Issue 8

bridging-gap

Bridging the Gap Through Smiles

Setting the standard for excellence in oral surgery, Dr. Wayne J. Saunders began The Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery over 15 years ago as a solo practice.  Now known as St. Luke’s OMS, the practice has grown to a twelve-doctor practice with four locations throughout the Lehigh Valley, and a new location in Stroudsburg, […]

Setting the standard for excellence in oral surgery, Dr. Wayne J. Saunders began The Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery over 15 years ago as a solo practice.  Now known as St. Luke’s OMS, the practice has grown to a twelve-doctor practice with four locations throughout the Lehigh Valley, and a new location in Stroudsburg, PA.  Still, the largest practice in the area, St. Luke’s OMS continues to be the most innovative.  The practice is proud to announce the addition of not only the area’s first and only female oral surgeon but also the first Latina and Spanish speaking surgeon – Dr. Veronica Barreto!

“I feel honored that I was given the opportunity to be the first female oral surgeon in the area,”  states Dr. Barreto.  “I can understand being a female in a male-dominated specialty can come with its own sets of challenges and preconceived notions, but I embrace those challenges with warmth and laughter.”

Dr. Barreto received her dental degree from the Maurie H. Kornberg school of dentistry in Philadelphia, PA where she graduated magna cum laude, then completing her residency training at Temple University Hospital.  She was the recipient of several awards including American Academy of Pediatric Dentists Predoctoral Student Award,  the American Association of Endodontists Student Achievement Award and the Edward B. and Arnold R. Cook Prize in Children’s Dentistry.  During her dental school training, she also volunteered abroad, providing dental care and oral health awareness to the underserved populations in Costa Rica and Panama.

“Barreto is the perfect addition to the practice,” states Dr. Saunders, founder and managing partner of St. Luke’s OMS.   “Aside from being a clearly skilled surgeon, myself and the other doctors are happy to have not only a skilled female surgeon alongside us but also someone who is able to speak Spanish.  Barreto not only is a great doctor, but she embodies the spirit of the practice with her philanthropic background.  Giving back to the community is a large part of what we do, and I have no doubt she will help us continue that mission.”

Barreto hopes to inspire others with her career choice and new position.  “I hope that being a surgeon and a female will help to break barriers and set an example for other aspiring amazing women to join this highly rewarding profession,” Barreto proudly exclaims.  “I plan to offer patients the utmost care just like any one of our doctors at St. Luke’s OMS would provide, and I know that being a female is just the icing on the cake!”
Dr. Barreto and the other St. Luke’s OMS surgeons offer a full range of oral and facial procedures.   The mission of all surgeons at St. Luke’s OMS is to provide patients with affordable, high-quality, state-of-the-art care in a gentle, safe and secure environment.

For more information on Dr. Veonica Barreto or any of the other St. Luke’s OMS Surgeons, please call 610.865.8077, or visit StLukesOMS.com.

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medical

Quality Management Systems for Medical Device Manufacturing and Supply Companies

In general, manufacturing is manufacturing; just make a thing.  When talking about a medical device, a “thing” that could affect human health, there’s more to think about than your production line, though. Quality management systems…really exciting stuff, I know.  Typically, poorly understood and unpopular subjects with fast-moving entrepreneurs, they are usually thought to be blockades […]

In general, manufacturing is manufacturing; just make a thing.  When talking about a medical device, a “thing” that could affect human health, there’s more to think about than your production line, though.

Quality management systems…really exciting stuff, I know.  Typically, poorly understood and unpopular subjects with fast-moving entrepreneurs, they are usually thought to be blockades to market entry or hoops you need to jump through.   Unfortunately, these systems are also necessary evils in the world of medical device manufacturing and supply, and sometimes just good business practice.

Okay, so what is a quality management system?  According to the definition, “A quality management system (QMS) is a collection of business processes focused on consistently meeting customer requirements and enhancing their satisfaction.”  Simplified, it’s making sure what you make meets your client’s needs and keeps them happy.  Seems simple enough, right?  But mention FDA inspections, audits, and potential jail time for the owner or principals of a company, and people get nervous.

I’ve been in the medical device manufacturing and supply industry my entire career and have found that many people really struggle with quality management systems and implementation.  I think it may be out of fear of doing the wrong thing, but this stuff is pretty straightforward and can even be easy. And you should never fear the audit or the inspection…although jail time is a different story!

