Category Archives: Bankruptcy

When You Go to Court, all that Matters is “THE LAW” (and Reality)

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Clients often ask attorneys, “what are my chances of winning?”  It sounds like a reasonable question.  But what clients do not seem to understand is that there is “the law” and there is “reality.”  All a good lawyer can tell you is: here is what I think is good about your case and here is what I see as the weaknesses, and here is the law “as I see it”.   Huh?

I was preparing for a hearing in Broward Circuit Court, on an Order to Show Cause why the other party’s entire case against my client and several others should not be dismissed.  I had case law precedent from both the Supreme Court of Florida and the District Court that binds the Judge hearing the case to support my client’s position.  I provided a copy of these cases to opposing counsel as we waited for our turn.

Before our case was heard, opposing counsel came over to me and advised that he agreed to dismiss my client as defendant from the case (leaving other defendants still in the case).  I thought this was great news, because the client would be very happy.

I still had to wait my turn for the hearing, because I wanted to make sure that the Judge’s order clearly reflected that my client was now out of the case.

I waited and waited and then I heard the calendar begin on the next round of hearings.  I asked the Clerk what happened since my case from the earlier round had still not been called.  The Clerk advised that I should notify the Judge that my case was not yet called.  the Judge asked me for the name of the case and I told him.  The Judge then blurted out “I find that cause was shown why the case should not be dismissed.”  As I said, luckily, opposing counsel and I had already agreed that my client was being dismissed from the case.  Opposing counsel so notified the Judge and he was ok with the dismissal of my client.

But what would have happened if we did not work it out?  What would have happened if I did not give opposing counsel a copy of the cases that supported our position?  Instead of going into the hearing with “the law on my side”, I would be going into this hearing with a Judge who had already made up his mind.  Perhaps I could have changed the Judge’s mind.  But I cannot count on that.

Instead, my client would be stuck in this case for who knows how long.  Could we appeal the Judge’s finding of cause to not dismiss the case, maybe.  Courts of appeal do not let you appeal every ruling as soon as it is made.  We could try, but it is likely it would not be heard until the case is over.

Maybe we would win the case in the end.  But maybe not.  And, if we did not win, could we appeal and argue that that the plaintiff’s case should have been dismissed at the Order to Show stage.  Probably.  Would we get the entire proceeding thrown out for failing to follow the correct procedure, maybe.

So many “maybes”.  Hmmm.  Sounds like there is “the law” and there is “reality”. 

Eric N. Assouline, Esq., Litigation Partner, Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.

 

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Attorneys: Thanks-for-Giving Back to the Community

Legal Aid Picture of Litigation Attorney Eric N. Assouline

Happy Birthday Eric N. Assouline, and thank you for your Pro Bono work at the Legal Aid Service of Broward County!

At a time when the front page article of the Daily Business Review is reporting on an $18M legal fee being imposed upon a public company for unnecessarily fighting about every legal issue in a drawn out commercial dispute, and lead counsel’s normal hourly rate of $1,200 an hour being cut down to $675 an hour by a Federal Magistrate to be more in line with prevailing community rates, it is very humbling to discuss “real life” legal problems ordinary people deal with every day.   

I spent part of my 49th Birthday at the Legal Aid Service of Broward County’s offices in Fort Lauderdale speaking to individuals who called Legal Aid for assistance with their legal problems.

I learned long ago, from my former boss Hank Adorno, who taught all the associates at Adorno & Zeder, that it was the culture of the firm to give back to the community.  Going back to the Adorno days, we were paid by the firm to help those that were less fortunate, including reading to elementary school children and participating in Hands On Miami. 

Keeping up with that tradition, Litigation Partner Eric Assouline is seen here speaking to a group of young men and women about how hard work pays off.  Attorney Assouline also received a FLITE Program framed certificate as a thank you for his time.

FLITE Photo

Giving back time to the community has been part of the culture at Assouline & Berlowe.  As mentioned on the Community Service page of the Firm’s website:  The Firm has been involved in giving back to the community, in the form of time, money, and energy in order to support those who are less fortunate as well as in support of other important causes.

