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The Lawletter Blog

ATTORNEY-CLIENT: Colorado Retains the "Strict Privity Rule" for Malpractice in Estate Planning

Posted by Lee P. Dunham on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 @ 15:04 PM

The Lawletter Vol 41 No 4

Lee Dunham, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     In general, an attorney's duty of care extends only to his or her clients, not to third parties. This rule makes intuitive sense in most areas of the law, where the client is typically the party who is injured directly by attorney malpractice. However, in the estate planning context, where the client is often long dead by the time the malpractice is discovered, the true victims of malpractice may be the beneficiaries, or would-be beneficiaries, of the client's estate.

     Recognizing this problem, courts of several states have relaxed the "strict privity rule" in malpractice suits against estate planning attorneys. Most notably, in Biakanja v. Irving, 320 P.2d 16 (Cal. 1958), and Lucas v. Hamm, 364 P.2d 685 (Cal. 1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 987 (1962), California adopted what has come to be known as the "California Test," a multifactor balancing test designed to determine whether a beneficiary can maintain a malpractice claim against an estate planning attorney despite a lack of privity. The factors include "the extent to which the transaction was intended to affect the plaintiff, the foreseeability of harm to him, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant's conduct and the injury, and the policy of preventing future harm." Lucas, 364 P.2d at 687 (citing Biakanja, 320 P.2d at 19).

     Courts of several other states have adopted a narrower cause of action, referred to as the "Florida-Iowa Rule," under which a beneficiary may maintain a cause of action against the estate planning attorney only if the client's intent, as expressed in the will (or other document), is frustrated. See Espinosa v. Sparber, Shevin, Rosen & Heilbronner, 612 So. 2d 1378, 1380 (Fla. 1993); Schreiner v. Scoville, 410 N.W.2d 679, 683 (Iowa 1987).

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Topics: strict privity rule, duty of care to third parties, attorney-client, Lee Dunham, estate planning

TAX: Inversions—Apple's Complex Web of Subsidiaries

Posted by James P. Witt on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 @ 13:04 PM

The Lawletter Vol 41 No 4

Jim Witt, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     The most straightforward tactic taken by large American corporations since the 1980s to avoid the full brunt of U.S. federal corporate income tax is known as "tax inversion" (or "corporate inversion"). This strategy has drawn considerable attention lately, with President Obama last summer calling on Congress to pass tax legislation to end the practice. In November 2015, the U.S. drug giant Pfizer announced its merger with Irish-headquartered Allergan, which, in the largest tax inversion to date, would give the merged company a situs in Ireland.

     Inversion transactions usually involve the transfer of stock of a corporation by one or more shareholders to a wholly owned or controlled foreign subsidiary of that corporation in exchange for newly issued shares of the subsidiary's stock. Internal Revenue Code § 7874 (rules relating to expatriated entities and their foreign parents) contains the tax rules related to inversions.

     Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, California, has gone well beyond the standard tax inversion maneuver. According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, Apple holds $181 billion in profit offshore that has escaped U.S. income tax. A May 20, 2013 report issued by the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concluded that Apple's tax arrangements have nothing to do with the U.S. location of all the intellectual property that supports Apple's products. Non-U.S. sales account for 60% of Apple's profits, and these profits are routed through Irish subsidiaries that Apple established four years after its founding and are not taxed by any jurisdiction. The following discussion broadly outlines the rules that Apple, through its web of subsidiaries, takes advantage of to minimize its corporate income tax liability, eliminating U.S. corporate tax liability as long as foreign earnings are not repatriated.

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Topics: tax, James P. Witt, inversion, Apple Inc., transfer of stock to foreign subsidiary

CIVIL RIGHTS: Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies for Retaliation Claims

Posted by Dora S. Vivaz on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 12:04 PM

The Lawletter Vol 41 No 4

Dora Vivaz, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     It has long been settled law that plaintiffs who seek redress for employment discrimination under Title VII must exhaust the administrative remedies provided under that law before bringing their claims in court. Title VII, of course, not only prohibits the initial unlawful status/class discrimination, but also prohibits retaliation for complaining about such discrimination. The interplay of those two prohibitions has seemingly muddied the waters on the exhaustion issue.

     In a recent case, a federal district court within the Fifth Circuit was faced with the question of that interplay. Mitchell v. Univ. of La. Sys., Civ. Act. No. 13-820-JWD-RLB, 2015 WL 9581823 (M.D. La. signed Dec. 30, 2015). In the case before it, the plaintiff had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge in June 2013, claiming discrimination. She was transferred in July 2013. Although she never filed a second EEOC charge, she included both a claim for unlawful discrimination and a claim for retaliation in her action in the federal court. The defendant argued that the retaliation claim was barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, but the court disagreed.

