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January 18, 2016

Marriage or fiancee visa?

Written by Alex Roshuk
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Many times we get calls from individuals wishing to sponsor their “significant other” to come to the United States.  A common question is: should I marry my girlfriend (or boyfriend) before they come here, or should I get them a fiance (fiancee) visa? Usually the question is: which is faster?

The first thing one should consider is: do I want to marry before my future spouse is able to enter the United States? While some are able to come here while their green card visas are processing,  it is not always possible to travel to the U.S. during this period which can be from six months to several years in length.  While individuals from visa waiver program countries may be able to enter the US without a visa they face an examination by the immigration officer at the port of entry.  For some the only way to enter the country is to obtain a K visa as a B visa (tourist/business) may be very difficult to obtain to overcome thepresumption of immigrant intent in section 214 the Immigration and Nationality Act.

US Citizen fiance(e) visa I-129F petition

If you apply for the K visa petition, I-129F, you can check the processing time through the California Service Center or Vermont Service Center through this link to the USCIS website. These dates are from the issuance of a I-797 Receipt Notice (usually a few days after the complete petition is received by them). This does not include time for RFE cases (Request for Evidence) which sometimes occur. These processing times are updated every month.

Once your petition is approved it will then go to the National Visa Center of the State Department and then get transferred to the overseas consular section in the US Embassy. While K visas are considered “non-immigrant” (NIV) under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) they are usually processed by the IV Unit in most consular sections because the same kind of documentation that is required with IV processing is required with K visa processing such as medical exams and police clearances.  At most US Embassy websites there is information about immigrant visa processing. Some even provide interview dates listed according to the State Department file numbering system (different that the USCIS filing system).

I-130 US Citizen Spouse Petition

If you check the USCIS processing times for the I-130 immediate family relative petition to see if the filing times are the same at the time of filing. Once again, after this petition is approved it is sent to the National Visa Center. In the case of a marriage visa petition the State Department contacts the US citizen petitioner and you will have to send the NVC the I-864, fee and tax returns. Once that has been approved by the NVC the file is forwarded to the consular section for review and processing.

The actual length of time from the point the papers leave USCIS to the issuance of a visa are not standard, that depends on the consular section’s backlog, name and FBI background checks on the applicant (this is standard procedure) and local procedures and scheduling. It can take from four months to several years, though after a year we usually contact the local congressperson or senator and ask their immigration case worker liaison with the State Department to make inquires into why the delay is taking so long.

The K3/4 Visa for Married Petitioners

It is also possible once the I-130 petition is filed to also file a I-129F petition and there are times when the I-129F petition can reach the Embassy before the I-130 petition. In this case the K visa is a multiple entry visa and allows the beneficiary to enter the United States prior to the issuance of the green card. This may seem like an added expense, but if processing times of K visas are much shorter than immediate relative petitions under I-130 it may be prudent to apply for both at the beginning of the petition process.

Resources: Long Island Divorce Lawyer – Law Offices Of Jay D. Raxenberg, P.C.

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February 1, 2017

Georgia Personal Injury Law Help

Written by Alex Roshuk
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A recent report showed that trampoline park injuries are increasing across the country. Trampoline parks are indoor facilities that provide numerous trampolines and other types of entertainment. They are popular for birthday parties and other events. Often, the entire floor of a section of a trampoline park will be made of trampoline material—allowing kids the opportunity to hop and bounce all over. Many adults often enjoy these parks as well, as many parks advertise workout programs or other events targeted toward older customers. Unfortunately, many trampoline parks are inherently dangerous, and kids and adults alike may suffer serious injuries.

 

Trampoline Parks: Fun or Dangerous?

 

Trampoline parks are a popular recreational activity. As of 2014, over 345 parks had opened across the country. Trampoline parks are often large and feature numerous areas of trampolines for guests to jump on, as well as other activities like foam pits. In many trampoline parks, guests are able to jump across spans of 50 feet. However, our Georgia personal injury lawyer has reported that close to 100,000 injuries are reported in trampoline parks every year, ranging from bruises and muscle soreness to more serious injuries such as spinal fractures and paralysis. One frightening statistic showed that there were 22 deaths tied to trampoline parks from 2000 to 2009.

