Thursday, January 24, 2013

BPS Nominated in BEST OF HARTFORD 2013

For the second year in a row Brown, Paindiris & Scott is in the running for the best Hartford area law firm. Every January the HartfordAdvocate conducts a “best of” poll where readers vote on the best bars, restaurants, salons, and of course, law firms, along with plenty of other categories. To vote for your favorite businesses, including Brown, Paindiris & Scott, visit the online ballot today!

Investigative Reporting? The Strange Tale of Manti Te'o

In one of the strangest hoaxes to hit national media coverage, Heisman candidate and Notre Dame football player, Manti Te’o was apparently duped by someone he developed a relationship with online.   According to reports, Te’o never actually met his online girlfriend, who supposedly died of cancer shortly after his grandmother passed away.  Although reporters wrote stories about the hardships with which Te’o was dealing with while in the running for the Heisman, it appears that none of the reporters made significant efforts to verify the identity or story of his girlfriend.  Te’o now says that he was the victim of a cruel hoax, and that his girlfriend, who he had never met in person, actually never existed.    However, Te’o wasn’t the only one who was duped, the media was too.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Officer: Do You Like Birds?

John and Judy were driving peacefully along in upstate New York when John noticed a police officer who was operating a handheld radar device on the side of the road.  John decided to show his displeasure with the officer by extending his right arm out the window and waiving to the officer . . . with only one finger.   John and Judy were not violating any traffic laws, but upon arriving at their destination they were immediately approached by police officers.  After checking Judy’s license and registration, and having a short exchange with John, John was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct.  The criminal case was eventually dismissed on speedy trial grounds.

John brought a civil action for money damages alleging that his Constitutional rights were violated by an unlawful seizure of his person.  At the trial level, summary judgment was granted to the defendants and the case dismissed.  However, in a recent decision reversing the summary judgment of the trial court the Second Circuit held that “[t]his ancient gesture of insult [i.e. giving the middle finger] is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”  Moreover, “such a gesture alone cannot establish probable cause to believe a disorderly conduct violation has occurred [under the New York disorderly conduct law].” 

However, while John and Judy should not have been pulled over in New York, it is impossible to know if the result would have been the same here in Connecticut.  Under Connecticut law, a Breach of Peace in the Second Degree is defined as, “with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person . . . in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; . . . "[P]ublic place" means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests” while a Connecticut case dealing with an “obscene gesture” indicated that “flipping [] the bird” qualifies as one.  Thus, while New York’s disorderly conduct law may not include gesturing, the status of Connecticut’s law on the subject is arguable.  Nonetheless, it is always advisable that while you’re in Connecticut, you should show your displeasure with speed traps by simply going the speed limit!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Though the confusing and complicated nature of the “fiscal cliff” is too much for most Americans to digest, see this Pew Research Study, an important outcome of the settlement reached by Washington politicians means that homeowners who go through a short sale or foreclosure will NOT have to pay taxes on the mortgage debt forgiveness they receive. Normally, the tax code provides that forgiven debt be treated and taxed as regular income. Homeowners going through a short sale or foreclosure often find themselves with hundreds of thousands of dollars of “forgiven debt” and the tax implications would force many into even deeper financial ruin. As a result of the January 1 “fiscal cliff” deal, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was extended for one year through the end of 2013 giving a reprieve to many worried homeowners.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Washington and Colorado Voters Legalize Marijuana

President Obama was not the only big winner after November’s election—marijuana took center stage following its legalization in two states.  Voters in Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for general use, becoming the first states in the U.S. to do so. These measures are in direct conflict with federal law, which continues to outlaw marijuana as a dangerous drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  The Obama administration has signaled that federal law enforcement officials will continue to pursue trafficking and other offenses throughout the U.S.

The Colorado measure, which passed with 55% of the vote, will let residents 21 years and older grow and possess up to one ounce of marijuana.  The state will also allow marijuana sales at special stores starting in 2014.  Washington's marijuana law calls for legislators to design from scratch a homegrown industry for cultivation, processing and retailing sales of marijuana within state boundaries to people 21 or older.  The state liquor-control board will oversee licensing and inspection.
Connecticut, by comparison, recently became the 17th state to legalize marijuana for medical or “palliative” use by patients with debilitating medical conditions.  The bulk of the law went into effect on October 1, 2012.  The Department of Consumer Protection will regulate the state-licensed distribution of marijuana, which includes; licensing of producers and dispensaries, registration of patients, and determination of qualifying medical conditions.  Marijuana is also “decriminalized” in Connecticut, meaning that if caught with a half-ounce or less of marijuana, you will receive a ticket, and your marijuana will be confiscated.  The first offense is a ticket for $150, with the amount of the fine increasing for each subsequent offense.