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Topics: Dora Vivaz, employment discrimination, administrative remedies, retaliation claim, civil rights

CRIMINAL LAW: Search and Seizure—Traffic Stop—Length of Detention

Posted by Mark Rieber on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 12:04 PM

The Lawletter Vol 41 No 4

Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     In Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), the U.S. Supreme Court recently stressed that a seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation becomes unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a ticket for the violation. The stop may not exceed the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made. In Rodriguez, the issue was raised in the context of whether the police unnecessarily extended the traffic-violation stop to conduct a dog sniff of the exterior of the vehicle for drugs.

     Lower courts applying Rodriguez have had the difficult task of determining whether a vehicle stop for a traffic violation was unnecessarily and unlawfully prolonged by police so that they could pursue unrelated suspicions, usually related to illegal drugs. While the courts often observe that there is no rigid time limit for determining when a detention has lasted longer than necessary to effectuate the purposes of the stop, they nevertheless often look to the total time of the stop and the length of what is deemed the unnecessary delay in determining whether the police conduct was lawful. In State v. Linze, No. 42321, 2016 WL 90669 (Idaho Ct. App. Jan. 8, 2016), the court held that where the police extended a routine traffic stop (that lasted 19 minutes) by only approximately another two and a half minutes to conduct a dog sniff (or canine sweep) of the vehicle, such delay was unlawful and violated the driver's Fourth Amendment rights. The court therefore ruled that the illegal drugs subsequently seized from the vehicle after the drug dog alerted on the vehicle during the canine sweep had to be suppressed.

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Topics: search and seizure, criminal law, Mark V. Rieber, length of detention, traffic stop

FAMILY LAW: Time Limits on Divorce Hearings

Posted by Brett R. Turner on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 12:04 PM

The Lawletter Vol 41 No 4

Brett Turner, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     A perennial problem in family law practice is arbitrary judges who dislike family law cases and impose strict time limits upon trials. Appellate courts are aware of this problem, and in extreme cases they have granted relief.

     In Kilnapp v. Kilnapp, 140 So. 3d 1051 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2014), the trial judge set a three-hour limit on the hearing. After only an hour had passed, the trial court abruptly ended the hearing. The wife had presented only one witness, and the husband's counsel had not even finished with direct examination of the husband. The appellate court summarily reversed. "The trial court erred when it denied the husband his basic and fundamental right to due process, specifically the right to be heard." Id. at 1054.

     The husband did not have, of course, a right to be heard at unlimited length. For example, even if the husband honestly wanted an entire week of testimony, the trial court had discretion to impose a reasonable time limit.

     But the time limit imposed in Kilnapp was unreasonable, in two different ways. First, a reasonable time limit should apply equally to both parties. In Kilnapp, the wife was able to present all of her evidence, while the husband was able to present only some of his.

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Topics: family law, Brett R. Turner, arbitrary cutoff, divorce hearing, time limit

CIVIL RIGHTS: Help America Vote Act Creates Individual Right Enforceable Through § 1983

Posted by John M. Stone on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

John Stone, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     A federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, is most closely associated with providing a remedy for individuals whose federal constitutional rights have been violated by persons acting under color of state law. However, although they comprise a relatively small subset of § 1983 cases, claims under § 1983 can, under certain circumstances, be based upon violations of federal rights derived from federal statutes, not from the U.S. Constitution.

     In a recent example of such a claim, a voter in Puerto Rico brought an action challenging a Puerto Rico statute that struck her and more than 300,000 other voters from a voter-registration roll because they did not vote in the prior general election. The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico issued injunctive and declaratory relief barring the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission ("SEC") from removing otherwise eligible voters from an active election registry unless the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act ("HAVA") were met. Colón-Marrero v. Conty-Perez, No. CIV. 12-1749CCC, 2015 WL 3508142 (D.P.R. signed June 4, 2015). The President of the SEC appealed, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court. Colón-Marrero v. Velez, No. 15-1356, 2016 WL 386428 (1st Cir. Feb. 1, 2016).

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Topics: civil rights, § 1983, John M Stone, Help America Vote Act, Colon-Marrero v. Conty-Perez, removal from active election registry barred

MORTGAGES: Mortgagor Entitled to Truth-in-Lending Disclosures Even if Not Personally Liable on Loan

Posted by Alistair D. Edwards on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     The Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1601 et seq., requires a mortgage lender (a mortgagee) to provide certain disclosures to the borrower (mortgagor). If these disclosures are not made, the borrower may have the right to rescind. Under TILA, when a loan is secured by the borrower's principal dwelling, the borrower may rescind the loan agreement if the lender fails to deliver certain forms or to disclose important terms accurately. TILA requires creditors to provide borrowers with clear and accurate disclosures of terms dealing with things like finance charges, annual percentage rates of interest, and the borrower's rights. Failure by the lender to deliver these disclosures may permit a borrower to rescind the loan transaction.

      However, is a person who is not personally liable on the loan but who is the owner of the dwelling that is used to secure the loan entitled to the TILA disclosures and the right to rescind? Recently, in Lakeview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Pendleton, 2015 IL App (1st) 143114, ___ N.E.3d ___ (not yet released for publication), the Appellate Court of Illinois considered this exact issue.

