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  • Jun 18, 2021Norris McLaughlin Welcomes New Associates to the Firm

    The law firm of Norris McLaughlin, P.A., is pleased to welcome Anthony M. Brichta to its Allentown, Pennsylvania office and John V. Kelly III to the Bridgewater, New Jersey office.

    “We are thrilled to be adding more young talent to our already established practice groups and offices. Our goal is to continue our growth plans, providing the firm a great succession plan to secure our future,” said David C. Roberts, Chair of the firm and Co-Chair of its Recruiting Committee.

    About Anthony Brichta

    Brichta concentrates his practice on commercial litigation, corporate matters, and liquor law. He has joined the firm’s expansive Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Industry Group and brings his wide-ranging experience to its alcohol manufacturing and distribution clients.

    In addition, Brichta has handled a broad range of civil litigation matters for private and municipal clients. He has extensive experience in creditors’ rights, municipal litigation, tax assessment and tax claim litigation, appellate practice, insurance defense and coverage, plaintiffs’ litigation, commercial disputes, bankruptcy, and juvenile dependency matters.

    A resident and native of the Lehigh Valley, Brichta is co-founder and CEO of a start-up craft distillery in Allentown and Easton. He has volunteered for an income tax clinic relief program in New Orleans and taught the Junior Achievement Program at Brooklyn High School. Brichta was selected for inclusion in the 2019, 2020, and 2021 “Rising Stars” lists in Philadelphia Magazine by Super Lawyers®.

    Brichta received his J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 2008, where he participated in the mock trial and trial practice programs. He was also a member of the university’s wrongful convictions clinical program and assistant editor of its national political science journal, Political Communication. From Lehigh University, Brichta received his M.A. in 2005 and his B.A., summa cum laude, in 2004.

    About John Kelly

    Kelly, who is joining the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group, focuses his practice exclusively on labor and employment law. He advises clients on various local, state, and federal labor and employment laws.

    Additionally, Kelly handles litigation matters from pleading through appeal, including discrimination and sexual harassment suits, workplace investigations, and wage and hour compliance, and employer investigations. He drafts employer and employee policies, handbooks, and contracts, and negotiates vendor contracts and agreements.

    Prior to joining the firm, Kelly was a clerk for the New Jersey Superior Court, Hudson County Vicinage Law Division in Jersey City for the Hon. Christine Farrington, J.S.C. He is an Army Veteran and JAG Officer in the New Jersey Army National Guard. In 2020, Kelly was elected to the Nutley Board of Commissioners, where he serves as Commissioner and Director of Nutley’s Public Affairs and Health Department.

    Kelly earned his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2012, where he was a member of the Legislative Law Journal and recipient of the Del Tufo Constitutional Law Award; and his B.S., cum laude, from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007.

    Posted in: Anthony M. Brichta, Business Law, John V. Kelly III, Labor & Employment, Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing and Distribution, Litigation, News, Real Estate & Finance | Tags: , , , , , ,

  • Jun 04, 2021Norris McLaughlin Hires New Attorneys to Expand Pennsylvania Litigation Practice

    The law firm of Norris McLaughlin, P.A., is pleased to welcome Thomas H. Dinkelacker, Rebecca J. Grausam-Charamella, and Andrew J. Shaw as Members of the firm. In addition, William R. Murphy III joins the firm as an Associate and Rocco Beltrami as a Summer Associate.

    “We are excited to be growing in a way where we are continuously adding exceptional talent to our roster of great attorneys here at Norris McLaughlin,” said the Honorable Emil Giordano (Ret.), a Member of the firm and Co-Chair of its Litigation Practice Group.

    Theodore J. Zeller III, Administrative Partner of the firm’s Pennsylvania office and Chair of the Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Industry Group, also commented, “We’re proud to include these like-minded professionals as the newest members of our team. More great things to come.”

    About the New Attorneys at Norris McLaughlin

    Tom Dinkelacker

    Dinkelacker concentrates his practice in the areas of municipal, land use, and real estate law, serving as the solicitor for several municipalities in the Lehigh Valley and as counsel to various community groups and private entities. In addition, he serves or has served as special counsel handling land development and related land use and construction matters for both first- and second-class townships, sewer authorities, and a school district.

    For both municipal and private clients, Dinkelacker has handled the purchase, sale, and leasing of real estate; the development of brownfields, zoning, code and land development litigation; the preparation of zoning and land development ordinances; and a host of other ordinances and regulations relating to, among other things, mixed-use development, historic districts, age-restricted communities, craft beverage production facilities, sanitary sewer service and rates, and stormwater management. He provides municipal representation with respect to general government, labor, tax, environmental, and other matters.

    Dinkelacker represents municipal and private clients before zoning hearing boards, code appeal boards, governing bodies, and various Pennsylvania Courts. With 40 years of experience, including four years of criminal trial and appellate litigation, over 20 years of insurance defense and other litigation, and over 20 years of municipal representation, Dinkelacker brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and maturity to problems affecting municipalities, businesses, developers, and citizens alike. He has lectured on topics as varied as land use matters, the purchase and sale of municipal real estate, employer cell phone use policies, and medical marijuana.

    Recognizing the importance of community service, Dinkelacker is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Valley YMCA and the Board of Associates of Muhlenberg College. He also volunteers as a legal advisor to the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. After graduating from the Naval Justice School in Newport Rhode Island, he served in the United States Navy on active duty from 1981 to 1985. Dinkelacker earned his J.D. in 1981 from Dickinson School of Law and his B.A., cum laude, in 1978 from Muhlenberg College.

    Rebecca Grausam-Charamella

    Grausam-Charamella, aPHR, concentrates her practice on complex litigation matters in a wide variety of issues. She has extensive experience representing clients at jury trials, hearings, mediations, and arbitrations, managing all aspects of litigation, devising and implementing trial strategy, engaging in discovery, and conducting depositions of parties, witnesses, and experts.

