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The Kurzon Blawg

What's in Your Mayonnaise?

by Kurzon LLP on 10/27/14

Do you know what is in your food? The big-food industry has taken consistent steps to block labeling of GMO foods. Legislatures at the state and federal level often prove spineless when it comes to consumer safety as our politicians are paid by the big-food industry to stay quiet (so as to most easily keep their positions of privilege and power). It is estimated that more than 90% of the soy we consume in the United States is now GMO based. Together with soy, the American diet is heavy on GMO sugar, corn and wheat. 

Why does this matter? New studies are emerging drawing into the question the safety of glyphosate, which is the molecule that is commonly used in the herbicide on GMO crops. The plants absorb the glyphosate and then we ingest it in our food. For example, Moms Across America has cited research showing that glyphosate is present in breast milk. Other studies question whether the increased use of glyphosate is linked to birth defects, autism, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer and other health problems.

Today we wrote to Unilever, the maker of Hellman's Mayonnaise, to ask about the level of glyphosate in their brand of mayonnaise since its principal ingredient is soybean oil (we do not know whether they use GMO based soybean oil, although the odds seem pretty good). We have a client who would like to know. To see a copy of the letter, click here

If you have any information or concerns about the use and safety of glyphosate, please let us know via our contact page

The Law-School #Scam Redux

by Kurzon LLP on 09/24/14

As a self regulating profession, lawyers (and anyone thinking of going to law school) should read this article by Professor Paul Campos called "The Law School Scam." 


We are proud to be the firm that brought some of the initial litigation against the law schools for deceptive marketing. While not successful in recovering monetary damages for our clients (caveat emptor unfortunately seemed to rule the day), plaintiffs and attorneys can be proud that the ABA changed its reporting rules. Now law schools must report whether the jobs its graduates obtain even required a law degree in the first place. The result of this is college graduates - the consumers - have decided to not apply to law school because they know that it is a poor investment decision (intangibles aside). Why risk having $200,000 in non-bankruptcy dischargeable debt if there is no reasonable way to pay it back in your lifetime? The free market is helping with law school applications and admissions declining, but this is not the only answer.

No doubt studying law is a luxury and anyone who can afford it benefits. This could be said as well about advanced studies in art history, biology or computer programming. The important issue that Campos raises however is that the idea the degree should pay for itself is now not true with law school. Some things are still rotten in Denmark and something is still amiss in the legal profession: Students are graduating with enormous amounts of debt, many lawyers since the start of the Great Recession have had trouble finding steady work, and the industry seems to be a bit turned upside down generally. (See for example, the Wall Street Journal reporting that law firms are now competing with their own clients).

Doctors graduate from medical school with large debts but then find work as doctors and make a decent living. It would be great if the same were true for law school. And the only way that this will happen is if the American Bar Association stops accrediting schools that will accept nearly anyone to help finance the exorbitant salaries of law school deans.  Based on lackluster bar passage rates of their graduates, the American Bar Association should also consider seriously de-accrediting some law schools since the only interest they seem to be serving is giving the administrators and professors jobs. We need to better regulate how law school advertising is ubiquitous (or do away with it entirely) and state attorney generals need to better scrutinize the spending that these "non-profits" get away with such as paying their deans $500,000 a year when the majority of their students graduate debt ridden and jobless.

Beyond the ABA who helped get the profession into this mess, however, the United States Congress needs to address the issue of giving schools the right to profit from these students. For-profit or not-for-profit, if the school is not serving the common good, it should not have access to the easy money train that Federal Direct Loan Plus Program created. With the non-bankruptcy dischargeable loans, Congress created a "privatized profits and socialized losses" situation that it needs to fix.

Finally, since we know Congress is filled with entrenched elites skilled mostly at blaming the other side of the aisle (or Obama) for all problems near and far, the highest courts of each state should reclaim their inherent authority from the ABA and regulate law schools themselves. Rather than give a blanket "if the school is approved by the ABA, then their students can take the bar exam" the New York Court of Appeals, for example, could create a list of law schools for which it allows students to take the exam. Why give a student a $200,000 bill and then tell them that they are not smart enough to pass the bar? Save them (and possibly the taxpayers) the trouble.  We welcome your comments and feedback on our contact form. 

