Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Senate Bill 166: an opportunity for a clean slate

              On February 16, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf made an important decision that could impact the lives of many Pennsylvania residents.  Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166 will afford residents who have committed low level first time offenses sealed.  SB 166 goes into effect on November 14, 2016. Pennsylvania joins twenty seven other states that will permit expungement or sealing of some non-violent misdemeanor offenses.

            Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 166, the ability to have one’s criminal record expunged or sealed was extremely limited.  Summary offenses, charges that resulted in a non-conviction and few juvenile crimes were the only charges that could be expunged. A Governor’s pardon, a seldom used remedy, was the only other possibility for clearing a criminal conviction.

 A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications, adversely affecting employment, housing, and/or education.  The bill was introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf, who stated “a low-level misdemeanor in one’s past is often a barrier when seeking employment, long after they have completed their sentence”. The new law will give certain non-violent criminal offenders the opportunity to hit the reset button and start with a clean slate.

            SB 166 will allow individuals who have served their punishment and who have remained free of arrest or prosecution for seven to ten years to petition the Court of Common Pleas to have their prior record sealed.  If the petition is granted by the Court, the prior record will be removed from public view. 

            Certain second-degree, third-degree and ungraded misdemeanors will be eligible to be sealed. Simple Assault will be ineligible to be sealed, unless it is ungraded or a misdemeanor of the third-degree. Sealed records will be available for law enforcement purposes but will not be available for the public and individuals will not need to disclose the sealed records for employment purposes.

            Should you have any questions about this new, very important law, please contact Davis & Davis.  We will do all we can to help you realize the benefits of Senate Bill 166.

                                     ----   Jeremy J. Davis, Esquire

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ralph Nader and the American Museum of Tort Law

Ralph Nader, the Harvard-educated attorney and consumer advocate, has been known for numerous achievements, but perhaps his most enduring legacy will be as the Nation’s first and true consumer advocate. In 1959 his article, quite critical of the automobile industry, “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy” was published in the Nation. However, the book that brought him national acclaim and established him as America’s true consumer advocate was “Unsafe At Any Speed” and particularly the first chapter of that book, “The Sporty Corvair - The One Car Accident.” It was the Corvair that was involved in numerous accidents and 100 lawsuits against General Motors. Most experts now agree it was truly “unsafe at any speed.”

Nader’s advocacy on behalf of American consumers has been the cornerstone of his career. Now with the establishment of the American Museum of Tort Law located in Winsted, Connecticut, his hometown, quantifies the benefits to our society of Tort Law and specifically highlights numerous cases benefitting consumers. A Tort is a legal wrong committed upon the person or property independent of contract. It may be either (1) a direct invasion of some legal right of the individual; (2) the infarction of some public duty by which special damage accrues to the individual; (3) the violation of some private obligation by which like damage accrues to the individual - Black’s Law Dictionary.

The vision of the museum is set out by Professor Joseph A. Page, who writes “Tort Law is a system of law that governs claims by victims for harm caused by wrong doing. It is a wide tent that covers automobile collisions, airplane crashes, slips and falls in supermarkets, mishaps caused by defective products, faulty treatment by healthcare providers, toxic chemical spills, loud noise made by inconsiderate neighbors, police brutality, dog bites, gruesome practical jokes, sexual harassment, false statements, ruining a persons reputation, violations of an individuals right to be left alone, theft of trade secrets, fraudulent business practices perpetrated by one competitor against another and a host of other situations that result in the infliction of bodily, emotional or poorly financial harm.” According to Professor Page, Tort Law is as ancient as society itself, since every organized community has had to develop some kind of institutional mechanism to handle disputes arising from injuries that its members inevitably inflict upon one another. “Tort Law provides a vehicle for public vindication that conserve both plaintiffs and defendants. An injured victim or the family of the deceased victim can never be made whole by an award of money damages, but a favorable jury verdict may distow a powerful psychological benefit by assigning blame to a responsible party. Similarly, a jury verdict in a defendant’s favor can amount to a meaningful public exoneration.”

The American Museum of Tort Law provides an historical backdrop and record of Tort Law development specifically in the United States. It is the first museum of its kind in North America. The museum itself serves to educate the public as to the true history of Tort Law and the enormous benefit Tort Law and the trial by jury play in a free society. The museum debunks the fiction of the “McDonald’s Case” which became the basis for a sound-bite for talk show hosts, insurance company spokesman, and the “Corpocracy” that exists in this Country. It explains why our founding fathers thought that the right to trial by jury was important enough to include it in the Bill of Rights. It chronicles Ralph Nader’s book and how that book “Unsafe At Any Speed” actually revolutionized automobile safety.

The consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, knew the American Museum of Tort Law would honor the legacy of the “Weapon of the Weak.” Over the past 25 years, the American public has been bombarded with misinformation by certain politicians, insurance industry advertisers and multinational corporations. As a result of the ongoing misinformation and extremely well funded campaign, most Americans know little, if anything, about Tort Law, the benefits of Tort Law in a free society and the absolute right to a trial by jury so dear to our founding fathers.

The American Museum of Tort Law provides an excellent resource for an objective review of Tort Law in America, and its true benefits. The museum debunks the unfounded and unsubstantiated claims which have become the basis for the “Tort Reformers” campaign.

If you would like to learn more about the American Museum of Tort Law and Ralph Nader, please visit the following website:

--- James T. Davis

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Recalls – Airbags to Ignition Switches

We live in a time when motor vehicle recalls occur almost daily. Over the past five years, 10 million vehicles have been recalled due to defective airbags alone. This staggering number represents only a small percentage of the overall number of vehicles recalled for various types of problems.

Perhaps the most publicized recall involves the “defective ignition switches” on General Motors vehicles. It is estimated that over 3,350,000 vehicles were recalled as a result of this defect.

Of course, some recalls do not deal directly with defects that threaten consumer safety; however, the airbag and ignition switch defects caused many fatalities and serious injuries.

What has brought the automobile industry to this state? Perhaps noone can specifically answer that question or provide a full list of reasons. The problem may lie with faulty design, sloppy management, employee negligence, poor employee supervision and inadequate quality control. Most likely, improvement is necessary in all of these areas. Until such time as that, all motorists will remain at risk.

Recalls may be an effective tool to correct some problems, but it is prevention and proper product production which must be the goal of all motor vehicle manufacturing. The consuming public must demand defect free motor vehicles. The automobile manufacturers must be held accountable when they produce and sell a defective product to an unwitting consumer. This is particularly so when the dangerously defective product is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury to the consumer. Legislation, holding the automobile industry accountable to the families of the victims and the injured themselves, is the only way to insure that the automobile industry will not continue to manufacture dangerously defective vehicles.

--- James T. Davis, Esquire

Friday, April 25, 2014

Identity Theft: What to do if you become a victim?

Anyone can become a victim of identity theft in today's day and age, no one is completely protected. You may say to yourself, "that won't happen to me, I'm too careful". What if it does happen to you? What steps should you take?

If you become an unfortunate victim of Identity Theft, you must act quickly to limit the damage and stop the identity thief immediately. In Pennsylvania, the crime of identity theft of another person occurs someone possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose. Under the law, a police report taken by a local, county, or state law enforcement agency by a person stating that their identifying information had been used without their consent shall be considered evidence that the information was used or possessed without the person's consent.

The following steps should be taken if you become a victim:

• Notify the three major credit bureaus and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit reports.

• Contact the fraud department of all of your creditors, including any institutions that issue you bank cards, debit cards, credit cards and/or checking/saving accounts. You should mail a copy of a completed Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft affidavit to all of your creditors, a copy of which can be obtained online, or complete the creditors’ fraud dispute form.

• If you think your bank account has been tampered with, you should immediately contact your financial institution so they can freeze your account(s).

• Contact your local police department so an investigation into the crime can begin immediately.

• Complaints can also be made to the Office of the Attorney General, The Federal Trade Commission, Department of Motor Vehicles, US Postal Inspection Service, or the Social Security Administration, depending on the type of identity theft involved.

If you act as soon as you are notified or become aware that you have been a victim of identity theft by notifying the police, creditors, credit bureaus, and/or any of the other institutions discussed above, hopefully the theft is stopped and the damage will be minimized. Once you have made the proper report, make sure to keep track of your credit and accounts to insure that the identity theft has ended for good.

