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Archive for the tag “social”

YOUR LAWYER IS YOUR PARTNER

                In some of my previous blogs I have written about the importance of consulting a lawyer as soon as possible about your case, and retaining a lawyer at an early date. This blog is about the importance of cooperating with the lawyer you have retained. You may think this is a peculiar statement because why wouldn’t you cooperate with your lawyer?

                Well, cooperate may not be the right word.  Sometimes clients “forget” to keep their lawyer in the loop; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer everything about a situation; sometimes clients will lie to their lawyers and think the truth will never be revealed; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer certain things; and sometimes clients do not consider that their actions in the midst of a case can impact their case, and do not consult their lawyers before taking such actions.

                Examples of the above are:

  1.  When testifying at a Social Security disability hearing, my client, a tiny thin man, in his early 60’s, testified that he would and could frequently lift in excess of 50 pounds, and move furniture around to vacuum.  After the hearing, his incredulous wife, who was about twice his size, told me that she recalled only once, many years prior to the hearing, that her client lifted a corner of a sofa so that she could vacuum under it, and that he never did housework.  The client was obviously trying to appear more manly than he was to impress the hearing judge.  His testimony lost his case for him. I, and all lawyers who handle disability cases, can relay similar stories.
  •  More than one client has retained me to write their employer about the discriminatory treatment they were receiving at work, and then neglected to mention their concerns when the employer met with them to discuss their complaints, or they even resigned for “personal reasons” without mentioning the true reason for her resignation.  Sometimes I have to learn about the resignation from the opposing counsel. Not only will these actions not help their cases, but certain benefits that could have been negotiated for them may be made moot by their actions.
  • More than one client has completed forms for a government agency, or has been asked to send a letter with their specific concerns to their employer, and despite them having retained a lawyer, and sometimes even sending us the forms or letter to review first, they have submitted the forms or letter in the midst of our review.  Usually, the forms as completed or the contents of their letter are not helpful, and are sometimes detrimental, to their case.
  • More than one client has testified to something as a witness at a hearing or at a deposition that has surprised or even shocked me, because despite extensive preparation of the witness, the witness has never shared this information with me.  This information often changes the entire complexion of the case.

So, the motto of this blog is to cooperate with your lawyer, confide in your lawyer, consult with your lawyer, listen to your lawyer’s advice, do not lie to your lawyer, and tell your lawyer everything, even if you don’t think it will be helpful to your case.  Your lawyer is better prepared if he or she knows the entire situation, and has been trained how to handle all information, good or bad.  

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

Firing Only Unmarried Pregnant Teachers Is Not Proper Enforcement of Catholic School’s Morals Code

In Crisitello v. St. Theresa School(NJ App., Nov. 19, 2020), a New Jersey state appellate court reversed the dismissal of a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought against a Catholic school by one of its former teachers. The court summarized its holding:

In this action brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, we are asked to determine whether a parochial school’s knowledge of the pregnancy of an unmarried lay teacher, who started as a teacher’s aide for toddlers, later taught art, and had no responsibility for religious instruction, can serve as the nondiscriminatory basis for the teacher’s termination for violating the school’s morals code, where the school never made any effort to determine whether any of its other employees have violated the school’s prohibition against “immoral conduct” that is allegedly incorporated into each employees’ terms of employment. We now hold that knowledge or mere observation of an employee’s pregnancy alone is not a permissible basis to detect violations of the school’s policy and terminate an employee.

Bridgewater Courier News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

WHAT RELIEF DO YOU WANT?

                In its simplest form, every lawsuit has 2 parts.  The first part generally encompasses what the problem is, and why you feel you are entitled to some relief. The second part is what are the damages or relief you seek.  People spend a lot of time formulating their problem. Indeed, when potential clients call me to discuss their situations, they usually want to discuss every little detail of what he said and she said and did, etc., and how they were wronged, etc. This is often a cathartic process for them, and besides the verbal discussions they will often make copious notes or prepare a diary. 

                However, when I ask them what relief or damages they seek, they often seem flummoxed by this question. It appears as if they can’t get past the wrong they felt was done to them to determine what they want. Or, they ask me to determine what they should ask for in damages. 

                Damages are an elusive thing. The Internet has not been helpful as a tool to guide people as to what a realistic damages assessment is. In fact, it leads to unrealistic expectations. Every case has specific fact circumstances and individualized damages.  Further, there are many factors which impact a case, and those factors determine the results. Some of these factors may be who is deciding the case—an arbitrator, a judge, a jury, etc.; whether the case is being decided in a court or in some type of mediation or arbitration forum; who are the parties, and what type of witnesses they make; if there are expert witnesses, are they believable; what were the injuries caused; what is the law of the jurisdiction they are involved in, and on and on.

