Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the month “March, 2015”


Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!


I don’t have any empirical data to back up my assumptions, but I’m pretty sure that 50% or more of people do not retain, let alone consult a lawyer, until the s— hits the fan (fill in your own word for this familiar saying), and a good percentage of the rest do not listen to a lawyer’s advice. As I represent individuals and small businesses, not large corporations or institutions, I spend a lot of time on the telephone with prospective clients listening to their stories. I am quite often amazed that even when they are in serious legal difficulties, such as having to defend a lawsuit, they hide their heads in the sand, and hope that their problems will go away. However, in the legal system, problems do not generally disappear, but in fact frequently worsen, and sometimes multiply. As a result, I often hear from prospective clients with…

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Distributism Basics: Distributist Economic Society

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com/ which you can find here:

“In the introduction to this series, I stated that distributism is not a middle ground between capitalism on the one side and socialism on the other. Distributism is not an attempt to compromise between them. Instead, distributism stands outside of and completely apart from those systems. The goal of distributism is not to negotiate a common ground between the two, but to establish something completely different and alien to both.

There are two things that must be stated at the beginning of this last article in the series. First is the admission that capitalism could be accomplished in a just way. I affirm the fundamental right to private property and assert that, just as personal freedom is best guaranteed if it includes economic freedom, economic freedom is best guaranteed if the ownership of the majority of productive property in a society is distributed among as many of its citizens as possible. However, I must admit that a form of capitalism that accepted the fact that economics is a sub-field of an ethical system that recognized the primacy of people in society as a whole over personal monetary or material gain could be a just system. It has at least the potential to be one for which there would be few grounds for complaint. The main problem with capitalism is that the philosophical foundation behind it is essentially a utilitarian view which allows people to separate economics from ethics and can result in tremendous injustices for the common man.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Tactical Retreat: The Panhandler

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Tactical Retreat‘s latest sketch is entitled “The Panhandler” can be viewed below.

Yes Concert Reviews: 8/8/02

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at Tweeter Center (currently known as the Susquehanna Bank Center) in Camden, New Jersey on August 8, 2002 during the first part of their Full Circle Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

This show was a very special one for me as it was the first time I had the privilege of seeing Yes’ “classic line up” live.  In 1995, the “’80’s Yes” lineup (also known as “YesWest”), with Trevor Rabin as the guitarist, broke up.  This made it possible for the classic line up (listed below) to reform in 1996 and perform and record the Keys to Ascension shows and albums.  Unfortunately, due to internal politics and scheduling issues, Yes was unable to schedule a tour in 1997 with Rick Wakeman in support of Keys to Ascension.  There was a lot of press and public appearances (including on mainstream television) that went along with the reformation of the classic line up.  After all the hoopla from the reformation, Yes really did not want to short circuit their positive publicity by not touring.  The biggest problem was, obviously, that they would be forced to tour with a line up that did not include Rick Wakeman in support of an album that the touring unit did not make.  As a result, Yes had to scramble to form a new line up, this one involving Billy Sherwood as a multi-instrumentalist band member and Igor Khoroshev as a touring keyboardist, and a hastily make new album, called Open Your Eyes, consisting of material culled mostly from a Chris Squire / Billy Sherwood project, to support on a tour in 1997.

As is par for the course for Yes, they continued to morph and change until 2001 when they found themselves down to four members (sans keyboardist) and, as a result, elected to record and tour with an orchestra (read more about that here).  After their experiment with an orchestra, Rick Wakeman once again became available and rejoined Yes for extensive touring that went on for the better part of two years (I reviewed another show performed by this line-up here) beginning in 2002 with the tour in which the show reviewed below was a part.

The line-up Yes fielded this show was:

The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):


This show was amazing for a couple of reasons.  First of all, as I mentioned above, it was my first time seeing the classic Yes.  I honestly never thought I would ever see this version of the band and I could not believe I had the chance to see them when the tour was scheduled.  I am so grateful for having the chance.  Needless to say their performance was amazing and everything one should expect from such a fantastic band.  The set list was really diverse and this tour marked the first time they played “Southside of the Sky” in full and the first time they played “We Have Heaven” at all.  Also, they pulled out “Don’t Kill the Whale” for the first time since 1979.  Furthermore, they included new songs like “Magnification” and “In the Presence Of” (which were interesting to hear as they were recorded with an orchestra instead of a keyboard) and rarities like “The Revealing Science of God,” “America,” and “Leaves of Green.”  To top it off they also played a new, albeit modest, new song called “Show Me.”  “Southside of the Sky” was played, so it seems, as a result of a poll taken on their website Yesworld.

