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U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Law on a state’s right to compel mail-order/internet sellers to collect sales tax on products delivered to that state

Our Constitution in its Commerce Clause prevents states from discriminating against or unduly burdening interstate commerce. Commerce has obviously changed considerably in the almost 250 years since the Constitution was written: sales taxes were once collected only on local transactions: but as remote sales by “mail-order” became more prevalent, it became less clear as to which states could charge sales taxes on these sales.
The Supreme Court in earlier decisions had held that a state must prove a mail-order seller had “physical presence” in that state before it could compel that seller to collect sales tax on goods sold and delivered to that state. Beginning in 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet, the physical presence test logically was extended to on-line sales as well. The Physical Presence Test required that a remote seller could be required to collect sales tax in the destination state only if the company maintained:

  • A store in the state;
  • A warehouse in the state;
  • An office in the state; or
  • A salesperson in the state.

In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Physical Presence Test no longer determines individual states’ rights to require mail order and internet sellers to collect sales tax on products delivered to that state. The court recited that the massive growth of on-line sales, which has allowed Amazon to pass Wal-Mart as the world’s largest retailer, requires a change in the laws governing interstate commerce tax collection.
Referring to the creation of the internet, the court stated that in 1992, less than 2% of Americans had internet access: today the number is 89% and while in 1992, mail-order sales in the U.S. totaled $180 billion, in 2017, e-commerce sales alone were over $450 billion. The Court ruled that such massive changes required change to the laws regarding state regulation and taxation of interstate commerce.

The South Dakota law which was upheld was crafted to allow it to survive judicial challenges and to be reasonable to administer:

  • It only applied to sellers who annually deliver more than $100,000 of goods and services or had more than 200 separate transactions in South Dakota per year, and
  • along with more than 20 other states, South Dakota has adopted the “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement” which standardizes tax collection to reduce administrative and compliance costs for remote retailers, including providing sales tax administration software which protects sellers who use it from audit liability.

The Supreme Court was split 5-4 in this decision. Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent agreed with the majority’s conclusion that the massive shift in commerce supported a change in the law – but he argued that it was not the Court’s place to abandon its precedents to make that change. Rather, he felt that Congress, which is charged with regulating interstate commerce, should act, not the Courts. He also noted that, as Amazon has now decided to collect sales tax on all sales, the problem has begun to dissipate.

Individual states have been trying to legislate “Amazon Laws” for years under the old Physical Presence Test. Under Illinois’ 2015 law, a retailer must collect sales tax from Illinois customers if that retailer’s gross sales to Illinois customers exceeds $10,000 in the preceding four (4) quarters and if has an agreement with a person located in Illinois to pay for customer referrals obtained via a link on the Illinois customer’s website (a click-through arrangement). Most of our clients are not aware that, under Illinois law, if an Illinois resident buys on-line and the retailer does not comply with the Illinois “Amazon Law” or if that law does not apply to the retailer in Illinois, the resident is required to pay the tax directly to Illinois – the tax is then called a “Use Tax” rather than a sales tax and an annual use tax return must be filed by the Illinois resident.

However, many types of products (books, newspapers, magazines, sheet music and musical recordings, for example) are exempt from such sales/use tax. The complexity resulting from these conflicting details makes compliance with Use Tax collection quite problematic.

At the end of the day, this Supreme Court ruling will likely cause all states to revisit their “Amazon Law” to broaden its application – and increase their interstate commerce sales tax revenues under the new standards. Whether our clients have a business which sells on-line, by mail order or are just on-line consumers, we urge you to keep an eye on Illinois legislative attempts to step through the door opened by the South Dakota v. Wayfair case.

Elder Law Update Trusts: Does My Aging Mother Really Need One?

When clients come into our office, the first question they often ask is, “Do I need to set up a trust for my loved one?” The answer depends on the circumstances.

Frequently, clients are interested in setting up a trust in order to safeguard their assets from various creditors. Holding property in a trust in and of itself does not automatically protect assets. It is the selection of a given type of trust in a certain set of circumstances that may provide protection. Generally speaking, most people set up a revocable living trust (RLT) as part of their traditional estate plan. RLTs provide no asset protection and, in fact, they can have a negative impact in particular circumstances.

Nevertheless, RLTs can sometimes be useful, especially in the two scenarios that are described below. In these scenarios, the RLT is used to fund a separate trust that is designed to take effect after death for either an ill spouse or disabled child or third-party.

  1. When a Spouse is Ill: Providing for the creation of a “special needs trust” (SNT) for your spouse under your will can benefit a surviving spouse who has a chronic disease such as Alzheimer’s. The SNT under your will is funded by a “pour-back” from your RLT to your will time of your death. This testamentary SNT allows you to leave assets for your institutionalized spouse which can be used to pay for services that are not covered by the Medicaid program. Money remains in trust until the institutionalized spouse needs certain goods or services as specified in the SNT. At that time, a qualified trustee will use the assets for the institutionalized spouse. The beauty of this arrangement is that these SNTs are not considered “countable” assets that are subject to a Medicaid spend-down by the institutionalized spouse. Therefore, that spouse is allowed to keep these assets in trust without forfeiting her or his ability to qualify for Medicaid at the same time. This is a huge benefit for surviving spouses who have special needs as a result of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other debilitating diseases.
  2. When a Child (or Other Third Party) is Disabled: We find that when parents are worried about leaving their disabled child behind, they are troubled by the fact that the intended inheritance for this child may be spent down in order for the child to be eligible for governmental benefits. For many parents this is a real concern. However, parents can set up a third-party SNT, again funded at the parent’s death, through their RLT for their disabled child, or any other disabled beneficiary (cousin, nephew, grandchild, friend, etc.). This SNT will contain assets that are not considered “countable” assets for purposes of governmental benefits, and at the time of the death of the disabled person, the assets are not subject to claw-back by the state of Illinois. This can be a huge benefit. This type of SNT can also be set up during the lifetime of the parent.

Thus, while you should always consider trusts as part of your estate plan, remember that not all trusts are the same. Often, a trust must contain provisions to target specific situations or concerns in order to be useful for the family.

Always Maximize Pre-Litigation Settlement Efforts

As anyone who has been involved in litigation knows, there is almost always communication between the parties and their attorneys before a lawsuit is filed. This is usually at the point when emotions are running high. One party feels that it has been wronged and demands payment or other conduct in lieu of filing a lawsuit. The other side usually disagrees that its conduct caused the harm or argues that the amount of harm was less than the amount being demanded. As a result, often times, the dispute will lead to a lawsuit being filed.

However, it is important to consider the value of resolving the dispute during pre-litigation negotiations. The negotiations can be creative and oftentimes fashion results that are not available in the context of court proceedings. If a settlement is not reached and litigation ensues, one party may later wish it took a more serious approach to the pre-litigation settlement efforts. Consider the following real life example.

I represented a contractor who submitted a bid for a lighting project. The owner of the facility accepted the bid and the parties entered into a written contract. Shortly after this, the contractor began taking all steps necessary to perform the project. However, prior to performing the work, the owner told the contractor that he was cancelling the contract and was not going to pay any amount. The owner claimed that he was not required to pay because the contractor had not yet performed the work identified in the contract.

Prior to filing suit, the contractor consulted me and we made efforts to settle the dispute. Although in litigation we could legally pursue the full amount of lost profit as damages for the owner’s repudiation of the contract, we agreed that $6,000 would be sufficient to compensate him for the time spent and to resolve the dispute without incurring substantial costs. I prepared a demand letter requesting $6,000 from the owner. Rather than negotiating the amount due, the owner responded that he was unwilling to pay anything. Therefore, we filed an arbitration claim, which was required under the contract.

At the arbitration hearing, rather than seeking the $6,000 to compensate for the time spent on the ComEd application and preparation work, we sought the full $45,000 in lost profits that would have been earned on the project, in addition to all attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in enforcing the contract. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the contractor, awarding $45,000 in lost profits and $15,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs, for a total award of approximately $60,000.

After recovering the arbitration award, the owner still refused to pay the amount awarded. So, we attempted to settle the dispute again. We sent correspondence to the owner, this time offering to accept $50,000, instead of the full $60,000 award, to settle the dispute without further litigation. This offer would have not only resulted in the owner paying $10,000 less than the total award, but it also would have stopped his attorneys’ fees and costs from increasing. However, the owner again refused to negotiate.

Accordingly, we filed the necessary pleadings to confirm the arbitration award in court, have a judgment entered and collect on the judgment. After the award was confirmed and judgment was entered, an Illinois statute provided that the judgment began accruing interest at the rate of 9%. As a result, while the owner continued to fight payment of the judgment, the amount of the judgment continued to increase as interest accrued. In the end, we collected nearly $65,000 from the owner when he could’ve settled the case for as little as $6,000 by negotiating.

Let this be an example to always consider the value of resolving a dispute prior to litigation. Not every dispute can be resolved by negotiation. However, whenever a dispute arises that has the possibility to result in litigation, you should consult with your attorney to discuss all possibilities and benefits of resolving the dispute before the litigation commences.

When Alleged Hostile Work Environment Does Not Constitute Actionable Title VII Harassment – Summary Judgment in Favor of the Employer

Mulligan-Grimstad v. Morgan Stanley, 877 F.3d 705 (7th Cir., Dec. 11, 2017)

Scenario: Kerrie is hired in 2001 as a sales associate at a financial advisory firm. She enjoys success at work, including promotions. In 2005, she is teamed with John, a male senior financial advisor, on several client accounts. This partnership lasts 7 years until the firm fires Kerrie after its investigation into her processing of a fraudulent wire transfer request.

