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Blog: Opinions & Observations

Oil Spills: The Clean Water Act to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 - February 2016

February 25, 2016

by James T. Lang A tugboat overturns in a waterway adjacent to a small shipyard off of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River, near the Campostella Bridge in Norfolk, spilling an estimated 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the river. Firefighters who specialize in hazardous substance releases, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality respond to the scene. The shipyard owner/operator is criticized for his failure to notify the National...

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Protection From Day One: The Importance of Employee Handbooks - February 2016

February 22, 2016

by Jeffrey D. Wilson In my second year of law school, one of my classmates was hired for a summer position by a prominent law firm. A few days before her new job was to begin, she sheepishly approached me and asked, “What happens when I start my job?” When I asked what she meant, she replied, “On the first day, what will happen when I get to the office? Will I have a desk? Do they have office supplies? Will someone tell me what I am working on?” It was then I realized that...

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Recovery of Attorney's Fees and Costs in Virginia Civil Actions - January 2016

January 19, 2016

By Michael E. Ornoff, Esq. Litigants in civil lawsuits frequently ask if they will recover their attorney’s fees and costs if they win a civil suit which they initiate or which has been brought against them. Where they are recoverable, potential liability for such fees and costs can become a consideration as important as the amount of the underlying claim in balancing the risks versus benefits in initiating the action and in assessing whether to settle a case or take it to...

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Teaming Agreements in Virginia: Are They Enforceable? - January 2016

January 12, 2016

By Jack Rephan Teaming agreements are widely used in Virginia and elsewhere by prime contractors and subcontractors who regularly deal with federal, state and local governments for the provision of services, construction and other things to meet the needs of these public bodies. Therefore, it is essential that prime contractors and subcontractors are aware of Virginia legal statutes regarding the enforceability of teaming agreements and understand many of the Virginia courts...

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Property Settlement Agreements: Balancing the Special Fiduciary Relationship Between Spouses and “Fairness” - December 2015

December 01, 2015

by Naveed Kalantar When dealing with a property settlement agreement between spouses going through a separation or divorce, it is easy to assume, like many contracts, that when the agreement is signed, it’s a “done deal.” However, Virginia courts have addressed numerous instances in which one party has claimed their spouse committed fraud to induce them into signing an agreement or that the agreement was “unconscionable.” This is only one of many reasons we advise our...

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Divorce: Are Assets with No Value Subject to Equitable Distribution? - November 2015

November 11, 2015

by Patrick L. Maurer In Virginia, courts divide marital assets between parties (Code Ann. § 20–107.3, Michie, 2012) after analyzing evidence to determine whether the property is separate, marital or a hybrid of the two. In most cases, this is easily determinable. The court then ascertains the value of the assets, which in many cases can be stipulated by the parties. If not, they are offered into evidence, often resulting in disagreements between the representatives of each...

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Environmental Law and the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act: Where Local Knowledge is a “Must” - October 2015

October 07, 2015

by James T. Lang Living on the water provides beautiful vistas, opportunities for boating and fishing and other amenities, all of which come with a (sometimes hidden) cost because the waterfront is subject to a complicated web of environmental laws and regulations. Among these, the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (found at Virginia code §§ 62.1-44.15:67 to 62.1-44.15:79) is unique in that it is a creature of local government, with minimal state oversight, and no federal role...

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How Citizens' Environmental Lawsuits Can Stop Pollution - September 2015

September 24, 2015

by James T. Lang The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) have primary responsibility for enforcing the environmental laws and regulations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are times, however, when the EPA or the DEQ are unwilling or unable to take action against a polluter who is contaminating water, air or land in violation of environmental law. Sometimes the government fails to act because the...

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Eminent Domain: From Biblical Times to the Present - September 2015

September 22, 2015

by D. Rossen S. Greene I: A Brief History of Eminent Domain: A French jurist of the early 19th century, Merlin de Douai, claimed that the earliest known reference to the use of eminent domain is in the Old Testament in the Book of Kings, which describes the acquisition of Naboth’s vineyard by King Ahab: “And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better...

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As Coastal Migration Continues, Waterfront Property Owners Encounter Complicated and Costly Environmental Regulations - September 2015

September 15, 2015

by James T. Lang Waterfront property owners in Hampton Roads are privileged to enjoy the ambiance and a fantastic view, in addition to a highly valuable set of riparian property rights.[1] These benefits however come at a cost. Waterfront owners must be prepared to carry the expense of operating their properties in compliance with a multi-faceted and complicated web of federal, state and local legal environmental requirements designed for and specifically applicable to...

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