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Wednesday
Sep072011

California Environmental Law – How Much Cleanup is Too Much?

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

 

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

Nearly 3,000 acres of land in Ventura County is destined for open space use. . .if it’s ever cleaned up.

That vision may be put on hold, if the current mood of all parties involved give any indication. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter overturned Senate Bill 990 at the end of April, which practically guarantees the Boeing Company and the California Department of Toxic Substances (DTSC) will be legally wrangling for quite a while.

Here’s some background:  

Santa Susana’s Historic Roots

The land in question is known as the Santa Susana Lab, home to North American Aviation’s rocket and nuclear research and development projects established in 1947. Due to a series of company splits and sales occurring over the decades, the land is currently owned by Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy.

There was a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959. And aside from the radioactive materials, a lot of other toxic chemicals (such as dioxins, trichloroethylene, PCBs and perchlorate) infuse the soil and groundwater from years of rocket testing.

The Environmental Law Twist

We don’t even need to go into decades of federal and state environmental law history to illustrate the problems with Santa Susana.

Let’s just go back to 2007 when the now retired Senator Sheila Kuehl pushed SB 990 to reassure Ventura County residents that Santa Susana and the immediate vicinity would be scrubbed as clean as possible. The bill even outweighed federal standards on its goals for cleanliness and safety, and the DTSC was named chief overseer of the work.

So who got on board with the bill? The Department of Energy and NASA. But in 2009 Boeing filed suit, protesting DTSC’s supervisory role. Boeing claimed, among other things, that Kuehl’s S.B. 990 is preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. §2011 et seq.

Judge Walters agreed, saying that a federal installation (or, as here, a private one under contract with the feds) is “shielded by the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause from direct state regulation unless Congress provides clear and unambiguous authorization for such regulation.”

The DTSC and the California Environmental Protection Agency are disappointed with this ruling, to put it mildly. And when Judge Walter delivered the ruling, he mentioned probable scrutiny by appellate courts, according to an April 27th article in the Los Angeles Daily News.

Which only means that Simi Valley residents may have to hold their breaths a long time before the Santa Susana Lab gets the cleanup it needs, whether it’s by federal or state standards.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Environmental Attorney, Shareholder and Chair of our Environmental Law Practice Group. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Wednesday
Sep072011

No Fault Divorce in California: Over 40 Years of Benefits & Consequences

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerChild Custody and Support Attorney Los Angeles

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles

 

Believe it or not, it was the coastal “blue” states who first and lastly signed no fault divorce bills into law. 

Former governor Ronald Reagan signed the Family Law Act of 1969 which changed California family laws and set precedents for no fault divorces with other states for the next 40 years – while New York’s former governor David Paterson brought the Empire State on board in October, 2010. 

But what is a no fault divorce, and what does it mean for Californians in particular? 

Critics of the law have argued that the law makes it too easy to obtain a divorce. That may be true, considering that 50 percent of marriages tend to end in divorce these days. However, there are definitely some benefits to a no fault divorce:

 

No Fault” means “No Lying”  

 

Before 1970 (when the law went into effect) one party in a divorce had to state specific reasons for applying for a divorce. Oftentimes, when spouses just didn’t get along, a husband or wife had to claim physical abuse, adultery or make some other critical complaint. 

Back then, clients often lied in an effort to obtain divorces.

Aside from the legal muddle of ethical questions and perjury involved, the lying caused other problems. It often created a hostile atmosphere which made it difficult for separating couples to agree on divisions of community property, child visitation, child support, and child custody. 

Additionally, if one side is at fault and the other looks innocent of all wrongdoing, settlements on the above issues generally proved to be unfair to the “at fault” spouse.  

But who suffered the most before 1970? Usually, it was the children, whose parents tended to be hostile and bitter towards each other, and who sometimes saw their relationships with a particular parent decline because of court-ordered restrictions on visitation or custody settlements.

