The Latest Legal News & Industry Information


D.C. Judge Considers Overturning
Trump’s “One In, Two Out” Policy


By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
    A Washington, D.C., federal judge’s pending ruling in a challenge to the Trump administration’s “one in, two out” policy poses a serious threat to the president’s regulatory authority.
    It also has broad implications for government agencies in Washington and the attorneys who represent them.
    The policy requires federal agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new one they implement.
    Public interest groups and a labor union sued the government to block enforcement of the policy, saying it overstepped President Donald Trump’s constitutional authority.
    Judge Randolph Moss’s comments during a hearing last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia largely agreed with arguments from attorneys for Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Communications Workers of America.
    Moss described the one in, two out policy as being “like a shadow regulatory process on top of the regulatory process.”
    Trump instituted the policy by executive order to help industries avoid burdensome costs of regulation.
    Previously, the government cost considerations were limited to each regulation separately. Now the agencies must determine which other unrelated regulations they will eliminate.
    “That’s the problem,” Moss said.
    The advocacy groups’ lawsuit says the president’s executive order violates his duties under the “take care” clause of the Constitution and forces agencies to take actions that will harm numerous Americans.
    Allison Zieve, the attorney for Public Citizen, argued there is no statute that would authorize the president’s one in, two out policy.
    Brett Shumate, a Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general, argued the policy merely continues the president’s regulatory authority under Article II of the Constitution.
    For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@aol.com or phone: 202-479-7240. To unsubscribe, hit Reply on your email and type Unsubscribe into the subject line.

Law Firm Downsizing in Downtown D.C.
Forces Changes in Real Estate Marketing


By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
    A real estate brokerage is blaming Washington, D.C.’s law firms for the highest office vacancy rate in 25 years.
    The market report from CBRE Inc. also says realtors are being forced to modify their marketing efforts to appeal to different clients.
    CBRE says about 6.5 million square feet of new or renovated office space sits vacant in downtown and Washington’s East End, both of which are popular sites for law firms.
    However, law firm downsizing in recent years has eliminated much of the demand that filled Washington’s trophy office space only a decade ago.
    Examples include Arnold & Porter, Venable, Dentons and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, all of whom moved to smaller offices in different locations.
    Covington & Burling’s move represented one of the biggest relocations. Two years ago, the firm left behind 232,000 square feet of office space at 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW for a new headquarters at City Center D.C.
    A big motivation behind the downsizing was created by technology, which computerized most law library functions. It also made telework easier, allowing more attorneys to work out of the office.
    Law firm consolidations also played a role as smaller firms gobbled up by bigger firms left their old offices behind.
    CBRE predicts 67 Washington law firms will either renovate or move their offices in Washington in the next seven years.
    As a result, real estate brokers are revamping their marketing efforts.
    Instead of appealing to the law firms that used about half Washington’s trophy space, they are seeking more clients from among nonprofit organizations, technology enterprises and business services. They also are turning the offices into co-working spaces.
    The difference is that instead of a single lease for one firm, brokers are seeking numerous small leases to fill the same space from among many organizations.
    For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@aol.com or phone: 202-479-7240. To unsubscribe, hit Reply on your email and type Unsubscribe into the subject line.

