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Eminent Domain

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Eminent DomainEminent domain is the power of the government whether it be federal, state or local, to take private property for the purpose of converting it for public use or for the common welfare. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution requires that the government must fully compensate the property owner for the value of such property. Water, land and property rights are subject to eminent domain.

When the government exercises its power of eminent domain, known as condemnation, it can take any kind of private property. The most common example of private property is land, but leases, stocks, options or anything that has an ownership component can be taken. Intangible assets such as a brand or trademark are also fair game.

Confiscating land is an obvious demonstration of the government “taking” something, but there are other illustrations of “taking” that fall under eminent domain law. Permanent physical occupation of a given area on private property, such as running pipes or wires on private land constitutes a taking and the landowner must therefore be compensated accordingly. Resources taken from private land such as rocks or timber to build a public highway are also taken property and must be compensated. Generally, government regulation of land does not qualify as a taking unless the regulations leave the owner with no viable economic use of the property.

The issue of fair compensation can be a matter of dispute. If the government decides to condemn the property, it will designate someone to meet with the owners to offer what it deems is the fair market value of the property. There can be some negotiating, but it differs from a normal transaction where the owner would have the option to walk away from a deal considered unsatisfactory. If the compensation offered does not seem reasonable, the owner has the option to bring the matter before a judge who will decide the outcome. Sometimes a favorable outcome also means that the government must pay the legal fees of the owner.

Condemnation Proceedings

Every state has different laws regarding condemnation. Proceedings do not have to go through a court if a contract can be agreed upon for the taking of the property for public use. The owner of the property has a right to due process and must be notified in a timely manner of the taking. He or she must be given an opportunity to voice an opinion as to whether the public use of the condemned property is justified and if the compensation for the property is fair and reasonable. The owner may present evidence and question and cross examine witnesses and has an automatic right to appeal through due process.

Condemnation proceedings have two parts. The first determines the right of the condemnor to take the property. The second determines the amount of compensation that will be paid to the owner. During the proceedings, the owner may continue to use the condemned property as long as the use does not change the condition of the property or diminish its value.

Attorneys at The MacMain Law Group LLC have extensive experience representing and counseling government entities and their officials. Submit an online inquiry or call our Malvern, Pennsylvania office to learn more about the services we provide.

How to Be an Ally At Work

Philadelphia Employment Litigation Defense Lawyers: How to Be an Ally At WorkMore than half of LGBTQ people have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Repercussions can include being denied health insurance, being overlooked for a promotion due to bias, or being fired based on gender identity. Discrimination denies these workers financial and emotional security and robs companies of the benefits of diversity. A diverse workplace is the key to having a balanced and successful place of employment.

MAC Cosmetics and Refinery 29 teamed up to host a series on LGBTQ lifestyle called Trans 102. They interviewed a group of transgender people with varying backgrounds to find out the common misconceptions and troubles that often arise in their community. The intent of this session was to help identify ways to improve and maintain workplace security for LGBTQ members.

Advocates Wanted

It was determined that it is essential for LGBTQ employees to have benefactors advocating for them within a workplace. Some may consider themselves a minority within the workplace, so it is important to make their voices heard. Companies should have a clear and unbiased hiring policy in place. They should also offer equal health benefits to LGBTQ employees. Employers should promise fair compensation and grant equal rights to promotions.

The interviewed transgender people also stated that coworkers being open and amicable went a long way toward making them feel welcome. It is important to find common ground and stop to have small talk with LGBTQ employees who might feel out of place. Start with small talk around the water cooler. Be genuine and take a real interest in their responses. Foster the relationship to broaden the playing fields and keep all employees active, involved, and engaged in the workplace. This will help quell any feelings that can arise with insecurity. A true leader will find ways with simple conversation to instill security and satisfaction within their team.

It is prudent to have a lawyer review all HR policies to minimize company exposure to litigation matters. An attorney can train supervisors and management on how to properly handle sensitive issues and thus reduce liability exposure from disgruntled employees. Employment litigation defense lawyers represent public, private, and municipal employers in state or federal court. They can challenge unemployment compensation boards, the Division of Civil Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or Human Relations commissions regarding any employment lawsuits or claims. Employment law attorneys are essential for intervening when it comes to allegations of defamation, civil rights violations, or other wrongful discharge claims in court.

 

Ethics Codes for Police

Philadelphia Civil Rights Defense Lawyers: Ethics Codes for PoliceMost police officers enter the force highly motivated and enthusiastic with a true desire to serve the public. Working in a position of authority presents opportunities for ethical compromise. Dr. Kevin Gilmartin is a behavioral scientist who spent 20 years in law enforcement in Tucson, Arizona. Together with John J. Harris, he explains what they call “the Continuum of Compromise” to show how and why a person who starts as an idealistic “honest cop” becomes a self-serving, ethically compromised officer.

