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Archive for the month “September, 2014”

Traffic Cameras Abuses Come Into Focus on ABC News

As my readers know, I am a very vocal opponent of red light cameras in the Philadelphia area.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here) many times.

I am happy to say that ABC News is on the case against traffic cameras now; there was a feature on this subject on September 9, 2014 during ABC World News Tonight.  The ABC News story is contained in the video posted below.

The ABC News story deals mainly with speeding cameras, while I have only written on red light cameras.  Admittedly, I have not spent much time thinking about speeding cameras mainly because they have not yet been authorized in Pennsylvania to my knowledge, whereas the Philadelphia area has had a proliferation of red light cameras in recent years.

Per the news story below, evidently many of the same issues surrounding red light cameras also afflict speeding cameras: (1) the cameras are really a way for a municipality to line its coffers as opposed to advance traffic safety; (2) a lack of clarity on who is being photographed; (3) suspect camera accuracy; and, (4) putting average citizens on the defensive despite their not having broken the law.

Time and time and time again reports are issued which reveal that these cameras have been, on the whole, a terrible idea which have infringed on our basic American rights.  When will our legislators take appropriate action?  Likely only when the income stream from the cameras stops.

Welcome Shan R. Shah, Esquire!

I am happy to say that my law firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., has added Shan R. Shah, Esquire to our ranks.  Shan brings a great education, youthful enthusiasm, and quality work ethic to the firm.  So far he has done a great job and fits in well, and we hope we can develop a long lasting professional relationship with him.  So, here’s to welcoming Shan!

USPS Listens to Deaf Employees’ Claims

The matter of Hubbard v. Donahoe, Civil Case No. 03-1062, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is a class action lawsuit that pits the United States Postal Service against its deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a class action suit on behalf of various deaf employees USPS alleging that the USPS denied them communication accommodations (e.g., American sign-language interpreters), especially during meetings, refused to provide them a TTY for telephone communication, failed to give them emergency evacuation notification systems, did not promote them or provide assistance in their effort to get promoted, and subjected them to a hostile work environment as a direct result of their disabilities.

After about 10 years of litigation, the parties have finally submitted a class action settlement agreement to the District Court for $4.55 million.

Over the course of my life, I have been involved in the deaf culture in one way or another and I have learned that although most people think of not being able to hear as the disability of a deaf person, the challenges the deaf have in the simplest act of communication with a hearing person are perhaps the disability that most impacts their lives each day. The inability to effectively communicate serves to isolate the deaf person – likely the only one at a given employment location – and therefore completely separate him from the rest of his co-workers. Therefore, failing to provide an interpreter or basic emergency systems or even a telephone (i.e., TTY) compounds a deaf person’s disability and enhances his or her isolation. I can think of few things that would make a work environment more hostile than near complete isolation.

Regardless of the merits of the case, it reminds us that those with disabilities are equal members of our society and our workforce and all have value. A case like this serves as an important reminder that employers all have the obligation to ensure that they honor their responsibility to take reasonable measures to accommodate the disabilities of their employees and to ensure that the workplace is one in which the employees feel comfortable.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on March 22, 2013 and can be found here.

Hypocrites in the Church

Over the years I have heard many reasons for why people do not go to church; what perhaps tops the list is this one: “the church is too full of hypocrites!”  Now, I am not sure if it is any consolation, but if this is one’s objection to going to church, then one is in good company as Jesus objected to hypocrisy as well (see here).

The objection to hypocrisy in the church is, I think, really an objection to a lack of kindness and/or mercy of/in some people in the church, which results them being judgmental toward others.  Now, most know the church’s teaching against being judgmental toward others (see here and here for examples), but that does not really help at the time when one is being judged.

Being religious, but especially being Christian, is risky as it puts the person claiming to be religious and/or Christian at risk of being hypocritical because being religious means that one publicly proclaims belief in a certain way of life and morality.  Obviously the rub is that, while proclaiming a certain way of life with one’s lips, failing to live a life that matches what one proclaims causes a disconnect between the two that could be considered hypocrisy.  Perhaps more importantly, and more starkly, when that person whose life does not match with his words judges the behavior of others, it will inevitably rub others the wrong way and drive people from the church.

So, how should one approach hypocrisy, especially if one has been driven from a church and/or has been hurt by people in a church and do not wish to go back and experience the hurt again?  In answer to this question, I would make a few suggestions.