Kerrie sues the employer, alleging she was fired on the basis of her sex and that her male coworkers’ mistreatment of her over the course of her career created a sexually hostile work environment. She alleges that coworkers harassed her, unduly criticized her, and made sexual advances toward her from 2003 to 2009, though she never reported harassment to management. She also alleges that in 2011, John regularly commented on revealing outfits worn by a CNBC anchor; that after she got married he asked her to plan any pregnancy around his work schedule; and that he told a client that Kerrie planned to start a family. The employer responds that it fired her for a legitimate business reason – the wire transfer – and that the allegations related to her hostile environment claim, even if accepted as true, are not severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The district court agreed with the employer and granted summary judgment in its favor. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision.

Highlights of the decision:

  1. First, Kerrie argued that she did not violate the employer’s wire transfer policy and, therefore, must have been fired her because of her sex. The court rejected this argument, stating that it will not act as a “super personnel department” – so long as Kerrie’s sex did not influence the decision to fire her, the decision — even if made by misapplying the employer’s performance policies – does not violate Title VII.
  2. Second, Kerrie argued that a similarly situated male oversaw a fraudulent wire transfer but, unlike her, he was not fired. Kerrie argued that this differential treatment proved sex discrimination. The court rejected the argument, finding that the male employee had no significant disciplinary actions on his record, whereas Kerrie had two. The court thereby found that Kerrie and the male were not “similarly situated,” and that the firm’s decision to fire Kerrie, but not the male employee, “sheds little light on why it fired” Kerrie. Further, the firm showed that it fired a male employee who had a checkered disciplinary record after he processed a fraudulent wire transfer request. The court found that this suggested that the firm fired Kerrie for her job performance rather than her sex.
  3. Finally, Kerrie claimed that her male co-workers — who lacked decision-making power to fire her — used the decision-maker as a dupe in a deliberate scheme to trigger the sex-based discriminatory firing decision. This is known as the “cat’s paw theory.” In essence, Kerrie argued that: a) John and another male wanted her fired because they disliked women or worried that she might become pregnant; b) then, between her mishandling of the wire transfer and her dismissal, told the decision-maker to fire her; and c) the decision-maker fired her in part due to their influence. The court rejected this argument because, at most, Kerrie suggested that the men could have met with the decision-maker between the fraud and the firing and that they could have passed their discriminatory views to the decision-maker at such a meeting. The court found this speculation insufficient to establish cat’s paw influence.
  4. The court also found that the male employees’ conduct did not create a hostile work environment because their comments were not “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment.” The court found that the conduct was not physically threatening or humiliating, did not unreasonably interfere with Kerrie’s work performance, and at most may have been offensive.

The #METOO and TIME’S UP movements are causing more employers to review their anti-harassment policies and to provide comprehensive Equal Employment Opportunity training to their supervisors. Di Monte & Lizak provides on-site, off-site, group, and one-on-one training to private, public, and non-for-profit employers, including law firms. Let me know how we may help you.

The Illinois Supreme Court and its Message to Hazing Participants on College Campuses

Sending a child off to college should be a joyful occasion. While this transition brings the promise of forging lifelong memories and friendships, it is often also marked by peer pressure to make dangerous decisions. A recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court may change the party dynamic on college campuses all across the state.
The case is titled Bogenberger v. Pi Kappa Alpha Corporation, Inc., 2018 IL 120951. The facts surrounding the case involve the tragic death of a college fraternity pledge, David Bogenberger, while pledging to the Eta Nu Chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois (the “NIU Chapter”). While attending the “Mom and Dad’s Night” pledge event, David was required to drink vodka until unconscious. If he showed any reluctance, the “Greek couples,” consisting of NIU Chapter and sorority female members, would call him derogatory names. Pledges, including David, were supplied “vomit buckets” and designated sleeping rooms. Once unconscious, the Greek couples would check the pledges as they slept to make sure they were positioned in such a way that they would not choke in their sleep. Sometime during the night at this event, David died. The special administrator of his estate filed a four-count lawsuit against the Pi Kappa Alpha national organizations (“National Organizations”), the NIU Chapter, its officers, and nonmember sorority women.
This Illinois Supreme Court decision only resolved the narrow question of who should remain in the lawsuit and who could be dismissed. The lower court will determine whether the defendants will be held responsible for David’s death. While the Illinois Supreme Court decision did not address the actual liability of the named defendants, the burden of defending their positions will be substantial no matter the end result.

Social Host Liability

The Illinois Supreme Court’s analysis of the first count was a matter of first impression: does the concept of social host liability apply to an alcohol-related hazing event? In general, Illinois law imposes no liability in situations of a sale or gift of alcoholic beverages, outside of a complaint brought pursuant to the Dramshop Act. The reason for the rule of social host liability is that, in bringing a claim for negligence, the connection between the sale or gift of alcohol is too remote to serve as a proximate cause for alcohol-related injuries. Although this has been a long-standing rule in Illinois with strong precedent in case law, in this case, the Court struck down this defense. The Court reasoned that alcohol-related hazing events involve the required consumption of alcohol to become a part of a school fraternity or sorority. This not only violated the Illinois hazing statute, but also did not involve the type of sale or gift of alcohol protected by the general rule of social host liability. Therefore, the negligence claims were heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Liability of the NIU Chapter, Active Members, Pledge Board Members and Officers

The special administrator of David’s estate alleged that the NIU Chapter, its officers, pledge board members, and active members forced David to participate in the Mom and Dad’s Night, required him to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, failed to call 911 or seek medical attention, and failed to implement a risk education program to protect David and other pledges. The Court found that injuries stemming from the hazing were foreseeable. The NIU Chapter and its members were expected to guard against harms associated with hazing to pledges, including David.

Liability of Nonmember Sorority Women

The last subject analyzed by the Court was the liability of the nonmember sorority women. The Court again noted that hazing injuries are reasonably foreseeable and likely to occur, especially at an event where the pledges are required to drink in excess. The Court held that the sorority women were active participants in the hazing event. Just like the NIU Chapter and its members, the sorority women filled cups with alcohol, harassed the pledges, and decorated vomit buckets. They conveyed the same message of “drink to become a member,” just like the fraternity members. The nonmember sorority women were properly named defendants and would remain in the lawsuit.
This case is just as much about the tragedy surrounding one pledge’s death as it is about these types of events on college campuses. The Illinois Supreme Court used this case to send a clear message: participate in hazing, pay the cost.
This Illinois Supreme Court did not make the determination that these classes of defendants were actually liable. This is a decision yet to be made by the lower court. However, the NIU chapter, its members, and the nonmember sorority women will remain in the case and incur the legal expenses to defend their positions. Whether or not the pledge’s estate prevails, the economics of this litigation will in and of itself be a heavy burden.
This opinion opens up legal liability to attendants and participants of fraternity and sorority initiation events, whether that person is a member of the fraternity organization or not. Perhaps this message, coupled with the tragedy of the untimely death of a young college student, will cause college students to think twice about the limits of their own social lives and their ideas of “fun.”

D&L Adds Practice Area

Julia Jensen Smolka has expanded her practice to include reproductive legal issues. She provides assistance in creating and reviewing all contracts and documents needed for the surrogacy and represents parties in negotiating financial and other terms of those contracts.

D&L Welcomes New Attorney

William H. Mazur (“Bill”) joined D&L in 2018 after operating his own legal practice for several years. Bill focuses his practice on representing both individuals and corporations in litigation matters involving landlord and tenant disputes, judgment collections, construction law, employment law, condominium law, and more.

Attorneys Jeff McDonald and Lee Poteracki successfully convert first out-of-state corporation to an Illinois entity using the newly enacted statute allowing domestications.

Attorneys Jeff McDonald and Lee Poteracki successfully convert first out-of-state corporation to an Illinois entity using the newly enacted statute allowing domestications.

D&L Welcomes New Attorneys

Oana Militaru, Anastas Shkurti, and Alexa Venditti joined D&L in 2017. Oana focuses her practice on estate planning and administration, elder law, and guardianship matters. Anastas represents clients in various types of business transactions, and Alexa assists business owners and individuals in resolving complex commercial disputes.

David Arena Appointed to the Park Ridge Farmer’s Market Committee

David was appointed by the City of Park Ridge to the Park Ridge Farmer’s Market Committee for the 2018 season.

House Bill 2963 Becomes Law – Our Own Jeff McDonald One Its Drafters

Attorney Jeff McDonald was one of the principal drafters of House Bill 2963 which permits conversions between different types of entities, and allows domestications of these entities to and from Illinois. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on December 8, 2017.

Smolka Speaks At the Park Ridge Chamber Luncheon

Julia Smolka wowed the crowed by speaking at the October, 2018 luncheon at the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce.  She spoke to the business owners about the latest in collection of receivables and gave pointers to home owners and business owners on how to structure their contracts to control better outcomes.

For Seniors in the Middle Class Who May Need Long-Term Care: 5 Things You Must Do to Protect Your Assets

 

One of the greatest fears that most of our clients have is the loss of all their assets to an extended home care, assisted living or nursing home stay. 66% of all nursing home residents finance their stay through the federal Medicaid program. But receiving Medicaid to pay for your nursing home requires meeting the eligibility requirements, which consist of both health eligibility issues and financial eligibility issues.
Besides the potential option of trying to qualify for long-term care insurance, here are 5 things you must do to have any chance of protecting your assets from the devastating cost of long-term care, which can be the equivalent of $8,000 to $10,000 a month in the Chicagoland area.
1. Obtain expanded powers of attorney for property and powers of attorney for healthcare.