    Prior to joining Norris McLaughlin, Grausam-Charamella worked as a trial attorney for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for eight years, handling the defense of third-party automobile liability lawsuits. Before State Farm, she worked in the litigation department at a mid-sized Philadelphia law firm, specializing in commercial trucking and transportation matters and coordinating emergency responses for large claim exposures. Grausam-Charamella served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Eugene J. McCaffrey, Jr., in New Jersey Superior Court – Family Division. She also served as a trained Certified Mediator for Family and Civil matters.

    In addition to her legal practice, Grausam-Charamella is very involved in the community. She is Co-Chair of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee for the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel, where she has served as Treasurer and on the Executive Board. Grausam-Charamella began as Chair of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee in 2016 and has spearheaded annual donations and volunteer events benefitting Ronald McDonald House, JEVS Human Services, Manna, and Comfort Cases for children transitioning into foster care, books for students at Thomas G. Morton School, and mock interviews for students in the Philadelphia Futures program. She also served on the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Task Force and on the Rosemont College Alumni Board of Directors. Grausam-Charamella is a past recipient of the PADC Joseph H. Foster Young Lawyer Award, which recognizes an attorney who best exemplifies professionalism and the promotion of justice in the community.

    Grausam-Charamella is a certified arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Compulsory Arbitration Program. She earned her J.D. in 2009 from Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she earned Dean’s Honor List and was a Fellow in the Rubin Public Interest Honor Society, and her B.A., summa cum laude, in 2003 from Rosemont College.

    Andrew Shaw

    Shaw concentrates his practice on commercial litigation. He has a wide range of experience through all phases of litigation in both state and federal courts and administrative agencies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, as well as in alternative dispute resolution forums.

    Shaw’s experience includes bankruptcy litigation, commercial disputes, insurance coverage counseling and litigation, insurance defense litigation, fraud litigation, criminal defense, real estate litigation, unemployment compensation, and collections. He represents individuals and closely held and public companies, including bankruptcy trustees, business owners, property owners, landlords, construction contractors, hospitality, sports, recreation and entertainment entities, and insurance companies. Shaw is well versed in federal and state Fair Debt Collections Practices Acts and has made presentations on various bankruptcy topics.

    Shaw has also handled non-litigation matters including residential real estate transactions, business formations, probate, and wills, trusts, and estates. Additionally, he was an Assistant Deputy Public Defender with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender where he represented indigent criminal defendants in indictable felony trial court matters. Shaw currently serves as a Member of the Executive Committee of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Campaign in the Lehigh Valley.

    Shaw earned his J.D. in 1998 from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he was a judicial extern for Associate Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton of the Supreme Court of Ohio and was an Associate Editor of the Ohio State Law Journal, and his B.A. in 1994 from University of Wisconsin.

    Billy Murphy

    Murphy concentrates his practice on the defense of individuals involved in civil litigation for general liability matters. Representing clients and major insurance carriers, he litigates matters from arbitration hearings to jury trials. He is experienced in complex litigation and legal principles, ranging from criminal prosecutions to personal injury matters.

    Murphy spent over five years in the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, where he honed his trial advocacy skills and developed a deep understanding of Pennsylvania laws and regulations. He was assigned to the Homicide By Vehicle, Narcotics, and Insurance Fraud Units. Murphy also worked for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in the Insurance Fraud Unit. He brings years of experience in the areas of insurance fraud investigations and motor vehicle accidents.

    Murphy earned his J.D. in 2013 from Villanova University Law School, where he was a member of the Public Interest Fellowship program, and his B.A. in 2010 from University of Pittsburgh.Top of Form

    Rocco Beltrami

    Beltrami will temporarily join the firm as an Associate for the summer to assist the attorneys in all areas of the firm’s multi-disciplinary practice. While Beltrami is a resident of the Lehigh Valley, his father is a Northampton County Judge. Beltrami was a Judicial Intern for the Honorable Edward G. Smith, United States District Court, where he drafted internal memoranda, orders deciding motions, and portions of opinions involving various criminal and civil issues.

    Beltrami is heading into his third year at Villanova School of Law with an expected graduation date of May 2022; he is a Dean’s Merit Scholar and Student Works Editor for the Villanova Law Review. Beltrami earned his B.A., summa cum laude, in 2019 from Moravian College.

    Posted in: Andrew J. Shaw, Litigation, News, Rebecca J. Grausam-Charamella, Thomas H. Dinkelacker, William R. Murphy, III | Tags: , , , ,

  • Jun 01, 2021Jeff Casaletto and Margaret Raymond-Flood Promoted to Co-Chairs of Their Norris McLaughlin Practice Groups

    Jeffrey M. Casaletto and Margaret Raymond-Flood, Members of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., have both been appointed as Co-Chairs of their respective practice groups.

    “I am grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to leading this group of talented environmental attorneys at Norris McLaughlin,” said Casaletto, who will co-chair the firm’s Environmental Law Practice Group.

    Raymond-Flood, who will co-chair the Litigation Practice Group, also commented, “I am honored that my colleagues have chosen me for this role, and I look forward to working with our many talented litigators to continue to build our department and service our clients.”

    About the Norris McLaughlin Practice Groups

    Businesses throughout the nation, and particularly in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, are subject to a web of federal, state, and local environmental and safety legislation and regulation that is constantly expanding in scope and complexity. The firm’s environmental law attorneys, who have been recognized by Chambers USA as a leader in New Jersey, provide a wide range of counseling and litigation services in this challenging area.

