Is That What I Meant? Litigating Intent in White Collar Crime

What do Kenneth Lay, Martha Stewart, Jeffrey Skilling, and Conrad Black have in common? They all intended to do smarmy things. How do we know? The juries told us so. And it was easy for those juries to come to that conclusion. As litigators in white collar crime, we all live in fear of the “you don’t have to know the law to show intent” instruction. And let’s not forget about the “he wasn’t paying attention” instruction, the “willful blindness” instruction, and “‘knowledge’ includes deliberate avoidance of knowledge” – the much feared “ostrich instruction.

Intentionality clearly plays a crucial role in white collar criminal prosecutions. In fact, it is usually a key element of the charged white collar offenses – be it conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, falsifying books and records, insider trading, money laundering, or racketeering. Recent white collar criminal prosecution history is replete with examples of executives who were convicted based upon juries finding them guilty of intending to commit the offenses with which they were charged: Lay and Skilling of Enron, Ebbers of WorldCom, Black of Hollinger International, Rigas of Adelphia, Shelton of Cendant, Olis of Dynergy, Bayly of Merrill Lynch, Early of Ogilvy & Mather, Brown of Rite Aid, and the list goes on. With rare exceptions, they get us every time.

Bringing jurors to the conclusion that our defendants intended to cheat, intended to lie, and intended to make off with grandpa’s pension has been all too easy for the prosecution. Why? Because prosecutors get the jury instructions they want, and they mention the elements of those instructions over and over in their presentations.

Admittedly, as criminal defense attorneys in white collar cases, if we find ourselves in front of a jury, we have already lost most of the battle. But in those circumstances where we cannot avoid a decision by those 12 folks tried and true, how do we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? We need to understand how juries attribute intent, break it down into elements, and distinguish our defendants from those elements every chance we get.

All of us will agree that white collar crimes take months, even years, to commit. They are processes of accretion and not single events, such as arson or murder. They are fundamentally crimes of intent, because the defendants in these cases often acknowledge their involvement in the transactions. This is why we must “element-ize” intent and distinguish our client from those elements at every opportunity.

In regard to the complicated fact patterns we see in this type of litigation, we must remember that when a large amount of new, disparate, and potentially confusing information confronts our jurors, they make this social world easier to understand by the process of attributing intent. Researching this phenomenon, social psychologists have developed what they call “attribution theory,” which focuses on the various causes that people assign to behavior. In study after study, these psychologists tell us that people explain intentional actions differently from how they explain other events. We need to know what these psychologists have found about how our juries attribute intent, and we need to use it in voir dire, opening, cross, direct, and closing arguments.

For the most part, jurors just don’t understand droning, complicated instructions. Experiments testing the effectiveness of jury instructions for educating jurors about law consistently reveal that mock jurors’ comprehension of intent instructions is quite poor. Indeed, research tells us that in these trials, juries repeatedly ask for further advice about the meaning of intent. Good litigators know this and break down concepts such as intent, relating it to common experience or what psychologists call “folk concepts.”

Research validates what we know as litigators. When jurors already have and consistently use a concept such as intention in their daily lives, being forced to learn a slightly different concept for this phenomenon (e.g., the legal definition of intent) makes their common sense “folk concept” interfere with the legal concept. Researcher Vicki Smith of Northwestern University demonstrated in four separate experiments that jurors are strongly inclined to use these “folk concepts” of crime categories for decision making. We must keep this in mind when formulating our case presentations, for it is through these folk concepts that people anticipate and judge one another.

The bedrock of the folk concept that leads to the attribution of intent is that jurors believe people think and act like they themselves do. Social psychologists have made it clear that people commonly assume, often to an unwarranted degree, that their attitudes are shared by others. Thus, jurors infer intentions in others because they are aware of them in themselves.

So let’s get to it. What are the “leg-bone-connected-to-ankle-bone” nuts and bolts of how our jurors are coming to attribute intention to our clients? And how do we break this into elements and distinguish our clients from these folk concepts which lead to intent attribution?

Let us consider a worst case scenario. Assume that the court will accept the government’s proposed “ostrich” instruction and instruct the jury:
When the word “knowingly” or the phrase “the defendant knew” is used in these instructions, it means that the defendant realized what he was doing and was aware of the nature of his conduct, and did not act through ignorance, mistake or accident. Knowledge may be proved by the defendant’s conduct, and by all the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.