These documents will not suffice if they are the plain-vanilla variety. Rather, you must seek powers of attorney that create authority for the planning and application of long-term care strategies and benefits from the federal and state governments. These authorizations are not automatically built into the standard forms, so you must have these forms drafted by an elder law attorney who understands the requirements of potential future long-term care and eligibility for governmental benefits.

2. Correct your estate planning documents.

This means that the documents must be converted from documents that simply plan for the certainty of death to documents that also contemplate the need to reposition assets to qualify for governmental benefits. This is especially true in spousal situations because most spouses have what we call “sweetheart” wills and trusts, which leave everything to each other. This type of estate planning arrangement, while common, may not be optimal. Let me give you an example: you have a healthy spouse and an ill spouse, but unexpectedly the healthy spouse dies first, thereby allowing the “sweetheart” wills and trusts to transfer everything to the ill spouse, who is now going into a nursing home at $10,000 a month. With more sophisticated planning, this unnecessary spenddown can be averted because on the death of the healthy spouse, the assets can be placed in a special needs trust for the ill spouse. This is done by creating trusts that under current law do not require the total spend down of the inheritance, but rather supplement the ill spouse’s needs for the rest of his or her life, in addition to having access to governmental benefits.

3. Obtain a blueprint (i.e., a planning report custom tailored to you).

Before we engage in any strategies during your life’s three phases: 1) preplanning years, 2) wait-and-see type years, or 3) crisis years, we outline the different strategies that can be used during any of these three life phases. This is similar to what an architect does in creating plans for a building before the actual building is built. The reason is, once the plans are put in place they are not as easy to adjust. It makes more sense to get it right the first time around, so it will help you understand the options and help you select the right option the first time.

4. Do not sign an application for a nursing home and do not sign a contract for a nursing home until a qualified elder law attorney has reviewed them.

Many nursing homes will assume that whatever assets you list in a nursing home application are intended to be spent by you at their nursing home. Similarly, they will expect you to sign a contract for the nursing home services without having it reviewed by your attorney. Don’t make either of these mistakes. It is important that the application be reviewed by elder law counsel so that the correct listing of assets can be made with an indication of what assets are earmarked for asset protection. It’s also important that the contract be reviewed by a qualified elder law attorney so that you don’t sign a contract that has harmful provisions in it. Quite often there are provisions that require arbitration, or provisions that waive liability on the part of the nursing home in taking care of your loved one.

5. Implement your protection strategies BEFORE you apply for Medicaid or VA benefits.

Many people make the mistake of applying for governmental benefits too soon, meaning that they still have assets at the time they apply. It is essential that any planning for the repositioning of assets that is both legal and ethical be done before a Medicaid or VA application is submitted. Once the applications are submitted, the government’s 5 year look back period requires you to spend down whatever has not been legally and ethically repositioned by your elder law attorney. Thus, do the planning before you apply.

Recovering Post-Judgment Attorney’s Fees – A Practice Pointer for Transaction and Litigation Counsel

By: Thomas M. Lombardo
Most of us know that obtaining a judgment is often much easier than recovering actual dollars. Unless your defendant’s insurer is responsible for payment of the judgment, or your defendant is a “deep pocket” with multiple bank accounts that can be hit with third-party citations, the hard work has just begun. Consequently, it is important for all transactional, litigation, and collections attorneys to remember three critical steps to ensure that your client’s post-judgment attorney’s fees for collection activity are recoverable on top of the judgment itself.

Step One: Drafting the Contract

Post-judgment attorney’s fees are only recoverable if there is a legal basis providing for same. Therefore, attorneys drafting contracts for their business clients must be sure to include clear language which provides for the successful plaintiff to recover not only its reasonable costs and attorney’s fees from bringing a successful lawsuit, but also its collection-related legal fees and expenses. Poilevey v. Spivack, 368 Ill. App. 3d 412 (1st Dist. 2006). Without such a provision, post-judgment legal fees will not be recoverable in contract disputes. For this same reason, it is critical for litigators to carefully examine contractual attorney’s fee provisions before telling a client whether they might be able to recover some or all of their legal fees and expenses in a successful lawsuit.

Step Two: The Judgment

Litigators must also pay close attention to the language in their judgments if they plan to seek post-judgment attorney’s fees at a later date. If there is a contractual provision that provides for collection-related attorney’s fees, the judgment should reduce the already-incurred legal fees and costs to a specific dollar amount and award same. The judgment should also be entered with a provision that allows reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, and post-judgment interest incurred after the date of the judgment. This way, the judgment contemplates future conduct and as such the circuit court retains jurisdiction to enforce same and to rule on later petitions for attorney’s fees. Tobias v. Lake Forest Partners, LLC, 2012 IL App (1st) 110502-U, citing Director of Insurance ex rel. State v. A and A Midwest Rebuilders, Inc., 383 Ill. App. 3d 721 (2nd Dist. 2008).

Step Three: The Petition

After a judgment is entered and the successful plaintiff incurs collection-related attorney’s fees, a petition should be filed in the circuit court requesting that those post-judgment attorney’s fees be added to the judgment award. Id. Furthermore, collections attorneys must be aware that any liens created by enforcement mechanisms, such as citations or wage garnishments, will not include post-judgment attorney’s fees that were not reduced to an already-entered judgment. Therefore, it may be wise to bring several petitions as the legal fees mount from time to time during the collection phase, and to reissue citations and other lien-creating enforcement papers each time the judgment is increased. This will ensure that the post-judgment fee portion of your judgment is not second-in-time, or subordinate, to later secured or judgment creditors. Tobias v. Lake Forest Partners, LLC, 402 Ill. App. 3d 484 (1st Dist. 2010).

Recalcitrant judgment debtors often make the enforcement of judgments difficult, time-consuming, and expensive for successful plaintiffs. But with careful planning and meticulous practice, post-judgment attorney’s fees may not only be recoverable by successful commercial litigants, those fees might even exceed the original fee award.

A WIN FOR THE LITTLE GUY

By: Alan L. Stefaniak

My client is a hard working and honest man. He’s Mexican-American and English is not his first language. In 1982 he and his wife bought a parcel of property in unincorporated Cook County with a small house on it. My client and his wife took up residence on the property and he began his landscape business. Over the next three years my client acquired three adjacent properties; two of which had small houses on them. Eventually his sons moved into the houses and worked with their father and helped him make the business a success.

In 1988 an adjacent municipality approached my client and asked him to voluntarily annex two of his properties. This municipality was in a boundary war with another Village and wanted my client’s property so they could control the area. My client asked what was he going to get in return and was told he could keep staying there and working there. My client trusted the municipal officials who approached him and he and his wife signed a voluntary petition to annex two of their properties. Once these properties were annexed the other properties were surrounded and were forced annexed. Upon annexation as is customary the properties were zoned residential.

For the next twenty-seven years my client and his sons continued to reside on the properties and operated their landscape business. During this period numerous building permits were issued for improvements and one was for an eight foot fence along the west boundary of the properties that needed an exception because the height limit was six feet. Also during this twenty-seven year period violation notices were issued from time to time. Each time a violation was brought to my client=s attention he and his sons promptly corrected the problem.

In May of 2015 the Village issued a complaint for operating a landscape business in a residential district and operating a contractor=s yard without a special use permit. Obviously my client was surprised and shocked at the Village=s actions. He felt they had gone back on their promise that he would be able to stay at his property and continue to work there. Once I was retained I endeavored to settle the matter but the Village Board had directed staff to Ashut down@ any businesses that were operating in residential zoning districts regardless of the circumstances.

A zoning complaint such as the one issued to my client is first heard by an Administrative Hearing Officer. They are referred to as Administrative Law Judges. Generally they are attorneys hired by the municipality to conduct hearings and issue decisions. Their decisions are subject to what is called AAdministrative Review by the circuit court.

An administrative hearing was held in May of 2016. The Village put on its evidence and in defense I had my client testify as well as one of his sons. In addition I had a well regarded land planner testify. My client testified through an interpreter as to how he acquired the properties and started his landscape business. He testified as to how the Village asked him to annex and what they told him about being able to continue to operate. My client’s son testified as to how the business operates with trucks going out early in the morning and coming back late afternoon or early evening. There is little activity during the day. Landscape materials are stored on the property but there are no high stockpiles and landscape waste is removed every few days. I had my client’s son go through each of the building permits that were issued and how one of the violation notices was because they were expanding the business from what it was when the property was annexed. My client’s son testified that the Village did not require him to remove the additional storage containers that had been brought onto the property but told him just to keep it as it was. A new house is being built just a lot or two away to the north and my client’s son estimated its cost of construction at five hundred to six hundred thousand dollars. Our expert in land planning testified that in his opinion there has been no adverse impact from the landscape business on the normal and orderly development of the area.

When I cross examined the Village’s Director of Community Development he admitted that he had been employed by the Village for twelve years and he always knew how my client’s property was being used. I got him to admit that he granted the exception that allowed the eight foot high fence because the Village wanted my client=s trucks and landscape operation screened from the adjoining residential street.

In closing argument I argued my client’s use of the property was a legal non-conforming use and that he had acquired a vested right to continue to operate as he had been for twenty-seven years. I also argued the legal theories of equitable estoppel and laches. Equitable estoppel can be applied to a municipality when a person’s action was induced by the conduct of municipal officers and where in the absence of relief the property owner will suffer a substantial loss and the municipality would be permitted to stultify itself by retracting what its agents have done. Laches is a doctrine that bars a plaintiff relief where because of the delay in the plaintiff asserting a right the defendant is misled or prejudiced.