At the outset, I think it should be remembered that the church is a hospital for the soul.  In fact, Jesus makes this same analogy as recorded in St. Mark’s Gospel (see here), so I think the analogy has merit.  We are all born with a sickness in our soul and that sickness needs to be treated just like a sickness in our body.  The church is the only hospital where we can go to receive treatment for the sickness in our soul.  Somehow, if someone had a sickness of the body, I doubt he would refuse to go to the hospital just because the people there, and perhaps even the physicians, were also infected and/or had a bad attitude or bad bedside manner.  Those other people are irrelevant to one’s ability and need to receive the treatment from that hospital.  In the same way, one should expect the people in the church to be infected, including the clergy, with the same sickness of the soul as oneself, but that should not stop someone from going to church to receive the treatment he needs as well.

When recoiling against hypocrisy it is important to remember that, at root, we are all hypocrites in some way as no one (save one person of course) can (or has) lived in such a way that his actions always matched up with the morality to which he subscribes.  Therefore, be aware of the irony that your negative (and perhaps judgmental) view of the hypocrites in the church, even if it is the result or consequence of the hurt you received, may cause you to be hypocritical toward them as well.  Always remember that you need healing just as much as someone else.

Instead of being turned away by those in the church, and missing out on the healing of the church has to offer, try and pray for those who you believe are judgmental and/or hypocrites and offer the undeserved suffering you experience(d) due to them to Jesus as a way of participating in his undeserved suffering for you (see here for authority on this point).  It is important to remember that the undeserved hurts you receive from others reflects the undeserved hurts Jesus receives from you and, it is equally important to remember that Jesus’ response to those undeserved hurts from you (e.g.: his response of loving forgiveness and self-sacrifice) ought to be reflected by you to those hurting you.  This is hard.  This is difficult.  This is contrary to your instinct and initial emotional response.  Despite all of these challenges, take heart!  God has given us strength to endure and find our way through these challenges.  Moreover, all of the suffering we experience was also suffered by Jesus, so he knows how we feel and can specifically help us with our particular suffering.  How judged was Jesus by hypocrites?  He was adjudged to be condemned to death despite being an innocent man.  So, do not be turned away; instead, be like Jesus and, in so doing, receive the healing you need while participating in the healing of others at the same time.

See, we all need our souls to recover and our recovery is necessary regardless of whether the others in the church are also in need of recovery and/or judge us for our need for recovery.  Indeed, we ought not impair our own soul’s recovery merely because those in the church are also infected (and may not even know it!).  Instead, we must go to the church, receive the graces we need despite what the others in the church may or may not think and/or do, for our own soul’s health.  Do not sacrifice your own soul’s health on the altar of someone else’s hypocrisy.  We need to recognize that the hypocrisy and/or judgmentalism we find in people in the church is a symptom of the same sickness of the soul that afflicts us as well (but perhaps in different ways).  In fact, our perspective must be one of prayer for the others in the church and our attitude ought to be one of mercy and kindness toward those we believe are hypocrites.  Perhaps our attitude of kindness and mercy may provide an example to help bring the others out of their hypocrisy.  See, the church is a place where each person sharpens another like iron sharpens iron.  By not going to church, one misses out on being sharpened by others and misses out on the opportunity to sharpen others in turn.

In sum, do not let hypocrites in the church turn you away from the church.  Do not miss the opportunity to receive the healing to your soul.  Do not miss out on the opportunity to be sharpened by others.  Do not miss out on the opportunity to sharpen others.  Do not let other people determine your life and your soul’s health.  Do not let others define and determine your life, reality, and relationship with God.  Just remember that we are all, at times, hypocrites and an attitude of kindness, mercy, and forgiveness can overcome any hypocrisy.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – 9/14 Update!

As most of you know I am a long time volunteer of the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia and I have been sitting on its Board of Directors for over a year now.  In fact I was recently appointed to Secretary of its Executive Board (see here).  You can learn more about the Clinic here.

We are currently trying to expand into Kensington (a neighborhood in Philadelphia), Germantown, and other areas in order to expand our reach and help more people.

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 or donate your time as we always need help with administration, filing, counseling, chaplaincy, and other similar things in the everyday working of the Clinic.

Please note that we have our second annual autumn banquet coming on November 1, 2014 for which more details will be appearing on this blog as they become known to me!

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.

The Governor Can’t Help You

Check out Faye Riva Cohen’s blog post “The Governor Can’t Help You” on her blog Toughlawyerlady here.

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