Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

BART to pay $1.275 million settlement in environmental prosecution case by DA’s of three counties

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Transit agency failed to implement plans notifying first responders of the presence of large quantities of hazardous materials at its facilities throughout the Bay Area

Martinez, , CA – The Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney, along with District Attorneys from Alameda County and San Mateo County, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson has ordered San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to pay $1.275 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution alleging that the transit agency failed to implement hazardous materials business plans at facilities throughout the three counties as well as violating aboveground storage tank, underground storage tank, and hazardous waste laws.

The judgment agreed to by BART, resolves allegations made in a civil enforcement lawsuit filed January 31, 2017 in Alameda County and covers environmental violations dating back to January 2010.  The lawsuit claimed that at over 30 of BART’s 190 facilities throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo Counties, BART unlawfully failed to establish and implement a hazardous materials business plan for emergency response to a release or threatened release of hazardous materials.  These hazardous materials included large quantities of diesel fuel, petroleum, sulfuric acid contained in industrial batteries, and fire extinguishing chemicals.  The lawsuit further alleged that at these and other facilities, BART violated its environmental obligations related to its aboveground storage and underground storage of petroleum, and its hazardous waste.

“The protection of the public and the environment from dangerous hazardous materials through the enforcement of environmental protection laws is and always will be a high priority,” say District Attorney, Mark A. Peterson. “I am committed to ensuring both private and public entities comply with environmental laws enacted to protect our community and environment.”

In January of 2014, during routine compliance inspections, hazardous materials inspectors from the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health observed large aboveground storage tanks containing diesel at BART facilities in East Dublin/Pleasanton, West Dublin, and Castro Valley. These tanks, which contained 500 to over 1,700 gallons of diesel, fueled backup generators and were located in close proximity to areas accessed by thousands of BART commuters each day.  Despite the presence of large quantities of hazardous materials, BART had never implemented a hazardous materials business plan for any of these facilities as required by law.  These plans contain critical emergency response information for first responders, such as firefighters, and BART employees, should there be a release or threatened release of hazardous materials into the environment.  These hazardous materials business plans are designed to ensure the protection of the public and the environment in the event of a hazardous materials spill.

The violations were brought to the attention of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division who then conducted a follow up investigation with the District Attorney’s Offices’ Environmental Protection Units of Contra Costa County and San Mateo County.  The Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Program and San Mateo County Environmental Health Division also conducted inspections of all BART facilities in their respective Counties.  The follow up investigations revealed that BART’s failure to implement hazardous materials business plans was more widespread and covered over 30 BART facilities in the three counties.  The investigation also revealed that, at numerous other BART facilities, BART was committing violations of California’s aboveground storage tank, underground storage tank, and hazardous waste laws.

BART was cooperative throughout the investigation and worked hard to bring their agency into substantial environmental compliance.  During the investigation, BART hired an third party to conduct an audit of its environmental management programs and the audit identified areas of improvement related to hazardous materials, aboveground storage tanks, and hazardous waste. As part of the settlement, BART agreed to implement the recommendations from this audit.

As part of the settlement, BART agreed to implement the recommendations from this audit.

Under the settlement, BART must pay $675,000 in civil penalties paid out, according to statute, to other government agencies, and $300,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation.  As part of the settlement, BART must also commit $300,000 to an additional environmental compliance position, for a total of two such positions for the next two years.  BART will also be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.

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Estate Planning: A long list will save me, right?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Matthew Hart column logoFor the last few months I have been talking about the Advance Health Care Directive (AHD).  I covered who will make a good agent and why co-agents can be a bad idea.  Once the agents are specified in the AHD the next piece of information in the directive is a list of things that the agent should do and can’t do.  Some people try and get really exhaustive with their list thinking the doctor will be following it to the letter.

What most people don’t realize is that the list of do’s and don’ts is only for your agent.  The doctor will not be reading the list.  The doctor will be looking at the AHD to find out who is in charge and then will ask your agent what course of action to take.  Therefore, what is most important is whom you put in charge.  Moreover, as medical technology changes, a list of do’s and don’ts may become outdated before you know it.  In addition, as we age the list of do’s and don’ts might radically change.

The point I try and make to my clients is; it is more important to choose a good agent who you communicate with often so that they can execute your wishes around health decisions even in an environment of change.  Next month I will talk about probate.

Matthew Hart is a California Licensed Attorney who is an Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Specialist certified by the State Bar of California.  He can be reached at 925-754-2000 or www.MatthewHartLaw.com and he has offices in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

 

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I like group hugs don’t you?

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Matthew Hart column logoBy Matthew M. Hart, Esq.

