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Portland Environmental and Business Law Blog

How is the federal court system structured?

The federal court system is separate from the local and state court systems. While federal courts do have to follow federal laws, they are structured differently and follow different rules than other courts.

At the federal level, the courts are divided into 94 districts. Oregon itself is home to three federal district courts, and the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland is one of them. In addition to the regular district courts, there are bankruptcy and other specialty courts. These courts only handle matters within their specialty. Other civil and criminal federal cases are handled in the district courts.

Federal appeals arguments must be polished

The Litigation Consulting Report, a publication for attorneys and other legal professionals, has ten recommendations for those who want to make an argument before a federal appeals panel. Those ten recommendations boil down to the fact that you have to know what you are doing and be able to do it well if you want to succeed with such appeals.

The first recommendation is practice. Anyone presenting before an appeals panel has very little time to get their point across, and there are no do-overs. You have to know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.

What is a petition or complaint?

The petition or complaint is typically the very first document that is filed in a civil case. It is the document that begins the case, and it is supposed to outline the case that the plaintiff has. That means that the petition names the defendant or defendants and lays out the grievances against those individuals.

The document is supposed to include legal claims and the facts that support those claims, although at the time the complaint is filed, not all facts of the case might be known. The plaintiff can add to the facts and evidence of the case as it proceeds.

Summary judgment doesn't always end the case

When you are dealing with civil litigation, a summary judgment against you can be disheartening. Just as you might be gearing up for a trial or further hearings, the trial court might grant a motion for summary judgment on some technicality or fact. Many times, judgments are granted on misrepresented or misunderstood facts, which is why the appeals process is in place.

In one Oregon case, a man filed claims against an employer, stating that the employer retaliated against him for complaining about racial discrimination. According to documents, the man filed claims for discrimination, retaliation for speaking out about the discrimination and retaliation for whistleblowing.

Keep your estate out of court

Over the past few weeks, we've discussed a number of cases involved in civil appeals and highlighted some important facets of the appeals process. Today, we're taking a moment to point out that it is often in your best interest to keep a case from traveling up the court system if possible. One of those times is when you are planning your estate.

If you are of sound mind and have goals and desires for your estate, then taking the time to create a strong estate plan can reduce the chances that your heirs battle their way through the courts. Not only does this save your heirs stress and time, but it can also save a lot of money for your estate, leaving more for your spouse, children or other heirs.

Navigating the Complexities of Venture Capital

Many young ventures and startups explore the option of seeking venture capital to finance the next step in growth and expansion. This is a hot trend in business currently, and many companies are eager to start the process and lock down funding for new projects and for scaling up.

Venture capital is a complex process, however, strictly governed by SEC rules and regulations. There are a multitude of pitfalls along the way that could potentially ruin a business. It is critical that you have a skilled commercial law attorney at your side, guiding you through important decisions and next-steps.

Here are a few questions to ask when considering venture capital as a means of financing:

Is mediation and arbitration an option?

When you are dealing with civil litigation, it's important to understand your options as well as your requirements for bringing the case to a court. If you don't understand all of your options and requirements correctly, then you could find yourself losing the case on a technicality, and you might not have any luck with appeals for the same reason.

One thing to decide before you bring a case to court via a lawsuit is whether mediation and arbitration are options you might like to consider. In some cases, mediation might even be required by the contract, and if you attempt to go to court without going through any required mediation process, your case might be thrown out.

Protect Your Competitive Advantage Through IP Protection Measures

A company's greatest asset is its trade secrets and intellectual property. This includes all processes and procedures used during its operations, as well as any ideas, technology or concepts that it extracts value from.

In the chaos of start-ups and strategizing paths to growth, many small and growing companies fail to establish safe-guards to protect these secrets - but the threat is there. Employees may leave the company, competitors may start to prowl. Information can be mobile. 

It is critical that you have an established plan for protecting your secrets. This starts by partnering with a skilled business law attorney who understands your company and who can create strategies for securing it. This includes:

Oregon appeals court affirms workers' compensation decision

Not every case that is appealed is won on appeals. Winning an appeal takes a lot of preparation, but it's not enough to prepare. You also need a strong legal basis on which to build your appeal. The Oregon appeals court has recently affirmed a lower agency's decision after reviewing an appeal that didn't seem to have a strong foundation.

The appeal occurred because a claimant was not satisfied with the findings of the Workers' Compensation Board. According to the Oregon Court of Appeals media release, the original determination found that the woman could not prevail on a workers' compensation claim for adding an omitted or new condition. The woman reportedly wanted to claim benefits for radiculitis/radiculopathy.

Case files and status review in federal court

If you are considering an appeals process in the federal court system, you might want to find information about the status of your case or review records from your case. While a lot of this type of information is a matter of public record, it can be difficult to find what you are looking for without experience. And some records are sealed by the courts for a variety of reasons and do not become part of the public record.

Most federal courts keep records via a digital system. Individuals can use kiosks within the court buildings to look up information or can access information via a web portal called Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER. Accessing information through PACER costs 8 cents per page, but information accessed through public kiosks in court buildings is free.

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