Examples of how the firm has been involved in philanthropic commitments are many. As early as in 2004, when the Firm was just a year old, the Firm sponsored a mayoral debate for Miami-Dade County.

In 2005, the Firm sponsored the Beauty and the Best Fund Raising Program for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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In 2006, the Firm sponsored Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Walk-a-Thon in Sunrise, Florida.  In 2014, the firm again returned to support JDRF when the Firm sponsored a charity golf tournament in support of JDRF.

In 2008, during the economic crises, as the headlines were filled with news about Americans losing their jobs, the Firm did not feel it appropriate to have a year end holiday “party” for its staff.  Instead of celebrating another successful year, the Firm made a donation to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for the support, care and treatment of children at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.

The donation is commemorated by an inscribed brick to be placed next to the statute of Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio at the hospital.

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Joe DiMaggio Paver

Brick Paver at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, in Hollywood, Florida

 

In Miami, the Firm donated to the Miami Children’s Hospital, and was recognized with another inscribed brick at the Fountain.

The Firm has also been involved in several directorships for non-profit organizations. For example, Eric Assouline serves as a director for both the B’Nai Brith Justice Unit and Jewish National Fund. Ellen Leibovitch is a director with the South Palm Beach County Bar Association. Mr. Assouline and Ms. Leibovitch have also been involved in supporting the Florida Bar as members of the Florida Bar Grievance Committees in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

On this Thanksgiving Holiday, on behalf of my firm and all those attorneys that Give Back to the community, I want to say Thank you.

Happy Holidays.

Eric N. Assouline, Esq.

Managing Partner, Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.

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Florida Judgment Interest Rate Increase to 5.35%, sort of.

Crowdfunding

Hamilton – Assouline & Berlowe – Business Law Firm – joint tax disclosure by US and Swiss governme

Florida has a very interesting way to keep track of the interest rate of a Florida judgment.  Unlike the old system that was in place, Florida requires a judgment holder to compute the interest rate of their judgment by the quarter of the year.  The interest rate is determined by Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.  So, it is possible that a judgment that is one year old may have more than one interest rate for the past one year period.

After being stuck at 4.75% from October 2011 to March 2016, Florida’s interest rate has been steadily creeping upward.  During the second quarter of 2017, Florida’s judgment interest rate was 5.17%.  Florida’s CFO has just announced that the new applicable interest rate for the third quarter of 2017 is now 5.35%.  Florida’s interest rate is now at its highest in 6 years.

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Strategic Considerations for the Bankruptcy Practitioner when Intellectual Property is Involved

20130904_093101-1Assouline & Berlowe Registered Patent Attorney Greg Popowitz will be speaking as part of a panel discussing the interplay between bankruptcy and intellectual property.  The Bankruptcy Section of the Broward Bar Association is hosting the discussion on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 from 12:00-1:30pm.  The lunch is being sponsored by the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida (BBA).

To register for the event, click here.  It will be an excellent discussion between bankruptcy attorney John Hutton, patent attorney Allen Bennett, and patent attorney Greg Popowitz.

1 CLE credit is pending.

Date: Tuesday, January 13, 2016

Time: 12:00 – 1:30pm

Location: BCBA Conference Center

Cost:   FREE BCBA Bankruptcy Section Members;

$15 BCBA Member(non-section member)

$25 Non-Member of BCBA

No Charge BCBA Judiciary; Includes Hot Lunch

For questions about Intellectual Property matters, contact  Greg Popowitz below.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

213 East Sheridan Street, Suite 3

Dania Beach, Florida  33004

Main: 954.929.1899

Fax: 954.922.6662

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/

Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment, Creditors’ Rights & Bankruptcy, Business Litigation, Corporate & Finance, Real Estate, International Law

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton

 

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B’nai B’rith Justice Unit – Installation Brunch

Bnai Brith Justice Unit Installation BrunchCommercial Litigation Partner Eric Assouline, on behalf of Assouline & Berlowe, is proud to sponsor the 34th Annual Installation Brunch of the Officers and Directors B’nai Brith Justice Unit #5207, taking place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Outgoing President, Broward County Court Judge Lisa Porter, has done an amazing job leading the Justice Unit during the 2013-2014 term.  We all thank her for the extraordinary time and effort spent to further the goals of B’nai B’rith and make this the best year in the history of the Unit.