 

Other Benefits of the Current California Divorce Laws

 

 

Because fault is irrelevant when filing for divorce, separating spouses no longer have a “day in court” to tell all that went wrong in a marriage. Some of my clients, specifically those who have been emotionally hurt and angered, are disappointed when I tell them this. 

But not having to testify benefits almost everyone else, particularly victims of domestic abuse. They no longer have to summon up the courage to face their abusive spouse in a courtroom – a California no fault divorce makes it much easier for them to leave a violent marriage.  

 

Marital Advice From a California Divorce Attorney

 

One last thing you should know: Attempting to by-pass the California no fault divorce law with separate, conditional agreements regarding your marriage probably won’t work. 

For example, writing an agreement that assigns one spouse certain property if another spouse has an extra-marital affair won’t be recognized as a valid agreement by the California family law courts – because the judges cannot consider fault when dissolving a marriage. 

There may be other remedies available, like a prenuptial agreement, if you don’t specifically address such marital issues in the agreement – but it would take some forethought and planning by your family law attorney. 

The long and short of it though, is that the no fault divorce laws across the country are mostly beneficial to parties seeking a dissolution of marriage.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a California Divorce Attorney in Los Angeles County. She is a shareholder at Lewitt Hackman in Encino.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Tuesday
Sep062011

Your Life Insurance Review | Good Insurance Policies = Good Estate Planning

Trusts & Estate Planning Attorney

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

Tax, Trusts, Estate Planning Google+

First, let me just clarify that I do not sell insurance and I will not do an insurance policy review. But if you think you need a policy or need a review, I can recommend experienced professionals to help you.

However, I will advise that you review insurance policies on a regular basis, particularly your life insurance policies, as well as advise you what your potential life insurance needs are.

It just makes good estate planning sense, and, if you are acting as Trustee of another’s Trust, it is your fiduciary duty.

On the good sense side, many factors can affect the quality of your life insurance policy. Life, and financial environments are constantly evolving – your policy should reflect those changes.

When reviewing your policy, consider changes in:

▪ Interest or dividend rates, especially dividends to pay premiums
▪ Your life expectancy and health
▪ Overall mortality rates for your demographic
▪ Testamentary objectives of your estate
▪ Loans against the policy

As a Trustee of a trust in California, it’s your duty to oversee and manage the trust’s investments, handle the related accountings, and disburse information to the beneficiaries (and possibly the courts). That means you’ll have to Invest or manage Trust assets. If a life insurance policy is underperforming, this could be problem. A Trustee should be monitoring life insurance policies that make up an asset of the trust.

Review Life Insurance Often

How often? I recommend a policy review every two to three years. Most insurers will review life insurance policies without charge, and without obligation. And reviewing your policy will not necessarily mean that you will have to change your coverage.

Some topics you should discuss with your agent are:

1. Protection: Do you have sufficient death benefits?

2. Annual Premiums: Are you meeting your needs in the most economical way possible?

3. Ownership: Is your policy tax-efficient, or will it create financial liability for you or your beneficiaries?

4. Designations: Are you up to date? Did you have more children, or go through a divorce or another marriage? 

5. Supplements: What new benefit options are available?

6. Cash & Performance: Does your policy meet your expectations?

Again, you’ll need to contact your life insurance agent for a thorough life insurance review, but keep the above-listed questions in mind when you do it.

If you are uncertain as to what your life insurance needs are (income replacement, an investment, a tool to fund a buy-sell agreement, or to pay estate taxes or even just to provide your heirs with liquidity or additional wealth), please contact us to schedule an estate plan review at your earliest convenience.

Kira S. Masteller is a California Estate Attorney and Shareholder in the Tax and Estate Planning Practice Group at our Firm. She can be reached at kmasteller@lewitthackman.com, or by calling 818.990.2120.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Thursday
Sep012011

Labor Laws 2011 - New NLRB Employment Law Poster

Wage and Hour DefenseEmployment Defense Attorney

by Sue M. Bendavid

818.907.3220

Employer Lawyer Los Angeles Google+ 

 

Attention Employers: There is a new labor law poster that must be displayed by most private-sector employers before November 14, 2011.

