Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Transparency in Federal Spending

President George W. Bush signed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (pdf) into law yesterday, September 26, 2006. This is a move in the right direction in letting the citizens of the United States know how money is being spent by the US Government.

Requirements of the Bill Include a Web site

A single searchable website, accessible by the public at no cost to access, where information about federal awards can be seen.

These federal awards include include grants, subgrants, loans, awards, cooperative agreements, and other forms of financial assistance. Also covered are contracts, subcontracts, purchase orders, task orders, and delivery orders.

Individual transactions below $25,000 aren't included, and before October 1, 2008, credit card transactions won't be covered, either.

Types of Information Covered for Federal Awards

  1. Name of the entity receiving the award;

  2. Amount of the award;

  3. Information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, the North American Industry Classification System code or Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number (where applicable), program source, and an award title descriptive of the purpose of each funding action;

  4. Location of the entity receiving the award and the primary location of performance under the award, including the city, State, congressional district, and country;

  5. A unique identifier of the entity receiving the award and of the parent entity of the recipient, should the entity be owned by another entity; and

  6. Any other relevant information specified by the Office of Management and Budget.

Will This be Useful?

Hopefully, it will. If nothing else, it will be a rich source of information for political bloggers, who showed with the passage of this bill that they refused to let it not be passed, by working together in a bipartisan manner, to identify some stumbling blocks in its passage: Blogosphere Unites in Pursuit of Masked Senator

A number of those bloggers were invited to the White House to attend a presentation which included the signing of the Bill.

President Bush made a statement at the signing of the Bill. Here's a short snippet from that:

By allowing Americans to Google their tax dollars, this new law will help taxpayers demand greater fiscal discipline. In other words, we're arming our fellow citizens with the information that will enable them to demand we do a better job -- a better job in the executive branch and better job in the legislative branch.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

October Conference on Delaware's Waters and Water Policies

If you are interested in state wide policies and regulations concerning the use of water in Delaware, there's an upcoming conference that you may wish to consider attending. But you need to act quickly. Registration is required by October 2.

A press release from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) points to a Conference on Delaware Water Policy, set for October 16th at the University of Delaware's Clayton Hall in Newark.

The Conference is a full-day meeting which will examine statewide water policy issues. Registration for the event is required, and the registration form can be found on the University's Water Resources pages. The cost is $25 to attend (which includes materials, lunch, and refreshments), and Senior citizens (65 and over) and students may attend free of charge by registering and requesting complimentary attendance.

The event is sponsored by:

Here's the Agenda for the Conference:

2006 Delaware Water Policy Forum Series No. 6

The Delaware: Challenges and Opportunities Affecting a Working and Environmental River

Program Agenda

7:30 Registration and Refreshments

8:30 Welcoming Remarks
Dr. Jerome Lewis, Director
Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware
Dr. Thomas Sims, Director
Delaware Water Resources Center, University of Delaware

8:50 Keynote Speaker - Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin
Robert Molzahn, President

Overview of the Delaware River Basin and the competing environmental, industrial and economic issues in the Basin

9:25 Roundtable Panel Discussion - Challenges and Opportunities for a Working River
Moderator: Robert Tudor, Deputy Director
Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC)

Regulatory Initiatives
Kevin Donnelly, Director
Division of Water Resources, State of Delaware and Alternate Commissioner to the DRBC

Maintaining the River
Mike Arabatzis, Chief of Planning Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District

Emergency Response
Gerald Conrad
U.S. Coast Guard

Water Supply Concerns
Christopher Crockett, Ph.D., P.E.
Philadelphia Water Department

Maritime Issues
Dennis Rochford
Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River & Bay

Industry Perspectives
Marc Gold, Esq.
Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP

10:30 Break

10:45 Roundtable Panel Discussion - Challenges and Opportunities for an Environmental River
Moderator: Gerald J. Kauffman, P.E., Director
Water Resources Agency, Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware

Reporting on Environmental Conditions: The First State of the Basin Report
Jessica Rittler Sanchez, River Basin Planner
Delaware River Basin Commission

Living Resources, Flora and Fauna in the Delaware Estuary
Kathy Klein, Executive Director
Partnership for the Delaware Estuary

