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April 2015 Archives

Chicago Attorney Representative Handled Skype Calls for ISBA Ask-a-Lawyer Day

This past Saturday, April 25th, Pamela Sakowicz Menaker was the attorney representative for the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) during their 34th Annual "Ask-a-Lawyer" Day. Menaker is the Communications Partner for Clifford Law Offices. She handled calls through Skype from consumers across the state of Illinois from 9am to 2pm. In addition to the Skype platform there were two toll free hotlines and an email address that ISBA volunteers managed during the day to help answer questions. The no cost event was open to anyone who had a legal question and needed to consult with a lawyer. The ISBA sponsored event cooperated with the following associations located in These counties: Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will. These bar associations helped to provide a lawyer through their referral service for consumers who needed legal help. The initial legal consultation meeting is set at a nominal fee.

Sarah King Writes Article on Jurors Asking Questions

Sarah F. King, associate at Clifford Law Offices, authored an article on "When Jurors Ask Questions" for the American Bar Association (ABA) Litigation Journal. The article, which appeared in the Spring 2015 issue that is disseminated to some 65,000 lawyers across the country, discussed the issue of Illinois now joining the ranks of nearly 40 other states that permit the use of written juror questions directed to witnesses. King explains her own experience at trial with the judge stopping the proceedings and allowing jurors to ask screened questions, submitting them in writing to the parties and then to the witnesses. She said it sometimes even led to the trial team's "shift[ing] strategies to focus on issues that were engaging the jury conceptually. We used the facts accepted in the questions to reframe issues that were being misconstrued." She said she found it eye opening that "jurors were targeting clearly relevant information that helped persuade them to solve this problem in our client's favor." Sarah is an experienced writer, having won awards in law school for excellence in Legal Analysis and other classes.

Illinois Legislature Considers Passing Law on Banning Bumper Pads on Cribs

The Illinois state legislature House lawmakers approved a bill that bans the sale of crib bumper pads. They also endorsed a bill that would set state standards for the crib padding. The bumpers are intended to keep baby's limbs from getting caught between crib bars and to protect them from bumping their heads against side rails. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that crib bumpers can cause suffocation. House Bill 3761 passed the chamber by a vote of 63-48 on April 21, 2015, following vigorous debate, reports The State-Journal Register, the state capital's main newspaper. The bill was introduced by Emily McCasey (D-Lockport). It makes the sale and manufacture of any solid padding for the inside of baby cribs illegal. Mesh padding is excepted. "In order to protect our infants, this is an important step forward to get this dangerous product that has been linked to dozens of deaths off the market in the state of Illinois," McCasey told the Register. The city of Chicago has already banned the sale of baby crib bumpers. Child-care providers also are not allowed to use them. Last year, House Bill 5348 passed the House and the Senate Public Health Committee, but in June the state Senate failed to call the bill for a vote on the floor. Safety groups supported legislation to ban the sale of crib bumper pads in Illinois due to the risk of suffocation. HB 5348 was supported by a wide range of Illinois organizations including SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome] of Illinois, Inc., Everthrive, Illinois Action for Children, and the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children. Representatives from those organizations reportedly spent hours talking to legislators in the Capitol to lobby for passage of the bill. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Chapter, and the Injury Prevention & Research Center at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago reportedly asked pediatricians around the state to contact senators about the importance of safe sleep. Illinois PIRG, March of Dimes, Pathways, Shane's Foundation and Cribs for Kids, a national group, also reportedly lent their support. This year's HB 3761 is now headed to the Illinois Senate. A similar bill there is sponsored by Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield).

ABA Extends Free Membership to All Law Students - Bob Clifford Chaired Special Committee

The American Bar Association (ABA) is offering free membership to all law students starting in August, waiving the $25 annual dues for those enrolled in ABA accredited law schools across the country. ABA President William C. Hubbard of South Carolina made the announcement in April on behalf of the 395,000-member organization. It comes on the heels of a recommendation of the special Task Force to Examine Association Policies Impacting Recruitment and Retention of Law, chaired by Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner at Clifford Law Offices. Clifford was appointed last June by then ABA President James R. Silkenat of New York to examine the policies, strategies and tactics for the recruitment and retention of new members.  Part of the Task Force's duties also was to create a consistent approach and policy to help recruit new members, including law students, and coordinate these recruitment measures with various constituent groups throughout the organization. The Task Force was created as a result of a recommendation of the ABA Standing Committee on Membership. On behalf of the Task Force and as part of its extensive report, Clifford made a presentation in February to the ABA Board of Governors making the recommendation of free membership to all law students. Clifford, who has served three consecutive terms as the Illinois State Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, just stepped down last August after serving nine years, the maximum term limit allowed for state delegates. Law students who take advantage of this free offer will be allowed access to the ABA job board, a subscription to the ABA Journal, discounts on various products such as Sprint cellular plans and other opportunities including webinars and networking events.  Approximately 119,000 law students are currently enrolled and would be eligible for this free offer. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported on the story in its "Law School Notes" column on April 17, 2015. "ABA to Extend Free Membership to Law Student." Dominic Lo Verde , a law clerk at Clifford Law Offices and a second-year law student at Loyola University Chicago College of Law, commented on the new measure to reporter Jack Silverstein stating that, although he already had paid $60 as a first-year law student entitling him to three years of ABA membership, he has found it to be invaluable for gaining practical experience as well as for networking opportunities. To take advantage of the free membership, law students are encouraged to enroll at or by calling the ABA Service Center at 800-285-2221. Currently, the ABA also offers the first year of membership free to upon admission to the bar. After that first year, lawyers then choose to become dues-paying members.

