Philly Justice

Yesterday I had the honor of sitting as an arbitrator in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas arbitration center.  Back in February, I took a CLE course on the ins and outs of how to be an arbitrator.  The course reviewed rules of evidence and procedure, and showed how arbitrators can best handle situations that arise in the arbitration room.

I arrived at the arb center before 9:00 AM and was assigned to a panel.  My fellow arbitrators were both more seasoned lawyers, and I discovered one of them lives and works close to where I grew up in the Northeast.  Invariably, shop talk and war stories were exchanged between us.

The first case of the day came before us, involving a car accident and featuring a Russian interpreter.  We found in that case that the defendant bore 70 percent liability, and awarded medicals and damages as such.  The second case was also a car accident.  In that matter, although the plaintiff was (in my opinion) not very credible, we found that the defendant bore 100 percent liability; however we limited the award based on the plaintiff’s presentation.

It was a fascinating insight to sit on the other side of the arbitrators’ table.  We weighed the facts presented to us carefully – including the voluminous case memoranda presented by counsel.  We were also fortunate in that in both cases we heard, all parties were represented by counsel.  That made the proceedings go a lot smoother.  I have arbitrated cases in which I was the only attorney present.

All in all, A++, would arbitrate again.  I encourage all attorneys, no matter what stage of their career, to sit as an arbitrator at least once.

Epic Win!

Today the Honorable Ellen Ceisler of the Court of Common Pleas found in favor of the appellants in Lewis, et al. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, et al., stating that there was no hardship and thus no reason for the variances to be granted.

The developers in question in this case had sought variances to completely demolish two historic yet dilapidated (but salvageable) marble bank buildings at the corner of Front and Norris Streets in East Kensington.  The developers sought to cram in a large, dense, multi-unit housing project for impoverished women and children directly under the El.  Furthermore, the local civic association had sold the parcel to the developer subject to a mortgage – a typical Philly move.  Thanks to a number of concerned neighbors who appealed the decision and my good friends the Fishtown Lawyers, the bank buildings remain. The banks were and continue to be a link to Kensington’s vibrant industrial past and a symbol of potential for the neighborhood going forward.  I am proud to have represented the local civic associations, East Kensington Neighbors Association and Fishtown Neighbors Association as well as another individual stakeholder, as amicus counsel in this matter.  Just part of giving back to a great neighborhood and proving that on occasion the system does actually work.

More coverage http://www.philadelinquency.com/?p=3142.

Election

My first foray into electoral politics was in high school, where I ran for student council treasurer on a platform that I have mostly forgotten (although I do recall something having to do with a Coke machine).  Despite being backed by the best campaign video ever (set to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”), I ended up losing a close race.

Fast forward to my third year of law school.  I ran for class representative to the Student Bar Association (aka Law School Student Council) and won! Finally! I had won something!    My time on the SBA was spent largely planning budgets, addressing concerns of other students, and involving myself in subcommittees (the “social activities” subcommittee was pretty popular).  It turned out to be an excellent preparation for the networking side of law practice to which I would become accustomed.

Now, I have thrown my hat in the ring at the community level.  Fishtown is, by virtue of geography, part of the New Kensington Community Development Corp. (NKCDC).  NKCDC has a Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC), consisting of a number of neighbors throughout the boundaries of the CDC, which includes Fishtown and parts of East Kensington.  The NAC serves many purposes, primarily as the community outreach arm of the NKCDC.  I have decided to run for a position on the NAC in order to give something back to the community that I have adopted as my personal and business home.

How can you vote for me, you ask? Simply show up at NKCDC Headquarters, 2515 Frankford Ave., on January 16, from 4 pm to 8 pm and cast your vote.  It’s that simple!

Vote Slepner!

Double secret probation

My alma mater is in the news again.  This time, the Association of American Law Schools put Villanova Law School on a two-year probation following the grade inflation morass of 2011.

Villanova, as you may recall, was embroiled in a grade-inflation scandal in 2011.  It was one of the first of many such unpleasant events to surface that year.  The grade inflation scandal was the fallout from the resignation of former Villanova Law Dean Mark Sargent.  Sargent resigned as dean in 2009, but not in the wake of the grade scandal.  Oh, no, that would have been too convenient.

Sargent, you see, resigned after being arrested in connection with a major prostitution ring in Chester County.  Rather than face jail time, Sargent turned state’s witness and assisted authorities in taking down the rest of the ring.  Somehow, the grade inflation didn’t get recognized until later, in 2011. But Sargent’s resignation is itself a point of disgrace to Villanova, for a number of reasons, foremost of which was Sargent’s legal academic specialty: ethics.

Yes, Mark Sargent taught a series of courses at Villanova centering around ethics and Catholic social and legal theory and history (it’s an Augustinian school, and the fact that I as a Jew know that says a lot).  This is the same guy who, during first-year orientation, made it his point to personally deliver the heavy-handed (and necessary, but still) message that you MUST REVEAL ALL to the Bar Examiners, and even if you don’t, THEY WILL FIND OUT ANYWAY, and even if they don’t find out, YOU HAVE LIED BY OMISSION.  I wonder if Sargent had to disclose the prostitution arrest to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board.

Anyway, the AALS has now given Villanova the proverbial slap on the wrist.  After all, if the ABA couldn’t be bothered to do much more than a 2-year public censure (Villanova had to disclose it on their website! Horror!), what weight does any other association’s opinion pull?

Where does that leave us now?  Well, undoubtedly, Villanova Law students and faculty are probably quite upset, but not surprised, by the latest turn of events. (If there are any reading, feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.)  As for me, I may not have had the best grades back in law school, but at least I knew I worked for them.  The grade inflation mess bugged me then (and still does now) if only for the fact that it ultimately devalues the reputation a Villanova Law JD may have previously carried.  But at least I’m not joining a class action to sue my alma mater and be known forever as a whiny bitch.

BONUS!!  What else has gotten Villanova Law into the news lately?

– Earlier this year, administration of an exam turned into an utter cluster-fuck.

– Villanova plummeted from #84 to #101 in the US News rankings.  (That the US News rankings are still considered legitimate is a debate for another time, but still.)

– And finally, my Constitutional Law professor Catherine Lanctot was a 6-day Jeopardy! champion in 2007.