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March 2016 Archives

For Better (But Not For Worse): Premarital Agreements May Offer Protection From Marital Debt

Prior to walking down the aisle in 2014, celebrity power-couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian entered into a prenuptial agreement, a fact that was far from surprising given that Forbes pegged the parties' respective net worths at $100 million and $40 million dollars, approximately. While prenuptial agreements for the ultra-rich are nothing new or noteworthy, it was West's alleged financial woes, not his fortune, that recently made waves across the internet. The hip-hop mogul took to Twitter last month to bemoan that he was $53 million in "personal debt". 

Arbitration: The Symbiosis of Statute and Contract

Arbitration continues to gain in popularity as a dispute resolution method, primarily due to the time and cost savings it offers to parties. While Massachusetts recognizes arbitration as "a creature of contract," the Massachusetts Arbitration Act (G.L. c. 251) (the "MAA") provides the legal framework (1) to compel parties to adhere to agreements to arbitrate; (2) to enforce arbitration awards through the courts; (3) to define the powers of arbitrators; and (4) to vacate arbitration awards under certain circumstances.  

China v. the Philippines: Can Countries Ignore International Arbitration?

As President Obama meets with Asian leaders this week, his conversations with Chinese president Xi Jinping will surely touch on what has become a contentious topic with deep implications in the international community - namely, the rise of Chinese expansionism into the South China Sea. This, in turn, will reverberate on the international order and ability of countries to hold each other accountable under international treaties.

Honey, You May Have To Testify: The Limits of the Spousal Disqualification In Civil Litigation (the Cosby edition)

The question of whether a spouse may be called as a witness in a civil case recently came up in the civil litigation surrounding the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby. People often reflexively (and mistakenly) think that the issue is governed by the spousal privilege. In fact, in Massachusetts the spousal privilege is only applicable in criminal cases where one spouse is the defendant. M.G.L. c. 233 sec. 20, cl. 1. In those circumstances, the spousal privilege can be invoked by a witness to avoid being compelled to testify against his or her spouse. Com. v. Szerlong, 457 Mass. 858, 865 (2010). The testifying spouse can also choose to waive the privilege if the spouse wants to testify. Because the spousal privilege is applicable only in criminal proceedings, it is essentially irrelevant in civil litigation.

The Benefits of Practicing in the Massachusetts Land Court

A silver lining to finding oneself involved in a property dispute is the opportunity to resolve the issue in one of the Commonwealth's specialized courts, the Massachusetts Land Court. The types of legal disputes that Land Court judges decide vary in type and scope, but they all touch upon real property. The Land Court's docket contains cases involving foreclosures, challenges to subdivision plans, and boundary disputes, among others. Pursuant to General Laws Chapter 185, the Land Court has exclusive jurisdiction over some issues and concurrent jurisdiction over others. 

Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Mortgage Recording Fees for MERS

The Connecticut Supreme Court has upheld state legislation imposing an aggregate fee increase of approximately $5 million for mortgages recorded in Connecticut registries by Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. ("MERS"). See MERSCORP Holdings Inc., et al. v. Malloy, No. SC19376, 2016 WL 510244 (Conn. Feb. 8, 2016). As noted previously in this blog on April 11, 2014, and August 7, 2015, certain government entities in Texas and Louisiana failed in their attempts to recoup fees from MERS by alleging violations of federal RICO statutes or by asserting claims for unjust enrichment. Connecticut chose instead to legislatively impose significantly higher recording fees for MERS than for other mortgage companies.

Mandatory Self-Disclosures in Family Court: What Do the Finances Look Like?

In any divorce, the division of assets and support calculation (if any) will be one of the main, if not the main, focal points of the divorce process. In order to accomplish this task, both parties and their counsel should have a thorough understanding of the parties' financial circumstances - income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, among other things. Such concerns are often the target of discovery - parties are entitled to receive relevant information from the other side in order to make an informed decision. Such processes can sometimes be time-consuming and expensive, particularly in cases involving more complex financial arrangements.

U.S. District Court Dismisses Claims Arising From Check Fraud Scheme

In Armenian Missionary Association of America, Inc. v. TD Bank, N.A., et al, 87 UCC Rep. Serv. 2d 766 (D.N.J. 2015), the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed check fraud claims brought against TD Bank N.A. ("TD"). Plaintiff Armenian Missionary Association of America, Inc. ("AMAA" or "Plaintiff"), a non-profit organization that relies on donations to provide aid and assistance to Armenians throughout the world, sued TD after it discovered a series of alleged thefts by its former employee, Tigran Melkonyan, of over $800,000.00.

Of Jurors and Jury Instructions

I attended a recent Federal Bar Association breakfast that was hosted by a thoughtful member of the federal bench in Massachusetts. He raised an important question about juror comprehension: Should each juror have a personal copy of the Court's jury instructions and read along with the judge throughout the charge?  

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