End of Life Care, Dreams, and Wishes

Joseph Andrey whispered his wish, “I want to go home, to my books and my music,” to his daughter and power of attorney Maureen Stefanides. Caught in a never-ending cycle, his wish to live and die peacefully at home was seemingly disregarded by a for-profit system that is understaffed, too rigid, and unsympathetic to last wishes. As much as Ms. Stefanides fought to honor her father’s wishes to go home, she was was never able to free him from the constant carousel of trips to the hospital followed by discharges to nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.

These trips to the hospital and stays in nursing homes exposed Mr. Andrey to healthcare-associated infections and poor care, causing his health to further decline. With the infections and worsening medical condition, he was less qualified to recieve the home care that his daughter so desperately sought for him. So, Mr. Audrey continued on the circular journey from hospital to nursing home and back to the hospital again.

Nursing Home CareThe case of Joseph Andrey is not entirely unique. The elder care and abuse attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have represented and advised clients dealing with end-of-life care issues such as those faced by Mr. Andrey and his daughter. The firm has helped those fighting the system to allow elderly loved ones to die in the peace of their own homes – the last bit of dignity and humanity they can be granted.

How can a system recognize and fulfill the individual needs of aging patients if facilities are over-run, understaffed, and ultimately motivated by profits? When it comes to end of life care, sometimes hurdles are in place that don’t seem to make sense. In Mr. Audrey’s case, he was allowed to return home twice but each time the home health agency responsible for his care terminated services, deciding his case was too costly and frequent hospital stays deprived caregivers of steady income. A merry-go-round of profit-driven nursing homes that only paid the highest reimbursements for the first 100 days after admission were the only alternative.

As life expectancy rates increase and quality of life challenges are faced with certainty by so many, how will your family deal with end of life issues like those Joseph Audrey and his daughter faced? At Brownstein & Nguyen, we do not claim to have all of the answers to the heartbreaking sagas that unfold for so many families. But we do take the time to listen and understand each individual situation, and if possible help fight for the healthcare rights and dignity of elder patients – including those nearing their end. If you are caught in a healthcare system trap, feeling powerless even with power of attorney rights, perhaps fighting to keep your loved ones at home to properly oversee their end of life care, contact Atlanta attorneys Brownstein & Nguyen.

Blowing the Whistle in Court

WhistleblowerThe vast majority of physicians and other health care providers endeavor to provide services and bill for them in an ethical, legal manner. Trust is at the core of the federal government’s provider reimbursement scheme under Medicare and other federal health programs. The federal government relies upon health care providers submitting accurate and truthful claims. The fact that some health care providers have exploited federal health programs for illegal economic gain has resulted in laws intended to combat fraud and abuse, improve patient care and protect tax payer money. Currently, there is a strong push in federal law enforcement to aggressively enforce federal fraud and abuse laws.[1]

The Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (FCA), makes it illegal for health care providers to submit claims for payment to Medicare that the provider knows, or should know, are false or fraudulent. The FCA contains a whistleblower provision that authorizes a private citizen or “relator” to file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government, and entitles relators to a percentage of any recovery.  FCA whistleblower cases often assert violations of other federal fraud and abuse laws, such as the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a–7b (AKS), the Physician Self-Referral Law, 42 U.S.C. 1395nn (Stark Law), the Exclusion Authorities, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7, and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law, 42 U.S. Code § 1320a–7a (CMPL).

For relators, “blowing the whistle” becomes more than an abstract notion when it comes time to “plead,” or state, the claim in court. Assuming a claim has legal merit, getting it right in court is what determines success or failure. Following the law in reporting alleged wrongdoing is essential, including procedural law dictating how to properly plead a case. Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that “[t]he whistle must be blown not only loudly, but with Rule 9(b) particularity in the Complaint before the courts will listen.”[2] The concept of “particularity” is important to a federal whistleblower’s opportunity for success. This means is that a whistleblower complaint must state “facts as to time, place, and substance” of the alleged wrongdoing, and that “an actual false claim for payment [was] made to the Government.”[3]

