Why would a former Catholic take on the church?
As the Parable of the Good Samaritan goes, a man is beaten and robbed. A priest, fearing punishment by his church, leaves the man for dead. The victim is finally saved by a sinner, who thus proves himself worthy of eternal life.
Civil rights attorney Thomas Neuberger quotes the story often. “It wasn’t the religious hierarchy that helped the guy lying in the road,” he points out.
A former Catholic who feels a betrayal in the sexual abuse of children by priests, Neuberger is determined to right the wrongs he claims the Diocese of Wilmington has covered up for years.
By September, Neuberger had filed 16 lawsuits under the Child Victims Act of 2007. By January 23, he will have filed at least 18 more. The rate accelerated after Bishop Michael Saltarelli retired in September.
“Bishop Saltarelli was not using the national playbook that’s been followed in Boston and Los Angeles, which is to burn the victims and make it as miserable as you can,” Neuberger says. “The new guy wants to use the national playbook. That’s fine and dandy with us, and we will fight them tooth and nail. Reconciliation and healing for the victims has been replaced with an iron fist.”
(Diocese spokesman Robert Krebs says it is not appropriate to comment about pending cases. He points out that new Bishop W. Francis Malooly, during his first major public address here, explained his feelings for the victims and the way he’ll proceed.)
A plaque on Neuberger’s desk reads, “With God all things are possible, Matthew 12:26.” His large Bible is displayed prominently. Neuberger is not a lapsed Catholic. Instead, he was “saved” at the First Assembly of God Pentecostal Church in New Castle. That happened long before he was found by the victims of abuse by priests. Neuberger had spent 25 years defending religious institutions on behalf of The Rutherford Institute, which provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.
“I worked hard for the rights of religiously motivated institutions,” Neuberger says. “It broke my heart to, after decades defending them, learn that they had feet of clay. And I say to myself, If you won’t protect children, you don’t deserve to try to invoke alleged protections of the Constitution. No one should be able to cover up the abuse of children.”
Neuberger’s other civil rights cases also have made headlines. He successfully sued the Pentagon on several occasions, and he won a $2 million settlement for Sgt. Jason Adkins, who was disciplined for speaking out about a tainted anthrax vaccine at Dover Air Force Base.
Neuberger is investigating 10 abuse claims against public schools. Three are pending against the Brandywine and Colonial districts. One of the Brandywine cases resulted from the Rachel Holt saga. Holt, a teacher, is serving time in prison for rape. Neuberger represented her victims. Now he’s going after their district.
Barry M. Willoughby, a partner at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, will represent Brandywine in the case, scheduled for June.
“Tom’s a formidable adversary,” Willoughby says. “He’s aggressive and certainly tries to push his side, as we do. What Rachel Holt did was wrong. But the school district did everything reasonable. I can’t see a claim against the district, nor do I see any negligence.”
Neuberger would like to be remembered as a defender of women’s rights. He beat the DuPont Co. on behalf of Barbara Sheridan, who charged the company with sex discrimination and retaliation.
His proudest professional moment came from a suit on behalf of Lt. Col. Martha McSally, the first woman to command a combat aviation squadron and to fly in battle. McSally sued the Defense Department for requiring her to wear Muslim garb every time she left her base in Saudi Arabia. With Neuberger’s help, McSally changed the policy.
McSally never paid Neuberger. Her case, like many, was pro bono. But she did send him a flag that flew on behalf of the Neuberger family during a combat mission over Afghanistan on November 11, 2005. It is displayed behind his desk.
Page 2: Family Law
Jill DiSciullo braced for a tense day in court.
Her clients, a couple who had just finished putting their kids through college, were petitioning for custody of their twin nieces, including one with special needs. The twins’ mother, a drug addict, had terminated her rights. Their father, a convicted criminal bound for prison, had not. Then, just moments before the hearing, he ceded. DiSciullo’s reward came “when those kids finally called my clients mom and dad.”
In family law, court is the last resort. A win usually happens when someone makes a concession just before a hearing. When cases do go to court, Delaware’s Family Court system offers a fairly amicable process. Nonetheless, custody hearings can be draining. Lawyers can’t take things personally. “It’s my clients’ job to be emotional,” DiSciullo says. “It’s my job to be objective.”
DiSciullo handles all domestic relations matters, including adoption, divorce, property division, custody and visitation, child support and alimony. A year out of Widener University School of Law, she joined Morris James in Wilmington, where she dabbled in education law and labor law. In 2004 she got an opportunity to work with colleague Gretchen Knight in the firm’s family law division. The two now make up the family law practice group.
DiSciullo is a member of the Delaware State Bar Association, as well as the Melson-Arsht Inn of Court on Family Court Practice, which unites new and experienced lawyers for mentoring and training. DiSciullo also does a good deal of pro bono work for the Office of the Child Advocate for the state, representing children in dependency and neglect cases.
“Things get ugly when attorneys start fighting,” she says. “Clients really lose out, so I keep things professional. I don’t scream at the other attorney. I extend courtesies every place I can, as long as that other attorney is not prejudicing my client.”
A segment of DiSciullo’s practice is dedicated to divorce. “There are no winners in divorce, only degrees of losing,” she says. But divorce is what you make it. “There are arguments that say divorce is awful and homes get ripped apart, but if you’re OK with it, and you project that to your children, they’ll be OK, too. Generally speaking, children are attached to both parents. And the tide of the court to recognize that is turning.”
Christine K. Demsey
Christine K. Demsey, Attorney at Law
Your Attorney Should Be your advisor and your advocate—as well as a devil’s advocate—but let you make the decisions.
Red Flag “An attorney who promises you a result, such as, ‘I will get you sole custody of the children,’ or ‘I’ll take your ex to the cleaners.’ No one can predict what a judge will order.” Another red flag: “An attorney trying to impress you by inferring they are good friends with the judges.”
Look For Experience in family law and a good ethical standing.
