Meet The Incumbent: Judge Richard Scotti

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In this edition of Meet the Incumbent, VLM interviews Judge Richard Scotti, a judge in the Nevada Eighth Judicial Court.

Fairness, courtesy and careful deliberation. Since Judge Richard Scotti was elected in November 2014 to a 6-year term as District Court Judge, Department 2, those are the tenets he’s leaned on to preside over the legal community’s civil and criminal cases about which he is so passionate.

In 1984, after graduating with honors from the University of Southern California with degrees in political science and international relations, Judge Scotti earned his law degree from Hastings College of the Law where he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. Admitted to practice law in Nevada and California (and a 25-year Nevada resident), he practiced complex business, construction, and general civil litigation for 26 years before joining the bench serving two terms on the Nevada State Bar’s Board of Governors (2010-2014) where he was devoted to projects that advanced civility, diversity and education among Las Vegas’ legal community.

Over the years Judge Scotti’s work has also included service as an arbitrator, mediator and regional coordinator for the Fee Dispute Program of the State Bar of Nevada (1999-2014), and the Nevada State Contractor’s Board (2013-14); a mediator for the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program (2009-2010); a settlement judge for the Nevada Supreme Court (1999-2009); a member of the Clients Security Fund Committee of the State Bar (1997-2002); and a writer/editor for the “Ask A Lawyer” column in the Las Vegas Review Journal (1994-95). Arguably his biggest non-work passion has been handling pro bono cases and participating beside students of all ages in various mock trial and moot court programs.

An avid family man and lover of political history, poker and chess, Judge Scotti has been married for 30 years and has two grown children. For his contribution to the Las Vegas legal landscape, VLM is honored to step into the mind of this issue’s Meet The Incumbent.

Vegas Legal Magazine: What in your childhood or young adulthood could you look back on and view as a sign of what was ahead for you in your law career? Did you have a moment when you knew what you wanted to do?

Judge Scotti: My pre-teen years were spent living in a poor community in Carson, Calif., behind an oil refinery, and surrounded by frequent robberies, drug deals and murders. My elementary school had gangs, drugs and knife fights. As such, I came to recognize at an early age that all was not well in the world.

Fortunately, I had loving and attentive parents who directed my thoughts toward compassion for the victims, justice for the criminals and correction of the conditions that promoted such havoc in our community.

My parents encouraged me to read at an early age. A favorite book of mine was Meet Abraham Lincoln. I was struck by the president’s perseverance in overcoming all odds to become a lawyer and great leader. Then, in fourth grade, I served on a “legal team” to prosecute a student for disruptive talking in class. I found the exercise of assembling evidence and presenting our case to be fascinating.

In fifth grade, my mother had me read an abridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Handed down from my French grandmother, this tale identified many issues surrounding human dignity and compassion, and instilled within me the concept that just laws require just application and enforcement.

Finally, for career week in sixth grade, I had to select a probable career and a path to get there. By then, and without hesitation, I knew my future would be in law, and my law school would be Hastings College of Law. And so it was.

VLM: What do you love most about being involved in the law community in Las Vegas? Does it differ from practicing law or sitting on the bench elsewhere?

JS: I practiced law in Los Angeles for 5 years before moving to Las Vegas. Due to the relatively large number of lawyers there, attorneys remained mostly anonymous to each other. This anonymity begat incivility.

Las Vegas is different. Because our legal community is relatively small, we get to know each other, care about each other, and follow each other’s lives. We recognize that our behavior has consequences because we will all see each other again.

I recognized this difference almost immediately when I began working for Mort Galane in Las Vegas in 1992. I was surprised to learn that attorneys often served papers by hand delivery, with opposing counsel signing an acknowledgment of receipt. In my recollection, most attorneys in Los Angeles would never think of acknowledging receipt of anything, unless under court order to do so. Even then, there would likely have been several preceding motions for sanctions.

It is gratifying to note that in the past 25 years, while the size of our legal community has grown, the general level of civility has remained a constant.

VLM: What is the most memorable case you tried as an attorney before taking the bench?

JS: When I was a senior associate at Kemp, Jones & Coulthard, I was encouraged to handle probono cases. As such, I accepted a case from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to represent a woman whose daughter had been placed into an in-patient drug rehabilitation center after abandoning her mentally impaired son.

The grandmother felt hopeless, dealing with problems that seemed insurmountable. She was unable to get her grandson enrolled in a school for special needs persons. Nor was she able to make his health care decisions. Also, she was having trouble feeding the family due to her inability to obtain his previous government assistance payments.

I facilitated this woman’s desire to become the legal guardian of her grandson, thus opening the doors for the solutions to her problems.

This case was not memorable due to the hours I worked, nor the results I was able to obtain. It was memorable because when I told the woman what I had done, she cried. She cried because an institution and a group of people actually cared, and helped her without asking for anything in return.

This is what makes our profession in law so special. We are in a position to help so many people.

VLM: What is the most memorable case you have presided over as a judge… and why?

JS: Unfortunately, my most memorable case as a judge is not a good memory. I hope that will someday change. But in the meantime, I am haunted by the murder of a sweet young woman, a beloved Clark County elementary school teacher, who was brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat. The jury found her estranged husband guilty of this crime.

The woman’s 14-year-old son awoke to her screams and called police, while the 18-year-olddaughter climbed out her window, running to a neighbor’s house for help. But the police could not arrive in time to save the woman, not to mention the lifelong trauma for the children.

Amidst the extreme good in this world exists too much evil. And this evil is often difficult to spot in advance. Despite the tough cases and the bad memories they create, I fully appreciate my role advancing justice for all.

One of the most awesome responsibilities that I have is to exercise my discretion to mete out punishment for the guilty. The sentences I give are engrained into my memory because they have such profound impact—positive and negative—on so many lives.

VLM: What is the most challenging thing about sitting on the bench versus trying cases as an attorney? And was there something in your transition that took some getting used to?

JS: As a judge, it is not my role to instruct attorneys on how to present their case. But it is often difficult to resist the urge to jump in when an attorney misses a critical question, or when I believe the jury may not understand a critical fact.

In private practice I questioned witnesses in thousands of hours of depositions and I served as a Supreme Court Settlement Judge, a State Bar Fee Dispute Arbitrator, and a Foreclosure Mediator. These experiences have left me with a strong desire to ask questions in every case, and to obtain as much information as realistically possible to uncover the truth. I understand, however, that this is not my role as part of the judiciary.