                As a result of the above, it is entirely possible and probable that even in a case with nearly identical situations, such as a person who breaks a leg in front of an apartment complex after tripping on a crack in the sidewalk, the results can be diametrically different.

                Therefore, when someone asks me what damages they should request, I can only give them an estimate or a ballpark figure. Generally the damages are whatever amount I can negotiate with the other lawyer or what a fact-finder decides to award my client.

                So, when someone tells me that they read about a case which they think is a similar case to theirs in Idaho I tell them that it is highly unlikely that the case is similar to theirs, the law of Idaho is different, and it is an individualized instance.                 A final thought is that I have noticed when a case has concluded and a client has agreed to a settlement, they sometimes have a difficult time signing the release, which ends the case, and even if they sign the release, they decide at a later time that they should have settled for more, or the opposing party didn’t apologize or suffer enough, and on and on.  I feel this because the client has been so involved in telling their story and in the lawsuit for some period of time, often years, and when it is finally ending, they feel bereft. There will be something missing from their lives. The story they have nurtured for so long is coming to an end. But, everything has to come to an end, and I feel that part of my job as a good and experienced lawyer is helping the client realize that it will be good for them to end years of drama and litigation, or that it would be financially foolhardy for them to shoulder on, or that the law doesn’t provide the panacea to their problems, and they have to accept what the law can provide and move forward.  Many clients have thanked me for assisting them in bringing to an end an unhappy situation so they can move forward.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

10th Circuit Dismisses Objections To Attempted Search of Church

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

In Aguilera v. City of Colorado Springs, (10th Cir., Nov. 18, 2020), the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a civil rights claim brought by the High Priestess/ Property Manager of Green Faith Ministry who objected to an attempt by a police officer and fire marshals to inspect the ministry’s building. Officers apparently suspected marijuana usage or occupancy standard violations. The court rejected plaintiff’s complaint that one officer told her to “praise the Lord.” The court said in part:

Aguilera’s amended complaint does not allege facts indicating that an objective observer would view Officer Vargason’s purpose in saying “Praise the Lord” as an official endorsement of religion.

The court also rejected plaintiff’s free exercise claim, concluding:

Aguilera has failed to allege that any defendant burdened her exercise of religious beliefs or practices.

You can learn more about this issue here.

WHO IS AN EXPERT?

                Some weeks ago a man had a consultation with me concerning his issue which involved dealings with a federal government agency which investigates discrimination in housing. My extensive experience and background in civil rights law, dealing with numerous federal government agencies, and real estate, are outlined on our Firm’s website.  However, the person decided he wanted to have another consultation with someone who was an “expert” on his issue, and he had been provided that person’s number by a friend.

                This experience got me thinking about what constitutes “expert” status.  The media (print, television, radio, the Internet and various social media like Linked In) provide us with self-serving testimony by persons who want us to do business with them, and state they are experts in certain fields.  If one is a bus passenger or finds oneself alongside or behind a bus, one can view large photos of lawyers who proclaim that they are experts in certain fields of law. If one listens to the major local radio news station, one can hear about doctors who work at medical facilities who are experts in joint replacement surgery. If one views television station news and morning broadcasts one will see many self-proclaimed experts in all sorts of fields like beauty, fashion, food, gardening, decorating, politics, etc. Some of these self-proclaimed experts appear to be barely out of college.

                So, I have come to the opinion that anyone can declare him/herself an “expert” these days, as there really isn’t a guideline or a requirement for that designation.  Some of my recent experiences with legal experts are as follows:

  • A fellow lawyer who practices worker’s compensation law, and is a sole practitioner, told me that he inherited a case from another law firm, one of the largest in the area, who had settled part of the case for the client, and forgot to include language which ultimately cost the client over $30,000 in benefits.  Yet the larger firm is considered to have “expert” status.
  • Some lawyers I know have been called as guest commentators on television news shows because they have declared themselves experts on real estate or other areas of the law, when their practical experience regarding these areas is quite minimal.
  • Some of the most prominent personal injury firms in the area readily declare themselves experts because they have tried and won or settled 1 or 2 cases on a particular issue.
  • A lawyer who knew nothing about a certain area of the law, and I know this because he called me to pick my brain about the matter, accepted a high profile case and got his name and his client’s name splashed all over the media. The end result did not turn out well for the client.