If the above was not enough, this show also was the site of a great Yes adventure!  As this was my first classic line up show, I wanted to get a good seat as close up as I could.  I used to work for Acme Markets and I attended the show with one of my former customers Allan.  As we were not really friends, I did not feel weird in asking him to car pool while, at the same time, buying a single ticket not next to him.  I got a decent close seat, or so I thought.

When I got to the show I discovered my seat was, indeed, close, but it was far to the side, so all I saw were the profiles of the band members.  Dissatisfied with my seat, I decided to walk around and hunt for an open seat.  Due to its location, this particular venue has very strict security, so my efforts to find a seat had to be well timed.  I found a number of open seats fairly close to the stage and, unfortunately, no sooner did I sit in them did the seat’s ticket holder appear to boot me out of it.

After a handful of failed attempts to find a close seat, I found myself standing in the aisle next to a drunk guy wearing two laminated passes on a lanyard around his neck.  I later learned that his name was Bill (his photo is below!).  A security guard approached us, unhappy that we were loitering in the aisle.  He went up to Bill first and asked him where his seat was and Bill responded by telling him that his laminated pass allowed him to sit in any open seat.  The security guard seemed to accept this.  The guard then turned to me and asked where I was supposed to be sitting.  I, somehow, had the presence of mind to notice that Bill had two passes around his neck and told the guard that I was with Bill who was holding passes for the two of us.  The guard bought it and just told us to find seats quickly, which we promptly did about 15 rows from the stage!

After the show I thought we could try and use Bill’s passes again, so I egged him into trying to get backstage.  It helped that he had consumed some liquid courage during the show.  He was game to at least try to get backstage.  So, we headed over to the backstage doors and, by that time, there was already a line of people there, but none seemed to be wearing a lanyard.  I could not help but notice that at the front of the line was local radio personality Michael Smerconish and I can’t help but say I had a certain sense of satisfaction in passing by him in line.

Bill and I got to the backstage door and we told the guard there that we had these passes which granted us access backstage.  The guard seemed confused but allowed us back anyway.  Upon reaching backstage, I entered a corridor where I saw the dressing rooms for the band and, out of nowhere, Chris Squire turned a corner and faced Bill and I head on in the corridor!  As soon as I saw him, I thrust out my hand to shake his and tell him, in, honestly, a typical fanboy sort of way, how big of a fan I was and how much I enjoyed his show.  I have to say that Squire is a pretty big guy, but his hand was huge, a lot bigger than I expected.  He was very gracious to me and thanked me (and Bill) for the complements.  After doing so, he sort of wondered out loud something like “how did you get back here, I didn’t know they were letting people back here already” and almost immediately after saying that, someone with very large 80’s hairband hair, who must have heard Squire, burst out of one of the dressing rooms and quickly ushered Bill and I out of the backstage area, and informed the guard that our passes are not for backstage access.

Well, even if my passes were not for back stage access, I did get back there and got to meet one of my heroes face to face with a firm handshake.  Between seeing the classic line up for the first time, getting back stage at a Yes show, and going to Yesday earlier that day (I will post on that soon, see here), this was one of the greatest days of my life!  By coincidence, August 8 is also my wife’s birthday, and this was the first one I had the opportunity to commemorate with her after we had first met barely a month before.  Also, I took the bar examination a week before this concert and was feeling both the stress of waiting for the results and the relief from finally finishing all the studying for, and taking, the examination.  So, needless to say, this was a rather momentous week in my life!

Below are some photographs I took from the show; enjoy!



concert-1  concert-2 concert-3  concert-4


Red Light Camera Dust Up in Des Moines

It’s been a few months since I have written about red light cameras, but a new issue has arisen in the great state of Iowa that is worth noting here in this blog.  As my readers know, I have been writing about red light cameras for some time now and vocally opposing them.  I have written articles on the subject (see here and here) and blogged on it (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) many times.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribute, two women in Des Moines, Iowa are attempting to initiate a class action law suit against the City of Des Moines for its use of red light cameras.  Their claims appear to be constitutional as they claim that the cameras inhibit their freedom of travel and cannot be shown to have any positive impact on road safety.  The suit seeks to have the red light camera program shut down and the fines assessed due to the cameras refunded.

Notably, the Iowa Department of Transportation has recommended that ten of Iowa’s thirty-four red light cameras ought to be shut down as they have not had any impact on road safety.  Probably not coincidentally, the plaintiffs in the above-mentioned law suit received tickets on one of the ten to be shut down.

I will be following this case and I will post any updates to this blog.

Can a Parent Bargain Away Child Support?

When litigating a family matter, which generally involves the intersection of divorce, support and custody matters, practitioners and parties often try to find creative solutions to very sticky problems, many of which can have a significant impact on a person’s life. One way to attempt to bring a family matter to a resolution that some attorneys and parties consider, or even try, is to negotiate the payment of child support in consideration of gaining bargaining rights or negotiation room on some other issue, such as child custody or property distribution.

