High Swartz Partner Thomas E. Panzer Appointed to Bucks County SPCA Board of Directors

High Swartz, a full-service law firm with offices in Southeastern Pennsylvania is pleased to announce that Thomas E. Panzer of its Doylestown Office was appointed to the Bucks County SPCA Board of Directors. With the appointment, Tom continues his over 25 years of service and dedication to the Bucks community. In addition to his municipal, zoning, and workers compensation law practice, Tom served as Bucks County Treasurer from 2015 through 2019 and served two terms as a Warminster Township Supervisor.

The Bucks County SPCA is a private non-profit with two open-admission, no-time-limit shelters located in Lahaska and Quakertown PA. Since 1912, their mission is to assist animals in need and prevent suffering through rescues, rehoming, cruelty investigation and prosecution, and community outreach. The Buck County SPCA Board of Directors, along with its executive director, Linda Reider, meet virtually monthly to discuss policy decisions, budgets, and fundraising.

“It’s a great honor to volunteer my time and be part of such a great organization. The BCSPCA has long been a champion of animal rights in the Bucks community and I look forward to assisting the Board in keeping it that way," Mr. Panzer said.

Tom’s love of animals made it an easy decision to join the board. The Panzers recently rescued Leila, a foxhound mix who is now a happy member of the family. She joins Tom, his wife Lisa, and their two cats, Charlie and Jinx at their home in Warminster.

The thousands of animals in the BCSPCA’s two locations helped every year are assisted by donations which provide food, shelter and medical care. Donations to the SPCA can be made here. Volunteering is another great way to help their cause. Interested individuals must by 18 years of age and must be able to commit at least 8 hours a month for a minimum of 6 months and complete orientation and training. Those interested in volunteering their time can click here to email the BCSPCA.

Due to the pandemic, all Bucks County SPCA services are by-appointment only. Please visit bcspca.org to learn more. To meet the current list of cats, dogs, rabbits, and other animals available for adoption at both locations, click here.

Is it worth getting Short-Term Limited Duration Health Insurance during the Pandemic?

STLDI coverage was designed as bridge coverage so the consumer has some insurance until better coverage is arranged. The premiums are low and so is the protection.

After passage of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA, often called Obamacare) standards were proscribed for comprehensive major medical insurance policies. STLDI medical coverage is Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance which is a tempting option.

The STLDI plans can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions and the plans need not cover essential health benefits such as:

  • prescription drugs
  • maternity care
  • preventative services
  • mental health disorder
  • substance abuse disorders

Claims can easily be denied or the consumer gets pennies on the dollar. For example, if a person is diagnosed with cancer, the uncovered bills can be astronomical. Those hoping for comprehensive coverage during the pandemic should read over the terms of their coverage thoroughly. Treatment, testing, and how the insurance plan handles pre-existing conditions are all factors that should be reviewed.

When regulations under the ACA were relaxed by the federal government, individual states bore responsibility to regulate the STLDI plans. The original restriction to 12-months of minimal coverage can now be extended to 36 months.

It is no surprise that some insurance companies tout the low premiums. The more reputable insurance companies realize consumers may opt for low-cost, low-coverage and overlook the benefits of truly comprehensive coverage. Pennsylvania is considering legislation to restrict renewability and to provide critical disclosure to consumers.

Consumers at risk who consider STLDI plans are those who lose coverage because:

a. Parents cannot provide coverage despite ACA allowing family coverage for a child to age 26;
b. Those who are laid off by a small company without a COBRA option;
c. Those who are laid off who cannot afford the COBRA premium cost; and
d. Those who no longer qualify for COBRA.

In times of medical surprises (COVID, cancer, accidental injuries or just bad luck) Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance should be recognized for what it provides – minimal coverage at minimal cost.

Ethical Issues for Lawyers in High Profile Cases

High profile legal matters can be exciting to handle. But these same cases present risks that can jeopardize a lawyer’s standing and reputation.

At one time or another in our careers, many of us will handle legal matters with high public visibility. The recognition can build our reputation and our confidence.

But high-profile work brings its own risks. Without planning, management, and a careful eye toward our ethical duties, work in the public sphere can jeopardize the very reputation that attorneys have worked to build.

Publicity and its Ramifications

Our duties as lawyers are to serve clients with skill and discretion. Publicity often runs counter to these duties. Our first requirement, set forth in Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct (“RPC”) 1.1, is to provide competent representation. Competency includes the ability to deal with media coverage, including social media. A lawyer should not put a client before the media to tell his or her story unless the client has been prepared and the media coverage can enhance the client’s position. A rush to publicity can hurt the client’s case. One recent example is the pre-trial television interview of later-convicted child abuser Jerry Sandusky. In the public’s view, the interview did more to convince the audience of Sandusky’s guilt than otherwise.

Publicity also can get in the way of a fair and impartial proceeding. RPC 3.6(a) prohibits a lawyer from making public statements out of court that will create a substantial likelihood of material prejudice in a proceeding. Courts may impose gag orders on lawyers who talk too much to the press about their clients’ cases, unless the order clashes with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Conflicts of Interest

High visibility cases can also lead to conflicts of interest in a variety of ways. It is axiomatic that a lawyer with a high public profile may attract other prominent clients. In other words, high profile work breeds high profile work. The interests of one prominent client may conflict with the interests of another such client, leading to a conflict that may violate RPC 1.7. Consider the case of the New York law firm that served as counsel for the New York Times, and then hired an investigative team that tried to stop the Times from publishing a story about now-convicted sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. The Times was not amused and fired the firm, and the firm suffered a negative round of publicity in the aftermath.

Publication Rights

More conflicts arise when a lawyer seeks (or is sought out) to write a book or article about a case. To put it bluntly, what sells books does not necessarily constitute the best strategy for winning cases. Several high profile defendants, including Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray and heiress Patty Hearst, turned on their lawyers because publishing deals compromised the lawyers’ ability to assert defenses in the criminal cases. The Hearst case even included a lawyer’s restriction on Hearst writing a book. Rule 1.8(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct now addresses this situation by prohibiting lawyers from obtaining literary rights on a matter arising from a client’s representation, until the representation is concluded.

And if a lawyer writes a book, what can the lawyer put in the book without violating client-attorney confidences? The court decision over Reversal of Fortune, Alan Dershowitz’s book about the Claus von Bulow trial (later a movie), held that the privilege is waived for any material contained in the book (but not for anything omitted from the book).

Confidentiality Issues

Another confidentiality issue can arise in a high profile case if an organization’s lawyer gives legal advice to individual agents of the organization. In yet another case arising from the Sandusky scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held earlier this year that the individual agents, not Penn State, owned the privilege and that the University’s in-house counsel should not have disclosed the individuals’ statements to the grand jury. The Supreme Court ended up imposing discipline on both the lawyer for Penn State and the prosecutor who elicited the confidential statements. (Few, if any, of the Sandusky case participants seemed to emerge unscathed.)

Added Scrutiny

Finally, and importantly, a lawyer’s public role may draw unwanted attention to the lawyer’s own conduct. This can happen in a variety of ways. The media can find out whether the lawyer has, in professional or personal actions, been consistent with the position taken in the litigation. Or the media can point to gossip about the lawyer’s own personal life. The judicial system may start to (or renew) focus on the lawyer’s own alleged violations of the law, as happened with Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her claims against President Trump. In high visibility work, the old adage made popular by President Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” may ring true.