The poster is mandated by the National Labor Relations Board (the NRLB). The poster is intended to advise employees of their rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act (the NRLA). Employers should be able to obtain the newest addition to the employer compliance posters before November 1st.

The compliance poster will contain information about the rights of employees to do the following:

▪ Act together to improve wages and working conditions;
▪ Form, join or assist a union;
▪ Bargain collectively with an employer; and
▪ To refrain from any of the above-listed activities.

The poster will provide examples of unlawful employer and union conduct, and it also provides contact information for the NLRB should employees wish to ask questions or lodge complaints.

Who Must Display the NLRB Poster?

Because the subject matter applies to all private-sector employers subject to the NLRA, as well as all union and non-union workplaces, almost all private employers in the U.S. will need to display this latest addition to employment law posters.

Certain industries and individuals are not covered by the Act. Exemptions include:

▪ Public-sector employees
▪ Agricultural and domestic workers
▪ Independent contractors and supervisors
▪ Workers employed by a parent or spouse
▪ Employees of air and rail carriers covered by the Railway Labor Act

Also, if you are a small employer (as defined by the Act) you might not be subject to the NLRB’s jurisdiction.

The notice is in English, but will also be available in other languages. If 20 percent or more of your work force is not proficient in English, you will have to display the notice in other languages as well. For example, if 20 percent of your employees speak Spanish, you will need a Spanish language poster.

Where Should You Display Employment Law Posters?

 

Employer compliance posters, including this latest one required by the NLRB, should be displayed in a conspicuous location where employees will readily see it. You should place these required notices anywhere you normally display personnel rules and policies.

If for example, you have a minimum wage poster displayed in an employee break room or by a time clock, you should post the new compliance poster in those areas as well.

You will not have to distribute the NLRB required poster electronically, but if you normally make notices of employee policy changes or display posters on a company intranet or website, you will have to add the new compliance poster to those platforms too.

If you have any questions about the new poster, labor laws or employer requirements, call me: 818.990.2120.

Sue M. Bendavid is a Los Angeles Employment Attorney and Chair of our Employment Law Practice Group. She represents employers throughout California.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Tuesday
Aug302011

Underage Drinking | Social Host Law & Responsibility in California

Injury Attorney Los AngelesLos Angeles Injury Lawyer 

 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

In 2011 the California legislature amended Civil Code Section 1714(d) to allow claims “against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age.”

Parents know teenagers are going to have get-togethers or parties. Having said that, most parents would rather have the kids at their house so they can keep an eye on their own child. I know that’s how we feel. Some parents, however, also feel it’s acceptable to provide alcohol to minors as long as they remain under adult supervision.

According to the law above, if they do, and the minor leaves their house and causes an accident, the host of the party can be held responsible.

A number of states have variations of this law. The laws are commonly known as “Social Host Laws.” This amendment is a major change to California law, which for many years specifically held that there is no social host responsibility. As to adults over 21, the law did not change, and generally, there is no social host responsibility.

California’s Zero Tolerance Law

Keep in mind that California also has a Zero Tolerance Policy as to drivers under 21 having alcohol in their system.

Most people know that it is against the law for a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to be .08% or greater.

Many people, however, do not know that if you are under 21, it is against the law to have a BAC level of just .01% or greater.

If you are found to have violated the Zero Tolerance Law, at a minimum, your license will be suspended for a year.

So for the next teenager party at your house, make sure there is no alcohol. Not only is it a crime to furnish alcohol to a minor, you may also find yourself on the other end of a civil lawsuit. And the minor will be in a worse situation.

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney and safe driving proponent. You can reach him at: 818.990.2120.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120