It is highly unlikely in the legal field that lawyers will sue the same defendant over the same fact circumstances, unless it is a highly specialized area of the law.  Although lawyers may encounter some similarities in their cases, there are many variables which enter into each case.  So, take the designation of someone who is a self-proclaimed expert with a grain of salt, because these days self-promotion is the rule. Also, bear in mind that an expert may not have experience in other areas of the law which may impact on the particular fact situation.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

Bye Bye Humanity

                Recently I took an Amtrak train trip to New York City. It used to be that one of the interesting things about traveling outside of one’s local environment was that it gave one an opportunity to meet new people and experience new things. I recall meeting interesting people over the years and having interesting conversations while traveling to and from someplace, and some of these people became acquaintances I kept up a relationship with for years. But, that is no longer the case, because it is very rare that someone initiates a conversation with strangers while traveling. Perhaps it is a generational thing, but people in their 20’s or 30’s seem to look through or not even look at, people of my generation. However, from my readings, I don’t think it is a generational thing. I think it is because people are either busy or want to appear busy working or typing, listening to music, or watching programs or movies or reading on their iPhones, Blackberry’s, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, computers, etc., and they don’t even take the time to say hello, or ask where and why someone is traveling, and they certainly do not ask a fellow traveler’s occupation, or engage in any behavior that can be remotely related to establishing some type of human contact.

                For example, the young man next to me was listening to music, and did not attempt to make eye contact once. In fact, he seemed afraid to make eye contact. The young man on my companion’s side was wearing a large set of earphones and moving in rhythm to the music. The woman in front of me was talking to a friend in a loud voice for most of the trip, and I heard the conversation clearly (something I didn’t really want to overhear) about her travels and her life. In fact, on nearly every public transportation trip I take, someone is talking in an inappropriately loud voice for the duration of the trip, and the subject is usually mundane. I always wonder how it is possible that person on the other end of the line has the time to spend hours in the middle of the day on a mundane telephone conversation. Another woman, apparently from Spain, spent the entire time looking at Spanish news. Another woman was playing solitaire on an iPad. People these days seem to be tethered to some mode of electronic device, and appear to invent things to do, such as stay on the phone, so they will appear to be busy. Of course, those of us who have e mail know the hypnotizing effect of the need to constantly check e mails and text messages, so we are always doing that.

                I recall years ago in Italy seeing people walking through Rome talking incessantly on their cell phones, years before they became prevalent in the USA. I thought it was really funny. Now, as the world has adopted this behavior, I no longer think it is funny. In fact, I see it as a diminishment of humanity. People need to speak with each other and communicate for many reasons. A “friend” has to be a real person, not someone who likes something you say and who you may never meet. We cannot make new friends or have interesting discussions or meet new people if everyone is talking to their current friends, or is entertaining themselves, or is removing themselves from humanity. Human isolation is bad on many levels—it can lead to health problems, it can lead to job problems, and it can lead to violence, as many people who commit crimes, and some of these are mass crimes, are often described as “loners”. Being a “loner” doesn’t always mean the person wants to be alone, but in today’s world, it is hard to get connected in a real, and not superfluous, way. As I am lawyer, I think this isolation will also lead to legal problems as people become less interested in trying to resolve their problems by communicating with each other, and instead rely on the legal system to assist them.    

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

Vicious Adversaries

I read a daily paper for lawyers, which discusses legal developments in this area. This paper is always interesting, and often highly entertaining, because some lawyers and judges tend to get themselves in all sorts of trouble, and many of the cases featured involve humorous fact situations featuring lawyers, judges and clients, and sometimes all three.

                Generally, when lawyers pursue lawyers in litigation, watch out! Recently there have been several cases reported which made me feel that I was living in the time of Roman gladiators, and lawyers were fighting battles to the death with each other.  The viciousness was apparent, and some of these lawyers and law firms involved were fighting tooth and nail with their counterparts who they have had friendly relationships with in the past, and probably even worked on cases together.  I was raised in Minnesota, and although I feel that the famous Midwest friendliness is often contrived, at least the knives are aimed at one’s back rather than one’s heart. On the East Coast I feel that knives are often aimed for the jugular, and the hatred is not contrived, it is real.

