Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster's Legal Link

Legal Links – September 4, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Kentucky Clerk Jailed Over Gay Marriage Stance. An Ashland, Kentucky clerk responsible for issuing marriage licenses chooses jail over doing her job in the way required by federal law. The debate over the definitions of marriage, religious freedom and bigotry is far from over.

Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz have pledged to stand behind Kim Davis on their Twitter accounts and have each started web petitions to free Kim Davis: and Stand With Kim Davis.

2.  The Small Business and Startup Guide. Kelly Phillips Erb, also known as @taxgirl, has an excellent series of articles on Forbes discussing common issues for small businesses and startups, from formation to employee benefits to filing and paying taxes.

We’ve also got some great resources for starting a business – check out our Business Law category.

Have a legal question you’d like addressed on our blog? Shoot Charlee an email at

3.  Arts and Crafts. This weekend, you have the opportunity to attend one of the top fine art and craft shows in America at the Long’s Park Art & Craft Festival, which also features live music and great food. The Festival will be open today and Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and has Sunday hours of 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you’re not attending the festival you may want to avoid Harrisburg Pike by Long’s Park. Although the backup may not be as significant as the one generated by the Sertoma Chicken BBQ or the 4th of July celebration, it will be a noteworthy traffic event.

4.  Law Review – Superior Court Denies Relief to Drunk Driver. The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld a 19 1/4 to 38 year prison sentence for a Lancaster man who was charged with DUI and vehicular homicide in a fatal accident in 2014. Read more about the decision here.

At the time, it was the longest sentence for DUI and vehicular homicide in Lancaster, which has since been eclipsed with a 2015 sentence of 20 to 50 years.

Have a safe and fun Labor Day weekend – it’s your last opportunity of the season to wear white. Or is it? Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to

Pa Supreme Court Tells Local School District They Must Provide Transportation to Students Residing with Both Divorced Parents Within the Same District

Posted in Custody, Divorce, Family Law

The PA Supreme Court recently denied an appeal by Manheim Township School District holding that the district is required to provide bus services to the homes of both divorced parents when the student spends time at both parents home overnight during the school year. While divorced parents rejoice at the ruling in their favor making split custody arrangements a littler easier, school districts will feel the financial pinch of additional costs and organization associated with having to provide students with transportation to and from different homes depending on the custody schedule. However, this ruling simply requires the schools to allow children to ride a different bus on an already established bus route.  It does not change the requirements for students living outside of the district.

After the recent ruling, school districts can no longer require parents to choose one parent’s home as the sole bus stop, nor can they require a parent to drive the student to a stop that is further away than what they would require a student to walk.  If this situation applies to you, contact your school and get a secondary stop set up for your child.  If you are not sure how this will affect you, we suggest contacting a trusted legal advisor.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

Legal Links – August 28, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Ephrata Police at the forefront of life saving techniques. On Friday August 21st, Sgt. Eric Schmitt became the first officer in Lancaster County to save someone from a heroin overdose through the use of Narcan. Lancaster County is only the third county in Pennsylvania to complete the training required to be able to use Narcan. Capital BlueCross has provided over $50,000 worth of the drug to law enforcement in 21 counties in Pennsylvania in order to combat the increasing number of heroin overdose. The drug is believed to have saved between 150-200 lives in the short period of time it has been in use in Pennsylvania.  If you’d like to learn more, check out Lancaster Online’s story found here.

2.  Craft beer drinkers unite! Lancaster Craft Beerfest is back and better than ever. For $40 you get an all access ticket and all the 3oz beer samples you can drink, but be sure to purchase your ticket before heading down town as tickets won’t be sold at the door. Not a beer drinker but don’t want to miss out on the fun? Designated driver tickets are also available and come with all the root beer you can safely drink. Don’t have a friend with a penchant for root beer? Lancaster Craft Beerfest has teamed up with Uber Lancaster to provide safe transportation.  Check out the Beerfest’s website to get a code for a free ride up to $20 at

3.  Jordan’s multi-million dollar suit. Michael Jordan was awarded $8.9 million by a jury who determined that a grocery store chain’s use of his name without his permission violated his rights. Jordan, whose net worth is estimated to be over $1.1 billion, has pledged to give all $8.9 million dollars to Chicago charities. Forbes has an interesting take on the tax implications of Jordan’s charitable donations here: Michael Jordan Nets Multimillion Dollar Verdict, Pledges To Give It Away.

4.  Law Review – Judge Joe Brown goes directly to jail, does not pass Go, does not collect $200. Judge Joe Brown, wasn’t playing Monopoly, though. Brown is in the news for reportedly being sent to prison for a five-day sentence for contempt of court which occurred before a juvenile court judge in 2014.

