Neil Brecher Wants to Silence Philly Law Blog

September 26, 2016


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I wish I were making this up…

Long story short, I tried to help Salon Blush apply for a grant from SugarHouse Casino that other businesses get. Neil Brecher said it was illegal, a deliberate fraud on the FNA, and that my conduct could jeopardize the organization’s 501(c)(3) status. He also accused me of misappropriating funds from the FNA.

It turns out that Neil Brecher’s allegations were completely false. When he refused to retract these statements, it eventually lead to litigation, which I bent over backwards trying to avoid.

Now it seems that no one is that disputing that Neil’s statements were false. Instead, Neil’s lawyers raised the First Amendment as a defense, arguing that:

[T]his matter deals with an issue of public concern. We have allegations that an individual used his position as the president of a civic association, comprised of members of a discrete community, to obtain a significant monetary grant for a private client without the association’s full notice. Even more significant, this individual happens to be an attorney, who is bound by certain ethical obligations. If he truly engaged in such conduct, then not only does the Fishtown community need to know and be able to openly discuss his conduct, but also, on a broader scale, the legal community ought to know about this conduct and should be able to openly debate the ethical implications of it.

I agree.

Because his lawyers said people ought to be debating this matter on a broader scale, I did what they said to and wrote it about the entire incident here:

https://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/how-politics-may-destroy-the-fishtown-neighbors-association/

Now Neil Brecher is upset that I published his statements. He is so upset that he is asking a court to silence my blog:

https://www.scribd.com/document/325404884/Brecher-Motion

Brecher argues that my blog should be silenced because:

Upon information and belief, Rushie has been speaking about the case with members of the Fishtown community as well as the Philadelphia community at large.

What Neil did not mention is that his own attorney, Leo Mulvihill, has openly discussed this matter on Facebook:

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Meaning, Neil is arguing that he is allowed to make untrue statements because they are protected by the First Amendment and everyone should be talking about this matter and his own lawyer is allowed to comment about this case on Facebook. But I’m not allowed to say anything.

This is my response to his motion:

https://www.scribd.com/document/325528109/AJR-Reply-Filed

PDQ also did a writeup.


Of Hair Salons, Taco Trucks, and Chili – How Politics May Destroy the Fishtown Neighbors Association

September 18, 2016

As some of you may know, there is currently ongoing litigation with me and the Fishtown Neighbors Association. Normally during litigation you’re not supposed to talk about it for fear that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. But according to the FNA’s last pleading submitted to the court:

[T]his matter deals with an issue of public concern. We have allegations that an individual used his position as the president of a civic association, comprised of members of a discrete community, to obtain a significant monetary grant for a private client without the association’s full notice. Even more significant, this individual happens to be an attorney, who is bound by certain ethical obligations. If he truly engaged in such conduct, then not only does the Fishtown community need to know and be able to openly discuss his conduct, but also, on a broader scale, the legal community ought to know about this conduct and should be able to openly debate the ethical implications of it.

I agree.

Let’s talk about it…

A brief background: I moved to Fishtown in 2006 because it was close to Temple Law, where I went to school. I lived under Dr. Slobodinsky’s office on Girard Ave, bounced over to Hewson Street the next year, and eventually bought my house at Boston and Memphis in 2009. I’ve maintained office space in 2424 Studios since 2010, and opened up my neighborhood law practice in 2012. Most of my law practice involves zoning. I have lived and worked in Fishtown for many years now.

I based a lot of my career and social life on doing local community activism. I spent three years in a leadership role with the Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA), serving as a board member at large, Vice President, and President.

Some of the more fun things I did was save historic banks on Front Street, fought a methadone clinic, and testified before the Philadelphia City Planning Commission about the new Fishtown zoning map. Through the FNA, I created a program called “Zoning 101” to help neighbors navigate the Philadelphia zoning process. And sometimes I helped people find  lost cats.

The FNA, which had previously been run out of individual board members’ homes and a P.O. box, moved its headquarters to my law office at 2424 Studios so that we had a permanent meeting space and somewhere to store our supplies. Mugshot Diner generously catered board meetings at no cost.

The FNA Chili Cookoff was also held each year in the 2424 Skybox. The owner generously donated the space to the FNA. It was convenient because all the supplies were housed in the FNA’s office on the third floor. I’m told that neighbors found the space to be easily accessible and child friendly. Plus, free beer.

Volunteering for the FNA was my passion. It was a pleasure to be part of a growing neighborhood, and hopefully make things around me better. I’d spend an average of three days a week in meetings and engaging in community activism. In my spare time, I would screen projects with the FNA Zoning Committee, and help write anti-SLAPP laws through Crosstown Coalition.

A year later, I’ve been excommunicated from the organization. The Chili Cookoff is now held at the Fillmore. The FNA no longer has office space and is run out of the Free Library. The organization’s bylaws were recently amended so that business owners are excluded from serving on the Board of Directors. Unlike civic other civic associations, the FNA will no longer help business owners apply for grants. Litigation is pending.

