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WGP Listed in 2021 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Firms

By: devweb

U.S. News Best Lawyers Best Law Firms 2021 WGP Ranked

Philadelphia – February 2, 2021 – Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC  (WGP) has been recognized in the 2021 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings list for the City of Philadelphia. The firm received a “Tier 1” rating in Employment Law for Individuals, the highest rating possible.

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers Best Law Firms rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

Additionally, to be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer recognized first in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing attorneys in the country. Two WGP partners received that honor: Patricia V. Pierce (Employment Law for Individuals) and Ronald L. Greenblatt (Criminal Defense: General Practice).

According to Best Lawyers, “The 2021 rankings are based on the highest lawyer and firm participation on record, incorporating 8.3 million evaluations of more than 110,000 individual leading lawyers from more than 22,000 firms.”

Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit gpffstaging.wpengine.com for more information.

Alan Yatvin, Distinguished Civil Rights Lawyer, Joins Firm — Will Chair Firm’s Highly Respected Civil Rights Practice

By: devweb

Haddonfield and Atlantic City NJ and Philadelphia Pa – January 1, 2021 – The partners at WGP are delighted to announce that Alan L. Yatvin, a preeminent police misconduct and civil rights litigator, has joined Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC (WGP)) as a partner. He will chair the firm’s Civil Rights department – long known for excellence in plaintiff’s civil rights matters. Attorney Alan YatvinAlan will continue to concentrate his practice on civil rights litigation, criminal defense in state, federal, and international tribunals, as well as the representation of students with special needs. With a successful career spanning 37 years, Alan has tried cases ranging from death penalty homicides to complex municipal liability police misconduct cases. He has also briefed and/or argued appellate matters before the United States Supreme Court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Alan has successfully litigated over 15 police shooting cases, recovering substantial compensation for victims and their families. On three separate occasions, he has also obtained federal jury verdicts against the City of Philadelphia on so-called Monell claims by showing a pattern and practice of police misconduct and the City’s failure to properly train or discipline its officers, placing him among the most successful attorneys in Philadelphia on these challenging claims. “When my long-standing partner, Howard Popper, decided to retire, I wanted to find a new professional home for my practice. I wanted to join a firm with an impeccable reputation, immense resources, and a substantial practice. Ron and his firm hit all my criteria. Plus, the opportunity to work with Pat Pierce, who I have admired and collaborated with for years, was a great incentive to join the firm. I am thrilled,“ said Mr. Yatvin. Said WGP Managing Partner Ron Greenblatt, “Alan Yatvin has long been recognized as one of the leaders in the civil rights and criminal defense bar. We are thrilled to be working with a lawyer of his stature in the legal community. His extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania, federal and international courts, coupled with his amazing success in his areas of practice will greatly benefit our firm and clients. Personally, Alan and I have been friends for over 30 years. I look forward to working with him on a daily basis and getting his input as we work to serve our clients and community.” In addition to his US clients, Alan also practices at the international criminal courts, where he has represented accused persons before the ICTY and the International Criminal Court (ICC), both in The Hague, and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. After graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City in 1983, Alan served as an Assistant Philadelphia and Federal Defender before entering private practice. He was managing partner of Popper & Yatvin from its founding in 1988 through 2020. A frequent lecturer on police misconduct litigation and trial advocacy skills, he is the recipient of the 2012 Thurgood Marshall Criminal Justice Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, where he has been a member since 1987. The Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) presented Alan with the 2010 Pro Bono Publico Award. Alan has been selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers List every year since 2004. Alan is also a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Referring to Alan in a special education appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote: “[W]e note that the litigation here was conducted by highly qualified and experienced counsel…” M.R. v. Ridley Sch. Dist., 868 F.3d 218, 230 n.9 (3d Cir. 2017). Alan was a member of the National Board of Directors of the American Diabetes Association from 2015-2017 and continues to represent special needs students and their parents, with a concentration on the rights of students with diabetes. He is a resident of Philadelphia. Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit gpffstaging.wpengine.com for more information.

