Interesting Posts From Other Legal Blogs

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I try to surf through several key legal blogs each week and wish to share a few posts I found interesting and helpful to my practice:

1) We all need “deep thought” to do our finest work but are limited by counterproductive multitasking at the office:


2) Attorneys need to be careful about check scams that wind up in our email inboxes:


3) Here are 5 closely watched US Supreme Court cases for 2014:

4) Twitter advice for attorneys and other business people:


5) Make sure your social media bios are updated regularly:

 6) Small firm are better at social media than big firms:

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621

Important News on NYS Gift Tax from O’Connor Davies

I received an email last night from O’Connor Davies (, which provides an important update about possible changes to New York State law for the estate tax.  The changes would add a gift tax and may be approved in this year’s NYS Budget (it could pass by April 1). Therefore, if you were thinking about making a gift this year, you may want to make it very soon. Please see the email below from O’Connor Davies.

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621 

gift tax

New York State Proposed Budget Bill for Estate and Gift Tax Reform

Stuart Stengel

Time may be running out to take advantage of the lack of a gift tax in the State of New York. Governor Cuomo has proposed a change in New York State’s estate tax law in an attempt to bring New York’s estate taxes in line with Federal tax law. As part of the estate tax law changes, gifts made after March 31, 2014 will be subject to the New York estate tax.

In essence, the new budget bill proposes a comprehensive overhaul of the estate, gift, generation skipping transfer and trust income tax laws which includes:

  • Increasing the New York State estate tax exclusion over the next five years to coincide with the applicable Federal exclusion—increasing the current amount ($1,000,000) to $2,065,500 on April 1, 2014, $3,125,000 in 2015, $4,187,500 in 2016 and $5,250,000 in 2017* and adjusted for inflation with the Consumer Price Index thereafter.
  • Decreasing the top estate tax rate from 16% down to 10% by April 2017
  • Adding back gifts made by New Yorkers after March 31, 2014 to their New York gross estate on their death.
  • Repealing the New York State Generation Skipping Transfer Tax
  • Taxing distributions of accumulated income to New York beneficiaries of non-resident trusts and exempt resident trusts

The net effect of the change in law means that assets gifted after March 31, 2014 would be subject to New York’s estate tax to the extent their inclusion exceeds the exclusion threshold. Essentially, this is a reinstatement of the gift tax on wealthier New Yorkers upon their demise.


Although the time period is brief and this proposed budget bill has yet to be finalized, if you are affected by the proposed new rules, you may wish to contact your tax advisor about making gifts prior to April 1, 2014. Any gifts made under the current New York law will not be included as part of a your New York gross estate and will pass without a payment of gift taxes to the extent you have not exceeded the Federal estate and gift tax exemption of $5,340,000.

For more information, the proposed budget bill can be found by going to Parts 1 and X of this document.

* Exemptions amounts are subject to change pending passage of 2014-2015 executive budget.

Properties Taken Through Kelo Case Sadly Still Sit Vacant!

This would be Susette Kelo's backyardFort Trumbull Street View 1

One issue where my legal and political views align is the use of eminent domain to take private property for private use. I am a vociferous opponent of this misuse of eminent domain and remain outraged that the Supreme Court sanctioned this property owner abuse in the now infamous case, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). In Kelo, the Supreme Court held that New London could legally take non-blighted private property by eminent domain, and then transfer it for a dollar a year to a private developer solely for the purpose of increasing tax revenues. In reaction to Kelo, several states enacted laws to restrict the power of eminent domain when used to take private property for private use. I will never vote to allow eminent domain to be used to steal private property from Westchester homeowners for private development as a county legislator.

The last clause in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution states, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” It is my view that the founding fathers never imagined this clause could be utilized to take private property for private use. At the time of the passage of the Bill of Rights and for the following 150 years, eminent domain was used only for clear public purposes such as building a bridge, highway, public park or government building. I do not believe the original intent of the eminent domain clause was ever to allow the raising of taxes through private development as a “public use.”

Therefore, I was interested to read an excellent post on one of my favorite legal blogs, The Volokh Conspiracy, that discussed the photos above, which show that the private property taken from the homeowners in New London still sits vacant to this day. It was supposed to be used for a Pfizer office building along with luxury condos, hotels, a conference center and retail stores. The plan fell apart, and the geniuses that ran New London left the city with vacant property producing zero tax revenue. Although, I must note the planned development was a sweetheart deal for Pfizer and developer for which they only had to pay $1 per year – what a disgraceful example of misguided corporate welfare. Here is the post, please visit the link and read it. Join me in opposing any such future abuses of property owners in our state and county.

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621

5 Major Decisions Expected from U.S. Supreme Court Over Next Two Weeks

It’s been awhile since I have posted here, but it’s been a busy few months with my law practice, county legislator duties and launching my re-election campaign. However, like many attorneys, I’m a U.S. Supreme Court watcher, and June is always the most exciting month at the nation’s highest court. The Supreme Court is expected to release close to 20 decisions over the next two weeks, and we will have the opportunity to read major decisions on issues such as:

Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. - Can a state pass a law to require proof of citizenship for voting? This holding may address the larger issue of the degree to which states are limited or preempted in regulating federal elections.  (NOTE:  This decision was released on June 17 – see

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin - Do the affirmative action programs of the University of Texas admissions procedures violate the Constitution under Equal Protection Clause for discriminating based on race?

Shelby County v. Holder – Is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act constitutional? Section 5 does not allow certain states to make changes to voting laws and regulations without approval of the Justice Department.

Hollingsworth v. Perry – Is Proposition 8 (Approved by California voters in 2008 to ban same-sex marriages) Constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause? There is also a question whether the petitioners have standing.

U.S. v. Windsor – Is the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, constitutional under the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment?

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621

Thoughtful link to professor’s legal analysis for this week’s gay rights cases before U.S. Supreme Court

I keep noticing misinformation in the media about the two cases heard this week in US Supreme Court addressing gay rights. The reporters make it seem as if the Supreme Court is some kind of super-legislature. It is not – it is the judicial branch that is supposed to properly interpret and apply the Constitution, federal and state law in reviewing lower court decisions. The Supreme Court is restrained by the facts and law from the cases being appealed.

Luckily, Univ. of California Irvine law professor Erwin Chemerinsky has provided us with a succinct review of the legal issues – not political issues – before the court in the two cases. We all look forward to seeing the decisions in June.

Check out Prof. Chemerinsky’s article from ABA website:

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621



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