Page 3: Workers’ Compensation
Henry C. Davis
A board falls on a carpenter’s foot. His insurance carrier pays the medical bills. Part of the foot later turns black. Surgeons remove the gangrenous area. Then the rest of the foot turns black, forcing amputation. The carpenter seeks reimbursement. The insurer turns him down. The foot is gone, the carrier claims, therefore no longer covered. By the time the carpenter hires workers’ comp attorney Henry C. Davis, his leg has been amputated.
“One of his surgeons determined that he kept getting gangrene after they amputated because the injury to his foot triggered a blood-clotting problem, causing clots to form in his arteries, pushing plugs into the blood vessels further down from where they were clamped to do the surgeries,” Davis says. The clots nearly killed the carpenter. They also caused him to lose his second leg.
In most work-related injury cases, a workers’ compensation attorney’s role is to make sure insurance companies pay what they owe for medical bills, prescriptions, mileage for treatment, time out of work, benefits for permanent injuries, and benefits for permanent disfigurement caused by the injury or treatment.
Davis, a solo practitioner in Georgetown, adds that he also “defends the entire system from political attacks by insurance companies, business groups only interested in lower premiums, and uninformed or misinformed people attempting to reform the system in ways that never actually advance protection of the injured people the system was designed to protect.”
Workers’ comp litigation can take years. Davis won the carpenter’s case, but only after a full day of testimony from many doctors and an Industrial Accident Board decision in the carpenter’s favor—and only after the insurer lost appeals to the Delaware Supreme Court.
A member of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association and The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Davis is co-editor of the DTLA Advocate and serves on the Industrial Accident Board Rule Committee. The law runs in his blood. He shares a practice with his uncle, H. Clay Davis III. His father, Edward G. Davis, is a justice of the peace. And his younger brother, Alan G. Davis, is the chief magistrate for the state.
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP
Your Attorney Should Oversee payment of medical bills, ensure your personal welfare, and secure the full and fair benefits that you are entitled to by the state.
Red Flag An attorney who is spread too thin. “Workers’ compensation is such a state-statute specific practice. Be wary of lawyers practicing an additional specialty.”
Look For “Someone who takes the time to educate you about your entitlements from the state and from the employer.”
Page 4: Medical Malpractice
Bartholomew J. Dalton
A jaundiced newborn receives a clean bill of health. He is not given standard blood tests, so a natural substance that can cause brain damage or death is never detected. He is sent home. On his sixth day of life, his breathing becomes erratic. During the family’s frantic two-mile drive back to the hospital, the child dies in his mother’s arms.
Bart Dalton of Dalton & Associates in Wilmington proved the doctors and hospital staff were negligent. Such emotionally charged cases make up 90 percent of his practice.
“Every medical procedure and every medication has an element of risk that can’t be controlled by that medical professional,” Dalton says. “But then there are cases, the ones we take, in which the bad result was because someone made an error that they should not have made. They violated a standard of care.”
Dalton describes medical malpractice as a search for truth. Surviving pancreatic cancer made him a more sensitive plaintiffs’ attorney. “I know when you’re told you have cancer what that is,” he says.
Dalton’s most challenging cases involve babies born with brain injuries. This year he’ll represent a couple whose child was born profoundly brain damaged because, though the baby was fetally distressed, the attending physician was occupied with less urgent matters. As a result, the boy will never walk or talk. He’ll always be fed through a tube. “But there is still a light inside him,” Dalton says. “There’s still a child inside that body.”
Dalton regularly battles Delaware’s best defense attorneys, though most of his cases settle out of court. He has tried about 200 cases during his 23-year career.
A former chief deputy attorney general, Dalton is a member of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association, The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.
“I have tremendous respect for healthcare providers,” he says. “Before I am a malpractice lawyer, I am a son, a brother, a husband and a father. I want good medical care in my community, and for the most part, we get it. But negligence is negligence.”
Ben T. Castle
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor
Your Attorney Should Screen your case very carefully to decide whether it has merit. If it does, pursue it vigorously. Give advice on whether the case should be settled out of court or tried.
Red Flag An attorney who takes a medical malpractice case too quickly, without asking lots of questions. “If he does that, he’ll be out of business quickly.”
Look For “Someone who has access to expert witnesses and is experienced in handling these cases. Ask questions such as: Do you have enough capital to pursue the case? How many cases have you tried? What were the results? How many cases are settled out of court. What’s your success rate?”
Page 5: Elder Law
Mary M. Culley
Because we’re living longer, our legal needs are changing. Lawyers serving seniors now do more than draft wills; they arrange long-term needs. If we’re sick, we may need to plan for years of living at special facilities. If we’re healthy, we want someone to navigate us toward independence.
Mary M. Culley, a partner at Morris James in Wilmington, is expert at structuring her service to meet individual needs. She understands issues specific to seniors, including asset transfers, Medicaid, Social Security, health insurance, disability planning, powers of attorney, living trusts, living wills, guardianship and estate planning.
“We’re all planning for our incapacity,” Culley says. “Everyone is so concerned about their will, but the truth of the matter is that we’re going to become incapacitated sooner.” So the client and family should make an effort to educate themselves. Culley helps.
“Where family problems arise is when the person named as the power of attorney doesn’t know what their responsibilities are and they go off in the wrong direction,” Culley says. “The most wonderful result that can be obtained for an individual who is in diminishing capacity is that the person he or she names as their fiduciary comes in and gets guidance.”
Culley says planning transfer of assets is especially tricky when trying to anticipate the costs of long-term care. “Not only are parents not anxious to give up control of their assets, but there could be adverse tax consequences,” Culley says.
For example, when children inherit stock when their parents die, they pay no capital gains taxes when the stock is sold. If the parents gave the stock to their kids during their lifetime, or sell it themselves, a capital gains tax must be paid.
Culley is a member of the Delaware State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Delaware Attorney for the Special Needs Alliance and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Culley also prepares trusts for people with special needs. “A child, adult or not, may always need Medicaid benefits, and the trust provides needed resources for a loved one with a disability while, at the same time, not disqualifying that individual from receiving governmental benefits, including Medicaid,” she says.
“Parents with children with disabilities are worried about how to provide beyond themselves, into the future for their child. I am inspired by them. So to tell you the truth, it’s who’s helping who here.”