Although court rules do permit the judge to ask an occasional question to help the jury to understand the testimony better, it must be done in a completely neutral manner. In any event, I continue working on how to resist the urge to ask, and let the attorneys try their own cases.

VLM: Describe a situation where you had to support a legal position that conflicted with your personal beliefs, and how you handled it.

JS: In one case, I had to invalidate a murder suspect’s confession of guilt after concluding that the suspect had not been given an appropriate Miranda warning. However, having read the confession, my personal belief was that probable cause existed to believe the defendant was guilty. My task was to follow the law, as delineated by the United States and Nevada Supreme Courts.

I was guided by the analysis in recent decisions from United States District Court Judges Richard Boulware and Jennifer Dorsey. These judges aptly explained the importance of police warning a suspect that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney prior to the commencement of questioning, as opposed to merely advising the suspect that he/she has the right to the presence of an attorney during questioning. This important distinction could result in the defendant getting legal advice to not speak with officers at all.

As it turned out, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder without the confession. This situation served as a reminder to me of the judiciary’s role in safeguarding the constitutional rights of defendants.

VLM: Describe a court situation that tested the limits of your patience. How did you respond? And in hindsight, would you have done anything differently?

JS: Two years ago, I chaired the State Bar Civility Task Force, working with the Bar to amend the Attorney Oath. This oath requires attorneys to act civilly with the public, the court, and each other. It seems that a few attorneys may not have studied the new language. Discourteous behavior can test the court’s patience.

Every so often, there is a pairing of attorneys who lose composure. They may yell at each other, interrupt, engage in name calling, threaten sanctions, and exaggerate facts in the process. I once found it necessary to position my marshal directly between two attorneys to avoid the risk of violence.

When faced with such disruption, I remind the parties of the Clark County Pledge of Professionalism, and sometimes direct them to read the ABA 2011 Resolution on Civility. For their convenience, I keep copies of these documents behind the bench, dispensing them free of charge as necessary (occasionally to the recipient’s chagrin). Civility helps us all—on both sides of the bench, aisle, gallery, or other—to resolve conflict with respect and integrity.

VLM: Biggest pet peeve triggered by attorneys that appear in your courtroom?

JS: My primary peeve is when attorneys, in both civil and criminal cases, unnecessarily waste jurors’ time due to their lack of concern, unpreparedness, or incompetence. Examples include being late for the start of trial, or late in coming back from lunch or shorter recesses. Some attorneys take extra long breaks to fix their disarray of exhibits. Sometimes, they do not have witnesses ready to testify on time. Attorneys may use breaks to make frivolous or weak motions, without giving the court the benefit of a written brief. Attorneys may cause delays by not resolving equipment and technology issues before the start of trial. Also, some attorneys delay in submitting jury instructions, thus forcing the court to settle them at inconvenient times.

Our judicial system relies on a group of fair and impartial jurors who depart from their daily routine, family life and commitments to perform the extremely daunting task— unfamiliar to them—of sitting in judgment. While I am sympathetic of unforeseen problems that arise during trial, we must all work diligently to respect the value of jurors’ time in service to our community.

VLM: What is your best piece of advice for litigants and/or attorneys that appear in your courtroom?

JS: When walking into my court, litigants and attorneys should feel that they know more about the facts of the case, and the applicable law, than anyone else in the building. They should begin their argument with a summary of the issues, the applicable rule of law, and the relief sought. They should be prepared to discuss any relevant precedents and nuances, and be able to tell the court their understanding of the opposing counsel’s position, and why it is wrong. And in the likely event I interrupt oral argument . . . be prepared to answer the court’s questions.

VLM: Knowing what you now know about your work, what advice would you go back and give your younger self about practicing law, or sitting on the bench?

JS: Whether practicing law, sitting on the bench, or driving a truck . . . we are all a work in progress. Every victory, every loss, every mistake, every failed argument, every misspoken word, and every road taken, leaves a mark in our memory and changes us. If we pay attention and remain receptive in the face of adversity, these moments help us become better people, better advocates for others, and better decision makers. So, celebrate your advances and learn from your setbacks.

If I had to offer my younger self any advice about the practice of law, it would be to recognize that every time you are knocked down, you have earned an opportunity to learn and grow. I would also tell my past self to better express appreciation for the opportunities you will be given, and to say “thank you” more often to those who help you along the way.

VLM: What has being a judge meant to you?

JS: I am both fortunate and grateful that I was born in America, the finest country in the world. Being a judge allows me the opportunity to express that gratitude through service to our community. I take this opportunity very seriously.

My path to becoming a judge did not happen in a vacuum. I was fortunate to have had fine parents, teachers, mentors, and co-workers. I was even more fortunate to have a very supportive family, including my wonderful wife of 30 years, and my two fine children, all of whom I am quite proud.

My pride in America is prominently displayed in my courtroom. My courtroom displays a full-size framed copy the Constitution of the United States, reminding all of us why America has the finest system of law and governance in the world. Directly behind the witness stand, a large picture of the Statue of Liberty is displayed for all to view. The message is to remind everyone that the American justice system applies equally to all who enter my court.

Being a judge emboldens me to search for more compassion, more time to study, more insights on how to be fair, and more wisdom to find the right answers.

Thank you all for allowing me to serve you.

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

What Is Your Earning Capacity?

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In Nevada courts, personal injury attorneys frequently ask juries to assess the loss of earnings capacity for a plaintiff that has been injured or killed; however, this is not an easy assessment because one’s past earnings are not necessarily a guide. For example, what if the plaintiff was only 13 years old (or 13 months old), had no prior earnings history, and an incomplete education (or none at all)? And what of tech masterminds like Steve Jobs and Michael Dell…two men who didn’t finish college yet whose future earnings would’ve been hard to fathom when they left school? Or imagine if Bill Gates had sustained a fatal injury during his sophomore year at Harvard?

These are complicated situations, but they illuminate the difficult job of a jury to place a value on potential earnings in wrongful death and personal injury claims when measurable values are moving targets. How do juries approach it ? A forensic economic evaluation may illustrate various future realistic scenarios for their consideration. But before that evaluation, it’s important to understand and distinguish between earnings capacity and expected earnings.

Actual, Expected and Capacity Earnings: Learning The Difference

In Nevada (as in most states), “earnings capacity” is the measure of loss. In your past, you may not have earned as much as you were capable of earning, but Nevada allows you to claim what you were capable of earning. Imagine a villager who has a 10-gallon jug who goes to the river daily to fill it with only seven gallons, since that’s all her family needs. If someone breaks the villager’s jug, what size jug should replace it…a seven-gallon jug since that was the average amount carried, or a 10-gallon jug, since that is the actual capacity of the broken jug? Nevada allows the claim for a 10-gallon jug replacement since that is the jug’s capacity.