You may infer knowledge from a combination of suspicion and deliberate indifference to the truth. If you find that a defendant had a strong suspicion that criminal conduct was occurring, yet intentionally shut his eyes for fear of what he would learn, you may conclude that he acted knowingly, as I have used the word. You may not conclude that a defendant had knowledge if he was merely negligent in not discovering the truth.

In decades of experiments, Malle and Knobe worked to set out the folk concepts that need to be evident
in order for people to regard a behavior as intentional. Their latest model has five conditions:
“… for people to judge an agent’s behavior as intentional, the agent must have: (a) a desire for an outcome, (b) beliefs about a behavior leading to that outcome, (c) a resulting intention to perform that behavior, (d) the skill to perform the behavior, and (e) awareness of fulfilling the intention while performing the behavior.”

Here are the elements that we need to set our sights on from the onset – right from voir dire:
A: Mr. Defendant has a desire for a certain outcome. He wants to get money. He wants to avoid further discovery into questionable acts. He wants to avoid an indictment. It is pretty tough to distinguish our guy here.

B: Mr. Defendant believes that a particular discrete behavior will lead to the outcome he desires. We must be specific here. If he does X, he will get money. If he does Y, he will avoid further discovery. If he does Z, he will avoid an indictment. This is fertile territory for counterfactuals. This is where we must begin to distinguish our defendant’s ideas about the particular discrete behavior the prosecutor wants to hang on him or her. Did the defendant even know about the particular discrete behavior? Was the particular discrete behavior the prosecutor wants to hang on the defendant even in the defendant’s commonly seen behaviors? Can the prosecutor show that the defendant has acted in this particular manner – with knowledge of its outcome – in the past?

C: Mr. Defendant intends to do the particular discrete behavior. This is the element prosecutors jump to with snitches, circumstance, and innuendo. We must weld it together with element A and element B and make it clear to jurors that they must find A and B, before they can find C. If we have set this paradigm up in voir dire, opening, and cross of the prosecutor’s witnesses, it will begin to make sense to the individual jurors.

Remember, social psychologists tell us that to attribute intent, our jurors want to hear that our defendant was trying to accomplish something he wanted and had the knowledge relevant to the attempt. But that is not enough. The psychologists tell us that jurors also want to hear that our client was recognizably doing the sort of thing one would do in order to accomplish the act and that it was no accident. Okay, let’s go back to our elements.

D: Mr. Defendant had the skill to do that particular discrete behavior. Depending on the facts of your case skill may translate into ability, experience or opportunity available to the Defendant. This is the element which is at the bottom of the “hey, maybe he’s the CEO, but he’s really a dummy” defense. It doesn’t work. However, if we imbed the concept of skill in an A + B + C voir dire, opening, and cross of the prosecutor’s witnesses, it’s going to fit into our “element-ized” scheme.

Researchers have found that skill is an essential component of people’s concepts of intentional action. That is, if a discrete behavior is performed and fulfills a desire, the agent must have brought about that behavior with skill (rather than luck) for the action to count as intentional. Over and over, researchers in attribution theory have demonstrated that the process by which people determine how much praise or blame an actor deserves depends in large part on how much skill was involved in completing the discrete acts. The more we can dissociate our defendant from the requisite skill necessary for the accomplishment of the discrete behavior, the less likely there will be an attribution of intention.

E: Mr. Defendant acted with an awareness that he was aiming to fulfill his desire while performing the behavior. This is the place for the “there was too much going on and Mr. Defendant wasn’t really paying attention” gambit. But the convictions of Conrad Black and Kenneth Lay clearly tell us that the “head in the sand” defenses, without more, won’t work. Indeed, Bernard Ebbers was convicted by a jury who refused to buy into the defense theory that Ebbers was an “accounting ignoramus” who knew nothing of the massive fraud that took place on his watch. Juries clearly believe that for the upper echelons of corporate hierarchy “ignorance at this level can’t be excused.” What’s the more? To break it down, the element of awareness must be seen as operative in the A + B + C + D scheme. Mr. Defendant has to desire a specific outcome (A) that he believes a particular discrete behavior will accomplish (B). Mr. Defendant must intend to do that discrete behavior (C), have the requisite skill to do that discrete behavior (D) and be aware of his attempt to accomplish the discrete behavior -while attempting it (E). When we tie in elements B, C and D, with the element of awareness, the “head in the sand” defense gains traction. Don’t forget that the greater the number of complex intellectual controls that are necessary for an act, the more it tends to be considered intentional.

