Attorney John Mlnarik

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We are honored to share that our founding attorney, John Mlnarik, was installed last week as President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, which represents approximately 3,400 attorneys in Santa Clara County. 

Congratulations to John as well as the other SCCBA officers! -TMLG

 

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[caption id="attachment_515" align="alignright" width="175"]b2ap3_thumbnail_250px-Oakland_Athletics_logo.svg_.png Oakland Athletics[/caption] The Mlnarik Law Group is giving away 2 tickets to an Oakland A’s game this season! To enter our raffle, interact with us on social media between now and April 30th for your chance to win. Interactions will be worth one to three raffle entries. See below for full contest details:

Facebook:

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Twitter:

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Happy New Year! b2ap3_thumbnail_New-Year-New-Life-300x199.jpg

Many individuals will start the New Year resolving to improve their financial affairs. Though bankruptcy is a great tool, which generally includes benefits such as the discharge of credit card and medical debt, a new exemption scheme, effective January 1, 2013, will give potential filers even more to be excited about.

Exemption Basics

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Happy Thanksgiving!  We hope all our readers are having a wonderful holiday and have many, many blessings to count!b2ap3_thumbnail_Happy-Thanksgiving1-300x199.jpg 

Along with one's family and one's health, people are perhaps most thankful for having a roof over their head.

Unfortunately, in recent years that happiness has turned to anxiety for many homeowners.  Having had no choice but to purchase at a wildly inflated price during the housing bubble, nowadays it seems like just about everybody is "underwater" in their mortgage.  Then, when bad fortune strikes, a few missed payments leads to foreclosure -- and the house can't be sold for anything near the amount of debt attached to it.  Basically, that leaves no option but bankruptcy.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Halloween-300x225.jpgBOO!!

It's that time of year again -- when the days get shorter and darker, the leaves fall, a cold wind blows, and our thoughts might turn to mortality as we reflect upon another summer come and gone. In fact, in almost all mid-latitude and northern areas, since time out of mind a date has been set aside in autumn or late summer to venerate departed ancestors. China has the Hungry Ghost Festival, Mexico and Latin America (via the Aztecs) have the Day of the Dead, Korea has Sije, Christianity has All Souls' (or Saints') Day ... and kids of all ages have Halloween.

Halloween is a way to lighten up such a dark subject. Think about it: we take the scariest subjects and make them into jokes, replete with funny tombstones, dancing skeletons, laugh-inducing ghouls. Children, ordinarily terrified at the thought of ghosts and witches, gleefully enjoy the company of as many such characters as possible -- and even dress up like them!

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Life Insurance: Protect the Labor of All Your Days

As we celebrate Labor Day, let's appreciate the hard work we all do but also take stock of the rewards we've reaped. All those hard-earned dollars should have value not only in meeting our current needs but also in providing for our future.b2ap3_thumbnail_Life-Insurance1-300x200.jpg 

Life insurance is often overlooked as a financial planning tool. In fact, it’s considered a core element of sound financial planning. Yet millions of Americans do not have life insurance and millions more are underinsured.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Online-Scam-300x225.jpgIt should not be a surprise that if you have a newly registered domain name, trademarked or not, you are going to be the target of some form of scam or another concerning a name dispute.  Typically, the trend is an email from a foreign entity such as The Department of Asian Domain Registration Service in China claiming that some other company is trying to register your trademark in China. Posing as a foreign Intellectual Property Office, these solicitations may appear to be legitimate inquiries from companies affiliated with foreign government agencies, but a basic internet search of these services will provide you all of the information that you need to know… it is a scam.  The United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) and many legitimate foreign intellectual property agencies have issued official warnings about these types of solicitations. 

Many new domain owners are not aware of the laws or procedures concerning domain ownership and become targets of these types of scams believing that their brand will be diluted by not registering with these companies; or worse, that they will be the subject of a dispute with a company that has already trademarked that domain name.   The bottom line is, do not respond to these emails and delete them immediately.  It is likely that your email address has been harvested by data mining the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) “WHOIS” data base (a publically accessible database which publishes the details of every new registered domain name), or by reviewing the Official Gazette for Trademarks (OG) and you are receiving these emails based on this publically available information.   This particular scam has been around for years and has been well documented.   If you have questions or concerns it is advisable to discuss the matter with your attorney. 

