Litigation is stressful. We often talk to clients who are experiencing some of the most difficult times of their lives. What can you do to help minimize the stress of handling legal issues?

 

  • Communicate with your lawyer. As lawyers, we are usually pretty busy but that will not stop us from an addressing an issue, question, or concern of our clients. You should always feel free to call or email your attorney and relax knowing that we will get back to you as soon as we are able.
  • Take notes. When you are meeting with your lawyer, it makes sense to take notes, right? What about those times in the middle of the night? Or when you are working on things related to your case on the weekend? It is often helpful to dedicate a notebook to you case and jot down thoughts and questions as they come to you. Then you can share these notes with your attorney when the need arises.
  • Be organized. Whether in paper or electronically, work out a system to stay organized. Place documents in file folders by topic. Put things in date order. Keep it all in one place.
  • Keep everything. It is never fun to have to back track and find documents. It can also sometimes cost additional money. When you have documents, keep them until you are sure that you will not need them.
  • Bring it with you. Too often clients and potential clients come to our office to meet with the attorney and do not bring necessary documentation with them. It is better to bring something and not need it than to come to a meeting and not be able to do everything because you are missing documents.
  • Set limits. It can often feel like litigation takes over your life. You can set boundaries for litigation in your life by doing things such as setting aside specific time to work on your case or making certain days “litigation free” days. While it may feel like litigation is over burdensome, remind yourself to set limits.

Trust me we all struggle to do some of the things above. If you do not believe me, you should check out the front seat of my car that is usually covered in all the things that accumulate in a day! Hopefully some of these tips will enable you to stress less and feel prepared to assist the attorney in your case.

Attorneys Autumn Hancock and Rachel Bennett recently attended the Lawyers for Young Adults Pro Bono Project Continuing Legal Education Seminar. The seminar provided instruction and guidance on assisting young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. These young folks are often entitled to living assistance, payment for college courses, and other opportunities but it can be tricky to navigate the systems that provide these benefits.

Hancock Law Firm is committed to providing pro bono services to members of our community who need but cannot afford legal representation. The under-represented youth aging out of the Foster Care System are particularly important to both Autumn and Rachel because each attorney has a personal connection to this group. Autumn has worked with at-risk youth in the past and Rachel’s father was a child in Foster Care in his youth.

The Firm is excited to engage in assisting young people to get a great start on adulthood and ensure that they receive all benefits that they are entitled to. Stay tuned as we look forward to sharing our exciting stories in this field of law!

I remember the first time my Dad told me he was adopted. I was not quite old enough or wise enough to really understand what he meant at the time but I was savvy enough to know that being adopted at the age of 13 was somewhat unusual. My grandparents on my Dad’s side were older than my other grandparents but that did not stop them from being amazing. My grandmother taught me how to play the piano, how to appreciate and cook gourmet foods, how to appreciate afternoon tea and fancy china dishes, and much more.

Adoption has shaped my life. I would not have been successful in school and been able to develop a career as a professor, lawyer, and firm administrator without my Dad. He would likely not be the man he is today without his adoptive parents. He was raised by abusive parents who frequently put him on a train between Tarpon Springs and Boston, by himself, because neither of them wanted to parent him. He went from foster homes to The Children’s Home Society in Jacksonville.

That is where his life changed. He met my grandparents. He was adopted at thirteen – with all of the strife that comes with being a teenage boy. He was shown unconditional love and support. He was taught discipline. He was given stability and a place to flourish. He went on to have a successful career in banking and church administration but the thing that is most impressive to me is that he became the greatest Dad in the world.

Despite all of the odds against him, my Dad thrived in his adopted home and was able to take his experiences – good and bad – and use them to shape his life into something wonderful. Adoption changes lives in real ways.

Hancock Law Firm is proud to work with families seeking to adopt children and we know how lucky we are to be a small part of a process that has real power to change lives.

As told by Rachel Bennett, a lawyer who was shaped by adoption.

Did you know that prior to 1963 no one had a right to a criminal attorney? Only those who could afford to hire their own criminal defense attorney received representation. Fifty-five years ago this month, Clarence Earl Gideon’s case was decided by the United States Supreme Court. Gideon was accused of a burglary at the Bay Harbor Pool Room near Panama City, Florida. Without counsel, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in prison.

From his prison cell, Gideon filed paperwork with the Florida Supreme Court asking for review of his case. The Florida Supreme Court did hear his case but determined that he had been fairly tried and convicted even without having a lawyer to represent him. Gideon then filed paperwork with the United States Supreme Court. This review of his case went a bit differently. The United State Supreme Court decided that Gideon, and by extension other criminal defendants, were entitled to representation in criminal cases.

Gideon had a new trial and was found not guilty of the burglary charge. His case had far-reaching effects. Across the country, the legal community had to figure out a way to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gideon’s case. In Florida, this led to the development of the Florida Public Defender system, which provides attorney’s counsel to criminal defendants at no cost to them.

Hancock Law Firm PLLC is pleased to announce that Autumn N. Hancock, Esq. has been selected for inclusion into The National Advocates: Top 40 under 40 in Florida, an honor given to only a select group of attorneys. Membership in this exclusive organization is by invitation only and is extended exclusively to those individuals who exemplify superior qualifications, results and leadership. Based on a evaluation of Ms. Hancock’s qualifications, she is being honored based on her performance as an exceptional attorney, a leader in advocacy, and her consistent record of proven results for her clients. Ms. Hancock is specifically being honored for her work in Matrimonial and Family Law and her work in Wills, Trusts, and Estate Law. 