Before we leave this article on intent, what can the psychologists tell us about Richard Scrushy? How did Scrushy avoid liability when five consecutive HealthSouth chief financial officers admitted to cooking the books and all fingered Scrushy? The “he was too busy to know what was going on directly below him” gambit worked for Scrushy. Why? Partially because Scrushy’s counsel distinguished him on elements C (intention to do the discrete behavior)and E (awareness that he was trying to fulfill his desired outcome). The other part of the successful defense involved stereotyping and projection.

Throughout the run up to his trial, Scrushy made an overt effort to build sympathy among religious conservatives and African Americans in his home state of Alabama. Over the course of the trial, Scrushy preached regularly at black churches in the Birmingham area and hosted a daily cable television show often featuring ministers as guests. When the government blundered by bringing the case in the Bible Belt, the stage was set for stereotyping and projection.

As stated earlier, an essential folk concept that leads to the attribution of intent is that jurors believe people think and act like they themselves do. People commonly assume that their attitudes are shared by others and, in this way, jurors infer intentions in others because they are aware of them in themselves. We all recognize this phenomenon. For example, when we meet a new acquaintance who shares our love for a particular comedian, we may unconsciously extend ourselves as a template and assume that the new acquaintance also shares our political views. On the other hand, when we discover that a new colleague hates our favorite movie, we tend to abandon ourselves as a template and turn instead to a stereotype that may apply to her (e.g., an introverted, intelligent librarian). This use of ourselves as a template is called projection. When these templates do not fit, we resort to seeing the differences in others in bold relief. This is called stereotyping.

According to psychologist Daniel Ames, when the behavior of a person of interest is ambiguous, perceivers shift between stereotyping and projection as mind reading strategies. Specifically, when perceivers see themselves as initially more similar to a target, they will rely more heavily on projection and less heavily on stereotyping than when they see themselves as less similar. A number of researchers have shown that stereotype activation declines over the course of exposure to the target. When we blend this avenue of research into the work of psychologists who study “perspective taking” (learning to see the world through another’s experience), we see that a sense of dissimilarity tips perceivers toward stereotyping, whereas a sense of similarity evoked by perspective taking draws perceivers away from stereotyping and toward projection.

This was Scrushy’s master stroke. Both Scrushy and his counsel repeated the mantra that he epitomized the ambitious, aggressive entrepreneur who transformed the plodding health care business. Scrushy was repeatedly described as the guy who was married at age 17 with a baby on the way, who worked as a gas station attendant before earning a degree in respiratory therapy. Pushed repeatedly as the hometown boy who made good, it was barely a decade after launching HealthSouth in 1984 that Scrushy was running the biggest provider of rehabilitative services and outpatient surgery in the country. Masterful work in perspective taking and projection, coupled with a sense of the elements of intent attribution, won the case for Richard Scrushy. It can do the same for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get Into the Legal Profession?

“What is the Cheapest way to get into law?”

Entering the legal profession is without doubt one of the most expensive career options apart from becoming an airline pilot. It involves investing thousands of pounds in education that may or may not lead to a position at the end of the road.

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to which is the cheapest way to get in because there are all sorts of implications as to the different paths you choose to go down.

The Legal Executive route is the cheapest option. Quite a few people go down this particular route following on from an undergraduate degree, whether law or otherwise, or straight out of school. The Legal Executive route in terms of monetary cost is considerably cheaper than the Graduate Diploma in Law/LLB degree and the Legal Practice Course (the solicitor route).

We did a bit of research and the current cost in 2013 to complete both parts of the Legal Executive training (Part 3 and Part 6) is about £6,500 (course fees, exam fees etc..) The current cost of the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law is £11,000-£13,000. If you combine the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Court (LPC) the overall cost is about £18,000-£20,000.

If you combine the Legal Practice Course with the cost of completing a law degree then the usual overall price is around £25,000 to £30,000, which is gradually creeping up to around the £40,000 mark as law schools start to capitalise on the willingness and ability of potential lawyers to pay.

In the past people have been down the vocational course route or alternatively the New York Attorney route, but these are options that are now in the past because, as we understand it, the Law Society still require you to complete the LPC and a training contract or training contract equivalent, which makes it senseless to plan to do either of these two in order to become a lawyer.

