Arlington, VA

Since launching in 2019, the Juris Master Degree Program (JM) at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School has assisted students in building professional and social connections.

The JM Degree is designed for professionals who interact with lawyers and legal issues regularly in the course of their careers. This type of program is in high demand and now offered by over half of all tier one law schools.

“We are proud to offer the Juris Master Degree Program at Scalia Law School,” said Dean Henry N. Butler. “This is an opportunity for professionals to learn the law, so they will be better equipped to provide leadership in their respective fields.”

Scalia Law’s two-year part-time program is offered at the Arlington campus, and enrollment for the January 2020 class is currently OPEN.

As listed on the JM Degree website, https://jurismaster.gmu.edu/, in addition to general legal research, writing and introductory law courses, JM students can select law school courses from six concentration areas:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Employment & Labor Relations
  • Financial & Commercial Services
  • Government Contracts & Regulations
  • Intellectual Property & Technology
  • National Security, Cybersecurity & Information Privacy

JM students can maintain employment schedules, while benefiting from the opportunities afforded by a tier-one law school.

There is a growing base of legal services and legal knowledge required by employers and the JM Degree is designed to educate students with the legal knowledge necessary for them to succeed in their chosen professions.

Applications are being accepted now. For more information about the JM degree program, please visit our website or contact Jessica L. Sartorius, Director of Juris Master (JM) Degree Program, at [email protected] or 703-993-8418.

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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Local and international police departments came together at Justice Center Plaza (1425 N. Courthouse Road) this morning (Friday) to commemorate the seven Arlington police officers who died in the line of duty.

“We’re here for a show of compassion and solidarity to those who are no longer with us,” said Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr. “There is a unique sense here — a kindred spirit that brings us together.”

The names of the officers, and the circumstances of their deaths, were read aloud as roses were placed at their memorial. The most recent was Corporal Harvey Snook III, who died in 2016 as a result of cancer contracted from rescue and recovery operations at the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks.

After the names were read, Deputy Anne Nardolilli performed an original song called “More Than a Name,” celebrating the lives of the fallen officers.

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By Personal Injury Attorney Cade Parian of The Parian Law Firm, LLC

When manufacturers sell products that are defective and people become injured or killed as a result, those manufacturers can be held liable.

This area of law is known as product liability, and it is a fairly simple concept. When manufacturers have recalled those defective products, however, the situation becomes much more complicated. If consumers are hurt, is it their fault for continuing to use a defective product? Or should manufacturers do more to ensure the safety of consumers? This is an issue that has recently been brought to light due to defective infant sleepers.

The Case of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play

The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play is a baby product meant to gently rock infants to sleep. It is positioned on an incline and has soft padding and bedding intended to make children more comfortable. It also has restraints to hold children in place. Currently, the sleeper has been recalled due to over 30 infant deaths it has caused in the country.

It is a disturbing story. To add to it, many daycare centers around the country are still using the sleeper, putting more children at risk. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Kids in Danger, one in ten of the centers they surveyed still have the sleeper and use it on a regular basis.

Who is Liable?

The story sheds light on a legal issue many people face every day. If a product has been recalled but a consumer continues to use it and becomes hurt, who is liable? Is it the manufacturer for creating a defective product, or the consumer for using a product known to be unsafe? There is no definitive answer, unfortunately.

Recalls do not automatically make a manufacturer liable. That means, even though they have admitted that there is a defect in the product, consumers cannot rely on this alone to win their case. Consumers still must prove all elements of a product liability case, including that the defect caused their injuries. Evidence must also be brought forward that helps prove their case.

However, recalls also do not mean that manufacturers are automatically immune from liability. This is because simply issuing a public recall is not enough. Manufacturers must attempt to notify consumers directly to tell them of the defect and warn them to stop using the product.

It may sound like an impossibility for manufacturers to directly reach out to all customers and make them aware of the defect. However, it is not. If companies and manufacturers can collect our information to market to us and sell us more of their products, they can certainly use that information to warn consumers and tell them of any defect in their products that could cause harm.

This may be what courts around the country will find in the coming months and years as lawsuits are brought against Fisher-Price.