Procino Wells, LLC
Your Attorney Should Handle a range of issues and uses a variety of approaches to meet your needs. The practice also covers issues of elder abuse, both physical and financial.
Red Flag An attorney who does not specialize in elder law. Because elder law involves so many issues, elder law attorneys rarely work in other areas of law.
Look For Someone who listens. “Often, elderly clients are not good at communicating their needs or do not always feel comfortable enough with a lawyer to fully disclose the challenges facing them.” A good elder law attorney allows clients to speak their minds, then interprets what assistance they need.
Page 6: Divorce Law
The divorce business is booming, especially in this economy. Clearly, divorce attorneys like Curtis Bounds don’t twiddle their thumbs. Bounds, who heads the Family Law department at Bayard P.A. in Wilmington, handles “higher conflict or higher asset cases.” Translation: His clients are rich. And when high-income couples divorce, the battle comes down to preserving lifestyle.
“Both sides have different views of that, but of late, both parties are in the work force with good jobs,” says Bounds. “There are less circumstances where one party is financially dependent on the other.”
Children are often caught in the crossfire. “You’re already putting kids through a divorce, which is hard enough, but parents also have to deal with support, paying for private school tuition and maintaining certain lifestyles for the children,” Bounds says. “Plus, we’re seeing a lot of shared residency orders from the court, in which the children reside in both households on an equal basis.”
Having a separate family court is an advantage for Delaware parents. In other states, there are courts of general jurisdiction with divisions of domestic relations law. Delaware Family Court handles adoption, termination of parental rights, property division, custody, divorce and all other family-related matters except seriously violent family crimes.
Bounds, a past chair of the Family Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association, helps clients with pre-nuptial agreements, support matters, visitation and adoption. He serves husbands, wives and unmarried parents. He also gets repeat business, clients ending their second, third or fourth marriages.
According to National Health Center stats, the divorce rate in America, after a first marriage, is about 41 percent. Second marriages are about 65 percent. The divorce rate of third marriages is close to 74 percent.
“The reality is, you can’t make everybody happy, especially in divorce law,” says Bounds. “The sad truth is that if both parties are unhappy, you’ve achieved the best result.”
Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze, P.A.
Your Attorney Should Identify all of the issues that need to be addressed, including violence, property division, alimony, custody and child support. He should take your complete, factual history. If an amicable resolution cannot be reached, your attorney should be prepared to present the case in trial to be resolved by a judge or other judicial officer.”
Red Flag A lawyer who doesn’t return your phone calls, doesn’t receive copies of correspondence and pleadings, or just seems too busy to handle your case.
Look For “Look for experience in the area of family law, participation in the Family Law Section of the bar association, good communication skills and a sincere interest in your case.”
Page 7: Personal Injury
Francis “Pete” J. Jones Jr.
The nurse routinely rode in ambulances, but when one crashed, she found herself lying on a stretcher instead of walking beside it. She loved her job, but her injuries prevented her from going back. She became depressed, and she was forced to live on paltry workers’ compensation payments.
Attorney Francis “Pete” J. Jones Jr., a partner at Morris James in Wilmington, was hired.
First he determined which driver caused the accident, then the severity of his client’s injuries. “At the end of the day,” Jones says, “we were able to resolve the case to her satisfaction.”
Getting to the end of this day took four years. That’s typical of personal injury cases. Jones’ first job is education. “When someone comes to see you, they don’t understand the system, nor do they necessarily trust it,” he says. “I never tell clients what they want to hear. I tell them what they need to know.”
Jones doesn’t have to tell his clients that their lives have been shattered. He does have to talk money. “You’re dealing with Delaware juries that are conservative in terms of the amount of money awarded in these cases,” he says. “Most people involved in a jury trial get less money than what they were offered by insurance companies pre-trial.”
Jones has had two careers at Morris James: first as an insurance defense lawyer, beginning in 1983, then, 14 years later, as a plaintiffs’ attorney. “You make a lot more difference to someone when you help them put their life back together, as opposed to helping an insurance company save a few dollars,” he says.
That’s his secret: Jones knows what the other side will do because he’s done it. A member of the Delaware State and American Bar Associations, the Defense Research Institute, the Defense Counsel of Delaware, the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association, Jones established a precedent that makes out-of-state medical bills admissible in Delaware courts.
“Mostly all personal injury cases settle out of court,” Jones says. “Superior Court statistics show that only about 100 civic jury trials get tried in the course of the year. If you’re a personal injury lawyer and you try three to five cases a year, that’s a lot.”
Barros, McNamara, Malkiewicz & Taylor
Your Attorney Should Keep the present and future in mind while dealing with a case. To do that, the attorney should discern the outcomes of individual cases and discuss them openly and honestly with clients. “The lawyer should also be adept at handling medical expenses, wages and insurance issues a client may have while also assessing the residual damage that could be incurred.”
Red Flag “When an attorney takes a case without assessing whether or not it will hold up in court.”
Look For Extensive experience, an aptitude and great communication skills. Always seek referrals.
Page 8: Labor Law
Richard R. Wier Jr.
Dick Wier was 33 when he became Delaware’s attorney general in 1975. After leaving the office in 1979, he sensed that more attention should be paid to employment and labor issues. He is now one of Delaware’s most respected labor and employment law attorneys.
“We do a lot of businesses in the employment area where we defend on claims of discrimination before state and federal agencies, and we defend them in litigation in federal and state court,” he says.
Delaware is an at-will state, which means employees have limited rights and can be fired at any time. Wier counsels employers and employees.
He offers this scenario: A woman tells her boss she’s pregnant. The boss then fires her, claiming he needs people full time.
For the woman, Wier would argue the employer violated Title VII, which protects women from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. “If we were representing the employer, we would advise him on how to minimize its exposure,” he says. “If the woman were told her work was poor when she announced her pregnancy, firing her could’ve been legal.”
In corporate Delaware, mass layoffs are a reality. Employers tread lightly. “If you close down a plant, there are warn-act issues, where a certain amount of notice has to be given,” Wier says. “Employers have to implement the reduction in force so it’s legitimate.”