Clifford Law to Participate in 34th Annual ISBA Ask-a-Lawyer Day

Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner, Pamela Sakowicz Menaker, will be participating in the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) 34th Annual "Ask-a-Lawyer Day" event this Saturday, April 25th, 2014. The event is available at no cost to anyone with a question about a legal matter. It runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Another Tragic Grain Bin Incident - Four Men Injured in Northwest Indiana

Four men reportedly were injured when a grain bin in northwest Indiana exploded. Media reports indicate that a powerful blast in a grain elevator in LaCrosse, Indiana, injured four men Thursday (April 16, 2015) about 9 a.m. Residents as far as 15 miles away reported they could hear the blast in the 175-foot-tall bin and some even felt their houses shake like an earthquake, according to media reports. The blast blew out large holes on both sides of the feed mill, according to eyewitnesses. Tragically, four men who work for Co-Alliance LaCrosse Feed Mill, just east of U.S. 421, were taken to hospitals with injuries. An investigation into the cause of the blast is being conducted by the Indiana State Fire Marshall's Office, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the LaPorte County News. Authorities also told reporter Stan Maddux that the area has been sealed off due to the risk of a collapse of the structure that may be beyond repair. Clifford Law Offices has successfully worked on several grain bin cases, the latest being a record verdict obtained by partners Kevin P. Durkin and Sean P. Driscoll who obtained a $16 million verdict again Con Agra Foods on behalf of two families who lost their sons when they became entrapped in a grain bin. The story received coverage across the country, including the Chicago Tribune: The verdict was the largest ever in Carroll County, Illinois, and each family received a record amount in the state outside of Cook County. The previous record in that county was a $220,000 verdict in 1989 and a $1.1 million settlement in 2006, according to the Jury Verdict Reporter. Durkin told the press that about 1,600 grain bin entrapments are reported every year in this country with sometimes several of them tragically resulting in death. Clifford Law Offices takes great pride in representing people from across the state, the Midwest and the country, painstakingly researching every detail and attaining the best experts in order to go to trial prepared and knowledgeable about every aspect of the case. That is clear what happened in the case involving the two families in Carroll County so that justice was served. Following the incident involving the cases that Durkin and Driscoll handled, the OSHA issued warning letters to the grain industry on Aug. 4, 2010, to address and emphasize the dangers of entering storage bins and safety procedures that must be in place. Among those safety measures is that employers must provide workers who enter the bin with a type of lifeline to prevent them from sinking into the bins.

Robert Clifford Presents Opening Argument in Mock Trial

Senior Partner at Clifford Law Offices, Robert A. Clifford is presenting a demonstration of an opening argument today, Wednesday, April 15, at the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation Annual Meeting. Clifford's demonstration will consist of an opening argument in a "re-trial" of the high-profile case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants who were convicted of killing a guard and another man at a shoe factory in Massachusetts in 1920. Both men were convicted in 1921 by a jury and were executed by the electric chair in 1927. The case drew worldwide attention. The full day of panel discussions and mock trial takes place at the United States District Court - Eastern District of Louisiana. The "2015 Anatomy of a Trial" includes a panel discussion with judges and all-star litigators from around the country on the important step-by-step aspects of trying a case.

An Entire Community Mourns the Death of Those Killed in Tragic Plane Crash Near Bloomington

A vigil is being held tonight (April 7, 2015) for four of the victims who belonged to the same church in Bloomington-Normal and flowers are everywhere around town and around the campus in honor of seven men who died in a tragic plane crash early this morning, all part of the Illinois State community. All of the men who died are described as loving husbands, fathers and leaders in the community and their loss is found in the faces of everyone in town, as many are visibly shaken and tears are being shed by so many. The town is home to Illinois State University (ISU) and the students and those who live there all feel like a close-knit family. They all can't believe that such a tragedy struck home. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on the scene along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Officials held a press conference at noon of initial observations of the crash of the Cessna turboprop plane. A finding of probable cause is not expected from the government agency for at least a year. That press conference can be viewed here: The group was returning from Indianapolis after having watched the final game of the NCAA basketball finals. The plane took off at about 11 p.m., according to authorities, and Peoria air traffic control had contact with the pilot because there was no air traffic controller on duty past 10 p.m. at Bloomington's Central Illinois Regional Airport. The plane is believed to have crashed shortly after midnight less than two miles from that airport. It was located in a field around 3 a.m.

Seven People Reportedly Killed in Small Plane in Central Illinois Returning Home from NCAA Final Championship

A tragic plane crash involving a Cessna 414 occurred just outside Bloomington, Illinois, Tuesday morning (April 7, 2015) when seven people aboard were killed when the aircraft crashed just short of the airport.  Numerous media outlets are reporting that six people were aboard as well as the pilot, all returning late last night from the NCAA championship basketball game in Indianapolis. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed the incident and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending investigators to determine the cause of the crash that occurred about 1:30 a.m. There is no initial word on what caused the crash of the six-passenger small plane that crashed in the small town of Towanda, Illinois. The plane crashed at Route 9 and McClean County Road 2100 East, less than two miles east of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Illinois. Local officials are planning a press conference today at noon CST regarding the tragedy.

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