I had warned my client that most likely we would lose before the Administrative Law Judge. Not because our case was weak or my legal arguments were not well founded. It’s just how the system works. I was right and the Administrative Hearing Officer ruled against my client and found that his business was not a permitted a home occupation and there was no basis to find a vested right had been acquired or that the doctrines of equitable estoppel or laches should apply. In addition he found my client’s use of the property was not a legal non-conforming use. My client authorized filing a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County for Administrative Review.

When a complaint for Administrative Review is filed the municipality is required to answer by filing the record that was made at the administrative hearing. This includes the transcript of the testimony and any exhibits that were introduced into evidence. On Administrative Review the trial court is not allowed to consider any additional evidence. The Judge is limited to reviewing the record that was made at the administrative hearing. This is why it is critical to get into the record anything you think is needed to succeed. You do not have an opportunity to add anything before the trial court.

Fortunately the trial judge was a former City of Chicago alderman and very familiar with zoning and its legal nuances. Once the Village filed the record I made a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Village filed a response and I filed a reply.

At the hearing the Judge directed his questions mainly to the Village attorney. The Judge started with questions regarding why my client’s business should not be considered a legal non-conforming use. It appeared the Judge was leaning in my client’s favor. I have done this long enough to know that when this occurs the best thing to do is say as little as possible. That’s what I did and before I knew it the Judge shifted gears and focused on our legal defense of laches. The Judge went through each and every time the Village issued a permit or inspected the property. He found especially compelling the inspection where the inspector noted on his report that my client was expanding the non-conforming use from what it had been at the time of annexation. The Judge also noted how the Village had issued an exception for the height limit of the fence because it wanted the commercial vehicles and landscape operation screened from the adjacent residential street.

The Judge stated that my client’s case was the poster child for the equitable defense of laches. I knew this was our strongest defense and emphasized the doctrine of laches in my initial brief and the reply I filed. Also I concentrated on this defense in the oral argument I made and specifically referred to the Illinois Appellate Court decision in Du Page County vs K-Five Construction. In K-Five, Du Page County was prevented from enforcing its zoning ordinance against a concrete batching plant that was an illegal use because the County waited five years from the time it knew of the illegal use. Obviously I argued that if five years was enough in K-Five then waiting twenty-seven years was far more egregious. Also in K-Five the Appellate Court noted that the County had failed to prove harm to the general public if its zoning ordinance was not enforced. I argued the same situation existed in my client=s case and this was borne out by the fact a house worth half a million dollars was being built two lots away.

The Judge ruled in my client’s favor and held that the Village cannot enforce its zoning ordinance against my client’s property and business. He’s allowed to continue to operate as he has been all these years. The Judge ruled that my client can’t expand his use but that’s fine and as it should be.

The Village recently filed a Notice of Appeal. I think we have a good chance of success in the Appellate Court due to the manner in which the trial court went through each and every time a building permit was issued or a violation notice issued and nothing was done for over twenty-seven years to stop my client from doing what he had been told from the beginning he’d be allowed to do if he cooperated with the Village and annexed his property. My client always acted in good faith.

In my opinion justice has prevailed and a win obtained for the little guy. Hopefully the Appellate Court will affirm the trial court’s decision. In the meantime my client can continue to cut grass, prune bushes and plant flowers.

Julia Smolka to Head Local Chamber of Commerce

Julia E. SmolkaJulia Smolka has been appointed President of the Harwood Heights-Norridge Chamber of Commerce.  She has been active in the Chamber for about seven years. The Chamber seeks to improve communications and business environments for small and mediums size businesses in the area.  There are ninety five members.  Smolka is happy to lead the civic organization.  She says “I enjoy meeting local business owners to get a grasp on what concerns they are having in the community, and use that insight to assist my current and future clients.”

New Illinois Freedom to Work Act Bans Non-Competes for Low Wage Earners

Margherita M. Albarello

Spurred in part by sandwich shop Jimmy John’s requirement that sandwich-makers and delivery drivers sign over-reaching non-compete agreements, the Act prohibits private sector employers from entering into non-compete restrictions with “low-wage employees” and renders such agreements “illegal and void.” The Act applies to non-compete agreements entered into on or after the Act’s effective date of January 1, 2017.

A “low-wage employee” is someone who earns the greater of (1) the hourly minimum wage under federal (currently, $7.25 per hour), state (currently, $8.25 per hour), or local law (currently, $10.50 per hour in Chicago) or (2) $13.00 per hour. Therefore, the Act initially will apply to agreements with employees earning $13.00 per hour or less.

The Act defines “covenant not to compete” broadly to mean an agreement between an employer and a low-wage employee that restricts the employee from performing:

(1) Any work for another employer for a specified period of time;
(2) Any work in a specified geographic area;
(3) Work for another employer that is similar to the low-wage employee’s work for the employer in question.

Eugene DiMonte Retires

Gene Di Monte has retired from the practice of law and the firm he founded over fifty years ago. Gene’s commitment to the firm and the growth from one attorney to twenty six is directly attributable to his efforts, guidance and commitment to excellence. Gene will leave the firm in strong standing and well poised to endure another fifty years of success. Gene has expressed his appreciation to the firm’s lawyers, staff and clients for their loyalty and support over the years. If you wish to contact Gene to wish him well, you may do so at DiMonte & Lizak.

D&L Attorneys Speak to Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce

On August, 26, 2016, Margherita Albarello and Julia Smolka spoke to the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce regarding legal considerations for small businesses.  Their presentation included topics on debt management and employment law.

D&L Attorneys Obtain Summary Judgment Relief for Employer against Pension Fund

Margherita Albarello and Jim Riebandt were successful in obtaining a favorable summary judgment ruling in the U.S. District Court for a food distributor in an ERISA successor withdrawal liability lawsuit brought by a union pension fund.

Patrick Owens to Speak at Live Webinar

On November 9, 2016, Patrick Owens will be presenting a live webinar for the ISBA on how to handle the digital assets of recently deceased individuals.    The webinar will cover such topics as: the privacy concerns you need to consider; How to determine if the decedent’s intent conflicts with Terms of Services Agreement; The rights of personal representatives accessing these assets; The pending Illinois legislation; The recent revisions to the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADDA) HB 4648; and The legislation that has been passed in other states regarding digital assets.

D&L Attorneys Present at Small Business Expo

On April 21, 2016, attorneys Ryan Van Osdol, Derek Samz, Peter Follenweider, Maria Laftchiyska, Lee Poteracki, Adam Poteracki and Jeff Ramirez presented and attended the Small Business Expo at UIC Pavilion.  The attorneys spoke about a wide range of matters, including contract formation, collections, entity formation, tax planning and employment issues.

Patrick Owens speaks at Illinois Real Estate Lawyers Association Event

On May 11, 2016, Patrick Owens spoke to the Illinois Real Estate lawyers Association regarding the interplay between estate planning and real estate transactions, covering such topics as Transfer on Death Instruments, Tenancy by the Entireties with Trust, the Mendelson v. Mendelson decision and related legislation.

Eugene and Ric Di Monte Featured in Fra Noi NewsPaper

The April edition of Fra Noi included a feature on the success of Eugene’s and Ric Di Monte’s legal career. You may find the article here: http://www.franoi.com/professional-portfolio/the-dimonte-father-son-legal-team/

 

Margherita Albarello Publishes in ISBA

Margherita Albarello has recently published an article called “Assistance and Service Animals In the Housing Context”
The article is featured in the May, 2016 Animal Law Section of the Illinois State Bar Association.

 

Aunt Rena and Julia, the “Service Dog,” in Commercial Establishments

Aunt Rena Albarello was born in 1925 in the Town of Pullman. She lost her sight at age 4 from spinal meningitis. In her late teens, she attended a residential guide dog school in Michigan where she was paired with Julia, a beautiful black Doberman Pinscher. Julia was taught by skilled instructors to safely guide her ward through the complexities of pedestrian travel. Julia provided Rena with increased independence and they loved each other very much.

Shop owners in Pullman and Roseland, like Fattori’s Square Deal and Frigo Bros. Foods, freely allowed Julia to accompany Rena into their establishments. Julia was harnessed. She had impeccable manners. She was not a “pet.” These business owners accommodated Rena long before the passage of the Illinois White Cane Law, the Service Animal Access Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the ADA makes it illegal for places like restaurants, theaters, schools, and hospitals to interfere with the ability of people with disabilities to come onto the premises and access services. Today, Julia would be deemed a “service animal” under the ADA. The ADA defines a “service animal” narrowly as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. In certain circumstances, businesses also must permit the use of a miniature horse. Notably, the ADA regulations specify that the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks.

If Rena entered the Italian Village today for a meal of polenta and roast chicken, she could not be turned away. The restaurant legally could not ask her about the nature or extent of her disability because her blindness is open and obvious and the work performed by Julia for Rena’s disability is readily apparent. The restaurant legally could not ask Rena for proof that Julia has been certified or trained as a service animal. Special identification and certification are not required by the ADA. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be required as a condition of allowing the service animal to accompany the individual.

However, if Rena’s disability was a non-apparent seizure condition and Julia’s work or task relative to the condition was not readily apparent, the restaurant legally could make two inquiries to determine whether Julia qualified as a service animal: 1) Is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and 2) What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform? If the answer to the first question is yes, and the second question is answered, further inquiries are impermissible, and the restaurant cannot ask that Julia demonstrate her ability to perform the work or task for which she is trained.

The restaurant has some protection. If Julia is out of control and Rena does not take effective action to control her, or Julia does not control her waste or acts in a manner that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the Italian Village legally could deny Julia access to the restaurant. However, a determination that a service animal poses a direct threat must be based on an individualized assessment based on the animal’s actual conduct. The restaurant legally cannot deny Julia access because of a stereotype that Doberman Pinschers are dangerous.

The law concerning “assistance animals” in the housing context differs from the above.

© Margherita M. Albarello, Esq., 01-31-16

Laubenstein Leads Class on Handling Real Estate Sales in Troubled Market

Attorney Richard W. Laubenstein recently was engaged by one of Chicago’s premiere real estate companies to offer classes to their agents and brokers throughout the Chicagoland area on how to handle residential real estate sales in today’s troubled market. With housing prices stagnant, many sellers are finding themselves in a position where they owe more money on the home than the proceeds the sale generates. At Di Monte & Lizak, LLC, we have the experience needed to counsel buyers, sellers and realtors through these tough times.

Jeff McDonald Tests Culinary Skills

Disney Chef Desserts
DiMonte & Lizak’s Jeff McDonald and Chef Hagop Hagopian created a spectacular sugar showpiece (left) for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival; pictured with the showpiece is a pumpkin mousse dessert with crumbled shortbread, cinnamon whipped cream, candied walnuts and a chocolate accent (right) that Jeff’s team prepared at the Disney kitchens.
Disney Chefs
DiMonte & Lizak’s Jeff McDonald (left) poses with Chef Alain Roby (center) and Chef Hagop Hagopian (right) at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort.

When he is not writing wills or creating corporations, Di Monte and Lizak attorney, Jeff McDonald can often be found in the kitchen. For the past four years, Jeff has been taking culinary and baking classes at Harper College and at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley campus.Most recently, Jeff accompanied Certified Master Chef of Pastry and Sugar Artistry, Alain Roby, the senior corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels, and Hagop Hagopian, Executive Chef of the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, on a trip to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. While there, Jeff assisted in the preparation of desserts for 800 guests at the Fall Harvest Dinner and prepared desserts in the Disney pastry kitchen for a seminar and book signing event highlighting Roby’s new cookbook, American Classics: Casual and Elegant Desserts and promoting the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, a Deerfield, Illinois-based charity.

Locally, Jeff assisted Chef Hagopian with the spring annual dinner for Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago held at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield. The black-tie event featuring an eight course gourmet meal was served to a group of 99 top chefs and cooking professionals.

Not satisfied with just cooking, Jeff has learned to make his own beer, cheese, bacon, sausage and bread. Jeff has been featured in the Daily Herald and just won the grand prize in an Edible Book Contest with his rendition of the Monster Book of Monsters from the Harry Potter series.

Although he often is asked when he will open his own restaurant, he has no plans to do so. We’re glad, because the occasional desserts he brings to the office are wonderful.

Julia Jensen Smolka Chairs ISBA Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Section

Julia Jensen Smolka is currently serving as the chair of the Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Section Counsel of the Illinois State Bar Association. The Section is comprised of Illinois lawyers from all over the state who meet to discuss trends in commercial litigation, banking law, collections and bankruptcy. It offers opinions on legislation that is pending in the Illinois General Assembly, and in some cases, drafts its own legislation for presentation to elected officials.

Lizak Recognized As “Top 100” Trial Lawyer in Illinois by Trial Lawyers Association

Chester A. Lizak

Chester Lizak has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the State of Illinois” by the American Trial Lawyers Association.  The American Trial Lawyers Association is a professional organization of America’s Top Trial Lawyers.

In the past few years, Chet has received numerous other awards including an Award of Merit from the Advocates Society of Polish American Lawyers, the Distinguished Service Award from DePaul College of Law, and in 2006 he was recognized by Chicago Magazine as one of the Top Illinois Super Lawyers.

For the first 10 years of his practice, Chet practiced primarily criminal law.  During that time, while Chairman of the Chicago Bar Association Defense of Prisoners Committee, he obtained not-guilty dispositions for indigent defendants in eight consecutive non-capital murder cases.

In the last capital murder case he tried, the jury convicted the defendant but declined to impose the death penalty.  Chet and his partner, Warren Swanson, spent three weeks trying the case and almost two years prior to the trial, investigating and preparing the case for trial. The trial court awarded $250.00 in fees for a case that involved more than 463 billable hours.  The Illinois Supreme Court decided that the trial court’s award of fees to Chet was inadequate.  They doubled the fee to $500.00.  There are not too many lawyers in the State of Illinois that can say that there is an Illinois Supreme Court Decision finding that his legal services are worth $1.10 per hour.  The trial was also memorable because Chet and his wife, Noreen, got married two weeks after the trial began and one week before the trial concluded.

After the foregoing trial, Chet decided that he should become a civil litigator.  As a civil litigator, Chet has tried cases involving personal injury, condemnation, construction claims, wrongful demolition, commercial disputes and insurance coverage cases.

It has been more than 35 years since he tried that last capital murder case.  He still misses the excitement of criminal jury trials.

For More Information Contact:

Di Monte & Lizak, LLC
216 Higgins Road; Park Ridge, IL 60068
Tel: (847) 698-9600
FAX: (847) 698-9623
Internet: firm@dimontelaw.com

Di Monte & Lizak Adopts Strategic Plan for Future

Chicago Law Firm Strategic Planning

Two law firms tracing their origins to 1924 and 1894 are combining their practices and personnel as Di Monte & Lizak, LLC effective November 1.  That’s a lot of history, but what about the future?

On Wednesday, October 12, the partners and associates of both combining firms met for the purpose of examining a Strategic Plan for Di Monte and Lizak’s future.

Partners David Arena, Riccardo Di Monte, and Alan Stefaniak led the presentation of the plan.  The partners have been meeting over many months with a management consulting firm to develop the plan and all the lawyers have been interviewed and have provided important input in the plan’s development.

Particularly significant in the strategic planning process was that in the face of economically challenging times, the unanimous message for the firm’s professionals is that the firm’s partners believe in the values that have brought us this far.  The firm’s mission statement:”Di Monte & Lizak Is an Experienced, Multi‑Practice Firm Working as a Team to Provide Exceptional, Practical Counsel and Quality Service” reflects this fact.

Chicago Law Firm Strategic Planning

By adopting a strategic plan, Di Monte & Lizak has re-committed itself to being an enduring presence in the Chicagoland legal community.  The firm has received offers of merger from three national law firms in the past 12 months.  Its conclusion is to thank each of them, reject each offer, and move forward into 2012 and beyond, continuing to serve its clients by following a path of controlled growth, adding strong new partners both to replace those who retire, and to slowly grow the firm.

The firm prides itself on providing a “downtown” service at a suburban cost, and intends to continue to do so.  Accordingly, the plan is focused on prompt, clear-cut, well-reasoned and cost-effective response to client needs.

Ryan Van Osdol Receives Back-to-Back Honor

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan Van Osdol has been named to the 2013 Illinois Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list as one of the top attorneys in Illinois for 2013. Ryan also received this honor in 2012, making it the second year in a row that he was nominated and recognized by other Illinois attorneys for this prestigious award.

No more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in Illinois are selected to the Rising Stars list. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding attorneys from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys cannot pay to be listed as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of attorneys, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.

Ryan has practiced at DiMonte & Lizak, LLC since September 2008. He focuses his practice on business litigation, construction litigation and various other aspects of commercial litigation. While the majority of his clients are medium-sized local business owners, Ryan has successfully represented a wide range of clients in trial courts, appellate courts, and in alternative dispute resolution proceedings. He completed a 12 day trial this summer, in which he and partner David Arena successfully defended a client against claims of fraud, breach of a merger agreement and piercing the corporate veil. Ryan was recently admitted to the trial bar for the Northern District of Illinois and is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Committee.

D&L Attorneys Author Two Chapters of the Latest Illinois Continuing Legal Education Mechanics Lien in Illinois Practice Handbook

David Arena, Alan Stefaniak and Jordan Finfer co-authored a chapter titled Subcontractor’s Claim for Lien. Abraham Brustein, Julia Smolka and Derek Samz authored a chapter titled Mechanics Liens in Bankruptcy. The latest edition of the IICLE Mechanics Lien in Illinois Practice Handbook was published earlier this month.

Derek Samz and Julia Smolka Present: Bankruptcy Basics from the Experts

Derek Samz and Julia Smolka were recently among the panel of presenters at this continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association. Derek’s presentation was regarding Chapter 7 bankruptcy procedure. Julia’s presentation was regarding representing creditors in bankruptcy proceedings.

Margherita Albarello and Julia Smolka Speak on “Legal Basics for Small Business Owners”

ma-js-prcoc-2Margherita Albarello and Julia Smolka were guest speakers at a recent Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce meeting. Their topic was “Legal Basics for Small Business Owners.” Shown here at the meeting are Margherita Albarello (left), Katherine O’Dell of Amari & Locallo LLC (center), and Julia Smolka.

Di Monte & Lizak Welcomes Maria Laftchiyska to Firm

Maria Laftchiyska graduated from Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in 2009. She received her J.D. in 2013 from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. While at Loyola University, Maria was a member of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition team and National Moot Court team.

Maria focuses her practice on estate planning, asset protection, and taxation. She assists business owners and families to create individualized estate plans, including preparation of wills and trust. She works closely with clients to restructure personal and professional assets to maximize wealth preservation and minimize gift and estate taxation. Maria also has experience in general business and taxation matters for corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships.

Julia Smolka Article Published in ISBA Newsletter

This fall, Julia Jensen Smolka had an article published with the Illinois State Bar Association Real Estate Section. The article is a summary of the Illinois Commercial Real Estate Broker’s Lien Act. Ms. Smolka won a ruling on appeal with the First District Appellate Court on the validity of a commercial real estate lien on a property when the owner of a six flat attempted to close a sale without paying her realtor. You can read the article here.

Patrick Owens and Jonathan Morton Present at Continuing Education Conference

On February 25, 2015, Patrick and Jonathan presented Estate Planning for Digital Assets to certified public accountants and other tax planning professionals. The presentation focused on current planning techniques that estate planners can use to make sure that digital assets are appropriately dealt with upon the client’s death. The speakers also discussed pending legislation, and changes in user agreements, including Facebook’s decision to allow users to name a Legacy user to dispose of the account.

Attorneys Ryan Van Osdol and Jordan Finfer Receive Recognition

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan Van Osdol and Jordan Finfer have been named to the 2015 Illinois Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list as top attorneys in Illinois in the field of business litigation. Ryan received this honor in 2012, 2013, and 2014 making this the fourth year in a row that he was nominated and recognized by other Illinois attorneys and judges for this prestigious award. Jordan received this honor in 2015, making this the second year in a row that he was nominated and recognized by other Illinois attorneys and judges for this prestigious award

No more than 2.5% of Illinois attorneys are selected as Rising Stars. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding attorneys from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys cannot pay to be listed as a Super Lawyers Rising Star. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey, independent research, and peer reviews by practice area.

Margherita Albarello Speaks About Employment Law at Recent Park Ridge Chamber’s Women In Business Event

albarello-prcofcMargherita Albarello spoke at the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Networking Breakfast on May 22, 2015, regarding “recent employment laws and decisions affecting you as either the employer or employee.” More specifically she touched upon new trends in employment law including medical marijuana use among employees, age discrimination and restrictive covenants. Shown at the event from DiMonte & Lizak are (from left) Julia Smolka, Lee Poteracki, Margherita Albarello and Jack Owens.

Attorney Paul Greco Assists a DiMonte & Lizak Commercial Real Estate Client Close on the Purchase of 340,000 Square Feet of Office Space

In May of 2015, Paul A. Greco and other D&L attorneys assisted a client in acquiring over 340,000 square feet of commercial real estate. The assets acquired consist primarily of rental office space located at five separate locations along the I-94 corridor. The transaction included local real estate professionals, a West Coast venture partner and a prominent local lender.

Julia Smolka Speaks on Evolving Your Law Practice at CBA Meeting

smolka-cbaJulia spoke at the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Women In Law meeting on evolving your law practice. The attendees were young attorneys who were interested in either changing their current employment or practice or learning to focus on new areas of law. “As an attorney practicing for over 15 years, I have had to change my law practice to not only align with my client’s needs but also with my own interests, strengths and weaknesses.” Julia’s fellow speakers were her classmate and fellow attorney Kelly Bartel Anderson and Susan Ruffer Levin.

Di Monte & Lizak Gives Back to the Community

On February 18, 2015, Julia Smolka and Derek Samz presented the Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) program at Ridgewood High School in Norridge. The CARE program consists of bankruptcy lawyers in the Chicago area educating college-bound students about the necessities, and pitfalls, of credit cards and student loan debt. More information on the CARE program can be obtained at www.carechicago.com.

Julia Smolka and Peter Follenweider Speak to High School Students About Safeguarding Their Credit

smolka-follenweiderRecently, Julia and Peter spoke to high school students at Ridgewood High School in Norridge, IL as part of C.A.R.E. Chicago. CARE stands for Credit Abuse Resistance Education and it aims to teach high school students about the many consequences of consumer credit abuse. It is a group of Chicago area lawyers and judges whose goal is to educate students about the pitfalls of easy credit and students loans, before they get into trouble.

“High School students will become college students who will be inundated with false information about student loans and credit cards.” Smolka said. “We are in the unique positions, as attorneys, to have first-hand knowledge how devastating it can be to a young person to be in financial straits and how it can affect their life going forward.”

Di Monte & Lizak Takes on the Chicago Cubs

Tom Lombardo and Abraham Brustein filed suit on behalf of several rooftop businesses which overlook Wrigley Field (the “Rooftops”), against the Chicago Cubs and its Chairman, Thomas Ricketts, in federal court on January 20, 2015. The complaint charges the Cubs with starting to install a jumbotron, video board, and various other large signs that will block the Rooftops and breach a 20-year contract that guarantees the Rooftops an unobstructed view into the ballpark in return for millions of dollars in royalty payments. The Cubs are also accused of demanding that the Rooftops conspire with the Cubs to engage in an illegal price-fixing scheme to raise ticket prices in violation of the Sherman Act, as well as commercial defamation, deceptive business practices and other claims.

D&L Recovers Large Settlement on Eve of Trial

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC’s litigation team of Riccardo DiMonte, David Arena, Margherita Albarello and Ryan Van Osdol recently obtained a favorable settlement for their client and against the Village of Mount Prospect. In the lawsuit, various Village employees and the Village of Mount Prospect were alleged to have violated the civil RICO statute and plaintiff’s civil rights in an effort to force plaintiff to sell his property for less than fair market value. On the eve of trial, we successfully recovered a $6,500,000 settlement for our client and resolved a dispute that had been pending for approximately six years. We will publish a full article regarding this case in the next edition of the firm newsletter, but until then, see:

1) The Daily Herald article and;
2) The Chicago Tribune article.

Margherita Albarello Speaks to Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce

Margherita M. Albarello recently spoke at the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Women In Business section on the topic of how to use restrictive covenant agreements to bring value to your business. If you are interested in more information on this topic, please call Margherita.

Julia Jensen Smolka Speaks to High School Students

This past fall, Julia spoke to high school students at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook and St. Benedict’s High School in Chicago as part of C.A.R.E. Chicago. CARE stands for Credit Abuse Resistance Education and it aims to teach high school students about the many consequences of consumer credit abuse. It is a group of Chicago area lawyers and judges whose goal is to educate students about the pitfalls of easy credit and students loans, before they get into trouble.

Ryan Van Osdol and Jordan Finfer Receive Recognition from Illinois Super Lawyers

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan Van Osdol and Jordan Finfer have been named to the 2014 Illinois Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list as top attorneys in Illinois in the field of business litigation. Ryan received this honor in 2012 and 2013, making this the third year in a row that he was nominated and recognized by other Illinois attorneys and judges for this prestigious award. This is Jordan’s first year being nominated as a Rising Star and he hopes to continue to receive recognition from the Illinois Super Lawyers’ nomination committee.

Alan Stefaniak and Richard Laubenstein Obtain Successful Results At Trial

Last fall Partner Alan Stefaniak successfully litigated a matter for a long standing construction client. After a day and half bench trial an award was made on an unsigned contract. Alan was able to prove that the parties conduct showed a contract existed. The award included interest at the contract rate of 18% and attorneys fees.

Attorney Richard Laubenstein with assistance from Alan Stefaniak successfully litigated a remodeling contractor client’s claim against a homeowner for breach of contract. The case was tried before a Cook County jury. It’s rare that a builder prevails before a jury so a favorable verdict for our client was well received.

Stephanie Wilson Gives Birth To Baby Boy

D&L is happy to announce that on paralegal Stephanie Wilson and her husband, Jason, recently welcomed a healthy baby boy names Lucas to their family. This is Stephanie and Jason’s third child, and both mom and baby are doing well. We wish them all the best.

Julia Jensen Smolka Speaks on Legal Tips for Small Business

Julia Jensen Smolka shared Legal Tips for Small Business at the February 11 meeting of the Harwood Heights – Norridge Chamber of Commerce.

Big Win in Trade Secret Dispute

Margherita Albarello won a complete defense victory for a home health care agency and its owners in a case alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and other business torts.

The plaintiff, a competing home health care agency, alleged that our clients stole patient and referral information, began competing with the plaintiff before they left employment, and interfered with the plaintiff=s relationship with patient referral sources and with Medicare. The plaintiff sought damages in excess of $1 million.

After two days of trial, the plaintiff rested its case. Margherita made a motion for a directed finding, arguing that the plaintiff had not proven any of its six causes of action and that our clients did not even need to put on their defense case. The trial court agreed and entered judgment in favor of our clients.

Attorney Ryan Van Osdol Receives AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan Van Osdol has earned the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale Hubbell. The Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating is the highest possible rating for an attorney for both ethical standards and legal ability. This rating represents the pinnacle of professional excellence. This prestigious recognition was bestowed upon Ryan based upon peer reviews and recommendations submitted by both attorneys and judges in Illinois. Congratulations go to Ryan for his receipt of this honor.

The Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating is a credential highly valued and sought after in the legal world. It used to be a “secret” among attorneys who used the rating as a screening device when they needed to hire a lawyer they did not personally know. Now, it can easily be accessed by all individuals via the Internet when searching for an attorney.

Ryan has practiced at DiMonte & Lizak, LLC for the past five years. He currently focuses his practice on business litigation, construction litigation, collection disputes, business formation and various other aspects of commercial litigation. While the majority of his clients are medium-sized local businesses, Ryan has successfully represented a diverse group of clients, ranging from individuals to financial institutions. Ryan is experienced in successfully representing clients in trial courts, appellate courts, and in mediation/arbitration proceedings.

Ryan would like to thank all of his peers who nominated and recommended him for this distinction. He is very proud to have earned the highest possible rating from Martindale Hubbell.

Julia Jensen Smolka Promoted to Partner

DiMonte & Lizak is proud to announce that Julia Jensen Smolka has been promoted to partner. As a commercial and bankruptcy litigation attorney, she defends preference actions, prepares consumer and commercial bankruptcy petitions. Julia advocates creditors’ rights in bankruptcies as well as prosecuting and defending breach of contract suits. She has extensive litigation and collection experience and considerable experience in perfecting, prosecuting and defending mechanic liens and construction litigation claims.