Lawsuits Involving Recalled Products

Lawsuits involving recalled products are complicated, and often have their own set of rules. For example, some courts will not allow evidence of the recall to be introduced during the case, for fear that it could bias a jury. However, that does not mean these cases are impossible to win. Several lawsuits have already been filed against Fisher-Price for their dangerous rockers, including two class-actions that were filed in April of 2019.

Anyone wishing to file a lawsuit should always speak with a product liability attorney first. This becomes even more important when the product has been recalled. Manufacturers are likely to argue that they recalled the product and so, they are not liable if a consumer continues to use it. An attorney will refute these points to show that a recall is not enough. This is often a very successful strategy when manufacturers did not take extra steps to contact consumers directly.

Of course, these lawsuits can sadly never bring back the children that have died from sleeping in Fisher-Price’s product. However, they can help get the products off the shelves and out of daycare centers by shining an even brighter light on the dangers associated with the product. Clearly, recalls alone are sadly often not enough.

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By Tammy Begun of Capital Family Law Group

When one hears the term ‘college tuition,’ they may not automatically think of child custody. However, there is a story making news that has many linking one to the other. Federal authorities were put on notice last year that some wealthy parents in Illinois are giving up child custody to send their children to school. It is an extreme measure, but there is reasoning behind it.

When children apply to college, they often also apply for financial assistance at the same time. When applying for this assistance, which is typically state-funded, students must disclose their parents’ income. If their parents no longer have custody of the student, though, they are not required to disclose this information.

Financial aid officers will only take into consideration the student’s income, and not that of their parents or guardian. As such, dozens of students across the state have already gained assistance, even though their parents are affluent.

The story has made many angry across the state and country. After all, that assistance is meant to help students from low-income families. When children of parents that can afford to help with college costs do not, it takes away from those that really need it.

However, parents that relinquish custody are not breaking the law. Neither are those that assume custody of the children. The U.S. Department of Education stipulates that parents are under no obligation to contribute to their child’s education. Additionally, judges must sign off on any custody of a minor and can deny it when they do not feel it is just or in the child’s best interests. However, once a child turns 18 years old, or graduates from high school, whichever is later, there is no custody order that a court has jurisdiction over, unless the child is a disabled adult.

Sometimes, this strategy does work in favor of the child. For example, in one case wealthy parents were in the middle of a costly divorce. It would not be finalized at the time their child applied for financial assistance, meaning they would have to disclose their income. The divorce would be finalized though, by the time the child started school. The same money would not be available at that time that was a few months before the school year began. Therefore, having the student be independent could allow him or her to apply and receive financial aid.

The story has many in the state and around the country questioning what is right, and what is wrong. Parents who are wondering what the best move for them to make is should speak to a child custody lawyer who can help families understand what the best step is for them.

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By Personal Injury Attorney Mathew Saint of Saint & Associates, PLLP

Contigo has recalled approximately 5.7 million kids water bottles due to cases of defective silicone spouts detaching and causing potential choking hazards for children.

Contigo has received around 149 complaints from consumers so far. Although there have not been any injuries reported as a result of these defective spouts, 18 incidents involved the silicone spout detaching in a child’s mouth.

Children that have access to a water bottle with a defective, detachable spout are at serious risk of choking. Choking poses a significant risk to the health and safety of children. Choking refers to a partial or total blockage of the airway, preventing oxygen from entering the lungs. If a child is choking and no oxygen can get to their lungs, this child will begin to suffer significant health hazards as a direct result from choking. These hazards include permanent brain damage, which can occur when oxygen is not supplied to the brain.

These Contigo kid’s water bottles were sold nationwide at stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, as well as a variety of other retailers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges parents and caregivers to remove these bottles from children immediately. Contigo has recalled the defective lids and has offered free replacement lids if consumers complete an online form.

Product manufacturers have a responsibility to produce items that are safe for consumers to use. If a consumer suffers an injury or damages as a result of a dangerous or defective product, the manufacturer may be liable to the consumer for the injury or damages the consumer suffered.

Children’s products, such as toys and bottles, can present severe dangers to kids and can cause significant injuries or even death. Choking on a defective product, such as a faulty water bottle spout, is one type of damage that can occur.