Layoffs trigger discrimination claims, especially claims of age discrimination. The Federal Age Discrimination Act requires employers to supply layoff victims with the ages of all people laid off.
Labor law evolves around one principle: treating employees fairly.
Kathy Karsnitz, Attorney At Law
Your Attorney Should Understand the basics of employment law, contract law and labor law in Delaware. “Lay folks make a lot of assumptions about the nature of employment that often doesn’t prove to be true. There are laws that revolve around the employment relationship and laws that pertain to fundamental fairness. For the most part, in an at-will state, the quid pro quo is unemployment benefits.
Red Flag “When you get a cheerleader instead of a lawyer. An attorney should not be telling you what you want to hear. It’s counter-intuitive for most people to think they can’t fired. They can in an at-will state. Sometimes they don’t have a case, and they have to know that.
Look For Someone who is recommended by peers.
Page 9: Personal Bankruptcy
Michael B. Joseph
The scenario is becoming all too familiar. A husband is laid off from his job. His wife works, but her salary can’t cover two car loans, insurance, gas, utilities and food. The couple’s poor cash flow prompts them to max out their credit cards. Finally, when they fear losing their home, they consider filing for personal bankruptcy.
The couple’s attorney arms them with voluminous paperwork, including bankruptcy schedules and statements of financial affairs. He helps them devise a plan that forgives their unsecured debts (credit cards) and focuses on paying one car loan (they lose the other one) and the mortgage.
They endure the process for one reason: protection. Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy forces mortgage companies to take partial payments, something they’d never do without a court order.
Before taking the final step, however, the couple must gain approval from Michael Joseph, the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee for Delaware, appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice, who protects the interests of both creditors and debtors.
A member of the American Bar Association, the Delaware State Bar Association and the American Bankruptcy Institute, Joseph is a founder and partner at Ferry, Joseph & Pearce P.A. in Wilmington, Newark and Middletown.
“Delaware’s personal and business bankruptcy climate is very hot right now,” he says. During his 32 years of practice, Joseph has handled nearly 100,000 bankruptcy cases.
He counsels clients about Delaware’s new bankruptcy code, which requires applicants to take debt education classes and file more paperwork than ever before.
Though a federal law, Delaware has raised the exemptions from a low of $5,000 per person (in any kind of property) to about $50,000 in real estate and house equity, plus $25,000 per person for personal assets.
“Conceivably, it means that a married couple filing for bankruptcy can exempt up to $100,000 in equity and property,” says Joseph.
The worrisome news is that Delaware’s unemployment rate rose from 3.2 percent in 2007 to nearly 4.5 percent in 2008. Fixing a mortgage problem is doable if you’re employed.
“Banks want to work with people who have regular incomes,” Joseph says. “Clearly, everyone involved in the Delaware bankruptcy business is going to be busy for the foreseeable future.”
Doroshow Pasquale Krawitz & Bhaya P.A.
Wilmington, Bear, Dover and Millsboro
Your Attorney Should Make the client work as hard as they do. “Client homework involves sifting through financial documents and bank statements necessary for organizing a court petition while your attorney pulls credit reports, housing titles and various other documentation.”
Red Flag An attorney who is not organized. “With all the figures and papers floating around, a bankruptcy lawyer must pay attention to the smallest detail.”
Look For “Someone who has excellent communication skills. You need to talk to someone on a person-to-person basis.”
Page 10: Real Estate Law
John M. Bloxom IV
John M. Bloxom IV, a partner at Morris James in Wilmington, enjoys the natural state of Brandywine State Creek Park, so he’s done much work to protect it.
“We intervened in a transaction involving 190 acres of pristine Brandywine River Valley land, which was slated for development of multiple hundreds of residential uses in an area that was uniquely critical to the public interest,” Bloxom says. His client, a non-profit preservation organization, simply outbid the developer.
When another developer won a contract to build houses on 65 acres of mature forest bordering the park, Bloxom and the same client were able to buy out the developer, then hold the property until the state purchased it, thus adding 65 more acres to the park.
Bloxom also dedicates a portion of his practice to commercial and industrial construction, financing and leasing. He serves individual residential real estate clients as well.
When the market is bad, a good attorney counsels clients that bit off more than they could chew financially. A great real estate attorney stops questionable transactions before they’re completed.
“Too many people took out adjustable-rate mortgages at a point in time when mortgage rates were at historic lows, but interest rates are cyclical,” he says. “I tried to warn all of my residential clients away from that, and I was very successful in that exercise.”
Compared to other hard-hit real estate markets, Delaware is stable, though not out of the woods. “The excess of the last run-ups (mortgages made to people who couldn’t afford them) have to be worked off,” Bloxom says. “It will be difficult to sell or buy here for the next 12 months.”
Bloxom is respected for his sense of fairness. “I think attorneys from time to time are guilty of being perhaps too partisan in the transactional context, not the litigation context,” he says. “They see it as their job to drive a bargain for their client, which is so good for their client that it becomes so bad for their counterpart, the person on the other side of the table. I have learned through 24 years of practice that a transaction that is truly bad for the other party often winds up being truly bad for your client.
“But this approach works for me,” Bloxom says. “I am one of these old-school lawyers who feels that the law remains one of the three noble professions: medicine, law and clergy. At the end of the day, the law is not a pure, mercantile undertaking, nor should it be.”
Fuqua and Yori, P.A.
Your Attorney Should Ensure a worry-free purchase and protect the buyer’s best interests by running a title search on the property in question. “The attorney should also make sure that the buyer incurs no additional expenses after the purchase of the property.”
Red Flag An attorney who does not check that there are no mortgages, liens or unpaid taxes on the property.
Look For Someone who clearly explains real estate concepts in a way you understand them. In other words, he must be a great communicator. “The attorney should have good people skills. He must interact with buyers, sellers and banks, to name a few.”
Page 11: Trusts and Estates
Bruce Tigani, a partner at Morris James in Wilmington, used the business savvy he inherited from his family (owners of Standard Distributing Company) and a bachelor’s degree in business to develop a multi-disciplinary approach to law. He’s as comfortable managing multi-state business or real estate deals as he is handling estate plans for the ultra-wealthy.
