Inside the New Multnomah County Courthouse

Sneak A Peek Inside the New Multnomah County Courthouse

We are excited to share a sneak peek into the new public building with this 4 minute video.

  • SYK is a founding member of the MBF CourtSupport program, which is funding the CourtNavigator at the new Multnomah County Courthouse
  • SYK Partner Victoria Blachly is the secretary/treasurer for the Multnomah Bar Foundation (“MBF”), which is the charitable arm of the MBA
  • SYK Partner and manager Tim Resch is on the board for the Multnomah Bar Association (“MBA”)
  • SYK Partner Leslie Johnson is on the MBA Court Liaison Committee

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner and chair of SYK’s Fiduciary Practice Group. She is a trial attorney, representing individual trustees, corporate trustees, beneficiaries, and personal representatives in often difficult and challenging cases.

Beloved Actress Nichelle Nichols Alleged Victim of Elder Abuse

Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek television series, finds herself in the midst of litigation at the age of 87. She is the alleged victim of elder abuse at the hands of her personal manager. The complaint tells a painful story of a vulnerable adult, surviving a stroke, dealing with dementia and short-term memory loss. She falls victim to social isolation, loss of financial and medical control, and even removal from a rehabilitation facility against medical advice.

Elder abuse thrives in the midst of secrecy and isolation. As a society, we must remain vigilant and keep our elders safe.

Report elder abuse in Oregon to the hotline at 1.855.503.7233.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner and chair of SYK’s Fiduciary Practice Group. 

Oregon WINGS Posts “Get a Life Plan”  

Oregon’s Working Interdisciplinary Networks of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS) posted a solid plan for what we should all consider, as part of planning for your life – and death.

Their web page covers four plans:

  • Plan for your assets during your lifetime
  • Plan for your medical decisions
  • Plan for your assets at your death
  • Plan for your body after your death

They also have good pointers on a variety of helpful topics:

  • How should I start a conversation with my loved ones about my plan?
  • What if my loved ones disagree with my wishes?
  • Where should I store my documents?
  • Should I give copies of my documents to my loved ones?

These are a good place to start, but for most of us, to obtain a comprehensive Life (and Death) Plan, it is best to talk to an estate, trust and tax planning attorney to set you and your legacy up for success. Fortunately, we have a whole wing of such talent here at SYK.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes.

Between Two Screens: Tax Law….”Why Not?!?”

Join us for the next episode of SYK Studios presents Between Two Screens, with SYK’s tax section leader, partner Valerie Sasaki.

Valerie responds with passion, keen intellect, and an abundance of good humor to the question put to her: “Why tax?” As she explains, “Why not tax?” Her perspective on how the tax laws mirror our societal values will give you a whole new appreciation for tax lawyers and the hard work they do.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes.

Emojis in Court: The Rise of Case References

Emoji Court

With colorful caricatures ranging from mind-blown facial expressions 🤯 to coconut shrimp 🍤, there are hundreds of emojis to express a multitude of different feelings, thoughts, and emotions. In the last decade, emoji have cemented a permanent place in the world of e-communications. Emoji now represent a diverse array of skin tones ✋✋🏻✋🏽✋🏿 and physical disability 🦾 🦿. Oxford Dictionaries’ 2015 Word of the Year was awarded to the Face with Tears of Joy Emoji 😂. It should stand as no surprise that everyone’s favorite new way to communicate has permeated its way into our legal system.

Let’s start with the prevalence of emoji in our virtual vernacular. According to Slate, 92{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of the online population uses emoji. As of 2016, 2.3 trillion mobile messages incorporate emoji annually as of 2016. That means nearly 10 trillion emoji-laced messages have been sent in the past four years.

According to The Verge, emoji and emoticon references in U.S. court cases rose exponentially between 2004 and 2019. Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, leading researcher on emoji references in court opinions, noted that 30{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of all U.S. Court opinions now reference emoji or emoticons. In 2017, an Israeli couple was charged thousands of dollars in fees after an Israeli judge ruled that their use of emoji to a landlord signaled an intent to rent his apartment. Who would have guessed a few years ago that a champagne bottle 🍾, squirrel 🐿, and comet ☄️ could constitute an agreement to rent an apartment?

