Attorney Simmons Makes Recommendations in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decision on Same Sex Marriage

Earlier this month – in a truly historic decision – the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) struck down state laws that prohibited marriage between gay and lesbian Americans. Regardless of whether you agree with this decision or not, it is the law of the land unless otherwise reversed. Therefore, as businesses operating under this new law, it’s incumbent upon you, as the business owner or decision maker, to make sure that your business operations and policies are in line with this new decision.

Attorney Simmons says:

“In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, this is a great time for attorneys looking to expand their practice, especially, in the areas of family law and employment law. In the employment sector, title VII’s definition of same sex discrimination will probably expand as a result of the court’s landmark decision. What may be tricky to the Courts and attorneys alike is the application of the laws already in place as it relates to same-sex married couples. Moreover, I see this as a time where the outcome of these types of cases will determine what the “new norm” is in US society. Same-sex vs. religious belief arguments may be a new hot issue before Courts nationwide. To service an expanding client group, I recommend that all litigators, employment, and business lawyers increase their knowledge of the law and its application.”

For the full article, visit:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/thoughts-from-attorneys-scotus-gay-marriage-decision?trk=pulse_spock-articles

Attorney Simmons: “I’m Discovering my Native American Heritage”

choctaws

Recently, I discovered that my grandmother was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian.  While attending the Collective Leadership Bar Academy – a gathering of select lawyers from around the United States – I was able to connect with the Native American Bar Association, as I explore more about myself and my family history.

Choctaw Indians started about in Mississippi and then many migrated to Oklahoma.  History and genealogy shows that a few migrated north to Michigan – which is where I am from.  To learn more about the Choctaw Indians, visit these websites.

www.choctawnation.com
www.choctaw.org

Simmons Law encourages lawyers to actively diversify the legal profession

The Washington Post published a compelling article recently about the legal profession being the least diverse profession in the nation.  The writer cited some stark statistics on gender and racial disparities:

Women:

Women constitute more than a third of the profession, but only about a fifth of law firm partners, general counsels of Fortune 500 corporations and law school deans. The situation is bleakest at the highest levels. Women account for only 17 percent of equity partners, and only seven of the nation’s 100 largest firms have a woman as chairman or managing partner. Women are less likely to make partner even controlling for other factors, including law school grades and time spent out of the workforce or on part-time schedules. Studies find that men are two to five times more likely to make partner than women.”

Racial Minorities:  

“Although blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans now constitute about a third of the population and a fifth of law school graduates, they make up fewer than 7 percent of law firm partners and 9 percent of general counsels of large corporations. In major law firms, only 3 percent of associates and less than 2 percent of partners are African Americans.”

The article goes on to say that lawyers are doing enough to change these facts.

As an black female attorney,I recognize there is a problem and make it a point to do my part to change it.  I want to encourage other lawyers to do the same.  I think that many times, we see a very large, systemic problem and feel it may be too large to take on.  However, if each lawyer takes one step to do something, we will see change.  In 2013, I started the Simmons Law Memorial Book Scholarship to provide money to high school students interested in college and becoming a lawyer .  Recently, I created a “Simmons Law Future Lawyers”t shirts for kids, thus planting the “seed” for the kids that may become a lawyer in the future.   In June, I attended the Collective Bar Leadership Academy to make sure that my voice, as a woman, and an African-American heard on important issues that impact the collective bar associations.  I challenge all attorneys, regardless of color or sex, to do their part to diversify our profession.

Link to the article:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/27/law-is-the-least-diverse-profession-in-the-nation-and-lawyers-arent-doing-enough-to-change-that/

Supreme Court: Police search of hotel guest records violates U.S. Constitution

In June 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that police work has gone too far.  According to court documents, the Los Angeles Police Department was operating under Los Angeles municipal code that required hotels and motels to keep a record of all of their guest information and to turn it over to police on demand.  The law also said that if a hotel or motel refused to make guest records available for police inspection, they could arrest the innkeeper on the spot, charge them with a misdemeanor – punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

This is awful for the innkeeper.  But let’s not forget about guest privacy concerns. Here’s the information innkeepers were required to record and turn over to police:   Each guest’s name and address; the number of people in the party; the date and time of arrival; the planned date of departure; the room number; the rate paid; the method of payment; guest ID number if they failed to reserve in advance, paid cash, or rented for 12 hours or less; and information on her vehicle.   What a privacy invasion!

The Supreme Court said that this municipal law was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant for a search to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

In this case, the law was deemed unconstitutional because records could be turned over by simply a police demand, rather than the police having to go through the legal process of having a judge review and approve that there was a real, just reason for the records.

This is a win for the people and privacy!  For more information on this, click here —>  http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/opinion-analysis-an-opportunity-for-precompliance-review-is-constitutionally-required-for-most-government-inspection-programs/

Identity Theft: Attorney Simmon’s experience as a defendant for something she didn’t do

In 2013, I was served with a complaint and summons.

I realized that it was me who was sued, by a name I did not recognize.  I also noticed that I was a co-defendant; one of the other defendants was a business that had office space in the same shared executive office suites building I had my law office when I was a new lawyer.   Let’s call them “Company XYZ”.  I reviewed the allegations in the complaint and realized this plaintiff – who I did not know – was suing me for fraud and misrepresentations for a loan modification/bankruptcy done by Company XYZ.   He alleged that I was the attorney for Company XYZ.

I learned in the status conference that the plaintiff  had  correspondence with my name and law firm information on it that was addressed to him – which was NOT on my official letterhead – and also my business card – which was my official business card that I passed out to everyone.   I realized – at that moment – that Company XYZ represented to this man that I was its attorney, had stolen my law firm/personal identity, and created a letterhead with my contact information to correspond with their clients fraudulently!

It took TWO YEARS of litigation, but in June 2015, I finally heard the jury say that I was not liable for any of the allegations against me.  It was a long fight for my name and reputation.  After this experience, I want to share some tidbits of wisdom that I gained.

  • Pro Se Litigation isn’t Smart:  Representing yourself is never a good idea.  It isn’t about intellectual ability and knowledge.  It’s about the emotional involvement and distress of being a defendant.
  • Watch for the “Bad Apples”:  Everyone you meet in a “business suit” or business setting is not about legitimate business.
  • Guard Your Surroundings:  Secure your important paperwork and make sure your office is secure, especially if you rent in executive office suites.  Be aware of your surroundings in your office, and be careful of the people you encounter in business.
  • Protect your Business License(s):  I realize that had I not fought this civil case to the end and a jury found me liable, I could have found myself fighting to keep my license to practice law with the Georgia State Bar.  Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may have to have a license from the state to do your job.   Do all you can to guard any business licenses you have.  Take issues seriously so they do not blow up and land you in front of a licensing board fighting for your right to earn a living.
  • Fight for Your Reputation. It was a tough decision to fight this case in court and to have to fight the concerns of public shame.  Although I felt empathy for the innocent plaintiff, I knew I was innocent and had to fight to the end for my own name.