Similarly, a person’s actual earnings, and their earnings capacity, are established in labor markets as a result of supply and demand based on what a person was able and willing to do, and based on employers’ need for that work. In even simpler terms:

• Actual past earnings is based on what a person did earn in the past. We can look a person’s W-2s or social security earnings statements to determine these.

• Expected earnings is based on what a person might be expected to earn in the future and involves the probability that a person would generate earnings.

• Earnings capacity is based on what a person would have been capable of earning….and is different than what a person would have been expected to earn.

Frequently, earnings capacity exceeds expected earnings. Past earnings can be an absolute floor for earnings capacity, but earnings capacity can certainly be much higher than the actual past earnings. And earnings capacity can increase through planned future training and education.

Understanding Earnings Capacity

In order to generate future earnings, a person has to be participating in the labor force, and has to be employed. The labor force (i.e., those participating) includes the employed and the unemployed. Participation means a person is available for work. You can be participating, and yet not employed; yet since you are seeking and hoping to find work, you are in fact participating in the labor force. There are factors that preclude participation. Some of these factors are involuntary, such as injury or illness.

Now: A person is not participating in the labor force if they are sick and cannot work or if they are voluntarily opting out to take time off to care for a newborn or sick family member, or if they’re going back to school for additional education. Bottom line: If you are not available to be employed, you are not participating.

But it gets more nuanced than that… because even if you are participating in the work force, you may not be employed. You may have been laid off, or you quit your job and are seeking another position. Maybe you moved from one state to another, or your employer moved out of state. To generate actual earnings, a person must be participating and must be employed. But having an earnings capacity does not require either participation or employment, in the past or in the future. It requires the capacity to be participating (i.e., not injured) and capacity to work (i.e., with sought after skills). It does not require that we know an actual employer or identify an actual job. It only requires that there are employers and that there are jobs. You can’t have an earnings capacity in the desert.

Underlying Assumptions of Earnings Capacity

Let’s review some examples of how the realistic assumptions of earnings capacity will differ depending on the plaintiff:

If a child is injured, realistic assumptions must be made about the child’s future level of education—which can be influenced by the level of education of the parents, but on average, is greater than their parents’ education. Since the average level of education today for young people who enter the labor force is “some college,” a jury might be shown several education scenarios for an injured child: high school graduate; some college; and college graduate. (Note: If the parents are both college graduates, the likelihood of the child completing college does increase.)

Let’s imagine someone in college. What are the realistic assumptions? College completion? Graduate school? This will depend on the actual testimony of what the plans were prior to the injury. Some people know during their second year in college that they want to become a doctor. Others may not know their future desired occupation until they leave college and work for some time. They may return to graduate school. Plans for young people may not be particularly precise or set in stone, and thus several scenarios are useful.

What about someone early in his or her career in sales, finance or law? Typical entry-level earnings are not a significant factor in determining mid- to late-career earnings. An entry-level college graduate may start out at $40k a year, in a career that may allow them to double or quadruple their earnings between ages 30-40. And these earnings may double or more in the next decade or two, when they are 50-60 years old. Again, a forensic economist can show multiple scenarios that a jury can weigh, along with career plans, employment evaluations, etc.

Preparing Juries To Evaluate Expected Earnings

A jury must be educated to understand that potential or expected earnings are not the same as earnings capacity. Imagine a 55-year-old female attorney who is making $100k annually, with three daughters who are beginning to have children of their own. She may inform her husband, who also makes an excellent living, that she has decided to quit her job, and as grandma, intends to provide care for the grandchildren at her home. This retirement move will allow her daughters to pursue their careers, and it will place the grandchildren in a family environment rather than with strangers at a daycare facility. Were this woman to become injured the day she announces that she will have zero expected earnings in the future, her earnings capacity would still be $100k per year.

In evaluating earnings capacity, for many employed people, the most recent year is their highest year of earnings, as earnings generally increase over time. But sometimes, one past recently high year is not necessarily the best indicator of earnings capacity. Earnings of a real estate agent, for example, can vary depending on economic climate, referrals, etc. Referrals may come in clumps, and the economics conditions may vary. In such a situation, averaging more than one prior year may be a reasonable approach.

Another example regarding earnings capacity that I sometimes share with a jury is that a car’s upper speed limit (its capacity) is much greater than its average speed. In Chicago, I might average 10 miles an hour during the year. But if I were to take my car to a dealer for a trade, I would expect him to consider that it can go 90 miles per hour or more down the freeway (in Montana, legally!) and not offer me the price of a clunker.

Earnings Capacity Outliers

Courts have not given clear guidance on all assumptions about earnings capacity, which has made some assumptions seem unrealistic. For example, anyone could take a second job, part time, and it’s something that is within the capacity of most. Most people don’t exercise that capacity, but if they have in the past, it should certainly be considered. Yet if they haven’t, it may be a stretch to ask a jury to consider that possibility (although it could be shown as an additional scenario if there is some chance it might have happened). Additionally, many people could earn more if they increased their level of education, but again…if they are mid-career, it may be a stretch to consider this to be realistic.

When forensic economic testimony is provided to a jury showing the various alternative earnings capacity scenarios, along with testimony about education and work plans from family members and others, a full and fair recovery can be achieved. The economist can produce information that serves as a tool, an aid and a guide for the jury.

Stan V. Smith, Ph. D., is VLM’s Quarterly Economics Columnist and president of Smith Economics Group, Ltd. Trained at the University of Chicago (one of the world’s pre-eminent institutions for the study of economics and the home of the law and economics movement), Smith has also taught at the university and co-authored the first textbook on the topic of economic damages. A nationally renowned expert in economics who has testified nationwide in personal injury, wrongful death and commercial damages cases, Smith has assisted thousands of law firms in successful results for both plaintiffs and defendants, including the U.S. Department of Justice. Smith also developed the first course in forensic economics at DePaul University, and pioneered the concept of “hedonic damages,” testifying about the topic it in landmark cases. His work has been featured in the ABA Journal, National Law Journal, and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Smith Economics Group, Ltd., is located at 1165 N. Clark Street, Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60610. Dr. Smith may be reached at 312-943-1551 and at Stan@SmithEconomics.com.