Successes in Fish and Shellfish Restoration in the Delaware Estuary
Roy Miller, Administrator of Fisheries
Delaware DNREC, Division of Fish and Wildlife

The Reemergence of the Delaware Bay Oyster
(Speaker TBD)
Rutgers University, Bivalve Oyster Laboratory

11:45 Audience Survey, Feedback and Discussion of Key Issues
Moderator: William McGowan
Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware

12:30 Buffet Lunch

1:45 Recent Developments in Water Law and Possible Effects within the Delaware River Basin
Moderator: Robert Collings, Esq.
Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP

Kenneth Warren, Esq.
Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP and General Counsel to DRBC

Timothy Weston, Esq.
former DRBC Commissioner representing Pennsylvania now with Kirkpatrick and Lockhart Nicholson Graham

3:00 Summary and Wrap-Up
Dr. Jerome Lewis, Director
Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware

Some information about previous Water Forum Conferences is available on the pages of the Univeristy of Delaware's Water Resources Agency. Here are links to proceedings from previous forums:

Other publications from the Water Resouce Agency

This looks like it could be a pretty interesting Conference.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Night Football in New Orleans

Our favorite New Orleans legal blogger, Ernie the Attorney, will be providing some insight and commentary, and even some roving reporters, on the the incredible proliferation of media that has come to his home city tonight, starting with his post: Monday Night Football Madness comes to New Orleans.

I'm looking forward to watching the game, and happy to see the energy and excitement around it. I'll also be cheering for the Saints in this one.

Keeping an Eye on Hewlett-Packard

Hollywood couldn't write a script this compelling. How does a company protect its trade secrets? Should spying upon your own board members and tapping their phone conversations be a routine business practice?

Hewlett-Packard had a problem with information discussed only in board meetings finding its way to journalist ramblings in the news. What steps do you take in that situation? The Christian Science Monitor probes some of those issues in The changing rules of corporate spy games.

A Dow Jones MarketWatch article notes that "Hewlett-Packard Co. is ranked second on Business Ethics magazine's 100 best corporate citizens for 2006" and the article points to some specific reasons why. But, in light of the company's methods to uncover sources of leaks, the good will gained from such efforts comes under question.

One of the questions that many companies should be asking themselves in light of this drama being played out in public, with news of SEC investigations, and questioning by the US House of Representatives, is how they can keep themselves from finding themselves in a similar situation? How can they plan before hand to handle problems like the ones that Hewlett-Packard faced in a manner that can be viewed in a positive manner?

Alex Simpson, at Corporate and Securities Law Blog, has been posting a storm about issues involving Hewlett-Packard recently, including today's post - HP Part XXXI -- Now Look What HP Has Dunn...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Newark Electric Woes - More than Meets the Eye?

Yesterday and Today I read in the News Journal that the City of Newark had tried to raise the U of D electric rates without raising the other electric customers' rates.

Most of the story in the paper is asking why did the City attempt to raise the UD's in violation of the contract between the City and the UD (which aparently limits the UD rate increases to the increases applied to other Newark electric customers).

I suspect that the real story is... why didn't the City raise the electric rates for all of its customers? And how much is that going to cost the city?

Doesn't the City of Newark buy its electricity elsewhere? Didn't all of those costs raise dramatically several months ago? All except the re-sold Newark electricity.

If Newark is having to pay more for its electricity now, and it hasn't raised its rates, I suspect that the loss to the City will be much larger than the reported 1.5 Million or 1.7 Million that it will lose from the UD contract.

I think that more needs to be learned about this problem.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Delaware Local History - A Look at Delmar

As a big fan of local history, I couldn't read this article in The Daily Times, and not make a brief post about it. The author, Brice Stump takes a look at the history of one of Delaware's towns in Delmar: Too big for one state.

Delmar straddles both Delaware and Maryland, and owes its existence to a desire to stretch a rail system to the Maryland border in the 1800s. I've never visited Delmar before, but now I'd like to see it. Nice story.

Aggregating Useful Information: Delaware Legal Notices

There are sites that aggregate content from other sites on the web, such as Google News, and provide a useful and valuable service. Others scrape content from different web sites around a certain theme or phrase, and try to rank highly in search engines while selling advertising on those pages.

Those second kind of aggregation sites are annoying, especially when you come across them while attempting to search for something. But a site that aggregates information from a wide variety of sources, and makes it easy to find useful and helpful information is a wonderful thing.