“Initially I was looking to serve the closely held business owners that I represented,” Tigani says. After 27 years in practice, those businesses still form the core of his clientele, though the practice has expanded regionally and nationally. As clients developed their businesses, Tigani developed his skills in tax and business planning while offering sage counsel on estates and trusts. “I’m probably one of the few people in town that can do all of those areas, kind of like one-stop shopping,” Tigani says.
Trusts and estates is a growing area in Delaware, due in part to cutting-edge laws. “People think Delaware and they think corporations,” Tigani says. “What they may not realize is that we look to keep the same cutting edge on trust laws that we do on corporations.”
Under certain conditions, “your children, your grandchildren and their descendants have the ability to live off of estate assets without having the assets themselves subject to their creditors, including ex-spouses,” Tigani says. The Delaware Dynasty Trust also provides a significant tax advantage. Only the first transfer of assets, usually to children, is subject to tax by the federal government. In most other states, assets are taxed at each generational level.
Tigani, a member of the Delaware State Bar, the American Bar Association, the Wilmington Tax Group and the Estate Planning Council of Delaware, has helped draft and pass key legislation. In 1993, as chair of the Delaware State Bar Association section of taxation, he helped enact legislation that provided favorable tax advantages to non-resident shareholders in Delaware.
When Tigani chaired the estates and trusts section of the bar in 1998, he helped repeal the Delaware Inheritance Tax. As a result, there are no death taxes in Delaware, unlike most states.
Tigani enjoys helping clients plan or start new businesses. “Clients say they relate to me because I think more like a businessman that happens to be a lawyer,” he says. “I like that.”
Smith O’Donnell Feinberg & Berl, LLP
Your Attorney Should Earn your trust. Because much estate and trust planning involves the care and welfare of the elderly, an estate and trust lawyer must establish trust with the client and his or her family.
Red Flag An attorney who can’t relate to the client on a personal level. “Given the financial and personal nature of these cases, trust and communication are crucial aspects of proper execution.”
Look For Someone who is expert at handling the organization of wills, trusts, Medicaid planning, appointing guardianship and overseeing the estate administration following the death of a family member.
Page 12: Hurley vs. Maurer, Maurer vs. Hurley
Two top criminal defenders go head to head. The stakes? Only a bit of ego.
When we asked Delaware’s top criminal defense lawyers to cross-examine each other, we expected them to fire hardballs. What we discovered was that the famous rivalry between Joseph Hurley and Eugene Maurer Jr. is tempered with mutual respect.
Hurley, 65, is brusque, soft spoken and witty. His courtroom antics get lots of attention, and he’s never met a camera he didn’t like, but he’s nicer than his media image suggests. He won’t take a penny from any client who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq. As a hobby, he raises racehorses. He has a 40-year-old daughter and has helped raised stepchildren.
Maurer, 59, is streetwise, straightforward, warm and sensitive. A perfectionist, he can’t sit still for 15 minutes. He’s the ultimate defender, able to endure public scorn while fighting for the rights of serial killers, rapists and speeding ticket holders. He and his wife, Carol, adopted twin girls from China in 1997.
Maurer cemented his reputation by defending serial murderer Steven Brian Pennell in one of the state’s first DNA. Pennell was executed in 1992. Hurley got restaurateur Michael Chase acquitted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of his infant son in 1998
Together they defended Tom Capano until Hurley dropped the case, Irina Malinovskaya in the murder of her ex-boyfriend’s lover (she pleaded no contest to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in jail), as well as Richard Massey and Robert Martin in 2004, who were convicted of killing Nancy Repman during a burglary. Both Massey and Martin were sentenced to life.
A few days after the tete-a-tete, Maurer called this experience “an enjoyable mutual interview and exchange.” Hurley called it “bipolar.” “Half of it was fascinating,” said Hurley—his own half. “The other half was a supreme bore.”
Joe Hurley: What do you consider your greatest professional triumph?
Eugene Maurer: Keeping the jury out for eight days in Steven Pennell’s case, given the amount of time, energy, manpower and resources that went into that investigation. I didn’t win, but for a jury to stay out this long in Delaware was a record. Most people viewed the evidence as overwhelming, They thought the jury would come back in a couple of hours.
JH: So how did you do in that case, Gene?
EM: Hung jury on one out of three (murders), two convictions, no death penalty.
DT to JH: What’s your greatest triumph?
JH: Mike Chase. He was a decent human being with a heart of gold. Losing his son destroyed him.
DT: What’s the first word that pops into your heads when you hear the name Tom Capano?
JH: I don’t need to be in a case just to get my face on TV.
EM: Yeah, right.
Page 13: Hurley vs. Maurer, Maurer vs. Hurley continued…
DT TO JH: Why did you leave?
JH: Here’s the real story. I went to this guy’s funeral at St. Helena’s Church because he was a lackluster lawyer and nobody else was going. I’m at the Mass, praying, and somehow, I hear, “Get out of this case.” So I drove to Gander Hill [Prison] and told Capano I was out.
EM: Isn’t it a fact that you told reporters back then that you’d take the reason you left to your grave?
JH: I did say that.
DT TO JH: Actually, it’s out there in cyberspace. But now you’re on the record?
JH: Well, you’re approaching me on a more personal basis than anybody has before. That means one of two things: Either I ain’t gonna be around tomorrow, or I’ve changed my mind.
EM: Or he’s too old and didn’t remember he said it until I told him. Or he’s making this reason up. It’s not truthful because he would not be disloyal to himself. I only got into the case because of him, then he jumps ship. Then I’m stuck with these carpetbaggers from Boston and Florida to try the case.
JH: I brought him into the limelight, center stage.
DT TO JH: So you invited Mr. Maurer in, then took off?
JH: I didn’t take off. I brought him on the Titanic for the cruise of his life. I see the iceberg coming. I get off and say, ‘Gene, I’m getting on this lifeboat.’ He says, ‘Hell, I’m going down with the ship.’ That’s his problem.