Fairfax Jury Gives Army Colonel
$8.4 Million in Defamation Case


By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
    A Fairfax County jury awarded a retired Army colonel $8.4 million this week in his lawsuit against a woman who accused him of raping her.
    The allegation prevented a promotion of David “Wil” Riggins to brigadier general. It also forced him into an early retirement.
    His accuser is Susan Shannon, a woman who attended West Point with him, where she said in her blog post that “both I and my roommate were raped at West Point — and we never reported it. The man who raped me, Will [sic] Riggins, class of 1987, is now a Colonel in the Army. The rape is the reason I left West Point. So, while his military career is soaring, I left mine far behind.”
    She posted the allegations on her personal blog and her Facebook page shortly after Riggins was nominated by the Defense Department for the promotion to brigadier general in 2013.
    The Army’s criminal investigation division investigated but concluded in a report that it could not “prove or disprove Ms. Shannon’s allegation she was raped.”
    Nevertheless, Secretary of the Army John McHugh recommended withdrawing the promotion of Riggins to general at a time the military faced intense public criticism for its handling of sexual assault allegations.
    Riggins retired afterward then sued Shannon for defamation, saying she was merely trying to interfere with his career. He had served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he earned a Bronze Star.
    He said he received a call from Army investigators in July 2013 asking him to come to the Pentagon for a meeting. After being told about the accusations, he waived his right to an attorney and gave a statement.
    The jury recommended that Shannon pay $3.4 million in compensation for damage to Riggins’ reputation and $5 million in punitive damages. Virginia law is likely to reduce the final settlement to $2.3 million.
    Shannon did not graduate from West Point. She is now a mother of three living in Everett, Wash. She says she told the truth about the sexual assault.
    For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@aol.com or phone: 202-479-7240. To unsubscribe, hit Reply on your email and type Unsubscribe into the subject line.

Sovereign Immunity Protects D.C.
From Lawsuit Over Transit Fire


    The Washington, D.C. government was saved from a major lawsuit last week by a judge’s ruling.
    D.C. Superior Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said the D.C. government was protected by the sovereign immunity granted by law to government.
    Several customers of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority sued the District of Columbia and the transit agency over a January 2015 electrical short and smoke incident at the L’Enfant Plaza Station.
    The lawsuit accuses WMATA and the D.C. government of negligence, saying first responders evacuated the station too slowly. Their response was slowed partly because of poor communications with the transit agency’s staff, the lawsuit says.
    WMATA pleaded unsuccessfully to be dismissed from the lawsuit. The transit agency said that if anyone was negligent, it was the Fire Department firefighters.
    The judge agreed to dismiss the claim against the D.C. government but not the transit agency.
    She said no law required first responders to take specific actions during the emergency, which was part of the reason the lawsuit against them was unfounded.

D.C. Couple Cheated by Scammers
Posing as Title Company Agents


    A married couple recently was cheated out of $1.57 million they were using to purchase a Washington, D.C. home by computer hackers.
    The hackers used a phishing scam to tap into computer records of Federal Title and Escrow, which was the company handling the title and closing on the five-bedroom, 2,300 square foot home in Cleveland Park.
    Now the couple is suing Federal Title and Escrow to recover their money and seeking punitive damages. The FBI is investigating.
    The couple put down a $200,000 down payment on the home. It was followed by an email from what they believed was the title company.
    The email asked the buyers to wire the rest of the $1.5 million purchase price to a specific account. The married couple wired the money, only to find afterward the bogus email did not come from Federal Title and Escrow.
    The title company says no other customers were affected. The lawsuit accuses the company of negligence, which they deny.
    Last year, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to homebuyers about phishing scams that said, “Hackers have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions and tells the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account.”

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.
   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.
   For more information, contact Tom Ramstack of The Legal Forum, www.legal-forum.net, at phone: 202-479-7240 or e-mail: tramstack@aol.com.
   The brokerage for the Legal Forum is Fairfax Realty at 3091 Fairview Park Drive, Unit 100, Falls Church, VA 22042, phone: (703) 533-8660. 

Legal Advice

   The Legal Forum offers representation by Washington, D.C., attorney Tom Ramstack for real estate agents cited by the Real Estate Commission or who are being sued by clients. Unlike most lawyers and law firms, The Legal Forum requires payment only if the agents or brokers win at least part of the case against them.
   The Legal Forum's attorney also is a licensed real estate agent in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, who knows the legal risks of the real estate business.
   Agents or brokers who hire The Legal Forum to represent them usually are charged a fee only if they avoid a fine, suspension or license revocation. Other arrangements can be worked out if the attorney and client cannot agree on a contingency fee.
   Contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) if you have questions, by phone at 855-842-6715 or by e-mail at tramstack@aol.com. ​