Some Advice for Trump’s New Lawyer

Marc Kasowitz

As the rapidly burgeoning #TrumpRussia scandal moves forward, with evidence piling up that Trump is trying to obstruct congressional investigations into collusion between his campaign and Russia, Donal Trump has picked some personal counsel.

Trump, of course, has picked many attorneys before, he being involved in over 3,500 lawsuits. And today’s “winner” of the competition for the job is Marc Kasowitz, of Kasowitz Benson Torres.

This is the same firm that employs former Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was rumored to be in line to be FBI chief. Whether it was an obvious conflict of interest to keep considering Lieberman, or Lieberman thought the 10-year gig might not actually provide the job security it once did, nobody has (yet) leaked.

But rather than go down that rabbit hole, I wanted to focus on this tidbit from one of Trump’s former  lawyers, Patrick “Paddy” McGahn. Mcgann had represented Trump many,  many times, and testified when Trump’s Taj Mahal casino went belly-up.

If the McGahn name sounds familiar, it’s because his nephew Donald McGahn is now White House Counsel. That’s another Trumpian rabbit hole I’ll try to avoid.

No, the place I’m going is this little piece of deposition testimony from Paddy McGahn over the Taj bankruptcy proceedings: It seems that the lawyers decided they could never meet with Trump one-on-one. The rule was that there always had to be a second lawyer in the room.

Why a second lawyer? To run up the bills? Hell no, to protect themselves.

Trump, Paddy McGahn testified, always had a practice of having two present when meeting with Trump to avoid problems with his lying. He and another attorney would meet together with Trump because “Donald says certain things and then has a lack of memory.”

So the lesson for Kasowitz is this: Make damn sure there are no one-on-one meetings with Trump. Record anything that can be recorded and have someone take explicit notes while it happens.

This is the only way to protect yourself when making representations about Trump, as he has a penchant for tweeting or saying something completely opposite later on. It’s a a habit.

#ProtectYourReputation

 


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New York’s Grieving Families

Once upon a time — like in 1847 — New York was a progressive state. We had, I believe, the first ever wrongful death statute for the benefit of families whose bread-winner was killed due the negligence of others.

And back then that was progressive.

The problem is that we have stagnated. This first-ever law has never been updated.

Essentially, if a family’s non-breadwinner is killed by the negligence of others, that person’s life — in the eyes of New York’s law — is worthless. Because there is no “economic loss” associated with the death. Mostly this means a child or retiree. Neither an infant, nor college student nor retired parent is likely to be providing an “economic” benefit in New York.

The grief of family members is, in New York, completely non-compensable.

Just as I addressed Lavern’s Law last week — the proposed legislation that measures the medical malpractice statute of limitations from the time the malpractice could reasonably have been discovered instead of when it happened — I address different legislation today.

If I can do my little part to help push New York into the 21st century I’ll be happy.

There is really no justification for telling families of the deceased that the court house doors are closed to them for their grief. Many of our sister states have such legislation. When out out-of-state lawyers call me to discuss potential wrongful death matters in New York, they are stunned to hear of the antiquated state of our civil justice system.

For many people, the courts are the only outlet for justice. We don’t encourage vigilantism, by any means, and a working, viable justice system is part of what makes a society function in a semi-civil fashion.  And having this outlet oft-times provides a small means of holding people or companies accountable so that the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else’s kid, or parent.

In the Assembly the bill is A. 1386. In the Senate the bill is S. 411.

The legislature is in session now and considering the bill.

If you don’t know your legislators, you can find them here by simply popping in your address.

Give a call to voice your support. It takes only a few moments.

 


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It’s Time to Pass Lavern’s Law

There is little that can be more infuriating on the civil side of the law than people losing their rights before they even knew you had them.

But such is the state of the law in New York, where the statute of limitations in medical malpractice matters is calculated from the time the incident occurs — not from the time the person found out about the conduct.

‘Scuse me while I put on my advocacy hat for a moment. This won’t take long.

New York is in a deep minority of just six states that measures the time to sue from the date of the malpractice, and this hits people particularly hard if they have undiagnosed cancers.

