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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Late night "tax Lady" is no longer

Below is a copy of an article that appears on the California State Bar Website. I reposted it for the simple fact that if something is too good to be true it is! Why would anyone fall for the "pennies on the dollar" scam, is beyond me. People like Roni Deutch gives us lawyers a bad name. Please don't lump all attorneys in with Ms. Deutch, some of us work hard to change the public impression of lawyers.

BELOW IS A REPORT OF AN ARTICLE FROM THE STATE BAR WEBSITE:

“Tax Lady” Roni Deutch, familiar to many TV viewers with her promises to help people reduce their tax bills, submitted her resignation to the State Bar last month and is no longer eligible to practice law.
Her formal resignation on May 20 came just a few weeks after she held a news conference outside her offices in North Highlands near Sacramento to say that she was broke and was going to quit the bar.
Last August, then-Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a $34 million lawsuit charging Deutch with swindling clients and orchestrating a “heartless scheme” in which she promises to reduce clients’ IRS tax debts “but instead preys on their vulnerability, taking large upfront payments but providing little or no help in lowering their tax bills.” Her sales agents claimed a success rate in dealing with the IRS as high as 99 percent, the suit said, when she actually only helped reduce the IRS payments of 10 percent of her clients. The suit said Deutch, who spent $3 million a year on advertising, much of it on late-night cable TV, operated a $25 million-a-year business. She also wrote two books on taxes and gave tax advice on some national television programs.
In April of this year, Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a Sacramento County Superior Court to hold Deutch in contempt for violating a court order by shredding millions of pages of documents and failing to refund $435,000 to clients. Deutch “decided to disperse funds to friends, family and other creditors,” Harris said. “By draining her estate and that of the law firm, Deutch has placed her clients at serious risk of never receiving their refunds.”

Roni Deutch
Roni Deutch

At her May 12 news conference, Deutch denied the allegations against her and said she was “totally, completely broke” and was shutting down her practice, although she said the 70 “Roni Deutch Tax Center” franchises may continue on their own if they choose to do so. She said she had stopped accepting new clients at the end of February and that she had returned $285,000 in refunds. A court filing by Deutch indicated that a December court order requiring her to change her business practices began her financial downturn by resulting in a reduction of her firm’s revenue from $2 million a month to $350,000 a month.
State Bar Chief Trial Counsel James Towery acknowledged that Deutch was under investigation by the State Bar, which has filed a request that the superior court assume jurisdiction over her caseload. Bar officials said they will assist the court to the extent possible to protect the interests of Deutch's former clients.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Healthcare Directives and POLSTs

Attended a seminar with Hospice doctors today. The power of a Health Care Directive and the role it plays into "end of life" decisions is amazing. Everyone deserves to pass with dignity and respect and a healthcare directive coupled with a POLST ensures that you go leave this world on YOUR terms.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Estate Planning - Why do they call it planning, when very few of us plan?

Did you know the majority of people do not have a will or trust? Its amazing to me (maybe because I'm an estate lawyer) but people love to control their money and things while they are alive, but seem to put little to no thought into their property upon their death.

In addition, parents with minor children need to plan not only for their property, but the estate planning process is the perfect time to draft documents that nominate a guardian for their children in the event of some tragedy.

Look at Michael Jackson - his untimely death caused great panic and infighting between his family all because his assets were not controlled by a testamentary instrument. (He had a will but it only covered a few of his assets - a reason to update old wills/trusts) Now, for most of us we don't have all the assets Mr. Jackson had, but when you work hard for something, don't you want to protect it? If for the only reason that you want to give it to a particular person or cause after your passing.

Raxter Law drafts custom wills and trusts and a variety of other testamentary instruments. The consultation is free and it gives us an opportunity to sit and figure out the best instrument for your planning needs.  See menifeelawyer.com for more information.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Let's help the animals!

I just became an attorney member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. I look forward to working with them in the future.

For more information on ALDF please visit aldf.org.

Gang Members, Violence, and Landlords…oh my! What every Landlord needs to know.

Gang Members, Violence, and Landlords…oh my!