--- Jeremy J. Davis, Esquire

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Over the past two decades, special interest groups have waged a campaign designed to limit the average American’s access to the courts and particularly our right to a trial by jury in civil cases. This assault on our Civil Justice System was purportedly in response to claims of frivolous lawsuits, runaway jury verdicts, and jackpot justice. Our nation has long held dear its Civil Justice System as the finest in the world, providing those persons wronged by the act of an individual or the largest of corporations the opportunity to receive justice in the Civil Justice System. A jury’s award compensating an individual who has been wronged not only provides justice for that individual, but also serves as a means to prevent others from committing similar wrongful acts. Lawsuits filed against Ford Motor Company as a result of the “Exploding Pinto” cases forced Ford to redesign that vehicle, thereby saving lives. Lawsuits brought by injured persons are responsible for numerous safety features, now common in automobiles, highway design, and many consumer products. Such things as seatbelts, guardrails, and the safety valves on pressure cookers all came about when injured persons sought justice though our Civil Justice System.

Nearly every American would find it abhorrent if a person charged with a serious crime did not have the right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers. Today in Pennsylvania and in other states, legislators are continually limiting our right to trial by jury particularly in the Civil Justice System. The reasons given by many lawmakers who support restrictions on Americans’ access to Civil Justice are simply without foundation, in truth or fact. Personal injury lawsuits represent only 1.3% of all civil cases filed in the United States, yet many legislators would have you believe that personal injury lawsuits are clogging our legal system. In fact, according to the Rand Institute for Civil Justice, a well respected think tank, there has been a 52% decline in personal injury cases filed from 1992 to 2005, only 10% of persons injured by the negligent and wrongful act of another seek compensation and only 2% actually file lawsuits. Tort cases generally reflect only 6% of all cases filed in the United States Civil Courts. The frivolous lawsuit claim is simply a myth and does not exist.

The special interest publicity campaign designed to limit all Americans access to Civil Justice has been based on characterizations and exaggerations. The idea simply stated is that Corporate America can get a better deal if cases brought against large corporations are heard by Arbitrators and not common citizens that serve on juries. Ironically, in America today, a jury of your peers can decide whether you live or die, but in many states cannot decide whether you have a right to a refund when your health club suddenly shuts down, or you have been fired from your job without just cause.

Our Civil Justice System, including our right to a trial by jury, is one of the cornerstones of our free society. This system, existing for more than 200 years, has helped to transform America into a much safer and consumer friendly society. The agenda of special interest groups to limit our access is entirely self-serving, based upon fiction and not fact and, if successful, will have a far reaching effect on society. Everyone should be outraged when a person elected to the legislature thinks he or she is in a better position to settle our disputes or arrange for a professional arbitrator to do so and not those people who serve on juries, the same people who elected that legislator.

James T. Davis, Attorney at Law
107 East Main Street
Uniontown, PA 15401

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Convention Lives Up to Expectations

I must admit I anxiously, and somewhat impatiently, anticipated the Democratic National Convention. In my experience when I approach an upcoming event with great expectations, rarely does the event meet those great expectations. The Democratic National Convention at which I was privileged to serve as a Delegate was all that I expected and more.

The city of Charlotte seemed well prepared, overflowing with security and uniformed police officers patrolling and providing traffic control. The people throughout the city could not have been more friendly and welcoming. On my long walks from the bus or train to the Charlotte Convention Center where the meetings were held, or to the Time Warner Cable Arena for the Convention, I was repeatedly greeted with “Hello’s” and “Welcome to Charlotte.” Even the demonstrators were polite as I walked by each morning on my walks to and from bus/train transportation.

The Pennsylvania Delegation included me and fellow Fayette Countians, Lauren Mahoney, Pat Jones, and Al Ambrosini. Pennsylvania was one of the largest Delegations at the Convention and despite our size and the challenges associated with such a large body, it did seem to be well organized. Credit must be given to Fadia Helma, who serves as Assistant Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and who had the responsibility to keep our delegation organized and to respond to all of the problems facing the Pennsylvania Delegates. Her efforts made our job much easier.

Each morning Pennsylvania Delegates would meet for breakfast and to hear speeches and comments from various officials, including US Senator Bob Casey, and former Governor Ed Rendell. On Thursday morning, we were visited by AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, a former resident of Nemacolin, Greene County. He provided an inspiring commentary concerning the problems that face the nation and what might be done to improve the plight of all Americans, with specific reference to the middle class. Richard, an outstanding orator, gave a fact-based commentary which was well received by the Delegates. The morning breakfasts were filled with many repetitive comments, but there was much to learn as the Delegates continually received information concerning the platform and the facts and statistics which would support the important platform positions of the Democratic Party.

Following breakfast, I attended several caucuses and meetings of various groups. All of the caucuses were interesting, each discussing issues relating to that particular group. When one reviews the line-up of caucuses, it’s a wonder that all the Democrats with many varying views can come together and support one Candidate for the nations highest office and a platform which obviously must be negotiated and is the subject of compromise. I suspect that the members of Congress can learn something from the Delegates attending the Democratic Convention who must negotiate and compromise on various issues so that a platform can be developed and finalized.

I was interested in hearing from speakers that would provide facts and statistics in support of the Democratic platform. I wanted to know what the President would do, assuming he was reelected, to move our nation forward. Many speakers touched upon the typical patriotic themes of love of family, neighbor and nation. I believe that both political parties can agree on these issues and that the Candidates from both parties truly love their families, neighbors and, of course, our nation. But the true question is, what can be done to make our nation better?

There were many outstanding speeches, video presentations, and vocalists. I was impressed on Tuesday evening with actor/producer Kal Pen and Minnesota Governor Deval Patrick. But First Lady Michelle Obama seemed to be most at ease in front of the crowd and cameras and delivered an outstanding address.

Wednesday evening was perhaps the most anticipated by many Delegates as the iconic and legendary Bill Clinton was set to address the convention. Clinton is arguably the best orator of our time. Former President Clinton gave a lengthy presentation that was fact-based, offering sound arguments to refute the positions taken by the opposition. His speech offered a specific history as to what has occurred in recent years in Washington and what must be done to move the nation forward. Most of the remarks given by the other political leaders did not contain a great deal of content, but former President Clinton’s remarks overflowed with content. His presentation was truly remarkable and for those readers who have not had an opportunity to see and listen to him, I would certainly recommend that they find his remarks online and treat themselves to his address. I cannot think of anyone better to nominate an incumbent President than former President Bill Clinton.

On Thursday, due to threatening weather, the convention which was to be held at the Bank of America Stadium was moved “back” to the Time Warner Arena. As expected, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barrack Obama addressed the delegates. Vice President Biden reminded me of one of the “fellas” I might have coffee with, pontificating on a number of subjects. His was not a speech, but rather a conversation and in his way I am sure quite effective. President Obama is an orator and I would describe his delivery as a mixture of trial lawyer and preacher; some facts, some fire and brimstone, and a very smooth presentation. I expect it must have been difficult for him to speak after such a dynamic presentation by former President Clinton. I suspect it is unfair to compare his remarks with those of former president Clinton’s. In any event, President Obama provided a number of facts and statistics outlining his presidency to date, and his plan for the future.

In conclusion, it is for the American people to decide in this great country of ours who will be our next president. I feel blessed to live in a nation where every four years power may be transferred in a peaceful and honorable manner. Our system, which is not perfect, is the best known to mankind and as I sat listening to all of the speeches, good and bad, I was humbled and proud to live in this great nation and privileged to play a small part in the political process. I hope that all of our leaders at all levels can find wisdom in the words of former President John F. Kennedy “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

--- James T. Davis, Esquire

Friday, August 31, 2012

2012 Democratic National Convention

In 1960 I sat glued to the television in our family’s apartment as Democrats from around the nation nominated John F. Kennedy. I was mesmerized by the convention process and dreamed that someday I would be "involved" in a political convention. My interest in the political process and in politics continued to grow in the months that followed as J.F.K. defeated Richard Nixon, becoming the first Catholic President.

Any thing was possible in this wonderful Nation of ours. Anyone could be successful! Anyone could be President! Dreams do come true, and my boy hood dreams of attending a National Convention are about to be realized many decades later. My father always reminded my brother and me how important it is for all American to be involved in the political process. We both have tried to follow his advice, I am certain he would be quite proud and perhaps a little envious of me and of my privilege to serve as a Delegate to the Convention.

This Democratic Convention isn't filled with the excitement of 1960 as modern conventions seldom are but the process of electing our Commander and Chief is just as important and exciting .

The times are different as we live in an era of gridlock and mean spirited discourse. The Nation cries for leaders that can compromise and find the common ground and not merely complain about the past without any plan for the future. As a delegate, I intend to ask the difficult questions and support those that seek compromise and consensus. The years of stagnation must end NOW. If our leaders, at any level of government, think that name calling and finger pointing is leadership, they are misguided and have misjudged the voters. Every American deserves better from our elected officials and should demand better.

We should vigorously remind all of our elected officials of the wisdom of John F. Kennedy, who said “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

--- James T. Davis, Esquire