Lavern Wilkinson, for whom the law is named, went to Kings County Hospital on February 2, 2010 with chest pain. A radiologist saw a suspicious mass on the x-ray. But Wilkinson wasn’t told.

When it was found again two years later when her complaints wosened, the 15-month statute of limitations — you read that right, people sometimes have a paltry 15 months to discover the malpractice, hire a lawyer and bring suit — had expired. As per the Daily News summary of the incident:

A chest X-ray found the cancer had spread to both lungs, her liver, brain and spine. The disease was now terminal.

She left behind family including an autistic daughter.

That 15-month statute of limitations, by the way, is for city hospitals. For others, it is 2 ½ years.

But you know what? The problem still exists. Think about this: Pap smears are done every 3 years. A misread abnormal Pap that isn’t picked up until the next one? So sorry, you’re out of luck.

The curious thing about this bill, currently pending before the New York legislature, is that it enjoys wide bi-partisan support. There is no conceivable reason why the substantial burdens of medical negligence should fall to the patient and the patient’s family. None. Zero. Nada.

And you know what else? If the hospital was private, and contains to get immunity for its conduct, it is you the taxpayer that picks up part of those costs. You. Not the hospital that was negligent.

But the bill has never been brought to the floor for a vote.

Want to do something constructive today? Contact your New York Senator or Assemblyperson and let them know that this bill should be brought to the floor for a vote.

In the Assembly, the bill is A. 3339. In the Senate, the bill S. 4080.

And yeah, the next victim could be you. Or me. And we may not even know it.

 


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Cellino and Barnes Collapses

Cellino and Barnes, perhaps New York’s largest personal injury firm, collapsed yesterday. Ross M. Cellino Jr. brought an Order to Show Cause asking why the firm should not be dissolved. The Buffalo based firm –  fueled  by a massive multi-million dollar advertising and marketing budget — expanded in recent years to open offices around New York and now in California.

Cellino’s partner, Stephen Barnes, is scheduled to respond in court on May 19th. Details of the reason for the collapse will most surely come out in the lawsuit, along with accusations of some kind as between the two.

At stake in the suit are potentially thousands (tens of thousands?) of injured clients, whose cases now face the prospects of chaos, delay and disarray. It could be years before the entanglements of the two are sorted out, as issues involving its very expensive phone number (all 8s), marketing campaign and leases are sorted out while the lawyers jockey over how to manage the clients.

The dissolution will also have to deal with potential future business — notwithstanding the disarray — and that such business was generated by the years-long marketing campaign.

Most assuredly, lawyers at the firm are now contacting high-value individual clients in efforts to persuade them to stay at one of the new firms bound to be birthed from the tumult and pandemonium that is likely taking place.

But it isn’t as if the lawyers can simply divvy up the clients — for it is the clients that get to choose the lawyers. If clients do not believe they’ve been treated well with personal attention in the past, they may flee the firm altogether.

Both Cellino and Barnes have a checkered history, notwithstanding their success in building their mega-firm. In 2005 Cellino was suspended from the practice of law for six months while Barnes was censured. (In re Cellino)

The two of them had, in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, advanced loans to numerous clients. Part of this was having a relative set up a high interest funding company for clients, and then directing clients to that funding company without informing them of the relationship.

Barnes was also cited for ambulance chasing (“Barnes sent a letter to a hospitalized surgical patient and concluded that such conduct was an impermissible solicitation of legal employment in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility.”)

This story is one to follow given the inevitable problems that will result in the dissolution of a firm with thousands of clients.


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TrumpRussia, the Watergate Sketches, and You

Jurors listen to the Watergate tapes. Sketch by John Hart.

The sketches hang in my office as souvenirs from a trial long ago. I represented the estate of the courtroom sketch artist in a medical malpractice trial, and a grateful widow sold them to me when the trial was over.

Watergate. The scandal by which all others are measured, as the ubiquitous -gate suffix was tagged to anything and everything that it could be tagged to.

The scandal stood for, above all else, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. As everyone knows (or should know) it wasn’t the “third-rate burglary” that sent Nixon packing. It was the cover-up.