Really, the key to implementing a QMS is understanding your needs in the scope of your business model and how it’s most easily conveyed to your employees.  If I were manufacturing a pen, for instance, a couple of bins of parts in front of a worker with a diagram of how those parts fit together may be enough.  Machining a small, highly specific part with multiple pieces, like a stent, however, requires a more thorough document describing the nuances of the process; a simple diagram may not be so appropriate.

For medical device manufacturers or supply companies, there are generally two guidelines for your QMS: FDA 21 CFR part 820 and ISO 13485 (google the acronyms for a good time).  Both FDA and ISO 13485 give an outline of what you, as a medical device manufacturer, need in your QMS.  That said, the FDA regulations and ISO standards are open to interpretation as to how they apply to your company and process.

Basically, you need to have control over how you manufacture, starting with raw materials all the way through your product labeling for your customer. You also need to troubleshoot issues and prevent bad products from reaching the market (doesn’t everyone?). Not a wholly unreasonable proposition.

For a raw material supplier, for which I have worked for two (one supplying highly technical raw materials, one supplying a commodity type product), the ISO standard is for you.  Unfortunately, there is another caveat depending on your business model.  Certainly, the FDA regulations are not your concern, but supplying parts is different from manufacturing a final device.

On the one hand, if you specifically want to target device manufacturers, complying with the 13485 standards is a great selling point / marketing tool.  It can make it easier for certain companies to use you as a supplier as well, and any chance to remove a blockade to sales is just good business sense.  It is also expensive to set up and maintain, which can lead to premium pricing for your products.

Conversely, if you are making a more commoditized product, ISO 9001’s general QMS standards for manufacturing (think making refrigerators, paint, HVAC systems, pens, etc.) are enough.  Even a manufacturer of a medical device wants to go to the lowest bidder.  Although your product was never intended for use in a device, the device manufacturer has to control their supply; the onus is on them, not you.   ISO 9001 is also cheaper and easier to maintain, allowing you to stay competitive with price.

In order to manufacture, market, and sell a final medical device, whether a tongue depressor, hip replacement, or blood test, you need to establish a QMS that meets all of the regulations defined in 21 CFR part 820.  There’s no getting around this one; the FDA has to be involved if you want to be a device manufacturer.

To determine your path, just evaluate your overall business model.  Solicit the opinions of your potential customers, but always do what’s best for your company’s particular situation. It’s not one size fits all when it comes to a QMS, and it’s a complicated business.
If you need an outside opinion, shoot me an email. I’d be happy to help.

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interns

To Pay Or Not To Pay: The Internship Conundrum

Monica Lewinsky.  Darren, from Seinfeld.  That strange, quiet kid in the cubicle next to you all summer whose name you do not know and whose purpose you’re really not sure of.  Interns, some famous, some infamous, some nameless, can potentially cause significant problems for an employer.  Given that it is almost intern season, employers should […]

Monica Lewinsky.  Darren, from Seinfeld.  That strange, quiet kid in the cubicle next to you all summer whose name you do not know and whose purpose you’re really not sure of.  Interns, some famous, some infamous, some nameless, can potentially cause significant problems for an employer.  Given that it is almost intern season, employers should be mindful of some of the legal issues presented when they decide to hire an intern.

The initial issue faced by employers is whether the internship will be paid or unpaid.  As a general matter, under both state and federal law all individuals who perform work for a company are considered “employees” and must be paid at least minimum wage unless they fall within certain exceptions.  The exceptions include not only the independent contractor exception, which is the one most employers use and recognize but a specific exception for “unpaid interns.”  Accordingly, if an employer establishes an internship in accordance with specific requirements, it can be considered unpaid under the law.

While this sounds like a good idea for employers (FREE LABOR!) the hurdles an employer must overcome in order to establish an unpaid internship are significant.  As an initial matter, the primary beneficiary of the internship must be the intern.  This means that an employer cannot have an unpaid intern who merely answers phones, files documents, and gets the boss coffee.  Additionally, for the internship to be unpaid, it should be tied to a formal education program, the intern should not displace regular employees, there should be no guarantee of employment subsequent to the internship, and there should be an understanding (preferably in writing) with regard to compensation or the lack thereof.

In the event that an employer is able to meet all of the foregoing requirements, the internship can be unpaid.  Unfortunately for an employer, however, pay is not the only issue it will be presented with when hiring an intern for the summer.

As with all its other employees, paid interns are generally covered under both federal and state statutes which provide protections for individuals to be free from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  Accordingly, an employer would be potentially liable for claims of harassment or discrimination brought by a paid intern which arose out of the internship.