Changes in the Law Practice After COVID-19 … What Will Be the New Normal?

By: devweb

By Peter F. Vaira, for the May 12, 2020 edition of The Legal Intelligencer newspaper COVID-19 has brought numerous changes to the practice of law. Some were ordered by the courts, some instituted by practitioners, others simply have evolved. Some practice changes will be temporary, others may be long lasting. As with any change brought about by emergency circumstances, today’s changes may have downsides that outweigh their temporary advantages. I have asked for comments/views on the changing practices from judges, civil and criminal practitioners. A major result of the COVID-19 virus is the very widespread use of remote hearings due to restrictions on travel and public gatherings. These remote hearings by conference call or video technology, common practice in other professions and industries, has surprised leading members of the bar. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, in a discussion on April 16, held by the American Law Institute said, “I imagine that three weeks ago no Texas court had had more than one or two video conference hearings ever. As of April 10, we have had 2,000 hearings involving more than 14,000 people.” The remote hearings are the result of court closures, as well as executive orders limiting official and social functions. Judge Idee Fox, president judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, ordered the court closed until May 29; however, in a separate order urged depositions held by remote communications where possible, and stated that court reporters need not be present where the deponent is located. In a program sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association on April 23, featuring the chief judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the federal court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the clerk of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 80% of the discussion dealt with remote hearings. In weighing the pros and cons of the new techniques, Kate Barkman, the clerk of court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said, “The question becomes, what is the new normal?” Chief Judge Brooks Smith of the Third Circuit said that remote oral appellate arguments are easily handled, but some problems exist. He noted that the difficulty will be with the court’s panel members who are well known for interrupting the arguments with questions, often out of turn. He said that he would advise the judges beforehand to figure out some order of questioning. He further commented that he did not envy counsel who had to argue without seeing the visual expressions of the judges. One practice area that has been greatly affected is mediation and arbitration. Ben Picker, one of the leading mediators and arbitrators in Philadelphia, said, “The emergence of COVID-19 has turned the world of mediation and arbitration upside down. While many participants have initially resisted virtual mediation and arbitration because of their unfamiliarity with the technology, a 30-minute training session is likely to overcome these concerns. While remote mediation is less than perfect, I have found it can be highly effective. Arbitrators are working to create flexible methods of conducting remote hearings to be able to handle review of documents and other physical issues. I predict when we return to normalcy, there will be much greater use of remote mediation and arbitration, permitting participants to save time and money resulting from travel and lodging expenses.” Michael Engle, chair of the white collar defense group of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic will create long-lasting changes in the practice of law. Work-related travel for internal investigations and meeting with clients will be significantly curtailed, as firms realize that technology may be a cost-efficient substitute to travel. Perhaps it will become economically desirable for law firms to reduce overhead by downsizing physical office spaces.” Another major area of concern is jury trials. Kate Barkman, clerk of court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said, “Jurors may not show up.” Barkman noted that in the current climate it would be impossible for 12 jurors to sit shoulder to shoulder in a jury box. She added that bringing in 200 people in for a jury venire was equally impossible. Ann Flannery, a Philadelphia criminal lawyer said, “Many jurors may be asked to be excused because they are in an ‘at risk’ group—including those over 60 years old. Criminal defendants will be faced with tension between two important constitutional rights: the right to a speedy trial and the right to a jury selected from representative cross section of the entire community, a right recently reference by Justice Neil Gorsuch in Ramos v Louisiana, no. 18-05924’ 2020 Lexis 2407.” She added, “Jurors anxious about being in close accommodations could insidiously or subconsciously undermine the defendant’s right to an impartial jury by rapidly truncating deliberations and reaching a quick compromise verdict.” There has been no serious discussion of changing the actual jury trial. In a jury trial it is imperative that the jurors be in the same room as the witness to watch the witness testifying. In-person testimony is a major aspect in the fact-finding aspect of the Anglo-Saxon system in the United States and Great Britain. That is one of the principal reasons why depositions are rarely permitted in the criminal law.  