News & Commentary

The SBCBA’s new Legislative Liaison Committee, led by Angela Roach, with members Sue McCollum, Jim Griffith and Emily Allen, got off to a successful start. In late May we met with Supervisor Janet Wolf to encourage the Board of Supervisors to provide additional funding to the Santa Barbara Legal Aid Foundation. We learned that there might be additional funding available, if the Legal Aid Foundation moved quickly to make a specific funding request. It did so, and we then supported that request with additional letters to the Supervisors. On June 11th, Legal Aid’s request for $30,000 to help fund its Legal Resource Center and for approximately $3,000 to help fund an attorney to assist with domestic violence cases in North County was considered and approved by the Board of Supervisors. We are both deeply gratified by the Board of Supervisor's decision and proud of our contribution to the process.

Read more: President’s Message: Summer is Here! →

If you are a high-income taxpayer, 2013 was a drag. You had to pay the new Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), essentially a 3.8% assessment on some of your investment income. The NIIT was passed into law in 2010 to help pay for ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), but it didn’t take effect until 2013. The NIIT affects everyone whose modified adjusted gross income is above $200,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a couple. This income bar won’t be adjusted for inflation as the law is written, which is also a drag. What’s subject to the NIIT, you ask? Quite a bit...

Read more: A New 3.8% Income Tax Increase For You, Compliments of Obamacare →

The SBCBA is offering two great ways to kick off the summer -- its Annual Bar Barbeque and an evening with preeminent constitutional law scholar, Laurence Tribe.

Read more: The SBCBA Is Kicking Off Summer With Two Great Events →

Raiding a retirement account is a last resort: you’re losing tax-free compounding interest on the amount you withdraw, and you can’t replace the money withdrawn. In this day and age, though, the last resort is being tapped more than any of us would like. 

The big mistake occurs because people don't know the answer to the big question, "Do you know how much you can pull out of your Roth IRA tax-free and penalty-free before retirement?"

Read more: The Big Roth IRA Mistake →

This message will appear in the 500th edition of the Santa Barbara Lawyer (f/k/a Quibbler) magazine. Look through this magazine, read its articles, check out the ads, announcements and its overall quality, then stop to reflect: our bar association has about 600 members, yet we consistently put out a great monthly magazine with well-written original articles. The writing and most of the editing is done by volunteers, each of whom has the pressures of a day job. It’s extraordinary how good this magazine is.

Read more: The SBCBA Has A Lot To Be Proud Of →

Not too long after a recording of Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling making racially insensitive comments went public, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Mr. Sterling would be fined $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life for making racist comments. Mr. Silver also said he would urge the league’s board of governors to force the team’s sale. 

Were the NBA Commissioner's actions legal? This is an interesting civil litigation question.

Read more: Is The NBA’s Decision Against Don Sterling Legal? →

Most of the time, personal injury litigation flies under the radar. On occasion, however, this kind of civil litigation does get lots of attention when a jury awards millions of dollars to a plaintiff. The publicity dies out fairly quickly even with the largest awards, and what happens afterwards usually doesn't get any press at all. What doesn't get any attention is the subsequent overturning of the award. The rejection of the award happens because attorneys ask for too much in personal injury damage awards. 

Juries can and do reach very large numbers in punishing a defendant or awarding a plaintiff with damages. Many times these massive awards are accepted by judges, and then later overturned for being excessive.

Read more: You Can Ask Too Much In Personal Injury Damages →

With the growth of the wine industry in Santa Barbara County, tasting rooms are the perfect vehicle for wineries to reach potential consumers.  The popularity of wine can be seen in the plethora of tasting rooms in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.  What was once an industrial section of Santa Barbara is now arguably one of the city’s most popular attractions.  So what exactly goes into opening a winery and tasting room?  More than you may think.

At the state level, a winery must comply with the requirements of the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (“ABC”), California Department of Food and Agriculture (“CDFA”), and California State Board of Equalization (“BOE”).  At the federal level, compliance with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is required.  And let’s not forget that a winery must also comply with local county ordinances.  This article will provide you with an overview of the various permitting and licensing hoops you will have to jump through to get a traditional bricks-and-mortar winery and tasting room off the ground.

Read more: Opening A Winery and Tasting Room in Santa Barbara County →

There was a lot going on in February.

On February 5th I attended the Legal Aid Foundation’s luncheon, celebrating its 55th anniversary and the recent retirement of its Executive Director, Ellen Goodstein. I was staggered to learn the numbers of people served by Legal Aid, and the breadth of the services provided. It is easy to forget that almost 20% of our local citizens are living at or below the poverty line and that they, just as the rest of us, face the whole spectrum of legal issues. Legal Aid is doing a great job for that population, but the work is endless and as attorneys, we should do what we can to help the Legal Aid Foundation continue its mission.

On February 21 State Bar President Luis Rodriguez stopped in Santa Barbara for a luncheon organized by Judge Herman. President Rodriguez’ remarks covered a wide range of topics of interest to all California attorneys, not the least of which was court funding.

Read more: The SBCBA Had An Active February →

The year is well under way.

In late January we had our annual Bench and Bar Conference. Surprisingly, the UCLA con law professor and the NRA appellate attorney agreed on almost everything during what was to be the lunchtime debate. Equally surprising, especially to me as moderator, Representative Capps’ keynote address brought out a lively Second Amendment debate.

We’ve launched our new Legislative Liaison committee under the capable leadership of Angela Roach. I’ve spoken with Senator Jackson and Congresswoman Capps’ aides, and both welcome the opportunity to share ideas and developments with the SBCBA.

Read more: SBCBA Accomplishments Require Teamwork →

IRSThe United States Department of the Treasury will not do much in 2014, what with it being an election year and all. The year 2015, however, is a different story.  It is not too early to make some reasonable guesses as to what estates and estate planners can look forward to.  In fact, the 2014 General Explanations of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2014 (the Green Book) proposals that pertain to estate planning offer a view of what could potentially happen in 2015. Here are some bullets on a few of the key provisions of the Green Book proposals.

Read more: US Treasury Targets More Estate Taxes in 2015 →

In October 2008, Maureen Grattan, whom I barely knew, invited me to coffee.  She had been helping to coach Dos Pueblos High School’s Mock Trial team for a year and wondered, now that one of my sons had made the team, whether I might be interested in lending a hand.  I patiently explained that I was really much too busy (read “important”) for high school mock trial (read “kids pretending to be lawyers”).  Not wanting to be too harsh, I agreed to attend the next night’s practice.  Maury smiled; she knew the hook had been sunk.

Read more: Be Inspired, Coach A High School Mock Trial Team →

April 15 is coming soon.  As an entreprenuer you have some extra work to do.  The temptation is to get the returns done as quickly as possible.  Speed can lead to mistakes, however, and in the case of filing your tax returns, mistakes can lead to penalties and audits. Here is a quick summary of three of the most common tax mistakes entreprenuers make that may eventually end up on the desk of one of our certified tax law attorneys:

Read more: 3 Common Tax Mistakes Entreprenuers Make →

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