October 2017 Legal News & Notes

The October 2017 issue of Miller, Miller & Canby's Legal News & Notes quarterly email newsletter covers a Purple Line update, recent litigation wins,  tips for start-up businesses and much more.  Click here to view newsletter.

MM&C Among the Sponsors of MDDCWA Golf Tournament; Raising $38,000 for Local Charities

Photo Credit: Mike Keller PhotoThe Maryland DC Wireless Association’s Ninth Annual Golf Tournament took place on September 27, 2017 at the Whiskey Creek Golf Club in Ijamsville, Maryland. It brought together members of the association, as well as friends, colleagues and community members for a relaxing day of golf in support of various worthy charities. Miller, Miller & Canby was a sponsor of this year’s event which raised $38,000.  

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Sean Hughes serves on the board for the Maryland DC Wireless Association and, along with other board members, is involved in testifying and providing key insight for policymakers concerning wireless legislative issues and amendments on the local, state and even federal level, as well as raising funds for charitable causes through events like its annual golf event. Each board member is able to direct a portion of the proceeds to a needy charitable organization. Miller, Miller and Canby has directed its portion to the American Red Cross in support of hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  

Sean Hughes
is a member of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications.
For more information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice, please contact Sean Hughes at 301.762.5212 or click here.

Photo Credit: Mike Keller Photo

Starting a New Business? Having a Trusted Team of Legal and Financial Advisors is a Key to Success

Starting a new business is a very exciting time for entrepreneurs with future success in mind. Having a start-up team of trusted financial and legal advisers that includes bankers, lawyers and accountants who listen to your goals and provide cohesive advice is one of the key ingredients to future business success.

Why Hire A Business Law Attorney?
In today’s high-tech world, there are several online resources available to get your business started that may seem cost effective. Keep in mind the old saying, “You get what you pay for”. There is seldom a one size fits all strategy for structuring a business. The key is to find a business and tax attorney who can discuss the issues that the new business owner should consider, explain options, and map out the best strategy for the business owner based on his or her particular needs. Many may want to choose one form of entity over another because they know someone else who chose that form. However, just because an S Corp was the right entity for your father (as he had taken Social Security at 62 and didn’t want the income from the side business to reduce his Social Security benefits), or a friend of a friend set up a C Corp (to maximize certain retirement plan benefits for his long-term financial plan), or a co-worker who set up an LLC (as one of the owners was not a US Person), that doesn’t mean that is the right choice for you and your new business.

The Small Business Administration has outlined “10 Steps to Start Your Business” on their website. Below is a summary of the 10 point plan from the SBA and the steps where a business lawyer should be engaged.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research
Is there an opportunity to turn your idea into a success? Do your research to find a competitive advantage.

Step 2: Write a Business Plan
A well written business plan is your roadmap to success. A business attorney should be consulted during this step to help write the plan to show investors and key stakeholders that you have addressed all legal aspects to make your business a success.

Step 3: Fund the Business
How much money do you need to start the business? If you don’t have the funds, do you borrow or raise the capital needed? A financial advisor should be involved in this step.

Step 4: Pick a Location
Whether your new business is in a physical location or an online store, there is an effect on taxes, legal requirements and revenue.  You should obtain advice from your attorney and accountant in this step.

Step 5: Choose Your Business Structure
Choice of entity for your business impacts personal liability, taxes and most importantly business registration legal requirements. A business attorney with experience in the location of your business is critical during this stage.

Step 6: Choose a Business Name
Choosing the perfect name that reflects your brand may keep you up at night. A business attorney should be engaged to ensure you have rights to the name you select.

Step 7: Register the Business
A business lawyer is critical in this step to make your business legal and protect your brand. You need an attorney who directs your business registration with federal, state and local governments.

Step 8: Obtain Federal and State Tax IDs
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) needs to be obtained to start and grow your business. Some states require a state tax ID as well.  A business and tax attorney can help you obtain all ID’s that are legally required for your business.

Step 9: Apply for Licenses and Permits
A business attorney will help you keep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. Licenses and permits vary by industry, state, location and other factors. Engaging a knowledgeable business lawyer during this step is important.

Step 10: Open a Business Bank Account
Once you have all the business registrations and paperwork completed, it is time to open a small business checking account.