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Advice From The Surgeon: Treating The Emotions Of A Cosmetic Surgery Patient

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Many different emotions go through a person’s mind when they look in the mirror and see something they wish they didn’t see. They see possibly sagging skin, loose tissues, excess or disproportionate deposits of fat, or skin with fine lines and a dull appearance. The list can go on and on. When we encounter such things we don’t like in other parts of our life like our house, car or clothing, the decision to change them are much more easily made. Yet, when it comes to us, many times doubt creeps in.

Am I just being vain?

Do I really need this?

Why can’t I just accept the way things are as I age?

What will my friends and family say?

The list can be paralyzing, and make people not take action. It is for that reason that the last 15 to 20 years have seen such an explosion in non-invasive or minimally invasive techniques to improve those small flaws. In the olden days, it was really only a surgical intervention that could be offered: a tummy tuck, a facelift and/or eyelid lift, liposuction, etc. The thought of something so drastic appears so large, and for some people a sign of “defeat.” I use the word defeat because maybe they should have known better in terms of avoiding the sun, stopping smoking, eating healthy, or a myriad of things that we now know can help prevent or slow the progression of these issues.

So what is one to do?

I have always thought that getting as much education about a subject before making a decision is of paramount importance. That is what the physician is truly supposed to do. In this case, it would be a doctor. Some of you may not know that the word “doctor” comes from the Latin root word for teacher. So truly, that is what a doctor should do first: teach. It can mean teaching prevention, treatment…a litany of things. But learning what the teacher has to say is important.

In my office, I feel discussing the causes of the problems and any potential pitfalls of the available treatments is of a great help to patients. In my experience, a well-informed patient will feel better about their decision, understanding that measures taken to “look better” can many times be attached to feeling better. That is what I deal with on a daily basis…patients who are seeking a physical improvement in order to feel better. That “feeling better” extends to greater levels of confidence, a concordance of looking on the outside like you feel on the inside. For that reason I think that patients seeking information about an aesthetic or cosmetic procedure should see a physician who performs the whole gamut of procedures, from the surgical, to non-surgical, to minimally invasive. If one sees a physician that only does fillers, for example, then they will offer only filler as the option. But the truth is, not everyone is a candidate for fillers…just as not everyone is a candidate for surgery.

In our office, we offer a full range of aesthetic enhancements, and it is for that reason that I feel our patients receive a good education about their options…options that are tailored to their wishes, desires and needs. At times, the injectable non-surgical options can forestall the day of surgery or prolong the longevity of an appearance achieved with surgery. The reason for this is that the aging process is not just a matter of loosening skin. It is a result of loose skin shifting, or lost tissue below the skin, excess fat in some areas, or loss of fat in others. And surgery is not always the correct choice. When we can address the individual components, we see a more harmonious appearance. An appearance that does not look “too filled-up,” too tight, too pulled, or an appearance that leaves them looking like a different person. Cosmetic surgery and the ancillary techniques I speak of can then be offered to make sure the mixture is right, just like the porridge was for Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

I invite you to see us at our office for a private and confidential consultation where your concerns and desires, as well as fears, can be discussed, and we can then offer you a set of options. With that information you then can decide if the time has come for a subtle or a bigger step. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Julio L Garcia, MD FACS, is the founder of the Regenerative Medicine Institute of Nevada, which is dedicated to helping patients with adipose-derived cell therapies for the treatment of acute and chronic medical issues. For more information about Dr. Garcia, please visit his websites at http://www.lvcosmeticsurgery.com and http://www.rminlasvegas.com, or contact his office by calling 1-888- FACES-89 or (702) 870-0058

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

The Production From The Smith Center

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In this installment, I’d love to talk about you…and how a great show just might move you, if you let it.

While I never expect it, every once in a while, a great show moves me so much that it shakes me to my core. Really. Live theater can wake up your emotions and cause you to experience wonderful things. It can take you back to childhood; remind you of special family memories; and elicit feelings of fear, longing, desire, grief, romance, happiness, and even love. Certain songs still take me back to high school. What about you?

The Smith Center presents a number of highly evocative shows. The beauty of art is that it causes you to think, it makes you feel otherwise deeply guarded feelings, and it can allow you to laugh, to cry and to experience the beauty of the human condition.

The magic of live performance is that you are there in the room with the actors experiencing their characters firsthand. Sometimes their story is one that particularly resonates with you, and sometimes you simply find a way to relate to them in a personal way

I hope that the next time you come to The Smith Center, you will get there a little early, have a refreshment, use the restroom before the show, relax, turn off all of your technology, and truly give yourself up to the experience. Imagine what might happen if you totally tune in. I’m a grown man who doesn’t hold back when a show moves me. I laugh, I cry and I don’t apologize for it. Giving yourself to a show may require a little more of your attention, but you may find that payoff is well worth the investment. Where else but live theater can this happen? Will it always happen? No way. Like the line from A Chorus Line, sometimes I feel nothing. Sometimes I can’t relate. But, wow, when it does happen, it’s amazing.

This also means that you, and those around you, must abide by the rules of theater etiquette. I admit that Las Vegas audiences still have a way to go, but we’re getting there. Steve Sebelius wrote an article for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that kindly started with, “Welcome to the theater, now shut up!” He had a point. This isn’t your den, and this isn’t Netflix. Please arrive on time and do your best not to talk or otherwise disturb your neighbors—especially in a theatrical production with deep dramatic tension. And do a little homework. Take a look at what you are coming to see and decide if you think it is appropriate for your kids. Sebelius wrote the following about music performances:

“Shut up: Seriously, this is basic. While somebody who has spent their life practicing the performance of music is on the stage, please be quiet. Don’t talk. Don’t yell, whistle or shout your approval. Don’t rustle your feed-bag. Don’t cough, if you can at all help it. Just listen and appreciate. And then, at the end of the song (not near the end, but after the song is over) signal your approval with applause.

Eat before you go: There are many fine restaurants in the downtown area at which you can eat before seeing a concert. Avail yourself of one of them, or eat at home. Then, come to the theater and practice a little abstinence. Yes, they do sell concessions at the theater and yes, they come in noisy little packages and yes, that’s inviting trouble. But just because they’re for sale doesn’t mean you have to bring them into the theater. A beverage (to sip silently) is fine. Anything else, wait for the end.

Shut up: Really, I can’t stress this one enough.

Remain seated and keep your hands and arms inside the train: If you must leave to use the rest room or take a phone call, please wait until a song or composition is complete, and the audience applause can cover your exit. The acoustics of the Smith Center are excellent…

Shut up: If you remember nothing else, remember this. Seriously.”