EM: No. I said it’s not fair to Capano to have the two best criminal lawyers in Delaware jump ship in two weeks. What does that tell the public? So I sacrificed myself and hung in there with these [lawyers] from out of state. Capano was the worst professional experience I’ve ever had. [Hurley] jumped ship after the proof positive hearing, when he knew he couldn’t win.
JH: I did not.
EM: Why do you look so miserable all the time?
JH: I have sleep apnea.
EM: Does that explain why, during our Malinovskaya trial, you would sometimes have your eyes closed during my cross-examinations?
JH: I was relishing the beauty of your cross-examination. I wanted to picture it in my mind.
EM: A long time ago, you and I tried the Martin-Massey case. At the time I was regaled by your presence and skills in the courtroom. During the course of the trial, an objection was raised. You were responding and the judge said, “Don’t you think you should hear from Mr. Mauer first?” Your response was, “Your Honor, I forgot Mr. Maurer was back there.” Why was it necessary for you to demean your co-counsel like that?
JH: That would be my humor.
DT to EM: Did the experience end up having a positive impact on you?
EM: Yes. It made me realize I could never trust Hurley again. Even back then, Joe was looking in his rear view mirror, watching me, to keep me from catching up to him.
JH: What prosecutor do you consider to be the most formidable challenge in the courtroom?
EM: Kathy Jennings. She’s always extremely well prepared, very good in court, and she’s able to do things with juries I’m not able to do. She’s very attractive. Joe and I, on the other hand, have had to rely strictly on our legal abilities.
(Jennings was the prosecutor in the Pennell trial. She knew he had a weakness for attractive women, so she approached him on the stand while taking off her suit jacket. Pennnell was unnerved.)
JH: If Kathy took off her jacket in front of any man, he’s going to notice.
Page 14: Hurley vs. Maurer, Maurer vs. Hurley continued…
JH: It’s 3 a.m. There’s a knock on your door. The police say, “Mr. Maurer, we have a search warrant.” You go over to the red phone in your home. Who do you call for legal advice?
EM: I’d already know what to do. But, grudgingly, I’d have to say you.
EM: Some people perceive you as having no life outside this office. Is there something that gives you anything close to the satisfaction you get from practicing law?
JH: Horse racing. The thrill of raising a horse, choosing its parents, seeing the horse as it grows and watching it excel and win. It’s a tremendous high. What have you seen me do in or out of court that you’re glad you can do better?
EM: You’re like the surgeon who doesn’t want to be bothered with holding anybody’s hand. I, on the other hand, try to be more simpatico. I listen more.
JH: OK, Mr. Ego, what have seen me do, in or out of court that you wish you could do as well?
EM: There’s a slashing confrontational style of cross-examination, and there’s a cross examination designed to elicit favorable information from a witness who might otherwise be hostile. Without trying to blow your ego up even more, I have always felt that you were the best at the first style. I have never seen anybody that’s as good as you are in this state.
JH: Why have you never been invited into a partnership with any other lawyer?
EM: Argumentative. Calls for speculation. Further, it assumes a fact that that’s not an issue. The fact is that maybe I have been invited. The answer is that I have not. And further, I don’t have the faintest idea.
EM: Why have you never been invited to be a judge?
JH: I was, actually. When [U.S. District Judge] Joe Farnan was appointed to the bench in the 1980s, [the Delaware Bar] just wanted me to put my name in so there would be another name on the ballot, so I wouldn’t do it.
EM: You have a reputation for being a bit irreverent, not only when it comes to your dealing with courts but also, and in particular, your dealings with prosecutors. Do you agree? And if so, do you do things intentionally to foster it?
JH: I agree with the reputation and I agree that I do it. I don’t do things intentionally. I’m just myself. I think it’s healthy to have a certain amount of respectful irreverence to keep things real.
DT TO JH: When you say respectful irreverence, does that apply to your well-documented antics, like going shirtless to court, wearing surgical gloves while trying cases, or breaking out in song during closing arguments?
JH: Actually, I rapped. I wanted the jury to listen, and it was a way of communicating. It was in vogue. It didn’t work, Judge [James T.] Vaughn Jr. was a traditionalist. I wouldn’t even look back at him. I was afraid I would see wrath. I lost. Maybe it was the singing.
JH: Why should someone choose you as their criminal defense attorney rather than anyone else?
EM: I thought you were going to say rather than you. Because I care more. I’ve spent years and years and hours and hours studying, reading, practicing and learning skills, learning to cross-examine by watching people. I watched you when I was young, too. And, I would be able to obtain the best possible result for my client.
JH: Who is the second best criminal lawyer in Delaware?
DT TO JH: Who is the second best criminal attorney in Delaware?
JH (pointing to Maurer): Him.
EM: What, if any, regrets do you have about choosing this profession and this subset of the profession?
JH: The compromise of what I would be doing in terms of family and friends. I’ve put this on a plane that’s close to an obsession. In doing that, I’ve denied myself family contacts and friends that I otherwise would have. It’s a lonely place to be.
EM: I had the same regrets until I had my children.
Page 15: Hurley vs. Maurer, Maurer vs. Hurley continued…
JH: What do you consider to be your three greatest weaknesses as a criminal defense attorney?
EM: One: not enough time to do as completely thorough a job as I’d like. Two: I’ll pull a Joe Hurley here—I don’t give clients enough time, hearing clients out as far as their giving me their version of events and keeping up as well as I should. Three: There isn’t one.
JH: Now I know why people gag when they hear me speak.
EM: What’s your single biggest weakness and your biggest attribute?
JH: I come off as arrogant. I don’t have a good bedside manner like you do. It’s a faux impression because I do care, but I have a way of being dismissive. I don’t realize I’m dealing with people who have feelings. The attribute is caring about people I represent. I don’t like to lose a speeding case, a stop sign case, any case. What do you consider your greatest disappointment?
EM: I defended a state trooper in the U.S. District Court named Paul Sczubelek, who committed several bank robberies. He was a friend of mine, and I really wanted to win his case. I felt the [federal] case was very weak. This was tried in front of Judge McKelvey, who wouldn’t even let you move away from the podium, which is like telling a running back he can only go straight and not make any cuts. (Sczubelek was convicted of multiple bank robberies and imprisoned for 87 months.)