So if you look at the different options, the cheapest one by far is the route through the Institute of Legal Executives and becoming a chartered legal executive before then either moving on to being a solicitor simply remaining a legal executive.

The various borders between all the different types of lawyer (legal executive, paralegal, solicitor and Barrister) are becoming distinctly blurred. Solicitors can now do work that was exclusively reserved for barristers. Barristers can see clients directly. Legal executives can gain the Rights of Audience that solicitors and barristers previously exclusively enjoyed. Legal Executives can now become partners of law firms and so can barristers. Solicitors can practice as Advocates without ever needing to take instructions from clients themselves.

However one thing remains very clear and that is that in the minds of lawyers themselves there is still a hierarchy in terms of both fee income and status.

At the bottom of the pile is a paralegal and this is very unlikely to change for a good few years yet simply because paralegals have no rights at all in terms of advocacy, and similarly cannot practice on their own without another type of lawyer being with them.

Second in the pile are Legal Executives who are starting to enjoy more status in recent times but similarly hold lesser standing in the legal profession as a whole than solicitors and barristers. It is partly because of the old-fashioned view that most people who have become legal executives are former secretaries trying to work their way up. this is still very much the case for some people and perfectly understandable as a very easy way in.

After all, being a solicitor requires you to do quite a bit of academic study at some point or other whereas becoming a legal executive is mostly something you can do on the job with a few evenings a week at night school or weekends at doing distance learning spread over a considerable length of time.

Second from the top are solicitors. Make no mistake, in the legal professional solicitors are definitely considered second rate by just about everyone including themselves, even when they are commercial lawyers earning considerable sums of money and more than the Barristers they instruct. Solicitors are seen more as wheeler-dealers and go-getters than actual lawyers, and the profession itself over time has determined effectively that solicitors are the monkeys to barristers’ organ grinders.

At the top of the pile are the barristers. The vast majority of barristers I suspect would class themselves as upper class. They are often very sharp, extremely intelligent, usually residing in exclusive villages or streets reserved for premier league footballers, doctors and senior businessmen and with cars to match.

Barristers see solicitors as a necessary evil as traditionally the solicitors obtain clients for the barristers and the barristers did their best for them even though they usually have not met the client before the date of their first hearing and have absolutely no interest at all in their welfare or personal situation.

Barristers are pure law at the end of the day and are not interested (quite understandably) in their clients’ welfare or wellbeing.

These are traditional views on the legal profession and the way it is structured. How you choose to interpret the above article is a matter for yourself, but it is based on my own experiences in law, whether as a lay person undertaking cases myself or as a qualified solicitor working with barristers and other solicitors.

The reason I put this level of detail into this article is to show you that if you decide to go in the cheapest way into the legal profession there is always a catch, and at the moment the catch is that your status for the remainder of your time in the profession will be diminished by the decision you have made now.

Once a legal executive always a legal executive. The lawyers recruiting you at the moment are usually “pure” solicitors. They will hold your status as a legal executive against you and probably for the remainder of your career. Your salary will often be affected as solicitors traditionally believe that legal executives are worth less money than qualified solicitors. I would estimate that over the time of your career remaining you will lose around £5,000 to £10,000 per year at the very least through your decision to go down the Legal Executives route, at least up until you have been in a solicitors job for 5 years min.

Furthermore, certain doors will be shut to you from then start. If you qualify as a legal executive you very often have to qualify into an area where legal executives are used and practice. This invariably means debt recovery, some types of employment – usually contentious, crime, family, conveyancing, wills and probate and sometimes commercial property. Whilst some of these are not known to be too bad in the long term – commercial property and wills and probate are not too badly paid at the moment – it does mean that the majority of commercial law for example is going to be outside your remit.

It is very difficult to move from one field to another once you have specialised in one particular area of law. So for example if you qualify as a legal executive undertaking crime work and have 5 years’ experience you cannot then use your legal executive status (or indeed your solicitor status) to move across and practice in corporate finance.

If you are an able student or graduate with excellent grades then you should almost always make an effort to go down the solicitor or barrister route. Going down the solicitor route is not as expensive as people think it is.

For example you do not need to pay the College of Law or BPP to do the Legal Practice Course or the Graduate Diploma in Law. There are far cheaper alternatives and regardless of what the more elite institutions tell you, the vast majority of law firms don’t care two hoots where you do your LPC because most qualified lawyers view these courses as burning hoops to jump through in order to qualify than any sign of your ability.