The Smith Center was built for the people of Las Vegas, and its ongoing mission is to inspire people through the grand gift of live performance. Take advantage of it. Bring a friend. And maybe, just maybe, the magic will happen and your life—at least in that moment—will be enhanced in a brilliant new way.

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Avoiding The Crash & Burn

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In this month’s medico-legal feature, VLM brings you the voices of three professionals in their fields who are experienced in spinal biomechanics, and low-speed and catastrophic crashes. Below, they share answers and insights about some common questions they’re asked, including the topics of bodily injuries, crash dynamics and accident reconstruction.

1. “How do airbags work and why do they deploy in some cases and not others?”

Almost all airbag-equipped vehicles contain an airbag control module. The module monitors various vehicle systems and has a predetermined threshold for deployment. (In simpler terms, this means the collision has to meet certain settings to deploy an airbag.)

While each car brand’s system is different from the next, the concept is the same: The module constantly monitors a vehicle’s speed, and when a collision occurs, the module can tell the change in speed is happening faster than if the car was slowing by brakes alone. IF the collision, as calculated by the module, is extreme enough, it will deploy the appropriate airbag(s). (Note: The module having the final say in why an airbag is deployed is truly vehicle-specific, as well as module software and hardware dependent.)

The module can know changes in the vehicle’s direction and speed via onboard accelerometers. The module constantly calculates these changes and when it “sees” a change beyond preset thresholds, it begins to monitor the changes very closely (this is called “algorithm enablement”). If the module determines the changes meet the criteria for airbag deployment, it will deploy the appropriate airbag(s).

Many vehicles also have failsafe sensors mounted in the vehicle that are designed as a secondary mechanical and/or electrical triggering system. These sensors are mounted on the front of the vehicle, usually under the radiator. When crushed or damaged, they force an airbag deployment.

Occasionally, someone will ask how a vehicle knows that a seat is occupied. (The driver’s seat is obvious, but beyond this, the front passenger seat has a pressure sensor that can tell when a predetermined amount of weight is on it, and in most vehicles, the rest of the seats use the seatbelt latch.) When you are driving, the module also monitors the status of seatbelts and the pressure sensors, and uses that data to make the best decision possible about which airbags to deploy and when.

2. “I got this collision expert’s report but there doesn’t appear to be any explanation for his findings. Is this normal?”

We are often asked about a specialist’s report, but the most common subset questions are about the lack of support for findings in the report. So we have chosen to address this question because it’s of personal and professional interest to us.

The answer to the above is both yes and no: Yes, it happens; and no, it’s not acceptable standard.

One of the reasons I (Patrick Sundby) have chosen to work with Dr. Bahoora and Dr. Studin is because of their tenacious commitment to research. If you have seen these doctors present, you know they have scholarly research to back up their points. Working with doctors that have been through accredited and standardized training based on a lot of scholarly research is imperative. All professional fields of postprimary education are based in accredited and scholarly formal standards. Collision reconstruction specialists are no different. While not necessarily part of an undergraduate or graduate program, the training and education they have is based on the same accredited and scholarly formal training and education. And because of this correlation, the same standard should be applied to collision reconstruction specialists.

Scholarly research is based on objective methods of testing and investigation, peer review, and rigorous scrutiny before being accepted. When an expert offers an opinion without citing supporting scholarly documentation, it’s not worthless, but rather it stands alone as opinion. Conversely, when an expert offers an opinion with appropriate supporting scholarly documentation, an opinion is accompanied by work, expertise, and research.

3. “Is the listed cost on the appraisal an accurate reflection of damage?”

An appraisal for repairs is often used to justify “low speed” in a low-speed crash by citing minimal costs; but there are a few points regarding them to consider.

Regarding the above, the short and easy answer is “no,” and the long answer starts with understanding who did the appraisal, and the background of the appraiser. Usually, appraisers are trained by the insurance company for whom they work. As such, minimizing the costs and expenses of repair is in the insurance company’s interest. Second, most appraisers do not disassemble a vehicle to determine if there is any hidden damage, particularly in low-speed collisions.

The next problem is that when replacement parts are needed, where should they come from? Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts cost substantially more than equal- or like-quality (ELQ) parts, which makes ELQ parts the preferred choice of insurance companies.

Along this same line, the quality of paint also varies. Paint manufacturers offer paint systems to meet OEM specifications and are very durable paints; however, they also offer more economically friendly paint that is not as durable or as closely color matched to the original. And as expected, it costs less.

The last problem to discuss is job downtime. The longer a vehicle is in for repairs, the more it costs the insurance company in rental fees. While a shop can, and will, have a minimum amount of time to fix the vehicle, the insurance company is going to keep it on a timeframe and constantly press for the vehicle to be completed. Sometimes that can create an environment where the repair facility will sacrifice quality of workmanship to complete the job faster for a better profit margin.

The above variables greatly dictate the final number, making it too subjective for a reliable point to support the threshold of injury. In other words, the use of “low cost” as a justification for no injury is not appropriate, as no causality relationship exists. If a breakdown of the repair bill is provided, you could objectively price the repair parts and effectively show the bias toward reducing the cost of the repair.

4. It is a common finding that whiplash patients suffer injury to their discs.Determining whether the pathologic disc is causally related to the whiplash becomes a concern in the medico-legal arena…which means that a common question we receive is, “How can you tell if the pathological disc found on MR imaging is directly related to the whiplash?”

Initially, the first step in determining the relationship between causality and bodily injury is to be certain that patients have a complete history taken, and that an examination is performed by a qualified health care provider that is trained in trauma care. Many practitioners are licensed to treat the trauma case, but many are ill equipped in training and experience and don’t have the credentials to ensure an accurate diagnosis as to determine proper relationship to causality.

Beyond radiating symptomatology—as Del Grande, Maus and Carrino (2012) have reported as an accepted parameter for determining herniation causality—it is important to realize that radiating clinical symptoms arising out of injury to an intervertebral disc are dependent on the anatomical positioning of the injured and inflamed disc material. It is only when the disc herniation is of a lateralized nature that the segmental nerve root is compressed or inflamed, producing radiation of axial symptoms to the corresponding upper or lower extremity.

To discuss radiation as a primary indicator of acute traumatic injury to the intervertebral disc omits central disc herniations, which alone do not typically produce extremity symptomology. When it comes to acute injury in the absence of radiating symptoms, local symptomatology should also be considered in approaching a mechanism and timing of the injury. Furthermore, one must also look at the morphology or architecture of the individual vertebrae as demonstrative evidence to age-date disc pathology inclusive of both herniations and traumatically induced directional, non-diffuse bulges as described by Fardon et al (2014).

