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D.C. Law Firms Contribute Big
To Midterm Political Candidates
Washington, D.C. law firms were heavily represented in contributions that lawyers made to political candidates' campaigns before the midterm elections this week.
Holland & Knight gave the most at $555,000, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. The firm’s contributions went to Republicans at a slightly higher rate than Democrats.
There were 13 law firms that contributed at least a quarter-million dollars to either congressional candidates or party committees, nearly all of them with offices in the District of Columbia.
Unlike trade groups that contribute to candidates most likely to support their industry, law firms typically contribute to candidates who the polls show are most likely to win an election. In return, the law firms receive opportunities to speak with the politicians about the issues they believe are important.
The Federal Election Commission reported that 133 law firm political action committees nationwide contributed a total of $13.1 million to candidates or their parties before the midterms.
Attorney Loses Out on FOIA Injunction
In Shareholder Lawsuit Against Zillow
An attorney suing real estate information company Zillow Group Inc. last week lost his plea for an accelerated response to his Freedom of Information Act request.
The attorney for The Rosen Law Firm PA represents shareholders who sued the company after Zillow was accused of misrepresentations in its co-marketing program with realtors.
Zillow’s real estate valuations are significant factors in setting prices in the Washington area’s hot market when homes are bought or sold.
The Freedom of Information Act request was filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which investigated Zillow for possible violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. Zillow was accused of underestimating some property values but then raising the estimates when realtors agreed to pay the company a fee to market the same properties.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dropped its investigation in June after failing to find evidence of wrongdoing by Zillow.
However, the investigation hurt Zillow’s stock value, which prompted shareholders to sue.
The lawsuit was dismissed but the attorney representing the shareholders faces a Nov. 16 deadline to amend it. He sought an injunction to force the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to turn over about 640,000 documents from its investigation of Zillow before the Nov. 16 deadline
However, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the attorney’s deadline is inadequate under the law to grant him an injunction.
"Congress enacted FOIA as a means to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny," the judge wrote. "While plaintiff's rights under FOIA are not diminished by the personal reason for his request, neither is FOIA concerned with the effect disclosure or lack thereof will have on plaintiff's lawsuit."
The case is Baker v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, case number 1:18-cv-02403, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Supreme Court Considers States’ Rights
In Virginia Ban on Uranium Mining
An energy company’s attempt to override Virginia’s ban on uranium mining met with uncertainty this week in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The company wants to mine as much as $6 billion in uranium on private land in Pittsylvania County, near the North Carolina border. It is the largest known uranium deposit in the United States.
However, a 1982 Virginia law bans uranium mining in the state. The company, Virginia Uranium Inc., says the state law is preempted by a federal law.
The Supreme Court justices gave no clear indication of whether state or federal law should control the outcome of the case, instead implying that the conflicts point to a gap not anticipated by lawmakers.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to side with the state when he said Congress could have prevented states from regulating uranium mining when it passed the Atomic Energy Act in 1954 but failed to do so.
Book on Boston Marathon Bombs
Shows Lone Wolf Terrorism Rises
A new book that reports on the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and trial of the convicted killer shows the attack was only an early example of more coming soon.
Boston's Bloody Marathon uses the bombings by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother as an example of the lone wolf terrorism increasingly encouraged by Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Lone wolves refer to terrorists who plot their attacks alone, usually with no organization to support them and no official links to violent groups. There is almost no way to know their next target until they strike. U.S. intelligence agencies call them perhaps the biggest terrorist threat to the United States and its allies.
Boston's Bloody Marathon, by Tom Ramstack, is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
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Letters to the Editor
D.C. Circuit Denies Most Tax Deductions
For Temporary Foreign Student Workers
A D.C. Circuit Court decision last week rules out many of the tax deductions temporary foreign workers have been claiming for years.
The federal appeals court upheld an earlier U.S. Tax Court decision that denied travel and living cost deductions for three foreign citizens working in the United States. However, their deductions for health insurance were allowed.
The court said travel and living costs were a matter of personal choice, not a mandatory expense required for their employment.
The three claimants were university students from Finland, Ireland and Russia who worked as a lifeguard, a housekeeper and a waiter. They participated in a four-month program called the U.S. State Department’s Summer Work Travel Program.
They tried to argue that the “business connections test” would not apply to them because of their temporary work status as foreign students. They also interpreted Internal Revenue Service code to mean students temporarily in the United States could deduct meals, travel and lodging costs from their taxes.
The three-judge D.C. Circuit Court panel said the students misinterpreted the IRS code.
The consolidated cases are Richard Liljeberg, Enda Conway and Anna Zolotareva v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, case numbers 17-1204, 17-1205 and 17-1207, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Al Jazeera TV Network Seeks Subpoena
In Defamation Suit by Baseball Players
Al Jazeera America tried this week to compel a Washington, D.C. law firm to turn over evidence that its investigators might have intimidated a key witness in a defamation lawsuit against the television network.
Two Major League Baseball players and pro football player Peyton Manning are suing Al Jazeera for a story it broadcast saying they used performance-enhancing drugs. One of the players is Ryan Zimmerman, first baseman for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
The December 2015 broadcast included an interview with admitted drug supplier Charles Sly, who said he knew Zimmerman and Ryan Howard used the drugs banned by Major League Baseball.
A key piece of evidence in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was a recording in which Sly retracted his statements, saying he knew they were false.
Al Jazeera is seeking a subpoena for Zimmerman’s attorneys from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to turn over the recording. Al Jazeera says the recording and surrounding circumstances show Sly “plainly appears nervous and is reading from a script.”
Big Referral Fees
For Little Work
Do you know someone who wants to sell a home, office or other real estate?
If you do, you could earn thousands of dollars with a quick phone call or e-mail. The Legal Forum pays a base fee of $1,500 for referrals to sellers’ property that sells for at least $200,000. Each $100,000 of value to the property over $200,000 gives the person making the referral an extra $100. A $700,000 dollar property value, for example, would earn a referral fee of $2,000.
Your only obligation is to phone or e-mail Tom Ramstack with the name, address, phone number or e-mail address of the seller. In most cases, it should take no more than 10 minutes of your time.
For more information, click the Real Estate icon on the menu above or contact Tom Ramstack at 240-421-6395 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The referral fees are offered to anyone in the District of Columbia but only real estate licensees in other states. However, non-real estate agents can receive credits equal to the referral fee toward the purchase or sale of property in Virginia and Maryland.
The brokerage for the Legal Forum is Fairfax Realty at 3190 Fairview Park Drive, Suite 100, Falls Church, VA 22042, phone: (703) 533-8660.