Employers are always interested in your undergraduate degree. For the rest of your career. Forever!

They are also interested in your A level grades. Forever!

This plus your A- Level grades will determine whether you are a student or graduate with excellent academics. If you have straight A’s at A Level or AAB or possibly ABB then you will be an excellent student to come into law.

If you have a 2:1 Degree in anything other than pop music or country dancing (my first degree was pop music), then you stand a very good chance of training and becoming a qualified solicitor.

If you have less than this then your life as a lawyer will be considerably harder to start out with. The Legal profession do not view 2:2 degrees as being something that entitles you to practice as a lawyer. It will go against you for the remainder of your career and there is no way round it. I suspect that if you are sat there reading this with a 2:2 degree you have been badly misinformed by anyone who has told you to go into the legal profession. It is not impossible – I have trained and coached many students and graduates who have 2:2 degrees (sometimes even a 3rd) and they have gone onto enjoy rewarding careers as lawyers in some capacity. However, their road into law has been considerably harder as a result of their inability to obtain a 2:1 degree.

So getting back to my statement that if you have excellent academics you should always consider becoming a solicitor so as not to damage your career in the long term by going down the Legal Executive route.

If you do not have excellent academics then you should always consider alternative options and one of these will be to go down the legal executive route.

However I would not recommend paying to undertake a legal executive course until you have legal work experience, you are able to use in the longer term to secure yourself a good legal career.

By this I mean that if you are a student or graduate you should definitely not go straight along to the Institute of Legal Executives and sign up for any legal executive course. If you are going down a non-conventional route into law then academic study once you have completed an undergraduate degree or your A-Levels is completely immaterial. Experience is what matters and nothing else will do. Legal work experience is the key to gaining a successful start into law.

You cannot skip this, circumvent or navigate round it as so many people try every year.

This is why academic institutions have been bought out by overseas companies looking to make a quick buck.

There are a lot of people out there undertaking postgraduate and undergraduate courses with no hope at all of ever finding a job in the profession they are going into.

Furthermore, there are lots of people out there who have the academic qualifications but lack any work experience or activities or interests who similarly are very unlikely to ever get ahead in law or get through the easy way.

No careers adviser will give you this advice, but the main thing to do to get into law is to get experience, more experience and even more experience. This may cost money in itself, and you may say that I have my fees to pay and I have to live. This gets me to my point that if you want to invest in your career then spending money on academic qualifications is not the way to go. Getting experience is and this in itself will cost you money.

To give you a quick example, as I write this a vacancy has come in from one of our central London law firms. They are looking for a fee earner to go and assist for a month or two with a load of admin work. They will pay well for this, and it is a job probably most suited for an LPC graduate.

I have one in mind.

It is not an LPC graduate with a 2:1 law degree or good A levels. It is not an LPC graduate with an LLM from a good university or some sort of summer school academic qualification. It is an LPC graduate with similar experience to that the firm are seeking.

The firm will not give two hoots what the LPC graduate has in terms of additional qualifications but they will study the LPC graduate’s work experience to date to decide whether or not to take them on for this particular role.

It is so important to understand this that when somebody says what is the cheapest way into law that there is no easy answer. You cannot just take a decision now that will affect the rest of your career simply on the basis that it may cost one or two thousand pounds more to go one way into the legal profession rather than another.

You will notice that so far I have not mentioned anything about barristers. This is because in my experience training to be a barrister is almost always a complete waste of your money and time. You would probably be shocked to hear this and perhaps put it down to my natural bias against barristers having been a solicitor myself. I would grudgingly accept that probably I am a little biased against barristers having run around courts for them, I’ve dealt with some pretty awful ones over the years (as well as some absolutely fantastic ones) but the barristers’ strand of the profession is pretty much tied up and it is very important to understand this.

The word nepotism could almost have been invented for this part of the profession. Let me give you an example.

Back many years ago when I had just qualified as a solicitor our practice used a local chambers which had a very good reputation in the area and was probably the top set of barristers by a considerable distance. I cannot remember any of their barristers being unsuited or incompetent and most being incredibly talented advocates.

At some stage in my first year after training I remember that they advertised for two pupil barristers to join them. There were a considerable number of applications, as you would expect because this was a top quality set of chambers, outstanding reputation with quality work coming in, in an area where there are not many barristers’ chambers.