Unpaid interns, however, were previously left out in the cold with regard to such protections.  In this regard, anti-discrimination statutes only protect “employees.”  Because unpaid interns are not generally considered employees under state or federal law, they have not traditionally been afforded any protections with respect to harassment and discrimination.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, several states have recently passed laws which provide protections to unpaid internships.  Pennsylvania, however, is not one of those states.  Nevertheless, this does not mean that employers are free to harass and discriminate against unpaid interns.  Courts have afforded unpaid interns protections under anti-discrimination statutes if they have received nonfinancial benefits that create or relate to career opportunities, such as free training and educational opportunities.  Given that most internships would provide free training or an educational opportunity, a Pennsylvania court may find that an unpaid intern is covered under the anti-discrimination statutes and, in turn, that an employer is subject to liability.

As such, whether an intern is paid or unpaid, employers must take all claims of harassment or discrimination seriously and conduct a thorough investigation.  A defense consisting of “I didn’t think they were protected, so I didn’t care” is unlikely to hold much weight with a court.

Finally, depending on the internship, an intern may be afforded access to an employer’s confidential or proprietary information.  Employers should not merely hope that an intern keeps such information a “secret” and does not discuss the information with his or her roommate over a game of beer pong.  Employers should take affirmative steps to protect any confidential or proprietary information which will be provided to an intern during the internship.

In this regard, employers should have interns execute non-disclosure agreements prior to the commencement of the internship.  The nondisclosure agreement will prohibit an intern from disclosing an organization’s confidential information to third parties both during the internship and after termination. Provided the nondisclosure agreement is not overbroad and is discussed with the intern prior to execution, a court will likely find such an agreement enforceable.

Employers are always tempted to hire interns during the summer.  Employers should be mindful that there is potential liability hiding around every “friend’s sister who needs an internship and says don’t worry, I’ll work for free.”  While not every internship ends in a Presidential impeachment, it can end it costly litigation for an employer.

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pets

Planning For Your Pets: Pennsylvania’s Stance on Pets and the Resultant Impact on Estate Planning

People often refer to pets as members of the family.  I am known to do this myself.  If my mom hints about grandchildren, I remind her that she has the sweetest, goofiest, most adorable granddog on earth.  However, Pennsylvania courts, like my mother, do not agree that my dog, Mimo, should be given the same […]

People often refer to pets as members of the family.  I am known to do this myself.  If my mom hints about grandchildren, I remind her that she has the sweetest, goofiest, most adorable granddog on earth.  However, Pennsylvania courts, like my mother, do not agree that my dog, Mimo, should be given the same treatment as a grandchild, no matter how much I love him.  Under Pennsylvania law, pets are considered property.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania Superior Court decided the case of DeSanctis v. Pritchard.  Following their separation, DeSanctis and Pritchard made an agreement, granting DeSanctis the right to visit their dog, Barney, the second weekend of each month.  This arrangement worked well until Pritchard moved and DeSanctis could no longer see Barney.  DeSanctis filed suit claiming breach of the agreement.  The decision that followed created what is now known as the “Barney Rule.”  Under this rule, Pennsylvania courts refuse to enforce custodial visitation or shared custody of pets. Instead, they consider pets to be personal property.

The Barney Rule not only affects divorce decrees, as in DeSanctis v. Pritchard but also estate plans. Unlike other personal property in your estates, like jewelry and furniture, if your pets outlive you, they will need food, shelter, and care.  Although you cannot leave money directly to your pets, you can make sure your pets will be well cared for, and you can do so in a number of ways.

A pet can be left to someone named in a will, just as personal property is bequeathed.  Those who select this method of caring for a pet posthumously, often also leave the beneficiary a sum of money in recognition of the costs that go along with pet ownership.   One drawback of using a will to provide for a pet is that a will must be probated.  Having a will can create a lapse between the testator’s death and the transfer of “property,” in this case, the pet.  Further, a will cannot create binding instructions for the care of the pet and cannot be enforced if you are still living, but unable to continue to care for your pet.
A pet trust solves these shortcomings and can be executed in one of two ways.  A testamentary trust creates a pet trust as part of a will, meaning the pet trust does not go into effect until the death of the testator.  An inter vivos trust, on the other hand, creates a pet trust that takes effect upon the grantor’s incapacity or inability to care for the pet, for example, upon admittance to a nursing home.  The force and effect of the pet trust will continue until the death of the pet for which it was created.  As with any trust, the pet trust must be funded and a trustee named.

A pet protection agreement is similar to a pet trust but without the need for an attorney.  Like a pet trust, the protection agreement can be enforced during the life of the owner and after his death.  Unlike a pet trust, a pet protection agreement does not require funds to be created.

