Firearms Law Seminar – May 24, 2015!

LAW SEMINAR 5-23-15

On Sunday, May 24, 2015, from 10am to 2pm, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince from the Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., and Attorney Eric Winter from Prince Law Offices, P.C. will present on federal and state firearms law issues at the Heritage Guild of Easton, 70 Hilton Street, Easton, PA 18042. This seminar is being offered in support of Girly and a Gun and the Heritage Guild. The cost is $25 to Girly and a Gun. All attendees must RSVP by May 15, 2015.

Attorneys Prince and Winter will discuss everything from the types of firearms that we can own in PA, to what constitutes a prohibited person under state and federal law, to firearm estate planning, to use of force in a self-defense situation. There will also be a question and answer period for anyone to ask any questions that they may have. How often do you get unfettered access to firearms legal advice for a 4 hour period, for a mere $25?!?!

This is your opportunity to learn about Pennsylvania and Federal Firearms Law, while having all your questions answered and supporting both Girly and a Gun and the Heritage Guild! Make sure to sign up as soon as possible, as the venue does have capacity restrictions and it will be on a first come, first serve basis. Based on prior seminars, this will sell out quickly!

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Harrisburg Ordered to Disclose Donor Information Relating to Legal Defense Fund

Today, the Office of Open Records (OOR) issued a final determination in relation to my Right to Know Law appeal in relation to, inter alia, the City’s redaction of donor information. You can download a copy of the determination here. OOR found

The City has not met its burden of demonstrating that responsive donor information may be redacted under Section 708(b)(13) of the RTKL

and

[T]he City is directed to provide an unredacted donor list to the Requester within thirty days.

It will be interesting to see whether the City complies.

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The Thin Blue Label…A Tale of Confidential Information and a Glock Representative Demanding a Pennsylvania FFL Violate the Crimes Code

Trop Gun made a big splash on social media and forums on Thursday for their refusal to show Glock employees their 4473s for customers who had purchased guns through the Blue Label Program. In response to Trop’s refusal to show the Glock representative the 4473s, Glock terminated Trop from the Blue Label Program. You can read Trop’s response to having their Blue Label Program participation revoked here. For those who are unfamiliar, the Blue Label Program allows law enforcement, military, Glock Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF) members and several other select individuals to purchase Glock pistols at a reduced price.

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The Blue Label Program imposes certain requirements on dealers when selling “blue label” guns. Those requirements include collecting a copy of the individuals credentials (photocopy of their ID), filling out a form that certifies the sales representative saw the credential if a photocopy cannot be made or collecting the GSSF coupon that GSSF members bring. Glock requires that these be attached to the 4473.

According to Trop, when the Glock representative came to do an audit of the “blue label” firearms that were sold, the representative demanded access to view records relating to “blue label” sales including access to the 4473s. Trop Gun wisely refused the representative’s request. After attempting to find a solution that would allow the Glock representative to be satisfied that the “blue label” sales were only made to qualified individuals and arriving at nothing that would satisfy the demands of the Glock representative, Trop Gun was terminated from the Blue Label Program.

While Trop Gun refused the Glock representative access to the 4473s based on their position of protecting their customer’s privacy, there appears to be a more pertinent reason to deny the Glock representative access. It’s a violation of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code for a Pennsylvania FFL to disclose information provided by the transferee in relation to the purchase of a firearm.

18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(i) of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code reads:

Confidentiality.–All information provided by the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant, including, but not limited to, the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant’s name or identity, furnished by a potential purchaser or transferee under this sectionshall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.

As Section 6111 pertains to the sale or transfer of firearms, the information provided by the transferee is confidential and not subject to public disclosure. This prohibition of disclosure would surely include the Glock representative who arrives at a Pennsylvania FFL to conduct an audit of “blue label” sales. Furthermore, any FFL who did provide the 4473s and/or Pennsylvania Record of Sale to a Glock representative would be in violation of Section 6111(i) and subject to civil penalties in the amount of $1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, as well as reasonable attorney fees!

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Ostensibly, as the credentials Glock requires individuals to provide in order to purchase a “blue label” gun are being provided for the purchase of a firearm, there may be an argument that the disclosure of those credentials are in violation of Section 6111.

All FFLs in Pennsylvania who are Blue Label Program members should be aware of this issue. If a Glock representative requests information pertaining to an audit for “blue label” guns and the PA FFL provides them with any information furnished by the transferee, that FFL could be civilly liable under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. Perhaps the next Pennsylvania FFL who is ordered to disclose their 4473s for a Glock “blue label” audit would be better suited in pointing out the request is asking them to violate the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. Maybe after reviewing this matter more closely, Glock will reconsider their termination of Trop’s Blue Label Program participation, as they were asking Trop Gun to potentially open themselves up to civil liability.