A whistleblower must allege not only a fraudulent scheme but also that the fraud resulted in the submission of false claims to the government. If the complaint fails to include details of the presentment of actual false claims, the case, even if meritorious, could be dismissed at the outset. It’s not enough to plead with particularity the circumstances establishing the elements of an alleged scheme to defraud; rather, the whistleblower must “meet the minimum pleading requirements for the actual presentment of any false claims.”[4] A qui tam complaint that fails to do so is subject to dismissal. The rationale behind this strict pleading requirement is that a trial court should be satisfied from the complaint that there is a “sufficient indicia of reliability to support the assertion that the defendants submitted false claims.”[5]

Take, for example, a Medicare whistleblower case filed against a company providing medical testing services to long-term care facilities. The complaint alleged in detail six fraudulent schemes to defraud the federal government with unauthorized, unnecessary or excessive medical tests. However, the suit was dismissed because the relator failed to provide sufficient factual details regarding the presentment of actual claims to the government.[6] In another healthcare qui tam case, the 11th Circuit appeals court affirmed a dismissal because the whistleblower failed to identify amounts and dates of charges submitted to the government.

As a practical matter, whistleblowers with direct knowledge of fraudulent conduct often lack access to specific evidence of the submission of false claims. Recognizing such evidence is typically in the defendant’s exclusive possession, courts often look to other factors in determining if there is “sufficient indicia of reliability” to allow a case to proceed. One important factor is the nature and extent of a relator’s personal knowledge. For example, a professional employee with knowledge of how the healthcare services she provided to patients were billed by her employer may be viewed as sufficiently credible to overcome a lack of detailed knowledge about the submission of individual claims.[7]

The rule requiring whistleblowers to plead federal qui tam cases with particularity serves an important purpose of alerting defendants to the precise misconduct they are charged with, and protecting against unsupported charges of fraud. Due to this and other procedural rules, however, it is paramount for potential whistleblowers to seek legal advice about whether and how to blow the whistle in court.

About the authors

Jay Brownstein and Kevin Little are experienced litigators who often represent parties in complex disputes pending in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies, including whistleblower matters. To learn about the authors, please visit their websites at www.bnlawatlanta.com and www.ksllawfirm.com, or email them at [email protected] or [email protected].

[1] In addition to record civil recoveries in healthcare fraud cases alone (over $12 billion from 2009–2013), a multi-agency task force called the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) has led to a 75% increase in criminal prosecutions of Medicare fraud from 2008 to 2011 alone. Since 2007, HEAT’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force has brought criminal charges against over 1,400 defendants accused of collectively falsely billing Medicare more than $4.8 billion.

[2] U.S. v. McInteer, MD, et al., 470 3d 1350, 1357 (11th Cir. 2006)(“McInteer”).

[3] McInteer, supra at 1357.

[4] McInteer, supra, at 1358.

[5] McInteer, supra, at 1358.

[6] U.S. ex rel. Clauseen v. Lab. Corp. of Am., 290 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. 2002).

[7] U.S. v. R&F Properties of Lake County, Inc., 433 F.3d 1349, 1360 (11th Cir. 2005)(nurse practitioner’s knowledge that services were billed “incident to” physician services sufficient for pleading purposes).

Do Immigrant Children Deserve Due Process?

Due process is the bedrock of our legal system in the United States. Based on the guiding principle that every free person is entitled to adequate notice of a charge or grievance and a fair opportunity to be heard, due process encompasses fairness in both legal proceedings (procedural due process) and the application of laws (substantive due process). So important is due process to our democratic system that it is embodied in the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the eyes of the law, children are persons entitled to due process. Thus, one would expect that children appearing in our courts would receive due process including proper advance notice of a hearing and the right to a lawyer or attorney if they are accused of a crime or unlawful behavior. But is this true when we are talking about unaccompanied immigrant children? Recent evidence from Atlanta immigration courtrooms suggests not, as case after case involving unrepresented minors is heard at a remarkably fast pace.