                I actually became upset reading about some of the accusations lawyers were throwing at each other. Lawyers are required to adhere to a code of ethics and professionalism and their licenses are monitored. It is scary to realize that one’s professional reputation is often a stone’s throw away from being besmirched by accusations which one must defend, especially if they are exaggerated or untrue. I have written before about the adversarial system, in which stress is placed on lawyers by many organizations and people.  We really operate in a war zone these days, albeit without actual weapons.

                Although I don’t know about the merits of the following matters, nor do I have an opinion as to which side appears to have the better argument, I am providing them by way of example about the kinds of matters currently being litigated:                

                A former justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been asked to give her deposition in a case initiating from the new family law courthouse which is being built in Philadelphia. The issue is whether an advisor on this project, who also received a fee from the project’s builder, did so inappropriately. The former judge has some information considered relevant. She is also being represented by a former judge of a lower level court. After numerous delays, and the outright refusal of the judge to attend a deposition, she was ordered to do so by another judge. The interesting lesson here is that everyone is subject to the legal process, and the maneuverings involved by a judge who worked to enforce that process, not to participate in the process, appears disrespectful of the system.

                Another case involves a lawyer who left a firm, but before and after he did, he allegedly installed some software permitting him to take data with him. The new firm he joined vigorously represented him until they apparently learned of some improprieties, or perhaps that he wasn’t truthful with them about this situation, so they apparently asked him to leave. The judge in that case raised the issue that since the new firm represented the lawyer who joined them, and he has now left, perhaps they can be required to provide information about that lawyer although he was their “client” and whether they can refuse to give it based on attorney-client privilege.

             The last case involves a lawyer who got a million dollar referral fee from another law firm to whom he had referred a case. He thought he was entitled to more, and after some litigation, the lawyer settled for an additional million dollars. Yet the referring lawyer, who was quite elderly and ill, continued on and on with litigation, which has now lasted close to ten years, and the most recent case required that he reimburse the other lawyer for time and fees spent responding to this ongoing litigation. The interesting part of that case was that litigation can go on for many years, and people have to stay involved in it, whether it is reasonable or not.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

LANDLORD/TENANT WARS

                My Firm has apparently risen to the top of some Internet referral sites offering lawyers’ names for landlord/tenant matters, as we have been deluged with calls and e mails about this area of the law in recent months. There appears to be genuine confusion on behalf of both tenants and landlords about the legalities of what they can and can’t do, and often this confusion leads to litigation. So, for the purpose of assisting people I am offering the following general tips.

                The landlord/tenant relationship is not an informal relationship.  It is quite often governed by stringent rules and regulations and laws both at the local and state level.  Therefore, it is a good idea to enter into a Lease, or at the very least, draft up some sort of written and signed contract as to the duties and responsibilities of each party, and what the remedies are if problems arise within that relationship. Quite often common sense is ignored in the haste to rent a property.

                The following illustration may appear extreme, but I assure you it is not, as it represents some of the more common situations we are presented with: 

Two girlfriends attending college leased a furnished house. The boyfriend of one of the tenants was going to move in with them temporarily, but he didn’t plan to pay rent as he was only going to stay for a short while, and his name wasn’t on the lease. They learned about the availability of the house because they saw a “for rent” sign posted with a number.  A man who answered the phone walked them through the house, said he was the agent for the landlord who lived out of town, and that all rental payments were to be made payable to him and sent to a post office box. As they walked through the house, they noticed a lot of stuff piled in it, which the agent said would be removed before they moved in. They also noticed a couple of cracked windows, a loose door handle which made it difficult to lock the door, a sink that didn’t drain properly, and a water stain on a bedroom  ceiling.  They didn’t have a lawyer, or even a parent, review the lease the landlord’s agent prepared because they trusted him as he seemed like a nice young guy. They didn’t take photos of the condition of the house, they didn’t have a contractor test the systems (like plumbing or electricity) of the house, and they didn’t add to the lease the things the agent said he would take care of.  The agent said they could get a pet, but that didn’t have to be mentioned in the lease. After their check cleared for the first month’ rent, the last month’s rent, and one month’s security deposit, the agent left a key for them under front door mat.

