An Oklahoma state law that helps fund schools, passed 23 years ago, was never implemented, and now 48 school districts are seeking action from the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the school district and names Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Treasurer Ken Miller and the Oklahoma Tax Commission as defendants. Every school district across the state has been given the wrong amount of money every year since 1991, the lawsuit alleges, a charge former State Superintendent Janet Barresi confirmed in 2014.
More than 150 districts are being short-changed funds, a group called Oklahoma Schools for Fair Funding said Monday. Just under 50 are participating in legal action, including Oklahoma City Public Schools. The law was intended to give districts extra money when taxes over a certain level. That money would go to local districts instead of the state. But that law was never implemented. The cap on property taxes has resulted in districts not getting the right amount of money now for some 20 years. And the fix means some districts will lose money, while some will gain.
The lawsuit seeks the defendants to “fufill its statutory duty” to determine the amount of money owed districts from 1991 until this year, “as a result of the [Department of Education’s] acknowledged failure to follow the plain language of” Oklahoma law. It started with Ponca City superintendent Dr. David Pennington some 10 years ago, as he struggled to figure out why his calculations of how much his district should get—always came up short. In a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Pennington said his district is estimated to have lost $14 million.
A new, free iPhone app is designed to help organizations navigate 46 state data breach notification laws as well as federal statutes, such as HIPAA, attorney Scott Vernick says. Vernick, a partner at the law firm Fox Rothschild whose practice includes privacy and data security law, coordinated the development of the app, known as Data Breach 411. “We wanted to put something at people’s fingertips so that they could readily, at a minimum, look at the 46 different breach notification statutes and get a sense of what their reporting obligations were,” Vernick says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. The free app can be downloaded from iTunes. Vernick says the firm will likely eventually create an Android version.
Among the app’s features:
An alphabetical listing of the 46 states with data breach laws, with links to relevant notification statutes; Links to federal breach notification rules and other relevant information related to the loss or theft of protected health information; and Links to credit agencies and credit monitoring services and the Federal Trade Commission website. The app also offers a section on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act as well as infor-mation regarding the mining of data on minors. In the interview, Vernick describes the features of Data Breach 411, discusses the environment that created the need for the app and explains how the app will be updated and upgraded. Vernick is a commercial litigator who focuses on technology, intellectual property, health care, privacy and data security law. He regularly counsels multi-national and mid-sized businesses on how to mitigate risk and overcome the challenges posed by the multitude of state and federal laws and regulations dealing with IT security, privacy and data breach notification.
The law firm of Herzfeld, Rubin, Meyer & Rose Limited (HRMR) announced itself as the first 100% American owned law firm in Myanmar on July 29, 2013. While the United States has reduced the number of sanctions it has against the former nation of Burma in the past year, there are many U.S. sanctions still on the books that make it more difficult for American companies to do business in Myanmar than companies of any other country. I had a series of conversations with Eric Rose of HRMR about his parent law firm’s global brand, its specialty in emerging and frontier markets and why it has chosen Romania and Myanmar as its two outposts in these markets.
In the interview below, Mr. Rose candidly speaks about the opportunities and risks in Myanmar where he expects GDP to at least triple in the coming 20 years. While representing his law firm, his answers provide a clear view of investing opportunities, business prospects, sanction situations, Myanmar’s history, current stability and international relations. Jon Springer: During your legal career, you have done a lot of work in emerging and frontier markets both in private practice and as an in-house lawyer for corporations. When did you first work in Myanmar? Eric Rose: I set up the strategy for American Standard, the kitchen and bath goods manufacturer, in Myanmar in the mid-1990s. At that time, U.S. sanctions were limited. Major sanctions came in 2003. JS: Was this experience part of why HRMR decided to open an office in Myanmar?
ER: Our firm specializes in emerging and frontier markets. We chose both Romania and Myanmar for similar reasons. Both countries at the time we arrived were newly open to American business. They both have large, literate populations. In both cases they were or are countries starting with a low GDP basis, a high need for infrastructure development, an incredible wealth of natural resources and a strong relatively cheap workforce. JS: When you say your firm specializes in emerging and frontier markets, what is the range of countries your firm’s attorneys have worked in and range of services provided?
ER: A law firm is only as good as the attorneys it has. Our attorneys have lead transactions in over fifty countries on five continents, the majority of which were then, and some still are, emerging or frontier markets. For example, in the early 1990s, I guided companies like John Deere and Tyco Toys in countries of the former Soviet Union, South Africa and China. In the middle ’90s, I lead American Standard’s and Trane’s entrance in Vietnam, Burma, Egypt and Eastern Europe. Later, I helped Wabco Automotive and Diasorin penetrate India and China. More recently, I steered Cybertel and Perry Equipment transactions in Latin America and Eastern Europe. The firm has over 200 practitioners in six affiliated offices on three continents, and offers a full range of legal services to its clients, which range from individuals to Fortune 500 companies the world over. JS: Specifically looking at Myanmar, it has been touted as early as 1885 as the greatest place to invest in the world in Archibald Colquhoun’s Burma and the Burmans: Or, “The best unopened market in the world”. What is different now?