    The Norris McLaughlin Litigation Practice Group represents individual and business clients in a wide variety of industries and personal matters in state and federal courts in the United States and in domestic and international arbitrations. Through domestic and international legal networks, Norris McLaughlin’s geographic reach is extensive. The technical and industry-specific experience, knowledge of courts and judges, and trial and appellate experience of the firm’s litigators, combined with the strengths and skills of other practice groups, deliver the exceptional service clients expect.

    About Jeff Casaletto

    Casaletto concentrates his practice on environmental law. He represents and counsels clients in a wide range of industries, including commercial and residential developers, chemical and industrial manufacturers, and commercial business owners. He maintains a results-oriented approach to each environmental issue to achieve the client’s goals and objectives. Casaletto assists clients in resolving issues related to site remediation, due diligence, solid and hazardous waste disposal, solid waste utilities, regulatory compliance, permitting, Brownfields redevelopment, and cleanup cost recovery. He also has experience handling matters involving CERCLA, RCRA, EPCRA, and OPA. He has negotiated removal orders, EPCRA/OPA settlements, and cost recovery for removal and remedial actions.

    Prior to joining Norris McLaughlin, Casaletto was Assistant Regional Counsel and the 2002 Michael F. Vaccaro Honors Fellowship Attorney at the U.S. EPA Region III, where he focused on Superfund matters. Before that, he was a judiciary law clerk for the Honorable Vincent LeBlon and the Honorable Dennis V. Nieves in Middlesex County, New Jersey. While attending law school, he was a legal intern at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and the Environmental Defense Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division.

    Casaletto served as an elected councilman for the Borough of Stockton. During his term, he was appointed by Mayor Stephen Giocondo to the Stockton Planning Board as Council Liaison and to several committees for the community of Stockton, including finance, personnel, and water and sewer.

    Casaletto has been ranked in the Environment section by Chambers USA, one of the oldest and most prestigious legal listings in the world. He earned his J.D. from The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, formerly known as Pace Law School, cum laude, and his M. Eng. degree in Environmental Engineering and B.S. in Civil Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.

    About Margaret Raymond-Flood

    Raymond-Flood devotes her practice to general litigation with an emphasis on complex commercial matters. She appears in the federal and state courts of New Jersey, as well as the federal courts of other jurisdictions. Raymond-Flood also has considerable experience in the defense of environmental litigation. She also serves as panel counsel in a variety of professional liability claims, including legal, medical, and environmental matters.

    Raymond-Flood has extensive litigation experience, including pretrial procedure, motion practice, and taking and defending depositions of corporate representatives, employees, and expert witnesses throughout the country. She has tried complex matters on both the state and federal levels and used state-of-the-art technology as part of her trial preparation and presentation. In addition, Raymond-Flood has spoken at seminars dealing with a variety of insurance-related topics and trial presentation.

    Raymond-Flood is Chair of the firm’s Response to Electronic Discovery and Information (“REDI”) Group, an interdisciplinary team that helps clients with the identification, preservation, collection, review, and production of massive amounts of electronically stored information required by federal and state court rules. She authors and presents extensively on this topic as well.

    Raymond-Flood is a member of the Norris McLaughlin Women’s Forum Steering Committee and serves as Risk Manager for the firm. She earned her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1991 and her B.A., magna cum laude, from Seton Hall University in 1988.

    Posted in: Environmental, Jeffrey M. Casaletto, Litigation, Margaret Raymond-Flood, News | Tags: , , ,

  • May 20, 2021Nick Pellitta Speaks to Hoboken Charter School on Social Justice and Hate Crimes in New Jersey

    Nicholas F. Pellitta, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., presented “Social Justice and Hate Crimes in New Jersey” virtually to eleventh and twelfth graders at Hoboken Charter School on May 17.

    “Statistics demonstrate that Bias incidents in New Jersey, including crimes motivated by a victim’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion, increased dramatically in 2020. Unfortunately, many of these incidents took place at schools, including universities and colleges. New Jersey has been proactive in its law enforcement and other efforts to address bias among young people and anti-bias education and training for public educators remains an important part of these efforts” said Pellitta.

    Social Justice and Hate Crimes in New Jersey

    The presentation was a discussion of the law governing bias-related incidents and hate crimes in New Jersey. Pellitta covered what the crimes are and the New Jersey law that governs these crimes. He talked about the increase in bias-related incidents throughout the state and country, including the increased racial divide and stereotypes; how hate crimes are prosecuted, including the proofs required to convict and the rights of victims; as well as the issue of bias-related incidents in schools and student conduct, i.e., bullying and student discipline.

    About Nick Pellitta

    Pellitta has substantial experience in a variety of legal areas in both federal and state courts. It is his goal to maximize efficiency for his clients by promptly analyzing their objectives, identifying necessary strategies, and implementing an appropriate course of action.

    In the area of higher education, Pellitta has represented colleges and universities for more than 30 years in areas such as tort claims defense, campus security, alcohol policies, police litigation, civil rights, and student discipline. He has represented the Rutgers Police Department and has provided in-house training and advice on police-related matters.  Representative clients include Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Seton Hall University, and Monmouth University.

    On the individual level, Pellitta assists clients in matters involving the defense of criminal charges, juvenile delinquency, and similar offenses, in both municipal and superior courts.

    Pellitta has served as Second Vice President in the C. Willard Heckel Inn of Court, an organization designed for the continuing education of newly-admitted attorneys. He has also lectured at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and on behalf of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in trial practice.

    In addition to his practice, Pellitta has served as Chairperson of the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce and is currently Legal Counsel to the Chamber. He also served on the Board of Trustees and is a former chairperson for Prevention Resources, an organization dedicated to promoting health and wellness and addressing substance abuse and violence in the community. Pellitta earned his J.D. from New York Law School and his B.A. from Rutgers University.