For those who do not have friends or family willing or able to take responsibility for a pet upon their death or incapacity, the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) has developed the Guardian Surrender Program.  This program requires a copy of estate planning documentation evidencing a minimum bequest of $2,500.00 per pet to the PSPCA.  Upon the owner’s death, the PSPCA will then try to find a new home that meets the needs of the pet.

Despite Pennsylvania’s seemingly harsh stance on pets as personal property, these are four ways that you can ensure that your pets will continue to be well cared for and loved when you are no longer able to look after them.

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Cigar Reviews: Spring 2017

Torano Exodus Robusto Honduras   5.0 x 54   Medium 92-Rated Torano. No stranger to unique blends, has whipped up something special with this new Exodus. Complexity is an understatement, as this 54-ring Robusto dishes out layers of chewy flavors with each puff. Tobaccos from five countries were utilized, and smoothly combine beneath a dark and […]

Torano

Torano Exodus Robusto

Honduras   5.0 x 54   Medium

92-Rated

Torano. No stranger to unique blends, has whipped up something special with this new Exodus. Complexity is an understatement, as this 54-ring Robusto dishes out layers of chewy flavors with each puff. Tobaccos from five countries were utilized, and smoothly combine beneath a dark and toothy Honduran wrapper. Oak, earth, leather, sweet spices, cedar…and so much more. All delivered gracefully throughout the medium-bodied bouquet. Cuban-esque from head to toe, this pretty handmade delivers.

Aging-Room

Aging Room Small Batch Fortissimo M20

Dominican Republic    5.75” x 47   Full

92-Rated

I love this size. A little salomon-shaped figurado, softly box-pressed and finished with a pigtail cap. A Mexican wrapper from the famed San Andres wrapper glistening with oils. A powerful blend of Dominican long-leaf ligeros inside a feisty Dominican binder. Upon lighting, you know this cigar has spent some time in the aging rooms. The palate is instantly greeted with creamy notes of cedar and toast. Every few puffs a peppery blast reminds me of the ligero within. So smooth, so creamy, and the burn is gradual, enabling me to savor every little nuance.

Oliva-Melanio

Oliva Serie ‘V’ Melanio Torpedo

Nicaragua   6.5” x 52   Medium-Full

95-Rated

Chocolate bar. You’ll agree once you grab a Melanio for yourself. The pre-light aroma ignites visions of a warm loaf of bread. The initial light offers a blast of black pepper, but quickly tames to showcase a wide range of rich flavors. Leather, coffee and cream first, then cedar, cocoa, and toast upon reaching the midway point. Towards the end, the pepper returns to deliver a robust finale that’s downright delicious and exceedingly satisfying, despite surprising. Get ready for a treat, my friend.

Nat-Sherman

Nat Sherman Timeless Nicaraguan 749

Nicaragua   7.0” x 49   Medium

91-Rated

Dark and toothy, this Churchill is solid from head to toe. Comprised entirely of aged Nicaraguan tobaccos, Timeless is a departure from the Nat Sherman you may know. Dense nuances blanket the taste buds throughout the burn. Notes of cocoa and cedar are prominent, while a lingering hint of dried fruit sits long after the exhale. The bouquet is mellow yet sophisticated, gradually evolving into a creamy core of coffee and earth tones. Expect big flavor delivered elegantly, and a slow-burning experience made complete by a fancy white ash.

Alec-Bradley

Alec Bradley Tempus Quadrum

Honduras   5.5” x 55   Full

94-Rated

For this review, I burned four of them. Not because I needed to, but because I love them. So yes, the Tempus Quadrum earns an easy ’94,’ and is something you can burn one after the other. You can stop reading here and go find one, or you can stay, and I’ll tell you about the robust notes of rich flavors this box-pressed beauty emits. Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers mingle inside a Habano wrapper to deliver gobs of richness, including oak, cedar, nuts, coffee, and sweet pepper. The burn is slow and true, and the profile grows stronger with each smoke-filled puff. Enjoy!

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workers-comp

When the FMLA, ADA and Workers’ Compensation Law Intersect

The interaction of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and workers’ compensation laws is notoriously complex.  The best way to handle the interaction of these laws is to know when each law is implicated and exactly what each law requires.  Once an employer understands when each of these laws […]

The interaction of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and workers’ compensation laws is notoriously complex.  The best way to handle the interaction of these laws is to know when each law is implicated and exactly what each law requires.  Once an employer understands when each of these laws applies and what they require, it will be simpler to navigate their interaction.

Step 1: Determine Which Laws Apply.