-Aro T. Ebenhahn, Law Clerk

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Happy Seniors’ Day! Debunking Myths About Bankruptcy and Retirement

Recent reports highlight an alarming trend:  an increasing number of seniors are burdened by credit card debt and are facing foreclosure.  In fact, according to a University of Michigan Law School study, “the age sixty-five-and-over cohort is the fastest-growing age demographic [seeking bankruptcy protection].” 

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Social Media Information as Part of the Employment Process

Aunt Marge just posted pictures of her vacation to Las Vegas, my brother just checked in that he was at a concert in San Francisco, and my status today is reminiscent of the serenity prayer. So what does this have to do with my job? For a growing number of employers, it could make the difference between hiring me and sending me the “Thanks, we’ll call you” letter.
 
When deciding if an applicant is a good fit for their organization, employers increasingly use a prospective employee’s social media information as an effective source. It raises b2ap3_thumbnail_Social-media-privacy-during-job-hunting-300x225.jpgserious issues, however, to demand that a prospective employee provide a password, or to “shoulder surf” an applicant’s social media website during the interview process. To begin with, such information is arguably private -- and it could be an invasion of that privacy to require access. Second, social media sites could provide a prospective employer with information (race, marital status, sexual orientation, etc.) that would violate employment law if it were demanded during the interview process. Third, the prospective employee's consent is insufficient to protect the employer, because in the context of an employment situation the consent may result from coercion or duress (for those interested in a relevant court case, see Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group 2009 WL 3128420 (D.N.J. 2009)).
 
While no current case law in California exists banning the practice of requiring prospective employees to provide their social media information, both the state and the federal government have proposed legislation to address this issue. The Federal Password Protection Act of 2012 (S. 3074, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. (May 9, 2012)), would prohibit employers from requiring or requesting job applicants to provide their social media accounts as a condition of employment; similarly, the Social Networking Online Protection Act (H.R. 5050, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. (Apr. 27, 2012)), introduced in the House of Representatives, would prohibit employers from requesting user names, passwords, or other access to online content, and would prohibit employers from using information obtained through social media sites to discipline, discriminate against, or deny employment to current or potential employees. In California, AB 1844, amended July 2, 2012, would enact similar protections for employees and prohibit employers from accessing employees’ social media information in making employment decisions.
 
Social media sites that are specifically related to an individual’s professional career (LinkedIn for example) can arguably be fair game for employers; but it's a stretch to argue the same for, say, using Facebook to assist in evaluating prospective or current employees’ suitability for employment. And even from an employer’s perspective: why provide fodder for discrimination complaints by individuals who for legitimate reasons were terminated or never hired? Moreover, employers should respect the privacy of their employees. Employers have a number of tools at their disposal to make informed decisions about their employees without resorting to “Facebook Stalking.” Individuals have the right to privacy in their personal lives. Demanding they provide information that is unrelated to their professional careers digs too deep to be anything but an invasion of that privacy. The California constitution codifies that individuals have a right to privacy. If an employer violates your privacy to either deny you employment, or as the basis for some form of adverse employment action then you may have a right to sue your employer for damages.
 
- Aro Ebenhahn, Employment Law Intern  
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!NEWSFLASH!

On July 11, 2012, Governor Brown signed the Homeowner Bill of Rights. This important bill extends reforms to help homeowners who are having trouble with their residential mortgage. The most significant aspects of the bill follow:

1. The bill prevents lenders from “dual-tracking” borrowers. This means that when a homeowner is negotiating new terms for a modification with a residential loan borrower, the lender is prohibited from pursuing a foreclosure simultaneously.

2. The bill imposes civil penalties of up to $7,500 for auto-signing foreclosure documents (this process is frequently referred to as “robo-signing”, meaning that lenders file testimony about their possession of original documents and their review of business records without checking the accuracy of their statements).

