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Posts Tagged ‘guidelines’

Top 10 Tips For Taking the State Bar

Posted on: July 1st, 2019

We’ve asked our attorneys for their advice for taking the bar.  Here are our top 10 tips.

  1. Start studying early and create a study schedule.

This can be difficult to do with law school, but if you have a free weekend and some time to catch up on a subject you think you have weaknesses in, this is a great opportunity for you to solidify your foundation for that subject. It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged study session. Read an outline, do some practice questions, anything!

  1. Treat studying like a full-time DAY job.

Don’t study into all hours of the night. Leave time for relaxation and leisure on the weekends so you don’t go crazy. Along the same lines, stay healthy. Get as much sleep as possible, exercise, and take time to prepare nutritious meals.

  1. Focus on what has worked well and been effective for you up to this point.

For most people, sticking to a tried-and-true study method will serve them well during bar prep instead of trying out all sorts of different “fad” study strategies, which may be more distracting than helpful.

Also, don’t be afraid to deviate from the bar company’s study plan if you know a different approach works better for you – trust yourself, be consistent in doing the work, and make honest evaluations about your progress as you go along to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Select a great prep course.

Barbri is pretty good. Their lectures are a bit long, but worth it. The essay practice seminars are EXTREMELY important. Do not neglect. AdaptiBar is another good one to use. Bar Secrets is helpful for essay questions.  Dr. Saccuzzo has REPEATEDLY successfully predicted the essay questions on the bar. The predictions are free. Bar Secrets is very helpful with essay questions.

  1. Learn to be REALLY hard on yourself.

Read sample answers. Learn to grade objectively so you can grade your own essays without bias.

  1. Practice your time management now. 

Do not go over on time for any essay or the performance test on test day.  Do not get bogged down on a handful of MBE questions.  It is not worth it.  Give each part of the exam your full attention.  Complete the task in front of you and then move on.  Don’t look ahead and don’t look back.  Just put one foot in front of the other and march to the finish line.

  1. Make logistical preparations to ensure your testing experience goes smoothly.

Visit the bar exam location before test day to get familiar with the area.  Put together your pencils, pens, and other testing materials.  Make plans for getting to the exam, packing lunch, etc.  Choose your lodging carefully!  Make sure you have a comfortable, quiet place to stay each nigh within walking distance, or with convenient and easy access to the exam location.  Pack a healthy lunch so you won’t have to fight the crowds or stress during break time.  Have ear plugs on hand.  Make sure you have a reliable laptop and don’t forget your charger!

  1. This is an issue spotting exam.

You can’t get points if you don’t find the issue.  When you are reviewing model answers pay as much attention to the issue outline as you do the rule statements and analysis paragraphs.  This will help you see what issues are grouped together so you don’t miss anything.

  1. Be sure to also give yourself time to unwind and rest at the end of each day after your studies.

Managing stress levels and avoiding burnout are as critical as learning the material itself, and allowing yourself sufficient rest also helps with retaining all the material you’ve been studying.

  1. Just push through and stay positive!

 

 

Use of Drones in Law Enforcement – A Good Idea?

Posted on: September 14th, 2012

By: Sun Choy

USA Today recently reported that the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued advisory guidelines for the use of drones by law enforcement.  While the number of drones in use is relatively low, the IACP anticipates the increased use of drones as costs come down.  Not surprisingly, the guidelines discourage the use of “armed” drones that have the capability of delivering stun-gun projectiles, tear gas, and rubber balls.  The guidelines also recommend that officers obtain a search warrant before using the drones for surveillance.  With such advancements in technology, there will certainly be litigation as the law plays catch-up.

 

Recent Court Rulings Suggest Homeowners’ Associations May Selectively Enforce Covenants

Posted on: September 6th, 2012

By: Marc Bardack

In two recent rulings, state trial court judges have rejected homeowner claims against homeowners associations (HOAs) for failing to enforce covenants against a neighbor.  These rulings raise the question of whether HOA’s can enforce neighborhood covenants selectively as they see fit.