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The Child Custody Process: An Overview

By Allen Thompson, Esq.

What is “Custody?”

There are two types of custody: physical and legal.  Physical custody is self-explanatory; it is the time in which you are the physical custodian of the child.  Often, this is referred to colloquially as “visitation.”  Physical custody may be supervised or unsupervised.  Supervision may be provided by the primary custodian, another family member, or even the state.  Legal custody is the right to make major decisions in the child’s life, for example, religious upbringing, educational decisions, medical decisions, etc.

Best Interest of the Child

When determining custody, the best interests of the child is the overriding factor.  The Court is not interested in mediating family feuds, but is only attempting to ascertain which environment is best suited for raising the child.  While the Court will consider criminal histories, addictions, size of the residence, and income, it will only consider these factors to determine whether a child may be suitably raised in that environment.  The Court will also consider which party is more likely to create tension and conflict, so maintaining a civil discourse with the other parent is always in your best interest.

The Custody Process

The first step in obtaining a child custody order is to file a Complaint for Custody.  The complaint must be filed in the county in which the child(ren) have resided for the past 6 months.  The residency of the parent filing does not matter.

Generally speaking, both biological parents may file custody actions, so long as neither parent’s parental rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily.  In some instances, a grandparent may bring a custody action.  As a general matter, the rights of grandparents are not as broad as a biological parent, although grandparents’ rights are determined based on the particular circumstances.  If you are a seeking physical or legal custody of your grandchild(ren), call a family law attorney to see if your particular situation allows you to file for custody.

Once the custody complaint has been filed, a conciliation conference will be scheduled with a Custody Master.  During this conference, the Master will attempt to mediate an acceptable custody arrangement between both parties.  If an arrangement is made, the Master will recommend the agreement to the Judge and the terms will be binding on both parties after the Judge signs the agreement and enters it as an Order.  Even if one party disagrees, the Master will eventually recommend an Order to the Judge, who will then determine whether to sign the Order or not.

If one party is unhappy with the order, an appeal may be taken to the Court of Common Pleas.  In that event, a trial will be held before the Judge.  This is where you may bring in witnesses, introduce evidence, etc.  The other parent will have the same opportunity to do so.  Depending upon the age of the child(ren), they may be called to give their testimony, as well.  After the trial, the Judge will deliberate and enter an Order, which will be binding on all parties.

Why bother with a custody order?

Often, individuals inquire as to whether a custody order is necessary, as the parents have arranged an agreement outside the court system.  While the Court certainly encourages parents to do this, the major benefit to having a custody order is that it is legally binding and enforceable, even if the other party disagrees with the terms.  Without an enforceable Order, the authorities are extremely unlikely to get involved in determining custody disputes.  If, however, there is an enforceable custody Order, it is relatively easy to see if one party is in compliance.

Contempt

If a party violates a custody order to a significant degree, a Contempt Petition may be justified.  This petition will inform the Court that one party has failed to comply with the Order.  While it is generally best to ignore minor or infrequent infractions, such as delays in drop-offs, phone calls, etc., more serious or consistent violations of the Order should likely be reported to the Court via Contempt Petition.  If you already have a family law attorney, consult with your counselor.  The more serious and/or frequent the violations, the more severe the penalty for the violation.

Modifying an existing order

Once a custody order is in place, either parent may attempt to modify it by filing a Petition for Modification.  Here, you explain to the Court why you believe it is in the child’s best interest to modify the current custody order.  While the law does not require a significant change in any circumstances to modify a custody order, it is generally best to be able to explain what circumstances have changed since the order you seek to modify.  Once you file the Petition for Modification, the process is the same as if you had filed an initial custody complaint, and you will be scheduled for a conference with the Master.

Expectations

It is important to note that most Courts will start with the presumption that both parents should enjoy 50/50 custody, both physical and legal.  Thus, it is unlikely that one parent will successfully “take the child” from the other parent through a “custody battle.”  As mentioned above, the best interest of the child is the guide; thus, the Court is not particularly concerned with who filed the complaint, whether the parties like each other, etc.  So long as neither party has a significant criminal record that would affect the child (i.e. child endangerment, abuse, serious drug problem), both parties are likely to enjoy a fair amount of physical custody.  Consult with a family law attorney about realistic goals in your case.