I do not know how the recruitment process occurred but I do know that the two pupils selected were children of one of the senior barristers in chambers and one of the more junior barristers. I am afraid that the barristers’ profession can talk about diversity and equal opportunity to their hearts content but when recruitment like this occurs in a chambers of that size it is completely irrelevant.

It is always going to be the case that if chambers at that level recruit their own then anyone else will either have to set up rival chambers or alternatively work for a lesser standard of chambers.

It may be that the two children of the barristers already in practice were the best suited for the role, and I am sure they went on to be absolutely outstanding barristers but the point is these two people gained their pupillages with chambers to which they were already affiliated through their parents.

Without any sort or recruitment process that eliminates this (and after all why should it – I would have done exactly the same myself as a barrister if my children wanted to practice as barristers!) then this is not a strand of the profession to go into unless you have family or extremely good friends who are able to assist you in your search or pupillage.

The vast majority of people who complete the Bar Professional Training Course do not end up as barristers. They end up working as paralegals or non-qualified lawyers with a views to taking the Legal Practice Course at a future point in their career, costing even more money.

This is a false economy because the cost of completing the Bar Professional Training Course and the Legal Practice Course is verging on the ridiculous for the returns that you will get at a later stage in your career.

So in summary I recommend anyone coming into the profession to do one of two things.

1. If you have excellent academics and the ability to add legal work experience to your CV to bolster this then go and try and qualify as a solicitor. Do not go down any other route.

2. If you do not have excellent academics do not go down the route of qualifying to be a solicitor. You can go and get work experience and prove me wrong (and I hope you do) but you would be better suited to a life as a legal executive with a view to cross-qualifying at a later stage by competing the Legal Practice Course or simply being happy doing what you are doing as a legal executive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Memphis Permanent Residents: What You Need To Know If Charged With a Crime

The greater Memphis, Tennessee area is home to over 1 million people, many of whom are immmigrants from other countries. There is quite a bit of legal activity in Memphis with regard to immigrants, because of the federal immigration court in downtown Memphis. It is the only immigration court in Tennessee, and also serves residents of Mississippi and Arkansas. If you’re a legal immigrant in Memphis, Tennessee and have been charged with a criminal offense, you’re facing a situation that could severely affect not only your residence in the United States, but your entire future and the future of those close to you. You should immediately consult with a Memphis criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case and what options you have for keeping the charge from becoming a conviction.

Criminal cases in Memphis are heard in the Shelby County Criminal Court building, located at 201 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN, 38103. Other Memphis-area jurisdictions such as Bartlett, Collierville, and Germantown have their own court locations. If you are summoned to appear at the Memphis Immigration Court, you will go to the Clifford Davis Federal Building, also downtown, located at 167 N. Main St. in Memphis.

Under United States immigration laws, committing or admitting to a crime involving moral turpitude can be grounds for deportation or denial of entry. Unfortunately, there is no set definition for “crime involving moral turpitude” in the immigration courts. In fact, the phrase has been somewhat of a mystery to judges, attorneys, and immigrants.

Crimes whose elements contain fraud, larceny, or an intent to harm other people have commonly been found to be crimes of moral turpitude. Violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, child abuse, and assault would apply, as well as offenses such as theft, vandalism, burglary, blackmail, and forgery. Additionally, crimes against the government such as counterfeiting, bribery and perjury will trigger the moral turpitude penalties. Drug possession charges may also trigger deportation or a denial of citizenship.

A Memphis permanent resident card holder does not even have to commit one of these crimes. If he or she simply attempts or conspires to commit these offenses, or is an accessory, that also would count as commission of a crime involving moral turpitude.

Another category of offenses–aggravated felonies–are extremely serious and can lead to certain deportation. Aggravated felonies, like crimes involving moral turpitude, have no set definition and seem to vary from case to case. Even crimes that would not defined as felonies under the law of the state in which they were committed can be considered aggravated felonies in the world of immigration law. Some common examples include drug and weapons trafficking, prostitution, child pornography, and sex crimes. If you have been charged with what you believe is a crime involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony, contact a Memphis immigration criminal defense lawyer immediately.

There are some exceptions to the strict and confusing laws regarding crimes committed by immigrants. There is what’s known as the petty offense exception, which states that if the maximum penalty for the crime is less than one year, and if the individual was sentenced to less than six months in prison, and that crime is his or her first and only offense, he or she will not be barred from receiving a visa, green card, or citizenship.