DT TO JH: What’s your greatest disappointment?
JH: Watching people go up to Maurer’s office as they pass by mine. What judge do you most enjoy trying a case in front of?
EM: There are two Superior Court judges. John E. Babiarz, Jr. He’s wise beyond his years and one of the few who can be helpful to the defendant if you overlook something. And Judge [Fred S.] Silverman. He’s controversial because several people don’t like his demeanor. He’s thoughtful and tries to be fair. He looks at all the different issues and gives the defendant a very fair trial.
DT TO JH: And your favorite judges?
JH: I like all of them, of course. They are all fantastic, and we are blessed in Delaware. Ok,ok. Judges [Joseph R.] Slights III and [Jan R.] Jurden. They maintain decorum, but not at the expense of humor when appropriate.
DT TO JH: Are you saying they put up with non-traditional courtroom techniques?
JH: Historically there was this decorum in a courtroom of stiffness and formality and starchiness, which is not conducive to a trial. It disengages a jury. These judges are able to gauge in their own demeanor how to talk to jurors. They convey that they are no different, that they are not perched up there in black robes talking down to you.
EM: Of course. All the judges do that.
JH: Copycat. The record should reflect the look of sarcasm on Maurer’s face. Who is the judge you least like to try a case in front of?
EM: I plead the Fifth. I can say the judge I least enjoyed was Judge Joseph J. Longobardi, former Superior Court judge and District Court judge, now retired in Florida. He reduced my co-counsel to tears in one of my major murder cases when I was a public defender. How about you?
JH: I am not a kamikaze pilot. You think I’d answer that? What was the dumbest thing you ever did in a courtroom?
EM: Early on I represented a guy in a robbery case. My opponent, Joe Farnan, loves to tell this story. I got the bright idea to scour the halls of the old courthouse to find five African-American men who slightly resembled [the defendant]. Before the witness gets up, I line them up. I ask the witness to identify the perpetrator. As it turns out, he looked right at my client and identified him. Then he looked at Farnan’s client and said he was not one of the robbers. Farnan’s client got acquitted. My client got convicted. Needless to say, that’s the last time I ever did an in-court identification procedure.
DT TO JH: Your biggest blunder?
JH: It was a downstate murder trial. The state’s case was extremely weak. At the end of a trial, you’re supposed to make a motion for a judgment of acquittal based on a lack of evidence. I forgot to make the motion. My client got convicted.
EM: Was there one thing that caused you to be a criminal defense attorney and was there one point in time when you made that decision?
JH: Yes. I failed out of graduate school. I didn’t know what to do my life. There were so many things I was not good at. (Hurley briefly studied clinical psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.)
EM: You still didn’t answer my question. Why criminal law?
Page 16: Hurley vs. Maurer, Maurer vs. Hurley continued…
JH: Because that is what I had seen. (In 1964, when Hurley was a senior at UD, he was arrested for waving a hatchet at a driver who cut in front of him. While enduring his hearing at the Court of Common Pleas, he admired the attorneys but knew he’d ask better questions. The experience prompted led Hurley to take the LSAT and attend the Dickinson School of Law at Pennsylvania State University. He graduated 88 out of 92 in his class.)
EM: So it wasn’t out of any great love for the underdog.
JH: Oh, no.
EM: If you could pick a career outside of law, what would it be?
JH: Nothing. I have strategic ability and communication ability. But the interaction with people, well, I’m brusque and independent. I’d never go corporate. If someone tells me to do something and I see it a different way, I wouldn’t do it. I tried the military, too, which didn’t work either. (Hurley was discharged from the Air Force Reserve in 1967 for failure to acquire basic military skills.)
DT TO EM: Other than law, what would you do?
EM: I could’ve been a really good teacher. (Maurer attended Temple University Beasley School of Law, then quit to earn a teaching certificate. Frustrated as a student teacher, he finished at Beasley.)
JH: You could’ve been a car salesman.
EM: No, I don’t know anything about cars.
DT TO JH: Any interest in teaching?
JH: Nobody has an interest in me teaching.
DT TO JH: So if Widener called you to teach criminal law, you’d do it?
JH: No. I’m not going to take what took me 23 years to figure out and give it to somebody in two minutes. Let them go out and work for it the way I had to. I am narcissistically selfish.
EM: Sounds like Bret Favre with Aaron Rodgers. Now that you’re at the twilight of your career, is there anything you would have done differently, professionally?
JH: I think if I could have had a partnership with somebody who was on the same level as I was and our personalities could integrate, it would have been more effective. If our styles weren’t different, I would have wanted to be a partner of yours. You’re brighter than I am. And you work as hard as I do.
DT TO JH: Mr. Maurer is brighter?
EM: He said bright.
JH: No, I said brighter. I’m not that smart. I have one talent. Gene knows the cases better than I do.
DT: So why not join forces?
EM: To be successful, you have to be good and you’ve got to have a gimmick. You have to do something that makes you stand out from everybody else. If it was Maurer and Hurley or Hurley and Maurer, it just wouldn’t work. But if I did have a partner, it would be Joe.
DT TO EM: What’s your gimmick?
EM: Growing up, I had long hair when nobody else had long hair. I have an earring. I’m from Philadelphia. Everybody else here is from Delaware. I have a personality. There is something different from me than every Joe Blow who comes into the courtroom.
DT TO EM: Has any judge asked you to cut your hair or lose the earring?
EM: No, which is pretty good in conservative Delaware. I’ve only had one client in my whole career that didn’t hire me because of the way I looked. He thought my hair was too long.
JH: He told you that?
JH: At least it was a good reason.
DT TO JH: What’s your gimmick?
JH: Just being Joe.
EM: I feel you and I have had a very healthy competition, in terms of respect from peers. The competition has enhanced my life and my abilities. How has it affected you in terms of how you practice, if at all?
JH: (Long pause)
EM: Why are you thinking so long? The Phillies have the Mets. The Sixers used to have the Celtics. Do you share my thoughts or, in your typical fashion, do you feel you’re so much better than me?