According to Professor Eric Goldman, the use of emoji as evidence increased from 33{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} in 2017 to 53{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} in 2018. In some cases, emoji are described to jurors, rather than seen and interpreted themselves, and in other cases emoji are omitted from evidence, altogether. Emoji are most prevalent in sexual harassment, criminal, and workplace lawsuits. In the 2017 murder case of Commonwealth v. Castano, Massachusetts prosecutors argued that an emoji with “X” eyes 😵 showed that an individual who received the message knew that something was happening. In the sex trafficking case of The People v. Idris Bilal Jamerson, expert witnesses detailed how a series of sent emoji, including a crown 👑, high heels 👠, and money bags 💰 provided evidence of prostitution.

Emoji even come in a variety of dialects. Different companies can represent emoji on their platforms in different ways. In a study comparing Android and Apple users’ interpretation of emoji, Google users reported a grinning face as meaning blissful happiness, while Apple users thought it symbolized a readiness to fight. One can only imagine the flurry of misinterpretation defenses and novel legal arguments that such interpretations will cause.

As we continue to express ourselves through emoji, they will continue to permeate our society further and further. In a few years, emoji-interpreting expert witnesses will become more resourceful in the court room and the debate around what certain emoji mean will become a greater focus of legal arguments by lawyers across the world.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

Peter Esho is a Chaldean-American law student in his final year at Lewis & Clark Law School, and a senior law clerk at Samuels Yoelin Kantor. Born and raised in Michigan, he moved to Portland to attend Lewis & Clark. Peter enjoys kayaking and playing guitar, and his primary legal interests are in intellectual property and business law.

Danger: Stressed Out Lawyers Ahead (Tips & Tricks Also Provided)

As a form of self-help therapy for dealing with a global pandemic, I reached out to numerous legal friends and colleagues to learn how they are coping with COVID-19 and this lack of control that we are all struggling with. My article, COVID-19 Lawyer Stress: SOS, was published last month in the Multnomah Bar Association’s newsletter. Some of the takeaways include:

  • Zoom meetings, both for work and for fun, are covered.
  • Hobbies like cooking, music, reading, cutting your own hair or even passing the time by watching crazy squirrel feeders are addressed.
  • The benefits of fitness, yoga, meditation and mindfulness strikes a chord for many.
  • While some people find stress relief with structure, yet others need sustained breaks for stress relief.

We are all in the same ocean paddling as fast as we can, but we are just in different boats right now. When I asked one friend how she was doing, she responded, “I vacillate between coping remarkably and failing miserably.” Another responded, “I have been on a roller coaster…some good days; some bad days.” And yet another said, “But in an honest moment I would say that like other tragedy-like periods in my life, my personal go-to mode is to lean in and plow through it with action (being called to the moment), and in the process I don’t really take good care of myself. The signs are all over the place, but my brain instinctively works that way. The intentional piece is real – the will is what I am fighting now.” And it’s not just our stress, but stress for our families: “It’s been a process to digest, this entire process so far, and I cried when they announced school was closed for the year.”

Yet another attorney reported there can be moments of peace, “but then my little energy of flame goes out and I am back to barely keeping my head above water.” Another attorney said, “It has been like watching a tidal wave come in to shore and now being tossed about as the wave hit the shore, waiting to resurface to catch my breath.” And the stress is not just for what we are enduring now, but what is to come. Another friend shared, “Right now, I am stressed about going back to the office before there are effective treatments or a vaccine.”