Mike Snyder, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, is not concerned that trials will become a thing of the past. “Trials are still the cornerstone our justice system,” he said. A special area of concern of the criminal bar is the grand jury. Grand juries generally meet in one room with 23 jurors, the government attorney, the witness, and, in Pennsylvania state grand juries, the attorney for the witness. There is no effective way to separate the grand jurors from the other parties, as all the participants need to see and hear the witness. In the civil practice area, Robert Peirce, a well-known Pittsburgh plaintiffs attorney, said that there were negative, as well as positive, impacts on his practice. He further said, “There is the problem of not being readily able to meet with clients. Holding depositions is more difficult. On the positive side, we found that many jobs we thought could not be done at home actually can, and a trained staff can deal with many of these practical problems.” Joseph Guerrieri, a Washington, D.C. labor lawyer who represents railroad and airline union employees across the country, said that remote conferences are a poor substitute for actual meetings with his clients who have numerous employment problems as the result of the slowdown of passenger travel. One of the most serious issues is the restriction of the lawyer in conducting interviews, in-person depositions, and meetings with clients. Michael Engle, an experience criminal trial lawyer, said, “Many of the innovations regarding remote meetings and hearings will diminish our effectiveness as lawyers and our ability to best serve our clients.” It is this writer’s opinion, a lawyer’s personal skill in determining the actual factual circumstance he is dealing with, described by the courts as attorney opinion work product, must be preserved. Interviewing potential witnesses is a prime example. Good lawyers and investigators must see and hear a person to determine if the he is being truthful. More than one time the writer of this column has interviewed a possible witness and concluded he was “holding back.” Sometime later, it was discovered that the witness was less than candid in his interview.  Remote interviews make those findings nearly impossible. The lawyer’s job in both civil and criminal cases is to learn the truth; only face to face interviews will produce that result in questionable situations. Lawyers, judges, jurors, and investigators need that confrontation, in many situations, to be effective. Certain aspects of the criminal law practice will be affected. An issue currently being addressed is the release of prisoners who are medically vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. The Philadelphia court system has been criticized by both the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and several criminal defense lawyers for the slow release of vulnerable prisoners. See “Still Behind Bars in Philadelphia,” by Samantha Malamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30. Dean April Barton of Duquesne Law School said that she cannot count on operating as normal on campus next semester. She commented, “It will be either having a safe social distancing arrangement with professors and students or conducting classes completely online. We owe it to the students to offer the best as possible.” She further added that a major academic emphasis in the coming year will include instruction on individual leadership, a discipline not usually included in a law school curriculum. The courts and the bar will adapt procedures to deal with changing circumstances. Some changes were long overdue, such as the remote notarization of witness statements. Others must meet the test of time and circumstances. The remarks of U.S. District Chief Judge Mark R. Hornak of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, are relevant here. Hornak said, “I hope a by-product of this crisis is a renewed sense of perspective and gratitude for all of us. For example, in discovery disputes, emotion and personality often get in the way of what really is at stake. I hope that after seeing medical and first responders daily doing their duty, we can approach our work in a way that appreciates what is really involved and what can be done to resolve disputes with civility.” Peter Vaira is a member of Greenblatt Pierce Funt and Flores. He is a former U.S. attorney and the author of a book on Eastern District practice. He acts as special hearing master for Pennsylvania courts and clients. He can be reached at p.vaira@gpfflaw.com.