The National Advocates is a professional organization comprised of America’s top attorneys who have demonstrated exceptional qualifications in the following practice areas: Matrimonial and Family Law, Bankruptcy Law, Social Security Disability Law, Employment Law, Immigration Law, and Wills, Trusts and Estate Law. The organization provides accreditation to these distinguished attorneys and also provides essential legal news, information, and continuing education to lawyers across the United States.

With the selection of Autumn N. Hancock, Esq. by The National Advocates: Top 40 Under 40, Ms. Hancock has shown that she exemplifies superior qualifications, results for her clients, and leadership skills as an advocate. The selection process for this elite honor is based on a multi-phase evaluation of uniformly applied criteria including third party research, peer nominations, client contact and reviews, and case results. As The National Advocates: Top 40 Under 40 is an essential source of information for advocates and attorneys throughout the nation, the final result of this selection process is a credible and comprehensive list of the most outstanding advocates chosen to represent their state.

To learn more, feel free to contact our office at 727-222-0529.

We Were the First Paramedics at Pulse Nightclub. We’d Trained for Mass Shootings, and Now the Deadliest Ever Was Happening.
“We weren’t even supposed to be there.”

Joshua Granada(left) and Carlos Tavarez are photographed in front of Station 7 Firehouse in Orlando, FL. On the night of the massacre at Pulse, a gay club in Downtown Orlando, Carlos and Joshua were the first paramedics to arrive on the scene.

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Man who claimed girlfriend accidentally choked during oral sex found not guilty of murder

Richard Patterson acquitted by jury hours after hearing closing arguments

By Peter Burke – Local10.com Managing Editor, Michael Seiden – Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A South Florida man who was on trial in the 2015 choking death of his girlfriend has been found not guilty of murder.

Richard Patterson, 65, of Margate, was acquitted Monday of second-degree murder. His attorney, Ken Padowitz, argued during trial that his client accidentally choked Francisca Marquinez, 60, during oral sex.

The jury heard closing arguments in the morning and deliberated for a few hours in the afternoon before returning the verdict.

Patterson did not testify. Instead, the defense called on Dr. Ronald Wright, a former Broward County medical examiner, who said it was possible that Marquinez could have choked during oral sex.

Padowitz told jurors that the medical examiner’s autopsy report said the manner of death was undetermined.

Assistant state attorney Peter Sapak questioned why Patterson didn’t call 911 right away and reminded jurors of testimony from an ex-girlfriend, who said he told her that he choked Marquinez. He also re-read a text message that Patterson’s daughter said she sent him to him the day after Marquinez was killed.

The jury heard closing arguments in the morning and deliberated for a few hours in the afternoon before returning the verdict.

Patterson did not testify. Instead, the defense called on Dr. Ronald Wright, a former Broward County medical examiner, who said it was possible that Marquinez could have choked during oral sex.

Padowitz told jurors that the medical examiner’s autopsy report said the manner of death was undetermined.

Assistant state attorney Peter Sapak questioned why Patterson didn’t call 911 right away and reminded jurors of testimony from an ex-girlfriend, who said he told her that he choked Marquinez. He also re-read a text message that Patterson’s daughter said she sent him to him the day after Marquinez was killed.

Supreme Court rules in veteran’s favor in closely watched divorce settlement case

 

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, in the case of Howell v. Howell, that a state court cannot offset the loss of a divorced spouse’s portion of a veteran’s retirement benefits when that veteran waives retirement pay in favor of disability pay. The issue has been hotly debated for years.

In 1991, a court awarded Sandra Howell half of Air Force veteran John Howell’s retirement pay when the couple was divorced. However, after becoming aware in 2005 that he was eligible for disability benefits, John, who had received a 20 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, elected to waive $250 of his $1,500 a month in retirement pay, which is taxable, in favor of $250 monthly disability pay from the VA, which is not taxable. That reduced Sandra’s monthly divorce settlement by $125, so she went back to court, arguing that she should get half of what his retirement pay would have been if he had not opted for disability pay.

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld her claim in its interpretation of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, a law that regulates how military retirement pay may be divided up after a divorce.

The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday overturned the Arizona court’s decision.

Until 2003, disabled veterans had to select either their full retirement compensation from the Department of Defense or their VA disability benefit with a reduced retirement annuity. This penalty became known as the “VA offset.” Many veterans choose the offset, however, because disability payments are tax free. In the 2003 and 2004 defense authorization bills, Congress waived this offset in certain cases, and veterans with career-ending combat injuries or a disability rating of 50 percent or higher were allowed to concurrently receive both types of payments.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 55 percent of the 2 million military retirees are subject to the VA offset.

According to the Military Officer’s Association of America, a nonprofit organization that supports veterans and active-duty military, cases like this wouldn’t exist if Congress simply removed the VA offset and allowed for full concurrent receipt of retirement and disability pay.

“What this case illustrates is the unfair reduction in pay from DoD retired pay and VA disability compensation,” said Jonathan Withington, a MOAA spokesman.”Retired pay is provided for a career of military service; VA disability compensation is given for a service-connected disability.”

Adam Unikowsky, a lawyer representing John Howell, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in March that Congress intended for veterans to keep their disability pay, as it fills the gap for pay they will no longer be able to make in the future. The goal of protecting a veteran’s pay is not temporal in nature, he said, meaning it has nothing to do with whether the veteran is eligible for disability before or after the divorce.

He further argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had previously decided, in Mansell v. Mansell, that the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act did not permit state courts to treat retirement pay that had been waived to receive veterans’ disability benefits as something that could be divided.

Sandra Howell’s lawyer argued that this case was different because her ex-husband hadn’t waived his retirement pay until after the divorce settlement was finalized. But the Supreme Court ruled that state courts did not have the authority to take John’s disability benefits, regardless of its effect on his ex-wife.

 

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May 20, 2017 at 11:21AM