CPLS Attorney James W. Smith III has been invited to speak at University of Florida Levin School of Law’s Friday Colloquia Introduction to Lawyering Colloquium program this Friday, September 26, 2014 at 1:00pm and 2:00pm. The UF Levin School of Law Introduction to Lawyering program acquaints students with the defining attributes of the legal profession including a code of ethics and assumption of duties to clients, the justice system, and society. The program focuses on the evolving nature of legal services, types of law practices, and demographics of the legal profession and the skills required for law practice.
Archive for the ‘CPLS, P.A. NEWS’ Category
Attorney Tee Persad presents “How to start you own business – a legal perspective” at OCLS Southeast BranchTuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Attorney Tee Persad of CPLS, P.A. shares valuable insights on starting a business in Orlando, one of the top innovative business hubs for entrepreneurs in Central Florida. Attendees learned about the legal forms need for a business, the different components to consider when starting a business and seven key steps to forming a successful business in Florida.
Click image to listen to audio recording.
Legal research software is essential to the successful running of any law firm. For this reason it is extremely important that you chose the right software for your firm. When making the decision on what research software was right for us, CPLS, P.A. created a Legal Research Software Comparison chart to compare features side by side and assist with the selection process. When selecting a research tool you should make sure that your attorneys are trained and comfortable using it in order to get the best results.
Westlaw and Lexis are the two powerhouses when it comes to legal research due to their large databases of information and their advanced citation tools. This is reflected in their high pricing. Bloomberg Law is the next largest legal research provider; and although its sources are not as vast as Lexis or Westlaw, it is considered the best research tool for business/corporate law due to the resources and information it has access to from other Bloomberg services.
If you are a smaller firm or a sole practitioner, you may want to use the legal research software that is associated with your State Bar Association to do the brunt of your research in order to cut down on costs. These types of software are often included with your Bar Membership and have very cheap rates if they are not. Casemaker and Fastcase are the two most popular of these kinds of legal research tools. While they do not have the same database size as Westlaw or the same citation tools as Lexis, they do offer a comparable mix of these types of tools and resources.
When selecting research software for your firm, it is always important to remember that there are plenty of free tools that are available for you to get your research started. Tools such as Google Scholar and Lexis Web can significantly drop the costs associated with your research by being a first stop in the process. While these types of tools are great for starting your legal research, they are not enough to complete it. Regardless of the legal research software that your firm decides to go with, the most cost effective way to do legal research for your firm is to start with the free tools available to you and advance to the higher cost tools only when necessary.
We are pleased to announce that CPLS, P.A. law firm attorneys have been featured in the February 2014 Issue Brazilusa Magazine!
Brazilusa Magazine is a monthly publication that serves as the go-to guide for Brazilians living abroad in the United States. Brazilusa Magazine has a mission to serve the Brazilian community in whole by covering the major news events in Brazil, as well as providing local Orlando information about events, tips, interviews, and more. Brazilusa Magazine services over 270,000 people in Brazilian community of Florida.
CPLS, P.A. was the main feature for Brazilusa Magazine’s February 2014 edition. CPLS,P.A. is a law firm located in downtown Orlando, Florida and is a full service law firm that offers a broad range of legal services to individuals, small businesses, and multi-national corporations. Our firm represents clients in Florida, throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
To view the digital version of the February 2014 issue of the magazine, please visit Brazilusa Magazine February 2104 Issue.
Debtors engaged in business who file for relief under the Bankruptcy Code usually list the value of their business enterprises a $0.00. Usually, this is because their businesses are typically saddled with debt which exceeds the value of their business’ assets, leaving the business with a negative book value. However, this value is typically not the true value of the business. In many instances the business has a customer base, sufficient cash flow to meet its needs and pay the debtor a salary or draws, have strong relationships developed over the years with vendors and suppliers, and have developed and tested management systems in place. Therefore, the true value of the business may likely be substantially different than book value under alternative and more accepted valuation methods. However, since many bankruptcy trustees only rely upon book value because they are paid on the value of assets they recover and liquidate, they do not challenge the valuation given by the debtors. Many debtors involved in businesses know this and use it to their advantage, causing the creditors, who typically understand the true value of the businesses, to negotiate with the debtors and their counsels directly. This negotiation typically lead to the parties entering into a settlement agreement where the debtor makes various promises in exchange for the creditor not challenging the value of the business and not challenging the debtor’s discharge based on fraud upon the court, or other grounds.