Miller, Miller & Canby’s business law attorneys have over 70 years of experience assisting small businesses as well as large corporations in all aspects of business law and corporate planning, including choice of entity, entity formation and dissolution of taxable and tax-exempt entities, corporate reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, and business succession. As both CPAs and practicing attorneys, MM&C attorneys are an incredible resource as legal, tax and financial advisors to our clients.

Please feel free to contact any of the business & tax attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby at 301-762-5212 with your business start-up or legal needs.  View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.  

Best Lawyers Releases 2018 List of Honorees, Includes MM&C Attorneys James Thompson and Jody Kline

Best Lawyers® released the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers in America on September 29, 2017. The stand-alone publication highlights 2,886 lawyers recognized for their top legal talent, along with 103 “Lawyer of the Year” recipients from the Washington D.C. metro area. Additionally, the publication features notable local news and profiles of firms and individuals across the region.

Best Lawyers in America will be mailed to recognized lawyers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The publication will also be distributed in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Jim Thompson and Jody Kline have been recognized on the Best Lawyers list in their respective areas of practice every year since first being named in 2007. Mr. Thompson has been recognized for Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law and Mr. Kline for Land Use and Zoning Law. In 2013, Mr. Thompson was also named a “Best Lawyer of the Year” for his accomplishments. This prestigious award is a testament to their long-standing reputations for their individual legal abilities and professionalism.  

Jim Thompson
has been a leader in Miller, Miller & Canby's Litigation Group for more than 35 years, concentrating his practice in eminent domain (with partner Joe Suntum) and in real estate valuation litigation, as well as in property tax assessment appeals and general civil litigation. For more than a decade, Mr. Thompson represented Maryland as the sole member in the Owners’ Counsel of America, a national network of property rights attorneys with demonstrated excellence in this area, focusing upon the representation of landowners in eminent domain litigation. Currently Mr. Suntum is the selected member for the state of Maryland. With Mr. Thompson’s breadth of legal experience, proven results, mature judgment, and tenured leadership within the judicial system and the bar, having served as president of the Maryland State Bar Association, he brings the ideal blend of proven trial experience and legal skill to client representations.

Jody Kline
has led Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Development department since 1981, focusing his practice in land use, zoning and subdivision law and representing clients in many of Montgomery County’s planning and economic development initiatives. In addition to zoning and subdivision law, he represents clients in matters related to master planning, zoning text amendments, conditional use permits, building permit issuance, and other administrative and real estate matters related to land use and development. His clients include residential and commercial developers, private individuals, religious institutions, private schools, non-profit entities and municipal corporations and agencies.

"For more than a third of a century," says Best Lawyers CEO Steven Naifeh, "Best Lawyers has been the gold standard of excellence in the legal profession." President Phil Greer adds, "We are extremely proud of that record and equally proud to acknowledge the accomplishments of these exceptional legal professionals."

Best Lawyers® is the oldest and most respected attorney ranking service in the world. For more than 30 years, the organization as assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Best Lawyers lists are published in leading local, regional, and national publications across the globe.

For more information about Jim Thompson and Miller, Miller & Canby’s Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law practice click here or for information about Jody Kline and Miller, Miller & Canby's Land Use and Zoning Law practice click here.


Purple Line Update: Project Timeline And Current Status Of Construction

The State of Maryland awarded a $5.6 billion dollar contract to design, build and operate the Purple Line light rail project in April 2016 and authorized the contractor, the Purple Line Transit Partners, to proceed with “pre-construction activities” while the State pursued finalizing a full funding agreement with the federal government, which had promised to contribute $900 million dollars to the project. On July 28, 2016 the State announced that the formal signing of a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration had been scheduled to take place on August 8, 2016. It was anticipated that construction of the Purple Line would begin shortly thereafter. But a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had other ideas.

August 3, 2016         
The U.S. District Court (Leon, J.) vacated the Record of Decision (“ROD”), which was the required federal approval of the Purple Line, and directed the State to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement addressing whether a decline in Metro ridership would impact the Purple Line’s ridership. The vacation of the ROD precluded the State from receiving the $900 million of federal funding which had been committed to the project. Thus, the court’s order put the entire project in jeopardy.

