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Take A Legal Look 2010

African American news - commentary on the annual CAALA conventionEach year I joined with thousands of California lawyers at the annual California Attorneys of Los Angeles Convention in Las Vegas (CAALA). Last week the 2010 convention was held and, as in the past, it conducts classes and seminars which were inspiring and enlightening as it focuses on lawyer's sharpening our skills in the area of law we practice.

This year the annual three day event included information of loan modification rules, and even though I don't practice in this area the information was informative. New information always allows us to serve our clients better.

One piece of information I picked up was the fact that the law does not allow lawyers or others to take advanced fees on loans. In effect, those who assist with the loan modification must wait on the process to be completed before they get paid. As a note of caution just because you can get a loan on your home doesn't mean you should. Your home is not only your castle. It generally is the largest asset you own and there are lenders out there who would like to get their hands on it and put their names on the title instead of yours. If you are blessed enough to get a piece of property, keep it.

There are exceptions to this rule such a reverse mortgage. If you are over sixty, own your property and need income, this procedure allows you to sign a right of repayment or ownership over to a lender in exchange for a loan of a monthly income. You pay no more monthly payments. Instead the lender pays you. When you pass, your heirs owe the amount of the loan, but because the interest is high, often they can lose the property.

This was the first year that the convention looked extensively at rights under the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act, commonly known as ADA. This area of law, which celebrates its twentieth year anniversary, deals with laws that require equal access for disabled people to public accommodations. The public accommodations include stores, restaurants, hotels, public sidewalks, and any public facility that has barriers to disabled people gaining access.

This area of the law is important because the burden of getting things done is generally on the disabled person. They are denied access to places that non-disabled persons take for granted. A friend and former client reminds me that public bathrooms, movies, or busses are just some of the areas and places that must be modified by law to allow access to the disabled.

The law is available for a lawsuit under what is known as a Title III Discrimination, if the following situation exists: (1) a person is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the defendant (person to be sued) is a private entity that owns, leases or operates a place of public accommodation; and (3) a disabled person (plaintiff) was denied access or public accommodation by the defendant entity because of plaintiff's disability.

In addition to these special areas, the CAALA convention always concentrates on how we as lawyers can help those who have been the victims of negligent acts of others such as auto accidents, wrongful deaths of loved ones, and other life changing events. The pain and losses caused by someone being careless or violating the law are not cured by the recovery of money damages but make life more bearable.

These conferences remind me that over my twenty eight years of practicing law I can say I have helped hundreds of people and families get through rough legal times from simple auto accidents to the death of a loved one. In one case a family lost three children when a tow truck hit their car. In another case a careless and insensitive security guard for a bowling alley picked a fight with the father of two little girls. The settlement gave them more than a million dollars paid out over the years that they went through to finished college and a life income to the mother and wife.

In another memorable case against the LA County Sheriff and a schizophrenic person on north Fair Oaks, a deputy admitted on the witness stand that when he approached my client he screamed at him, "freeze N----r or I will beat your a-s." The client who was mentally in his own world heard it and turned, and took the cops gun and emptied it in the air. He threw the empty gun over a fence and continued walking up the alley near what was then Johnny Drawn's liquor store. The sheriff then got up off the ground, his partner then shot my client in the back, wounding him. The client was charged with attempted murder, the jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. I then sued the Sheriff for shooting him in the back and got him a settlement.

Handling employment discrimination cases, including ADA cases and sexual harassment cases has been a special source of pride for me. Over the years I have been able to win verdicts and/or settle cases worth millions for employees who have been discriminated against on their job. As the beat of life goes on people have not stopped discriminating; they just become more adept at hiding it. As lawyers we must keep our skills sharp in doing what we do. Some people say we do God's work when we take on a case to help those who have been injured or wronged. I still love what I do, and I do believe that this is God's work; helping others.


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