whitcomb High School 9th graders with a discussion focused on the Amendments and the Judicial branch after the Constitution basics were discussed.  At OVWS, there was a lengthy discussion of T-Shirt cases and the First Amendment regarding dress codes.  The WHS students demonstrated some profound misunderstanding of constitutional protections, so the discussion focused on the First, Second and Fourth Amendments after sharing some basic information regarding laws and the three branches of government generally.

·            Teri Corsones presented to three Social Studies and U.S. History classes at Rutland High School, using a map of the original 13 Colonies (Vermont being noticeably absent!), a map of Vermont to show the importance of the Green Mountain Boys, especially regarding Fort Ticonderoga, Hubbardton and Bennington. She also passed around volumes of Vermont Statutes Annotated to give examples of what the legislative branch does, and volumes of Vermont Reports to show what the judicial branch does. Lastly, she quizzed the students from the U.S. Naturalization Test, to see what of the many questions about the Constitution in that test they could answer after the presentation.


Constitution Day/Week/Month/Year/Decade… will continue as pocket Constitution recipients, Jaime Heins, Meghan Purvee, Timothy Eustace and Emily Wetherell, among others, prepare for their scheduled presentations.  With heightened media coverage over the election season on Constitutional topics such as not convening a hearing for Merrick Garland, the wisdom or usefulness of the electoral college design and the proper distinction between what can be accomplished through executive versus legislative powers, there is no better time to help fulfill our duty to uphold the Constitution by sharing its wisdom! 


Contact the VBA today to pick up some pocket constitutions for distribution and please volunteer to discuss the role of the Constitution in our society in a school or service club near you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Real Estate Law Day Revisited

So it has come to our attention that many of our members are not on Facebook or Twitter, but nevertheless may, perhaps, want to see some of our event pictures.  Sure, a blog is also social media, but this post is a mere click away from our website, no login required. If I'm playing your tune, this blawg is for YOU!

VBA's Real Estate Law Day was a smashing success with over 200 attendees!  The day started off with some property transfer tax and land gains tax return advice for the new system with Doug Farnham and Elizabeth Hunt from VDOT.  Section Co-Chair Benj Deppman and Realtor Amey Ryan gave a lively presentation about Rights of First Refusal and Options.  When 200 attendees were asked to raise their hands if they liked ROFRs, not a hand was raised!  We also heard from the panel and Jesse Goldfine on P&S Contracts and Co-Chair Jim Knapp recapping the fire marshal meeting.  Finally, after a delicious lunch at the Capitol Plaza, the realtors put on a presentation about the Dodd Frank Act.

Following are some pictures from the event:










Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Game Changer: Casemaker!


What is something you hardly ever hear during a CLE seminar? A collective, audible “Wow!” from an audience of lawyers.  This actually happened.  Here is the story.

On Friday, I presented a Casemaker update for the Rutland County Bar Association. Surely, the topic wasn’t as tantalizing as the concurrent criminal law or real estate law updates, but it had its fair share of interested parties.  The room was set up with a projector and an active laptop to walk members through the Casemaker site.

In preparation, I spent some time re-familiarizing myself with the platform and checking all the features.  Having tried to use Casemaker at the time of its initial launch, I was the first to assure the members that the service had come a long way and was nothing like Casemaker 1.0 of many years’ past.  We lawyers already have the sinking feeling whenever doing research that we are missing something, and the old Casemaker didn’t do much to allay those fears.

Enter Casemaker Pro. As a VBA member, Casemaker Pro is an automatic benefit of membership.  Before getting into the enhanced features, we spent some time navigating searches and using the modern standard Casemaker platform. What a difference from the initial version! I was able to demonstrate broad and narrow Boolean searches, being logged in under a client name, creating folders and saving cases by a simple drag and drop or copy feature, taking notes to append to a case and choosing how to save or print the notes, going back and seeing all the history that Casemaker automatically saves no matter the time or interruption, auto-correct of misspelled or mis-punctuated reporter names and browsing statutes or other materials.

