On Oregon's 156th Birthday, the
Oregon Public Empowerment News (Oregon PEN) was born, bringing to Oregon an all new kind of newspaper, a weekly all-digital newspaper for local Oregon and legal news that is all beef, no filler -- no horoscopes, no celebrity sex stories, no fluff of any kind. Just the kind of solid information you need to be an engaged and empowered citizen in Oregon and to know which issues will matter not just today, but this year and into the years beyond. And you won't just know what they are -- you'll have a good idea of how those issues should be handled.
Oregon PEN is published by the Oregon Public Empowerment Network LLC, a private "B" Company formed not just to publish Oregon PEN, but also to devote all proceeds above expenses to the support of groups who meet critical needs in Oregon and who are making Oregon better.
The ONLY advice I give away: If you get served with a demand from a lawyer or a summons from a court, CALL A REAL LAWYER
One of the most difficult things I do is explain to people that I can no longer help them, although I could have helped them easily . . . if they had come to me in time. This happens all the time in debt lawsuits where someone sues you and serves you with a summons for a debt you don't (think you) owe.
I think the problem is, we learn a lot of things in life, but so far as I know, nobody in high school teaches you how to deal with the legal system (except to hope that you don't get arrested in your youthful exuberance).
There's way too many possible situations to cover in detail, so let me boil it down for you into one simple, fail-safe rule:
If you get a letter FROM a lawyer or a summons or threatening letter from a court or government agency, call a real, licensed attorney and ask how to respond.
If you instead try to take a crash course on Internet Law School or Facebook Law School or wait until you realize you are in over your head, you may easily wait yourself into a much more expensive or even dangerous class of problem. If you can't afford a complete consultation with an attorney, call the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 800-42-7636; they offer brief (1/2 hour or so) consults for just $35.
Like bullies and illnesses, lawsuits can be ignored, but they won’t go away. Denise Norton learned this valuable lesson the hard way this week when she found out that a lawsuit she has tried to ignore could wind up costing Norton her North Seattle home. . . .
Right now, Oregon is one of only two states in the nation that returns class action windfalls -- unclaimed damages -- to corporations found liable for wrongdoing by a judge or jury.
So, today, Oregon law lets corporations who injured or ripped off workers keep part of the judgment they were ordered to pay.
HB 2700 closes this outrageous loophole in Oregon law that allows unclaimed funds remaining in class action settlements to be returned to corporations who were found guilty of wrongdoing.
Under HB 2700, unclaimed class action penalties would go to Legal Aid of Oregon to provide services to needy citizens who cannot afford private lawyers and other appropriate charities as designated by the judge in the case -- NOT back to the companies whose wrongdoing required a lawsuit to fix in the first place!
SIGN THE PETITION IN FAVOR OF HB 2700: http://jenniferfororegon.com/petition/
Owners (and especially dealers) may not always know their recalled vehicle still needs to be repaired. NHTSA's new search tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years. Don't buy ANY used car from ANYONE without checking for this first!
One of the worst things about a problem is when people wrongly think it has been solved. Like lead exposure. Most people forgot about lead once the federal law required filling stations to stop dispensing leaded gasoline for cars.
But we've never stopped using lead. The biggest source of new lead contamination is "general aviation" -- small planes use the most, such as at airports like Hillsboro airport, one of Oregon's busiest. It's owned and run by the Port of Portland. All over Oregon, small planes use leaded gasoline, which they then spray into the atmosphere with every flight. It's invisible, but potent.
In other words, Oregonians tax ourselves so that small plane pilots can use fuel that causes a horrifically damaging poison to get into our air, food, and water. It never goes away, and it winds up in our kids' bloodstream and causes irreversible brain damage.
There is NO SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD exposure. And when children are exposed, it changes their lives dramatically, for the worse: they are more likely to have problems with executive function (decision making, impulse control). In other words, children exposed to lead are the most likely to drop out, get arrested, get pregnant, and just generally do the costly, stupid things we say we want them to avoid. They can't help it -- we poisoned them, and they are impaired as a result.
And then there's all the lead that children are exposed to simply because lead is a persistent toxin just as it is, in the dust that's everywhere. It doesn't break down, it doesn't become fixed, it just sits there, waiting to be picked up on someone's shoe or blown into the air with other dust particles, and then onto your food or carpet. And in households where there was lead paint used, you can get regular exposure from older windows (most often) or, worse, from improper paint removal practices.
The research is clear and overwhelming. We spend far more money on the negative consequences of lead exposure than we would have to spend if we had a crash program to "Get the lead out of Oregon."
If you're a parent, particularly a low-income parent living in older housing (pre-1978), make sure you have your children and home tested for lead exposure. Give what you can to the Lead Safe America Foundation. And ask all your elected officials why it's OK for pilots to spray poison on unsuspecting children and families when there are lead-free alternatives out there.
The time for study is over. It's time to act. The damage we cause today costs us for decades. The savings we can realize today by investing in getting the lead out will pay us back even longer.
The claim process in the BP/ARCO class action over illegal debit card charges has opened!
Here's the website: https://www.debitcardclassaction.com//
If you are in the class (see below), you are entitled to $200, less whatever fees and costs the court assigns to class members. (The maximum requested for fees and costs is 20 percent or $40 per class member.)
Roughly 500,000 class members whose records were recovered during the case will get a direct notice mailing. Those class members will get an "opt-out" claim notice -- that means if they do nothing, they will eventually get a claim check.
But not all class members will be found that way -- so, if you are a class member who did not get a mailing, you can also opt in and make your claim using the website.
You are a class member if you
1) You bought gas at an Oregon ARCO or AM/PM filling station any time between Jan 1, 2011, and Aug 30, 2013, and
2) You paid with a debit card, and
3) You paid a debit card fee.
If you don't claim your money, it goes back to the very businesses who wrongfully charged consumers more for gas than the posted price, violating Oregon law. So spread the word, make sure everyone who buys gas with a debit card checks out the site and makes a claim if they are a class member.
LINK TO OLDER POST ON WHY WE NEED ROBUST CLASS ACTION RULES
The SOBs win if your student loan burden causes you to hurt yourself. Don't let the SOBs win: Call 800-273-TALK and ask for help instead.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, talking to someone may help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call (800) 273-TALK (8255).
You can also call 911 or visit your local hospital's emergency room if you believe you are a danger to yourself. Another good source is the NAMI HelpLine, an information and referral service which can be reached by calling 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., EST or by email at email@example.com
As for your loans,
For federal loans, look into into an income-driven repayment option. For example, monthly payments under Income-Based Repayment are limited to 15% of “discretionary income” and monthly payments can be set at zero when income is especially low.
Private student loans have different repayment rules, and you can read more about options for dealing with those here: http://www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org/understand-loans/private-student-loans/
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice