It Looks Good for Its Age!

January 14, 2015

By: Michael Elkin, Jewish Exponent

High Swartz

A century and counting, and Joel Rosen is making book on it. The managing partner of the law firm High Swartz holds aloft a copy of the book celebrating the firm’s special birthday, A Century in the Making, which profiles the Norristown firm’s history and accomplishments.

Michael Elkin can be contacted at 215-832-0735 or melkin@jewishexponent.com.

Read more here.

 

PA Supreme Court Will Review Superior Court’s Decision on Non-compete Consideration

January 19, 2015By Thomas D. Rees, Esq.

In my June 16, 2014 blog, I reported on the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision upholding the requirement of consideration for a non-competition agreement with a current employee. Socko v. Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc., 99 A.3d 928 (Pa. Super. 2014). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has now granted the former employer’s request to review the Superior Court’s decision. Socko v. Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc. 2014 WL 6991669 (Pa. Dec. 11, 2014). The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the Pennsylvania Uniform Written Obligations Act, 33 P.S. § 6 (“UWOA”) eliminates a current employee’s ability to require consideration for a non-compete agreement that states that the parties intend “to be legally bound”. The former employer, who is appealing, says that consideration is unnecessary in these circumstances. The ex-employee asserts that consideration is required. The parties agree that the employer did not give consideration for the non-compete. The ex-employee brought the suit by seeking a judgment that the non-compete was unenforceable. The ex-employee won summary judgment without a trial in the Court of Common Pleas, and the Superior Court upheld this decision.

The Supreme Court rarely grants petitions for review. In the majority of recent non-compete cases where the Supreme Court has decided to review the Superior Court, the Supreme Court has overturned the Superior Court.

If the Supreme Court reverses the Superior Court, greater enforcement of post-employment non-competes may take place in Pennsylvania. This trend would run counter to trends in states such as California and Massachusetts. California prohibits non-competes by statute, but the state’s courts protect trade secrets vigorously. Massachusetts is now considering legislation to prohibit non-competes and (finally) considering enactment of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. California attributes its vibrant high-tech economy partly to the fact that trade secret protection has primacy over non-compete enforcement.

So it is worth staying tuned on Socko. All commercial and employment lawyers will want to follow this case through briefing and argument. They may also want to ask themselves how “Uniform” the UWOA really is when Pennsylvania is the only state where the act is in effect.

 For more information regarding non-compete agreements or employment law, please contact Thomas D. Rees at 610-275-0700 or by email at trees@highswartz.com.The information above is general; we recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content contained herein is not meant to be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for legal representation. 

William F. Kerr, Jr. Spoke at Determining Land Ownership and Access Rights Seminar

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (January 25, 2015) – High Swartz Partner William F. Kerr, Jr. recently spoke at the 2015 Determining Land Ownership and Access Rights seminar, organized by the HalfMoon Education, Inc. The seminar took place on January 14, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Fort Washington and was attended by Pennsylvania attorneys, landmen, engineers and land surveyors.The following sessions were presented at the conference:
  • Locating Land Interests on Paper (and on the Ground)
  • Identifying, Classifying and Locating Easements
  • Avoiding, Identifying and Resolving Ethical Issues in Land Transactions and Disputes
  • Understanding Riparian and Water Rights
  • Resolving Boundary Disputes
Mr. Kerr discussed state law on easements, types of easements, creation and termination of easements, and the use of easements. He also addressed the legal distinctions between easements in gross, easements appurtenant and prescriptive easements.Mr. Kerr has more than 19 years of experience in the area of real estate law, focusing on land use, land development and zoning; real estate taxation, real estate transactions; real estate title issues, eminent domain; real estate valuation and real estate code compliance. He represents developers, property managers and property owners of single and multi-family residential, hotel, shopping center, commercial, industrial, golf course, day-care, prison, utility, cell tower and airport properties. He has successfully represented these clients, in Philadelphia and throughout eastern Pennsylvania, in obtaining various development, subdivision, zoning, and related approvals. Mr. Kerr also has extensive experience in successfully pursuing real estate tax assessment appeals, nonprofit real estate tax exemptions, Act 319 Agricultural Assessments and real estate tax abatements in various counties throughout eastern Pennsylvania. He has significant expertise in real estate tax assessment issues for affordable housing properties. Additionally, Mr. Kerr has represented property owners in a variety of eminent domain matters, as well as with easement, real estate title, green building, and storm water issues, and general real estate transactions. He also has significant experience in the area of real estate valuation. Mr. Kerr has also served as special zoning and development counsel to a number of southeastern Pennsylvania municipalities.Determining Land Ownership and Access Rights