December 16, 2016
The State advised the District Court that it had reviewed the ridership issue and determined that no change in Metro ridership would adversely impact the Purple Line, as the Purple Line would still be needed even if no Metro riders transferred to the light rail. The State asked the Court to reinstate the ROD.

December 2016 – March 2017
The Court failed to rule on the State’s request that the ROD be reinstated, so the project remained stalled and in jeopardy of failing completely.

March 31, 2017
The State filed a motion asking that the Court rule on its pending motion expeditiously. Specifically, the State asked that the Court rule on its motion no later than April 28, 2017. The Court failed to decide the State’s motion by the end of April as the State had requested it to do and the court continued to hold the State’s motion under advisement without issuing a decision.

May 12, 2017
The State sought a writ of mandamus from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the Court of Appeals to order the District Court to issue a final appealable decision in the case “forthwith.”

May 22, 2017
The District Court finally issued a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and against the State holding that the State’s failure to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement was arbitrary and capricious—and the District Court reiterated its requirement that the State prepare a new environmental impact statement before it would be permitted to move forward with the project.

May 29, 2017
The District Court issued a final judgment on the underlying lawsuit, which made it possible for the State to finally file an appeal.

June 2, 2017
The State filed a motion asking the District Court to stay its
August 3, 2016 Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal of the court’s decision.

June 15, 2017
The District Court held a hearing on the State’s request that it stay its Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal. The State asked the District Court to rule expeditiously on its motion. At the hearing the District Court advised the State that it could not “predict” how long it may take to issue a decision on the State’s motion for a stay pending appeal. The court stated that it was going to write an opinion because “[t]he Court of Appeals likes things with ribbons and bows on them, so they will get ribbons and bows.”

June 21, 2017
Because the District Court had failed to rule on its motion, the State filed a motion in the Court of Appeals asking the appellate court to stay the District Court’s order pending appeal.

June 26, 2017
The District Court issued its Order denying the State’s request for a stay pending appeal.

July 18, 2017
The Court of Appeals issued an Order reinstating the ROD pending its consideration of the State’s appeal of the District Court’s judgment.

Once the Record of Decision was reinstated, the State aggressively pursued formalizing the federal government’s commitment of $900 million to the project. Construction of the project was still effectively stayed, as the State could not go forward with the project without the promised federal funding.

August 28, 2017    
The Federal Transit Administration signed the Full Funding Agreement with the State officially committing federal funds to the project.
Construction of the Purple Line is now over a full year behind the original schedule. Consequently, the State and the contractor moved aggressively to begin construction and make up for lost time.  

August 29, 2017    
The very next day after the FTA signed the Full Funding Agreement, the contractor posted public notices that the Georgetown Branch Trail would be closed for the anticipated five-year period of construction beginning Tuesday, September 5, 2017. In addition, property acquisition and tenant and owner relocation activities were accelerated.  And, because the Maryland Office of Attorney General, which prosecutes eminent domain cases for the Purple Line, was overwhelmed by the number of open and unresolved cases, the State has engaged a private law firm to handle some of the cases to expedite the property acquisition process.

The State’s acceleration of construction and property acquisition has led to many questions from the public concerning the schedule of construction and when, exactly, construction activities will begin at different points along the 16-mile route.

September 28, 2017
The Montgomery County Council held a hearing where it asked the Purple Line contractor (Purple Line Transit Partners) and State representatives to advise the County Council of the expected construction schedule and many other issues. The contractor advised the County Council that it was working on a master construction schedule, but it has not yet completed that effort. The contractor advised that once the schedule was complete it would be posted on the Purple Line Project Website.  You may view a videotape of the hearing by clicking here.

In addition, the contractor explained that it hoped to provide weekly updates to the construction schedule as the project moves forward. And interested members of the public could sign up to receive project updates and other information by Email or text by clicking on this page of the website.  Finally, the contractor will hold regular meetings with the Community Advisory Councils that have been formed to be liaisons between the project and the community. A list of the Community Advisory Councils and how to contact them may also be found on the project website by clicking here.

The eminent domain attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby will review any offer made by the State without charge to determine whether we believe you may be entitled to greater compensation than has been offered by the State.  If you are interested in a no obligation review of your offer, or if you have any questions about your rights or the condemnation process, please call our office at 301-762-5212 and ask to speak with one of our eminent domain attorneys, Jim Thompson or Joe Suntum.  To learn more about our eminent domain and condemnation law practice and representative cases, click here.