    Posted in: Higher Education, Litigation, News, Nicholas F. Pellitta | Tags: , ,

  • May 19, 2021Judge Giordano Earns Association of Title IX Administrators Certifications

    The Honorable Emil Giordano (Ret.), a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., and Co-Chair of its Litigation Practice Group, earned the Title IX Hearing Officer & Decision-Maker and Title IX Hearing Chairs Certification through the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA).

    “As the judicial fight against discrimination and harassment continues, I felt it crucial to my practice to be able to offer these additional services and hope to help those who have fallen victim to these needless crimes,” said Judge Giordano.

    About the Association of Title IX Administrators Certifications

    Title IX protects individuals in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from sex and gender discrimination. By earning these certifications, Judge Giordano now serves as a Title IX Coordinator for Lafayette College through their Title IX: Reporting, Resources, & Information initiative. Lafayette College is committed to providing a learning and working environment that emphasizes the dignity and worth of every member of its community and, therefore, offers comprehensive resources that stop, prevent, and remedy sexual misconduct and sexual and gender-based harassment.

    About Judge Giordano

    Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District, from 2004 through 2018. He was Northampton County’s first administrative judge of the Orphans’ Court County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county; and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court. He was also the first judge in Pennsylvania to institute guardianship certification requirements for the protection of senior citizens.

    For 15 years, Judge Giordano presided over many jury trials and non-jury trials, hearings and motions, and a wide range of disputes under Pennsylvania and federal law, including construction, commercial litigation, professional malpractice, CERCLA, Civil Rights, condemnations, labor and land use appeals, criminal, and domestic relations.

    As an arbitrator and mediator, Judge Giordano is certified through Harvard Law School Negotiation Institute in Advanced Mediation. He is a fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators; is affiliated with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) Mediation; has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (NADN) as a Diplomate Member for mediation; and has been selected to serve as an arbitrator and mediator to the Judicial Roster, Real Estate, and Pennsylvania at Large ADR Panels of Distinguished Neutrals for the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution.

    Judge Giordano serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Guardianship Certification. He previously served on the Board of Directors for the Notre Dame CYO and the Board of Governors for Saint Thomas More Society. Judge Giordano is a recognized member of the Justinian Society of Philadelphia and is the Northampton County Bar Association Wills and Trusts Committee Lecturer. In 2005, he was the first judicial recipient of the Lehigh Valley Crime Victims Council Award for Outstanding Commitment to Victims’ Rights. On January 1, 2020, Judge Giordano was designated Vice-Chair of the statewide Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

    Judge Giordano earned his J.D. from Villanova University School of Law in 1985 and his B.A. from Moravian College in 1982. A proud Moravian College alumnus, he serves as an Adjunct Professor for undergraduate classes.

    Posted in: Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), Litigation, News | Tags: ,

  • May 11, 2021Norris McLaughlin Appoints David Roberts as Chair and Elects David Harmon and Graham Simmons to Management Committee

    The law firm of Norris McLaughlin, P.A., is pleased to announce its 2021 Management Committee.

    David C. Roberts, a Member of the firm and Co-Chair of its Litigation Practice Group, has been appointed Chair of the firm, succeeding John N. Vanarthos, also a Member of the firm, who has served since 2018.

    David T. Harmon, Co-Chair of the firm’s Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Practice Group, and S. Graham Simmons, III, Co-Chair of the firm’s Business Law Practice Group, have been elected to the firm’s Management Committee, joining Roberts, David S. Blatteis, Bruce S. Londa, Robert Mahoney, and Melissa A. Peña. With Simmons on the Management Committee, Theodore J. Zeller, III, Chair of the firm’s Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution Practice Group, will succeed his current role as the Pennsylvania office’s Administrative Partner.

    Dolores A. Laputka is stepping down after three years on the Management Committee and will continue to serve on the Norris McLaughlin Finance Committee. Both Vanarthos and Laputka continue as equity members of the firm.

    About the Norris McLaughlin Management Committee

    The Management Committee collaborates on and oversees the day-to-day operations of Norris McLaughlin with the goal of preserving the firm’s values, mission, and culture, as well as implementing strategic growth plans for the firm’s future success.

    “First, I want to thank John for his exceptional leadership and Dolores for her invaluable contributions to the committee and the firm,” said Roberts. “I am humbled and honored that the firm has selected me for this role, and I am excited to work with our broad and collaborative team of creative and talented colleagues.”

    Vanarthos added, “It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve as the Chairperson of the firm and I thank the Management Committee for all of their hard work. I know that the management and leadership of the firm is in excellent and capable hands with Dave at the helm. I have full confidence in their ability to lead the firm into the future, and I will do all that I can to help with those efforts.”

    “It remains an honor to contribute to the leadership of the firm as a member of the Management Committee,” said Mahoney, who has served since 2012, “I offer my congratulations to Dave and know that the firm is well-positioned to deliver outstanding client service through our diverse practices and capabilities.”

    Peña, who was elected to the Committee in June 2020, commented, “Dave and the entire committee are deeply committed to the firm’s core values and to supporting the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s mentoring programs for women and minority attorneys throughout their careers.”

    About the Attorneys

    Dave Roberts

    Roberts devotes his practice to handling complex commercial litigation matters such as fraud, fraudulent transfers, trade secrets, and restrictive covenant litigation, with particular emphasis on business partnership and shareholder disputes in New Jersey. He aims to resolve matters through mediation, if that approach fits the client’s goals and objectives, but is an experienced trial attorney prepared to litigate matters that cannot otherwise be resolved. In 2007, Roberts launched the firm’s Shareholder Disputes in New Jersey Law Blog, “Business Divorce in NJ,” which addresses minority shareholder disputes in New Jersey.

    David Harmon

    Harmon focuses his practice on the areas of executive compensation, employment, and business law. He represents senior-level employees of both public and private companies in the negotiation of their employment packages and all associated agreements, whether at the commencement of the employment relationship through offer letters and employment agreements or at termination through severance agreements. Harmon’s representation also includes providing advice and counsel to employers in the preparation and negotiation of employment and severance packages with their employees, the design of human resources compliance programs, and counseling and training concerning the implementation of those policies. He authors the firm’s Employment Transitions Law Blog, “Transitions in Employment.”