Busy Court JudgeIn the last eighteen months, there has been a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these children work alongside their families to scrape together every last cent to pay their way across the border in search for freedom from oppression and the promise of a better life. With their home countries being torn apart by gang violence and poverty, the hope of reuniting with family members is what keeps many of them going.

Where do unaccompanied minor immigrants go?

Upon crossing the border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turns unaccompanied minors over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is up to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to locate a parent, relative, friend of the family, or sponsor to help care for the minor until the time of their deportation proceedings.

What’s the connection with Atlanta?

While the surge of unaccompanied minors has made national headlines, it is very present here in Georgia and Atlanta. Over 1,400 unaccompanied minors have landed in the metro Atlanta area while awaiting their fate. The immigration courts seem to be pushing these cases through the courts at an alarming rate. In many cases, unaccompanied immigrant children are not represented and complex cases can get dismissed in the midst. Non-profit immigration lawyers who are willing to donate their time try and help unaccompanied children with valid legal grounds to stay. However, if cases are pushed through the courts at break-neck speed and legal counsel is not available or cannot devote the necessary time to dig deeper into individual cases, many children will fall through the cracks and be returned to the same terrible conditions they fled from.

At Brownstein & Nguyen we do not claim to have all of the answers regarding the current immigration situations. We do however, have years of experience as Atlanta immigration lawyers to offer unaccompanied children and their families seeking answers and representation. The immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have successfully made a difference in the lives of countless individuals needing help with immigration law cases over the years. Contact our Atlanta immigration law offices today.

Georgia’s Bill of Rights for Nursing Home Residents

Georgia has numerous laws designed to protect the elderly, many of which are little known. One such law is the “Bill of Rights for Residents of Long Term Care Facilities” (Patient Bill of Rights) found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Section 31-8-100 et seq.

The Patient Bill of Rights was designed to guarantee certain rights of elderly patients in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. This population is especially at risk, as many of them are isolated and unable to protect themselves. Specifically, the law seeks to “preserve the dignity and personal integrity of residents of long-term care facilities through the recognition and declaration of rights safeguarding against encroachments upon each resident’s need for self-determination.” Nursing home owners, administrators and operators who violate patient rights face civil penalties as well as legal action for damages suffered by patients, their heirs and legal representatives.

The law enumerates the following specific rights:

  • Right to Notification of Rights, § 31–8–104 (right to receive notice of patient rights)
  • Right to Certain Information, § 31–8–106 (right to rate information, statement of charges, administrator information, and written policies and procedures)
  • Right to Nondiscriminatory Admission, § 31–8–107 (right to admission regardless of medical history or condition, unless facility cannot provide adequate care, treatment or services)
  • Right to Care, Treatment, and Services, § 31–8–108 (right to appropriate care, treatment and services)
  • Right to Freedom from Restraints, Isolation, or Restriction, § 31–8–109 (no restraints, restrictions or isolation unless necessary for safety of patient or others)
  • Rights Relative to Pharmaceuticals, § 31–8–110 (right to choose pharmacy, pharmacist)
  • Rights of Citizenship, § 31–8–111 (ability to exercise rights of citizenship including voting and freedom of religion, association and participation)
  • Right to Personal Choice, § 31–8–112 (right to decide sleeping hours, consumption of alcohol and tobacco)
  • Right to Personal Property, § 31–8–113 (right to keep money and personal belongings in private room or secured location)
  • Right to Privacy, § 31–8–114 (right to privacy within room, during personal visits, in third party communications, and during medical care)
  • Right to Fiscal Management, § 31–8–115 (right of patient or personal representative to manage financial affairs and handling of patient funds)
  • Rights Relating to Transfer or Discharge, § 31–8–116 (no involuntary transfers except under specified conditions)
  • Requirements for Temporary Suspension of Rights, § 31–8–117 (no suspension of rights except the right to refuse medical care or consume alcohol or tobacco with doctor’s certification)
  • Right to Pursue Interest; Conflicting Rights; Right to Voice Complaints and Make Recommendations, § 31–8–118 (no reprisal for pursuit of patient rights or making complaints)
  • Coerced Contributions from Family Prohibited; Use of and Receipt for Contributions, § 31–8–119 (restrictions on soliciting financial contributions from patient families)
  • Access to Facility, § 31–8–120 (visitation rights)
  • Residents’ Councils, § 31–8–121 (right to form and participate in residents’ counsel)