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A real estate attorney is your advocate when it comes to purchasing a home

b2ap3_thumbnail_Real-Estate-Attorney.jpgFor most people, their house is their biggest investment. It makes sense to hire a real estate attorney to ensure that you understand all aspects of your transaction with the seller and any regulations related to the purchase.

Homeowner Associations (HOAs)

Review of your covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) by an attorney can alert you to items you might be unfamiliar with. More important, it can keep you from buying a property that is already violating a CC&R -- thus avoiding liability toward the association or a neighbor later on. There may be restrictions (for example on flooring types, or pets, or turning your property into a rental unit) that you will wish you had known about!

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1)      Limit Personal Liability for a Spouse's Business

Just about any business activity entails a certain amount of liability. In some professions, depending upon the potential damages that a would-be Plaintiff might b2ap3_thumbnail_Prenuptial-Agreement-Photo4-300x196.jpgincur, such liability could be enormous. If a business is a community asset, the community may ultimately be responsible for the cost of any damages caused by the business. By defining a business as your spouse's sole property (instead of the community's), you can help insulate yourself from any liability.

2)      Prevent a Personal Business from Being Liquidated Upon Dissolution

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Lorrie Wilson is our firm’s receptionist and office assistant.  She provides the following:  “In memory of my Uncle Forrest Ramos of the 101st Airborne Division, I would like to give my deepest heartfelt gratitude for not only his choosing to enlist and fight for this great country of ours but sadly, as fate took its course, sacrificing his life.  He will always be in my heart and memory.“  Forrest Ramos served in Vietnam.

b2ap3_thumbnail_41156_1590924862366_1513201803_1493539_2332809_n.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_John-Js-Brick-at-Santa-Clara-Veterans-Memorial-1.0-150x150.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_renderCAECFM2G-150x150.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_U-Forrest-in-Camp-Bear-Cat-Vietnam-1967-150x150.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_Uncle-Forrests-info-150x150.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_uncle-forrest-with-unit-150x150.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_renderCAVQ4NQ3-150x150.jpg

James Steinle is an attorney in our firm. He reports: “Frank William Steinle Sr. was an attorney practicing law in the State of Texas when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the attack he volunteered for the U.S. Navy at the age of 38. He was assigned to the Pacific Fleet as a Seaman 3rd Class, serving aboard the USS Henrico as a gunner on the 5-inch 38-caliber anti-aircraft gun. For invasions, he went ashore with the 2nd wave to establish ship-to-shore communications. He did this for 4 invasions and was awarded 4 battle stars (Leyte, Guam, Tinian, & Saipan). The Henrico was also in the reserve fleet that came after the invasions of Guadalcanal and Okinawa. At Guadalcanal, when the Japanese counter-attacked and times were really intense, the Navy supplied people they could spare. He was sent ashore, handed a rifle and participated in patrols hunting for snipers. During the battle for Okinawa, his ship was hit by a Kamikaze and severely damaged. Frank W. Steinle Sr. survived the war and returned to his legal practice in Texas at the war's conclusion.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_HOA-Foreclosure-Bill1-150x150.jpgIf you were a condo owner in a community governed by a homeowners association (HOA) and your condo was sold at a foreclosure auction, you might think you’re off the hook for any delinquent payments to your HOA. You’re not! You will be liable for any dues while you are on title.

Today, as the market value for many properties has fallen, there isn’t enough money “left over” to pay your HOA. Most associations have governing documents that allow them to collect from a property owner personally, after the home has been lost to a foreclosure.

Bottom line – don’t just ignore your association fees because you’re in active foreclosure. You could pay for it later.

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No matter what type of business you are preparing to start, one of the first decisions you b2ap3_thumbnail_What-do-I-name-my-photography-business1-300x225.jpgneed to make is what you’re going to name your business. Choosing a name is often something that business owners don’t realize needs more research than just finding a name that is memorable and will appeal to both them and their clients.