    Graham Simmons

    Simmons is a business and real estate lawyer. He has served both public and private sector clients on all types of merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions, commercial and syndicated credit facilities, economic development projects, real estate transactions, leases, and land use and zoning matters. Simmons has represented clients across a diverse spectrum of industries and is deeply experienced in the banking and financial services, health care, real estate development, economic development, and automobile dealership industries.

    Posted in: Bruce S. Londa, Business Law, David C. Roberts, David S. Blatteis, David T. Harmon, Dolores A. Laputka, Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits, John N. Vanarthos, Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing and Distribution, Litigation, Melissa A. Peña, News, Robert Mahoney, S. Graham Simmons, III, Theodore J. Zeller III | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • May 04, 2021The Mediation Process, an Advocate’s Model for Mediating

    The Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., and Co-Chair of its Litigation Practice Group, will co-present the webinar, “The Mediation Process, an Advocate’s Model for Mediating,” with Christopher Kriesen, Esq, founder of The Kalon Law Firm LLC, hosted by the Bar Association of Lehigh County.

    The Mediation Process

    Discussion topics will include:

    • Virtual mediation tactics
    • Choosing a mediator
    • Preparing for a mediation
    • Mediation technology

    When: Friday, May 14, 2021

    12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

    Register for Norris McLaughlin, Attorneys at Law, Legal Events in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania

    To register, please email cle@lehighbar.org.

    This program costs $15, and participants will receive 1 substantive credit.

    About Judge Giordano

    Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District, from 2004 through 2018. He was Northampton County’s first administrative Judge of the Orphans’ County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county, and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court. He was also the first Judge in Pennsylvania to institute guardianship certification requirements for the protection of senior citizens.

    For fifteen years, Judge Giordano served as judge for many jury trials and non-jury trials, hearings and motions, and a wide range of disputes under Pennsylvania and Federal Law, including construction, commercial litigation, professional malpractice, CERCLA, Civil Rights, condemnations, labor and land use appeals, criminal, and domestic relations.

    Judge Giordano is Vice-Chair of the Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He is a Diplomate Member for mediation for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. Judge Giordano serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Guardianship Certification. He is also a member of the Board of Governors for Saint Thomas More Society and the Northampton County Bar Association Wills and Trusts Committee Lecturer. In 2005, Judge Giordano was the first judicial recipient to receive the Lehigh Valley Crime Victims Council Award for Outstanding Commitment to Victim’s Rights. He was also a recipient of the Bethlehem Catholic High School Distinguished Graduate Award. Judge Giordano received the Title IX Hearing Chairs Certification and Title IX Hearing Officer & Decision-Maker Certification from the Association of Title IX Administrators.

    Posted in: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Events, Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), Litigation | Tags: , ,

  • Apr 30, 2021Due Process and Vehicle Impound

    By Nicholas A. Duston, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A.

    The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that no one shall be deprived “of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1. The contours of this constitutional right have been well-settled for decades as it relates to property—i.e., your stuff, as opposed to your freedom or your life.

    The Supreme Court established the current framework in cases that many attorneys may recognize from their first-year constitutional law class, like Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972), Connecticut v. Doehr, 501 U.S. 1 (1991), and others.  Following these decisions, numerous United States District and Circuit Courts across the country applied the Supreme Court’s framework to government seizures of motor vehicles.

    A vehicle impound is commonplace and oftentimes the only interaction someone may ever have with government authority.  Yet, decades after the cases establishing due process rights for a vehicle impound, many municipalities (and even some States) continue to get the issue fundamentally wrong.  Across the country, statutes and ordinances remain on the books that do not provide for any notice of impound or provide notice to only some of the people to whom notice is required, or provide notice only that the municipality has a list of demands (as opposed to providing notice of a procedure for recovering a vehicle).

    Also common is a requirement to pay towing and storage fees before the town or city will give the car back, even though no hearing has occurred on whether these demands are proper. Some municipalities also try to do indirectly what cannot be constitutionally accomplished directly, by giving seized vehicles to their towing contractors instead of holding the cars themselves.  The contractors then withhold the cars until being paid (oftentimes compensating the municipality for the privilege of taking and holding the vehicle in impound).

    These ordinances and towing arrangements are common but not constitutional.  Towns and cities everywhere should heed the warning the D.C. Circuit issued 30 years ago:  “Every court which has considered the issue has held that the owners of towed vehicles—whether illegally parked, abandoned or junk—are entitled, at minimum, to post-deprivation notice and a hearing.”  Propert v. D.C., 948 F.2d 1327, 1332 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (collecting cases).[i]  When the police take a vehicle, they must provide prompt[ii] notice to all interested parties that there will be a hearing—arranged by the government—to determine the propriety of the impound, the propriety of continued detention, and the propriety of any conditions placed on the vehicle’s release.

    As one court colorfully described the requirements of due process: “the government may not take property like a thief in the night; rather, it must announce its intentions and give the property owner a chance to argue against the taking.”  Clement v. City of Glendale, 518 F.3d 1090, 1093 (9th Cir. 2008).  Many cases have outlined each of these requirements in detail.  See e.g. Stypmann v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 557 F.2d 1338, 1344 (9th Cir. 1977); Krimstock v. Kelly, 306 F.3d 40, 68 (2d Cir. 2002).