B’nai B’rith, founded in 1843, is one of the world’s oldest and most respected service organizations.  B’nai B’rith focuses on helping people in the community that cannot help themselves.  Whether responding to national disasters, working with America’s elderly, or promoting the development of the youth, B’nai B’rith works to improve people’s lives in our community.  Older than the American Red Cross, B’nai B’rith is a vital part of the community and their leaders deserve much recognition for their efforts.

The Justice Unit is composed of judges and lawyers in Broward County that aim to spread the quality and professionalism expected from its distinguished members of the bar and the bench.

The installation brunch is scheduled for Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 10am – 12pm at the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale – Plantation Hotel, 1230 South Pine Island Road, Plantation, Florida.

To register for the event, click here.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE – The BUSINESS LAW Firm

Telephone: 954-929-1899

With offices in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boca Raton

ERIC N. ASSOULINE, ESQ.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, and Corporate Law

Miami · Ft. Lauderdale · Boca Raton

Super Lawyers
Eric N. Assouline
Business Litigation

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I Lost the Case…Should I Appeal?

Courthouse Litigator - Miami Assouline & Berlowe Business Law Firm “When a party comes to us with nine grounds reversing the district court, usually there are none.”  Best said by a jurist from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a recently issued appellate opinion.

Civil cases are often long, drawn out, expensive, and unpleasant affairs.  Litigants may encounter innumerable pleadings, extensive document production requests and witness depositions, seemingly never ending pre-trial motions, and pre-trial conferences and settlement discussions. All this, even before the jury trial begins. Then we have jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination (and possibly redirect and re-cross), and closing statements, jury instructions, jury deliberations, and a then final judgment. In some cases, the emotional impact of this process can be devastating.

But the story may not end there. A losing party may then consider appellate review of the final judgment. A federal administrative agency’s decision may be reviewed by a court of appeals. Also, in certain cases, review may be obtained, first in a district court, rather than a court of appeals.

In most bankruptcy courts, an appeal of a ruling by a bankruptcy judge may be taken to the district court. Several courts of appeals, however, have established a bankruptcy appellate panel consisting of three bankruptcy judges to hear appeals directly from the bankruptcy courts. In either situation, the party that loses in the initial bankruptcy appeal may then appeal to the court of appeals.

Let’s consider some statistics. According to recent statistics, during the year ending September 2013, a total of 284,604 new civil cases were filed in the US District Courts:

  • Florida Northern District,  2,016
  • Florida Middle District,     8,443
  • Florida Southern District, 8,398.

The Median time from filing to trial:

  • Florida Northern District,  25.7 months
  • Florida Middle District,     19.8 months
  • Florida Southern District, 16.5 months

Number of civil cases over 3 years old:

  • Florida Northern District, 49;
  • Florida Middle District, 1,423
  • Florida Southern District, 94

During the same period, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Florida, and Georgia District Courts) had a total 6,366 new cases filed and 3,352 still pending. And, the median time from Notice of Appeal to Final Disposition: 7.6 months.

Considering the nature of the case and the complexity of issues, attorneys fees and costs can realistically reach six and seven figure dollar amounts.  To begin with, the Federal District Courts pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) may hear cases and controversies where “the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000.” Then, unless otherwise specifically provided for by statute, attorneys fees are subject to the so-called “American Rule,” That is, each party pays its own attorneys fees (unlike the “English Rule” in United Kingdom where the winner is usually awarded those).

Certainly, the volume and backlog of civil cases in appellate courts, as well as the potential costs of further litigation, a disappointed losing party must carefully consider, in concert with trial and appeals counsel, the ramifications of pursuing an appeal.

At times, emotion, the need to establish legal precedent, or some other idiosyncratic factor may a be primary driver.  However, unless permitted by statute to review factual issues de novo (anew), an appellate court will only review legal error. And then, generally, trial counsel at the district court must have preserved legally sufficient grounds to appeal; in the case of an administrative agency decision, the hearing record. Trial counsel may also preserve grounds for appeal in a post-judgment motion; bringing up new issues very rarely prevails.

