Firm Secures Successful Site Plan Approvals for Rutgers Student Housing on Broad Street

Counsel Jennifer Carrillo-Perez led a team of attorneys in the firm’s Land Use & Approvals and Commercial Real Estate & Redevelopment Practice Groups in the representation of a wholly owned subsidiary of Devco and the successful securing of approvals on the proposed site plan for a new Rutgers student housing project in the historic building at 15 Washington Street in Newark.  As reported by the Star Ledger, the project will include 163 total units, including an apartment for Rutgers’ Chancellor, plus academic space for use by Rutgers. Construction, which commenced immediately upon approval, is expected to be completed by July  2015 and occupancy to reach 95% capacity due to high demand. The project entailed extensive community outreach and complex approval processes due to the landmark historic status of both the building itself and the neighborhood; it is expected to catalyze further economic growth in this area around the North end of Broad Street.

Oliveira and Bottitta Quoted in Sunday New York Times’ Real Estate Section

Counsel Michael J. Oliveira and Joseph A. Bottitta, Of Counsel,  are both quoted in the New York Times “Ask Real Estate” column, responding to a question from a reader who allowed a lawyer neighbor to store legal files in his garage. The attorney in question failed to remove the files for a long period of time. Mr. Bottitta noted that even the garage owner in this situation could be liable for sensitive documents such as materials containing clients’ Social Security numbers. Mr. Oliveira recommended alerting the County and State Bar Associations because of the professional responsibility of a lawyer to maintain client files. Both Mr. Bottitta and Mr. Oliveira practice in the firm’s Business Law & Commercial Transactions, Commercial Real Estate & Redevelopment, and Land Use & Approvals Groups;  Mr. Bottitta also serves in the firm’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Practice Group.

Genova Burns Launches Litigation Law Blog

Genova Burns’s award-winning Complex Commercial Litigation Practice Group has launched the Litigation Law Blog at www.litigation-law-blog.com.  Its latest articles cover subjects ranging from recent arbitration rule changes to Justin Bieber’s contract for house parties.  Subscribe now to receive informative updates on the latest state and federal decisions, legal trends and hot legal topics.

Rajiv Parikh To Address the Middlesex Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns and the Indian Business Association

Counsel Rajiv D. Parikh will speak tonight at a community meeting held by the Middlesex Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns and the Indian Business Association.  His Honor, Judge Alberto Rivas, who heads the Advisory Committee, will be leading a discussion focused on the Criminal Court system and its relationship with minority populations; other issues to be addressed include language barriers and misconceptions about the system. This is part of the Middlesex County Superior Court’s ongoing efforts to reach out to different minority communities.

Mr. Parikh practices in the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation, Intellectual Property Law, Corporate Political Activity, Construction Law & Litigation, and White Collar Criminal Defense, Corporate Internal Investigations & Corporate Ethics Practice Groups. He currently serves as President of  the South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey, and is heavily involved in the South Asian community in New Jersey both from his representation of firm clients, and through a variety of pro-bono and charitable positions.  He is also a member of the firm’s Inclusionary Initative Committee.

The discussion will take place on February 19, 2014 at 1655 Oak Tree Road, Ste 295A, Edison, NJ 08820 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Lisa John Appointed Commissioner of the Essex County Environmental Commission

Lisa A. John, Counsel in the firm’s Commercial Real Estate & Redevelopment and Land Use & Approvals Practice Groups, has been appointed a Commissioner of the Essex County Environmental Commission.   The Essex County Environmental Commission provides advice, outreach and education to the Office of the Essex County Executive, Board of Chosen Freeholders, Office of Environmental Affairs, and to Essex County municipal Environmental Commissions. The Commission’s aim is to protect, preserve, restore and renew Essex County’s natural resources and to increase environmental awareness, ensuring that all Essex County citizens can enjoy a healthy environment and an enhanced quality of life within a sustainable regional community. Ms. John is the co-author of the Municipal Land Use Law Chapter of the Complete Guide to Planning in New Jersey, 2010 Third Edition, published by the American Planning Association, New Jersey Chapter;  she has also been recognized by New Jersey Monthly magazine and Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in Land Use and Zoning Law.

“PERC Takes a Step Back on Automatic Increment Payments” by Joseph Hannon in New Jersey Law Journal

Joseph M. Hannon, Counsel in the firm’s Labor Law Practice Group, has written an article in this week’s New Jersey Law Journal on the “dynamic status quo doctrine;“ Mr. Hannon analyzes a recent decision by the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), calling it “a decision that changes the landscape of negotiations in the public sector.”  The article looks at the case of County of Atlantic and PBA Local 243, P.E.R.C. No. 2014-40, 2013 NJ PERC LEXIS 101 (Dec. 19, 2013):  “Under a principle known as the dynamic status quo doctrine, employers were obligated to pay the increments on salary guides of expired agreements in which a successor agreement had not been reached. Therefore, employees not at the top step of the salary guide would receive pay increases on a determined annual date simply by moving up the guide, regardless of a negotiated pay increase and regardless of whether a successor agreement has been reached. While employers had been required to pay such increments at the expiration of a collective negotiations agreement, PERC’s recent decision indicates that employers will no longer be required to do so.”