Last month I talked about the Advance Health Care Directive (AHD).  Specifically I spoke about the role of the spouse in making medical decisions.  Assuming the spouse is able to make the decision, or wants to make the decision, all is usually fine.  However, when the spouse does not want to make health decisions, or more commonly cannot make health decisions for the sick spouse, who will make the decision?

When speaking with married couples, they sometimes forget someone is going to die first therefore having backup agents is critical.  The next logical choice for most families is to appoint the children as backup agents after the spouse to make the health decisions.

Most clients have the first thought that all of the children should be co-agents or in layman’s terms, they will make the decision together.  I usually advise against co-agents for the following reasons:

Generally speaking, a doctor will talk with all of the children present (if the spouse is unavailable) to see what course of action should be taken medically.  If the family agrees to the course of action everything is fine.  If the family does not agree, then the doctor will be looking to the AHD to see who will be the final word.  If the AHD says that all children equally will be the final word, then the AHD is pretty much useless and the next step is to go into court and get a judge’s final word.  Whereas if the AHD has a primary agent and backup agents then there is a final word if the children cannot agree.

Next month I will talk about non-family members as agents.

Matthew Hart is a California Licensed Attorney who is an Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Specialist certified by the State Bar of California.  He can be reached at 925-754-2000 or www.MatthewHartLaw.com and he has offices in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

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Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial seeks legal professionals to volunteer their expertise

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 35th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, 150 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year’s trial: People v. Hayes – a murder case, and features a pretrial argument on the Fifth Amendment.

“I encourage all my fellow law professionals to join us in serving as volunteer Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers,” said Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Steve Austin. “Not only is it a wonderful service to our county’s high school students, but you will really enjoy watching them in action. You will be impressed with the skill these young men and women demonstrate in our courtrooms. Every year I volunteer, I am continually amazed at the obvious time each student has invested to participate in this challenging academic event.”

Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives.  Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county’s champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 16 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing.

Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the cases in their assigned court. Each night, will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations training, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers.  The Mock Trials’ scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial’s scorers.

Teams from the following 16 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing: Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Northgate (Walnut Creek), Pinole Valley (Pinole), and Richmond (Richmond).

Schedule for 2016 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:

Preliminaries: February 2, 4, 9, 11, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Eight competitions each night)

Quarterfinals: February 16, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Four competitions)

Semifinals: February 18, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)

Final and Consolation: February 23, 5:00-7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street, in Martinez.

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Planning for Your Future: It’s always the spouse…isn’t it?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Matthew Hart column logoBy Matthew M. Hart, Esq.

Last month I introduced readers to the Advance Health Care Directive (AHD), the document attorneys use to specify who will make your medical decisions when you cannot.  When I sit with my clients to discuss the AHD the big decision is who will make the decisions.  If my clients are married they usually choose their spouse.  Are you surprised I didn’t say, “they always choose their spouse?”

Part of my job is to gently help my clients face reality.  Although the spouse seems like the logical choice, what if my clients are in their 80’s and have only been married six months?  What if they have adult children in their 50’s and 60’s?  Sometimes, it will make more sense for that client to let the adult children make those final decisions instead of a new spouse.  What about the spouse who just can’t live without their mate?

When the critical time comes to make that tough decision, will the grieving spouse be able to set aside their emotions to make the decision?  Would it be more practical for an adult child to make that decision?  Although both of these situations are not too common, I have seen circumstances where the spouse wasn’t the best choice. When creating an AHD clients should take an honest look at who can make the final decision.

Next month I will talk about the issues around children and AHD’s.

Matthew Hart is a California Licensed Attorney who is an Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Specialist certified by the State Bar of California.  He can be reached at 925-754-2000 or www.MatthewHartLaw.com and he has offices in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

 

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Son joins father at Antioch’s Hobin law firm

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Richard and Taylor Hobin in front of the law offices on A Street in Antioch.

Richard and Taylor Hobin in front of the law offices on A Street in Antioch.

By Connie Woods

Long time Antioch attorney, Richard Hobin was joined in his practic by his son, Taylor, last year.

Now known as Hobin & Hobin LLP, Attorneys at Law, the family owned business, is celebrating being in Antioch and serving Bay Area residents for over 38 years.

The father and son team are passionate about what they do, and have expertise in Real Estate Law, Business Law, Personal Injury Law, Wills, Trusts & Probate, Estate Planning, Trust Litigation, and Civil Litigation. As trial attorneys they have been a vital part of the Antioch community, helping local residents in their legal matters.

The Hobins perform a wide range of legal services in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death, civil litigation, criminal, family, real estate, business, wills and probate, and corporate matters. These services have ranged from a felony vehicular manslaughter trial; wrongful death and personal injury settlements and verdicts; multi-million dollar business transactions; real estate and construction defect litigation; lease termination and equipment auction of a computer cyber- space station; etc.