What happened?

It all starts with a small hair salon on York Street…

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Why I Support the Philadelphia Soda Tax

June 12, 2016

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the Philadelphia Soda Tax. Basically, the City of Philadelphia has decided to tax all beverages that contain sugar (high fructose corn syrup). This affects a whole lot of beverages.

According to Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, it will mostly impact small businesses and people who are economically disadvantaged:

This regressive tax stands to hurt Philadelphia’s lower-income families and small businesses the most, burdening them with higher costs even though they are still struggling to emerge from the recession. It could also hurt retailers and restaurants, which are likely to lose sales and customers. It’s a slippery slope – this discriminatory tax is singling out beverages. Which grocery items are next?

So why would I support this, especially as a conservative? Shouldn’t I be supporting everyone’s right to do what they want, and oppose any taxation to regulate one’s freedom of choice?

It’s more complicated than you think, and the problem in the first place was actually created by the federal government…

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Is the Brock Turner case as bad as it looks? Yeah, it is.

June 11, 2016
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Brock Turner really is raping everybody out there

When it comes to commenting on court cases, I don’t get my information from silly clickbait blogs like Gawker. Instead, I try and pull the actual evidence and adduce what I can from it. Blogs like Gawker simply want people to click on links, and pander to the lowest common denominator.

Lately my Facebook feed has been filled with the name Brock Turner. The narrative going around is this: Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, pulled a woman behind a dumper, raped her while she was unconscious, and then ran away. After getting convicted, Judge Aaron Persky then gave Turner an extremely lenient sentence because he’s white and went to Stanford.

Of course, the internet was incensed. College rape, a white kid of privilege, a heinous crime, and parents who just don’t seem to get it. Then, of course, there is a powerful victim impact statement which has been circulated all over the internet, combined with a judge who seemed to favor a rich white kid and completely ignore her suffering.

When I first heard about the story, it sounded too outrageous to be true. However, most of what was coming up in my newsfeed were from sources that either aren’t typically credible or didn’t provide a lot of substantive information. So, I decided to do a little digging, using actual documents submitted in court.

After reviewing the evidence, police reports and trial documents, believe it or not, this one might be as bad as it looks…

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Apparently you do not have a First Amendment right to photograph the police in Pennsylvania. Unless you do a little jig.

February 22, 2016

This could be a significant blow to the First Amendment, as apparently videotaping the police is not protected speech in Pennsylvania. Unless, of course, you also decide to yell at them or do a jig at the same time.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not…

Two cases before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, were recently consolidated into one for the purpose of determining “whether photographing or filming police on our portable devices without challenging police is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

This is the trial court’s entire opinion, if you want to read the decision in its entirety.

The underlying facts are simple:

In the first case, Temple University student Richard Fields was standing on the sidewalk. There were 20 police officers standing outside a house party. Fields thought it was worth photographing for whatever reason. The police officer asked Fields to leave and stop taking pictures. Fields refused and continued to film. The police officer then took his phone and arrested him. Fields wasn’t taping the matter to protest the police or anything like that. He simply felt like recording it, maybe to put on Facebook, Instragram, or Philly Law Blog (holla!). The student did not claim to be protesting the police (or the house party for that matter), but merely recording the event.

In the second case, Amanda Geraci was at a protest. During the protest, the Philadelphia police arrested one of the protestors. Geraci moved closer to get a better view and hoped to videotape the incident. Geraci claims Officer Brown “attacked her” by physically restraining her against a pillar and preventing her from videotaping the arrest. Geraci claims that “I was just legal observing.”

Both sued the Philadelphia Police Department under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for First Amendment Retaliation.

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What Does the American Bar Association Actually Do?

February 9, 2016

When you think of the American Bar Association, you imagine an institution that focuses on lawyer things. I’ve always assumed that the role of the ABA was to function at the top of our profession, and to hand down things like the Model Rules for the rest of the states to incorporate. I remember studying the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in law school, which were drafted by the ABA and then adopted in full or in part by most of the states. As a small time practitioner, that’s what I’ve always assumed their role in the legal world was – to set legal policy at the highest level, which then trickles down into state law, and eventually finds itself on my desk in the form of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct or Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence.

I was up last night reading Twitter when something from the American Bar Association popped up in my feed:Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.39.29 AM.png

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RooshV And His Family Get Lynched By the Social Justice Mob

February 7, 2016

badb65c2868bc2a60c9bdd0ff56be419Rape is currently a hot button issue. There are those who argue that a “rape culture” has been created across the United States, and that our women are in danger everywhere. On the other hand, there are bloggers like Scott Greenfield who have suggested that there is a difference between rape and regret.

We draw a fine legal line when it comes to the definition of consensual sex and due process. As Scott Greenfield put it, “[t]he law requires reason, or it fails to sustain its legitimacy.”

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