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NJ Judge Grants Cert In For-Profit Med School Class Action

By: DBHWebGPEFF

By Joshua Alston (source: Law360.com )

Law360, New York (May 29, 2014, 8:33 PM ET) — A New Jersey state judge on Thursday granted class certification in a consumer fraud suit against Star Career Academy, a for-profit school accused of concealing changes to state law that would preclude its surgical technology students from obtaining work in the field upon graduation.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Anthony M. Pugliese certified the class on Thursday and, in a separate ruling, cleared the case for trial, according to a statement from attorneys representing members of the class. The suit accuses Star Career Academy of inducing students to enroll and remain in its surgical technology degree program by deceiving students about the passage of a state law that would prevent them from working as surgical technicians in the state after graduation.

Lead plaintiff Shirley Polanco launched the suit in December claiming the Berlin, New Jersey-based technical school violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by leading her to believe she would learn skills that would place her in high demand, only to find out SCA students would not be able to work as surgical technologists in New Jersey due to the January 2012 passage of a law imposing stricter standards on the profession.

“Plaintiff and her fellow students wasted precious time and money pursuing an education at SCA, and many obligated themselves to student loans which they must repay, despite their unemployability as surgical technologists,” the complaint said.

Thomas More Marrone of Greenblatt Pierce Engle Funt & Flores LLC, an attorney for the class, said in the statement that Judge Pugliese’s ruling puts Polanco and her fellow students closer to obtaining justice.

“This kind of corporate irresponsibility is exactly why New Jersey has a Consumer Fraud Act in the first place,” Marrone said. “The class members are honest, hard-working people who were just trying to improve their own lives while also improving the lives of others.”

The complaint said Polanco enrolled in SCA’s surgical technology program in July 2011, taking out loans to pay off the tuition of just over $18,000, and completed the program in August 2012.

Polanco said, unbeknownst to her, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in January 2012 setting forth guidelines that required surgical technologists to have received their education from a nationally or regionally accredited program, which SCA was not, the complaint said.

The suit includes a single count of violating the NJCFA, and demands an accounting of all expenses collected from members of the class, compensatory and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The complaint does not estimate the size of the class, but said it would include anyone who enrolled in the program after July 2011 and was not told the program was not accredited.

Star Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The class is represented by Thomas More Marrone, Patricia V. Pierce and Ronald Greenblatt of Greenblatt Pierce Engle Funt & Flores LLC.

Star Academy is represented by Lawrence S. Gondelman and Sherry Mastrostefano Grey of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC and by William Tully of Graham Curtin PC.

The case is Shirley Polanco et al. v. Star Career Academy et al., case number L-000415-13, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County.

– Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.

[ View on Law360.com ]

Attorney James Funt Debates the First Amendment and Hate Speech with Talk Radio 1210 Host Dom Giordano

By: DBHWebGPEFF

PHILADELPHIA, PA. May 7, 2014: Radio talk show host Dom Giordano spoke with James Funt, a lawyer for the Black Israelites, on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT to discuss the group’s demonstrations outside of the Shops at Liberty Place and their freedom-of-speech rights.

[ Listen to the Interview via Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Podcast ]

The Shops at Liberty Place, a Philadelphia retail complex, hired two DJs to drown out the preaching of a group known as the Black Israelites. For more than 20 years, the Upper Darby-based “Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge” has been protesting on the streets of Philadelphia. The DJs played classic songs such as “Black or White” by Michael Jackson and “Hit the Road, Jack” by Ray Charles. For photos and additional coverage of the event, please see the Philly.com story, “Din of iniquity: Liberty Place hires DJs to drown out Black Israelites.”

Attorney Jamie Funt, a partner of the Philadelphia law firm, Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, stated he has no issue with the presence of the DJs. “It’s speech combated with more speech, and that’s exactly what the Supreme Court has indicated in their dictates. It’s constitutional, it’s permissible, and I certainly have no problem with them doing that,” he said.

As is common knowledge, the most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.

“Individuals had access to go in and out. People stopped and listened, other people continued on. Some people ignored them, some people engaged them in conversation. That is what this country is all about, and freedom has costs, and one of those costs is listening to unpopular speech,” Mr. Funt said.

Funt also pointed out that, as controversial as this group is, they have many beliefs that are in line with the rest of America. “They do not believe in gay marriage. They are vehemently anti-abortion. Nearly half of this country agrees with them…What they don’t agree with is the manner in which they are saying it. Therein is the rub, and there is the fight, and that’s what this really is all about.”

