A Little Labor Day Law

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day marks the end of summer. And for many Connecticut students it means back to school. Here’s a little school law post for your holiday weekend.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-4 is one of the more interesting statutes on the books.  Check this out:

When any such holiday, except holidays in January and December, occurs on a school day, each local and regional board of education may close the public schools under its jurisdiction for such day or hold a session of the public schools on such day, provided, if a session is held, the board shall require each school to hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday. If a holiday in January or December occurs on a school day, there shall be no session of the public schools on such day.

A local school board can decide to hold school on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day,  and Memorial Day so long as there is an educational program in observance of the holiday.

However, there can be no school on Martin Luther King Day and Christmas. Educational programs won’t suffice.

Why?

It’s an elaborate tap dance by our legislature to avoid the appearance of endorsing religion (yes, I know Christmas is a secular holiday) and at the same time insure school is not held on Christmas.

Have a wonderful school year and a happy and safe labor day.

McKeen Selected For Hartford Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Class

This morning, the Hartford Business Journal announced it’s 2014 – 40 under 40 class. I’m proud to have been selected.

A year ago yesterday, I began building McKeen Law Firm. I didn’t know where my office was going to be, what my firm was going to be named, or when I was going to open. Life had given me a blank slate.

While my name makes the Hartford Business Journal – my success wouldn’t be possible without the support of many people. I’m most grateful to my family for supporting me. When I needed it the most they were they helped and believed in me. Thank you, Allison and Mom and Dad.

None of what I do would be possible without the assistance of Ruth Deslauries who capably assists me on litigation files and Jackie Pentalow who makes smooth real estate closings possible.

Most of all this wouldn’t be possible without my clients. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to earn your trust.

Being selected is great. Now time to get back to work. Thank you.

McKeen Moderating Connecticut Landlord-Tenant Law Seminar

“You’re going to look back and think this was one of the best things that’s happened to you professionally.”

It surely didn’t feel that way at the time. Those were the words of a partner to me in my first year of practice. I was in the middle of one of the nastiest and most difficult cases that I’ve encountered in my nearly 9 years of practice. It was a commercial eviction.

I am representing the landlord. The tenant is represented by two law firms. The tenants lawyers file every motion in the book seeking to delay and/or deny my client possession of their property. I obtain judgment for my client but the case isn’t over.

It’s the day before Christmas Eve. It’s supposed to be an easy day in the office. I plan to have lunch with the partners after exchanging gifts. Except I get served with an injunction, ordering me to refrain from serving a writ of execution. The fax machine starts spewing out paper – motion after motion appears on my desk.

The clerk calls – the Judge wants argument on a Writ of Audita Querela at four o’clock. I’ve never heard of a writ of audita querela. The judge wants a brief in 90 minutes. I frantically research the the issue and respond.

Ultimately, I win a dismissal of the tenant’s case on appeal and gain possession of the premises for my client.

Going through the process was terrible. There were all sorts of motions, hearings, discovery, and challenges. My comfort zone as a young lawyer was being tested every day for months on this case.

Landlord-tenant law has been a part of my practice for 9 years. It is a quirky area of practice filled with pitfalls for the unwary. The very nature of summary process has helped me improve my trial and litigation skills – deadlines are quick and trials happen. I’ve represented both residential and commercial landlords and tenants.

I’m looking forward to moderating and being a panelist at Lorman’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Law Seminar in Rocky Hill on September 23rd. Mostly I’m looking forward to listening and learning from an outstanding group of lawyers.

My presentation focuses on abandoned property. It is an area of significant potential liability for landlords.

If you are interested in attending, please email me: ryan at mckeenlawfirm.com. I can send you a 50% off promo code.

All of my speaking fees generated from the seminar are being donated to Achilles International CT.

 

Helping Those In Need of Pro Bono Foreclosure Counsel

About five years ago, I stopped taking foreclosure defense cases. Defending a foreclosure action is always both frustrating and time intensive – banks lose documents. I made the decision to focus my practice on other areas of the law.

I’ve never lost my desire to help homeowners in a time of crisis. So many people are an illness or job loss away from being a defendant in a foreclosure action. Those who find themselves facing foreclosure are confronted with overwhelming stress.

In 2013, I signed up for the Hartford Judicial District’s volunteer attorney program to assist those facing foreclosure. I signed up in November and the first available date was in July – a testament to the generosity of the Hartford County Bar.

When I arrived at court, I was nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t be able to adequately help those in need in a quick consult.

In two hours of volunteering I assisted 5 people. Most of them had very simple questions. Others needed basic guidance. For example, a mother an a daughter sat across from the table. A relative had passed away and taxes hadn’t been paid on the property. There was no mortgage. The home had been in the family for 60+ years. The tax liens had been sold to a private party who was foreclosing.

The family didn’t know what to do. I asked if an estate had been opened. They told me one hadn’t. I assisted them in finding the probate court in their jurisdiction, told them that they needed to be appointed as administrators of the estate, and then outlined some options for them in the foreclosure process.