Creditors should be aware, however, that entering into a settlement agreement and taking the debtor’s promise to abide by its terms are not enough to protect their interests. A case before the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida illustrates this point. A debtor filed for relief under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code in 2009. This debtor and another family member operated several businesses in Florida, with assets in excess of several million dollars, and income in the millions. His only major creditor filed a claim for over one million dollars and objected to the debtor’s discharge. This creditor also sued the debtor’s family member, who was also his business partner, on a note with a balance due in principal and interest of over on million dollars. With the aid of the debtor’s attorney, the creditor, his partner, and his attorney negotiated an agreement, which, by its terms was not a debt, in whole or in part, that was subject to the chapter 7 case, but was owed by the debtor’s partner. The debtor and partner signed and complied with the settlement agreement for two years, then stopped paying the creditor. The debtor subsequently filed for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code and argued that the settlement agreement was invalid. The Creditor filed an adversary proceeding in the 2009 chapter 7 case to determine the validity of the agreement. Despite the following facts, the court ruled that the agreement was invalid as to the debtor because the agreement was not filed with the court or approved by the court: 1) the debtor provided false information on his chapter 7 petition as to the value of the businesses, his residence, transfers of shares of stock and membership interests in various businesses, and in his statement of financial affairs; 2) the debtor testified that the consideration for the debt was in whole for the obligation his partner owed to the creditor; 3) the debtor and his partner was allowed to operate the businesses and collect hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the agreement; 4) the debtor signed over his interest in the companies to the creditor and turned over the stocks to the creditor; 5) the debtor provided false information in his new chapter 11 case.
The lesson here is that creditors of debtors who file for relief under the bankruptcy code and operate a business should not be satisfied with the debtor’s promises, even if those promises are journalized in a settlement agreement signed by the debtor. The creditor must have the debtor’s attorney sign off on the agreement physically, file the agreement with the bankruptcy court, and have the agreement approved. All of this must be done before the creditor withdraws its claims, motions and other papers and voluntarily dismisses its adversary proceedings against the debtor.
For more information on how to negotiate with debtors who own a business and seek to discharge the debt they owe to you in bankruptcy while maintaining their business, please call Attorney Persad at 407-647-7887 or email him at email@example.com.
Is a state law that is preempted from enforcement against national banks also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State, State banks? That was the question in Baptista v. PNC Bank, 91 So. 3d 230 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).
RBC Bank was a North Carolina bank. One of its account holders wrote a check to Ms. Baptista. Ms. Baptista went to one of RBC’s branches in Florida, and presented the check for payment. Ms. Baptista did not have an account at RBC. The teller charged Ms. Baptista a $5.00 check-cashing fee.
However, Florida Statutes, section 655.85 provides that “an institution may not settle any check drawn on it otherwise than at par.” Accordingly, we filed a class action suit against RBC. After some preliminary discovery, RBC moved for summary judgment. It claimed that because section 655.85 is preempted from enforcement against national banks, it was also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State State banks, pursuant to title 12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1). Section 1831a(j)(1) provides in part:
(1)Application of host State law. The laws of a host State, including laws regarding community reinvestment, consumer protection, fair lending, and establishment of intrastate branches, shall apply to any branch in the host State of an out-of-State State bank to the same extent as such State laws apply to a branch in the host State of an out-of-State national bank.
At the time of RBC’s motion, every court that had addressed the issue had interpreted section 1831 to mean that statutes that are preempted from enforcement against national banks are also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State State banks. The trial court granted RBC’s motion for summary judgment, and we appealed.
On appeal, we pointed out that section 1831 does not refer to the “enforceability” of State laws; only to the “applicability” of State laws. We argued that although section 655.85 is “unenforceable” against national banks it is “applicable” to them. We noted that section 655.85 is only preempted from enforcement against national banks because enforcement against national banks would conflict with 12 C.F.R. § 7.4002. However, enforcement of section 655.85 against State banks would not conflict with section 7.4002, because section 7.4002 does not apply to State banks. We argued that section 1831 only prevents States from discriminating against out-of-State State banks. In other words, if a State law provides that it does not apply to national banks, section 1831 prevents that law from applying to out-of-State State banks. Section 655.85 does not discriminate against out-of-State State banks because section 655.85 applies to all banks.