Moreover, counsel should decide which issues to assert in an appeal.  Appealing a litany of issues (the kitchen sink approach) may tell the appellate body that you are grasping at straws and there are no genuine appealable issues.  See Fifth Third Mortg. Co. v Chi. Title Ins. Co., 692 F.3d 507 (6th Cir. 2012).  In Fifth Third Mortg. Co., a title company appealed nine (9) issues to the Sixth Circuit in an attempt to overrule the district court.  The opinion from the appellate court opens with: WHEN A PARTY COMES TO US WITH NINE GROUNDS REVERSING THE DISTRICT COURT, USUALLY THERE ARE NONE.  This is a classic line that every litigant should consider when analyzing how many issues to argue should be reversed on appeal.

Ultimately, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district courts granting of summary judgment requiring the title company defend and indemnify the bank in a property dispute.

Litigation, at all stages requires comprehensive and reasoned legal analysis, strategic planning, and zealous but thoughtful advocacy.  Civil appeals require the same level diligence. However, constrained by the trial record, appellate counsel in written briefs and, in most instances, at oral argument before a panel of appeals court judges must know and artfully articulate the law.  One commentator has said “they have a refined skill set, an often academic focus on the nuances of the law and the precedent, and a preference for cool and collected analysis that remains “above it all.”

Should you appeal? It is not an easy question to take lightly or answer quickly. Each case is unique. And, only a dispassionate and reasoned analysis can only help provide perspective.

For more information contact:

Carl H. Perdue, JD, LLM

Senior Counsel and Partner

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

1801 N. Military Trail, Suite 160

Boca Raton, Florida 33431

Main:  (561) 361-6566

Fax: (561) 361-6466

Email: CHP@assoulineberlowe.com

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com/

Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, and Corporate Law

Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton

This article was edited by Litigation Partner Eric N. Assouline and Patent Attorney Greg M. Popowitz, who can be reached at their Email addresses: ena@assoulineberlowe or gmp@assoulineberlowe.com respectively.

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Fountainebleau Las Vegas Bankruptcy is Not Finished

Bankruptcy Litigation

Today, nearly five years since the Fountainebleu Las Vegas bankruptcy was initially filed, at the height of the economic downturn and the crest of the real estate crisis, the Trustee Soneet Kapila filed two new adversary proceeding lawsuits seeking to recover alleged preferential transfers made to third parties by one of the debtors.  The two defendants that were sued in two separate preference actions are the internationally known company Honeywell International, Inc. and L.A. Nevada, Inc. dba G&G Systems.

Focusing on the L.A. Nevada, Inc. G & G Systems case, the Trustee was appointed in 2010 and according to the Complaint a demand for the return of the payment was made on March 4, 2011.

A copy of the demand letter is not attached, nor is any contract that establishes the basis upon which the payment to this vendor was made.

As with most of these cases, it is possible that one or more defenses may apply that may reduce, if not eliminate, the claim.  For example, there may be a Ordinary Course of Business Defense, which is when a debt is paid under ordinary terms that would be expected based upon the relationship of the parties.

Another defense that often comes up in these preferential transfer cases is New Value Defense, which states that if new value, either in the form of goods or services, was extended to the Debtor at the time that the payment was made, it may constitute a defense to all or part of the claim.

Either way, it is certain that this party is probably not happy to receive this lawsuit almost five years after the case was initially filed and almost three years after a demand for payment was made and apparently refused.

If you have a bankruptcy litigation question you would like answered, please do not hesitate to contact Eric N. Assouline.

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ASSOULINE & BERLOWE – The BUSINESS LAW Firm

http://www.assoulineberlowe.com

With offices in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boca Raton

ERIC N. ASSOULINE, ESQ.

ASSOULINE & BERLOWE, P.A.

Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Bankruptcy, Commercial Litigation, and Corporate Law

Miami · Ft. Lauderdale · Boca Raton

Super Lawyers
Eric N. Assouline
Business Litigation

 

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