I look at the sketches every day.

H.R. Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff, on the witness stand. Judge John Sirica behind him. Sketch by John Hart.

And now, with FBI Director James Comey being fired amidst an investigation he was conducting into the TrumpRussia scandal — no need for the -gate suffix here — Watergate is on everyone’s mind.

For it was Nixon that gave the order to ax special prosecutor Archibald Cox who was doing the investigation. And when the attorney general and deputy attorney general both refused, and resigned in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, the job fell to future judge Robert Bork.

No one in the Trump White House, it seems, could foresee that a president firing the guy that was investigating his own administration regarding Russia’s meddling in our election, and possible collusion, might be a problem.

But while Trump can fire Comey, and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and Preet Bharara, all of whom were investigating him — he can’t fire everyone. Because not everyone works for him.

Prosecutor James Neal talking to the jury. Judge John Sirica in the background. Sketch by John Hart.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Trump. And Schneiderman is beyond Trump’s reach.

The tell for if/when Schneiderman is getting close to something will be when Trump starts tweeting about him.

Ultimately, however, the Constitution charges we the people with the task of removal. And if not by an unwilling Congress, then by a change of the Congress the next election day.

One way or another the republic will survive this. We can only hope that there are no improvident actions in the interim that cost people lives.


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Long Term Disability & Mental Health Issues

mental illness ltdIt can be very challenging to get long term disability benefits for mental disorders, even though you may still be eligible. The reason is mental illness typically doesn’t show up on diagnostic tests and the severity of the condition can be difficult to measure objectively.

LTD claims processors are not licensed psychologists and often fail to understand the true limitations of a mental illness. They are typically quick to deny disability claims for mental illness because the disease does not show up on a blood test. Many disability insurance adjusters also fail to understand that many mental illnesses have a cyclical nature, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. An insurance agent may assume someone is “cured” because they are not displaying symptoms when this really just means that symptoms have abated temporarily and are almost sure to return.

There is also a strong bias against mental illness in popular culture. This bias extends to some disability insurance agents who do not consider mental disease a real illness.

Mental Illnesses Eligible for Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
Many forms of mental illness and impairments can qualify for LTD benefits if the condition prevents you from working and a residual functional capacity test shows functional, social, or intellectual limitations. Qualifying conditions include:
— Bipolar disorder
— Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
— Affective disorders like schizoaffective disorder
— Anxiety
— Personality disorders
— Substance abuse disorders
— Organic mental disorders

LTD Limitations on Mental Illness
It’s becoming more common for LTD insurance companies to limit payments for nervous and mental conditions to just two years. This provision is found in almost all employer-provided ERISA LTD plans and many individual LTD policies. With individual policies, it may be possible to buy a rider to remove this limitation in exchange for a higher premium.

Most policies have a limitation that states that disabilities based primarily on self-reported symptoms and disabilities caused by mental illness, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse are limited to 24 months of benefits. This provision defines self-reported symptoms as manifestations you report to your doctor, such as fatigue or pain, that can’t be verified by objective tests and clinical exams. Depression is almost always included in the list of conditions for which benefits are limited to 24 months.

Some mental illnesses are exempt from this limitation in many cases. Commonly exempted disorders include dementia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, organic brain disease, and sometimes bipolar disorder. If your policy exempts these disorders from the limitation, you can collect LTD benefits indefinitely as long as you remain disabled.

Documenting Your LTD Claim
To improve the chances of having your claim approved, it’s vital that you properly document your claim and receive consistent treatment from a mental health professional. Your treating doctor should write an explanation about your condition and limitations rather than using the form provided by the insurance company which is designed to elicit responses that allow the insurer to deny your claim. Be sure your doctor explains any limitations you have with:
— Stay on-task all day
— Maintaining concentration and focus
— Avoiding excessive absences
— Responding appropriately to criticism
— Interacting appropriately with the public and co-workers
— Remembering, understanding, and performing simple actions

If you are attempting to file an LTD claim for a mental disorder or your claim has been denied, it’s important to work with an experienced Philadelphia LTD attorney to help document your condition and avoid common mistakes that can get your claim denied. Contact Edelstein Martin & Nelson for a free consultation with a disability lawyer in Philadelphia to get help with your claim.