RBC argued that section 1831 was enacted to place State banks on par with national banks, and to preserve competitive equality between national banks and State banks. It said that Congress’ intent was to remove incentives for banks to charter at the federal level rather than the State level, and vice-versa, in order to insure the health and stability of our dual banking system. It argued that having to adjust to bank policies and procedures on a State-by-State basis, and having to stay current on the changes in each State’s laws would be virtually impossible for State banks, and that they would be forced to either abandon banking in foreign States or increase fees to depositors.
The court said that RBC’s arguments contorted the express language of section 1831. It said that the statute simply prohibits States from discriminating against out-of-State State banks. It concluded that section 1831 was not applicable because section 655.85 applies to all banks. Accordingly, the court reversed, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
RBC subsequently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States, but the petition was denied.
Do I really want to be on Social Security Disability for the rest of my life? This actually is the one question you won’t have to ask yourself if you are dealing with a disability. When you get to the point you can’t work to pay your bills, you can’t cook proper meals for yourself, or you have trouble taking care of personal needs like using the toilet or bathing without assistance, that question will already be answered. But there is hope for those who have come to terms with the inevitable. Remember the deduction on every paycheck you’ve ever received labeled FICA tax? This is money deducted from every paycheck you receive, to help you if you become disabled. So you pay into this FICA tax system every paycheck and when you retire or get disabled, you get it all back like a savings account. Sounds simple right? Well it is a little more complicated than that. And ask anyone who has been through the process of applying and getting denial multiple times by the Social Security Administration, it is not fun.
The first question you should ask yourself is, “Have I worked enough to be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?” If you have worked most of your life (on the books) and are middle aged or above you, will probably be fine. But if you don’t fall in that category here are some guidelines to consider. You need to have 6 credits earned in the 3 year period immediately preceding your disability if you are under the age of 24. From ages 24- 31, you need credit for 3 years of work out of the 6 years immediately preceding your disability. Anyone 31 to 42 years of age will need a total of 20 credits. And every 2 years after that the credits needed increase by 2. If you are confused about how many credits you would need to be eligible, than you are right along with most Americans today. But if you ask your attorney this question, she will be able to let you know whether you qualify or not after you answer a few questions.
The next question you need to ask yourself is, “How are credits for Social Security Disability earned?” We know Social Security takes money out of every pay check but how does this money transform into credits? Credits are based on the amount of your earnings. “In 2011, you receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed for credits goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase. The credits you earn remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or have no earnings for a while.” (Source: Socialsecurity.gov)
Now that you have this information you can decide whether or not you are eligible. So you can apply and just sit back to wait for your monthly checks to start rolling in. Right? Wrong. Most Orlando, Florida, cases take an average processing time of 502 days. (Source: socialsecuritydisability.tv/state-socialsecurity-disability/florida) And this is just after a hearing has been requested. At the Initial Application and Reconsideration levels, each case can take as long as 7 months to be processed. The whole process takes about 3 years if done correctly; it can be longer if not.
The question you need to ask your attorney is: “Are you qualified to do it correctly?”
Our PREFERRED CLIENT PROGRAM is an alternative to traditional billing; it is designed to help our clients manage their costs without compromising the legal services they receive. Enrollment in the program requires an annual commitment and an automatic payment commitment (credit card, debit card, ACH debit). The following are packages available for individuals and businesses:
A. Package A – Individuals – $50.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required)
Phone consultations on unlimited matters. As a Client, you can consult with a designated lawyer at CPLS, P.A. by phone during regular business hours on any matter, for up to 30 minutes per day.
Monthly In-Office Consults. As a Client, you are entitled to one in-office consult per month on any matter during regular business hours, for up to 30 minutes each.
Reduced Attorneys Fees on Flat Fees & Hourly Fees. As a Client, if you retain CPLS, P.A. to represent you on any matter on an hourly fee or flat fee basis, you will receive a 10% discount on all attorneys fees charged and billed
Reduced Attorneys Fees on Contingency Fees Cases. As a Client, you will not be charged more than 30% of any recovery for attorneys fees on any case in which CPLS, P.A. represents you on a contingency fee basis.