The process is subtle and can occur without conscious acknowledgement on the part of the officer. Gilmartin advises that it is crucial for officers to understand the continuum of compromise, which includes:

  • Recognizing that the risk for compromise exists (some officers will view themselves as not at risk, and are therefore mentally unprepared to face ethical dilemmas)
  • Assessing the personal potential for compromise
  • Developing self-monitoring strategies to avoid becoming entangled in compromising events

Just as mental preparation is as crucial as tactical preparation for real life lethal situations, the authors stress that mental preparation is vital to making good choices when faced with an ethical conflict. Both kinds of situations occur without warning and with little time to stop and think. In that instant, an honest but unprepared officer can make an unethical decision that will have life-changing consequences. Officers who are mentally prepared for ethical dilemmas have a much better chance of navigating them successfully.

The study found that the officers at greatest risk are the ones who over-identify and over-invest in their profession. Their sense of self is completely linked to their life as a police officer. This creates problems because as officers there is little they have control over in their lives, save their own integrity and professionalism. Seemingly every aspect of policing is dictated by a chief, commander, prosecuting attorneys, the courts, and the criminal justice system. It provides the beginning of an “us versus them” mentality.

Another factor that changes the perspective of an over-invested officer is the hypervigilance required by the physical risks that police are exposed to every day. When the only other people to be trusted are “real cops,” i.e. not those sitting at desks in the administration, then the officer has started to alienate themselves from their own department and those who exercise control over their job. Instead of trust, resentment and a perceived sense of victimization grow. This is a crucial turning point because feeling like a victim is the first stop on the continuum of compromise for the unsuspecting officer.

There are three further steps:

Acts of Omission – Feeling victimized, an officer feels justified not doing duties they are responsible for such as omitting paperwork

Acts of CommissionAdministrative – Breaking small rules that risk only departmental sanctions. Carrying unauthorized weapons, not reporting accidents.

Acts of CommissionCriminal – The final step on the continuum of compromise. These acts appear harmless to the officer – theft of assets seized from a drug dealer for example, but if caught, the officer risks being fired and criminally prosecuted.

Fortunately, this progression is both predictable and preventable. Ethically sound officers are those who accept the fact that they do not control their police role, but have total control over their own integrity and professionalism.

Recommended Policy for Teachers and School Districts

Pennsylvania Education Lawyers: Recommended Policy for Teachers and School Districts

While it may be unfortunate for educators to have to think in these terms, teachers and school districts need to take steps to protect themselves from litigation. Failure to do so could result in seemingly small mistakes that can result in big issues for the teacher and the school district in which they are employed.

District Policy and the Teacher Handbook

School districts should have clear policies on their website in which guidelines and regulations are explained. These rules should be carefully drafted with legal counsel to minimize the possibility of litigation against the district and its employees. Everyone working for the school district should be familiar with these policies and follow them diligently. This way, expectations are clear and legal conflicts can be avoided.

By the same token, schools provide teachers with handbooks and it pays to be thoroughly acquainted with these rules and regulations. The handbook will contain information about what is expected of staff members, guidelines for interactions with parents and students, and other helpful material. Almost always, there will be a form that requires a signature saying that the employee has read and understood what is in the handbook.

Teacher Training

It is important for staff to be present for any training opportunities that the district offers. Often these are state mandated sessions on topics ranging from bullying to identifying students in need of extra assistance. Staff members should document their attendance by signing in to the session. By fulfilling training requirements, the district can ensure their compliance with state standards.

Supervising Students

Teachers spend every day supervising students. It is a big responsibility to ensure that each student is cared for and safe. Again, it is advisable for staff to familiarize themselves with school policies and clarify any questions they have with their principal. Additionally, staff should review the policies together with students and parents. Staff should practice different scenarios so that students know exactly what is expected of them as they arrive and leave the school, or when they are alone in the hallways on the way to the restroom.

Use Good Judgment

Once a teacher has thorough knowledge of district and school policies, there are many situations which will require common sense and good judgment to ensure proper duty of care has been exercised. This means teachers will need to do everything they can to warn students of any risks involved in activities that take place under their supervision so that avoidable physical injuries do not occur. Supervising very young children requires more attention than their older peers. In a science class, students must be advised as to the risks posed by the potentially dangerous equipment being used and supervision must be at a more focused level than one where the class is reading books. Staff should try to anticipate situations that could be problematic and act on them. If a student comes to a staff member to report bullying, the information must be reported to the principal.

Finally, staff should turn to mentors, colleagues, and legal counsel for advice in situations where they are in doubt.