The first step is to determine which laws apply.  To be subject to the FMLA, an employer must have at least 50 employees, within 75 miles.  If an employer has fewer than 50 employees, it does not need to concern itself with the requirements of the FMLA.  However, if an employer operates in a state that has a family and medical leave law, it must check whether the state law has a lower coverage threshold.  To be subject to the ADA, an employer must have at least 15 employees.  A smaller company should check whether a disability-related state law has a lower coverage threshold.  Workers’ compensation laws can apply to businesses with as few as one employee.  Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, so it is important for an employer to know what its state requires.

Step 2: Determine What Each Law Requires.

After determining which laws may apply, another step that is helpful in navigating the intersection is to master the basic leave rights employees hold under each law.

FMLA. The FMLA provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee’s own or a family member’s serious health condition, for the birth or adoption of a child, and military exigencies. The law also provides 26 weeks of military caregiver leave. An employer must return an employee to the same or an equivalent position (with some exceptions). Leave may be taken in one block, intermittently or on a reduced schedule. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for 12 months for an employer and work at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months.

ADA. The ADA prevents employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants because they are a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA does not explicitly provide leave rights. The ADA requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee or prospective employee with a disability, and leave may be considered a reasonable accommodation. A disability is an impairment that substantially interferes with a major life function or activity.

Workers’ Compensation.  Workers’ compensation laws generally do not provide job-protected leave.

Step 3: Analyze Each Situation Systematically.

Once an employer determines that it is subject to any of the above laws and understands what the purpose of each law is and what they provide, the employer can then apply that knowledge to the situation it may be facing.  When evaluating the unique facts and circumstances of a situation, an employer should follow these basic rules:

  1. Assess the situation under each law separately — It does not matter which law is applied first, but each law must be applied separately to determine the outcome under that statute.
  2. The law that provides the most benefit to the employee trumps — In some situations, one of the laws may dictate that an employer has no obligation to an employee, while another law may require a significant obligation.  As a general rule, the law that is most favorable to the employee must be followed.
  3. Re-evaluate the situation under each law when new information regarding the employee’s condition is received, or a deadline passes under one of the laws — This task requires excellent coordination.  Supervisors are usually the first to receive new information on an employee’s condition, while the office of human resources typically monitors deadlines under laws such as the FMLA.

Conclusion

While navigating through the intersection of the FMLA, ADA, and workers’ compensation laws may seem challenging at first, when approached and analyzed in a systematic way, resolution of the legal issues becomes more manageable.  A separate analysis of each law’s requirements under each situation will help avoid violations of the laws and, ultimately, potentially expensive and disruptive litigation.

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amalfi

Summer on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility. A […]

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility.

A UNESCO world heritage site, this road is nestled between walls of rock on one side and the sparkling blue sea on the other.   Full of white-knuckle hairpin bends, sharp curves, and cliffs jutting 650 meters above the azure blue sea for centuries it was a mule path and today the width is still the same. This coastal road connects the famous and other less known fishing villages that locals considered to be more like neighborhoods than separate towns.  You can have breakfast in Ravello, lunch in Amalfi and dinner in Positano on the same day, yet this area is best to appreciate at a slow pace.

It’s easy to unwind here. The constant soft breezes scented with lemon blossoms, and a vast array of Mediterranean flowers all mingled with the salty sea; the brilliant colors of the Majolica domes, bright pink and fuchsia bougainvillea climbing against whitewashed houses, and the expanse of a shimmering sea, all under the warming yellow rays of the sun is pure bliss.

The Amalfi Coast is not for those with walking difficulties. The villages are built on a vertical terrain. It’s common to take 500 to 1,000 steps to reach a restaurant, hotel, or villa but you are always rewarded with breathtaking views. Let’s not forget the food – buffalo mozzarella made that very day from farms outside of Paestum, the birthplace of limoncello made from the Sfusato lemons found only in this area, and guarantees that the fish you had for lunch was swimming in the sea that morning.  There are surprisingly good wines from the surrounding vineyards of Ravello and owners welcome you to visit.   Don’t forget Naples, where they say pizza was created, and you can find a handful of small pizzerias in the Old Town center that make claim to this invention.  It’s worth a trip to Old Town where you are also witness to the authentic life of the Neapolitan’s day, and the person next to you lives nearby.