In Pennsylvania, a person can be held in contempt of court for disobedience, neglect or misbehavior that obstructs administration of justice or the lawful process of the court. 42 Pa.C.S. Section 4132.

Looking for something to do in Lancaster? Check out the Discover Lancaster Facebook page for ideas. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to

Is it a Condominium, Planned Community or a Subdivision?

Posted in Real Estate, Zoning and Land Use

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has recently returned a useful tool to real estate developers and builders.  At the same time, they have allowed the residents and developers of over 10,000 condominium and homeowners’ associations throughout Pennsylvania to breathe easy.  Senate Bills 687 and 688 were recently signed into law by Governor Wolf.  These Bills make it absolutely clear that the creation of a condominium or a planned community is not a subdivision.  These Acts also make it clear that selling units in a condominium or planned community is also not a subdivision.  This is a great tool for real estate developers.  It also puts to rest doubts that many of the estimated 2.8 million Pennsylvania residents living in condominium or planned community associations have about the title of their properties.

In October 2008, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided the case of Shaffer Family Limited Partnership v. Zoning Hearing Board of Chanceford Township.  In that matter, the Shaffer Family Limited Partnership owned 25 areas of vacant land.  Shaffer received permission to construct a single-family dwelling on the property.  A year later, Shaffer created a planned community that divided the property into three parcels:  a one-acre unit containing the house, a 22-acre unit of vacant land, and two acres of common open space between the two.  Chanceford Township believed that this was an illegal subdivision, and pursued a violation of the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.  The Commonwealth Court ruled that Shaffer’s actions were a subdivision of the property.  The Court confused the issue even more by hinting that creating an identical condominium might not create a subdivision.

Shaffer hurt developers’ ability to develop residential or commercial property.  Prior to the Shaffer decision, a developer could create a planned community or condominium on land that had already gone through land development or subdivision approval.  The developer did not need to go through municipal land development or subdivision approval.  This would allow the developer to convey different parts of the project to different people.  This could range from something expensive and complicated, such as dividing the Lancaster County Convention Center into four separate condominium units.  Or it could be something as simple as dividing an Amish farm between a business and the remainder of the farm.  Then the developer could sell, mortgage, lease, etc., the units separately.  After the Shaffer decision, developers could not be certain if a municipality would bring an enforcement action in these situations, and purchasers of these parcels could not know if they owned a legally-created unit. Even if developers moved forward with a project, they sometimes used a condominium form, when a planned community (there is a difference, and it is too detailed to explain here) would have been the better choice.

The passage of Bills 687 and 688 gives real estate developers a tool for development and clarifies the uncertainty created by Shaffer.  It allows developers to create a condominium or planned community to divide a piece of property without going through municipal approval, and without worrying that the municipality is going to object to the project years after the fact.  This has many real-world examples.  For example, consider a duplex home sitting on a single lot. Today, the developer could create a planned community or condominium and separate the sides of the duplex. By creating two separate units, the developer can sell one or both of the units with fee simple title.  The same principle applies for a commercial office building, a strip mall, a farm with business use or two dwellings, or many other scenarios.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

Legal Links – August 21, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Funnel cakes and football, that’s what Pennsylvania does. Fair season in Lancaster County begins on Monday with the Elizabethtown Fair – here’s your ultimate guide to all of the fairs in the area courtesy of Lancaster Online.

While fair season means that summer is coming to an end, it also marks the beginning of the 2015-2016 NFL Season. Check out your favorite team’s preseason schedule here. Go Eagles! (Or Steelers, or Dolphins, depending on who you ask in our office).

2.  It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane! Community Days 2015 Celebration of Flight will be held this weekend at Lancaster Airport. Just a couple of flight opportunities include a ride in a World War II bomber or a helicopter ride.

There’s plenty to do on the ground, too: an air show will be held at 12:45 pm on Saturday and Sunday. To learn more, check out this Lancaster Online article and Russell, Krafft & Gruber is proud to be a silver sponsor of this fun community event.

Thinking of a quick trip to Washington DC? Forget driving, between now and September 30th, you can fly there for $29 from Lancaster Airport using regional airline Sun Air Express

3.  Law Review – The Innocence Project. Check out The Innocence Project. This group of lawyers and advocates is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

If you’re a fan of the Serial Podcast, you may recognize the Innocence Project as the group of lawyers who agrees to further investigates Adnan’s case in episode 7. If you haven’t heard Serial yet, do yourself a favor and listen to it, it’s awesome and free. It’s available to stream here or for download using your favorite podcasting app (mine’s Overcast).

If you’re already into podcasts and interested in learning a little bit more about podcasting and the law, I wrote a little post about it here.

4.  All your vanity plates are belong to us.The decision of whether a Pennsylvania custom license plate is approved rests in the hands of five PennDOT workers. Check out some of the criteria they follow in this article: When is vanity plate offensive: PennDOT team decides. Trust us, it’s like United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on obscenity: they know it when they see it.