The libraries are also much more impressive. Casemaker boasts the most current information available for federal cases, federal code, state cases and state statutes, with annotations.  Each category will show you the currency of what you are reading, and will often link to the Act or archived information leading up to the current code.  In the Vermont State materials, you can search cases, statutes, some superior court opinions, the Constitution, Rules, ethics opinions, environmental court decisions, Green Mountain Care Board decisions, Medicaid rules, LRB Decisions and Title Standards, among other things.  Within the search, you can add related federal material with a simple click.  The Federal Materials include bankruptcy opinions, circuit opinions, Court of International Trade, US Code, IRS Revenue Rulings, Internal Revenue Bulletin, Tax Court, NLRB, Federal Register, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and more.

When performing a search, the left side menu will allow you to expand or contract your search by clicking or unclicking various things like the jurisdiction or statutes or cases only.  The search breaks down the number of cases or statutes or State references, allowing you to further narrow.  There is also an option to type further search terms or search just by date or judge. 

All of this is quite wow-worthy, but what about the audible “Wow!?” There were actually a few ‘wows’ spoken that day.  One enhanced feature is Citator.  Each case will have a green thumbs up or a red thumbs down, not unlike Shepard.  Next to that reference will be a number, showing just how many times that case is cited.  By clicking the number or the chart next to it, you can see the date or timeframe of the citing reference and see each individual reference with a hyperlink to the case cite.  The negative treatment citing reference feature will break the reference down into criticized, questioned, overruled, modified and the like, with links to each case containing the negative treatment.  This drew a few “oooh’s”.

Next was the Casemaker Digest.  This feature allows you to set up an email or RSS feed (or simply go to Casemaker) to see the hottest cases in your specific practice area or jurisdiction (or both).  You can set the feed to show you the cases on a particular topic in a particular jurisdiction. The cases are broken down by week and contain summaries of the holding.  A quick demo search revealed several cases sorted by subject and decided within the last day or two.

And last but not least is CiteCheck, the demonstration of which brought out the loudest collective “Wow!”  CiteCheck allows you to upload a brief in pdf or word and Casemaker will check all the cites and give citing references for each. It also allows you to correct partial cites or items that appear to be a cite to have those entered properly and checked.  Each citation will even be hyperlinked to the case cited for a quick but more thorough review of the case.  The demo was seamless!


With legal research software from the ‘big two’ costing approximately $500 per month, the latest version of Casemaker will undoubtedly have you questioning the expense. Casemaker Pro, along with our new online community service, is included in your Vermont Bar Association dues.  Membership DOES have its privileges!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Battle of Wits!


Below is an excerpt from the Fall Vermont Bar Journal, in The Princess Bride-style.  While our staff has thought of some doozies, we have yet to hear from very many of our resident VBA members' inner comedians, authors, scholars or pranksters.  Failing to submit could be one of the biggest blunders of all time!  Accept the challenge TODAY as time is running out.

CAPTION CONTEST—THE BATTLE OF WITS!


During the cover contest period, some of our left-brained attorneys lamented that they wanted to play along but had no artistic talent to speak of.  Well, it’s time to show off your more cerebral side, as we challenge you to a battle of wits!  Montpelier cartoon artist (and lawyer) Kathy Fechter has graciously provided us the above cartoon, which lends itself to seemingly infinite humorous quips.  

Submit yours and see if it makes it past our scrutinizing staff to be included in the Winter Journal.  Email your proposed caption for the below cartoon by November 15, 2016 to jeb@vtbar.org.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Celebrate Pro Bono!



October is pro bono month, and October 23-29 is ABA’s pro bono week.  Vermont has incredible and rewarding pro bono opportunities.  Learn about the programs and obtain CLE credit by attending the VBA Pro Bono Conference, October 26, 2016 at the State House in Montpelier.  Click HERE for more info on tomorrow’s conference.