Agreements regarding the elimination of child support are generally found in matters where one parent is willing to give up all or almost all of his or her right to custody in exchange for being released from any obligation to pay support. For example, a common contract is for the custodial parent (most often the mother) to agree to not seek child support from the noncustodial parent in exchange for the noncustodial parent (most often the father) not seeking custody of the child.

Pennsylvania courts have, for the most part, deemed any agreement to bargain away a child’s right to support as against public policy and unenforceable; however there are a couple of exceptions. Pennsylvania courts have found, time and again, that a child has a right to receive child support and that a parent does not have a right to enter into a contract to avoid ensuring the support of that child. It should be noted, also, that the court has found (arguably through dicta) that, generally speaking, one cannot bargain away child support for a child resulting from a sexual relationship of any kind, including those involving so-called “one-night stands,” adultery or accidents (including when the woman deceives the man regarding her contraception use).

Despite the above, however, the courts have been consistent in ruling that men who donate sperm to allow for conceptions which are the result of anonymous and artificial insemination are, by definition, free from the obligation to pay child support. Similarly, and rather interestingly, the court recently ruled that men donating sperm for artificial insemination do not have to remain anonymous to the recipient of that sperm in order to be free from the obligation to pay support to the resulting child(ren). As long as the insemination process follows standard clinical procedures, the sperm donor will be free from the obligation to pay child support regardless of whether his identity is known to the mother.

Aside from artificial insemination, the only exception to the general ban on contracts that bargain away child support is an analysis into whether the child(ren) at issue are actually being supported without the potentially requested child support. The court has implied that the rule is not that one cannot bargain away child support but whether one can bargain away “adequate” child support. Of course, precisely what makes support adequate is decided on a case-by-case basis and depends on the economic realities for all of the parties involved. Therefore, a noncustodial parent can be released from the obligation to pay child support so long as the contract to do so was fair and reasonable, without fraud and coercion, and, most importantly, does not prejudice the welfare of the child(ren) at issue.

For example, say a woman has a child by one man out of wedlock but ultimately marries another man. Her husband is financially able to, and actually does, support his wife’s child from the other man. The woman and father in this scenario can enter into an agreement to release the father from the payment of child support so long as the child is adequately supported; therefore, the agreement will be enforceable against the establishment of a child-support order as long as this is the case. However, as soon as the husband discontinues the support of the child (say because of the divorce of the husband and mother) the agreement to release the father from a child-support obligation becomes unenforceable. The central issue of analysis is this: Is the child adequately supported by the custodial parent or some other source, absent the potential child-support order? If yes, then an agreement to bargain away child support is enforceable.

Cases to consider regarding the issues addressed in this article include: Miesen v. Frank, 361 Pa.Super. 204 (1987); Roberts v. Furst, 385 Pa.Super. 530 (1989); Kesler v. Weniger, 744 A.2d 794 (Pa.Super. 1999); and Ferguson v. McKiernan, 596 Pa. 78 (2007).

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on September 27, 2013 and can be found here.

Office Quarterly Newsletter: March 2015

My firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., issues a newsletter at the beginning of each quarter, and, accordingly, we sent one out on March 6, 2015.  Our quarterly newsletter updates and informs our readers as to what articles we have published, what seminars we have led, what awards we have received, and what is going on with any other happening at our Firm.

If you wish to read our quarterly newsletter, you can do so here.  In the alternative, if you do not wish to read it in that format, you can click on the images below to read it that way as well.  Thanks and be on the look out for our next newsletter in the beginning of June 2015!

1 2 3 4

Our previous news letters can be found here:

Tactical Retreat: The Sleep Wars

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Tactical Retreat‘s latest sketch is entitled “The Sleep Wars” can be viewed below.

Yes Opening Bands: What All Have You Seen?


[Updated on August 21, 2017]

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

As you can see here, I have seen Yes many many times.  In many of these shows, usually summer shows, Yes has toured with an opening band.

As of this writing, the following are the bands I have seen open for Yes thus far:

What bands have you seen open for Yes?

7th Circuit Upholds Northwestern University’s Cut-Off of Chabad House

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Lubavitch-Chabad of Illinois, Inc. v. Northwestern University, (7th Cir., Nov. 6, 2014), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by Chabad House Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein at Northwestern University that his rights under 42 USC Sec. 1981 were violated when the University ended its affiliation with Chabad House because of underage student drinking there. Section 1981 bars racial discrimination in making or enforcing contracts. The disaffiliation resulted in non-renewal of the rabbi’s contract to supervise kosher food supplied to Northwestern.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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