 

Why do so many injuries occur in trampoline parks?

 

There are no federal regulations that apply specifically to trampoline parks. Only two states, Michigan and Arizona, have specific laws that apply to trampoline parks. The trampoline park industry currently regulates itself, but many safety guidelines are actually voluntary. The trampoline park industry argues that every type of physical activity is risky in its own way.

 

At trampoline parks, falls are a common culprit for injuries. Many individuals fall on the padded borders between trampoline areas, which can be pretty hard. Other injuries occur when several people jump on a trampoline at one time, or when they attempt to flip in the air.

 

Liability waivers

 

Trampoline parks require guests to sign a waiver before they may participate in any activities. Some of these liability waivers excuse a trampoline park from serious injuries or death. Some individuals may not fully understand what they are signing and may feel pressured to quickly sign the document.

 

However, in some situations, an individual may be able to sue even if a liability waiver was signed. For example, if the language of the waiver was ambiguous, the waiver may be ineffective. The waiver must clearly describe the situations in which the trampoline park will not be liable for any injuries.

 

Additionally, if the waiver hides important language, it may also be ineffective. If you sign a document but do not see a sentence in the waiver because it is in a very small font, or if it is hidden in some other way, the waiver may not stand.

 

Finally, a trampoline park cannot waive liability for gross negligence or intentional acts. For example, if an employee in the trampoline park pushes another individual, and that individual falls and breaks his arm, the trampoline park could be liable because pushing is an intentional act. Similarly, if an employee notices a toddler in the play area and fails to either remove the toddler or notify the toddler’s parents that the area is not safe for young children, the trampoline park may face liability if the toddler is subsequently injured.

 

Although many guests do enjoy trampoline parks without issue, the risk of injury is high. With the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney, injured victims may be able to recover damages against trampoline parks.

 

Sources:

 

https://www.montlick.com

 

http://abcnews.go.com/US/big-bounce-trampoline-parks-puts-safety-spotlight/story?id=30551552
https://www.cpsc.gov/About-CPSC/Agency-Reports/CPSC-Accomplishments-from-2009-2012/

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January 28, 2017

Important Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney

Written by Alex Roshuk
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Whether you experience a dog bite, fall on the wet floor of a grocery store, or a rear-ender while stopped at a red light, you will have to deal with insurance companies and legal challenges. An experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyer can help you protect your legal rights and strive for the fullest financial recovery. Although competent legal advice can have a significant impact on the outcome of your personal injury lawsuit, there are important questions to ask a prospective attorney when you visit for your initial consultation. Our Boca Raton personal injury lawyers have suggested some specific questions that you might want to ask.

How long have you been practicing law in Florida?

While a newly licensed attorney might have enthusiasm, the skills and expertise needed to be an effective personal injury lawyer are acquired from effectively dealing with insurance companies and the complexities of the civil litigation process on a daily basis. Although experience constitutes a valuable factor in the evaluation of a potential attorney, attorneys who have been practicing law for many years might be burned out or bored. In other words, experience provides a starting point when evaluating lawyers, but other factors also must be carefully considered.

Have you ever been the subject of professional discipline?

If an attorney has engaged in conduct that resulted in revocation or suspension of his or her professional license, this should raise major red flags. While a record of discipline does not automatically disqualify the attorney, you should ask about the situation and the resolution. The lawyer might have a good explanation for the discipline, but you might want to steer clear if the explanation does not ring true.

How many personal injury or wrongful death cases have you taken to trial?

Although most personal injury claims settle before trial, this does not mean that trial experience is not a relevant consideration when evaluating a law firm. Insurance companies know which attorneys take cases simply to posture for settlement with no intention of preparing for trial. The cost of defending a case that precedes to a bench or jury trial provides a strong incentive for the insurance company to offer a reasonable settlement. If the attorneys for the insurance company know that the attorney for an injury victim does not have the experience or desire to take a lawsuit to trial, the insurance company will offer far less in the settlement.