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By Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew Lindsey of Price Benowitz, LLP

There is good news for suspended drivers in Virginia!

In July of 2019, Governor Ralph Northam announced that residents would no longer have their licenses suspended for unpaid fines and court costs. Since that time, 34,545 Virginians have had their driver’s licenses reinstated. It is one small step that improves the licensing system in the state, and will continue to restore driving freedom to thousands.

Many may not think that having a suspended driver’s license is anything more than an inconvenience. However, the rule that a license could be suspended over unpaid fines is disproportionately unfair and damaging to lower-income individuals. These are the same individuals that desperately need to get to work, but cannot due to the fact that they do not have a valid driver’s license.

This was exactly the inequality Governor Northam was attempting to stop with the new law. He also pointed to the fact that it would benefit Virginia’s economy as a whole. Not only does the new law give people their licenses back, but it also makes it easier for them to resolve their unpaid court balances and administrative fees.

Prior to the new legislation, those wishing to get their driver’s license back were required to pay a $145 reinstatement fee. Now, those that had their licenses suspended due to unpaid fines or court costs are no longer required to pay these expenses. Those that had their licenses suspended for any other reason still need to pay the normal restoration fee after their court balance are resolved.

It is important for anyone who gets their license back to understand that reinstatement does not relieve them of their separate legal responsibilities. Anyone with unpaid fines or court costs still has an obligation to pay those costs.

Now that they can get back to work, the hope is that the new law makes it easier for them to do just that, showing once again that this law is a win all around.

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By Medical Malpractice Attorney John H. Fisher of John H. Fisher, PC

When patients suffer from medical negligence, they can file a lawsuit and receive compensation for damages in a court of law, unless you are an active service member in the United States military.

For the 1.3 million active duty military, Feres legal doctrine prevents medical malpractice lawsuits from being filed against the United States government. While one case recently tried — and failed — to challenge the law by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, there has been a push to grant our military members the same justice and rights as citizens.

On March 9, 2014, Lt. Rebekah “Moani” Daniel died four hours after giving birth to her daughter, Victoria, at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, where Lt. Daniel lost more than a third of her body’s volume of blood from post-partum hemorrhaging.

As a result of the 69-year-old Feres doctrine, Lt. Daniel and her heirs are prohibited from seeking justice by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against military personnel or military medical facilities. Lt. Daniels’ widower, Walter Daniel, alleges medical malpractice in his wife’s death and has been arguing that fact in the lower courts.

Feres v. United States is a landmark 1950 case that established service members or their families cannot file medical malpractice claims. Feres is an archaic law and one that several Supreme Court justices have denounced over the years. Originally, the law was only meant to keep troops from filing a claim if they were hurt as a result of combat, not when they were removed from combat settings. Mr. Daniel has not been successful in overturning the Feres doctrine after the Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

For now, the Feres doctrine remains intact. “It is a disgrace that the country does not provide justice for the men and women who risk their lives for our nation every day,” says John Fisher of John H. Fisher, PC. “This case deserved to be heard by the Supreme Court, and it is tragic that it was not. This means that our troops will continue to be denied justice while serving our country.”

The Military Health System has changed dramatically in the 69 years since Feres was first adopted. While Mr. Daniel’s petition may have resulted in failure, advocates for overturning the Feres doctrine are calling for a change that will grant U.S. service members the same rights as those they protect.

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By Criminal Defense Attorney Floyd Oliver of Price Benowitz LLP

In June, Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Press.

It called for the state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession and to stop sending innocent people to jail. The letter received bipartisan support, which means Virginia could see decriminalization very soon.

“It is about time,” said Floyd Oliver of Price Benowitz. “Every time legalization occurs in another state, it makes Virginia’s laws look more and more outdated. The Attorney General was absolutely correct. It is time to stop disproportionally targeting African Americans, which is what the current law does, and stop sending anyone to jail that does not deserve to be there.”

The plea from the Attorney General comes at a time when marijuana possession convictions are increasing in Virginia. In 2003, approximately 13,000 Virginians were arrested on marijuana possession charges. In 2017, almost 28,000 people faced charges, an increase of 115 percent.