MM&C Litigation Attorney Successfully Represents Homeowners Against Fraudulent Developer

You may have heard the following story featured in the Washington Post and WAMU 88.5 (NPR radio).  A private developer from Virginia purchased dilapidated residential properties in the District of Columbia for renovation and resale.  The developer submitted building plans to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and obtained approval, but deviated from the plans to save costs and increase profits.  This included ignoring important fire safety requirements, such as sprinkler systems and fire barriers between floors.  The developer renovated the properties using unlicensed contractors who performed sub-standard work in violation of the building code.  To avoid detection by DCRA, the developer hired private, third-party inspectors to review and approve the construction.  Then, the developer sold the properties to unsuspecting buyers under false pretenses by claiming the properties were “totally renovated” or “renovated from top to bottom.”  Once the buyers began living in the properties, they slowly realized they were deceived and left with a property that violates the law and is not marketable without substantial repairs.

The developer engaged in this scheme with over 30 properties between 2012 and 2016, until lawyers, including MMC Attorney Michael Campbell, took action and shut down the developer.  Michael Campbell, represented five victims in litigation against the developer, which included claims of breach of contract, fraud and violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act.  Two of the cases were resolved to the satisfaction of the clients prior to trial, while a third case is still pending in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

After several home owners complained to DCRA, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia finally took action and sued the developer for ignoring stop work orders and repeated violations of building codes and consumer protection laws.  After several months of litigation, the developer agreed to stop working in the District and pay $1.3M into a restitution fund for victims.  According to Mr. Campbell, that amount is insufficient to compensate all the property owners who need to make their properties code compliant.  As a result, more private litigation is necessary to fully compensate owners for their losses.

Miller, Miller & Canby has represented property owners in Montgomery County and the Washington DC area since its inception over 70 years ago. The firm's attorneys bring their trial skills and deep knowledge of real property to this field of law, which many other practitioners tend to treat administratively. The extensive breadth of knowledge and experience of the firm's real estate attorneys is evidenced by the wide variety of cases Miller, Miller & Canby trial attorneys have handled -- both at trial and appellate levels.

Michael Campbell
is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email. For more information about the firm’s litigation practice and representative cases, click here.

Miller, Miller & Canby’s James Thompson Selected to Senior Leadership Montgomery Class of 2018

Miller, Miller & Canby is pleased to announce that James (Jim) Thompson as been selected to join the 2018 Senior Leadership Montgomery Class. For nearly 30 years, Leadership Montgomery has worked to educate, inspire, convene and connect current and emerging leaders to serve the Montgomery County community in constructive ways. Through a series of monthly interactive and comprehensive education sessions with the County’s most prominent senior business leaders, participants have a unique opportunity to increase their understanding of the complex social and economic issues facing Montgomery County and to help advance important initiatives.

Leadership Montgomery graduates play an active role, serving on numerous State, County and nonprofit boards and committees. The organization’s vision is to build and sustain a thriving Montgomery County, supported by a network of engaged, dedicated leaders.

“I am truly honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Senior Leadership Montgomery Class of 2018,” said Thompson. “I look forward to working with the Leadership Montgomery team and with other members of our community to identify opportunities to better serve the businesses, organizations and residents of Montgomery County.”

Thompson has been a leader in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Litigation Group for more than 35 years, concentrating his practice in eminent domain and in real estate valuation litigation, as well as in property tax assessment appeals and general civil litigation. For more than a decade, he represented Maryland as the sole member in the Owner’s Counsel of America, a national network of property rights attorneys with demonstrated excellence in this area, focusing upon the representation of landowners in eminent domain litigation. Additionally, he focuses in civil litigation, including complex real estate and business/commercial disputes. For his accomplishments, he has been named a Super Lawyer in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia for the past 11 consecutive years, an AV-Rated Preeminent Lawyer for 30 years, a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a 2013 Lawyer of the Year Selection by Best Lawyers in the Eminent Domain/Condemnation area of practice. He has also received a number of prestigious leadership awards, including the Daily Record’s Leadership in Law Award and the Century of Service Award, recognizing the top judges and lawyers in the last 100 years in Montgomery County. In addition, he has served the legal community and the public as the President of both the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Maryland State Bar Association.

