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Archive for the month “March, 2014”

“Surprise” Money Judgments

Check out Faye Cohen’s blog post ‘“Surprise’ Money Judgments” on her blog Toughlawyerlady here.

BCTHS Seminar

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding my 14th annual seminar at Bucks County Technical High School giving High School students in Social Studies and Civics classes an “inside look” at the judicial branch of government.

Chickie’s and Pete’s Settlement

The popular local sports bar chain Chickie’s and Pete’s was sued by over 1200 different employees for having illegally docked their pay, not provided them overtime pay, failed to pay them minimum wage, and/or failed to distribute their tips to them.  These employees collectively lost as much as $4,500,000 in compensation.

The parties reached a settlement of $8,520,000.

Chickie’s and Pete’s unlawful acts were especially egregious as not only was it unlawfully not paying its employees minimum wage but also was unlawfully taking a percentage of the tips paid to its employees as a sort of double-dip reduction in compensation.  For example: the bar would regularly dock between 2% and 4% of an employee’s pay in a practice which became known as “Pete’s tax” and, in addition, require its employees to place a portion of their tips into a “tip pool” from which the Bar would keep about 60%.

What is interesting about the investigation into this matter is that the numbers at issue here could all be precisely calculated because the Bar kept meticulous records of everything described above and more.  The Bar’s system of underpaying its employees was more than just an unlawful scheme to line its own pockets but was their explicit business model.

Cases like this, and others, reinforce the fact that the power of business owners need to be checked through law, regulation, and unions.  Without these protections, the abuses perpetrated by the Bar would go unabated, which, in my view, would damage the marketplace far more than the law/regulations/unions allegedly do.

You can learn more about this case here:

The House Loses?

They say the house always wins at a casino; however, against all odds, one would wager that a recent case brought in Atlantic County, N.J., seems to be a victory for the gamblers instead.

Back in April, a group of gamblers playing baccarat at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City were astute enough to notice that with each successive hand, the same pattern of cards were dealt. The pattern was so consistent that the gamblers won 41 consecutive hands for $1.5 million worth of winnings.

The casino suspected the gamblers of cheating and approached at least one of them by allegedly waking him in the middle of the night in his hotel room and interrogated him – allegedly dealing him some physical force – and deprived him of food, water and an English interpreter for eight hours.

As it turned out, the gamblers did not cheat. Instead, it was discovered that the casino purchased its cards from a company called Gemaco, which was statutorily obliged to pre-shuffle the cards. Unfortunately for the casino, Gemaco allegedly failed to pre-shuffle the cards, leading to deck after deck of unshuffled cards being used for hand after hand of baccarat.

The casino decided to roll the dice and sued the gamblers for the return of the winnings paid and withheld the winnings it still possessed, saying that gambling regulations require fair odds for both gambler and casino. Of course, the gamblers disagreed, arguing that the fact the casinos crapped out by not shuffling the cards is not their fault, nor does it change the nature of the odds of the game itself. In addition, the gamblers upped the ante and countersued on the basis of ethnic/racial discrimination.

Judge James Isman ultimately ruled in favor of the gamblers, ruling that he did not believe the card game was rigged and noting that the complete lack of evidence of any unlawful activity on the part of the gamblers trumped the casino’s arguments.

The Golden Nugget has threatened to appeal, but also apparently has hedged its bets and made a settlement offer to resolve the matter. Regardless, the Golden Nugget will be pursuing Gemaco for providing unshuffled cards.

Originally published on September 19, 2012 in The Legal Intelligencer Blog and can be viewed here.

Marriage in the Time of Internet Ministers: I Now Pronounce You Married, But Who Am I To Do So?

I am proud to say that I have been cited as an authority in a law review article in the University of Miami Law Review (Volume 63, Number 3, April 2010) entitled Marriage in the Time of Internet Ministers: I Now Pronounce You Married, But Who Am I To Do So?  Specifically, check out footnote 222 of the aforesaid article which you can find here and you will see the cite to me and my article “I Now [Cannot] Pronounce You Man and Wife” (which you can see here).

The issue of both the law review article and my article centers on the Pennsylvania legal qualifications/criteria of/for someone who presides at weddings in Pennsylvania and who (or what sort of “clergy”) may or may not meet those qualifications.

Landlord/Tenant Wars

Check out Faye Cohen’s blog post “Landlord/Tenant Wars” on her blog Toughlawyerlady here.

Unemployment Cheats Raked in $16.5 Billion Last Year

I was quoted in the The Fiscal Times September 22, 2011 article Unemployment Cheats Raked in $16.5 Billion Last Year.

If you do not feel like reading the article, the nuggets of wisdom I shared were these (quoted directly from the article):

“Lying to the government is much easier when a person’s only contact with the state agency is online or on the telephone, Cushing said.  ‘It’s much easier to file things in a fraudulent way because the gatekeeper is even more compromised online.”’

and

“State unemployment agencies assume what a claimant says is true unless an employer objects, said James Cushing, a Pennsylvania attorney specializing in unemployment compensation.  ‘It’s not unusual for two or three months to go by where a claimant receives payments for benefits, and then at a referee’s hearing it gets determined that they were never eligible to begin with,”’ Cushing said.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – Donations Needed!

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia.  You can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

Of course, like any charity organization, in order to help others we need your help to do it.  Please come out to one of our Clinic locations to see what we are doing first hand; our Clinic locations are described here.   Also, we are always in need of money to fund our ministry.  If you feel led to donate, you can do so here.  If you cannot do these things, please pray for us and our ministry.

Finally, the Clinic exists to help people secure justice in the American legal system here in the Philadelphia area.  More importantly, however, the Clinic exists for people to be the face of Jesus to those who need it and to help people, not just through their legal issues, but through their spiritual ones as well, which so often are closely related to their legal issues.  Help us heed Christ’s call to help “the least of these” by giving to our efforts.  Always remember that Jesus identified himself as among those called “least” as they, in the end, will be great.

Before I forget, please be sure to watch this great video as it is shows a few of the personal stories of the people the Clinic has helped.  Thanks and God bless.

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