How will your firm handle my personal injury claim?

If you have suffered serious injury because of the careless acts of an individual, company, or government entity, your experience can be very frustrating when your case is shuffled off to an associate, or you cannot speak to your attorney to get your questions answered. When you retain an attorney, you want the lawyer to be knowledgeable and accessible about the status and developments in your case. Why would you want to interview someone who will not even be handling your lawsuit?

How do your peers rate you?

Peer evaluations by other lawyers especially other personal injury lawyers provides an informed opinion about the professionalism, legal knowledge, and timely communication of an attorney. There are services that evaluate and rate lawyers with many including peer review as an important or exclusive part of the evaluation process. For example, the highest “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell is based primarily on the evaluation of peers.

What will you need from me if you take our case?

The attorneys at our law firm view the attorney-client relationship as a partnership. The effectiveness of this collaboration depends on timely communication and consultation on many issues. Our attorneys understand we need to know you to effectively explain your story. While it might be straightforward to list your medical expenses or lost wages to a jury, explaining the impact of an accident on your daily life requires an understanding of your quality of life before and after an accident. We take the time to learn about you, so we can help a judge or jury feel the full impact of your injuries. Communication is essential throughout the process of conducting litigation, such as responding to discovery requests from the defendants.

How much will it cost to retain your law firm?

Our law firm does not charge an hourly rate or flat fee to represent personal injury victims. We handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This attorney fee arrangement means that we do not receive attorney fees unless we obtain a recovery for our clients. If the case results in a verdict or settlement, our attorney fees will be a percentage of the recovery from the defendants.

If you need to retain a personal injury or wrongful death attorney, our attorneys offer a free case evaluation. We strive to maximize the compensation our clients obtain, so contact us 24/7 at 561-777-7700 or online for a free case review to see how we can help. The Shiner Law Group represents personal injury and wrongful death victims in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, and throughout the surrounding counties.

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January 5, 2017

Marital and Separate Property

Written by Alex Roshuk
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On August 15, 2010 Governor Paterson announced that he had signed several bills significantly reforming New York State’s Domestic Relations Law. The first bill, A.9753A/S.3890 creates a “non-consensual” “no-fault” grounds for divorce. New York has long had “no fault” by consent, where both spouses agree by contract to get divorced and must wait a year after the contract is executed to apply for a divorce under D.R.L. sec. 170(6) commonly called a conversion divorce. This new law adds a subsection to D.R.L. Sec. 170(7) which states, (in part) that the Supreme Court can grant a divorce when: “The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath.” The law goes into effect 60 days after the date the governor signed it (October 12, 2010) and only applies to those actions for divorce started on that day or later. The new law also states that no divorce will be granted under the new grounds “unless and until” the economic issues of equitable distribution of marital property, payment or waiver of spousal support, child support, counsel, expert fees and expenses and custody and visitation of children has been resolved between the parties or determined by the Court and incorporated into the judgment of divorce.

The other laws signed by the Governor amend the divorce law to strengthen a party’s ability to seek an award interim spousal support and attorney fees at the beginning of an action, rather than the end.  One law (A.10984/S.8390 and A11576/S.8391) creates a presumption that that will revise the process for setting awards of temporary maintenance while a divorce is pending, by creating a formula and list of factors that presumptively governs such awards, a scheme similar to the Child Support Standards Act. This change should result in a speedy resolution of the maintenance issue once litigation has begun and prevent a less well-off party in to divorce proceedings from falling into poverty during litigation because they lack the resources to obtain a temporary maintenance order. For situations where one spouse makes $500,000 or less (subject to annual COLA adjustments) the formula is basically the lower of two amounts, (A) thirty percent of the payor minus twenty percent of the potential payee spouse or (B) forty percent of the sum of both spouses income minus the payee spouse’s income. If A-B is zero or less, interim maintenance shall be zero. The court may deviate from this formula and, as in the Child Support Standards Act, the “self support reserve” is the lower level cutoff factor for the payor’s resultant net income after maintenance is deducted.