The post Long Term Disability & Mental Health Issues appeared first on Philadelphia Disability Insurance Lawyer.

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The First Amendment Under Attack (From the Left and the Right)

There’s no question that the First Amendment is under attack today people claiming to be from both the right and the left.

Let’s start with the right and Donald Trump (to the extent anyone considers Trump a right-winger): On Sunday came the revelation that Trump may try to alter the First Amendment right to free speech because he can’t handle criticism.

This is not hyperbole on my part — I shy away from such things — but comes from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus explicitly saying so to ABC’s Jonathon Karl on Sunday. Priebus stated that they were “looking at” just such a scenario, to amend/abolish the power to speak freely. This was the first of two exchanges on the subject, that you can view online (emphasis added):

KARL: I want to ask you about two things the President has said on related issues. First of all, there was what he said about opening up the libel laws. Tweeting “the failing New York Times has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws?” That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?

PRIEBUS: I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. But when you have articles out there that have no basis or fact and we’re sitting here on 24/7 cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with Russia and all these other matters—

And, in the event anyone wants to chalk this up to “maybe he misspoke,” he made it clear by reiterating it:

KARL: So you think the President should be able to sue the New York Times for stories he doesn’t like?

PRIEBUS: Here’s what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news. I am so tired.

KARL: I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. It’s about whether or not the President should have a right to sue them.

PRIEBUS: And I already answered the question. I said this is something that is being looked at. But it’s something that as far as how it gets executed, where we go with it, that’s another issue.

Trump, of course, is (in)famously on record as wanting to “open up our libel laws” to allow him to more freely sue people when he gets irked because news isn’t reported the way he likes.  He seems to forget that, in order to be President and debate the issues of the day, he needs to put on his big boy pants when people decide to flay him for his words or conduct.

And this is evident from his prior conduct in bringing bullshit defamation claims to silence people or punish them for exercising free speech rights. Trump hates the First Amendment. And that is a danger.

But as I noted at the start, the First Amendment is also under assault from people who claim to be from the left. Over at UC/Berkeley, that bastion of liberalism, demonstrations over the appearance of right-wing hate mongers for profit MiloYiannopoulos led to the University cancelling his appearance instead of protecting him.

Then the same thing happened to that other hate monger for profit, Ann Coulter. The university canceled her appearance due to concern over the reaction to her, amounting to a”hecklers veto.” By rewarding those that threaten to commit crimes, the university merely empowered them to repeat their un-American conduct of trying to silence speech (instead of rebut) that they disagree with.

You’ll note that I described these people as those “who claim to be from the left.” They aren’t. Even if they say they are.

Neither conservatives nor liberals are opposed to free speech. But authoritarians are. And authoritarians can come from either the ostensible left or the right. What they want most is the ability to exercise power without regard to open debate.

The answer to speech with which we disagree is simple: More speech. ‘Tis the nature of our republic.

Journalists that describe the hoodlums as “left” or “right” are not only making a mistake, but doing a disservice to the country. Call them thugs, anarchists, wannabe dictators or any other name, so long as it doesn’t align with traditional American political parties and values that embrace open debate. Because they aren’t part of that. And yes, that includes Trump (who’s overriding political philosophy, to the extent such things exist, is not right or left, but TrumpFirst).

It is that First Amendment, of course, that gives people the right to criticize governments (among many other things). The First Amendment is not a partisan issue, but a principle of how a democracy functions.

Keep your eyes open folks, because this all looks to get a lot uglier for America. Regardless of which side of the political divide you fall on.

Elsewhere:

Berkeley’s 99 Problems (Greenfield @ Simple Justice)

Donald Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Know Or Don’t Care What Defamation Is (White @ Popehat)

Donald Trump vs. The First Amendment (Cole @ The Nation)

Gawker’s Demise and the Trump-Era Threat to the First Amendment (Tobin @ The New Yorker)


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