In Sugarloaf Residential Property Owners Association, Inc. v. Greenwald, the homeowners sued the HOA for arbitrarily enforcing landscaping and other property improvement covenants against them and not against their neighbors.  In ruling against the homeowners, Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Michael Clark held that the HOA had the right to enforce covenants, but not an affirmative duty to do so.  He interpreted the HOA’s governing documents as providing that right but not making it an obligation.  Thus, the court effectively ruled that the HOA could enforce covenants as it saw fit.

Judge David Dickinson reached a similar conclusion in the Forsyth County Superior Court case of Lake Astoria Community Association, Inc. v. Ingmire v. Furr where the homeowner sued the HOA for failing to enforce neighborhood covenants consistently.  Similar to the declarations in the Gwinnett County case, Lake Astoria’s Declarations provided that the HOA could not “be held liable for any injury, damages or loss arising out of the manner or quality of approved construction on or modifications to any lot.”  Judge Dickenson ruled that this provision precluded Mrs. Ingmire from arguing that the HOA had a legal duty to enforce its architectural standards or design guidelines.  Again, the implication with this ruling is that the HOA is free to enforce its covenants when it sees fit to do so.

Of note is that neither court specifically addressed the “arbitrary and capricious” enforcement of covenants argument advanced by the homeowners.  While some would argue that such rulings negate the purpose of having an HOA and neighborhood covenants, homeowners are not without recourse.  For example, in both the Gwinnett County and Forsyth County cases described above, the homeowner did sue the neighbor who allegedly caused excess surface water runoff.  A question remains as to whether a homeowner would have standing to sue a neighbor for violation of a covenant when that violation did not cause direct damage to the homeowner.  In other words, it is clear that a homeowner could sue his next door neighbor for directing excess surface water onto his property and flooding his basement, but it is not as clear that the homeowner could sue the neighbor down the street for putting an addition on a house without HOA approval. Additionally, homeowners always have the option of getting involved on their HOA boards in order to push the enforcement of covenants.

Nonetheless, these rulings do provide some relief to HOAs and their board members (as well as their insurers) who dread getting dragged into the middle of disputes between neighbors.  These rulings cast a broad measure of protection even if enforcement is in fact selective.

ADA Lawsuits Plaguing Property Owners

Posted on: August 14th, 2012

By: Ben Mathis

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which covers “public accommodations,” is not widely known to the general public.  Property owners, however, are becoming too familiar with its requirements as they confront an avalanche of lawsuits for non-compliance.

Title III includes the ADA’s implementing Accessibility Guidelines that essentially set building standards and architectural requirements.  The Guidelines are designed so that a facility is “accessible” and has no “barriers” to disabled people.  Most new facilities are built to meet the Guidelines in effect at the time of construction.

The Guidelines continue to change, however, so that even newer buildings may no longer be compliant.  Also, few older facilities are even minimally compliant if they were constructed before the ADA was enacted in 1990.  In this regard, there is no “grandfathering” of buildings regardless of how old they are.  Today, all buildings, no matter when constructed, have to meet the current ADA standards if doing so is “readily achievable,” which is a relatively low threshold that can require significant compliance obligations.

While states like California and Florida have seen a number of Title III suits in recent years, Georgia property owners now are experiencing ADA lawsuits by “serial” filers.  With no warning, an allegedly disabled person, using the same lawyer in case after case, files a federal lawsuit against the owner of a shopping center, retail store, hotel, or restaurant.  (i.e. a “place of public accommodation”).  The lawsuit typically claims that the disabled person encountered ADA violations such as insufficient handicap parking, lack of curb cuts or ramps, toilets that are too low, hotel rooms with improper door knobs, etc.

These lawsuits commonly seek an injunction to force the owner to comply with the ADA Guidelines and attorney’s fees for the cost of bringing the lawsuit.  Not surprisingly, given the threat of having to comply with all ADA requirements, most cases settle quickly with an agreement to make some changes to the facility and a fairly significant payment of attorney’s fees to the lawyer bringing the suit.  Often the plaintiff is himself a lawyer who can “share” in the attorney fee award.