New Pro Bono Requirements in New York

by Kurzon LLP on 05/08/13

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced last week new reporting rules for attorneys. Effective May 1, 2013 every attorney admitted to practice law in New York will be required to report the following information when filing their biennial attorney registration statement:

(1) the number of hours voluntarily spent providing unpaid legal services to poor
and underserved clients during the previous biennial registration period; and
(2) the amount of voluntary financial contributions made to organizations
primarily or substantially engaged in providing legal services to the poor and
underserved during the previous biennial registration period.

As well, the number of pro bono service hours that each lawyer should aspire to give to the underserved is 50 hours per year (increased from 20); although this requirement remains voluntary.

Judge Lippman said, “While the legal profession in our state selflessly provides millions of hours of pro bono work to help people of limited means each year, the civil legal needs of low income New Yorkers are enormous and continue to grow as a result of the uncertain economy and the recent devastation of Superstorm Sandy. I have every confidence that the steps we take today will help increase pro bono service and narrow the enormous access to justice gap in our state." 

Kurzon LLP currently represents three clients on a pro bono basis, each of which are not-for-profit organizations in the state of New York. We applaud this rule change and the reform efforts of Chief Judge Lippman. 

More information concerning the new reporting requirements is available at www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono.

One Law School Seems to Still Have Money to Sue its Critics

by Kurzon LLP on 02/01/13

It was just reported in the New York Times how law schools have declining application levels near a thirty-year low.  Presumably, this means less tuition money and hence less revenue. Maybe this will lead to cut-backs in lucrative salaries for deans of these fine institutions. But one law school, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, still has enough money presumably to keep suing us. The Honorable United States District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain allowed us to file our amended verified complaint today alleging claims of defamation, prima facie tort and anti-SLAPP (violation of New York's Civil Rights Law 70-A et. seq.). The action will be stayed, however, pending dispositive motions before the Honorable United States District Court Judge Robert James Jonker in the Western District of Michigan. What are your thoughts? Please share on our Facebook page.  

Ten Law Schools Predicted to Close in the Next Decade - Is this Enough?

by Kurzon LLP on 01/31/13

Since we wrote our open letter to Chief Judge Lippman, the New York Times reported yesterday a prediction that with declining applications to the nation's law schools, ten are likely to close over the next decade. We certainly hope so.  And it cannot happen soon enough. We appreciate reform discussions such as Chief Judge Lippman recently considering the idea of only requiring law school to be two years instead of three


The nations' 202 ABA approved law schools are mostly not-for-profit corporations, which are regulated by attorney generals and the Internal Revenue Service. They are supposed to be run for the benefit of everyone, but are they really?. We agree with the Boston Sunday Globe, which wrote on January 20, 2013 that "both should take a hard  look at New England Law" in reference to their Dean's salary of over $800,000 per year and the need for the MA Attorney General and the IRS to scrutinize the New England Law School's Board's decision to pay the dean such an exorbitant amount while its graduates struggle.  

However, let's not scapegoat New England Law, let's take a hard look at other schools that perpetuate a similar #Scam of high tuition fueled by taxpayer sponsored debt that only leads to law graduates with an average of $125,000 in debt and dismal or no job prospects. Can you imagine a CEO of a public company lasting as long as these law deans who regularly make over $500,000 per year with disastrous results for their graduates, a scheme only perpetrated with the help of millions of dollars in advertising (also fueled by tax-payer financed student tuition dollars)? Are the boards of these law schools asleep, complacent or just stupid?

Fortunately, since the time we filed class actions against Thomas M. Cooley Law School and New York Law School, the ABA now believes in truth in advertising and the law schools are no longer allowed to report their bogus post-graduate employment results.

Thankfully the market seems to be self-correcting as prospective law students wise up to the game. However, we would like to see more aggressive action by regulators to hold law deans and their boards accountable for their game of high salaries, high advertising budgets, high tuition and then no jobs. The game is hopefully almost over for some of these schools as the market will simply not support it. The ABA (also a "not-for-profit" that derives its delegated powers from the highest court of each state), the IRS and each state's attorney general should ask why are they protecting these Deans' high salaries and not the more vulnerable members of our society who are those young graduates just starting their careers with an average of $125,000 in non-bankruptcy dischargeable debt and truly dismal job prospects.

KURZON
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