Bill of RightsPatients, their families and legal representatives may bring an action in court to enforce these rights. They may also pursue a claim for damages against the facility or administrator. Certain violations can give rise to claims of medical malpractice, such as cases involving inadequate medical care, denial of proper care or treatment, denial of nutrition, abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, such violations occur all too often in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which are typically operated as for-profit businesses. Pressure to reduce overhead and expenses can directly lead to understaffing, inadequate training and education, and lack of proper procedures, in turn resulting in poor patient care.

If you believe a loved one’s rights have been violated, or a loved one has been injured in a long-term care facility or nursing home, contact the nursing home abuse and medical malpractice attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen. We know the law, and fight for the rights of elder patients.

Image courtesy of the National Archives

Have You Suffered From Investment Fraud?

A search for synonyms for the noun fraud returns myriad results including cheating, swindling, embezzlement, deceit, deception, double-dealing and chicanery. Unfortunately, these terms are too often associated with financial investments that turn out far different than investors originally expected or hoped. So long as there is profit to be gained through unscrupulous and illegal investment activities, investment and securities fraud will always post a threat to countless individuals and institutions. Investment Fraud

By definition, investment fraud is “the illegal activity of providing false information to someone so that they will invest in something.”  But investor or securities fraud comes in many shapes and varieties. Misrepresentations may be made in writing, such as through a prospectus, offering memorandum, or other investment documents. Misrepresentations may also be made through written or verbal communications such as emails, correspondence and presentations. Typically, misrepresentations are made by an issuer or agent (such as a dealer-broker) of the target investment. However, fraud may also be committed by business partners or principals of a business.

In addition to traditional fraud and misrepresentation, there are other categories of investor fraud claims such as brokers-dealers claims for unsuitability (recommending or selling unsuitable investments to clients), churning (excessive selling-buying within a brokerage account to generate commissions), unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and other claims. Then there are fraudulent investments such as Ponzi schemes, where investors are promised or even shown investment returns that don’t actually exist but instead are paid by new investor money. Ultimately, these houses of cards always collapse leaving investors out in the cold.

There is always a degree of risk involved in financial investments. However, when investment fraud occurs and investors are given false or misleading information before investing, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to accurately gauge the risk and make an informed investment decision. As a result, losses occur – sometimes catastrophic losses – and stunned investors are left wondering what to do. Fortunately, Atlanta attorneys Brownstein and Nguyen are experienced in investment and securities fraud litigation.

They have successfully represented and reclaimed funds for clients involved in real estate, start-up investing, and broker/dealer investment fraud. With stories in the news regarding misrepresentation in investments involving stocks, hedge funds, and precious metals, there are sure to be more individuals out there who have suffered financial loss as a result of an investment fraud.

If you believe that you or someone you know has suffered financial loss as a result of fraud or misrepresentation in an investment, contact Brownstein and Nguyen in Atlanta. However, don’t delay as the law imposes strict time deadlines on investor claims and lawsuits.

Green Cards and Family Immigration

While family structures vary from one family to another, the word family is synonymous with togetherness. This is especially true when it comes to immigration and what it means to be together as a family in the United States of America. Brownstein & Nguyen, Atlanta Georgia immigration lawyers, have experience working with thousands of families over the years to help them bring them together in our great country.

Visas and Green CardsUnited States citizens and permanent legal residents can petition for a green card for various family members. A United States citizen can also able to sponsor a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, while a permanent legal resident is able to petition for a spouse or child. When petitioning for a family member to be granted a green card, the petitioner is known as the “sponsor” and the recipient family member is known as the “beneficiary.”