Finally, legal custody is nearly always shared jointly, at least initially.  Because legal custody is defined much more closely to the constitutional rights of upbringing and management, the courts are generally very hesitant to grant one parent sole legal custody.  As with any custody matter (or any legal matter), the particular facts of your situation will guide the process and determine the ultimate custody Order.  Thus, it is worth discussing your options with a family law attorney before proceeding with a custody complaint, contempt or modification petition, or in attempting to defend against one of these.

If you’d like to speak to one of our family law attorneys about the custody process, initiating a custody claim, defending one, filing a contempt petition, or modifying an existing order, you may call (610) 845-3803 to set up an appointment.

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Pennsylvania H.B. 916 Would Extend WC Coverage to Emergency Management Volunteers

by Karl Voigt

The Pennsylvania legislature is once again attempting to amend the Commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Act, this time in the form of House Bill 916, which aims to extend insured status to emergency management volunteers.

As a matter of public policy, the Act has long extended insurance coverage to volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance corps, volunteer hazmat teams, and other similar volunteers working in the public interest. Namely, §601(a) of the Act bestows Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage on people who are injured while working as unpaid volunteers.

It would, of course, be inherently unfair to disallow coverage to our volunteers who are injured in the line of duty. Why should their families suffer as a result of an injured that occurs from their volunteer work? Volunteers compose 70% of the nations firefighters. To deny coverage could discourage individuals from volunteering.

This new proposal extends that coverage to emergency management volunteers, who typically respond to large disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or civil disturbances. This proposal even specifically extends coverage to volunteers while traveling to and from these emergencies.

H.B. 916, if enacted, will ensure coverage to our emergency management volunteers who are injured in the line of duty.

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City of Lancaster’s RTKL Disclosures Regarding It’s Unlawful Defense Fund, Including the Mayor’s Chief of Staff “Need[s] Dope”

As most of our viewers are aware, on February 25, 2015, I submitted a Right to Know Law (RTKL) Request on the City of Lancaster in relation to the litigation of NRA v. City of Lancaster and the defense fund it instituted to pay for that litigation. Specifically, I requested the following:

This is a request for all records, including, but not limited to, financial records pursuant to Section 102, since January of 2015, relating to the National Rifle Association (NRA) v. City of Lancaster, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) All records, including, but not limited to, City of Lancaster’s Legal Defense Fund, information of which can be found at http://www.commonsenselancaster.com and http://www.cityoflancasterpa.com/blog/message-mayor-gray-nra-lawsuit. As provided for by Section 102, this specifically includes, but is not limited to, the names, addresses, and amounts of any donations to/receipts by the City of Lancaster;

(2) All records, including, but not limited to, all financial accounts and financial institutions utilized by the City of Lancaster, in relation to request (1);

(3) all records, including, but not limited to, contracts, communications, and billings, from or to Dechert, LLP or any other law firm or attorney hired to review the legal issues relating to request (1); and

(4) Any other record in any way relating to the current litigation in NRA v. City of Lancaster.

On March 4, 2015, the City requested 30 days to respond, which it is permitted under the RTKL. On April 1, 2015, I received a response from the City stating that “Your request is granted” and that the records would be disclosed upon my payment of $104.50. It is notable that no exemptions were claimed in the response; rather, as reflected on the face of the March 4, 2015 letter, my request was granted.

Understanding that the City had granted my request in full (per the City’s April 1, 2015 letter stating such), I paid the $104.50 (418 pages at .25 cents per page). On April 6, 2015, I received the City’s disclosures, now denying in part my request and claiming exemptions not previously asserted. (Nice how that works; AFTER someone has paid pursuant to an understanding that the request was granted in full, they then deny in part the request…but, I digress. This will be an issue for the Office of Open Records (OOR) in my future appeal). The City categorized the disclosures into 12 sub-parts (A – L). The categories and links to download the applicable documents are as follows:

Production A. Legal Defense Fund Account Screen Print

Production B. Online Contributions to 3/27/2015

Production C. Cash and Check Contributions to 3/27/2015

Production D. City of Lancaster Cash Account Fulton Bank

Production E. January 2015 Solicitor’s Invoice

Production F. February 2015 Solicitor’s Invoice

Production G. Insurance Claim Documentation

Production H. City emails Regarding NRA Lawsuit

Production I. Emails with Travelers Regarding Coverage of Defense of Lawsuit

Production J. Emails regarding Media Communication NRA lawsuit, establishment of legal defense fund, and process to set up communications website, use of funds

Production K. Emails regarding Prince Right to Know Request

Production L. Emails from Mayor

In Production A., it reflects that the City has taken in over $18,000 in donations. Of course, contrary to their original grant of my request, they redacted the donor names and contact information. Again, this issue will be addressed in my future appeal to OOR.