The final law (A7569-A/S4532-A) creates a presumption that the spouse with less money in a divorce case is entitled to payment of attorneys’ fees at the beginning of litigation. Under current law, a party that cannot afford to secure representation in a divorce proceeding is often forced to make an application for fees at the end of the process, which can force a poor individual to proceed without a lawyer, or to not fight for their rights due to lack of means or legal support as many lawyers are not willing to wait to receive their legal fees after years of litigation.

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March 17, 2016

Wikipedia Dispute Resolution

Written by Alex Roshuk
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Putting my last name into Google a few days ago, I found an article recently published in volume 59(1) of the Emery Law Journal regarding the role of dispute resolution in the collaborative online production of the EnglishWikipedia project. As the article mentions in detail (pgs. 166-170), I had a role in the policy discussion that lead to establishing mediation and arbitration procedures on the English language Wikipedia. The article examines how game theory can be used to analyze dispute resolution mechanisms and how a statistical analysis shows that the Wikipedia dispute resolution system has a normative effect not on the content of the English language Wikipedia project, but by “weeding out” problematic users, on the behavior of Wikipedians. This is an interesting analysis, however the problem that I see with the dispute resolution process is not that it weeds out problematic users, but that it does not function to teach these users how to be good volunteers. While I originally suggested in the fall of 2003 that Wikipedia have a structured dispute resolution process, instead of making this process simple and straightforward, ADR atWikipedia has become a complex system that has all kinds of hard to understand rules.

Perhaps it is the management of this dispute resolution process (or lack thereof) is what has caused or contributed to a lot of Wikipedia users leaving the project and the ripple effect this system has on the general behavior of editors and administrators whose behavior is mediated by this process. As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal has shown there are many individual editors who are leaving Wikipedia. Felipe Ortega, a researcher working at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, feels “Wikipedia is becoming a more hostile environment … Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again.”

Another study by a group of researchers known as The Augmented Social Cognition Research Group at the Xerox founded PARC (Palo Alto Research Center, which is known for inventing laser printing, the ethernet and the graphical user interface – GUI)  suggest that the slowdown in volunteers atWikipedia may be due to “wiki-lawyering barriers” which have generally been linked to the development of the dispute resolution process. Today in order to be a successful volunteer editor at Wikipedia one must master numerous principles. There are even books available to assist the newbie in this quest.

When I suggested mediation and arbitration as being a way to resolve disputes between volunteers my background was the extensive research I had done while a law student and graduate history student at McGill University in Montreal into the legal history of alternative dispute resolution dating back to Roman times under the guidance of law Professor John E.C. Brierley and historian Brian Young. When the King of France has established the colony of New France, lawyers were not allowed to practice in this colony and the Intendant, the colonial governor, was given the traditional “high” jurisdiction that had been granted to many overlords or seigneurs in ancien régime feudal property law but the only advocates for those brought before this police power were not given the benefit of Parisian trained avocats, as the King had forbade any law practice in this colony. Most minor disputes in New France were “negotiated” between parties by the local Catholic priest or the notaire who registered contracts, land transfers and dealt with wills and inheritances but had no right of representation before any court, provincial or metropolitan. New France, and later Lower Canada, had originally developed a means of extrajudicial dispute resolution.My experiences as a solo practitioner in Brooklyn had also emphasized to me the importance of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences. In the last five years my work as an court appointed Arbitrator in the Small Claims Part of New York City Civil Court has shown me that a minimum of procedure is often the best way at getting to the legal issues expediously with fairness and a sense of natural justice.

After seeing the discussion develop at Wikipedia in the fall of 2003 I saw that there were a lot of people who misunderstood the idea of arbitration, They wanted to make it something formal, like a Wikipedia court system, the ArbCom, as it was called became a place where someone could obtain status in the Wikipedia community, originally by being appointed by Mr. James “Jimbo” Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, and later by election. When I suggested this kind of system my intention was to get people to talk, mostly through mediation by a neutral third party, to come to a mutual understanding that editors were all contributing knowledge, not fighting against each other to be “right” or “wrong”. Even though I was given the opportunity to participate in the formal dispute resolution system I opted to remain apart from it and instead to start a voluntary association within Wikipedia called the Association of Members Advocates.