ER: In the first half of the 20th century, Burma was the richest country in Southeast Asia, the largest producer of rice in the world and the number one producer of beans and pulses. Rangoon, at the time, had the best universities and was the hub airport for travel throughout Asia and beyond. Today, Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia, 75% of its population does not have access to electricity, and only 10% have access to cell phones. What has changed is that, for the first time since Myanmar’s independence, all of its citizens from all ethnic groups, as well as the government and the army, are sharing the same goals. JS: Thus, the case is that the communism and dictatorship the country experienced after British colonial rule ended in 1948 led to the current malaise and the country is now democratic and primed for capitalist success?
ER: Not quite! Myanmar has experienced civil war since its inception. It is now on the threshold of nationwide peace, it had free by-elections last year, it has freed almost all of its political prisoners, has adopted freedom of the press and association legislation and ended press censorship and it has passed a number of laws and regulations which have opened up most of the country to foreign investment. At the same time, much of industry is still controlled by companies associated with the military and cronies of the former government, land rights are in doubt or disputed, rule of law is still in its infancy, and the country is still rated very low on the corruption index of Transparency International. The effect of the sanctions can still be felt everywhere. For example, in 2002, the Myanmar garment industry exported 75% of its product to the United States. After 2003, when the major U.S. sanctions began, 300 factories closed and 80,000 people were laid off. Assuming on average that those factory workers, most of whom were women and the breadwinners for the average family of 5, the sanctions in that industry alone directly impacted 400,000 people. Now that the U.S. has lifted import restrictions, being able to export garments to the U.S. will, by itself, substantially help grow the economy. For example, in nearby Cambodia, once restrictions were lifted in 1997, exports of garments grew from $175 million to over $2.5 billion during the next dozen years. The same applies to the U.S., once again, granting Myanmar the GSP status, which it lost in 1989. GSP would cover a large percentage of agricultural products, minerals, plastics and rubber products, as well as wood products. All other developed countries have granted GSP to Myanmar, it is the U.S. alone which has not. Generally speaking, the U.S. today – while the GSP program has lapsed – is collecting $2 million/day in duties from the poorest countries on earth, Myanmar included [The U.S. Congress did not renew GSP legislation prior to its expiration July 31, 2013. The legislation to renew it is still pending]. In the first six months since the U.S. import ban against Myanmar has been lifted earlier this year, Myanmar’s exports to the U.S. amounted to only $14 million. Yet, over $8 million were GSP-eligible products, with an average duty of 4.2% when they would be paying zero under GSP.
JS: Could you briefly elucidate the U.S. sanctions currently in place and what is needed to remove them? ER: Currently, the U.S. sanctions regime against Myanmar is still in place, five laws and at least five executive orders. Most of the sanctions have been suspended by the president, but can be re-instated on short notice. No other country continues to have sanctions against Myanmar, except as to its military. By itself, the simple existence of such laws and executive orders hampers the ability of American business to invest in Myanmar, with little, if any, discernable current positive effect on the people of Myanmar. In addition to the bar on deals with the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military), or its controlled business entities, there continues to be a bar on transactions with Myanmar entities and individuals listed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals list, and on the importation of certain jewels. Furthermore, American companies and individuals alone have to annually report on their investments exceeding $500,000, certain payments to the government, dealings with the national oil and gas company, and a plethora of other requirements. Although large corporations are well equipped to deal with these reporting requirements, small and medium and enterprises (SMEs) are not. Thus, these reporting requirements put a disproportionate burden on SMEs investing in Myanmar.
A Seoul court rejected Samsung’s claim that iPhone and iPad models violated three of its patents, another setback for the South Korean electronics giant in a global battle with Apple over rights to technologies that power smartphones and tablets. A Seoul Central District Court judge ruled Thursday that Apple did not violate Samsung’s intellectual property rights. The technology in two of Samsung’s patents could easily be independently developed by others, Judge Shim Woo-yong said, making it unlikely they were copied. He said one patent was not used in the iPad.
“We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Inc. spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung Electronics Co. sued Apple in March 2012, accusing the iPhone maker of illegally using three patented technologies related to short message services in smartphones and tablet computers. The maker of Galaxy smartphones sought 100 million won ($95,000) in initial compensation and a ban on sales of six iPhone and iPad models, which included models still available in the market, such as those with Retina display.