            The Department of Justice estimates there may be as many as 200,000 gang and suspected gang members in California. Everyone is aware of the outward signs of a gang member, right? Baggy pants, a colored bandana, a lowered car, or is it a raised car? In this current rental market, landlords and property managers may receive numerous applications for available rentals. Does a landlord have the duty not to rent to gang members?
In July 2007, the California Supreme Court wrestled with the issue if landlords had the duty not to rent to gang members. What if the landlord merely suspects the applicant to be a gang member? Does the landlord have a duty to investigate the applicants background? To completely understand whether a duty is placed on landlords, we must first understand the legal term of “duty.” Blacks Law dictionary defines a duty as “A legal obligation that is owed or due to another that needs to be satisfied.” Understanding what a duty is, it’s important to know exactly what duties landlords have in choosing their tenants.
The background of the case before the California Supreme Court in Castaneda v. Olsher, is not unique to landlords or property managers. Olsher owned a mobilehome park in El Centro where Mr. Castaneda resided with his sister and grandmother. On November 9, 1996, Mr. Castaneda, who was seventeen at the time, was shot outside his home by Mr. Levarios a gang member who also lived in the trailer park. Mr. Castaneda alleged in his lawsuit against the owners of the mobilehome park, that Olsher had a duty “not to rent to [the Levarios] in the first place,” to “remove them once he had began to get complaints from the tenants that they constituted an annoyance,” or failing that, to take additional security measures such as hiring guards or providing bright lighting.
Duty not to rent to gang members
To begin the discussion, we must first acknowledge the courts have stated in the past that a landlord “generally owes a tenant the duty, arising out of their relationship, to take reasonable measures to secure the areas under the landlord’s control against foreseeable criminal acts of third parties.” In discussing the issue of landlords having the duty “not to rent to suspected gang members” the California Supreme Court summarized that street gangs and their members can often subject residents of mobilehome parks and apartments to unacceptable levels of fear and risk. However, the Court found that imposing a duty on landlords to withhold rental units from those who they believe to be gang members is unfair and an unworkable solution. The Court went on to say that if landlords deny rental to anyone who might be a gang member or, even more broadly, to any family whose members might be a gang member, the result would be arbitrary discrimination. In some circumstances, this arbitrary discrimination could result in illegal acts that could be against public policy and in turn subject the landlord to liability for discrimination. The Court stated in declining to create a new rule that landlords must  reject those with criminal backgrounds, the court did not mean to discourage landlords from being careful, and attempting to protect their current tenants when accepting new tenants into a building, complex, or mobilehome park.  
Duty to evict gang member tenants
In considering an eviction, a landlord normally has ample opportunity to observe and judge the behavior of an existing tenant rather that a rental applicant. Landlord’s can use their own observations or those of a property manager. In addition, if the Landlord deems other tenant observations reliable they may also be used in the decision of whether or not to evict a current tenant. The burden of eviction is great, considering the cost, time and effort a landlord must suffer in instituting an eviction. In some jurisdictions a landlord might have to establish a just cause for the eviction. Understandably, many landlords are intimated to evict a known gang member due to the fear of violence or retaliation. Recognizing this fact, the court creates a duty to evict a vicious or dangerous tenant “only in cases where the tenant’s behavior made violence towards neighbors or others on the premises highly foreseeable.”   For example, the court cited Madhani v. Cooper where one resident of an apartment building berated, shoved, bumped and psychically blocked Madhani and her mother on several occasions. Despite the tenant’s frequent complaints to the property manager, no action was taken against the assailant by the apartment manager.   Ultimately the assailant pushed the tenant down the building’s stairs, injuring her. The court stated this was a clear example where the landlord had a duty to act.
Duty to hire security guards or provide bright lighting
In this present case, the plaintiff argued that the park owner had a duty to provide security guards or bright lighting.  The Court explained for a landlord to have the heavy duty such as hiring security guards, a plaintiff in a suit against a landlord must show the existence of prior similar incidents on the premises or other serious “indications of a reasonable foreseeable risk of violent criminal assaults.” In the present case, the mobilehome park never suffered a similar act committed on the premises. Therefore, if a landlord is aware of recurring violent criminal acts on their premises, the court could extend liability to the landlord. Isolated incidents do not create the duty to hire security guards or increase other security measures.
Conclusion – Why does the CA Supreme Court decision matter to me?
Therefore, a landlord has no duty not to rent to suspected gang members, or to investigate any gang connection of prospective tenants. Once a tenant’s behavior is such that it’s highly foreseeable that they may cause harm to others on the premises, a landlord does have a duty to act. If you think violence is foreseeable, a court will probably agree and apply liability.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What areas of Law do you practice?

Raxter Law focuses on civil law, bankruptcy, landlord tenant, and small business law. Here is a more in depth look at what I mean by civil law and small business law.

Civil Law:
- Civil complaints and defense of civil complaints
- Drafting of Wills
- Drafting of Trusts
- Will contests
- Trust contests
- Breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee (falls into the category of trust contests)
- Drafting and review of contracts


Small Business Law:
First, let me say this, Small Business Law is not really a category but a list of the common issues/problems that a small business can face that is handled by my office.
- Business formation (LLC, Corporation, PC, etc)
- Collections (AR collections, consumer collections)
- Mechanics Liens
- Employment issues
- Representation at unemployment hearings

Landlord/Tenant Law:
- Currently RAXTER LAW only represents Landlords.

The above list is just an idea of what types of law that is practiced by Raxter Law.com. If in doubt, just give me a call. But, in the interest of saving time below are the types of law that is NOT practiced by Raxter law.

- Criminal Law
- Family Law
- Patent Law
- Immigration Law

Thursday, June 2, 2011

About Menifee Law

What can I say about Menifee Law? First, Menifee Law is a sub domain of the larger website raxterlaw.com. Raxter Law was founded to provide client centered and cost-effective legal representation to the inland empire.

I bet you are wondering, "what do you mean by cost-effective?". Basically, it means that most legal services such as wills, trusts, business formation, legal research, contract review, and many other services can be performed for a "flat fee". This is different from many other law firms/offices because in general the legal profession lives and breathes the "billable hour". During my legal career, I realized that the system of hourly billing is antiquated, and most people would prefer a flat fee.  So, in order to please the masses, I have adopted flat fee billing. Plus, this relieves me of a large accounting nightmare. This "flat fee" system allows you to know exactly how much something will cost before you walk out the door.

With that being said, litigation is one example of a legal service that must be performed on a hourly basis, mainly because neither you nor I know how much work will be involved in a lawsuit (either bringing one or defending one). Some lawsuits are settled within weeks, others drag out for years.

On a side note, did you know that in our local area nearly 90% of cases are settled before they reach trial?