On the COVID-19 Crisis

By: devweb

March 26, 2020 – To our clients, colleagues, family and friends: In these difficult times, we are all worried about our future. The separation this virus has caused is a source of great anxiety in all of our lives. All of us at Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores are doing what we can to help the situation by practicing safe distancing while being open for business. Our offices are not open for regular business, but we are operating remotely. Our phones are being answered by our administrative staff remotely during regular business hours and we are available for emergencies twenty-four hours a day either by calling our offices or emailing the attorney who you know or are working with. You may also call me at 215-735-1600, or email me directly at ron@gpfflaw.com. While some cases are being slowed down by the court shutdown, we are heartened to tell you that many courts are telling us to continue to work on cases remotely. This includes teleconferences with both opposing counsel and some of the courts. Of course, this is not all your cases and we know this is causing many of our clients added stress in these tough times. We wish we could do more about this, but there is much about this crisis which is out of our control. However, we are in the process of contacting all our clients to give them updates this week on their cases. We are going to be doing this regularly during this crisis. Please stay safe and follow the government guidelines regarding gatherings and safe practices. Our best wishes to you and your loved ones during this crisis. Sincerely, Ron Greenblatt, Esquire Managing Partner, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, on behalf of all the attorneys and staff of WGP

COVID-19 Unemployment Update

By: devweb

April 30, 2020 – An update to your legal rights for unemployment and sick leave in Pennsylvania in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic, by Joyce L. Collier, Esq. Under the Federal Cares Act of 2020, emergency assistance has been provided to state unemployment programs to help workers and persons who find themselves without any or enough employment or work due to COVID-19. The Federal Cares Act temporarily supplements state unemployment benefit amounts and extends the duration of those benefits. The following is a brief overview of unemployment benefits currently available in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We recommend applying online so you that will have a record of your application. Beware of fraudulent unemployment websites. Always ensure that you are on the following websites when filing for benefits, changing your personal information, or signing up for direct deposit: Pennsylvania Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/file/Pages/Filing%20Instructions.aspx These are “regular” unemployment benefits for persons who are considered “employees” whose hours are reduced by more than 20%, who are laid off or terminated due to COVID-19. In addition to state unemployment benefits, you will receive a separate check of $600 per week as a supplemental unemployment benefit through July 25, 2020, regardless of whether you were a part-time or full-time employee. You do not need to file a separate application for the $600 benefit. You are be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond the standard 26-week period, for a total of 39 weeks. This is called a “PEUC” benefit. Other changes from “standard” unemployment: no work search requirements and no waiting week. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) https://pua.benefits.uc.pa.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx PUA recipients are eligible for 39 weeks of benefits from $195 – $572, plus the $600 benefit (mentioned above) every week (PUC) from April to July. Eligible people include:
  • Freelancers and gig workers, such as Uber drivers;
  • Self-employed people, like painters and hair stylists with their own salons;
  • Other owners of small businesses;
  • People who do not have adequate recent work history to qualify for UC.
The application process for PUA is not simple; documentation of employment/self-employment and wages/earnings must be attached. Do not apply for “regular” unemployment benefits. Workers are not eligible for PUA if they can either telework with pay or are receiving paid sick days or paid leave. This program runs from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits. New Jersey Pandemic Unemployment Compensation https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/schedule.shtml These are “regular” unemployment benefits for persons who are considered “employees” whose hours are reduced by more than 20%, who are laid off or terminated due to COVID-19. In addition to state unemployment benefits, you will receive a separate check of $600 per week as a supplemental unemployment benefit through July 25, 2020, regardless of whether you were a part-time or full-time employee. You do not need to file a separate application for the $600 benefit. You are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond the standard 26-week period, for a total of 39 weeks. This is called a “PEUC” benefit. Other changes from “standard” unemployment: no work search requirements and no waiting week. PUC is also not income for purposes of eligibility for either Medicaid or CHIP. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/assets/pdfs/UI_process_selfemployed.pdf PUA recipients are eligible for 39 weeks of benefits from $195 – $572, plus the $600 PUC benefit every week from April to July 25, 2020. Eligible people include:
  • Freelancers and gig workers, such as Uber drivers;
  • Self-employed people, like painters and hair stylists with their own salons;
  • Other owners of small businesses;
  • People who do not have adequate recent work history to qualify for UC.
The application process for PUA is not simple; documentation of employment/self-employment and wages/earnings must be attached. In New Jersey, you may have to apply for “regular” unemployment benefits and be rejected before you are eligible for PUA.