The judge said Samsung’s patent for a multitasking technology that prevents incomplete messages being lost when switching to another application was not violated by the existence of a similar technology. Another technology that enables users to touch a notification box to access a message can be invented easily, he said. A third Samsung patent for how mobile devices display short messages from the same sender together was not used in Apple’s iPad, which instead has Apple’s iMessage application, Shim said. The ruling is the latest legal blow to Samsung, which owes Apple $930 million from two jury verdicts in Silicon Valley. Samsung is seeking to appeal both. The world’s top two smartphone makers have waged legal battles over mobile devices since 2011. Samsung said it was disappointed by the ruling and will decide whether to appeal this decision after a thorough review. “As Apple has continued to infringe our patented mobile technologies, we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect our intellectual property rights,” it said in a statement. So far, two verdicts in Silicon Valley have been the most damaging to the South Korean company. Last month, a Silicon Valley jury added another $290 million to the damages Samsung Electronics owes Apple. A previous jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion, which was later reduced by a judge to $640 million.
But the size of the award is small compared with the size of Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of mobile devices, TVs and memory chips. The South Korean firm reported it had $47 billion in cash at the end of September and $247.5 billion in 2012 revenue.
Ever since Obamacare’s stormy passage in early 2011, Democrats have been waiting anxiously for the program to go into effect and hoping that a dose of reality would calm the partisan battles over the health insurance plan. Once everything was up and running, they hoped, skeptical Americans would see that Obamacare was a good idea all along — and reward the party that brought it to them. That’s looking unlikely, at least in the short run. Last week’s glitch-filled rollout of Obamacare’s health exchange websites, combined with Republicans’ furious refusal to accept the program as what President Obama calls “settled law,” confirmed something political strategists in both parties had already predicted: The war over Obamacare is far from over.
“It’s unlikely that the Affordable Care Act will be widely popular until people have real experience with it — until it becomes the new normal,” a leading Democratic strategist told me. “We’re talking about years, not weeks or months.” Nobody expected the launch of a fleet of balky websites to make an immediate difference to perceptions of the health insurance plan, not even with endorsements from icons like Lady Gaga, who managed to get the main website address wrong in her promotional tweet. Still, the opening-day problems and the slow pace of applications for health insurance were not encouraging signs. More important, in the long run, was the Republican Party’s reaffirmation — spurred by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other tea party legislators — that repealing, defunding or dismantling the program remains one of its top goals.
The tea party caucus has succeeded in making resistance to Obamacare a litmus test for Republicans, and as a result, it’s likely that next year’s congressional election will be fought in large part over the health insurance program. The fate of Obamacare may hang in the balance. “The 2014 election will be the Gettysburg of this struggle — the deciding battle, one way or the other,” predicted Robert J. Blendon of Harvard’s School of Public Health. In the current Congress, the Senate’s Democratic majority has stopped the Republican-led House of Representatives from defunding or delaying Obamacare’s implementation. But if Republicans take control of the Senate next year — a prospect currently rated as a tossup — only Obama’s veto will stand in their way.
And even by election day in 2016, Obamacare may still be a work in progress. “If you give it three, four, five years, every experience we have is that public support will be there,” Blendon said. “But you have to give it that much time.” Meanwhile, Republicans will have every incentive to attack the program’s shortcomings. “The real problem here is not managerial; many programs take years to roll out,” he said. “The real issue is political. Programs don’t do well if one party doesn’t support it and public opinion isn’t for it.” As for Obamacare, public opinion has settled into skepticism. A Fox News poll released last week, after the websites’ rollout, found that 54% of voters favor repealing all or part of the law, while 41% want to preserve or expand it — not much different from earlier findings.
The poll found that only 30% of voters want to repeal the entire law — but among Republicans, that number swells to 53%, and among tea party supporters, 71%. That helps explain GOP legislators’ opposition. What could change public attitudes? “There could be movement either way, depending on whether people think the program turns out better or worse than they expected,” Blendon said. If more employers drop retirees and spouses from insurance coverage because Obamacare is available, for example, “you could see a huge backlash,” he said. Republicans may have a built-in advantage in that debate: They can blame any bad news about healthcare on Obamacare, whether the program is at fault or not. “If rates are going up, Republicans will say that’s because of Obamacare, even though it’s not true,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. “If companies are cutting back, Republicans will say that’s because of Obamacare.”
But it will also matter what remedy Republicans propose. In last week’s Fox News poll, most voters said they opposed defunding Obamacare — although two-thirds of GOP voters said they supported the idea. A one-year delay in implementing Obamacare, on the other hand, is a broadly popular idea, supported by 57% of all voters, including 80% of Republicans. So don’t expect the war over Obamacare to be over any time soon. Instead, expect Republicans of every stripe to continue their guerrilla campaign against the program through the 2014 congressional election, and perhaps the 2016 presidential election as well.