Besides the three well-known villages of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, there are 10 other fishing villages that are delightful to visit – each one offering something special in addition to great restaurants, good shopping and many with beaches or quiet coves ideal for a mid-day break.   Take the hydrofoil to Capri or Ischia for the day, rent a boat with captain and have lunch at a restaurant reached only from the water followed by a swim off the boat in a small empty cove.  Visit the ruins of the Greek city of Paestum and afterward visit a buffalo farm to see how buffalo mozzarella is made, stay for lunch.   Visit the Palace in Caserta before heading inland to the small town of Caiazzo, for truly the finest pizza you will ever eat.

Patrice Salezze was co-owner of Appennino Ristorante and now Papavero Villa Rentals, offering a portfolio of villas throughout Italy.  For our list of favorite restaurants on the Amalfi Coast, please call her at 610 224 1004 or email her at patrice@PapaveroRentals.com

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those people

How Can you Defend Those People?

I represent some bad people. It is what I do for a living. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong; I also serve good people, decent individuals who have made mistakes, who suffer from addiction, who have lashed out in anger or frustration. But the best part of my job involves the worst part […]

I represent some bad people. It is what I do for a living. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong; I also serve good people, decent individuals who have made mistakes, who suffer from addiction, who have lashed out in anger or frustration. But the best part of my job involves the worst part of our society. I have been counsel to violent criminals: burglars, drug dealers, rapists, and several murderers. I am often asked, “How can you defend these people?”

The answer illustrates one of the fundamental principles of our system and our nation. A system in which the government is restrained by its citizens.

The first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution are remarkable in that they were drafted as restrictions on government action. Strictly speaking, the Bill of Rights does not grant you anything. It was intended to shackle the government, to prohibit the government from interfering with rights naturally possessed by all.

For example, the First Amendment does not grant you the right to free speech or the freedom to practice your religion. It prohibits the government from interfering with these freedoms that all Americans have as their birthright.

Imagine if the right to an attorney and the right to challenge the government could be taken away from a citizen, based only on the seriousness of the allegations the government made against him.  How quickly would the government learn to lodge the most grievous charges against the most vulnerable among us?  The worst crimes imaginable do not deprive a person of their rights in our system of justice. The most reprehensible criminal is not stripped of his rights. Those rights are ensured to each of us precisely because they are guaranteed to all of us.

When the government tries to (or does) curtail, eliminate, or restrict your rights, there are checks and balances designed to push back against government action. The most effective of these controls on the government’s abuse is a private citizen with training in the law and a willingness to use that training to confront the government. When the government puts an unfair thumb on the scales of justice, a good attorney will not hesitate to put her thumb in the government’s eye. Our system allows this, even encourages it, because of the fear of that poke in the eye, the fear of the resistance of citizens, works to keep the government honest… for the most part.

If this ability to confront the government were eliminated, the government would run unchecked in any direction a leader might choose. History is filled with horrible examples of just this phenomenon. The rights you take for granted today would be eroded over time or simply erased overnight.

Part of what makes this system work is our judiciary; it allows and encourages challenges to the government. If and when they do their job faithfully, Judges assist in reigning in the worst excesses of government. But the real work is done by those lawyers who represent the worst offenders. Protecting against a systemic abandonment of the rights of the worst criminals guarantees the continued existence of a system that holds the government accountable every day.

So, before you enter your anonymous online comments, calling a criminal defense attorney a lowlife, degenerate, pond scum, idiot, poncy twit, or worse… Take a minute to reflect on what the government might do to you and your loved ones if there was no one to push back, no one to question an injustice, and no one to poke a thumb in the government’s eye when necessary.

You enjoy the rights that are fought for in our courts by our criminal defense attorneys. You live under the best system ever devised for balancing individual liberty with the best interest of the community. You prosper because citizens can, and do, challenge the government and force it to be more just. This system did not develop by chance. Our Founding Fathers intentionally created it, and it is fostered by those who understand their original intent.  The job of a criminal defense attorney is vital to our system of justice. So, when you ask me how I can defend those people, you are really asking me how I can protect you and your rights; how I can defend our system of justice. That is a question that should not need to be answered.

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wines

Wines of the Rhône Valley

With its location in the sunny south of France and beautiful Mediterranean climate, the Rhône region is well situated to producing wines that range from some of the best values anywhere in the world of wine to some of the most sought after and expensive classics. The region spans from Vienne, just south of Lyon, […]

With its location in the sunny south of France and beautiful Mediterranean climate, the Rhône region is well situated to producing wines that range from some of the best values anywhere in the world of wine to some of the most sought after and expensive classics.

The region spans from Vienne, just south of Lyon, for about 200 kilometers south to Avignon, sprawling along the banks of the valley created by the Rhône River. It is composed of two main sectors: the Septentrionale (Northern Rhône) and the Meridional (Southern Rhône), and each of these is broken down into smaller sub-appellations. The South is by far the larger in terms of production, with the North accounting for less than 5% of total Rhône wine production, and overall the Rhône is the second largest wine region in France after Bordeaux.