COVID-19 Sick Leave Update

In response to COVID-19, Congress has also enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. The FFCRA covers private employers with less than 500 employees and certain public employers. The FFCRA is effective April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Under the FFCRA:
  • An employee who is ill or quarantined by a physician or government order is eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to a maximum of $511 per day)
  • An employee who cannot work because he/she is caring for someone with COVID-19 or a child whose school/day care is closed is eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the regular rate of pay (up to a maximum of $200 per day). This leave may be intermittent if the employee and employer agree.
  • Employees who have worked 30 days are eligible for up to 10 additional weeks of partially paid leave (2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day/$10,000 max)
NOTE: Employers with less than 50 employees may seek an exemption from these child-care related provisions of this act if the leave payments would jeopardize the viability of their business as a going concern. Employers may also exclude health care providers or emergency responders from taking paid sick leave. If you are a full or part-time employee in New Jersey, you may be eligible for paid sick leave under state law. https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/ Employers of all sizes must provide employees with up to 40 hours a year of paid sick leave per year to full-time, part-time or temporary workers (*regardless of immigration status). This law also covers taking off due to school closes because of a public health emergency Should you have any questions about unemployment or the applicability of the FFCRA, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

James Funt Talks Mask Culture in COVID World on KYW Newsradio

By: devweb

Philadelphia –April 23, 2020 – Partner James A. Funt of Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC was a featured guest this week on “Flashpoint,” a weekly show produced by KYW Newsradio where area business and community leaders share their perspective on how local and national news issues affect Philadelphians. The program discussed the impact of the mandatory masking order for Pennsylvania that went into effect on April 19th. While employees and customers of businesses are now required to wear facial coverings to curb the spread of coronavirus, the question is this: can those same facial coverings have a negative impact on behavior? Funt, a noted civil rights attorney, was joined by psychotherapist Amy Morin and Philadelphia City Council member Isaiah Thomas. Funt was asked about the legality of enforcing something like this. “Certain civil liberties are being curtailed, for sure,” he admitted, adding that “this is being done in a larger context of providing safety for all citizens… to protect everybody.” Morin’s perspective was of the psychology of masks – both the perception on individual behavior and the perception of others wearing them. She explained that for some, wearing of masks is not simply compliance with a law, but a sign of control and of purposefully taking an action to prevent the spread of the virus. She also pointed that there can also be a downside: when the face of a human being is not seen, they become more of an object than a person. Just as when one exhibits road rage directed at another car, the act is because we “forget there’s a human being behind that barrier and treat them differently.” Thomas noted that some Philadelphians feel such differences on two levels: “Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the entire country,” where the necessity of purchasing masks for entire families – often at a premium surcharge due to the demand – can be a burden. He added that, for many young black men, it falls into a perception issue. “We’ve been taught to not wear masks and hoodies [and] this is contrary to everything we’ve ever been taught,” Funt offered that there is still a tremendous amount of personal power in the choice to comply. “Yes [the law has] limitations, but this is still by and large a voluntary thing. By being denied entry [into a store for not wearing a mask], that is your choice,” adding that this is “an opportunity where we are all in this together, working toward the common good. We’re all doing our 320 millionth part to try and prevent the spread, to keep our collective health together and to reopen the economy.” To listen to the full program, click here. James A. Funt has spent his entire career helping those who have been the victim of discrimination. His work includes blue collar and white-collar criminal defense, civil rights issues, and plaintiff employment discrimination matters. Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit gpffstaging.wpengine.com for more information.