Mr. Funt is considered one of the leaders of the Philadelphia criminal defense bar and is the immediate past Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Chair-Elect for 2015. His clients include members of the law enforcement community, including police and probation officers, as well as members of the firefighters union and Teamsters. Over the last 20 years, he has successfully tried thousands of criminal cases, many extremely high profile, before both judges and juries in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. Funt may be contacted at 215-735-1600 or via e-mail.

Former Philly Police Officer Joseph Harvey ACQUITTED of all charges

By: DBHWebGPEFF

Philadelphia Pa. March 21, 2014

This week, a federal jury acquitted former Philadelphia Police Officer Joseph Harvey of all charges stemming from a 2009 incident in an abandoned Kensington Row where a woman accused of the Officer of indecent exposure and violating her civil rights. The jury agreed with testimony that the sexual encounter was consensual and thus not criminal.

According to his lawyer in the case, James Funt, “Mr. Harvey has always asserted his innocence in this case. After 4 ½ years of innuendo and speculation, he finally had an opportunity to tell his side of the story which was supported by the government’s own evidence. He is deeply gratified that the jury saw the truth; that while his conduct violated the sanctity of his marriage, it was not criminal. Mr. Harvey is also thankful to all of his friends and colleagues who supported him throughout this ordeal, especially his wife who has never wavered in her support of him. He looks forward to rebuilding his life without this cloud of suspicion hanging over his head”.

Mr. Funt is considered one of the leaders of the Philadelphia criminal defense bar, currently serving on the Executive Committee of the Criminal Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association. His clients include members of the law enforcement community, including police and probation officers, as well as members of the firefighters union and Teamsters. Over the last 20 years, he has successfully tried thousands of criminal cases, many extremely high profile, before both judges and juries in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Funt is happy to answer questions about the case.

Peter F. Vaira Joins Firm as Special Counsel

By: RDKInteractive

PHILADELPHIA, PA – March 5, 2015: We are pleased to announce that Peter F. Vaira, one of our country’s preeminent white collar criminal defense lawyers, has joined Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, LLC (WGP) and will serve as Special Counsel to our firm. M. Vaira’s over 50 years of practice, during which he has handled the most complex criminal and civil matters in state and federal court, has earned him a reputation as one of the most respected attorneys in the region. Mr. Vaira is also a widely sought after arbitrator, mediator, special master, and independent hearing officer with numerous years of experience in the field of alternative dispute resolution. Mr. Vaira is a member of the Pennsylvania, Illinois, and District of Columbia Bars and he is a certified national and international arbitrator who serves as a Special Master in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Commerce Court program. He previously acted as the Independent Hearing Officer for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Throughout his career, Mr. Vaira has also handled every kind of white collar criminal defense matter imaginable as well as antitrust cases, internal and parallel investigations, corporate crisis management matters, and complex civil litigation cases. Recently, Mr. Vaira was appointed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to serve as the Executive Director of a Commission formed to investigate the Department of Licenses and Inspections subsequent to a tragic building collapse in Center City Philadelphia. A graduate of Duquesne University and the Duquesne University School of Law, Mr. Vaira served in the United States Navy from 1963 to 1968 in the Judge Advocate General Corps. Mr. Vaira is also a fifteen year veteran of the United States Department of Justice where he served as the Attorney in Charge of the Philadelphia and Chicago Organized Crime Strike Forces. In 1978, the President of the United States appointed Mr. Vaira to serve as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he acted as the chief federal law enforcement official for five years. Upon leaving the Justice Department, Mr. Vaira was later appointed as the Executive Director of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. After entering into private practice, he worked in various prominent law firms in both Chicago and Philadelphia. Mr. Vaira is a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Law Institute, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He is a frequent lecturer on a variety of legal topics both nationally and internationally and he serves on the editorial boards of The Legal Intelligencer and The Philadelphia Lawyer. Mr. Vaira is the author of Eastern District of Pennsylvania Federal Practice Rules Annotated from Gann Publishing and Corporate Responses to Federal Grand Jury Investigations published by Matthew Bender. Now, Mr. Vaira will direct WGP’s alternative dispute resolution practice while also working alongside Michael J. Engle, who leads the firm’s white-collar practice group. The firm is honored to have such a tremendously accomplished attorney practicing law with our talented team of trial lawyers. A litigation firm, WGP provides outstanding legal representation in the fields of criminal defense and civil practice, including civil rights, employment law, and family law matters. Peter can be reached at 215.735.1600; p.vaira@gpeff.com. Founded over 20 years ago as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores (WGP) is an established, full-service law firm with experienced attorneys skilled in all areas of state and federal criminal defense, employment law, civil litigation, and family law. The firm has offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information on the firm or its attorneys, please see www.gpeff.com. For more information regarding this release, please contact Ronald Greenblatt at 215.735.1600.