“Julia is an accomplished lawyer, capable of vigorously representing her clients without losing sight of their overall business objectives. We are delighted to welcome her to the partnership and look forward to her future,” said David T. Arena, partner at DiMonte & Lizak, LLC.

Julia received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Julia is also an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Harwood-Heights Norridge Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Assistance Center and is active in the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Laubenstein Receives Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service

Di Monte & Lizak is pleased to announce that Richard Laubenstein received an Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service by the United States District Court and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Richard was appointed pro bono by the Court to represent a client in a criminal matter spending unending time and money in said representation. Richard received the award on May 23, 2013 at the United States District Court.

Julia Jensen Smolka Speaks at Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Roundtable

On April 2, 2013, Julia Jensen Smolka spoke at a small business roundtable discussion hosted by the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce. Among the topics Ms. Smolka discussed were the pros and cons of forming a corporation or an LLC, commercial lease negotiations and pitfalls small business owners should be aware of subjecting them to personal liability for business debt, such as for leases, credit cards, vendor debt, employee claims and the IRS.

James J. Riebandt Joins DiMonte & Lizak

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC welcomes James J. Riebandt, previously of the firm Riebandt & DeWald, P.C., who joined the firm effective January 1, 2013. Mr. Riebandt’s addition brings another experienced transactional attorney to the firm. He graduated with high honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1972 and from De Paul University College of Law in 1975. His practice areas include business formation, representation, purchase and sale; commercial and residential real estate purchase, sale and leasing; and estate planning and administration. Mr. Riebandt began his career with Daley, Reilly and Daley in 1975. He formed the firm which eventually became Riebandt & DeWald, P.C. in 1978.

With the addition of Mr. Riebandt, the total number of attorneys at DiMonte & Lizak comes to 24. DiMonte & Lizak’s attorneys practice in most areas of the law, with attorneys dedicated to both litigation and transactional practice. The firm prides itself on its ability to represent clients in most areas of litigation, including commercial litigation, contract disputes, business and contract fraud, accounting actions, actions to dissolve corporations, partnerships and other businesses, construction and mechanic’s liens, employment matters before courts and state and federal administrative agencies, will contests, trust and probate litigation. DiMonte & Lizak attorneys represent clients in all aspects of real estate development and land use. The firm also provides transactional counsel to clients in corporate and business governance, sale, merger, acquisition of businesses, leasing, estate planning and probate, loan documentation and closings, and commercial and residential real estate transactions. DiMonte & Lizak also boasts a strong creditors’ rights and bankruptcy practice, representing debtors, creditors, and bankruptcy trustees in proceedings under Chapters 7, 11, and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, non-bankruptcy insolvency and restructuring matters, fraudulent transfer litigation, and loan enforcement.

DiMonte & Lizak is conveniently located adjacent to the Kennedy Expressway between the Canfield and Cumberland exits in Park Ridge. Free parking is available right outside the firm’s building located at the intersection of Higgins Road and Washington Avenue.

D&L Attorney Ryan Van Osdol Receives Back-to-Back Honor

DiMonte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan Van Osdol has been named to the 2013 Illinois Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list as one of the top attorneys in Illinois for 2013. Ryan also received this honor in 2012, making it the second year in a row that he was nominated and recognized by other Illinois attorneys for this prestigious award.

No more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in Illinois are selected to the Rising Stars list. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding attorneys from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys cannot pay to be listed as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of attorneys, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.

Ryan has practiced at DiMonte & Lizak, LLC since September 2008. He focuses his practice on business litigation, construction litigation and various other aspects of commercial litigation. While the majority of his clients are medium-sized local business owners, Ryan has successfully represented a wide range of clients in trial courts, appellate courts, and in alternative dispute resolution proceedings. He completed a 12 day trial this summer, in which he and partner David Arena successfully defended a client against claims of fraud, breach of a merger agreement and piercing the corporate veil. Ryan was recently admitted to the trial bar for the Northern District of Illinois and is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Committee.

Di Monte & Lizak Host Chamber of Commerce Event

Di Monte & Lizak, LLC is proud to have hosted the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event on October 18, 2012.

Patrick Owens a Presenter at Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education

Patrick D. Owens was a presenter on the subject of the Transfer on Death Instrument in Illinois at an Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education event on September 27, 2012. He will be presenting at the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education’s Practice Academy: Essentials of Estate Planning on December 6, 2012.

Margherita Albarello to Speak at Labor and Employment law Program

Margherita M. Albarello will present “Immigration Law Compliance” and “Employment Law Issues in the Workplace” on April 17, 2013 in Schaumburg, Illinois, as part of the Labor and Employment Law 2013 program sponsored by continuing legal education provider Sterling Education Services.

Alan L. Stefaniak Speaks at National Business Institute on Zoning and Land Use

Alan L. Stefaniak was a featured speaker at a seminar put on by the National Business Institute on Zoning and Land Use on August 8, 2012 and his topics included “What is the Comprehensive Plan and How to Use It” and also “Annexation”.

Lin Hanson Featured in IICLR Author Spotlight

Linscott R. Hanson was featured in IICLE Press’ July 2012 “author spotlight”, in recognition of his contributions to IICLE Press publications over the past 35 years. Lin’s IICLE Press author spotlight is available here.

Margherita M. Albarello and Julia Jensen Smolka Speak at Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Section

Margherita M. Albarello and Julia Jensen Smolka shared their legal expertise at a Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Women In Business section event. Margherita spoke on the topic of how to tell whether you are an independent contractor or an employee. Julia spoke at the event about collecting accounts receivable.

Illinois State Bar Association Distinguished Counselor Award Presented to Eugene A. DiMonte and Linscott R. Hanson

The Illinois State Bar Association bestowed on Eugene A. Di Monte & Linscott R. Hanson, partners in Di Monte & Lizak, LLC its coveted Distinguished Counselor Award in recognition of each having practiced law in Illinois for 50 years. Both Gene and Lin were admitted to practice by the Illinois Supreme Court on November 28th, 1961. When asked about future plans, neither plans to retire in the foreseeable future.
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Van Osdol Named to Illinois Super Lawyers Rising Stars List

Di Monte & Lizak, LLC is proud to announce that Ryan R. Van Osdol has been named to the 2012 Illinois Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list as one of the top attorneys in Illinois for 2012. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Illinois are selected to the list.

Mr. Van Osdol has been with Di Monte & Lizak, LLC since September 2008. He focuses his practice on business litigation, construction litigation and various other aspects of commercial litigation. Mr. Van Osdol has successfully represented a wide range of clients in trial courts, appellate courts, and in alternative dispute resolution proceedings, such as arbitration and mediation. For more information about Mr. Van Osdol, his experience and his practice areas, see his page on our Web site.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys cannot pay to be listed as a Super Lawyers’Rising Star. The annual selections are made using a rigorous multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.

Di Monte & Lizak Adopts Strategic Plan for Future

Two law firms tracing their origins to 1924 and 1894 are combining their practices and personnel as Di Monte & Lizak, LLC effective November 1. That’s a lot of history, but what about the future?

On Wednesday, October 12, the partners and associates of both combining firms met for the purpose of examining a Strategic Plan for Di Monte and Lizak’s future.

Partners David Arena, Riccardo Di Monte, and Alan Stefaniak led the presentation of the plan. The partners have been meeting over many months with a management consulting firm to develop the plan and all the lawyers have been interviewed and have provided important input in the plan’s development.

Particularly significant in the strategic planning process was that in the face of economically challenging times, the unanimous message for the firm’s professionals is that the firm’s partners believe in the values that have brought us this far. The firm’s mission statement:”Di Monte & Lizak Is an Experienced, Multi‑Practice Firm Working as a Team to Provide Exceptional, Practical Counsel and Quality Service” reflects this fact.

Chicago Law Firm Strategic Planning
By adopting a strategic plan, Di Monte & Lizak has re-committed itself to being an enduring presence in the Chicagoland legal community. The firm has received offers of merger from three national law firms in the past 12 months. Its conclusion is to thank each of them, reject each offer, and move forward into 2012 and beyond, continuing to serve its clients by following a path of controlled growth, adding strong new partners both to replace those who retire, and to slowly grow the firm.

The firm prides itself on providing a “downtown” service at a suburban cost, and intends to continue to do so. Accordingly, the plan is focused on prompt, clear-cut, well-reasoned and cost-effective response to client needs.

Two Leading Park Ridge Law Firms to Combine November 1

1111-3Two law firms tracing their origins to 1924 and 1894 are combining their practices and personnel as Di Monte & Lizak, LLC effective November 1. That’s a lot of history, but what about the future?

On Wednesday, October 12, the partners and associates of both combining firms met for the purpose of examining a Strategic Plan for Di Monte and Lizak’s future.

Partners David Arena, Riccardo Di Monte, and Alan Stefaniak led the presentation of the plan. The partners have been meeting over many months with a management consulting firm to develop the plan and all the lawyers have been interviewed and have provided important input in the plan’s development.

Particularly significant in the strategic planning process was that in the face of economically challenging times, the unanimous message for the firm’s professionals is that the firm’s partners believe in the values that have brought us this far. The firm’s mission statement:”Di Monte & Lizak Is an Experienced, Multi‑Practice Firm Working as a Team to Provide Exceptional, Practical Counsel and Quality Service” reflects this fact.