                This is what happened after they moved in.  After the first two weeks the roommate with the boyfriend had a fight with him and moved out.  She told her roommate that she wasn’t going to pay rent for future months, and her roommate could sue her, but she wasn’t going to get anything as she didn’t have any money, and the deposit monies were loans from her parents. Her boyfriend stated that he planned to stay longer than he had anticipated, but he couldn’t pay rent as he was living off of student loans.  Besides he said he had “squatter’s rights” and she could try and evict him, but he wasn’t leaving voluntarily. He also permitted a friend to share his room with him and pay him rent to assist with his expenses. The friend brought a puppy into the house which wasn’t housebroken. The remaining paying tenant noticed that none of the repairs had been made, but some of the stuff in the house had been moved into a corner of the basement. The tenant contacted the agent several times who insisted that the repairs were going to be made but didn’t have a timeframe.  After 3 months of paying the rent herself the tenant decided to withhold rent and was told that she had to “escrow” her rent in a specific manner. She began to escrow her rent, but nothing changed. In the fifth month a man came to the door and stated he had been out of town on business for six months, and when he tried his key he noticed he was locked out. He stated he never had an agent, and the house had never been available for rent. He asked to see a copy of the rental license the city required of the landlord, and the tenant said she had never been shown one. The owner said the cracked windows and other problems were caused by the tenant, and also, the dog had stained all of the carpets and he wanted all repairs made, or he would sue the tenant remaining on the lease.

                The moral of this story is cross your t’s and dot your i’s and be very careful when entering into a lease.  Make sure the property is owned by the person renting it, make sure the agent is authorized to rent it, make sure the repairs are completed before you move in, make sure you don’t let friends or relatives occupy the property for any length of time, make sure the list of repairs are noted on the lease and marked off when completed, and…., you get the picture. Landlords and tenants alike need to protect themselves.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

“SURPRISE” MONEY JUDGMENTS

Many people are very surprised to learn, sometimes many years later, that they have been sued and a money judgment has been entered against them in a court of law.  The usual ways in which they learn this is if a judgment appears on their credit record, or appears on a title report when they either attempt to purchase a new property or refinance a property they already own.

How can this happen without their knowledge? Although this scenario may vary in different courts and different geographical jurisdictions, as each state and local area have different rules, the usual situation is that someone has sued a person (or a business entity) and then a process server files an affidavit with the court which states that said person or entity has been served. If a person does not appear in court, the court requires that valid service must have been made upon a person or an entity of the complaint before a court will enter what is known as a default judgment against them. A default judgment may be known by a different name in different jurisdictions, but whatever it is called it means that a judgment was entered because a person or an entity did not appear or defend the complaint in court.

Depending on local court rules, service can be made upon the person sued, any adult who answered the door, who is presumed to live there, or sometimes service is permitted just by posting on the property. If personal service cannot be made a court can be requested to permit alternative types of service which involve sending notice by first class mail, certified mail, posting on the property, and sometimes publishing the notice in a newspaper. Also, especially in landlord tenant cases, if someone still has a registered address, but no longer lives at the property, service may be made on the registered address although the tenant has moved. It is also not the court’s or a process server’s responsibility to discover new addresses, use a forwarding address they become aware of, or do a freedom of information or other search with the post office or another entity.

Many people are surprised to learn that whoever may have answered their door to the process server either did not give the person sued the complaint, or tossed the complaint in a drawer, or destroyed the complaint, etc.  One’s spouse, partner, significant other, child, or roommate may purposely not forward the complaint to the person sued.  It is also not unusual that a business has been sued and the person served tossed the complaint in a drawer or didn’t tell anyone in a timely fashion. Also the person may have also refused to accept service, and the process service dropped the complaint at the door, and this is sometimes considered good service also.  None of the above instances necessarily means that valid service under the law was not made.

Further, in some instances there are unscrupulous process servers who lie about making service so they can get paid, because sometimes they cannot charge a fee until valid service is made, and sometimes make up a description of who allegedly they served, when no one was served.     

Many people receive their second surprise when they learn that it is usually not a simple matter to remove such a judgment of which they are not aware from one’s record.  A money judgment is not removed from one’s record until it is marked satisfied by the person or company who entered the judgment. Therefore, a court will not remove the judgment just because you ask them to. Whether this is a fair situation or not doesn’t enter into the process. It is a situation that must be addressed in a formal, legal fashion.  

If you learn that a judgment exists against you, get the court records as soon as possible. This may or may not be possible to do online depending on whether the court system posts such records, and how old the judgment is. Once you get the record you have a couple of choices. The first is that you can petition the court to open the judgment and you have to give valid reasons to do so as supported by the law. This is usually not possible if some period of time has passed, because when you actually learned of the judgment is not the issue. When I say period of time, even 3 to 6 months may be considered too long by the courts. The issue is when you should have, if you had been diligently monitoring your credit reports, learned of the judgment, not when you actually did learn. If your petition is granted, the court will schedule another hearing. If your petition is denied, you can appeal to a higher court, but this petition will usually be upheld if a length of time has passed.

