Not Another Charlie Sheen Blog!! The “Real” Emergencies in Family Court:

As a long-time family practitioner, I am following this Charlie Sheen debacle with only mild interest.  Just the week before his children were removed, I successfully appeared in Family Court at an expedited hearing in a critical situation.  We were asking for a change in custody as a result of ongoing and imminent physical, medical and educational neglect of a young child.  Of course, this and all cases are confidential, but I’ve previously dealt with allegations of physical and sexual abuse of both adults and children.  I’ve also been involved in cases which the custodial parent and his/her children have no water, sewage, food, heat or healthcare, as well as a host of drug and alcohol issues that do not have the benefit of a full-time nanny.  In my humble opinion, these types of issues constitute emergencies or expedited circumstances where the Court should consider the matter without the usual ten (10) days or more notice to the other parent, as required under South Carolina law.  These circumstances of existing abuse and neglect appear to me to be more pressing than the potential or theoretical harm the television coverage references in the Sheen case.  The coverage I’ve seen seems to emphasize Mr. Sheen’s eccentric comments or his business plans to profit from the situation.  If the kids truly are at risk, Mr. Sheen publicity tactics and the resulting media coverage he receives are performing a major disservice to these two very real and young boys.  I would hope that responsible journalism considers this before continuation of this sensationalism.

Of course, the Sheen matter should be fully addressed by this California Family Court Judge at the appropriate time.  Even Hollywood elite should have reasonable access to the court system, notwithstanding any interim television coverage.  However, it is important to all abused and neglected children, as well as victims of domestic abuse, that requests for emergency and expedited hearings be used sparingly and in appropriate circumstances.  Our South Carolina Family Court system is already working beyond maximum capacity without attorneys and litigants “crying wolf” for the purposes of custody and other domestic issues that can and should wait for an appropriate hearing slot.  This is not to say that these non-emergency cases aren’t the absolute most important matter that the respective litigants will ever face.  But, even our court systems have a triage method and we all must work within this system, flaws and all.  No one would expect to go to an emergency room with a broken arm and be seen prior to the heart attack or trauma patient.  Although my peers appear to heed this practice of limiting their emergency filings as a general rule, I am concerned that the intense coverage of this successful petition for an emergency change in custody in a case that doesn’t seem to rise to the emergency threshold will also give rise to false expectations to future litigants and attorneys. 

Margaret A. Collins, Attorney at Law


Collins Law Office, PLLC
1201 Main Street, Suite 1980
Columbia, SC  29201

(803) 575-0080

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Commercial Real Estate – Historical Predictors

According to data included in the Commercial Real Estate Outlook, historical peak-to-trough declines in Commercial Real Estate have never been in excess of four (4) years since at least the 1929 crash.  Since we have been in our current downward spiral since 2007, we are approaching that four year mark.  I know we have other obstacles, including high unemployment and high maturing debt levels, but I truly feel optimistic about the future of our local real estate market.  Auto-corrections are always hard, but we seem to always end up in a better place afterwards.  Unfortunately for some professionals, such as real estate agents and attorneys, this correction has been devastating, and I am not trying to diminish the horrific effects of the current condition on these great people.  But, I truly feel that now is the time to get into position to seize the opportunities that will result from the current real estate prices, interest rates and ultimate reward from higher lender regulation. 

So, when you are ready to seize these opportunities, we at Collins Law Office are ready to assist.  My firm currently has two (2) ethically-minded attorneys.  Jane Powell, Attorney at Law, and myself.  Jane was a real estate paralegal in the Myrtle Beach area before attending law school.  I was a partner at an AV-rated firm for a number of years and I focused on litigation and business issues, but also regularly engaged in a real estate practice.  Although newly opened, our firm has years of experience in commercial and residential real estate matters.  But, my varied experiences in business matters also provide knowledge in areas many attorneys with limited practices do not bring to the table – including: commercial leases; local government zoning, tap fees and rollbacks; Section 1031 exchanges; resolution of property disputes; transfers involving probates, partnerships, LLC’s and corporations and much more.   We also provide what we feel is efficient and affordable representation without affecting quality.  So, give us a call if and when you are ready to jump in the real estate market and let us help!

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“Free” Software License Upheld as Protectable Intellectual Property

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “free” licenses (frequently used in open source software environments or “free” software applications) that set conditions for use are enforceable.  Generally when one purchases a software license for money, the IP license is a contract and establishes covenants and restrictions on use of software.  These are enforceable and protectable when the terms of the license are violated by both a breach of contract action and an action for violation of intellectual property rights.  However, in freeware/shareware/open source applications, there really isn’t a contract because lack of what we say in the legal world as “consideration” or otherwise known in English as a payment.  Therefore, misuse of the license did not allow for much of a recovery by the developer in a contract action.  This seems to be changing by allowing a remedy by way of IP law.  This court has indicated that, if the conditions are not met by the end user, the license terminates and the end user becomes a copyright infringer. 

I think this will be huge as additional free applications and open source software continue to be developed.  Without the ability to protect the work, developers would be hesitant to continue to provide these “free” licenses and the consumer would have been the ultimate loser.  Kudos to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals!

**Meg Collins practices in the areas of computer and information technology law, but is not licensed for intellectual property issues.  Please seek a qualifies IP attorney for questions relating to patents, copyrights and trademarks.**

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E-Filing is Coming to the Richland County, SC Register of Deed’s Office

Consistent with our firm mission to leverage technology for efficiencies, my staff and I attended Richland County’s e-recording informational seminar this past Friday.  Commencing in mid-February, law firms will be able to register for e-filing of all documents that end up at the Register of Deed’s Office, including deeds, mortgages, satisfactions, plats, etc.  Changes in State law allow these filings, and the ethical concerns over trust accounting seem to be resolved.  Therefore, it is our intent to take advantage of the benefits offered by e-filing.  It will ultimately save cost and time for the client by alleviating the need for runners or postage, reducing gas and parking fees and allowing a much quicker turn-around in document filing.  Assuming all the funds are present and available in the closing attorney’s trust account, there is a very good possibility that a purchaser can walk away with his original deed after a closing, instead of waiting weeks or months for the Register of Deed’s filing and imaging process. 

The final step would be to allow distance access to property records in Richland County with online title searches and updates.  Once concerns over resident confidentiality are resolved and the search engine is complete, I understand that Richland County will allow these internet searches.  Hopefully, it will be available to the public before the end of this calendar year.  We already use these technologies to the extent they are available, such as searches from the Lexington County ROD’s Office.  When Richland County “goes live” with online searches, Collins Law Office will also take advantage of these technologies.  Other counties in South Carolina that allow e-recording for property records currently include Horry, Lexington and Greenville.  It will hopefully continue to spread and quickly be available in the remaining counties.  For all real estate agents with closings in these counties, I would suggest they begin to inquire whether e-recording is available from the closing attorney’s office.  Although a nominal per document fee is incurred, it should reduce or eliminate the need for courier fees or postage on your client’s HUD-1 for the document filings.   It really is a win-win-win for the clients, attorneys and counties.  I hope that others will also see the financial and time-savings benefits the e-filing and internet search services offer.


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