There are many steps involved in filling out and acquiring and providing the government with proper supporting documentation for the Petition for Alien Relative form (Form I-130). The process can be quite involved. While one could attempt to complete the form and apply for a visa or green card without a lawyer’s assistance, hiring an experienced immigration attorney may make all of the difference in the world. When filing a petition, it may be approved or denied. If approved, sponsored relatives must know and precisely follow the steps required to complete the processing of their visa. An experienced immigration lawyer will provide guidance in these next steps. Additionally, if a petition should be denied, the appeal process is familiar for experienced immigration lawyers.

If you are considering sponsoring a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, contact Atlanta immigration lawyers Brownstein & Nguyen. When it comes to something as important as family immigration and togetherness, it is okay to lean on experts. Brownstein & Nguyen is  qualified and experienced in navigating the legal landscape of sponsoring a family member for a green card. Contact Brownstein & Nguyen for a free consultation. With over 20 years of experience, our track record speaks for itself.

Do I Have A Case?

Personal injury cases occur in a wide variety of situations and legal categories, including automobile and truck wrecks, medical malpractice, catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, premises liability, nursing home abuse and neglect, and products liability. With such a large range of cases fitting under the umbrella of personal injury, potentially implicating different laws and standards, it can be extremely difficult to determine if one has a viable case. However, this is often the question negligence victims and their families face in unfortunate, unexpected and sometimes heartbreaking situations.


With each personal injury case and set of circumstances being uniquely different, it is important to have a competent lawyer review the matter to determine if there is a case. An experienced personal injury lawyer will gather, review and analyze the facts and relevant law to determine whether or not there is cause of action or remedy for the injured party or family. While the details are specific to each situation, there are three basic questions that generally should be considered in reviewing a potential personal injury claim.

Did negligence occur?

An experienced lawyer will look at all facts involved in a potential personal injury case to determine whether or not a mistake or what the law calls “negligence” occurred. Given the multitude of situations potentially giving rise to a legal injury claim, there are many variables and factors that must be reviewed to determine if the responsible party may be held legally liable for a negligent act. Those factors can be very different from one case to another. For example, a determination of negligence in a premises liability case involving a slip and fall depends upon superior knowledge of the landowner or proprietor of a hazardous condition that caused the injury. On the other hand, the standard of care to determine liability in a nursing home abuse or malpractice situation is generally that same care which other healthcare providers would have provided under similar circumstances, as determined by an appropriate medical professional. These tests and the resulting analyses of liability in a particular case are dramatically different.

Did the negligence directly cause a personal injury?

Assuming a mistake or negligent act occurred, the next inquiry is whether that mistake directly caused or contributed to the victim’s injury. While seemingly commonsense, this question can be quite tricky legally, and the analysis will be quite different from case to case. For example, in a situation of nursing home abuse and negligent care resulting in infected bedsores, one must prove that the bedsores and resulting infection and damages were directly caused by a lack of proper patient and skin care, and not some other source (such as a person’s pre-existing health conditions or infection resulting from a pathogen). Or in a premises liability case involving negligent security, a question to be asked and answered might be whether the landlord’s failure to provide adequate security was the legal cause of the client’s injuries, or whether a criminal act or some other event was the direct cause of injury. Again, an experienced personal injury lawyer can properly assess legal causation issues that could affect a case.

Do the injuries warrant a legal case?

While injuries can vary from incident to incident, in general the severity or permanence of the injury may dictate whether a legal claim or lawsuit can be economically pursued. Some cases, such as wrongful death, are generally presumed to have significant damages that are sufficient to warrant prosecution of an expensive, time and resource-consuming case such as a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor or hospital. But what about an automobile wreck where the victim had low back pain that soon resolved with conservative treatment such as physical therapy and resulted in relatively small medical bills. Does that situation warrant taking a case to trial where the jury or judge might award medical bills and perhaps only a little more for pain and suffering? On the other hand, a motor vehicle collision resulting in broken bones, brain trauma or internal injuries could have very significant damages making it economically feasible to litigate and try a case with problematic or weak liability. Properly and realistically evaluating damages (based on the lawyer’s experience and knowledge) is an important aspect of the overall assessment of any personal injury case.