One example of a serial filer in Georgia is an individual plaintiff who has filed 51 lawsuits since 2009.  Each time this person uses the same out of state lawyer.  In fact, there are several law firms around the country that are filing hundreds of these lawsuits, often using the same plaintiff and making almost identical factual allegations.

Not surprisingly, property owners (and their insurers) who encounter multiple lawsuits of this type (particularly from the same plaintiff and lawyer) are highly frustrated with these cases. They believe that, if the plaintiff was sincere about correcting “barriers,” he would at least approach the owner before filing the lawsuit.  Since payment of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees is always a condition of settlement, property owners feel like the cases are merely a “set up” driven solely by lawyers seeking a quick and unjustified payment of fees to “drop the case and move on.”

Under the current Guidelines, property owners are highly vulnerable to these suits if they have not made some efforts at complying with obvious ADA issues.  Where clear ADA violations are present, owners know it is not cost effective to fight these claims.  Even where the violations are arguable, owners who have not undertaken specific actions in anticipation of these suits find the cost of defense exceeds the cost of making a few of the changes sought and paying the plaintiff’s attorney to settle.

As these cases continue to mount, however, property owners, and particularly owners of multiple facilities, are finding it cost effective and necessary to take preventive steps.  By doing so, they can put themselves in a far stronger position to defend what is seemingly an inevitable ADA claim and also send the serial filer a message that they will not “roll over” every time a suit is brought.

Essential steps property owners can take include the following:

1)     Understand the ADA Requirements

The Department of Justice updated the ADA’s Accessibility Guidelines recently and they became enforceable in March of 2012.  However, it cannot be overemphasized that the Guidelines do not require full compliance with every single rule for structures which existed prior to the rules.  Instead, properties only must remove “architectural barriers” if the removal of these barriers is readily achievable, which requires a balancing test of the cost of removing the barrier, the wealth of the property owners, and related factors.

The first key preventive step for property owners is to review the Accessibility Guidelines.  Owners should determine when the property was built or updated and understand the obvious ADA compliance issues.  Owners cannot assume that simply because a property was built long ago that there are not compliance challenges.  Likewise, even relatively new properties may now be out of compliance with the latest ADA Guideline changes.

2)     Retain an Expert Before Litigation

While it sounds expensive, consulting with an ADA compliance expert and having the expert do an audit of the property can be very cost effective.  Audits can be completed for relatively small cost, especially considering the cost of a single ADA lawsuit.  An expert can identify obvious ADA issues that are easily correctable so that the property is not blatantly in violation.  An expert also can help justify not making more expensive changes because they are not “readily achievable.”

By having an expert audit and justify not making ADA changes, a property owner is in a far stronger position to resist serial filer lawsuits.  In our experience, serial filers are not interested in pursuing cases where owners have legitimate pre-litigation reports by qualified experts.  These cases are often dismissed when the owner can show pro-active efforts of this type.

3)      Correct Obvious Non-Compliance Issues

Clearly, the serial ADA lawsuit filer is more prone to sue property owners who have apparent violations.  By “advertising” non-compliance, owners send the message that they are an easy target.  Visible signs of good faith compliance will deter serial filers who will move on to easier defendants.

4)      Develop a Plan For Compliance

Virtually every property owner has a plan for regular maintenance and renovation. In light of the threat of ADA lawsuits, ADA compliance should be a part of every owner’s business plan.  By identifying ADA issues before litigation, owners can make reasonable business judgments and build accommodation upgrades into a multi-year budget.  This alone helps justify that changes are being made on a “readily achievable” basis.  Owners should document the entire process and update the compliance plan after each change is made.

In summary, while there may be no way to entirely avoid a Title III lawsuit, clearly there are steps owners can take to minimize the likelihood and better position themselves for a positive outcome.  By doing so, the owners can minimize their long term costs and avoid the unpleasant position of having no viable defense to the ambush ADA lawsuit.