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How to Find a Divorce Lawyer

When a married couple, or just one married person, wants to divorce, the first concern is finding the right divorce lawyer. While a person’s first instinct might be to hire their one lawyer friend, or the same lawyer that handled their injury case, or the cheapest lawyer they can find, unless those lawyers know divorce law, it’s a big risk. With the help of online lawyer directories, the simplest way to find a lawyer is by calling as many as you have time to call, and talking with as many potential lawyers as you can. Divorces can range in complexity from simple to impossible. When a married couple has no assets, no children, and both parties have their own equal incomes, the divorce may be as simple as just filing some documents that a court needs to approve. However, if there are children, a marital home, a shared car, a family business, and/or other assets, it is much more complicated. So how do you evaluate a potential divorce lawyer? Not Just Any Experience One of the most important factors any client should evaluate when hiring an attorney is that attorney’s experience in the type of law they will be asked to handle. For a divorce case, you may need an attorney who knows how to handle not only a simple divorce, but also child custody, and, if there was a family business, business transactions or dissolutions. Ask your prospective attorney about prior divorces they have handled, and probe them about how complex those divorces were. Even if an attorney has been practicing law for 20 years, if they have never handled a divorce with child custody at issue, and you have children, you may not want to be that attorney’s first. Comfort And Trust After Experience After you’ve found an attorney with the right experience, you should ask yourself whether you feel comfortable divulging private information to them. In order for your attorney to be effective, you will need to be able to discuss personal matters without hesitation. While your sex life, generally, is not something that needs to be discussed, in some states, infidelity matters during divorce. Your attorney doesn’t need to be your friend (and probably shouldn’t be), but should be someone that you feel comfortable, and trust, with discussing potentially embarrassing information. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Why Is There a Divorce Waiting Period? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) What Is Ex Parte Divorce? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) When to Get a Second Lawyer’s Opinion for Your Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Shooting at George Zimmerman Illegal, Florida Man Learns

George Zimmerman, the garbage human infamously acquitted in the homicide of Trayvon Martin, became the victim of a shooting himself last year, in an apparent road rage incident. The man who shot at Zimmerman, Matthew Apperson, was convicted of attempted second-degree murder last month, and last week was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The irony is that Zimmerman himself was charged with second-degree murder in Martin's death, and was perhaps fortunate his victim wasn't around to testify at his trial. Road Rage For his part, Zimmerman testified that Apperson was following him in May 2015, flashing his lights and honking his horn. Apperson then pulled up alongside Zimmerman's car and opened fire, bullet shattering his window and narrowly missing its intended victim. Apperson disputed that account, saying it was Zimmerman who threatened him, and he was acting in self-defense. "Mr. Apperson pulled that trigger and didn't care. In fact, he joyfully bragged about killing me and said, 'I got him. I shot George Zimmerman,'" Zimmerman told the jury during sentencing. "He thought he had killed me, and he was happy about it." Zimmerman thanked jurors for convicting Apperson, adding, he "showed absolutely no care for human life." Outrage It's not hard to see why someone might have wanted to take a shot at Zimmerman. Aside from the Martin shooting, Zimmerman was charged with resisting arrest and battering a police officer, accused of domestic violence by an ex-fiancé, accused of molesting his cousin, pulled over speeding through Texas with a firearm, accused of domestic violence by his then wife, charged with aggravated assault for pointing a shotgun at his then girlfriend, and arrested and charged with aggravated assault for throwing a bottle at his then girlfriend. He has had multiple restraining orders issued against him, and had a defamation suit he filed against NBC thrown out. His latest brush with the law may have others believing that justice takes many forms. Related Resources: George Zimmerman Shot In Face (FindLaw Blotter) Zimmerman's Wife Shellie Files for Divorce: Reports (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Zimmerman a 'Manipulator,' But Out of Jail Again (FindLaw Blotter) Zimmerman Trial: Opening Statements Shouldn't Be Stand-Up Comedy (FindLaw's Strategist)
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Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All