    The constitutional inquiry starts with notice, because “[t]he right to be heard has little reality or worth unless one is informed that the matter is pending and can choose for himself whether to appear or default, acquiesce or contest.”  Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Tr. Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950).  The notice must be reasonably calculated under the circumstances to apprise interested parties and give them the opportunity to present objections.  Id.  The notice should be by mail to a last known address of any person whose rights may be affected where the “name and address are reasonably ascertainable” from public records.  Mennonite Bd. of Missions v. Adams, 462 U.S. 791, 791 (1983) (notice by mail required to mortgagee of real property); Dutch Point, 36 Conn. App. 123, 132 (1994) (noting that a lienholder’s address is readily determinable from motor vehicle records); DCFS USA, LLC v. D.C., 803 F. Supp. 2d 29, 40 (D.D.C. 2011) (notice by mail required).

    While notice by mail to a last-known address typically suffices, notice should not be blindly mailed to an address when it is known that the notice will not be received at that address.  For example, when the police seize a car and jail the owner, mailed notice to that owner’s home cannot be said to be “reasonably calculated” to provide notice.  In that case, the police know with certitude the owner is not home and will not be checking the mail.  Robinson v. Hanrahan, 409 U.S. 38, 40 (1972).

    The impounding city or town should also take care to identify each person with an interest in a vehicle impound and must provide a separate notice to each.  Notice cannot merely be sent to one of several interested parties (i.e. the driver of the vehicle) on the assumption that person will notify other interested parties (like lessors and lienholders); rather, each separate party with a property interest in a vehicle must be notified.  See, e.g. Mennonite, 462 U.S. at 799; DCFS USA, LLC, 803 F. Supp. 2d at 41; Am. Honda Fin. Corp. v. City of Revere, 471 F. Supp. 3d 399, 409 (D. Mass. 2020) (finding a Massachusetts statute unconstitutional where it failed to require separate notice to a lienholder).[iii]  At a minimum, the people who should receive notice include—as applicable to a given car—the person driving the vehicle at the time of impound, the registered owner, the titled owner, and any lienholders.[iv]

    Municipal police should be cognizant that motor vehicle ownership and lien interests are recorded at the state level, meaning a search of only the police’s home jurisdiction may not be sufficient when a car has an obvious relationship to some other state.  DCFS USA, 803 F. Supp. 2d at 41 (faulting the District of Columbia for failing to search Virginia motor vehicle records when the vehicle in question bore a Virginia plate at the time of seizure).  A prudent policy would include a search of state records in the municipality’s home-state, and surrounding states or certain national databases.[v]

    Notice also does not mean a letter informing interested parties of a list of demands.[vi]  A constitutionally adequate notice must be notice of a hearing, not a letter saying, in effect, “we have your car and you owe us money.”  Courts have repeatedly invalidated ordinances where the “notice” merely insisted that “a party. . . pay towing and storage costs within fifteen days of the mailing of a notice or forfeit all claim to [the] car.”  Seals v. Nicholl, 378 F. Supp. 172, 177 (N.D. Ill. 1973).[vii]

    As one District Court put it in 1978, where the “notice” is merely a letter informing a party that they owe towing and storage charges which must be paid, “the notice is merely a fait accompli,” and not constitutionally adequate.  Craig v. Carson, 449 F. Supp. 385, 395 (M.D. Fla. 1978).  Such notice “confront the owner of a car that has been towed and stored with the proverbial Hobson’s choice: [the owner] must pay the charges. . . or forfeit [the] car.  Under either alternative, the owner is compelled to relinquish. . . personal property, whether [the] car or [the] money, without an opportunity to dispute the loss.”  Id. at 394.  Notice complying with due process is notice of a hearing, not notice of a demand for payment.

    Once a constitutionally sound procedure provides notice to interested parties of the right to be heard, the remaining question is whether the hearing is constitutionally adequate.  To begin with, an ordinance will not be constitutionally sound where it requires the person whose rights are affected to “opt in” or request that there be a hearing.  The government bears the burden of starting and conducting a hearing.  Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 57, 80 (1972) (finding unconstitutional a Pennsylvania statute that “allows a post seizure hearing if the aggrieved party shoulders the burden of initiating one.”); Mennonite Bd. of Missions, 462 U.S. at 799 (“a party’s ability to take steps to safeguard its interests does not relieve the State of its constitutional obligation.”); Krimstock v. Kelly, 306 F.3d 40, 59 (2d Cir. 2002) (rejecting argument that party with interest in a seized vehicle should institute “a separate civil action in order to force the City to justify its seizure and retention of a vehicle.”).

    Moreover, there must be a hearing even if the result seems obvious.  Fuentes, 407 U.S. at 87 (“[t]he right to be heard does not depend on an advance showing that one will surely prevail at a hearing.”).  This result is sensible.  Even though most officers are well intended, the due process ensures there are no mistakes, and ensures that an officer’s well-intended decision complies with the meaning of ordinances and statutes that the officer is trying to enforce.

    For example, where a car has been determined to be “abandoned” or “junk,” a neutral decisionmaker must review the often-subjective police determination that a given car was actually “abandoned” or “junk.”  Id.  Propert involved a particularly vivid example, where the police officer candidly described his test for determining whether a car was “junk” by asking “whether you would take your mother to church in it.”   Id.; see also Tedeschi v. Blackwood, 410 F. Supp. 34, 45 (D. Conn. 1976) (discussing how, where a car was deemed abandoned because it had a flat tire and had not moved for 24 hours, “[n]either of these facts seems particularly conclusive.”).  These officers may have been correct, but due process provides the proverbial “second set of eyes” to ensure government action is proper.

    Whether a particular hearing procedure is constitutionally adequate depends on a weighing of several factors:

    1. The private interest involved
    2. The risk of erroneous deprivation of that interest
    3. The probable value, if any, of additional procedural safeguards
    4. The government’s interest, including the government function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens of additional procedures

    Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976).  The Mathews balancing test provides flexibility in outlining the conduct of a hearing on a given vehicle impound.