Why go to all this effort? You’re opening your business with plans of success, knowing you will be investing yourself, your time, and your effort into growing your business. Generally, you won’t be notified of any disputes related to your name until your business has grown and become successful, after you have spent time and energy getting your name known. Don’t lose this valuable piece of your business when it really means something to you because you didn’t research whether you could use it at the beginning. Trademark litigation is costly; a search determining whether you name will be rightfully yours is not.

1. Type and Scope of Your Business

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b2ap3_thumbnail_MootHallSundial-150x150.jpgMy favorite holiday is here again: the weekend when Daylight Saving Time returns and, suddenly, the sun is up an extra hour every evening.

What?  It's NOT a holiday?  Well, as far as I'm concerned it is.  After the dreariness of winter's long nights (peaking on December 5th, when the sun sets the earliest by our clocks, though if you use a sundial it's December 21st), the gradual increase in the day's length isn't fast enough for me.  I truly celebrate the day when, as if by magic, it's still light out an hour later than it was the day before.

This "holiday" is so cheerful that even its mnemonic device is optimistic!  "Spring Forward -- Don't Fall Back."  Who could disagree with THAT?

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b2ap3_thumbnail_iStock_000016794834Small-300x212.jpgNo one likes to say "no", especially a landlord who is turning away a prospective renter in a tough market.  But the pain of choosing the wrong tenant will outweigh the costs of a vacancy.  Sometimes landlords have to be tough.

The trouble with rejecting a tenant, though, is the likelihood they will take their hurt feelings to their lawyer's office or the housing authority.  Before the landlord realizes it, the next "prospect" who tours the rental is actually a "tester" conducting an investigation of their tenant screening practices. Fines and damages for lawsuits or housing disputes can range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, and even into the millions for widespread violations in large rental property businesses.

Here's how to reject or deny an applicant without opening yourself up to legal liability

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Groundhog-Day-150x144_20160628-192153_1.jpgEngland passed the first modern bankruptcy law during the reign of that lovable old curmudgeon, Henry VIII.  The law's purpose?  Make sure no one could ever fail to pay back a loan without severe consequences.  In other words, only one social purpose was served:  repayment of creditors -- or else.

Although several American colonies and later states experimented with a more rational and humane approach (at a time when bankruptcy was still punishable by death in Merry Olde England), not until 1841 did the USA (or any nation) pass a bankruptcy law whose intent included an equitable system for discharge of debt.  Although England in 1705 began to allow discharge, the central purpose was still relief for creditors; in no way did the law reflect any humanitarian concern (or even sound social policy) regarding debtors.

The 1841 law was short-lived, but both the federal government and individual states kept experimenting, now and then, with variations.  Finally, following the catastrophic Depression of the mid-1890s, in 1898 a modern federal bankruptcy law was passed, and there's been one (but not the same one) ever since.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Groundog-Day-Blog-Graphic2-150x126.pngGroundhog Day AGAIN? Why, it seems like the last one was just yesterday ...

Of course, I'm referring to the classic Bill Murray romantic comedy. Bill plays a TV weatherman covering Punxsutawney Phil's annual moment in the sun (or the shade). The "next" day, the hapless reporter discovers that every day is Groundhog Day, over and over again.

But if there's anything worse than being the same person on the same eternal day, it's being a different person EVERY day. That's what it's like if you're a victim of Identity Theft -- and it's neither romantic nor a comedy.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Year-of-the-Dragon-300x148.jpg To help you find fortune in the New Year, several customs and traditions are to be followed. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar.

A must-have in every Chinese household during Chinese New Year is a plate of nian gao (new year cake).  It symbolizes continuous prosperity in the new year.  But nian gao is only one of many New Year desserts.  A personal favorite of mine are sesame balls, which come in all sizes and whose filling may be sweet or savory.  These delicious treats resemble gold nuggets, so naturally they symbolize money and wealth.

I loved celebrating Chinese New Year as a child, not only because of the good food but also because it was lucrative!  It is a long-standing tradition that married adults give hong bao ("lucky money") to children and unmarried people to wish them good luck in the New Year.  What other holiday allows a child to make a whopping $200 in a matter of hours? b2ap3_thumbnail_Lai-See-Red-Envelopes-150x150.jpg 

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