In case you’re in the market for a vanity plate, you can see if your preferred words or phrase is available here.

P.S. – if you didn’t get the bold text for this one, check out the reference in this Wikipedia article: All your base are belong to us.

Every Thursday, Central Penn Business Journal posts 10 Things to do This Weekend. Here’s this week’s edition in case you’re looking for plans in Central PA. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to

Legal Links – August 14, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Just Alphabet It. Earlier this week, Google announced a major reorganization of the company, where it will be owned by a parent company called Alphabet. This article provides an overview of the announcement, its impact and some remaining unanswered questions: What We Know About Google’s Alphabet Soup. And What We Don’t.

Within one day of the announcement, BMW announced that it is examining whether Google infringed on its trademark rights associated with the domain and BMW’s subsidiary, Alphabet.

2.  How Many Unpaid Interns Does It Take to File a Lawsuit? In the case of the class-action suit just filed against Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the answer is 40. At least one of the Plaintiffs allege that she was required to work long hours and answer emails at 10 p.m. Most employees who are paid minimum wage wouldn’t be expected to be available to answer emails all night long so it seems unlikely this is a reasonable expectation of an unpaid intern.

Is your business considering using unpaid interns? Check out Fact Sheet #71 for some guidance on the federal Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s take on internship programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

3.  Mark Your Calendar. Mark your calendars! This weekend is the Mt. Gretna Art Show being held on Saturday, August 15th from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday, August 16th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

You’re just in time to catch the last two Lawn Concerts at Nissley Vineyards and Winery, to be held Saturday, August 15th and Saturday, August 22nd starting at 6:00 pm.

Did you ever want to drink beer and do yoga at a minor league baseball stadium?  Join the Lancaster Barnstormers for beer and yoga on Saturday, August 15th and Saturday, September 19th at 9:30 am.  Register here.

The 2015 Whoopie Pie Festival will be held on Saturday, September 5, 2015 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn. The Festival will feature over 100 different whoopie pie flavors – I wonder if any are paleo?

4.  Are You Feeling Ok, Tom? A courtroom sketch of Tom Brady at the latest Deflategate hearing went viral yesterday on social media. Here’s a collection of some of the most creative photoshopped versions of the sketch: Tom Brady’s bizarre courtroom sketch destroyed the internet.  Our personal favorite? Tom Brady as Michael Jackson in Thriller.

Interested in checking out what the Harrisburg area has to offer? Sara Bozich is “your unofficial ambassador to Harrisburg,” reporting for Pennlive on restaurants, breweries and more. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to

Legal Links – August 7, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Katy Perry and the Law. Katy Perry is no stranger to the spotlight – she’s a firework for crying out loud! – first there was Left Shark, and this week, a graffiti artist claimed that Perry’s gown from the 2015 Met Gala infringes on his rights.

This case brings up some interesting legal issues relating to copyright and graffiti, explored by the WSJ law blog here.  We’re still trying to decide why she said yes to that dress.

2.  Lancaster: Tech Hub. Earlier this week, we attended Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry event called “Tech Talks,” held at the unconventionally awesome offices of Nxtbook Media. Several Lancaster-based entrepreneurs and business owners spoke about the importance of technology as an industry for Lancaster County’s future and what we can all do to help.

If you missed it, check out Heather Stauffer of LNP’s coverage here, which includes a link to the full video of the event.

3.  The Pig is Oinking. The Pig. Is Oinking. Welcome back to Harvey’s Bar-B-Q, one of our favorite places to eat in Lancaster County. Harvey’s had been closed due to a fire since last summer. Lancaster Online discussed the restaurant’s expansion and the importance of a business disaster plan here.

4.  Law Review – Public  Service Announcement. The Lancaster County Law Library, located at 50 North Duke Street in Lancaster City, will be closed next week from August 10 to August 14 for installation of new carpet.

Not to worry, though! The staff will be working during the installation and will be able to assist with reference questions via phone at 717-299-8090.

It’s going to be a great night for First Friday in Lancaster. If you haven’t taken the time to enjoy this event this summer, you do not want to miss it.  Billed as an “arts extravaganza” it is that and so much more.  Art, great food, unique performances, shopping, family activities and spending time with friends and colleagues on a beautiful summer evening – there is something for everyone. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to

Expanding Gay Rights

Posted in Discrimination, Employment Law

Everyone knows about the recent Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges with regard to gay marriage. Last year, President Obama entered an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.  In recent years, there has been a gradual acceptance that discrimination against transgender individuals constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex prohibited under federal law Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now, for the first time, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the federal agency charged with enforcing discrimination laws, held in a July 15, 2015 decision that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily involves discrimination on the basis of sex and is unlawful under Title VII.