Juvenile crimes involving moral turpitude are also an exception. If the applicant was under 18 when the offense was committed, and if it was committed more than five years prior to the application, he or she will not be barred from receiving a visa, green card, or citizenship. No matter what the offense, though, if you are visa or green card holder in the Memphis area you should contact a Memphis criminal attorney to discuss your case.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What is the Legal Definition of a Hostile Work Environment?

The hostility that exists in a corporate environment is actually counterproductive and eats into productivity because it sucks out any individual desire to make the office work together as a team, the hostility creates small pockets of a clique. The creation of an ingroup acknowledges the creation of an outgroup.

The corporate cost can be astronomical on two counts, the first is the sheer drop in productivity, employees who dread coming to work are not likely to brainstorm ideas. Instead they are forced into small cliques that maintain a hostile and disruptive stance.

The second cost is the individual stress to the employees. They suffer from headaches, hypertension and other real or imagined symptoms, that lead to them calling in sick. They are frustrated and the brightest will leave and find a more conducive working environment. The least able stay because they feel that they cannot get another job and their productivity and creativity is also reduced.

It is therefore in the employers interest to stamp out any hostile working environment, yet in many cases it is the bosses that fan the flames of this hostile environment. They force their staff into a position where they are isolated and frustrated.

The U.S. has an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and they confer several legal rights to employees. The job of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is to enforce federal laws that prohibit employees being discriminated against. These laws protect both employees and prospective employees against employment discrimination. However whilst many people know that employment discrimination is a crime the details can be a bit fuzzy around the edges.

Employers are not allowed to show any kind of favor or discrimination on the grounds of

Ethnic origins
Age (over 40)
Genetic information.

However the issues can be slightly broader no discrimination against sex includes any discrimination against women for being pregnant. It also includes harassment by co-workers as well as employees on the above grounds.

Recently it was reported in the British press that a business told a prospective Conservative member of parliament that they would not be considered because the sight of a pregnant woman made him feel sick! American legislation extends to preventing retaliation when complaints were received on the above grounds.

However the laws are not necessarily clear cut because not all employees are protected, it does depend on the number of employees and the type of employment discrimination alleged.

Despite this any employee can lodge a”Charge of Discrimination” even if they are not protected In fact all discrimination lawsuits must be preceded by a charge of discrimination, unless the employee is filing for discrimination on the grounds of unequal. However there is a time limit against these charges and that time constraint is strictly enforced.

The charge of discrimination is what it says it is an allegation and there are no claims at all that the government agree Wit the charge. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has a legal obligation to investigate the charge of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the power to force the employer to disclose certain records regarding their employment policy.

The next step in the process is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues a right to sue, which gives the employee the right to take legal action against their employers’. The employee has a year exactly to procure the right to sue, but this figure is not always the same for government workers.

One benefit about discussions with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the fact that there advice is both free and implies confidentially which means that you do not pay and they cannot take any action without your approval.

However it is crucial that you accept that their word is not necessarily written in stone – they may feel that you do not have any grounds to sue for discrimination, but a lawyer may well advise you differently. This is because defining a hostile working environment is by its very nature contentious. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tends to confine its definitions to the categories which are listed above and any other local laws, because they carry federal protection.

Sometimes that can leave you in a situation that you feel you have no options, and this is rarely the case. In most cases there are options, but you are not aware of those options. Pre-Paid Legal Services, which have a fixed low cost monthly charge provides phone consultations with labor lawyers.

Some cases are rejected because the employee has not stated to their employer that they are a victim of discrimination. However there may be valid reasons why an employee has failed to do that, they may feel that they will aggravate an already hostile working environment.

An employer has a legal responsibility to provide a mechanism for reporting experiences, that confers some levels of protection to their employees. It is often grounds of discrimination that this protection is not in place nor enforced. It is not enough to be there, an employer cannot pay lip service to this, they must make a situation safe for the employee to speak.

However some form of document is essential if only the alleged times and dates of the employment discrimination. never give your employee a letter or a document without retaining a copy. State clearly your objections and grounds of the discrimination and ask for the behavior to stop. Write down any actions from your employer in retaliation of the alleged discrimination and if possible provide witnesses. it is often best to speak to trusted colleagues outside of the working environment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off