Every once in awhile, we meet people who truly inspire us to be better people and better lawyers. Marjorie Peerce is one of those people. As a partner in the New York office of Ballard Spahr she focuses her practice on white collar, regulatory and commercial defense. Yet since 2014, in addition to her busy practice, she has made time to work tirelessly to recruit and train volunteer lawyers to provide free legal assistance to federal inmates who may be eligible to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President of the United States. Over 3,000 attorneys across the country have volunteered their time to work on this project, including 100 lawyers from Ballard Spahr. Every application submitted by Ballard Spahr is reviewed by Marjorie. She recently saw the first fruits of her labor and that of her colleagues when, on March 29, 2016, Obama granted clemency to 61 federal inmates, 25 of whom came through Clemency Project 2014 and two of whom were represented by Ballard Spahr attorneys. To put this in context, on April 23, 2014, former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced the DOJ’s initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President. Under the clemency initiative, the DOJ is prioritizing applications from inmates who meet the following criteria: • Currently serving a federal prison sentence and likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today; • Non-violent, low-level offender without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels; • Have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence; • Do not have a significant criminal history; • Have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and • Have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment. Approximately 35,000 inmates responded to a Bureau of Prisons questionnaire indicating that they believe they meet the clemency criteria. After the clemency initiative was announced, the Administrative Office of Courts determined that inmates do not have a 6th Amendment right to counsel for the purpose of seeking clemency. As a result, federal money cannot be used to pay attorneys employed by the Federal Defenders or through the Criminal Justice Act to represent inmates under this initiative. In an effort to address the need for federal inmates to obtain legal assistance in submitting clemency applications, Clemency Project 2014 (“CP 2014)” was formed by lawyers from the Federal Defenders, American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”). CP 2014 lawyers screen inmate requests to determine if they meet the clemency criteria, assign a volunteer lawyer to prisoners who appear to qualify, then assist the inmate in filing the clemency request. To date, 250 clemency applications have been granted by the President; approximately 60 of those applications came through CP 2014. I spoke to Marjorie about the two individuals recently granted clemency by the President who had been assisted by Ballard Spahr attorneys. Kevin County, a 43 year old African American, was convicted in New Orleans for selling small amounts of crack cocaine and heroin. Because he had a prior felony conviction, he received a sentence of 20 years (240 months) in prison and has already served 167 months. He was scheduled for release in 2020. Under current law, Mr. County would have been sentenced to 70-80 months in prison. Last week, Marjorie, together with Joanna Jiang and Erica Leatham, the Ballard Spahr attorneys who worked directly with Mr. County, called Mr. County in prison to tell him that he had been granted clemency by the President and would be released in July. Mr. County’s response was simple but powerful: “God bless you! Thank you!” Marjorie spoke to the New York Times after the announcement and praised President Obama for commuting the sentences of 61 federal inmates including Mr. County and stated “[t]he war on drugs from the 1990s resulted in inordinately harsh and long prison sentences for offenders who did not deserve to serve that length of time.” The other Ballard Spahr client, Angela Laplatney, was represented by Ballard’s Salt Lake City office, including Blake Wade and Melanie Clarke, also received a grant of clemency from a 20 year sentence for selling methamphetamine in Wyoming. Ms. Laplatney had served over 10 years of her sentence and was scheduled to be released in 2022. She, like Mr. County, will be released in July. Marjorie is grateful to Ballard Spahr for supporting the work of CP 2014, and noted that “pro bono is ingrained in the DNA of the firm.” She likewise praised the work of her NACDL partners, Jane Anne Murray and Norman Reimer, who serve on CP 2014’s Steering Committee with her, through which they certify that applications submitted through CP 2014 meet the clemency criteria. Marjorie told me that in over 30 years of practicing law, her work with CP 2014 has been “the single best thing” she’s done. She is on a mission to help as many federal inmates as possible who are serving sentences that, under current law, are “obscenely severe.” The recent grants of clemency by the President have further fueled Marjorie’s drive to help these inmates, and there is no doubt that her efforts in recruiting, training, and mentoring volunteer attorneys will pay off and change the lives of people who, until now, have been resigned to spending many more years in prison. Marjorie’s enthusiasm for CP 2014 is contagious. Lawyers who, like Marjorie Peerce, are willing to give up some of their time to work on this project will cherish the rare opportunity to change lives. By: Sharon L. McCarthy Partner, Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP New York, New York The post Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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White House Shooter Sentenced to 25 Years

The White House shooter was sentenced to 25 years in prison for weapons charges and for placing lives in jeopardy. Although Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 23, of Idaho Falls, Idaho was originally charged with attempting to assassinate the president, but the charges were reduced pursuant to a plea bargain, according to Reuters. Ortega-Hernandez's criminal charges are considered terrorism-related acts. Ortega-Hernandez's Defense Ortega-Hernandez fired shots at the White House back in 2011 because he was convinced that he was on a mission from God to assassinate President Obama. While it was speculated that the White House shooter would offer up an insanity defense, his attorney stated that at the time of the shooting, Ortega-Hernandez was under extreme depression and mental duress, according to Politico. Authorities state that Ortega-Hernandez believed President Obama was the "anti-Christ" and traveled to Washington, D.C. to kill him. However, Ortega-Hernandez's attorney said that his client was convinced that Armageddon was imminent and wanted to warn people about it. Perhaps evidence of Ortega-Hernandez's mental condition is what convinced a judge to give a slightly lighter sentence than the 27.5 years offered by prosecutors. Sentencing If Ortega-Hernandez had been charged with an attempted presidential assassination, he may have faced life in prison. However, the White House shooter pled guilty last year to weapons and terrorism charges. Under federal law, terrorism is defined as calculated actions seeking to influence or affect the conduct of government through intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. The federal criminal statute includes attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon -- like Ortega-Hernandez's White House shooting. At the same time, if a person willfully and maliciously destroys or injures a U.S. dwelling or places another person's life in jeopardy, that person may be imprisoned for 20 years. Some of the White House shooter's bullets struck the presidential abode -- a bullet was also lodged in a window on the south side of the White House, according to Politico. Secret Service officers were stationed outside the building at the time of the shooting and were also susceptible to being shot. Considering these facts and other factors about the defendant, the judge sentenced Ortega-Hernandez to 25 years in prison. Although the case may seem closed for the 23-year-old, Ortega-Hernandez still has the option to appeal the federal judge's sentence, according to Reuters. Related Resources: Idaho Man Who Fired at White House in 2011 Sentenced to 25 Years (Roll Call) Man's Call to Shoot Obama is Free Speech, Not a Crime (FindLaw's Decided) Ted Nugent Gets Secret Service Attention Over Obama Remarks (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Secret Service Do Anything Illegal in Colombia? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Brady Gun Law Turns 20: A Brief Overview