Wolf’s Law, as described by Isaacson and Bloebaum (2010), is that “physical forces exerted on a bone alter bone architecture and is a well-established principle…” (p. 1271). This has been understood and accepted as a general principle since the late 1800s, and has been verified through the past century’s research inclusive of contemporary research. Simply put, if a bone has abnormal stresses, it will change morphology or shape within expected parameters. Since these changes are “expected,” the question becomes, “how does Wolf’s Law apply to traumatic external forces and acute disc injury, and how does this relate to causality?”

In order to fully understand the process, it is critical to understand the biochemical reaction (or functional adaptation) that occurs with abnormal stresses on bone…that centers on bioelectric changes that occur at the cellular level.

According to Issacson and Bloebaum (2010), when tissue is damaged, the injury potential creates steady local electric fields that result from ion flux—positive and negative charges moving through local cellar membranes—which is an integral part in the regeneration/remodeling of bony tissue. Bone remodeling is a tightly coupled functional system and is strongly influenced by age, activity level and mechanical loading. This functional adaptation of bone demonstrates the unique ability of bone to alter its trabecular (structural bone tissue) orientation as a result of loading conditions. According to Frost (1994), bone remodeling is a direct response to mechanical influences and strains on the osseous system. This can occur as a normal process to strengthen bone, or as a response to altered anatomy, biomechanics or direct traumatic injury. Since this is a predicable scenario, we can identify specific factors that will help us to determine whether the response was present over time or is at the beginning phase of remodeling. That is the fundamental basis for putting a causally related date to the injury.

5. Individuals suffer significant injury in crashes where there is low car damage. In such cases, it is common for MR imaging to detect significant disc pathology following these low-damage crash scenarios. A question for us then becomes: “How do low-damage crashes cause disc injury?”

Gathering a proper medical and crash-mechanism history is the initial step. In addition, forming a risk and causation analysis is essential in determining causality relative to bodily injury. This will also assist in determining the threshold some individuals hold for being injured with less trauma. Additionally, human risk factors for injury—which are quite extrinsic to the crash metrics—can often be more important predictors of occupant injury than the crash metrics themselves. It is not uncommon for one person in a crash to be injured and another person in the same vehicle to walk away unscathed. Clearly, both were exposed to the same crash metrics in terms of the vehicle’s speed change, impact, etc. But those factors by themselves are not sufficient to predict occupant risk. What we question in order to reasonably assess risk in a crash is position in the vehicle, the use of restraints, the role of awareness, age, sex, physical strength, size, health, prior injuries, and other factors. Analyzing risk in all cases is imperative, as it can confirm why significant injury can occur with fewer traumas.

With respect to causation and its relationship to disc injury with minor damage car crashes, a crashrelated injury causation analysis for a specific individual should also be performed by assessing the risk of injury from the collision and comparing it to the probability that the injuries or conditions would have been present at the same point in time if the collision had not occurred. This is called a relative or comparative risk analysis—also known as a “differential etiology” approach to causation—in which the most probable cause is selected among all competing causes. The analysis is accomplished via the application of crash reconstruction, biomechanical, medical, and epidemiologic (risk assessment) principles. The methodology for assessing causation of disc injury following low damage traffic crashes used here has been described in peer-reviewed literature, and has been deemed generally accepted by U.S. courts.

The three fundamental elements of an injury causation analysis are as follows:

1. Whether the injury mechanism had the potential to cause the injury in question; 2. The degree of temporal proximity between the injury mechanism and the onset of the symptoms reasonably indicating the presence of the injury; and 3. Whether there is a more likely alternative explanation for the occurrence of the symptoms at the same point in time.

Michael D. Freeman, Ph.D., MPH DC, a forensic epidemiologist, has documented that spinal disk injuries have been described in peer-reviewed literature as occurring at load levels similar to 3-4 mph rear impact collisions. (15,16) He goes on to state that studies of real-world (epidemiologic) crashes compared with medical findings indicate that at a 5-7 mph delta V (change in velocity); 35-47 percent of occupants will receive some degree of injury; 3.5-6.4 percent will develop long lasting (as in greater than 6 months) symptoms; and 2.5 -3.7 percent—or between 1 in 27 or 1 in 40— will demonstrate symptoms of a cervical spine disk derangement. (14)

An assumption is that insurance carriers simply don’t understand the concept of risk and causation, and will assume that an individual involved in a low-damage crash scenario simply can’t endure a spinal disc injury. The above-mentioned concepts confirm that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

We answer questions like the above every day and are available for your questions at any time. Our contact information can be accessed below.

Dr. Kenneth Bahoora has been a treating physician in Nevada for 18 years. He graduated from Life University in Atlanta, Geo., where he received his diploma as a doctor of chiropractic. He has received specialized knowledge with post graduate education in accident reconstruction, spinal biomechanical engineering, spinal MRI interpretation, MRI physics, providing impairment ratings utilizing AMA Guides 5th & 6th Edition, examining, and triaging the trauma patient, and neurodiagnostic interpretation protocols. He lectures to doctors and the legal community on subjects including but not limited to trauma and injury protocols and crash dynamics and the trauma victim. He can be reached for further explanation at kmbdc@elitechiro.net or 702.204.4240.

Patrick Sundby has decades of experience in the automotive industry including several years in law enforcement collision investigation. He has also been a driver training and firearms instructor in law enforcement, and a police officer for 9 years before specializing in accident investigations. He has had the privilege of participating in both learning and teaching at Prince William County Criminal Justice Training Academy in Virginia and studied at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. His specialty is low-speed and catastrophic crashes and has testified over 500 times at various levels. He can be reached at 571.265.8076 or patrick.sundby@gmail.com

Dr. Mark Studin teaches at the doctoral level as an adjunct assistant professor of Chiropractic at the University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic, and an adjunct assistant professor of Clinical Sciences at Texas Chiropractic College. He also teaches at the graduate medical level as a clinical presenter credentialed by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education in Joint Sponsorship with the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, along with being credentialed nationally for chiropractic post-doctoral education in a broad range of clinical subjects.