Your second option, and this may be your only option if the court denies your petition, is to try and either work out a payment plan or a lump sum payment with a deduction to pay the judgment with whoever is holding the judgment. This has to happen even if you feel you don’t owe the judgment if you want to get the judgment marked satisfied and removed from your record. Remember to make sure that you receive an agreement that the judgment will be marked satisfied if you pay it.

The second option may also be difficult if the person you owe money to has died, cannot be located if still alive, if it is a business they may no longer be in business, or sold the business, or changed names, etc., or their attorney is no longer in practice, etc., etc. You may have to pay to have them tracked down. Depending on the jurisdiction, if a judgment has not been collected in many years, it may no longer be valid but it still may appear on one’s record. Judgments also may be required to be revived, and may fall off of one’s credit report after a period of time, and then reappear again once revived. SO THE MORAL OF THIS BLOG IS BE EVER VIGILENT IN MONITORING YOUR CREDIT, AND REVIEW YOUR RECORDS, INCLUDING COURT RECORDS, WHICH USUALLY MAINTAIN RECORDS BY NAME, TO SEE IF YOU HAVE BEEN SUED AND OWE A JUDGMENT TO SOMEONE.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

A Lesson In Waste

I currently represent, and I have historically represented, many employees who work for various local and state agencies and government entities, as well as employees of Federal agencies, in employment, civil rights and pension matters. The majority of the matters involve assisting employees who are in the process of being reprimanded or removed, or alleging they have been discriminated against in some form.  At any given time I have many cases of this type in progress, and within the last few years I have opposed the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Mint, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of the Navy, the FBI, the Department of the Interior, and the Social Security Administration, and this is only a partial list.

I also represent employees in various situations involving private employers. The difference between representing employees working in the private sector is that generally a resolution can be reached between the parties without resorting to extensive and expensive litigation.  There are always exceptions, but it is generally easier dealing with businesses which are aware that fighting tooth and nail against a current or former employee, may not be cost-effective for them in the long run, and may also be bad for other employees’ morale. Private businesses, or their lawyers, generally consider the effect litigation will have on their bottom line, even if they feel they have a wonderful defense.

However, government entities don’t seem to take into consideration the financial impact of litigating a case, whether it is before a government agency, or in court. This disappoints me to no end, in a couple of ways. First, I feel that my money is being wasted as a taxpayer. Government agencies have attorneys working for them, and their mantra seems to be “we don’t have authority to offer any money (or a very low amount is offered) to settle this case”. This is laughable, because the Federal Government obviously has gobs of money, and seems to waste a lot of it. I am not saying agencies should give money to every employee who makes a claim, but a cost benefit analysis, which is routinely performed by private business, should be conducted. I have two examples where the agencies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars against long-term employees who they are attempting to remove from their jobs. The first example is that the Postal Service is opposing a man who can perform his work if he is permitted to sit in a sliding chair due to a back condition, and has been provided with this chair for many years.  They have removed his chair, and now he is receiving unemployment compensation because he is not being permitted to work. We are fighting to have his chair returned to him, permitting him to work. Unfortunately, this type of situation is rampant these days as the Postal Service is losing money, and is trying to eliminate disabled employees who can work if given a small accommodation as required by the Americans with Disability Act.

The second example is that at a recent hearing five agency employees spent the day waiting to testify instead of doing their assigned work, in a case where a 25 year government employee who was removed for reasons which are certainly arguable, would have accepted a very reasonable settlement.

In certain forums, if the initiating party wins the case, attorney’s fees and costs are paid by the agency.  So, in both of these cases a cost benefit analysis would definitely favor settlement. Yet time and time again, agencies will spend thousands and thousands of dollars fighting a case.

That brings me to the second cost of these types of cases. Do we want our government agencies to hammer away at average people, usually employees who don’t earn a lot of money? In most cases, each side is not 100% right. Also, employees who work with the employee pursuing the matter, or have worked with them, avidly follow these matters, and quite often retain an attorney because a fellow employee did, or they don’t appreciate the firm stance the agency takes against a fellow employee, and become demoralized and unhappy in their work situation.                 Therefore, my point is this, and it is a point very popular in politics these days, I feel agencies should operate as businesses, and part of the business decisions they make should be the best way to resolve a matter in which each party leaves with something.  This analysis happens daily in private industry and the legal system? I suggest that using the financial might of the Federal Government against its citizens and employees, is not the best way to manage tax dollars and employees.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

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