 

Partner Laurence D. Laufer Quoted in Queens TimesLedger

Laurence D. Laufer, Director of the firm’s Corporate Political Activity Law Practice Group and its New York City office, commented in the TimesLedger newspaper on the case of former southeast Queens City Council candidate Ricardo Brown and his unusually large campaign debt. “’He’s facing two types of consequences at a minimum. One is the skepticism over whether these are actually campaign related liabilities, and the Campaign Finance Board would likely ask for proof that demonstrates these are campaign related,’ Laufer said. ‘And if he can’t show they’re campaign related he could be charged with false reporting.’”

 

 

John Vreeland Presenting on “Avoiding the Wage & Hour Trap” for NJBIA

Partner John Vreeland, Director of the firm’s Wage & Hour Compliance Practice Group, will address the subject of “Avoiding the Wage & Hour Trap” at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s seminar, rescheduled due to weather and now taking place on Feb. 27th at 8:30am at the Sheraton Eatontown.  This half-day seminar offers comprehensive information on new minimum wage rates, properly classifying employees, correctly utilizing independent contractors and interns, and applying  time clock rounding.  To register, click here.

Third Circuit Affirms $9.2M Attorneys’ Fee Award in Class Action against Volkswagen of America Inc. – Partner Angelo J. Genova and Counsel Dina M. Mastellone Served as Local Counsel

On February 12, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the case of John M. Dewey et al. v. Volkswagen of America Inc. et al., Case Nos. 13-1123/1124, upheld a $9.2 million attorneys’ fee award included in a settlement in a class action against Volkswagen of America Inc. over leaky sunroofs, finding that the federal magistrate judge currently utilized the percentage-of-recovery method instead of lodestar to calculate attorneys’ fees.  Partner Angelo J. Genova and Counsel Dina M. Mastellone served as Local Counsel for Schoengold & Sporn PC, counsel for the Dewey Plaintiffs, for the entirety of the 6 year litigation.

The appeal, filed by Objectors David and Jennifer Murray, argued Judge Patty Shwartz improperly relied on federal law when calculating and approving the attorneys’ fee award. The Objectors argued that Judge Shwartz, appointed as United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit on April 10, 2013, should have relied on New Jersey State law which limits the amount that lodestar amounts can be multiplied. The Murrays relied on Rendine v. Pantzer, 661 A.2d 1202 (N.J. 1995), for the proposition that New Jersey courts must apply the lodestar analysis, not the percentage-of-fund analysis, when calculating attorney’s fees relating to common fund class action settlements.

The three-judge Circuit panel disagreed finding nowhere in Rendine did the New Jersey Supreme Court prohibit the percentage-of-fund analysis, nor did the case even include a class action settlement.  As such, Judge Shwartz did not abuse her discretion by correctly using federal law to apply the percentage-of-recovery method in class actions when attorneys’ fees are derived from a common fund shared by plaintiffs.  Judge Shwartz arrived at her figure by applying the percentage-of-recovery rate to the settlement valuation and applied a lodestar “cross-check” to compare her determination using the percentage-of-recovery method to calculations of other federal courts in the Third Circuit using the lodestar method. Lastly, the Third Circuit also denied the appeal filed by Peter Braverman, a nonparty and attempted intervener, saying he failed to show that Judge Shwartz erred in allowing him to intervene or that there was a conflict between the class and class counsel.

A settlement was first reached in the case in 2010, but nonparty class members and Volkswagen appealed Judge Shwartz’ preliminary approval of the deal to the Third Circuit, which then remanded the case finding that the class could not be certified under the parties’ prior settlement because the representative plaintiffs were not adequate to represent the interests of the entire class. See Dewey v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, 681 F.3d 170 (3d Cir. 2012). A revised settlement was thereafter approved on remand by Judge Shwartz on December 14, 2012.

For the full decision, please click here.

Law 360 and the New Jersey Law Journal covered the decision.

Rebecca Moll Freed and Alexandra Hill to Present Campaign Finance Seminar for NJ Bankers

On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, Rebecca Moll Freed and Alexandra M. Hill of the firm’s Corporate Political Activity Practice Group will be presenting at the NJ Bankers Association seminar entitled “Developing an Ethical and Effective Political Activity Compliance Program.”

Regulated industry companies, such as banks, require a heightened level of care because of New Jersey’s regulated industry ban.  Although banks are prohibited from participating in the political process, bank officers, directors and employees have a First Amendment right to participate.

This program is designed to help banks put effective and ethical protocols in place that properly address:

  • The regulated industry ban;
  • Establishment and operation of a voluntary employee political action committee/continuing political committee;
  • Individual political activity by officers, directors and employees;
  • Pay-to-Play restrictions, including ELEC’s Annual Business Entity Filing requirement (due on March 30, 2014);
  • Independent expenditures; and
  • Gifts and entertainment.

Attendees will walk away with an understanding of the steps that their bank needs to take to avoid reputational risk, loss of government contracting opportunities and potential exposure to government investigation and sanctions.  An ethical and effective compliance program is an essential tool to help ensure that all political contributions and interactions with elected officials are in compliance with applicable law.

Click here for program and registration information.

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