Sign on the Electronic Line

As more and more business is conducted electronically, parties more often use keystrokes instead of pens to sign contracts and other legally binding documents. There’s even a federal law that covers this  — the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign) (15 USC §§7001-7031)  — which confirms the ability of parties to contract electronically. Here’s what you need to know about signing on the electronic line.  Continue reading

10 Tips for Optimizing Your Opposition to a Summary Judgment Motion

You just got hit with a summary judgment motion. Where do you begin to successfully oppose it? Start by asking yourself these ten questions; the answers will help you identify tactical considerations and optimize your opposition.

  1. Is there is at least one triable issue of material fact? Evaluate the pleadings and review discovery and other evidence for triable issues.
  2. Can this triable issue be shown in the required separate statement of disputed and undisputed facts? The opposing party’s separate statement is the most important way to graphically demonstrate the existence of a triable issue. Continue reading

Writing for the Online Reader

As more courts are requiring or permitting electronic filing (see Cal Rules of Ct 8.212(c)(2)), briefs will be increasingly read online. The ABA Journal reports that even Supreme Court Justices Kagan and Scalia are using electronic readers to read briefs on the go. Because reading documents online differs in some significant ways from reading hard copies, you need to draft your briefs with these differences in mind. Continue reading

Protecting the Confidentiality of Your Client’s Fee Agreement

You receive a written demand for documents in a case pending in a California state court. One of the documents sought is your client’s fee agreement. As a good lawyer, your first instinct is to protect the agreement’s confidentiality. You ask yourself: Can I object? and if I can, on what grounds? The answer is found in Bus & P C §6149. Continue reading

Profile in Practice: Jeffrey D. Wohl

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile Jeffrey Wohl:

CEB: What are your practice areas and how/why did you choose or start in your practice area?

Jeff: I’ve practiced management-side employment law my entire career, with occasional forays into commercial and civil rights litigation and transactional work. I also served as the General Counsel of my prior law firm, which made me something of a generalist. (Having lawyers as clients certainly kept me on my toes.) Employment law provides everything that a great law practice should have: interesting cases and characters; law that is always developing; and the opportunity to work with clients from a wide range of industries and endeavors. I can’t think of a field with a broader impact on people than employment law. And, as a junior lawyer coming up the ranks, employment law (which, in those days, meant single-plaintiff wrongful termination and discrimination cases) gave me the opportunity–in spades–to run my own cases. As a result, I grew up professionally very quickly. Continue reading

Estate and Gift Tax System Reunified in 2011: A Trap for the Unwary?

Beginning in 2011, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (.pdf) (Pub L 111–312, 124 Stat 3296) eliminates the separate $1 million lifetime gift exemption. Donors can now make taxable gifts up to the estate tax applicable exclusion amount of $5 million with no gift tax. 

Annual exclusion gifts don’t count. Donors can still give up to $13,000 per year per donee ($26,000 for married couples) free of estate and gift tax.

Beware! The estate tax law “sunsets” on December 31, 2012. Unless the law is further amended in the meantime, the exclusion reverts to $1 million in 2013. Lifetime gifts in excess of that amount would then be subject to estate tax in the donor’s estate, even if there was no gift tax when the gift was made.

Of course, that may not happen. But for now—until the law is made permanent—donors may be well advised to limit taxable gifts to $1 million. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Act is briefly summarized in the December 2010 issue of the CEB Estate Planning and California Probate Reporter, and will be discussed in greater detail in the forthcoming February issue and at the Estate Planning and Administration: 26th Annual Recent Developments program to be presented at five locations around the state January 21 through January 28, available soon as On Demand.

 Tax elections and reporting requirements for estates of decedents dying in 2010 and 2011 are discussed in the March 2011 update of California Trust Administration, chaps 12–14. Planning implications of the Act will be discussed in the April 2011 update of California Estate Planning.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Parroting Elder Abuse

A parrot’s mimicking of an anguished “Help Me! Help Me” followed by cruel laughter may be evidence of another horrible case of elder abuse.  As reported in the ABA Journal, the police believe that the bird is revealing the drama that occurred between a 98-year-old woman and her daughter. Continue reading

That Marital Agreement is Outta Here!

In the high-profile divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the ownership of the Dodgers hangs in the balance. Frank put his faith in a marital property agreement that he believed would result in him keeping the team. After a judge’s ruling that the agreement was not valid and enforceable, it’s as if there was never any such agreement and the parties are like any other in California trying to characterize particular property in a divorce. This leaves questions about how this marital agreement failed and how attorneys can avoid their clients’ agreements suffering the same fate. Continue reading

Tell Employees to Hang Up and Drive!

Technology has made it possible for us to work anywhere, anytime. But when it comes to employees’ use of technology while driving, this convenience comes with a price for employers: Technologically-distracted employee drivers who cause an accident expose their employer to potential liabilities. Continue reading

To Object or Not to Object

One of the hallmarks of an effective trial attorney is knowing when and when not to object to evidence. When the other side has offered evidence that is subject to objection, and there’s a valid ground for excluding it, you need to make the split-second decision: whether to object, refrain from objecting, or  follow an alternative course. Continue reading