Tim Converse is the person at Yahoo who is in charge of trying to keep spam web pages from showing in search results. He describes some of the other sites that bring together information from different sites and sources in a post titled simply Aggregation.

Delaware blogger Mike Mahaffie points out one of those wonderful aggregation sites that can make things a lot easier for people in the legal profession in Delaware.

The site is Delaware Public Notices, and it collects together the legal notices that you see in the classified sections of newspapers around the State. The site is a joint effort between the newspapers of Delaware, and the Maryland - Delaware - DC Press Association (MDDC).

The types of notices shown include:

  • Name Changes,

  • Family Court proceedings, including things such as Divorce Actions, Protection from Abuse Hearings, Custody Actions,

  • Public Notices of Meetings and Regulatory Actions from Delaware Government Agencies,

  • Requests for Proposals and Invitations to Bid for Government Contracts,

  • Notices of Public Sales,

  • Merger and Acquisition Notices,

  • Applications for Liquor Licenses and other Licenses,

  • Notices of Rules to Show Cause in Delaware Courts,

  • Notices of Approval for Work Release and Supervised Custody for Delaware Inmates,

  • Abandoned Property and Escheat Notices,

  • Mechanics Liens and Garagekeeper Sales Notices,

  • Government Seizure Notices,

  • Sheriff Sales of Property Notices,

  • Administration of Estates and Appointments of Administrators from the Register of Wills, and;

  • Other publicly published notices as required by law

It's nice to have these all together in one place.

The legislature of the State of Delaware was considering altering the requirements to post such legal notices in newspapers - instead making such notices available electronically in one centralized place. They haven't made a decision yet whether to do that or not, but a site like this one makes it easier for people to learn of notices published in a wide variety of papers in the State.

I've added the site in our navigation on the left, since I figure we will be visiting the site on a regular basis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Estate Auction of Note

I noticed the following item while searching through Google News for stories about Delaware legal issues in the news: Delaware Statesman's Personal Effects Slated for Estate Auction.

On October 14th, an estate sale will be held for the Estate of one of Delaware's most respected political figures, former Delaware Governor Elbert N. Carvel. I hope that some representatives from the State will be present to bid on some of the political memorabilia from the estate - so that it can be shared with the residents of Delaware.

Celia Cohen wrote a thoughtful post last year, when Governor Carvel past away, which describes his impact upon the State, including an effort to spearhead the creation of a separate Delaware Supreme Court - Gov. Elbert N. Carvel, 1910-2005. A snippet from her article:

Carvel was a fearless politician, that rare breed, and he pressed the state to go in directions it did not necessarily want to go. In the 1960s he opposed the death penalty and favored a public accommodations law, civil rights era legislation that opened public places like restaurants and hotels to all, including African-Americans. He paid for it politically and personally.

The Historic Society of Delaware has a great gallery of photos from Governor Carvel's political career - Remembering Elbert Nostrand Carvel

The main administrative State Office Building in Wilminton is named after Governor Carvel, as well as a University of Delaware Research Center in Georgetown Delaware.

The front page of the auctioneer's site points to the online catalog for the estate sale, which includes such things as signed letters from John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Bill Clinton, as well as finely detailed scrapbooks from the Governor covering his time in office, and other political memorabilia.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Celebrate Constitution Day with Delaware Law Office, as We Turn Five

It was five years ago, on September 10, 2001, that the Delaware Law Office blog started with a post about a practice in Family Court of Delaware of returning documents that were deficient in some manner, in a way which could be harmful to a case in that Court. The post asked for a reform of the system, and a careful solution that would make sure that people got their day in Court, regardless of a failure to do the paperwork correctly. A snippet from the post:

Currently there is a form utilized by non-judicial court personnel, as a cover, for their return of these documents to the filing attorney or pro-se individual. Frequently there is no specified Court Rule or statute cited, that the filing party is accused of violating. Frequently no reason is given except that the Clerk deems it so. In these cases the filing party usually already has clocked in his filing and relied upon that filing date with respect to the fulfillment of his or her legal responsibilities for the case. It may not be for a week or more later that the original filing is removed by the clerk, and sent back to the filer.