The significance of this decision is that employers cannot rely on the fact that Congress never added “sexual orientation” as a protected class to federal anti-discrimination laws which expressly name race, color, religion, sex and national origin as bases for protection.  Sexual orientation discrimination is now a subset of sex discrimination.

In reviewing the many claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, courts have consistently held that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.  However, discrimination on the basis of what is referred to as “gender stereotyping” has been recognized, most notably in the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.  There, the plaintiff claimed that she was denied a promotion because her employer found that her actions and conduct were not sufficiently feminine. The Court upheld her claim, stating that Title VII applied to discrimination because of gender, not just biological sex.  Continue Reading

What’s Happening With Changes to Overtime Requirements?

Posted in Business Law, Employment Law, Wage and Hour

On July 6, 2015, the Department of Labor proposed changes to the manner in which overtime pay is calculated for executive, administrative and professional employees.  These employees, collectively referred to as white collar workers, have been exempt from overtime pay protections for many years.  To be considered exempt, the employees must meet certain minimum tests related to their primary job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 a week ($23,660 a year), which amount was last updated in 2004.

Now, the Department of Labor proposes to update that salary level to $921 a week or $47,892 annually. These amounts represent calculations based on 2013 statistics; the adjusted levels as projected for 2016 would be $970 a week or $50,440 per year.

These changes are to the rules interpreting the exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and can be enacted and approved without Congressional action.  However, there is a 60-day comment period (through September 4, 2015) during which individuals, corporations and other organizations can express opinions which could result in changes to the rule that is ultimately adopted.  It is not clear whether or when these proposed changes will become effective, and what actions opponents will take to try to block implementation.  Because these are regulations under the FLSA, not the statute itself, these rules will not be voted on by Congress.

If the rule is adopted and a worker would otherwise meet the definition of an executive, administrative or professional employee but earns less than $47,892 per year, that employee would have to be paid time and a half for hours worked over 40 per week.  In addition, in order to prevent the salary level requirements from becoming outdated, the Department of Labor proposes to automatically update the minimum salary levels on an annual basis. Continue Reading

Legal Links – July 31, 2015

Posted in Legal Links

On Fridays, we compile and post Legal Links, a list of legal news, reported cases, community events and topics of interest to Lancaster residents and readers of the Lancaster Law Blog.

1.  Bike Lancaster. Cycling is a sport (and popular alternative mode of transportation) near and dear to the hearts of Central Pennsylvanians. Lancaster and Harrisburg have each unveiled plans to make their streets more friendly to recreational cyclists and commuters.

This week on the Lancaster Law Blog, Matt Landis explored two of his three true loves (cycling and law) in his summary of Pennsylvania law as it relates to cycling: Share the Road: Cycling Laws in Pennsylvania.

In other cycling-related news:

Earlier this week, you may have passed an unusual sight on the roads of Lancaster County – “A white-whiskered Chinese man toiled up a hill on Route 462 between Columbia and Mountville on Wednesday afternoon, pulling a battered rickshaw behind him.” Read more about Chen Guan Ming’s Olympics-inspired journey here.

Lancaster City resident Lowell Brown won an essay contest about his commute to work by bicycle and Red Rose Transit. Congratulations, Lowell!

2.  Social, Enterprising Entrepreneurs. Lancaster entrepreneurs whose businesses have a goal of solving a social or environmental problem (known as “social enterprises”) are competing in the 2015 Great Social Enterprise Pitch. The competition has just entered its crowdfunding phase, in which the community can vote online by participating in crowdfunding campaigns to support their favorite projects.

A quick side note – one of the 2014 competition winners is none other than The Common Wheel, whose mission is to encourage bicycling in Lancaster County. We promise, we’ll take it easy on the bike links next week.

3.  Butt-Dialing Away Your Privacy. “Butt-dial” didn’t get added to Webster’s Dictionary this year (“photobomb” and “jegging” made the list), but that didn’t stop a Cincinnati federal appeals court from ruling that a butt-dialer had no expectation of privacy in a butt-dial situation.

Here’s a deeper look at the legal issues in this case from the National Constitution Center: Federal court’s butt-dialing decision no joking matter

Also, a sincere thank you to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for issuing this opinion and allowing us to write “butt-dial” six times on the Lancaster Law Blog.

4.  Law Review – Happy Birthday! Edition. The song everyone knows and loves, “Happy Birthday to You,” is the subject of a lawsuit focusing on the unauthorized use of the song in a documentary.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog did a great job discussing the copyright issues here: Unwrapping the ‘Happy Birthday’ Legal Dispute

Looking for things to do this weekend? Here are 10 unusual and offbeat things to do in Lancaster County courtesy of LNP’s Visit Lancaster. Please submit topics or community events for future Legal Links to