The north and the south are markedly different from each other in terms of climate, terroir, grapes grown, and wine styles. The Northern Rhône lies at a point where the Mediterranean and continental climate influences converge and is cooler overall. The south is full-on Mediterranean – sunny, dry and warm. The topography is different too, and the north’s vineyards often cling to the steep, rocky, terraced slopes along the narrow river valley. In the south the hills are more rolling, the valley wider. The mix of grapes changes as well, and in the north Syrah is the primary grape for the reds, and Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne for the whites.  In the warmer south, Grenache is the workhorse for the Reds, with a host of supporting varieties collectively known as Rhône varietals including Syrah, Mourvèdre and more blended in. The white can be made from a wide range of grapes including Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Roussanne and more
The Côtes du Rhône AOC makes up about half the region’s production, the vast majority of which are red although some very good rosé and white wines are made as well. The reds are primarily made from Grenache and Syrah, although a host of grapes is permitted including Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Carignane. They are typically light to medium bodied, fruity with red fruits and spice, versatile, easy to drink and food friendly and generally a great value.

As the wines move up the quality pyramid, the rules and regulations on growing and production become more strict, with lower grape yields allowed and higher minimum alcohol (a measurement of grape sugar levels and ripeness). Next, come the Côtes du Rhône-Villages, similar wines to the above, but from vineyards deemed to have superior conditions and the ability to produce higher quality wines. Also, there are about 20 villages, such as Séguret, that are allowed to be labeled with the name of the village. Many are scenic medieval hill towns with vineyards located on the sloping hills surrounding them, producing reasonably priced wines that are a step up in quality, body, and age-worthiness.

The next step up are the individual Appellations, subregions that produced unique wines based on their specific soils, climate and grape varieties. There are 11 in the south, the most famous of which is Châteauneuf du Pape, made from up to 13 grape varieties that include five white grapes. Grenache makes up the majority of the blend, and most focus on two or three grapes that include Mourvèdre, Syrah in the blends. Grown in soils deposited by the meandering Rhône river over millions of years, they are hearty, full-bodied wines that embody the warm sunny region where they are born. The best can age for several decades, and top cuvees from the best producers can run into the $200-300 range. There is also a small production of Chåteauneuf du Pape Blanc produced, a blend of grapes that can include Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Roussanne and more.

Gigondas is another well respected AC in the south, located in the hills of the eastern edge of the region near the jagged peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Similar to Chåteaunuef in grapes composition, it is a perhaps a slightly more rugged, rustic variation on the theme that typically sells for less money, and the top producers are well worth seeking out.

The eight northern appellations are located on both banks of the Rhône. On the western steeply terraced side of the river is Côte Rôtie, producing solid, age-worthy wines such as Guigal’s super expensive La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque that can start at about $300. Hermitage lies on the right side of the river with world renowned Jean-Louis Chave making one of the most sought after red wines in the world in the steep granite soils of the massive hill above the town of Tain l’Hermitage. His white Hermitage made from Roussanne and Marsanne grapes is equally if not more sought after, and both will set you back hundreds of dollars – if you can find them.

Condrieu and Chåteau Grillet are white wine only appellations on the west bank just south of Côte Rôtie, producing lovely perfumed and aromatic wine from the Viognier grape grown in steep terraced vineyards. Cornas, Saint Joseph on the left bank and Crozes Hermitage on the right are regions that were somewhat sleepy and overlooked but have now come into the spotlight for their exceptional Syrah based reds, as well as a much smaller production of white. They have been traditionally less expensive, but top cuvees from the hottest producers (Voge, Clape, Vincent Paris to name a few) are becoming more costly and very difficult to source.

The wines of the Côtes du Rhône are generally incredibly versatile, food friendly, and for the most part extremely affordable. With a couple of great vintages in the cellar, especially the stunning 2015’s, it is an excellent time to explore the amazing variety of wines from one of the world’s top wines regions –  from everyday affordable to some of the world’s top classics for the cellar – Cheers!