The Brady Handgun Violence Act -- aka the "Brady Act" or "Brady Law" -- went into effect 20 years ago this week, so it may be time to review the famous gun law. What triggered the law to begin with, and what are its key provisions? Here's a general breakdown of the gun law and its impact: Reagan Assassination Attempt Spurs Brady Bill On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to shoot and kill President Ronald Reagan using a gun he'd purchased at a pawn shop. Hinckley wounded President Reagan and three others, including Reagan's press secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head -- a wound that partially paralyzed him for life. Hinckley would later be found not guilty by a jury by reason of insanity -- he allegedly shot Reagan in an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster -- and he is still under supervision by St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., NBC News reports. Brady's wife Sarah became a strong advocate for gun regulation, especially background checks for mental illness, after her husband's shooting. She argued that if a background check had been performed prior to Hinckley's gun purchase, her husband and President Reagan may never have been placed in danger. The Brady Bill Becomes Law Based on a need to tighten gun sales, the "Brady Bill" was first introduced to Congress in 1987. According to the Brady Campaign, the bill took a number of turns and revisions around the House and Senate before it arrived on President Bill Clinton's desk in 1993. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act went into effect on February 28, 1994. The act's key provisions include: Waiting periods and background checks for handgun purchases. Brady provided a background check structure for most states which lacked one for gun sales. The FBI still maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the Brady Act, and checks are either initiated by dealers or the state itself. A remedy for the erroneous denial of a handgun. Anyone denied a handgun under the Brady Act based on erroneous information can potentially sue the government over the error. One possible remedy would require the government to correct the inaccurate information. So what does a background check for gun sales entail under the Brady Act? We'll discuss that part of the law tomorrow. Editor's Note, February 26, 2014: This post has been revised to correct an editor's error regarding the key provisions of the Brady Act. Related resources: As 20th anniversary of Brady Bill looms, another bill set to expire (MSNBC) Supreme Court Rejects NRA's Gun-Law Appeals (FindLaw's Decided) What Is the Undetectable Firearms Act? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 States With the Toughest Gun Laws (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Man Framed for Murder by N.Y. Cop Gets $6.4M

A man framed for murder by an NYPD detective has settled a complaint with the City of New York for $6.4 million. David Ranta, 58, spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit based on the machinations of a rogue detective, Louis Scarcella, The New York Times reports. Although Ranta can't get back his 23 years, he may still have a legal bone to pick with those who put him away. Flawed Murder Case Ends in Release Ranta was convicted of the 1990 murder of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn. According to the Times, Ranta claims his confession to the murder was fabricated by former detective Scarcella. Scarcella had been under investigation by the district attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit, which discovered that Scarcella had used two career criminals as witnesses. They admitted to lying in order to "obtain get-out-of-jail excursions provided by Mr. Scarcella." Even more disturbing, according to the Times, prosecutors discovered that a potential suspect had been dropped by Scarcella -- one whose widow later confessed that her husband was the real killer. Any one of these issues would have violated a defendant's constitutional right to exculpatory evidence under Brady, and may explain why the Brooklyn District Attorney asked for Ranta's indictment to be dismissed in 2013. Settlement Without Civil Rights Suit Once out of prison, Ranta filed a $150 million claim against the City of New York which, according to the Times, was settled for $6.4 million "without involving the city's legal department." In New York City, like many other metro areas, those injured by the government must first file an administrative tort claim with that government before being allowed to file a civil lawsuit. This process gives the city, state, or federal government a chance to respond and remedy the problem without involving the court system. In Ranta's case, his claim was settled for less than 5 percent of his initial demand -- but without seeing the inside of a courtroom. According to the Times, Ranta plans to file a separate wrongful conviction claim against the state of New York. Such claims can also lead to large payouts for victims: For example, another wrongly convicted man, Alan Newton, served 20 years in prison for rape and received an $18.5 million settlement from NYC after being exonerated by DNA evidence. Related Resources: Man did 23 years for NYC murder he didn't commit, gets $6.4M (CBS News) When Can I Sue Police for False Arrest? (FindLaw's Injured) Can You Sue for False Imprisonment? (FindLaw's Injured) Chicago Man Gets Record $25M for Wrongful Conviction (FindLaw's Blotter)
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