JH: I don’t think I’m so much better. If it’s a choice of either you or me, it’s fine.
DT TO JH: Mr. Maurer said the healthy competition has enhanced his professional life. Has it enhanced yours or not?
Page 17: Top Lawyers list
Lawyers listed below were the most recommended by their professional peers, as determined by a Delaware Today survey of licensed attorneys in Delaware. YIP denotes years in practice. Addresses listed are for main offices only.
Lawyers may have others.
Drewry Fennell, 48
American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, Wilmington; YIP 10; Rutgers School of Law, Camden
Thomas S. Neuberger, 61
Neuberger Firm, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 34; Georgetown University Law Center; Other specialties: child abuse, constitutional law, private and employee law
Tasha Marie Stevens, 29
Fuqua and Yori, P.A., Georgetown; YIP 5; Howard University School of Law; Other specialties: criminal misdemeanors, juvenile felonies, guardianships
Curtis P. Bounds, 47
Bayard, P.P.A., Wilmington; YIP 18; University of Virginia School of Law; Other specialties: family law
Christine Demsey, 59
Chistine K. Demsey, Attorney at Law, Wilmington; YIP 37; Delaware Law School of Widener University
Gretchen S. Knight, 43
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 18; Villanova University School of Law; Other specialties: family law
Charles E. Butler, 56
Charles E. Butler, Attorney at Law, Wilmington; YIP 27; Catholic University
Joe Hurley, 65
Joe Hurley, Attorney at Law, Wilmington; YIP 32; The Dickinson School of Law
Edmund Daniel Lyons, Jr., 60
The Lyons Law Firm, Wilmington; YIP 34; Georgetown University Law Center; Other specialties: DUI defense
Eugene J. Maurer, Jr., 60
Eugene J. Maurer, Jr., P.A., Wilmington; YIP 33; Temple University
Mary M. Culley
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 23; Delaware Law School of Widener University and Temple University School of Graduate Legal Studies. Other specialties: trusts and estates, special needs trust for disabled children, guardianships, estate planning and administration
David J. Ferry, Jr., 54
Ferry, Joseph & Pearce, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 26; Delaware Law School of Widener University; Other specialties: state planning, Medicaid, guardianships
Thomas Herlihy III, 72
Ferry, Joseph & Pearce, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 48; University of Virginia School of Law
Suzanne I. Seubert, 53
Suzanna I. Seubert, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 17; Ohio State University Law School; Other specialties: family law, estate planning, guardianships
Jill Spevack Di Sciullo, 36
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 9; Widener University School of Law; Other specialties: divorce, custody, child support, property division, adoption
(Curtis P. Bounds and Gretchen S. Knight are also in this category)
Richard R. Wier, Jr.
Richard R. Wier, Jr., P.A., Wilmington; YIP 40; University of Pennsylvania Law School, Temple University Law School; Other specialties: labor law for employers/management, government affairs lobbying, civil litigation
David H. Williams, 58
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 33; The Dickinson School of Law; Other specialties: education law
Barry M. Willoughby, 53
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington; YIP 29; The Dickinson School of Law; Other specialties: all manner of employment law, including discrimination and constitutional
Ben T. Castle, 69
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington; YIP 40; Georgetown University; Other specialties: personal injury
Bartholomew J. Dalton, 56
Dalton & Associates, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 30; University of Tulsa; Other specialties: personal injury
Richard Zappa, 60
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington; YIP 35; American University – Washington College of Law; Other specialties: personal injury litigation
Michael B. Joseph, 57
Ferry, Joseph & Pearce, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 31; Widener University School of Law
Nina Pappoulis, 33
Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz & Bhaya, Wilmington; YIP 5; Widener University School of Law; Other specialties: real estate
Francis (Pete) Jones, 51
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 25; Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America; Other specialties: alternative dispute resolution
Daniel McKenty, 48
Heckler & Frabizzio, Wilmington; YIP 20; Widener University School of Law
(Richard Zappa is also in this category)
Richard P. Beck, 65
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 40; University of Virginia School of Law; Other specialties: commercial development and related litigation
John M. Bloxom, 52
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 25; Washington and Lee University School of Law
Eugene A. DiPrinzio, 52
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington; YIP 27; Widener University School of Law; Other specialties: commercial real estate, bank lending
Douglas M. Hershman, 46
Bayard, P.P.A., Wilmington; YIP 22; Syracuse University College of Law
Robert Krapf, 58
Richards, Layton & Finger, Wilmington; YIP 25; BSFS from Georgetown University and J.D. from Delaware Law School of Widener University; Other specialties: transactional matters in real estate and land use law
Lewis H. Pritzkur, 61
Gangi and Pritzkur, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 32; Widener University School of Law
Steven R. Director, 56
Bayard, P.P.A., Wilmington; YIP 30; J.D. at Pepperdine University School of Law and L.L.M. at New York University School of Law; Other specialties: taxation, transactional and business succession planning
Richard J. A. Popper, 56
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, Wilmington; YIP 31; George Washington University and masters in laws and taxation from Georgetown
Bruce W. Tigani, 52
Morris James LLP, Wilmington; YIP 26; Villanova University School of Law; Other specialties: business planning and tax and commercial transaction.
(Mary M. Culley and David J. Ferry, Jr. are also in this category)
Edward B. Carter, Jr., 62
Kimmel, Carter, Roman & Peltz, P.A., Wilmington; YIP 31; Widener University School of Law; Other specialties: personal injury
Henry C. Davis, 47
Henry Clay Davis III, P.A., Georgetown; YIP 22; Dickinson School of Law; Other specialties: appeals of IAB decisions, PI claims involving work or work duties offsite
George B. Heckler, Jr., 61
Heckler & Frabizzio, Wilmington; YIP 34; The Dickinson School of Law; Other specialties: insurance defense litigation
Cassandra Faline Roberts, 50
Yong Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, Wilmington; YIP 25; The Dickinson School of Law
Jessica Welch, 42
Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz & Bhaya, Wilmington; YIP 12; Widener University School of Law