    While the hearing can be less formal than a trial, there must be some hearing even if the government believes its costs outweigh the interests involved.  Propert, 948 F.2d at 1335 (“[W]hile cost to the government is a factor to be weighed in determining the amount of process due, it is doubtful that cost alone can ever excuse the failure to provide adequate process.”).  The person whose rights are affected must be given some meaningful opportunity to present arguments before a neutral decisionmaker.  Id. at 1333.  The hearing must at least involve a test of the validity of continued detention of the vehicle and the validity of the municipality’s seizure of that vehicle in the first place.[viii]  Krimstock v. Kelly, 306 F.3d 40, 69 (2d Cir. 2002).

    Finally, municipalities cannot abdicate constitutional responsibilities through the use of private towing companies.  Cf. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 55-56 (1988) (“Contracting out prison medical care does not relieve the State of its constitutional duty. . . .”).  The government cannot determine that a vehicle should be impounded and then wash its hands of the consequences by turning a car over to a contractor, because “all authorities agree that [due process] inhibits the taking of one man’s property and giving it to another . . . without notice or an opportunity for a hearing.”  Ochoa v. Hernandez y Morales, 230 U.S. 139, 161 (1913); see also Johnson v. Bradshaw, 772 F. Supp. 501, 505 (D. Nev. 1991), aff’d, 5 F.3d 537 (9th Cir. 1993) (“Plaintiff clearly was deprived of his property when, without notice to him, it was given by the police department to a third party”).

    Whether the police tow seizes a vehicle themselves or calls a towing contractor to retrieve a vehicle they believe should be impounded, courts will find state action and require compliance with the Constitution.  The question is “whether the State provided a mantle of authority that enhanced the power of the. . . individual actor.” Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Tarkanian, 488 U.S. 179, 192 (1988).  Towing contractors would not lawfully possess a vehicle impound but for the police determination they are towed in the first place, and therefore both parties must comply with due process.  See, e.g., Tadeschi, 410 F. Supp. at 41 (“towing of a. . . vehicle. . . by either the police or a private garage constitutes state action. . . .”); Stypman, 557 at 1341 (applying due process protections where “[t]he towing company tows the vehicle only at the direction of the [police] officer. . . solely to accomplish the state’s purpose of enforcing its traffic laws”); Lee v. NNAMHS, No. 03:06CV-0433-LRH-RAM, 2007 WL 2462616, at *3 (D. Nev. Aug. 28, 2007) (finding the constitution applicable where “plaintiff’s car was towed at the direction of a state officer and pursuant to laws enacted to further the state’s interest. . . .”).

    Municipalities should be especially wary of arrangements with private towing contractors who are only compensated by extracting payment from persons with interests in a vehicle impound.  See, e.g., Revere, 471 F. Supp. 3d at 405 (determining the municipality was a proper defendant after its towing contractor sold an impounded vehicle without notice or a hearing where the “sale proceeds are the only source of compensation and reimbursement available to garage owners.”).

    These issues have been widely litigated against many of the country’s largest cities, and the case law provides detailed guidance on constitutionally acceptable vehicle impound ordinances and procedures.  Municipalities can and should consult this precedent and adopt appropriate policies, which should include:

    1. A search for parties with interest in vehicles, inside and outside the municipalities’ home state
    2. Mailed notice to all interested parties located by that search
    3. A timely hearing before a neutral decisionmaker
    4. Which adjudicates, at least, the propriety of the impound and any other actions the municipality intends to take, such as continued detention or imposition of towing and storage fees for the vehicle

    Footnotes

    [i] 27 years later, the Eastern District of New York replicated Propert’s review of cases on the subject, supplementing Propert’s already extensive list of cases and echoing that the “[m]any courts that have considered the issue have held that the owners of towed vehicles–whether illegally parked, abandoned or junk–are entitled to no less than post-deprivation notice and a hearing.”  HVT, Inc. v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, No. 15-CV-5867 (MKB) (VMS), 2018 WL 3134414, at *9 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 15, 2018), rpt. and rec. adopted, 2018 WL 1409821 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2018).

    [ii] Readers should be aware that there is an entire area of law regarding whether due process requires a pre-deprivation hearing, or whether a prompt post-deprivation hearing is adequate.  Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 132 (1990).  There are many circumstances where the government may tow a vehicle without a pre-deprivation process—such as when it is blocking traffic—and this article focuses on the basic requirements for notice and a hearing of some kind, as opposed to the timing of an otherwise adequate hearing.

    [iii] The author of this article served as counsel pro hac vice for American Honda Finance in the Revere litigation.

    [iv] Notice most obviously must be given to owners.  See, e.g., Henry v. City of Middletown, Ohio, 655 F. App’x 451, 462 (6th Cir. 2016) (“private interests in owning and utilizing their vehicles are substantial”); Propert v. D.C., 948 F.2d 1327, 1331 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (“Propert’s economic interest in his car was certainly more than de minimis.”); Price v. City of Junction, Texas, 711 F.2d 582, 589 (5th Cir.1983) (“Whether a junk car has little or great value, it is constitutionally protected property.”).  Courts have recognized that the registered owner (i.e. a lessee), a titled owner (i.e. a leasing company), and the person driving the vehicle at the time of seizure may be three different people, and notice must be provided to all of them.  See, e.g. Ferrari v. Cty. Of Suffolk, 845 F.3d 46, 56 (2d Cir. 2016) (titled owner has protectible interest); Krimstock v. Kelly, 306 F.3d 40, 69 n.31 (2d Cir. 2002) (noting that “the arrestee and the vehicle owner are not the same person” in all cases, and notice must be separately sent to each); Alexandre v. Cortes, 140 F.3d 406, 410 (2d Cir. 1998) (persons with possessory interests who are not titled owners entitled to due process); see also United States v. James Daniel Good Real Prop., 510 U.S. 43, 54 (1993) (finding protectible interest in home even though it was rented to tenants).  Lienholders are also entitled to notice and a hearing.  See, e.g. Ford Motor Credit Co. v. NYC Police Dep’t, 503 F.3d 186, 194 (2d Cir. 2007) (finding a lienholder’s “interest in the present value of a seized vehicle” to be “considerable.”); Am. Honda Fin. Corp. v. City of Revere, 471 F. Supp. 3d 399, 406 (D. Mass. 2020) (“[W]hile courts have acknowledged that the owner of a seized vehicle is most negatively affected by its loss, lienholders . . . have an equally valid interest . . . .”);  DCFS USA, LLC v. D.C., 803 F. Supp. 2d 29, 38 (D.D.C. 2011) (finding the lienholder “had a protected property interest in the Vehicle. . . .”).