No matter the situation, if a personal injury occurred, it is essential for an experienced personal injury lawyer to consider the facts and evidence involved. The trial attorneys at Brownstein and Nguyen have decades of experience consulting with injury victims and successfully handling personal injury cases in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury – no matter how severe – and would like to find out if you have a case, contact Brownstein and Nguyen. Personal injury consultations are always free.

Healthcare Whistleblower Claims Based on Self-Referral Arrangements

In an effort to improve and maintain integrity in our healthcare system, Congress passed the Stark Law (also known as the Efforts in Patient Referrals Act) and Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). These laws, modified over the years, and regulations enacted under them prohibit certain referral arrangements and payments, or kickbacks, for the referral of designated health services (DHS).

When receiving medical care, patients expect doctors to uphold the ideal of the hippocratic oath and to make treatment decisions based solely on a determination of the patient’s best interests. Unfortunately, some doctors and healthcare providers violate the public trust by engaging in illegal referral or kickback schemes motivated by profit, not the well-being of patients. The Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute exist to prevent and punish such arrangements. These laws not only protect patients, but under the False Claims Act they allow the government (through qui tam lawsuits filed by private citizens) to recover taxpayer dollars unjustly received by healthcare providers who choose to abuse the system.Whistleblowing

A recent example of a healthcare whistleblower lawsuit involving the very type of abuses the Stark Law and AKS were designed to address is the case of U.S. ex rel. Baklid-Kunz v. Halifax Hospital Medical Center and Halifax Staffing, Inc. In that case, filed in 2009 by Halifax Hospital’s former director of physician services, the hospital was accused of improperly compensating medical oncologists and neurosurgeons for referring patients to the hospital for procedures. The government sought to recover over $34 million in fraudulent Medicare claims it claimed resulted from an unlawful compensation plan where doctors received bonuses based on the profits of the hospital’s medical oncology department. With treble damages and substantial civil penalties under Stark Law, the total award against the hospital could have topped $1 billion. In March 2014, on the eve of trial, the hospital agreed to pay $85 million to settle the case. Daniel Levinson, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, commented that “[p]atients deserve to know that recommendations are based on sound medical practice, not illegal financial relationships between providers.”

Whistleblowing in the healthcare field and claims based on self-referral arrangements are explored more in-depth in Healthcare Whistleblower Claims Based on Self-Referral Arrangements, an article co-authored by Atlanta attorneys Jay Brownstein and Kevin Little. In it, the authors describe the important role the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute play in maintaining the integrity of our healthcare system.

If you have questions or concerns about healthcare whistleblowing, contact Brownstein & Nguyen today for a consultation.

Keys to Success in Starting Your Own Business In Atlanta

You’ve worked hard pursuing your dream of owning your own business. But you may not see potential legal pitfalls that could sidetrack or completely derail your new venture. That is to be expected, since you likely do not have the legal training or experience necessary to recognize legal issues affecting a particular business. At Brownstein and Nguyen, we specialize in business law and business litigation. We have over 25 years of experience working with small business owners and have seen first-hand the benefits of anticipating and proactively addressing legal issues upfront. Unfortunately, we have also seen the consequences of failing to setup a business with appropriate legal measures in place.

Keys to SuccessThere are four key questions that every small business owner should absolutely know the answers to. This may mean a little more work up front. But expending the time and effort in the beginning is a small price to pay, compared to the headaches and pain you will avoid in the future.

Are my documents in order?

Whether running a brick and mortar or virtual business, it is critical that all necessary licenses, applications, and agreements are properly completed, in place and complied with. Depending on the business, this could include entering into a business lease agreement; applying for all necessary city, county and state licenses; compliance with zoning, labor, tax and other local or state regulations; and registration of business documents.

How should I set up my business?