There is a common misperception that pro bono means “for free.”  Pro bono actually comes from the Latin pro bono publico meaning “for the public good.”  Lawyers, at their core, are in the profession to help people navigate through difficult situations, often well after the legal retainer has run dry.  Continuing to fight the good fight, undoubtedly for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ may appear to fulfill this aspiration to provide services for the public good, but the rule is a bit more specific.  Just being in a profession that exists to help clients is not enough.

Both the ABA and Rule 6.1 of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct state that every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.  It suggests that lawyers should render at least 50 hours per year providing pro bono services, the majority of which should be to help persons of limited means or charitable organizations that serve those of limited means.  The majority of the 50 hours need to be without fee or expectation of fee.  The rule then goes on to address other no fee or reduced fee services, beyond the majority of the 50 hours, that could be rendered to protect civil rights or public rights or to improve the legal system or law.

 Being in a service profession, it seems to go without saying that Vermont lawyers will give their time to help those in need, without pro bono hours being mandated.  And they often do, even though the stated 50 hours is merely aspirational.  The most cited reason for not giving time is that it is harder to earn a living in Vermont than elsewhere.  That Vermont practice is replete with ‘involuntary pro bono.’ While this may be true, it also follows that a huge population of Vermonters are low income and are in dire need of legal services.  Nationally, the ABA has found that 40% of low and moderate income households have legal problems but that only 20% of those legal needs are being met.  Legal services are needed, so why not help?

As so aptly put by Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  Or as often, and perhaps incorrectly, attributed to Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Countless studies have shown that giving is more rewarding and fulfilling than receiving. 

Consider volunteering at one of the following established programs and see just how gratifying the work can be!

·        Vermont Volunteer Lawyer Project is a statewide program matching volunteer attorneys with low-income clients in need of help in civil legal matters. To sign up or to request more information, contact Angele Court, VVLP Coordinator, at (802) 863-7153.

·        Chittenden County Small Claims Clinic is held on the first Tuesday of each month in the District and Family Court building on Cherry Street in Burlington. Volunteer attorneys meet with clients to review their cases and prepare them for the upcoming hearing. The attorneys do not provide legal advice. To volunteer, or to receive more information, contact Jeffrey Messina Esq., with Bergeron, Paradis & Fitzpatrick, LLP by calling (802) 879-6304.

·        Chittenden County Rent Escrow Clinic is held at least two times a month on Tuesdays from 8:30AM until noon at Chittenden County Courthouse, 175 Main Street in Burlington. Three attorney volunteers enter limited appearances for clients in rent escrow hearings that morning. To volunteer, or to obtain more information, contact Angele Court with Legal Services Law Line of Vermont at 802-863-7153.

·        County Bar Legal Assistance Projects are low-bono projects providing stipends for attorneys representing low income clients in foreclosure, collections and landlord/tenant cases in civil division, in adult involuntary guardianships in probate divisions, and in child support contempt defense in family division. These low bono projects exist in Addison, Bennington, Rutland, Windham, Windsor/Orange Counties, and are coming soon in Franklin/Grand Isle and Washington Counties. For general information contact Mary Ashcroft at mashcroft@vtbar.org or at 802-223-2020.   
To sign up for the program in your preferred country, contacts are below:
Addison County: Sarah Star, Esq. 802-385-1023
Bennington County: John Lamson, Esq., 802-447-8500
Orange County: Judge Bernie Lewis at 802-728-9604
Rutland County: Mary Ashcroft, Esq., 802-775-5189 (OVER 800 CASES TO DATE!)                       Windham County: Ellen Kreitmeier, Esq., 802-490-9265
Windsor/Orange Counties: Marc Nemeth, Esq. 802-763-2227

·        Caledonia County Legal Clinic is offered on Friday afternoon every other month at the Courthouse in St. Johnsbury. Attorney volunteers are needed to visit with clients on a variety of issues for 20 minutes each. For more information or to volunteer, call the court at 748-6600.

·        St. Johnsbury Community Justice Center offers a free evening legal clinic on the first Monday of every month, and needs volunteer attorneys to meet with each client for 30 minutes, working from 6-8PM. For more information or to volunteer, call Neil Favreau at (802) 748- 2977.