The original idea of this Association was to get volunteers who understood the complexities of the system to help individuals who had disputes and to help them understand the dispute resolution system and assist them to get through these disputes so that they could remain valuable contributors. Our belief was that all volunteers should be encouraged to learn how to contribute and not be driven away from Wikipedia by legalities. As a Wikipedia group were were the first group to have a democratic election amongst our members that actually occurred on the Wikipedia talk pages. The organization existed for several years and I tried to help it continue, and I felt it did assist users in understanding dispute resolution at Wikipedia but finally a group of administrators “deleted” the organization, i.e. refused to allow Wikipedians to use the talk pages to help people understand the dispute resolution process!!! There were people who criticized it and wrongly stated, in my opinion, that the organization was bureaucratic, unhelpful and prone to wikilawyering. I couldn’t disagree more, we had very little structure, many of the people who used our services stated they were significantly helped in understanding dispute resolution better and most of our volunteers were not involved in arbitration, but mostly mediation, as most disputes were solved on that level. I think the reason it was closed was because it was a threat to those who wanted the dispute resolution system to be complex and difficult to navigate so that newbies would lose and long time contributors could use it to buttress their position within the community. Today there are dozens of “associations” that have copied the basic structure that I first established for having a group within Wikimedia and they debate all kinds of issues such as “inclusionism” and “exclusionism” but do little to change the difficulties that have developed in editing Wikipedia or provide support for people who wish to contribute by find the rules to daunting and complex to the point of absurdity.

After starting the Association of Members Advocates and trying to develop a group of volunteers I left the organization to allow others to run it, and partly because the volunteers could not find anyone else to run the organization it shut down — there was no one left to defend it. I also left Wikipedia and Wikimediaat the end of 2006 after a decision was made to change the organization from a membership to an elite organization run by people mostly appointed by those who started it and continued to control it. I personally became frustrated by the cult-like jargon of Wikipedians, the trite slogans that would be repeated by people who disagreed with someone and refused to discuss real issues, the lack of basic common sense on many levels that I repeatedly experienced, and the obvious wish to use the money that I and other Wikipedians helped raise to fuel staff who were not interested in working with volunteers since they were “professionals” being paid to “run” the Wikimedia Foundation. How ironic that the one thing of value that Wikipedia has, volunteers, are being driven away by institutional forces. I seen this before Wikipedia in other successful organizations, it is easy for people with money to loose sight of their origins.

Like most of the volunteers, I never made a penny from Wikipedia, was never paid for all the legal work I did either in the various projects relating to copyright and open source licensing issues, or to help the Foundation (in areas such as trademark, tax-exempt organizations law and charities registrations) nor even reimbursed for my out of pocket expenses and I am proud of that fact; I was not corrupted by money or success. I just wanted to help what I thought was a community volunteer group. When I was volunteering I never thought it would become a bureaucracy with dozens of employees who essentially get paid thanks to the many anonymous volunteers who contribute to Wikipedia projects.

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February 18, 2016

Google Scholar Free Legal Research

Written by Alex Roshuk
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Google Scholar has made freely available a searchable database of US legal cases. in a blog post on the Official Google Blog the details of this great new development have been found.  According to Google, “We think this addition toGoogle Scholar will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all.” Case citations will often being clickable (as inWestlaw or Lexis) and a “cases cited” function, similar to the manual “shepardizing” of cases many of us learnt in law school will find cases in the newGoogle database that cite the case your are searching. The database also includes links to various legal journals, though when I tried to click through to results, often only the first page of the journal was available, some kind of paid scholar research account was necessary to retrieve the full article. The coverage will initially include eighty years (80) of federal case law, including Supreme Court decisions from the founding of the Republic, and fifty (50) years of state case law. You can access Google Scholar case law here (will open in a new window).

Will this bring down the cost of Lexis and Westlaw? Probably not as they still monopolize digital access to many of the legal treatises that provides specialized legal knowledge to practitioners in various specialty areas.

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