Expect more furious, partisan debate over every step of implementation, with dueling experts from each side. Expect smart Republicans to focus on demands to delay or cancel the penalties on individuals for failing to sign up, the law’s least popular provision. That might sound like a minor change, but it could undermine the program fatally. The president will continue to insist that Obamacare is “settled law.” But a law is only fully settled once both parties accept its permanence, and Obamacare is a long way from there.
The benefits of hiring an experienced attorney are many. In fact, having a knowledgeable law practitioner on your side in times of crisis or whenever the need for legal assistance arises can make the difference between success and failure. The law is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving. Moreover, legal landscapes inhere many nuances and technicalities that may escape the notice of most laypeople. Nonetheless, such nuances and technicalities have major implications for any type of law-related scenario and lack of attention to such seemingly “trivial” details can have devastating consequences.
For instance, failure to file a required court pleading on the proper size paper or in the proper format can totally nullify its legal effectiveness and result in a court’s outright rejection of it without even considering its substantive merits. Quite often, there is no second chance to refile such defective filings. This could easily cause a meritorious claim to be summarily dismissed, or a judicial ruling to be issued based solely on your opponent’s arguments on a particular issue in a lawsuit. Moreover, experienced lawyers have developed a keen sense of whether or not formal litigation is even required or appropriate in a given situation. Many times, the probable level of monetary relief does not justify the filing fees and other associated costs of full adversarial court proceedings. Even in matters where potential damage awards do make such expenses worthwhile in the end, an experienced attorney can help a claimant obtain the most cost-effective outcome possible by expert negotiation skills.
Negotiations with insurance adjusters are a prime example of such cases. In most instances, insurance carriers are notorious for trying to undercut lay damage claimants who approach them without the assistance of a practicing personal injury lawyer. This is because adjusters represent their employers — the insurance carriers. Thus, it is in their employer’s best interests to settle damage claims for as little as possible and as quickly as possible, to minimize their economic exposure in each case. The unfortunate aspect of this practice for damage claimants, however, is that they do not receive a fair amount of monetary reimbursement for the physical injuries, property damage, or other losses that they sustained due to the negligence of a third party. Many people in such circumstances are reluctant to retain the services of an experienced personal injury law firm because such firms typically require one-third of any total recovery that is ultimately obtained as payment for legal services rendered.
Nonetheless, studies consistently reveal that claimants who do engage a qualified personal injury attorney recover far more than the insurance company’s original offer — even after deduction of the lawyer’s one-third contingency fee. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, the best personal injury attorneys have usually already established professional reputations within the insurance industry. Thus, insurance adjusters are aware that they will fight zealously on behalf of their injured clients by going all the way to trial if necessary. Insurers naturally seek to avoid this, as such formal legal proceedings cost them large amounts in legal defense fees, expert witnesses, bad publicity, etc.Read more: bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-12/twitter-says-it-files-confidential-ipo-registration-with-u-s-.html
Certified Family Law Attorney, Donald P. Schweitzer has been elected to serve as the 2011 Vice President and Program Chair of the Pasadena Bar Association. Mr. Schweitzer will begin his position, January 2011. Mr. Schweitzer will be responsible for planning and organizing all of the PBA’s general meetings, assisting with the Section Chairs, and special meetings that take place within the year. Mr. Schweitzer will also serve by assisting the incoming President of the association with the implementation of benefits to members of the PBA.
Mr. Schweitzer was elected to this position by board members and past and present presidents whom select people they think would make meaningful contributions towards the Pasadena Bar Association. According to Mr. Schweitzer, “I have chosen to accept the position, because I thoroughly enjoy doing volunteer work and have come to enjoy the meetings and association that I’ve made after becoming a member”
In addition, Mr. Schweitzer will also be responsible for obtaining money for the association through sponsorships and will be organizing a Pasadena-based High School Speech Scholarship Tournament where the PBA will award the top two finalists with significant scholarships. “I expect the speech and debate tournament will be extremely meaningful to the competitors and our members, said Schweitzer, while reflecting on the 2011 calendar.
Schweitzer further added, “One of my primary goals while serving as Vice President is to provide meaningful benefits to our members as well as serving the community.” Mr. Schweitzer is a Certified Family Law Specialist with over 15 years of trial experience. Prior to going into private practice, Mr. Schweitzer served as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County for 8 years. Mr. Schweitzer worked in numerous units within the District Attorney’s office including, Writs and Appeals, Family Support, Municipal Court, Felony Panel, Gang Target, Felony Filing, and the Sexual Assault Unit. H e is a member of the American Bar Association, the California State Bar, Los Angeles Bar Association, and the Pasadena Bar Association.
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