References: 1. Fardon, D. F., & Milette, P. C. (2001). Nomenclature and classification of lumbar disc pathology: Recommendations of the combined task forces of the North American Spine Society, American Society of Spine Radiology, and American Society of Neuroradiology. Spine, 26(5), E93–E113. 2. Fardon, D. F., Williams, A. L., Dohring, E. J., Murtagh, F. R., Rothman, S. L. G., & Sze, G. K. (2014). Lumbar Disc Nomenclature: Version 2.0: Recommendations of the combined task forces of the North American Spine Society, American Society of Spine Radiology, and American Society of Neuroradiology. Spine, 14(11), 2525-2545. 3. Brault J. R., Wheeler J. B., Siegmund, G. P., & Brault, E. J. (1998). Clinical response of human subjects to rear-end automobile collisions. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 79(1), 72- 80. 4. Krafft, M., Kullgren, A., Malm, S., and Ydenius, A. (2002). Influence of crash severity on various whiplash injury symptoms: A study based on real life rear end crashes with recorded crash pulses. In Proc. 19th Int. Techn. Conf. on ESV, Paper No. 05-0363, 1-7 5. Del Grande F., Maus T. P., & Carrino J. A. (2012). Imaging the intervertebral disc: Age-related changes, herniations and radicular pain. Radiological Clinic of North America 50(4), 629-649 6. Issacson, B. M., & Bloebaum, R. D. (2010). Bone electricity: What have we learned in the past 160 years? Journal of Biomedical Research, 95A(4), 1270-1279. 7. Frost, H. M. (1994). Wolff’s Law and bone’s structural adaptations to mechanical usage: an overview for clinicians. The Angle Orthodontist, 64(3), 175-188. 8. He, G., & Xinghua, Z. (2006). The numerical simulation of osteophyte formation on the edge of the vertebral body using quantitative bone remodeling theory. Joint Bone Spine 73(1), 95-101. 9. Koehler S, Freeman MD. Forensic epidemiology; a methodology for investigating and quantifying specific causation. Forens Sci Med Path 2014 Jun;10(2):217-22 10. Freeman MD. Medicolegal causation analysis of a lumbar spine fracture following a low speed rear impact traffic crash. J Case Rep Prac 2015; 3(2): 23-29. 11. Freeman MD, Kohles SS. An Evaluation of Applied Biomechanics as an adjunct to systematic specific causation in forensic medicine. Wien Med Wochenschr 2011;161:1-11 12. Freeman MD, Centeno CJ, Kohles SS. A systematic approach to clinical determinations of causation in symptomatic spinal disc injury following motor vehicle crash trauma. PM R 2009;1(10):951-6. 13. 35 F.Supp.3d 1360 United States District Court, D. Colorado. Donald L. Etherton, Plaintiff, v. Owners Insurance Company, a Michigan Insurance Company, Defendant. Civil Action No. 10–cv–00892– PAB–KLM 14. Brinckmann P, Porter RW. A Laboratory Model of Lumbar Disc Protrusion. Spine 1994;19(2):228- 35. . 15. Freeman MD, Croft AC, Nicodemus CN, Centeno CJ, Welkins WL. Significant spinal injury resulting from low-level accelerations: A case series of roller coaster injuries. Arch Phys Med Rehab November 2005;86:2126-30. 16. Oppenheim JS, Spitzer DE, Segal DH. Nonvascular complications following spinal manipulation. Spine J. 2005;5(6):660-6. 17. Reliability is a metric based on epidemiologic study, from which the true and false positive rate of a test is derived. 18. Manchikanti L, et al. An update of the systematic appraisal of the accuracy and utility of lumbar discography in chronic low back pain. Pain Physician. 2013 Apr;16(2 Suppl):SE55-95. Review. 19. Carroll LJ et al. Course and prognostic factors for neck pain in whiplash-associated disorders (WAD): results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine. 2008;33(4 Suppl):S83-92. 20. Freeman MD, Centeno CJ. A fatal case of secondary gain; a cautionary tale. Amer J Case Reports 2008;9:97-103

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Death Of The Death Tax

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Chances are good that you were one of the 137 million taxpayers who filed an individual income tax return in 2015. In the same year, 11,917 estate tax returns were filed. Sometimes referred to as the “death tax,” this type of tax return is associated with wealthy individuals. By the end of this article (and regardless of your income level) everyone who reads it will understand more about the estate tax, who it affects, and issues with its currently proposed repeal (more on that below).

What Is Estate Tax?

The federal estate tax is a tax on the transfer of assets and property at one’s death. It is applied to decedents with gross estates in excess of $5.49 million for individuals, and $10.98 million for married taxpayers (those are the “Estate Tax Exclusions” for 2017). The asset composition of estates is typically a mix of stocks, real estate, bonds, small businesses, cash, pensions, and other retirement accounts. In 2015, stocks and real estate comprised over half of all asset holdings for estate tax return filers. Deductions from the gross estate are allowed and include funeral expenses, certain charitable contributions, administrative expenses, as well as others. The due date of the estate tax (IRS Form 706) is 9 months from the date of a person’s death. A 6-month extension to file is available if you are unable to file by the ninth month.

The modern estate tax began in 1916, and has had a history of repeals. In 2001, the tax was repealed and the result was a phase out of rates until 2010, when the tax was temporarily eliminated. The tax was reenacted in 2011 and 2012, with a 35 percent rate on estates exceeding $5 million. It was expected to return to the 2001 rates in 2013, but Congress placed a permanent 40 percent tax on estates exceeding $5 million, with the threshold indexed to inflation.

Historically, estate tax has been a hot political topic, and in recent presidential campaigns, Democrats pushed to increase revenue from estate taxes while Republicans promised to repeal it. In January 2017, House and Senate Republicans introduced two bills—H.R. 631, 115th Cong., 1st Sess. (Jan. 24, 2017) and S. 205, 115th Cong., 1st Sess. (Jan. 24, 2017)—to repeal the estate tax.

What Is The Controversy?The 11,917 estate tax returns filed in 2015 produced tax revenue of $17 billion…less than 0.6 percent of the total federal revenues that year. (To put that in perspective, the government brought in approximately $3.2 trillion in total revenue.) With individual income taxes representing $1.4 trillion, and payroll taxes accounting for $969 billion, why is so much attention given to such a sliver of proportional tax revenue? Proponents claim that the tax limits the concentration of wealth among dynastic families. According to PolitiFact, in 2011, the 400 wealthiest Americans had more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Since inherited wealth may be a factor in why many Americans who became wealthy have had a better start than the average person, income and wealth inequality in our country (they say) is a reason to continue implementing the estate tax. In addition, if the estate tax is repealed, the lost tax revenue may have to be absorbed by less wealthy taxpayers.

Alternatively, critics argue that it is a type of “double tax,” and that the assets an individual has accumulated in his or her lifetime have already been taxed in annual income tax returns. Critics further argue that the tax goes against U.S. free market principles: We live in a free country where people build businesses from nothing, yet when people pass the fruits of their labors to their heirs, the money gets hit with another hefty tax.