Those charged face harsh penalties, too. Even a first offense misdemeanor charge could land a person in jail for up to 30 days, and they could be required to pay a fine of $500. A second offense, even for a small amount of marijuana, has consequences of up to a full year in jail and fines up to $2,500.

Those convictions are costing Virginians approximately $81 million a year in additional taxes. However, the social cost is much greater than that. Like in many other states across the country, possession laws seem to target individuals of color.

From 2007 to 2016, the Virginia Crime Commission reports, African Americans saw the most arrests. In fact, they made up 46 percent of all possession arrests.

This is not the first time the idea of decriminalization has been raised in Virginia. Last year, Virginia’s Senate Majority Leader, Thomas K. Norment, Jr. sponsored a proposed bill that would decriminalize the drug, but that effort failed. Now, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushing for decriminalization, it may just be the time to end the unfair criminal charges.

Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. If a new law decriminalizing the drug was passed, those found in possession of marijuana would still face penalties. However, those consequences would be much less severe and would likely be the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

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By Estate Planning Attorney Steve Novak of Estate & Probate Legal Group, Ltd.

Estate planning is important, but it also becomes very challenging when certain factors are present.

In January, TD Wealth held their 53rd Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. Attorneys, trust officers, insurance experts and accountants were in attendance. Of these, 105 were asked about the biggest issues that can crop up during estate planning. The three factors these professionals identified included family conflict, market volatility and tax reform.

“These are definitely some of the biggest issues we see in our office,” says Steve Novak of Estate & Probate Legal Group. “It is for these reasons, and more, that it is so important to have an attorney by your side when estate planning. An attorney can help settle all of these issues swiftly, and ensure an estate plan is enforceable, and properly represents the individual’s best interests.”

Among all the many factors the respondents stated could present problems during estate planning, family conflict was number one. The most common type of this conflict is designating beneficiaries.

Some family members may be unhappy with who was chosen, or how much of a share they were gifted. While this may tempt some not to tell their family about their estate plan, failing to communicate the plan with family members was another form of family conflict the participants stated could cause a problem with estate planning.

Somewhat surprisingly, volatile markets can also bring complications to estate planning. Some want to gift beneficiaries with something that will be long-lasting, but short-term fluctuations can cause those making the plan real cause for concern.

Lastly, the major overhaul to tax law in 2017 is now playing a major role in estate planning. With increases in the federal gift and estate tax exemption, more people are starting to place assets they would like to gift into trusts.

This allows the gift to be considered the beneficiary’s and theirs alone. If a child goes through a divorce later in life, a trust will make it clear that it was separate property and so, protect that family member in the future.

Unfortunately, these are just the three main issues that arise most often during estate planning. They are also the biggest reasons anyone creating an estate plan should speak with an attorney that can help.

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By Personal Injury Attorney John M. Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

The numbers are in and it is now official. Virginia has a distracted driving problem.

A study was conducted by road safety company, ZenDrive, places Virginia at the top of the list for the most distracted drivers in the entire country. Maryland was tenth while the District of Columbia came in at 17. So, what is the problem in Virginia? Why does this state have so many distracted drivers?

“Our laws are too loose on the matter. It’s just that simple,” says John M. Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “When police officers essentially cannot enforce a law, it is a useless law and people will not abide by it. This is a main reason there are so many distracted drivers on Virginia’s roads.”

How could a law be the problem when Virginia actually does ban texting and driving? It is because that is all the law bans. In Virginia, people can do whatever they want with their phones while they are behind the wheel, as long as they do not text or email. They can still use their GPS, watch videos, browse social media and even play games.

This makes enforcing the ban on texting and driving extremely difficult. Officers can pull a driver over if they see them on their phone, but those drivers can simply claim they were using their phone for another purpose. Without a new law banning all use of handheld devices, the problem is only going to grow.

That is just one problem surrounding distracted driving in Virginia. The other, perhaps much bigger problem, is that many drivers do not fully understand just how dangerous their behavior is. Without that realization, particularly if the law remains as it is, there is no reason for these ‘phone addicts’ to put the phone down while they are driving.

Unfortunately, that means more car accidents, and more lives taken on Virginia’s roads. Clearly, the Commonwealth needs a new law that will save those lives and reduce the number of crashes that are seen year after year.

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