    [v] There is a federal database containing title information and some, but not all, lien information.  .”  49 U.S.C.A. § 30502 (a).  Many states also have reasonably easy-to-use online databases.  Relevant precedent requires a prudent municipality to check this information.  Mennonite, 462 U.S. at 798, n.4 (Noting that mortgage on file only identified the mortgagee by name, but assuming “that the mortgagee’s address could have been ascertained by reasonably diligent efforts.”)

    [vi] Municipalities would also do well to avoid seizing cars at all merely because the cars’ owners are accused of owing that municipality money—such as prior parking tickets—because that practice has been repeatedly invalided on Fourth Amendment search and seizure grounds, in addition to the due process concerns these practices raise.  United States v VERTOL H21C, Reg. No. N8540, 545 F.2d648, 651 (9th Cir. 1976) (holding the government may not “summarily take property as a security”); Rosemont Taxicab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Auth., 327 F. Supp. 3d 803, 822 (E.D. Pa. 2018) (finding that the city’s seizure of “a taxicab solely as surety for the payment of fines that possibly may be assessed for a violation of [a municipality’s] regulations” to be unconstitutional); Harrell v. City of New York, 138 F. Supp. 3d 479, 492 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (finding a seizure of property to “hold . . . as leverage to ensure payment” violated the Fourth Amendment).

    [vii] There are many other examples. See also, e.g., Stypmann, 557 F.2d at 1343 (invalidating ordinance where “[t]he vehicle may be recovered only by paying the towing and storage fees. . . .”); Huemmer v. Mayor & City Council of Ocean City, 632 F.2d 371, 372 (4th Cir. 1980) (“The ordinance was manifestly defective, in that recovery of a removed vehicle was absolutely conditioned on payment of towing and storage charges.”); Remm v. Landrieu, 418 F. Supp. 542, 548 (E.D. La. 1976) (finding New Orleans ordinance unconstitutional where there was no opportunity for a hearing before the assessment of towing fees and storage charges); HVT, Inc., 2018 WL 3134414, at *3 (invalidating procedure which provided notice only of a demand for towing and storage fees, and not notice of a hearing).

    [viii] In most instances, vehicles are seized pursuant to exceptions to the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant; of course, where a warrant has already been issued in compliance with the Fourth Amendment, there has also already been due process.

    This article was published on Westlaw Today on April 13, 2021. View the original article here.

    Posted in: Litigation, Nicholas A. Duston |

  • Mar 04, 2021Ask the Arbitrators

    The Honorable Emil Giordano (Ret.), a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., and Co-Chair of its Litigation Practice Group, will co-present the webinar, “Ask the Arbitrators,” for the Annual Public Employer Labor Relations Advisory Service (PELRAS) 2021 Web Conference, hosted by the Pennsylvania Municipal League.

    About the PELRAS “Ask the Arbitrators” Program

    The Annual PELRAS Web Conference, being held March 17-19, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., boasts programs addressing the following topics:

    • Attorney Disciplinary Process
    • Bargaining in a COVID-19 World
    • Civility Ethics
    • COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and Other Developments in 2020 That Have Impacted Employment
    • Cybersecurity
    • Drug Testing in the Age of Medical Marijuana
    • Legal Issues in Electronic Monitoring/Surveillance of Employees
    • Reducing Pension Costs
    • Social Media

    Judge Giordano, along with a panel of other arbitrators and attorneys, will review real-life, red-light and green-light case scenarios.

    When: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

    3:20 – 4:50 p.m.

    Register for Norris McLaughlin, Attorneys at Law, Legal Events in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania

    • Member Rate First Attendee: $165
    • Member Rate Each Additional Attendee: $130
    • Non-Member Rate: $525

    About the Honorable Emil Giordano (Ret.)

    Judge Giordano focuses his practice on estate and commercial litigation, and mediation and arbitration.

    Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District, from 2004 through 2018. He was Northampton County’s first administrative Judge of the Orphans’ County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county, and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court. He was also the first Judge in Pennsylvania to institute guardianship certification requirements for the protection of senior citizens.

    For fifteen years, Judge Giordano served as the judge for many jury trials and non-jury trials, hearings and motions, and a wide range of disputes under Pennsylvania and Federal Law, including construction, commercial litigation, professional malpractice, CERCLA, Civil Rights, condemnations, labor and land use appeals, criminal, and domestic relations.

    As an arbitrator and mediator, Judge Giordano is certified through Harvard Law School Negotiation Institute in Advanced Mediation, is a fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators, and is affiliated with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) Mediation. He serves as an arbitrator and mediator to the Judicial Roster, Real Estate, and Pennsylvania at Large ADR Panels of Distinguished Neutrals for the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution.

    Judge Giordano is a Diplomate Member for mediation for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. He is Vice-Chair of the Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Judge Giordano also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Guardianship Certification and on the Board of Governors for Saint Thomas More Society.

    Posted in: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Events, Hon. Emil Giordano (Ret.), Litigation | Tags: , ,

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