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island

Fantasy Island for the 21st Century

Secretly sitting in the shadows of Bora Bora’s famed great Otemanu mountain, lies a secluded private island in French Polynesia where the 5 star Le Taha’a Resort calls home.  Luxury travelers often flock to the neighboring Bora Bora isle; however, those searching for a rare paradise can take a short 10-minute flight from Bora Bora […]

Secretly sitting in the shadows of Bora Bora’s famed great Otemanu mountain, lies a secluded private island in French Polynesia where the 5 star Le Taha’a Resort calls home.  Luxury travelers often flock to the neighboring Bora Bora isle; however, those searching for a rare paradise can take a short 10-minute flight from Bora Bora to the island of Raiatea where you are escorted by a boat transfer to the private island of Le Taha’a.  The 40-minute boat transfer skirts past crystal clear Tahitian water where every scene is like a postcard.
As you approach Le Taha’a, you can see a greeting party on the dock waiting for you as if you were arriving on “Fantasy Island” itself.  As you arrive, you are given a flower lei, fruity coconut filled drink, and you are brought directly to your villa.  At Le Taha’a, over the water Bungalows flank the coastline and luxurious beach bungalows are scattered under the palm trees.  This resort’s privacy affords guests like Carrie Underwood, Goldie Hawn, and Tom Cruise the ability to relax and still experience all aspects and amenities that a top resort can offer.

Crowned as a Relais Chateaux resort, Le Taha’a follows the strict criteria needed to be dubbed by this elite brand.  Relais Chateaux hotels must adhere to their 5 “C” principals – charm, culture (or character), cuisine, courtesy, and calm.

In order to brand themselves Relais Chateaux, the architects took great pride in making sure all the fixtures, furniture, and structures were constructed using only materials found in the French Polynesian chain so that they could fulfill the Culture/Character guideline.  Even the toiletries feature Manoy oil and vanilla (a product of Tahiti).

The open-air lobby is designed to replicate the Tahitian Outrigger canoe, and the curves of the sails billow in the wind.  Beyond the lobby is what can only be described as a (modern) Swiss Family Robinson-like tree house, where the steps lead to a fabulous bar in which the 18-foot bar counter top is carved from wood and high among the tree tops are two of Le Taha’a’s three restaurants.

Maintaining the criteria for exceptional dining and cuisine, the chefs have created award winning dishes that can delight even the pickiest palate.  Le Taha’a consistently wins cooking competitions held annually in Tahiti and signature meals are highlighted by the menu and friendly wait staff.

The resort manager, Christine Chevalaz, proudly describes how traditions of the islands intertwine with the daily event schedule.  To bring the island’s culture to guests; canoes, snorkeling equipment and daily transfers to the main island are provided complimentary.

Every over the water bungalow includes sets of masks, and fins allowing guests to jump into the water and explore the lagoon right from their balcony.  The Thatched roof styles of the bungalows may appear rustic but don’t let the local styling fool you.  Inside every bungalow, guests are provided with plasma TVs, Bose stereos, Sense coffee makers, a mini bar, robes, slippers, Wi-Fi and priceless picture perfect views of the sunset.  Several glass covered “peek-a-boo” windows can be found inside the bungalows which display the exotic fish below and can be opened so that feeding the fish becomes a daily highlight. The shower features rocks and shells along the walls to thoroughly embody nature even among these extravagant surroundings.

The “charm” of this resort is highlighted in all the little touches, such as shell shaped lights that illuminate the walking paths at night and the carved wood directional signs that blend in among the natural setting.  Le Taha’a also has a signature spa which emphasizes “calm” and incorporates Tahitian stones, oils, and the surroundings.   Le Taha’a’s spa menu even features a “welcome” massage, which provides weary travelers with 80 minutes of authentic Tahitian therapy and the opportunity to enjoy their unique open air facilities.  Guests can also partake in the resorts facilities that include a sand volleyball court, use of their kayaks, canoes and grass tennis courts.  Additional unique experiences include cooking classes, Tahitian dance classes, snorkeling tours and full PADI dive programs.

If you still have doubts that this resort is truly a luxury 5-star property, have a peak on the other side of the island where you will find a helipad that is perfect for the jet set crowd who want to bypass the 40-minute boat transfer.  If disappearing in paradise means bringing along the whole family, Le Taha’a also has a top-notch Children’s program, and each room comes complete with children’s slippers and robes.  Dining for children is discounted at 50% off of regular prices and beach toys, life jackets and children’s sized snorkeling gear come complimentary.  Le Taha’a makes sure that restless adventurers do not get bored, so daily boat tours for snorkeling and fishing trips operate regularly.

However, I found a perfect hammock between two palm trees that was just the ticket to absorb the absolutely gorgeous landscape.  As the sun set on the horizon and the sounds of the calm South Pacific waters became nature’s stereo, I took a deep breath and tried to make a mental snapshot so I wouldn’t dare forget this secret spot in paradise!

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