Estate Tax Today

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump strongly advocated a repeal of the estate tax, and has proposed taxing pre-death appreciation in the capital assets of estates (subject to a $10 million exemption per married couple). It would mean that the person who inherited the asset would not get a step-up in basis to the fair market value at the date of death (which is what currently happens). Instead, the assets would transfer with the decedent’s original basis, and when the assets were later sold—whether on day one or 1,000—the beneficiary would pay a capital gains tax.

Long-term capital gains tax currently ranges from 15-20 percent (which is much better than the current estate tax rate of 40 percent). The problem, though, is determining what the decedent’s original cost basis is. Under the existing rules, stocks, real estate and interest in a business are all determined using current market values that are not difficult to ascertain. However, original basis in assets may be difficult or impossible to attain, resulting in possibly no-cost basis or low-cost basis, and thus higher capital gains.

Another challenge? Necessary tax planning would be automatically shifted to the beneficiary. In the case of an heir not having income or assets that can be used to satisfy a capital gains tax, whether or not the inherited assets would continue to receive a step-up in basis at the date of death would be a major point to consider as we watch the proposed repeal unfold.

The Future Of The Death Tax

Since the federal estate tax has a history of repeal followed by re-enactment, it is prudent to continue estate planning, or begin it from scratch. There are a number of tools that estate-planning attorneys employ to prepare for and mitigate the estate tax.. One such method called “portability” is a tax election that is available to an estate’s executor. Portability was created with the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, and it authorizes the executor to transfer any unused estate tax exclusion amount to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse may apply this transferred exclusion against his or her estate tax liability. However, a situation may arise where the first spouse to die does not have an estate tax liability (e.g., if their gross estate is $2 million and consists mostly of publicly traded stock) and thus does not meet the filing requirement. If the decedent has $5.49 million – $2 million = $3.49 million in unused estate tax exclusion, that can be passed to the surviving spouse. Furthermore, suppose the surviving spouse lives another 20 years and the same stock grows to $15 million in value by the time of his or her death? The latter spouse could then use his or her exemption plus the $3.49 million. (Note: That could only be completed by making the portability exemption election by filing IRS Form 706 and completing part 6.) The point is, even if you think you may not be required to file a Form 706 estate tax return, and even if the tax is repealed, you may in a position where some inquiry and planning may be beneficial to you and your family

Making Your Estate Plans Accordingly

Many people wait until it is impracticable to estate plan, and unknowingly place a burden on the heirs, family, and sometimes employees of a company…providing no roadmap of how to navigate without the decedent. (Recall what happened to Prince last year when he unexpectedly died and left behind an estate worth between $100-$300 million, with no estate plan…not even a will.) Although Prince’s situation involved unusually massive wealth, it should be a cautionary tale for those who have yet to make a plan, or who feel that it is not necessary due to the promise of estate tax repeal by our new president.

Donovan Thiessen, CPA has worked with Gerety & Associates, CPAs in Las Vegas, Nev. for 9 years, focusing on trust and estate, and individual and business income taxation. The firm has substantial experience in estate planning and has the ability to handle complex transactions. You may reach Donovan at dthiessen@geretycpa.com. and 702.933.2213.

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Status Of Raider Nation Relocation

With football season over, fans have shifted their attention to the ongoing saga of the potential move of the National Football League’s Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas. In the last issue of Vegas Legal Magazine, we discussed the likelihood of Las Vegas becoming part of the NFL franchise. Everything seemed hopeful; but as with any change, chaos is almost always certain before acceptance. Since then, the ball has been rolling, although not in a direct path toward its goal. Here’s what Raiders Nation and the city of Las Vegas thinks about one of the most exciting and challenging relocations of a NFL team.

Bail Out from Big Investors

Anyone following the Raiders Nation relocation knows that major investors Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs are out…but all is not lost. Vegas kingpin Adelson did provide vital political influence that dramatically helped the Raiders secure the world’s largest stadium public subsidy ($750 million); and since then, Raiders president Marc Badain told the authority board in February that the team was already in discussions with “multiple financial institutions” that are willing to fill the void left by Adelson’s departure.

Will The Bay Area Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is?

The reality is that Alameda County politicians have shown no inclination to build the Raiders a new stadium, even after years of discussions. When the Raiders recently filed for permission to move to Las Vegas, in a statement that came close to puffery, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff told the Sports Business Journal, “Oakland has something no other city ever will: a die-hard fan base that is loyal and true to the Raiders and wants to see them stay here in Oakland where they were founded. Only Oakland brings the Raiders and the NFL a competitive stadium proposal, along with legacy and loyalty.”

In the same interview, Schaff stated that the Oakland City Council had accomplished so much by identifying the mechanisms to responsibly finance public infrastructure improvements, including a private partner prepared to finance a new stadium. It is very unlikely that Mark Davis will allow this competition to occur, and the mayor more than likely knows this. Perhaps Oakland needs to create the impression that it did all it could to keep the Raiders, even if there is no way it will ever be able to do enough. At this point the Bay Area needs a Hail Mary to keep the Raiders in Oakland.

Vegas Mayor Supports the Raiders Relocation

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman thinks the money will show. In a recent LA Times article, Mayor Goodman noted that the timing is right to bring an NFL team to the market, and stated that she let the Raiders know the city was doing everything in its power to help salvage the deal. She also told the LA Times that she would like a stadium built Downtown, and that she has received calls from several groups interested in helping finance the project.

“If there’s a team out there that wants to relocate and this one doesn’t work out, we’re ready,” said Goodman in the article. “In my opinion, it will happen.”

What’s Next?

Much like any good football game, the players and strategy are important to the outcome. The Raiders owner is highly motivated to move the team to Las Vegas and football fans in Las Vegas are open to the Raiders relocation. Some gripe that it will cause more traffic congestion, but Vegas has been through much worse. After all, Vegas is a city that has seen it all, from mobster-ruled casinos to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Sin City can handle anything that comes its way.

NFL owners will meet in March to vote on the Raiders relocation plan. Oakland will need 25 of the owners’ 32 votes to see their plan officially approved by the NFL.

Sabrina Siracusa is Las Vegas-based freelance copywriter. With an undergraduate degree in Psychology and an ABA Paralegal Certificate, Siracusa is currently the publications specialist for the State Bar of Nevada. Learn more about Siracusa and her work at http://www.writergirl.biz.

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.