The patriarch of the law firm and family, Richard, began his law career after, first attending Oregon State University, being a Naval officer and fighting in the Vietnam War, and traveling through Europe. He then attended the University of California, Hastings School of Law, and after graduating and becoming licensed, opened a law office in Antioch. Over the years, he initially worked solo, then partnered with 23 other lawyers and staff, and in 2007 returned to solo practice, with paralegals and a great staff, in which his son later joined.

Taylor, passed the bar and joined the firm, last year, resulting in the name change from Richard Hobin Law to Hobin & Hobin.

Taylor also attended the University of California’s Hastings School of Law. He grew up in Antioch, attending Holy Rosary Elementary School, De La Salle High School, and then the University of San Francisco on a golf scholarship. At Hastings, Taylor worked as an editor, on the Constitutional Law Quarterly and won awards in legal writing as well as in moot court. Some of his published articles include “Wireless Internet Searches: How the Fourth Amendment Applies to Police Searches of Information Accessed Over a Wireless Internet Connection,” and an article entitled “Criminal.” Taylor handles a wide range of legal services and is also getting a Master’s Degree in Taxation. He is married and they have a baby boy, as of earlier this year. In his spare time Taylor plays and competes in golf.

Richard has been married for 32 years to his wife Debbie, who founded the high achieving Antioch Charter Academy. Richard is very active in the community, and has served as president of both the Delta Kiwanis and Delta-Antioch Rotary Clubs. He has also coached youth baseball, basket and golf teams and was District Chairperson for the Boy Scouts. Richard has also served as president of the Holy Rosary School Board, Delta Memorial Hospital Foundation, Annual De La Salle Golf Committee, and president of United Lutheran Ministries and St. Andrews Lutheran Church.

Richard is member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Consumer Attorneys of California, Alameda/Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, and the Contra Costa Bar Association and feels privileged to help people in crisis.

Both attorneys are great role models in our community.

If you are interested in their services, contact the Law Office of Hobin & Hobin at (925) 757-7585, or by email to richard@hobinlaw.com or taylor@hobinlaw.com. They are located at 1011 A Street in Antioch. For more information visit their website at www.hobinlaw.com.

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Estate Planning: How do I restrain financial power?

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Matthew Hart column logoBy Matthew Hart, Esq.

Last month I introduced the Durable Power of Attorney or DPA, for short. To recap, your agent with this power can do pretty much anything you can do financially, but they can do it in your name, such as take out a credit card in your name. Being an attorney, I am always concerned with checks and balances. As stated in the previous month’s column this power is critically needed by every adult but how do we keep bad things from happening?

First, you never put anyone in charge that you don’t trust, today to take charge of all of your money. If you hesitate at that thought, then you are considering the wrong person. Choosing the right person is critical.

Next, for the bulk of my clients I recommend a Springing Durable Power of Attorney. A springing DPA only “springs” into effect upon your incapacity. Therefore, even if your agent got a hold of a copy of your DPA they could not use it for bad things while you have capacity.

Contrast that to an Immediate DPA which takes effect the day it is signed. I have seen greedy children do a lot of damage with an immediate DPA therefore be sure you have a good reason to have an immediate DPA.

Next month I will address Bank DPA’s and Internet DPA’s.

Matthew Hart is a California Licensed Attorney who is an Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Specialist certified by the State Bar of California. He can be reached at 925-754-2000 or www.MatthewHartLaw.com and he has offices in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

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Estate Planning: How do I give power?

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Matthew Hart column logoBy Matthew Hart, Esq.

Last month, I painted a simple picture of how incapacity can strike any family, often at the worst time. Regarding financial matters, the main tool to combat the problem of incapacity is called a General Durable Power of Attorney or DPA for short.

The DPA is a critical document every adult, young or old, should have in place. It says in a nutshell who can sign financial documents for you.

However, the first warning I give to all my clients is that this is probably the most powerful document you will ever sign. Therefore, it is critical that it is drafted properly and understood properly by the client who signs it.

Most DPA’s give your agent, the person you choose to put in charge, any financial power you have. Some powers are scary like fact that the agent can take out loans in your name, credit cards in your name, sell your stuff and buy stuff. In addition, they can direct distributions from your IRA or 401k.

You might ask, with all those powers do I really want this document in place? The answer should be yes, as long as you have someone you trust to be your agent. As I stated last month, if your wife needed to sell or refinance your house, she would need your DPA to do it.

However, concern is warranted and things can go really wrong with a DPA. I will discuss some of the pitfalls of a DPA next month.

Matthew Hart is a California Licensed Attorney who is an Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Specialist certified by the State Bar of California. He can be reached at www.MatthewHartLaw.com or 925-754-2000. He has offices in Antioch and Walnut Creek.

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