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Topics: TILA, Regulation Z, mortgages, Alistair D. Edwards, disclosure to owner of dwelling if not mortgagor, Lakeview Loan Servicing v. Pendleton

TRUSTS: Hostility Between Beneficiary and Trustee as Ground for Removal of Trustee

Posted by D. Bradley Pettit on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 10:03 AM

The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

Brad Pettit, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     The Restatement of Trusts provides generally that "[a] trustee may be removed . . . for cause by a proper court." Restatement (Third) of Trusts § 37(b) (2003 & Westlaw database updated Oct. 2015) (emphasis added). The Comment to section 37 of the Restatement says that "[f]riction between the trustee and some of the beneficiaries [of a trust] is not a sufficient ground for removing the trustee unless it interferes with the proper administration of the trust." Id. § 37 cmt. e(1). Thus, although the "[b]eneficiaries may be resentful when property they expected to inherit is placed in trust, or of reasonable exercise of a trustee's discretion with regard to matters of administration or the alleged underperformance of the trustee's investment program[, s]uch resentment ordinarily does not warrant removal of the trustee." Id. "[B]ut a serious breakdown in communications between beneficiaries and a trustee may justify removal, particularly if the trustee is responsible for the breakdown or it appears to be incurable." Id.

     A leading treatise on trust law notes that "[d]isagreeable personal relations between the beneficiary [of a trust] and the trustee are frequently relied upon as grounds for removal [and] the mere fact that the beneficiary wants the trustee removed is not enough" to sustain a petition for removal of a trustee. George Gleason Bogert et al., The Law of Trusts and Trustees § 527 (Westlaw database updated Sept. 2015) (footnotes omitted). Thus, "[d]ifferences of opinion or unfriendliness" between a trust beneficiary and the trustee are "insufficient" grounds to support the removal of a trustee from office. Id. (footnotes omitted).

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Topics: trusts, Brad Pettit, removal of trustee, hostility between trustee and beneficiary

CORPORATIONS: Nonresident Trust Company Fiduciary Power Reciprocity Statutes

Posted by Matthew T. McDavitt on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 10:03 AM

The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

Matthew McDavitt, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     Most states now allow nonresident corporations, such as trust companies, to serve in fiduciary roles such as the personal representative of a decedent estate, trustee, or trust or as the conservator of a guardianship estate. However, various state statutes place varying requirements on such fiduciary roles, such as whether state certification is required by such out-of-state corporate fiduciaries, which fiduciary roles are available to trust companies, and whether an in-state agent must be designated for service.

     One frequent requirement placed upon nonresident companies seeking to serve in a fiduciary role is that of reciprocity: The out-of-state corporation is allowed only the powers and authority granted to nonresident fiduciaries in its state of incorporation. Thus, where a trust company seeks to serve in a fiduciary role in another state, it is imperative to know whether both the state of incorporation and the foreign jurisdiction are "reciprocity" states. The following is a chart compiling the citations of the statutory nonresident corporate fiduciary reciprocity provisions currently in force in the 25 states that possess them: 

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Topics: corporations, Matt McDavitt, nonresident trust company, reciprocity statutes, fiduciary power

CIVIL PROCEDURE: Relief in Federal District Court from a Fraudulently Obtained Remand Order

Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 09:03 AM

The Lawletter Vol 41, No 3

Paul Ferrer, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

      In order to keep cases from ping-ponging between state and federal court, the federal removal statutes prohibit appellate review of remand orders. See In re La Providencia Dev. Corp., 406 F.2d 251, 252 (1st Cir. 1969) ("The action must not ricochet back and forth depending upon the most recent determination of a federal court."). In particular, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) provides that, with the exception of certain cases involving federal officers or civil rights, "[a]n order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d) (emphasis added). Does the "or otherwise" language prevent review by a district court of its own remand order under Rule 60(b)(3)? That was the question addressed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, in Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co., 772 F.3d 1001 (4th Cir. 2014) (en banc).

     In Barlow, two individuals separately sued Colgate-Palmolive Company and other companies in Maryland state court, alleging that each of the defendants' products had exposed them to asbestos. Even though the plaintiffs joined in-state defendants, Colgate removed the two cases to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. Colgate asserted that the in-state defendants had been fraudulently joined, pointing to discovery responses indicating that the plaintiffs did not intend to pursue a claim against any defendant other than Colgate. The plaintiffs then moved to remand the cases to state court. In their motions, the plaintiffs' counsel represented that there was some circumstantial evidence to suggest exposure to asbestos at the hands of the nondiverse defendants. Based on counsel's representations, the district court judges (Judges Nickerson and Quarles) remanded the cases to state court.

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Topics: 4th Circuit, Paul A. Ferrer, civil procedure, Barlow v. Colgate Palmolive Co., remand order, federal removal statutes