2014-04-08 19.47.23

Last week a delegation of Vermont lawyers — Vermont Bar Association President David Fenster, President-Elect Dan Richardson, Vermont Defender General Matt Valerio, American Bar Association State Delegate Fritz Langrock, VBA Executive Director Bob Paolini, and I, in my role as VBA Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates — joined hundreds of other ABA Members and visited our Congressional Delegation on Capitol Hill. Together the lawyers in attendance reached over 300 Capitol Hill office.

As has been the case for the entire decade or so that I have attended ABA Day, our leading issue was increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation.  We advocated support for the Obama Administrations request for a $340 million dollar LSC appropriation for FY 2o15. As Vermonters, we had no hard sales to make on that score, as all of Vermont’s members of Congress are strong LSC supporters. It was really just a matter of thanking them for their support on this issue.ABA Day 3427-2

We also urged our members to oppose a provision of the proposed Tax Reform Act of 2014 that would require all personal services businesses with revenues of over ten million dollars a year to become accrual basis taxpayers. For law firms, which traditionally have long lags between providing service and collecting legal fees (sometime years pass before some fees are paid) being an accrual-basis taxpayer, rather than a cash basis taxpayer, would be a real hardship. We explained these concerns, and noted that by pushing lawyers to be even tougher on the creditworthiness of clients, the legislation would make access to justice even harder for members of the public. Although a comprehensive tax reform bill seems unlikely this year, there is concern that this might move in Congress, as it is estimate that the change “would increase government revenues by $23.6 billion dollars in the next 10 years…”

We got a good response from our delegation, especially from Representative Peter Welch, who is only a few years remove from a long career as a practicing lawyer. Senator Leahy and Sanders also seem receptive.

Face to face meetings with legislators often seem to take unexpected turns and this year was no exception. After we covered our agenda with Senator Sanders, he raised a concern of his own: his dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on campaign finance issues, particularly the Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Although most of us seemed to share the Senator’s concern, no one had an easy suggestion as to how to see positive change from the Supreme Court on campaign finance.

In Senator Leahy’s office, we spent most of our time with staff, as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee was even busier than usual.

2014-04-09 19.27.17

We were fortunate to catch Washington at just the right moment this spring, the height of cherry blossom season.

Rich

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I don’t usually use this forum just to promote someone else’s publication, but a recent article from the  Huff Post New York, “Do the Crime, Do the Time? The Failed Policies of Permanent Punishment” April 11, 2014,  is just so well done that I must make an exception.

The article is really solid short introduction to the problem of collateral consequences. If you care about the status of criminal justice in the United States — and you should care about what is done in your name — the article is worth reading.

Thank you,  Huff Post.

Rich

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A Mediator’s Toolkit: Active Listening

April 3, 2014

When I prepare a witness for a deposition, I cover certain fundamentals. Among the most basic are these: “Listen to the question. Let the questioner finish the question. Be sure you understand the question before you begin to answer it. If you don’t understand it, ask for clarification.” Even with that instruction, and even after […]

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Remembering The Honorable Franklin S. Billings, Jr.

March 29, 2014

The Honorable Franklin S. Billings, Jr. died on March 9, 2014. Bill Billings, as he was known to his friends, was a distinguished man from a distinguished family. A former Associate Justice  of the Vermont Supreme Court, and Chief Justice,  he was also a former Judge and Chief Judge of the United States District Court of […]

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The Impact of Collateral Consequences of Conviction Reform in Vermont — Updated

March 24, 2014

A friend asked me this question after my recent posts about the Vermont House passing the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (the “UCCCA”): “Rich, can you give me a specific (hypothetical) example of this Act’s impact, should it become law?” There are over 300 Vermont Statutes and regulations limiting a person’s rights based on […]

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The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act Passed the Vermont House of Representatives Today!

March 18, 2014

Thanks and congratulations to all who helped to make this happen! On to the Vermont Senate. Rich

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The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act Seems Headed for Passage in the Vermont House!

March 15, 2014

The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, H. 413, was read the second time and ordered read a third time on the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives on Friday, March 14, 2014. In plain language, that means that the bill is only one vote away from passing the House and being sent to […]

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The Charm of Travel; the Power of Positive Living

March 10, 2014

For 20 years my work with the Uniform Law Commission has taken me around the country. The charm of travel, at first so attractive, does not last long. I often find myself saying, a bit cynically, that windowless air-conditioned conference rooms are that same everywhere. It is certainly true that I feel no desire to […]

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Bryan Garner Says: Put Your Citations in Footnotes

March 3, 2014

I am an unabashed admirer of the work of Bryan Garner, President of Law Prose Inc., and an authority on legal writing and advocacy. Garner has done a lot to improve how lawyers write. In the February 2014 issue of the ABA Journal, and in the corresponding ABA Journal Law News “Bryan Garner on Words” column, […]

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A Mediator’s Toolkit: Silence as a Basic Tool

February 26, 2014
Thumbnail image for A Mediator’s Toolkit: Silence as a Basic Tool

Silence is a basic tool for a mediator.  It’s really a corollary of any mediator’s prime directive: “First, do no harm.” If things are going swimmingly, don’t mess it up. I have had a few cases where I did almost no talking. I gave my usual opening about the benefits of mediation, and explained the […]

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