Learn more about MM&C's Litigation practice. To view the firm's formal press release, please click the download button below. 

May 2017 Legal News & Notes

The May 2017 issue of Miller, Miller & Canby's Legal News & Notes quarterly email newsletter covers promotions and new attorneys in the Land Use & Zoning practice,  Real Property Tax Expemptions, New Montgomery County Ordinance on Sick and Safe Leave, 2017 MM&C Scholarship Recipient and much more.  Click here to view newsletter.

MM&C Awards 2017 Scholarship to Richard Montgomery High School Graduating Senior

On Thursday, May 18, attorneys from Miller, Miller & Canby attended Richard Montgomery High School’s Senior Awards Night and awarded Erica Abshire with Miller, Miller & Canby’s Scholarship to attend Montgomery College. Presenting the Scholarship to Erica were partners Joseph Suntum and Donna McBride.

Erica Abshire is an individual who, despite certain challenges, has demonstrated a strong commitment to academics and has continually worked to overcome the obstacles she has confronted.  Erica’s efforts were also recognized by the Richard Montgomery’s faculty, selecting her as the school’s “Featured Scholar”, a recognition given to the student who has continuously improved academically throughout their time at Richard Montgomery High School.  Erica also spends time working to improve the lives of others within her community, devoting time within her church groups to counsel individuals with particular needs.

The Scholarship is awarded to students whose record of academic performance and community involvement reflect both the ability and commitment to succeed.   By the same token, the firm hopes the Scholarship will provide an opportunity to academically deserving students who, because of personal circumstances, might otherwise have difficulty financing their attendance at Montgomery College.  

Miller, Miller & Canby established its scholarship in 2016 as part of its commemoration of the firm’s 70th Anniversary. The scholarship is awarded annually to students from Richard Montgomery High School and provides each student up to $10,000 to attend Montgomery College.  The scholarship recognizes Miller, Miller & Canby’s long history of service to the Montgomery County community as well as its presence in Rockville where it has maintained its offices for its entire history.  

The firm chose to award the scholarship to students who will attend Montgomery College because, like Miller, Miller & Canby, Montgomery College has been a part of the fabric of Montgomery County, providing affordable college level educational opportunities to residents.  Montgomery College also celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016, and Miller, Miller & Canby has been privileged to provide legal representation to the College throughout that period.  By establishing this scholarship for students to attend Montgomery College, the firm recognizes the importance of the College’s mission and the firm’s support of that mission.

Richard Montgomery High School was chosen because the school shares a similar history as Miller, Miller & Canby within the City of Rockville   Richard Montgomery High School is located just a few hundred yards from Miller, Miller & Canby’s offices, in the location of the school’s site when it was the original “Rockville High School.”    In that sense, Richard Montgomery High School and Miller, Miller & Canby have been long-time neighbors in Rockville.

Maryland-DC Wireless Association 2017 Forum Lineup Starts Strong with Spring Event

As part of its Speaker Series, the Maryland-DC Wireless Association held a symposium on March 22, drawing more than 150 attendees to hear a prestigious panel of leading industry executives. Speakers included Jim Young, COO of Crown Castle; Jennifer Fritzsche, Managing Director of Wells Fargo Securities; Morgan O’Brien, Vice Chairman of pdvWireless Inc.(and a founder of the former Nextel Communications); and Phillip Rosenthal, Senior Vice President of American Tower Corporation.

“The Speaker Series brings industry veterans together to identify issues and opportunities in wireless telecommunciations,” said Sean Hughes, a member of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice and MDDCWA Board Member. “We are dedicated to advancing our industry and providing a productive and valuable platform for the exchange of ideas.”

Founded in 2007, the MDDCWA includes members who are involved with the deployment, operations and maintenance of wireless networks, including cell carriers, tower companies, A&E firms, surveyors, general contractors and others. Issues such as infrastructure, zoning and regulatory matters are key priorities for the organization.

To learn more about future association events, contact Sean Hughes, or visit the MDDCWA website.

Sean P. Hughes is an attorney in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications and he has represented clients in land use and zoning matters throughout the Mid-Atlantic.  To learn more about the firm’s Land Use and Zoning practice, contact Sean.

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