Protecting Your Spouse and Other Loved Ones Through Strategic Estate Planning

January 15, 2015High Swartz, Estate PlanningEnsuring that your spouse and other beneficiaries are financially protected in the wake of your death is equally as important as protecting your assets while you’re alive. Consider some of the ways, described below, in which thoughtful estate planning provides security and other benefits to your loved ones after you’re gone: Continue reading “Protecting Your Spouse and Other Loved Ones Through Strategic Estate Planning”

Family Law

Q: What should unmarried couples consider when jointly buying a house?

A: Unmarried couples would be wise to seek independent legal and financial advice prior to the joint purchase of any real estate to avoid later complications should the relationship sour. Unlike couples who divorce, unmarried couples are not afforded an equitable approach, unless they create a specific agreement to do so. The agreement should address proof of each partner’s financial contributions and documentation of each person’s payment of household bills. Also, if parties decide to marry after buying a house, the pre-marital real estate could be partitioned rather than equitably distributed — a lengthy and costly process. Advisors, including real estate agents, accountants, financial planners and legal counsel, should guide the couple to act like practical business partners, negotiating a written agreement prior to settlement on jointly titled property. Getting sound legal advice in advanced will lead to less expense and heartache in the future. Mark R. Fischer, Jr. and Mary Cushing Doherty, May 2012

Q: The Value of Civility in the Legal Profession.

A: Civility is the cornerstone of the legal profession. Notwithstanding all the attorney jokes that reflect so poorly on members of my profession’s integrity, attorney’s are subject to an extensive body of rules that govern their professional conduct. Clients should not misinterpret an attorney’s civility as weakness. Civility does not require that the attorney sacrifice the client’s interest or not be forceful at the right moments. Many judges and opponents look favorably on the arguments of an attorney with itegreity. You should select an attorney who is a passionate advocate, but one who adheres to ethical obligations. As a profession, attorneys are highly regulated, and all but a few take their ethical obligations quite seriously. Melissa M. Boyd, February 2012

Q: Why am I getting inquiries about the company’s or my employee’s performance from Support Court after I submitted recent income information?

A: When someone is facing a child support or alimony obligation, “earning capacity” is not the same as income. Support obligations are usually calculated based on each party’s income. If the Court assigns an “earning capacity,” this signals a party should be earning more than what was reported. Given the tough economic times, this term of art should reflect realistic income. Will business records reflect that gross receipts are down or expenses have increased? Has an employee met his/her obligations to contribute to productivity? In a robust economy, a decline in business cash flow or bonuses will be viewed with skepticism. In the current economic climate, the Courts are more likely to accept that market forces, not resentful estranged spouses, are driving down income. Mary Cushing Doherty, August 2010

Q: At what date is a business valued for divorce?

A: One’s ownership in a business as of date of separation is a marital asset. In Pennsylvania, the divorce Court expects valuation data at separation and close to date of trial. The Court considers the reasons for significant differences in values to decide which valuation date is fair. If the Court finds the owner purposely depleted business assets since separation, or the owner enhanced the value due to post-separation efforts, the date of separation value is the logical choice. If the Court finds the business grew or declined due to market conditions, current value is usually selected. Consider that the buyout of the business interest could be paid over time and the value may plummet post-divorce. The business owner’s attorney should address this at trial. Mary Cushing Doherty, August 2009

Q: Is a Prenuptial Agreement Right for Your Business?

A: When one or both partners in a marriage are also business owners, it becomes particularly important to have an understanding about how the assets of those businesses will be divided if a divorce occurs. Using a prenuptial agreement to describe and protect a spouse’s accumulated business assets before, during and after marriage will ensure that his or her stake in the business is protected. The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary from a limited agreement that addresses only a specific asset (like a business), to an agreement that addresses all present and future property assets, income, and spousal support both during the marriage and in the event of divorce. If you are considering marriage and have assets to protect, a prenuptial agreement is a wise investment. Melissa M. Boyd, March 2009