·        Washington County Legal Clinic operates two Friday afternoons a month at the Washington Family Court in Barre. Volunteer attorneys see 3-6 clients for 15 minute consultations each. Clients with all types of legal questions are served. To volunteer, please call the Family Court at 479-4205.


The county “low bono” projects listed above are funded by grants from the Vermont Bar Foundation. 

Pro bono opportunities exist in every county in Vermont.  If not through an established program, consider volunteering in your local probate or family division, where the pro bono need is especially great.  Fulfill Rule 6.1 and you, too, will feel fulfilled!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Scenes from VBA's 138th Annual Meeting

If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then this photo-packed Blawg installment rivals an Act of Congress! The 138th Annual Meeting was a smashing success, and how better to describe it than with thousands upon thousands of words, albeit in picture form. Captions are included, however, since it would be impossible for trained legal professionals to remain entirely speechless!


Taking in the setting before the meeting begins.


Judge Robert Mello fields a question from Paul Gillies about Judge Mello’s book “Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont”.

Judge Stephen Martin discusses his book “Orville’s Revenge: The Anatomy of a Suicide” with a photo of the late Orville Gibson and his wife in the foreground.

Nancy Martin exhibits how one can tie one’s self up in order to hurl one’s self from a bridge!



Former Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter speaks first in the Gubernatorial Dialogue followed by Lt. Governor Phil Scott addressing the membership. Last up was Liberty Union Candidate Bill Lee who shared his enthusiasm (and drew some laughs) during the Gubernatorial Dialogue.  The event was moderated by Daniel Richardson.










Friday morning's Wake Up and Run/Walk participants got to view the sunrise.


Peaceful morning mindfulness through curtain sheers...John Newman presents to very engaged members in a beautiful setting.

Greg Weimer engrosses the crowd during the E-Discovery for Small Civil Cases seminar.


        
Anna Saxman  and Marshall Pahl describe the latest rulings in the criminal law update seminar next to a bank of lake-view windows.

The panelists in the Alimony Reform presentation include Judges Brian Grearson, Thomas Devine and Kevin Griffin, along with Attorneys Susan Murray and Emily Davis.

Tom Valente explains the use of parody as a defense in trademark cases.



Also in IP, In case you want to know how to take over the world, Gordon Troy can explain!

Nancy Livak addresses potential infringement with this lively cheerleader costume case.

Penny Benelli and Amber Barber present to a packed lakeside room with the Family Law year in review.

Steve Ellis addressing a question at the Employment Law review.

Tom Moody engaging his audience at the Business Law review as Tristram Coffin awaits his portion of the presentation.

Mike Kennedy and Drew Palcsik keeping members calm with their cloud computing seminar.

Members are assembled for the lunch meeting  - a packed house with this view out the window:
.

Mike Kennedy presents President’s Awards to Access to Justice Campaign Co-Chairs Jeff Johnson and Jean Giddings for their fantastic work as last year’s co-chairs.

Mike Kennedy presents President’s Awards to lawyer/legislators Shap Smith and Willem Jewett for their many contributions while serving in the Vermont Legislature.
This year’s Access to Justice Campaign Co-Chairs Rob McClallen and Gary Karnedy thank the audience for their past support and urge continued support for the Poverty Law Fellow Program this year.

   
Mairead O’Reilly, the current Poverty Law Fellow, describes the work she will be undertaking with a focus on issues surrounding the opiate epidemic.


Immediate Past President Dan Richardson passes the gavel to new President Mike Kennedy.



President Mike Kennedy addresses the membership during his very moving acceptance speech!  


Post-lunch socializing with the service award winners and President Kennedy.


The afternoon continues with Appellate Law cast of presenters including Justices Skoglund and Eaton, Judge Crawford and David Boyd.


Real Property Year in Review with Andy Mikell, Benjamin Deppman and Jim Knapp.


Thanks for having us, Lake Morey!