This removal of a filing from the Court's file, and thereby possibly changing the sequence of the filing of documents, can have dramatic legal consequences to the status of a case. And these actions are being taken by persons without any legal training? It is true that advising a party of a potential deficiency is a valuable tool in identifying and correcting errors before those errors travel through the lengthy path of litigation. But are we not substituting one set of errors for another, rather than resolving them when we have untrained individuals passing sentence upon legal filings that have been prepared, reviewed and signed by a member of the bar, and when these same untrained individuals unilaterally and without oversight take such action as to remove a filing from the Court?

We started with a bright promise there, only to experience an event the next day that transformed our nation in a number of ways, when the World Trade Centers came under attack. We didn't post that next day, or for many days after that. But we did resume posting, and the blog has covered a number of topics about Delaware, Delaware legal cases, federal law, privacy, security, and many other topics. We've made lots of friends around the country, and around the world through the blog, and would like to thank everyone who has read a few posts here, commented on something written, linked to the blog, visited the law office itself, and written on their own sites about something found here.

Posting has been light at the blog recently, and we hope to revitalize our efforts to keep informed of the legal issues around us on a local, state, national, and international level, ans share information about those here. We also will continue to share some of the personal issues that we face on a regular basis. Blogging has enabled us to reach out and share with others, and given us the opportunity to listen to those who want to discuss topics we've written about, and others. Thanks profusely for everyone who has been involved in the growth and development of this blog.

We also want to celebrate Constitution Day, which fell on a Saturday this year. Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell will lead the nation?s school children in reciting the Preamble to the Constitution at 2 p.m. EST. A belief in the ideas expressed within the Constitution is what gives us the ability to post our thoughts and opinions in this blog.

Delaware is often referred to as the "First State." The National Archives page on the Ratification of the Constitution shows why, with Delaware being the first state to ratify the Constitution. The page has a link to the document signed by representatives of Delaware, which ratified the Constitution.

Some other links involving Constitution Day:

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, Constitution Week, 2006
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

The First State Celebrates Constitution Day 2006
A statement by Governor Ruth Anne Minner

Delaware and the Bill of Rights
A page about the US Constitution from the University of Delaware Library

An Enduring Constitutional Democracy
The Rev. Canon Lloyd S. Casson on the Constitution and Constitutional Rights

Here's the conclusion from Rev. Casson's essay, which I think needs to be heeded:

At 2:00 P.M. on September 18, when General Powell leads the Preamble, I will thankfully remember his and my ancestors, and the many good citizens of this Democracy whose long suffering struggles, sacrifices and actions have removed much of what was wrong with the original document. I will pray from the bottom of my heart that my continued prayers and struggle to help achieve liberty, peace and justice for all here and abroad will, with God giving me strength, bear fruit and contribute to the legacy of an enduring, flourishing constitutional democracy. I pray that you will join me.

The Constitution is only a piece of paper. It's our belief, and our struggles together that make the ideas found within the constitution come to life. The Constitution doesn't guarantee us rights - rather it gives us the right to fight for, and protect those rights.

Thank you for sharing with us this Constitution Day, and the fifth anniversary of the Delaware Law Office Blog.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Step Forward for Loser Pays in Delaware

In July of this year, Governor Minner signed House Bill 454 into law. This law mandates mediation and a Trial before a Master if mediation fails, in suits brought before Chancery for deed restriction enforcement.

AND, it contains a loser pay provision! Woot!

Interestingly, not only does it allow for the loser to pay, it presumes it. Look at the language of that part here:

The nonprevailing party at a trial held pursuant to the provisions of this section must pay the prevailing party's attorney fees and court costs, unless the Court finds that enforcing this subsection would result in an unfair, unreasonable, or harsh outcome

Now, people will be encouraged to act (and litigate) in good faith. Well, at least as far as this type of case.

This new section is 10 Del.C. 348.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Revenuers Raid Senior Citizens

Partial word is arriving from the Mountains of Western North Carolina, where reportedly Federal Revenue agents yesterday raided a senior citizen compound at Land Harbor. Bingo, shuffleboard, bridge, and poker games were shut down. With average big prize winners from the $2.50 range for a full night of bridge, its hard to see how the IRS trip was cost effective.

No stills or other liquor operations were discovered.

No injuries have been reported.