Reduced Fees on Estate Planning Documents. As a client, if you retain CPLS, P.A. to prepare any estate planning documents, you will receive an additional 15% discount on the fees charged and billed.
Jail Visit. As a client, you are entitled to one free in jail visit, if arrested and held in any of the following counties in Florida: Orange, Osceola, Seminole, or Lake.
Demand Letter. As a Client, you are entitled to receive two demand letter per year, non cumulative, free of charge, after 3 months of membership.
B. Package B –Family Members – $100.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required) - As a Client, you and your immediate family members (your children and your spouse) are entitled to all benefits of Package A above, so long as there is no conflict of interest with any of CPLS, P.A.’s other clients, including you.
C. Package C – Small Businesses Value Program – $250.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required) – As a client, your business is entitled to receive $400.00 of CPLS, P.A.’s timekeepers’ time per month, non cumulative. Any time beyond the time will be billed at CPLS, P.A.’s normal hourly rates.
D. Package D – Small Businesses Added Value Program $500.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required) – As a client, your business is entitled to receive $900.00 of CPLS, P.A.’s timekeepers’ time per month, non cumulative. Any time beyond this time will be billed at CPLS, P.A.’s normal hourly rates.
E. Package E – Medium-Sized Businesses Value Program $750.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required) – As a client, your business is entitled to receive $1,500.00 of CPLS, P.A.’s timekeepers’ time per month, non cumulative. Any time beyond this time will be billed at CPLS, P.A.’s normal hourly rates.
F. Package F – Medium-Sized Businesses Added Value Program $1,000.00 per month (Bank Draft or Credit Card Authorization Required) – As a client, your business is entitled to receive the $2,000.00 of CPLS, P.A.’s timekeepers’ time per month, non cumulative. Any time beyond this time will be billed at CPLS, P.A.’s normal hourly rates for timekeepers.
FOR MORE INFORMAITON ABOUT OUR PREFERRED CLIENT PROGRAM, SEND REQEUST TO INFO@CPLSPA.COM
Is your bank charging your employees to cash their payroll checks. Our firm discovered that Bank of America and other banks are charging between $5.00 to $10.00 to cash payroll checks when your employees who are not customers of the bank present their payroll checks to the bank in person. To say the least, this practice was very disturbing to us, especially since it also affects our employees. Our investigation into this practice revealed that the banks have been engaging in this practice for almost 10 years and that this fee is a major revenue source for large national banks and mid sized regional banks.
According to the Consumers Union Southwest Regional Office (http://www.consumersunion.org/finance/noncustsw1001.htm): “Those most likely to be affected by non-customer check cashing fees are individuals often referred to as the unbanked, individuals without their own bank account, who go to banks to cash their paychecks. A study of the Survey of Consumer Finances found that more than half of families without checking accounts are nonwhite or Hispanic, and 85 percent have incomes of less than $25,000. The rising costs of having a bank account combined with the lack of access to a local bank and branch offices have made keeping an open bank account difficult for some families… In an effort to increase profits, banks are looking for other revenue sources. In addition to directing resources into check-cashing operations, banks are tapping into a new market of low income and minority consumers – this time directly – by charging check-cashing fees, even for checks drawn against their own customer’s accounts. Mark Ferrulo, a public interest advocate for Florida PIRG, noted, ‘that used to be part of the package. This fee really just serves to add to the income stream. ‘ It’s almost pure profit.”
Our firm was so outraged with this practice that we sued Bank of America on bahelf of employees in Florida who have been charged for cashing their payroll checks. Not suprisingly, Bank of America vigorously defended its practice and relied upon letters from the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) addressed to Bank of America for its defense. In support, they argue that your empoyees are the bank’s non relationship “customers” and as “customers” they can charge them the fee. When we reviewed the letters from the OCC to the bank, we noted that, althought the OCC is required to provide notice and an opportunity for the public to comment on the opinion letters, it did not; instead, it relied soley on the information provided by the bank. Suprisingly, in the face of the letter the OCC acknowledged that the bank reqeusted that the informatin it provided be kept confidential and the OCC has obliged. So, there is no way of telling whether or not the information relied upon is enough to provide a sufficient and valid basis for the OCC’s opinion that your employees are customers of the bank.
If you or your emplyees are affected by this unfair bank practice and would like to find out more please feel free to email Tee Persad at firstname.lastname@example.org.