The advice was what I would consider to be very basic.

The barriers that confront pro se litigants are many. Making a difference doesn’t require undertaking a significant amount of litigation for a party at great personal sacrifice. It can be found in lawyers providing the most basic of legal assistance.

 

What Do You Need For A Paperless Law Office?

It’s easy to overlook the small things. I spent two years designing and improving on my paper-less firm. Yet…..just last week, I purchased a low tech piece of equipment that makes a big difference. A power cord.

Taking notes on my laptop is great. However, until battery life significantly improves or wireless charging hits the market – power will always be an issue. While you are busy deciding on hardware and software it is easy to forget about power on the road.

Watch the video below for a $4.99 low-tech must buy tool for your paper-less law office. I carry one of these with me when I know laptop battery may be an issue. Great for your practice, cheap, and it may help you make friends at a conference, coffee shop, in an airport, or at court.

A Connecticut Bicycle Accident Attorney On Protecting Yourself Before An Accident

Not only are drivers distracted – they are often uninsured or underinsured. Watch the video below to find out how you can protect yourself before getting on a bike.

In Connecticut, your automobile policy will cover you on a bike. Having the right insurance makes a big difference in the event of a collision. Ask your insurance agent about maximizing your underinsured coverage and purchasing a conversion policy. Protect yourself – it’s dangerous out there.

____________________________

Attorney McKeen represents injured pedestrians, runners, and cyclists throughout Connecticut. Ryan can be reached at ryan@mckeenlawfirm.com. You can read more about CT Bicyclist Accident Law on www.ctroadsafety.com

Buying or selling a home in Connecticut? Three Things You Need To Know.

In many cases, a brief conversation with a client prior to signing a real estate contract can prevent problems. At the very least, attorney review of a contract provides a client with a clear understanding of the terms and conditions.

Contact Attorney Ryan McKeen at McKeen Law Firm ryan@mckeenlawfirm.com or (860) 560-8163. We review contracts with clients within 24 hours. We work weekends. You can read more about our Connecticut Real Estate Law Practice.

Guardian Ad Litem Reform In Connecticut

Just finished reading “GALs are Withdrawing From Cases As Court Reform Tensions Grow” in the Connecticut Law Tribune.  The article states that some lawyers and firms are no longer accepting court appointed cases:

Other lawyers and law firms that are bowing out of the court-appointed work for the time being include Glastonbury-based Brown, Paindiris & Scott, Budlong & Barrett in Hartford, Jeffrey Mickelson in Hartford, and Barry Armata.

This is most unfortunate. I’ve handled several high conflict custody cases over the past 8.5 years. Fortunately, none are occupying my life at the moment. I avoid them unless I think my representation can make a difference for the children involved.

I’ve read some of what has been posted online about Guardian Ad Litems. Frankly, I understand some of the frustration. Messy child custody cases are inherently frustrating because there is no solution. There is only fighting.

Some years ago, I have a case with the potential to get very messy. There are the usual allegations. There are disputes over money. This case has everything it takes to turn into a mess.

Barry Armata gets involved. I forget how. Either opposing counsel and I discussed having him appointed as GAL or the court ordered it. But how he gets involved is a lot less important than what he does.

The court we are in has a cafe. Barry sits down with opposing counsel and me over coffee while court is in recess. He begins laying out a framework to solve some of the issues in the case. He listens to us. He then meets with our clients. Barry recommends getting the case into an “early intervention program” which everyone agrees to. Court ends and our clients have meetings scheduled with Barry.

I wasn’t at my client’s meeting with Barry. But I know my client felt listened to and treated with respect. I know this made a difference to my client.

When we arrived in court for a full day of early intervention, Barry had the trust of both parents. The issues in the divorce were for reasons beyond the scope of this post – highly sensitive and emotionally charged. Barry laid the groundwork for those matters to be discussed in a rational and sensitive manner.

Our full day of early intervention was exhausting. There were many problems to be solved. Many issues to confront. And times everyone thought it discussions would fall apart. They didn’t in large part because of Barry.

By the end of the day, there was an agreement. An agreement that spared the parties a fortune in both time, money, and energy. An agreement that spared a child from years of her parents fighting. An agreement that 4 years later, nobody has sought to modify.

For this, Barry was paid a very modest fee. There are many other ways both in the practice of law and out of the practice of law that he could have earned more money for less hassle.

It’s important for the General Assembly to understand the important work of Guardian Ad Litems in divorce cases. Not all cases turn out like mine. But in many cases, trained GALs can save a lot of money, time, and aggravation.

Court appointed cases are often the most challenging for GALs. Parties are often not represented. These are often high need cases. Cases where skilled work, like that regularly done by Barry Armata is most needed. I hope this storm cloud passes and lawyers like Barry Armata return to accepting appointments.