Can’t we all identify with these statements – some days, or some moments, seem fine, or even if they are not, we take action and plow through? That’s what problem-solving lawyers do, right? But we don’t have control right now and the truth is, we never did. Keep talking to others. Keep connecting in your own way. Keep trying. It’s okay to ask for help, particularly when we are all missing or grieving something. Strive for progress, not perfection – and we will be together soon.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

211info: Community Information Contact Center

Even small children know that they can dial 911 in an emergency. However, many do not know that in Oregon and Southwest Washington they can dial 211 to get access to a variety of community information resources. The 211info contact center is a nonprofit that serves all of Oregon’s and some of Washington’s counties. The organization can provide community members with information and referrals to services in each of the following areas:

Childcare and Parenting

211info provides free referrals to qualified childcare services. The service also has staff who specialize in foster parent support and support for parents of children with special health needs.

Utility Assistance

211info operators have experience in connecting Oregon and Southwest Washington residents with utility assistance programs. The service has relationships with several charities and nonprofits that provide payment assistance to individuals who risk losing access to utilities. 211info callers can get customized recommendation and help applying for any of these assistance programs.

Emergency Management

When there is a state emergency, 211info is ready with guidance on how individuals should handle the emergency. Currently 211info has information about the state’s response to tsunami debris and the novel coronavirus.

Food

211info is a great resource for information about local food pantries and applying for SNAP (food stamps). You can also call in to find out about farmers markets, community gardens, and summer food programs for youth.

Health

211info is partnered with several health access assistance programs including programs for rural breast cancer patients and reproductive health. Callers can also inquire about pesticide-related inquires and report potentially dangerous pesticide application.

Housing and Shelter

211info is partnered with a number of organizations whose goal is to provide solutions to people with housing crises. Housing services include organizations that specialize in connecting individuals with housing and classes that educate renters on overcoming screening barriers.

In addition to dialing 211, community members can get in contact with 211info by emailing help@211info.org or texting their zip code to 898211.

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

Upholding Justice for Older Americans: Free National Webinar

June 15, 2020 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. You have the opportunity to learn from federal government leaders how they are seeking global solutions for elder abuse. The 90 minute free webinar starts at 10:00 AM on June 15.

Hope to “see” you there.

“Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community. The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations.” – The United Nations 

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

Powerful Words: Positive and Negative Language

Susan Russel shares, through the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, how powerful both positive or negative language can be. These tips are helpful to keep in mind, whether you are managing a difficult legal situation with your counsel or even if you are managing a quarantine.

Negative and powerless language can sound like:

  • I “have” to deal with this (victim, lack of control)
  • They are the reason (blaming others)
  • Here’s another problem (problems not solutions focused)
  • I doubt it will work (lack of faith in systems, self, or team)
  • I hope we can make it work (lack of commitment)
  • I have no control over what is happening (lack of control)

Positive language that empowers us and others, sounds like:

  • I “get” to test this new technology out (opportunity focused)
  • We “can” reinvent what we do (belief in ability, systems, self and team)
  • We “will” get through this (committed, confident, action-oriented)
  • Let’s discuss solutions and modify our systems (solutions and systems focused)
  • Let’s identify our actions (in action and in control)”

Victoria Blachly: SYK AttorneyVictoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.

POLST & COVID-19: Are Your Legal Documents Current & Do They Reflect Your Wishes?

Dr. Susan Tolle, Chair of the Oregon POLST Coalition, created a 5-minute video that guides viewers through a POLST form (Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). This standardized, single page, brightly colored form can be vital for healthcare providers in managing fragile or seriously ill patients towards the end of life, and particularly helpful for managing one’s wishes for intensive care treatment and assisted breathing with ventilators.

It is important to note that not everyone needs a POLST – it is for the seriously ill. An Advance Directive is another standardized, but more complex, legal document that also sets forth your wishes for medical care and life-sustaining treatments and/or designates a Health Care Representative to express those wishes to healthcare providers, should you be unable to speak for yourself. Everyone should have a properly executed Advance Directive, for the unforeseen, but not everyone, necessarily needs a POLST; it depends on your medical condition.

Victoria Blachly: SYK Attorney

Victoria Blachly is a partner at SYK, and an experienced fiduciary litigator that works with many elderly clients, cases and causes. She is also a proud Board Member for the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association Chapter.