1111-4Chicago Law Firm Strategic Planning
By adopting a strategic plan, Di Monte & Lizak has re-committed itself to being an enduring presence in the Chicagoland legal community. The firm has received offers of merger from three national law firms in the past 12 months. Its conclusion is to thank each of them, reject each offer, and move forward into 2012 and beyond, continuing to serve its clients by following a path of controlled growth, adding strong new partners both to replace those who retire, and to slowly grow the firm.

The firm prides itself on providing a “downtown” service at a suburban cost, and intends to continue to do so. Accordingly, the plan is focused on prompt, clear-cut, well-reasoned and cost-effective response to client needs.

Chester Lizak Recognized as One of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the State of Illinois by the American Trial Lawyers Association

Chester Lizak has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the State of Illinois” by the American Trial Lawyers Association. The American Trial Lawyers Association is a professional organization of America’s Top Trial Lawyers.

In the past few years, Chet has received numerous other awards including an Award of Merit from the Advocates Society of Polish American Lawyers, the Distinguished Service Award from DePaul College of Law, and in 2006 he was recognized by Chicago Magazine as one of the Top Illinois Super Lawyers.

For the first 10 years of his practice, Chet practiced primarily criminal law. During that time, while Chairman of the Chicago Bar Association Defense of Prisoners Committee, he obtained not-guilty dispositions for indigent defendants in eight consecutive non-capital murder cases.

In the last capital murder case he tried, the jury convicted the defendant but declined to impose the death penalty. Chet and his partner, Warren Swanson, spent three weeks trying the case and almost two years prior to the trial, investigating and preparing the case for trial. The trial court awarded $250.00 in fees for a case that involved more than 463 billable hours. The Illinois Supreme Court decided that the trial court’s award of fees to Chet was inadequate. They doubled the fee to $500.00. There are not too many lawyers in the State of Illinois that can say that there is an Illinois Supreme Court Decision finding that his legal services are worth $1.10 per hour. The trial was also memorable because Chet and his wife, Noreen, got married two weeks after the trial began and one week before the trial concluded.

After the foregoing trial, Chet decided that he should become a civil litigator. As a civil litigator, Chet has tried cases involving personal injury, condemnation, construction claims, wrongful demolition, commercial disputes and insurance coverage cases.

It has been more than 35 years since he tried that last capital murder case. He still misses the excitement of criminal jury trials.

For More Information Contact:
Di Monte & Lizak, LLC
216 Higgins Road; Park Ridge, IL 60068
Tel: (847) 698-9600
FAX: (847) 698-9623
Internet: firm@dimontelaw.com

Julia Jensen Smolka Chairs ISBA Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Section

Julia Jensen Smolka is currently serving as the chair of the Commercial Banking, Collections and Bankruptcy Section Counsel of the Illinois State Bar Association. The Section is comprised of Illinois lawyers from all over the state who meet to discuss trends in commercial litigation, banking law, collections and bankruptcy. It offers opinions on legislation that is pending in the Illinois General Assembly, and in some cases, drafts its own legislation for presentation to elected officials.

Jeff McDonald Tests Culinary Skills

When he is not writing wills or creating corporations, Di Monte and Lizak attorney, Jeff McDonald can often be found in the kitchen. For the past four years, Jeff has been taking culinary and baking classes at Harper College and at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley campus.

Disney-DessertsMost recently, Jeff accompanied Certified Master Chef of Pastry and Sugar Artistry, Alain Roby, the senior corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels, and Hagop Hagopian, Executive Chef of the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, on a trip to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. While there, Jeff assisted in the preparation of desserts for 800 guests at the Fall Harvest Dinner and prepared desserts in the Disney pastry kitchen for a seminar and book signing event highlighting Roby’s new cookbook, American Classics: Casual and Elegant Desserts and promoting the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, a Deerfield, Illinois-based charity.

Locally, Jeff assisted Chef Hagopian with the spring annual dinner for Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago held at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield. The black-tie event featuring an eight course gourmet meal was served to a group of 99 top chefs and cooking professionals.

Disney-ChefsNot satisfied with just cooking, Jeff has learned to make his own beer, cheese, bacon, sausage and bread. Jeff has been featured in the Daily Herald and just won the grand prize in an Edible Book Contest with his rendition of the Monster Book of Monsters from the Harry Potter series.

Although he often is asked when he will open his own restaurant, he has no plans to do so. We’re glad, because the occasional desserts he brings to the office are wonderful.

Laubenstein Leads Class on Handling Real Estate Sales in Troubled Market

Attorney Richard W. Laubenstein recently was engaged by one of Chicago’s premiere real estate companies to offer classes to their agents and brokers throughout the Chicagoland area on how to handle residential real estate sales in today’s troubled market. With housing prices stagnant, many sellers are finding themselves in a position where they owe more money on the home than the proceeds the sale generates. At Di Monte & Lizak, LLC, we have the experience needed to counsel buyers, sellers and realtors through the these tough times.

Past Press Releases

Advocates Society Honors Lizak
Partner Chet Lizak will be honored by The Advocates Society, the association of Polish-American attorneys, with its 2006 Award of Merit for his outstanding contributions to the advancement and progress of the Chicagoland Polish community. Chet has been active as a Director of the Polish American Association, as a pro bono attorney for the Copernicus Foundation, and as a volunteer at the Amicus Poloniae legal clinic. The Award will be presented to Chet at the Society’s Installation and Awards Dinner on February 28. Congratulations!

Julia Jensen on TV
Julia Jensen will participate in a panel discussion of bankruptcy and collection law sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association. The program, “Collection: The Buck Stops Here” will air on CAN TV, channel 21 in Chicago, the second and fourth Tuesday in December at 10 p.m. The program will address collection practices from business and consumer viewpoints.

Lin Hanson Lectures on Practice Skills
August 1, 2005 — In what has become a fall tradition, Lin Hanson will join George Marifian, a business attorney from Belleville, Illinois, to teach the business portion of the Illinois State Bar Association’s annual practice skills course at Bar Headquarters on Wednesday, August 31st. The two have taught this course for a number of years. They will deal with issues of entity selection, (corporation? LLC? Partnership?) governing agreements, new case law and new legislation. Both Lin and George have served on the Secretary of State’s Business Laws Advisory Committee, and helped draft this year’s new business legislation. Their friendship extends back to other teaching experiences, both in Chicago, and at Southern Illinois University’s Edwardsville campus. Di Monte and Lizak, LLC and Mathis, Marifian Richter & Grandy, Ltd. have acted as co-counsel in business litigation too.

Alan Stefaniak Lectures on Land Use
May 1, 2005 — Alan Stefaniak, a partner at Di Monte and Lizak, will be a featured speaker at two seminars in March. Alan has broad experience in zoning and land use matters and is also the Mayor of the Village of Kildeer. He will be speaking at a seminar entitled Roadway Issues in Urban Development in Illinois and will present the municipal perspective. The other seminar he is speaking at is Land Use Law Update in Illinois. Alan will speak on the topics of Ethics in Land Use Law; Vested Rights, Moratoria, Exclusionary Zoning, Contract/Conditional Zoning/PUDS, Municipal Liability/Takings and Other Issues. For more information on these seminars or to obtain copies of Alan’s written materials contact him at 847/698-9600.

Julia Jensen Lectures to Ark Entrepreneurs Group
March 1, 2005 — Julia Jensen Smolka will discuss the subject of “Being More Effective in Collecting Accounts Receivable” when she addresses the Park Entrepreneurs Group in Glenview, Illinois on Saturday morning, March 5th, at 10 AM. The meeting will be held at the Glenview New Church, 74 Park Drive, Glenview, one block west, then north, from the intersection of Glenview Road and Shermer.

Park Entrepreneurs’ Group, is a group of current and aspiring business owners, meeting monthly in Glenview IL to share ideas, questions, suggestions, challenges, and opportunities which are common to self-employed people and small business owners. PEG is open to all and welcomes any business owners or people considering self-employment.

Lin Hanson Lectures on LLCs
On Friday, September 10th, 2004, Lin Hanson will speak to the Corporation and Securities Law Section of the Illinois State Bar Association on the subject of “Recent Developments in the Law of Limited Liability Companies.” Mr. Hanson currently Chairs a special committee of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Business Laws Advisory Committee, which is studying passage of a Series LLC Act in Illinois.

Lin Hanson Lectures on Board Governance Issues
January 8, 2004 — On Thursday, January 22nd, 2004, Lin Hanson will be a guest lecturer at The North Park University School of Business and Non Profit Management. Lin’s topic will be “Legal Aspects of Board Governance” and will include a discussion of legal responsibilities of Board Members, risk management, bylaws, conflicts of interest, and fiduciary responsibilities. Lin is the immediate past Chair of the Secretary of State’s Committee on Business Laws, which drafted the Illinois Not for Profit Corporation Act, under which most Illinois NFPs function.

Margherita Albarello Interviewed by CNN Financial
December 9, 2003 — Margherita Albarello was recently interviewed by CNN Financial for their story on bullying.

Lin Hanson Speaks to ISBA Business Planners
August 27, 2003 — On Wednesday, August 27th, Lin Hanson, together with Belleville attorney George Marifian, conducted a 3 hour “practice skills course” for over 100 members of the Illinois State Bar Association at the Association’s Chicago Headquarters. The topic was “Advising Small Business.” Lin spoke on choosing the appropriate business entity (corporation -vs- LLC -vs- partnership), protecting personal assets from the claims of business creditors, tax issues, and issues in forming corporations and LLCs. He gave particular attention to the over 99,000 LLCs formed in Illinois since passage of the original LLC act in 1994, and the new, Delaware series LLC. In addition to his talk, Lin prepared and distributed a 150 page text. Copies of materials and a video tape of the talk are available from the ISBA through its Web site at http://www.isba.org for $199.00.