In Production G., Travelers’ January 30, 2015 letter, (pdf pg 6) is enlightening. Specifically, on pdf pg 8, Travelers reviews its exemptions for “wrongful acts.” Travelers’ letter goes on to state:

To the extent that Plaintiff seeks damages in connection with a “wrongful act” committed by or on behalf of the City in the conduct of the City’s duties, the following exclusions may apply;…

Well that doesn’t sound good…So, let’s see what the Carrier goes on to disclaim on the next page:

Plaintiff requests a declaration that the Ordinance is pre-empted by state statute. Plaintiff also seeks to enjoin the City from enforcing the Ordinance. To the extent that any loss, cost or expense for complying with any injunctive or other non-monetary relief is assessed against the City, there would be no coverage for those damages. In addition, the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief do not qualify as damages under the Policy. Therefore, the injunctive, declaratory and non-monetary relief claims are disclaimed.

Uh oh…last I checked, Section 6120 applied to declaratory and injunctive relief, unless the party had actual damages. Maybe, I’m in error, as it has been at least 2 hours since I’ve thought about Section 6120. Nope, Section 6120 (a.2) provides that an aggrieved individual “may seek declaratory or injunctive relief and actual damages.” Since actual damages are not in play in NRA v. City of Lancaster, the City is liable for ALL costs and fees awarded by the court, contrary to Mayor Gray’s statement that the City only has a $25,000 deductible. I think the residents of Lancaster might be interested to learn that per Travelers’ disclaimer, they’re on the hook for ALL the fees and costs associated with this litigation.

Butl, Travelers isn’t done yet.

The Complaint seeks punitive damages if available. Directly assessed punitive damages are uninsurable in Pennsylvania and any award for such punitive damages would not be covered by the City’s policy with Travelers.

Wow…that’s too bad because those multi-million dollar verdicts tend to result from punitive damages. I guess the taxpayers will have to cough up that money, as well, all because the Mayor and City Council believe they are above the law.

But things only get worse in the disclosures.

In Production J., (pdf pg 42) Patricia Brogan, Mayor Gray’s Chief of Staff declares:

Actually, I NEED dope…

This stuff is too good to make up. I wonder if the good Mayor will oppose the drug laws and defend his Chief of Staff in her need for illicit drugs. Inquiring minds want to know Mayor Gray…

More interesting tidbits from the disclosures include the City’s relationship with Everytown for Gun Safety (formerly Mayors Against Illegal Guns – boy, they sure do change names frequently, especially when a lot of their members are convicted of deplorable crimes) (Production J. at pdf pg 65). Production J. also reflects the City’s desire, from the start, to utilize any donations for purposes beyond the litigation in NRA v. City of Lancaster. See, Production J. at pdf pg 143.

There are some more beneficial tidbits in the disclosures that I’ll save for later…like during the appeal or when the time is right. Someone in the City might want to take a second look at the IRS exemptions…especially, when the case law already establishes that a lost and stolen ordinance violates pre-amendment Section 6120.

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PA Gaming Control Board Rescinds Unlawful Regulation

As many of our viewers are aware, almost a year ago, on April 19, 2014, I submitted a written request to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to invalidate Section 465a.13, as it violated 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109(m.3).  In June, I heard from Chief Counsel of the PA Gaming Control Board that the issue had been forwarded to Attorney General Kane. On August 5, 2014, Attorney General Kane issued a Legal Opinion letter stating:

“…the Board’s regulation at 58 Pa.Code § 465a.13(a) contravenes 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109(m.3)…Section 6109(m.3), on the other hand, prohibits a Commonwealth agency from regulating the possession of a firearm in any manner inconsistent with Title 18. The Board is a Commonwealth agency….Accordingly, the Board’s regulation is inconsistent with the provisions of Title 18 inasmuch it regulates the possession of firearms in a location (licensed casino facility) not contemplated by Title 18.”

Yesterday, April 16, 2015, the Board convened and repealed the firearm regulations in Section 465a.13. You can find a copy of the final approved rule on the Independent Regulatory Review Commission’s website – here.

We are still waiting to hear from DCNR, L&I and State regarding the repeal of their unlawful regulations.

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