It is important to clearly define whether you are going into business as an individual or with partners, and consequently what legal business model best suits your needs. There is no “one size fits all” model for starting a business, and our lawyers at Brownstein and Nguyen can help determine if your business would be best established as a sole proprietorship, corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or partnership. Regardless of the entity form, it is imperative that all necessary incorporation or other establishment documents and agreements be prepared and executed by all necessary parties.

What about employees?

If you will be employing individuals, it is important to make sure that employment policies and manuals and, if applicable, employment agreements, be properly setup or reviewed. As with any business agreement, terms and expectations of employees must be clearly defined and communicated to employees. In addition, a business must comply with all state and federal employment regulations including employee classification and compensation (wage and hour laws), payroll filings, unemployment laws, etc.

What if our business needs to end?

Many business owners choose to dissolve their business for various reasons. Whether a change in the economy, the sale of a company, or a change of direction, it is important that an agreement be worked out in advance. Consider making sure that your legal documentation covers upfront the “what ifs” of business closure or dissolution.

If you are planning to start a business in Atlanta or Georgia, or already own a small business and want to make sure that you are legally covered, contact Brownstein and Nguyen for a consultation. You will receive the benefit of our years of experience, legal knowledge and practical advice to help your business avoid common legal mistakes.

The Race Against the Clock for Immigrant Children

Time Waiting for ImmigrationImagine that a high school senior has put in all the time and effort to make it to graduation. Years of hard work have put the star student on track for graduation with honors and a full scholarship to the college of his choice. Everything progresses toward the exciting conclusion of this chapter in this young man’s life…until the day he is called into the principal’s office and told he could not graduate. He is at a loss for words and understanding. How could this happen? The principal explains that he cannot graduate because the final assignment for his senior English language arts class was not graded and reported. But it is not that he failed to turn in the assignment on time or that his work was not good; in fact, he turned it in early and it was outstanding. The problem is that his teacher simply did not get through the stack of essays she had to grade in time to meet the graduation deadline. As a result, the senior’s work is deemed incomplete and he is forced to start the year all over.

Fortunately, the above is just an illustrative scenario and not a real life example. It is cut and dried as to where the fault lies – the student suffered as a result of the actions of others. It seems inherently unfair and unjust. But justice and fairness are notions frequently involved in the debate over the interpretation of laws, where the decisions of the few affect the many.

Similar to the scenario above, there is a real-life situation unfolding in immigration law that potentially could affect thousands of young immigrants with their whole lives ahead of them. They have submitted the proper paperwork and waited in line for their “graduation” or in this case, the granting of their very own visa. They, too, are in a race against the clock. But instead of counting down the days until graduation, the clock ticks until until age 21 when they will “age out” of the visa line they are waiting in.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down its decision in Scialabba v. Cuellar de Osorio, a case involving minor children included as dependent beneficiaries in their parent’s visa petitions for permanent resident status but who turned 21 before the petitions could be decided by the government. The law at issue, the Child Status Protection Act, was passed by Congress in 2002 to protect immigrant children from the harsh consequences of “aging out” (or no longer being considered a child) and thus being denied immigrant benefits when their parents finally obtain visas. Siding with the government, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a specific provision of the CSPA means that minor children of immigrant petitioners who age out before their parents can obtain visas will no longer receive the “priority date” given their parents, but instead must go to the back of the line and wait all over again for visas to become available. In other words, immigrant children will get no credit for the time (often many years) their parents spent waiting for visa petitions to be processed.

The above case highlights just one example of how complex, challenging and daunting navigating immigration law can be. If you or someone you know is facing a potentially life-changing immigration issue or problem, we’re here to help. With over twenty years of experience in immigration law in the Atlanta, Georgia area, the attorneys at Brownstein Nguyen are more than equipped to guide you through the legal process – whether you are seeking a visa, appealing a denial, adjusting status, or defending a removal or deportation case brought by the government. Please contact us for an immigration law consultation today.

Also, don’t forget to follow Brownstein and Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter, and Google + for other news and information regarding immigration.