Santa Cruz Family Law Bar “Divorce and Logic: What Would Aristotle Do?”

640px-Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575As you may know, lawyers are required to continue their education through classes called MCLE’s. While some of these include pure education on the law, others are designed to help lawyers increase their communication skills so they can work towards resolution or fine tune their persuasive skills. The recent training I attended was the latter.

You may find it interesting to learn that the skills required to be a good lawyer have been passed down from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great. As I was reminded in this wonderful training, the core curriculum for an attorney dates back to ancient Greece. Back then it was all about educating young men in the Trivium or “Three-Way Road” and the Quadrivium or “Four-Way Road.”

For Attorneys it is the Trivium that is of most value including: Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric. A little refresher on the basic principles of these key areas can help your lawyer to become more efficient and more effective for you.

In addition to learning about the history of Logical Persuasion this training was designed to highlight Emotional Persuasion. While you may believe that many lawyers are cold robots or hot blooded instigators, the truth is that we have the same brains you do!  In this training we were asked to reflect on our own emotional responses, those of others and how to best respond to different personality types. Sometimes this is quite simple but there is actually a bit of science involved.

In many cases resolution is possible and ideal. It can save you money and help you move on with your life. To come to resolution attorneys must be able to work well together and also be sensitive to their clients. In this training we learned how to help our clients separate their emotional and personal problems with the other party from the facts and goals that are legally significant. Sometimes these overlap but remember, you hired a lawyer to help you put your best foot forward and sometimes it hurts your case to put too much attention on every problem you have ever had with the other party.

In some cases a resolution is just not possible. Still, attorneys need to have a good balance between noticing everyone’s emotions or hostilities and staying calmly focused on what they need to do to best represent you in front of the Judge. Additionally, there is still much room for compromise and agreement even when some issues must go to trial.

Thank you to Ronald S. Granberg for presenting such a thoughtful training. When local attorneys attend training like this it helps strengthen our relationships with one another and increase the level of professionalism we bring to court. This can only benefit our clients who hire us with the hope that it will reduce some of their anxiety about whatever legal issues they are facing.

-Leah S. Samuels, Senior Attorney

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“We are a debt relief agency.  We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.”

John’s Installation as President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association

We are honored to share that our founding attorney, John Mlnarik, was installed last week as President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, which represents approximately 3,400 attorneys in Santa Clara County. 

Congratulations to John SCCBAOathas well as the other SCCBA officers! -TMLG



TMLG Oakland A’s Social Media Contest!

Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics

The Mlnarik Law Group is giving away 2 tickets to an Oakland A’s game this season! To enter our raffle, interact with us on social media between now and April 30th for your chance to win. Interactions will be worth one to three raffle entries. See below for full contest details:


  • Share our Facebook page, one of our events or posts on your timeline (1)
  • Check-in at our office on Facebook or at our Shred Fest event (2)
  • Post a comment or picture on our Facebook page from Shred Fest (2)
  • Rate us on Facebook (3)
  • Like our Facebook page (3)


  • Retweet one of our Twitter posts (1)
  • Mention us in a Tweet (2)
  • Share a picture from our Shred Fest event on Twitter (2)
  • Follow us on Twitter (3)


  • Check-in at our office on Yelp (1)
  • Share a picture from our Shred Fest event on Yelp (2)
  • Review us on Yelp (3)

Contest ends Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Winners will be announced and contacted by TMLG on Friday, May 2, 2014.

Good luck!


UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who participated in our Oakland A’s Social Media Contest and a big congratulations to our contest winner, Gerry Kosko! Have a great time at the game!

How Filing Bankruptcy in 2013 Provides Enhanced Asset-Protection

Happy New Year! New Year New Life

Many individuals will start the New Year resolving to improve their financial affairs. Though bankruptcy is a great tool, which generally includes benefits such as the discharge of credit card and medical debt, a new exemption scheme, effective January 1, 2013, will give potential filers even more to be excited about.

Exemption Basics

A key protection offered by the Bankruptcy Code is found in Section 522. This section details a debtor’s rights regarding exempt property—property that is shielded from liquidation.

Exemptions are statutory provisions that generally protect individual assets from liquidation based on an assigned dollar value. For example, pursuant to CCP § 703.140(b)(3), debtors are permitted to shield up to $600 per “household” item.  In other words, you can prevent creditors from seizing any of your appliances or furnishings if they are worth less than $600/item.  Under CCP § 703.140(b)(2), you can shield up to $4,800 of the fair market value of your motor vehicle.  There are numerous exemptions that apply in different contexts and can even apply in conjunction with each other.  A vehicle that is valued at $6,000 can be fully protected by combining the Motor Vehicle (b)(2) exemption with the “Grubstake” (b)(5) exemption (see below).

The bottom line is that a careful application of the exemption statutes can often allow debtors to retain their assets during and after a bankruptcy filing.

The 2013 Exemptions

The assigned exemption values change every three years to account for inflation. On January 1, 2013 a new exemption scheme became effective allowing debtors to take advantage of even stronger protections. Whereas a person filing for bankruptcy protection in California on December 20, 2012 would have been able to exempt up to $23,250 in “any property” under CCP § 703.140(b)(5) & (1), a debtor that filed on January 15, 2013 would have been able to exempt up to $25,340 under the same statutes—a $2,090 difference!

More Than a “Fresh Start”

The Bankruptcy Code and the attendant exemptions were created to give filers a “fresh start.”  They were designed with the idea that a person free from burdensome debt would be a more productive member of society.  But the protections offered by the exemptions, particularly the new valuations, provide more than a fresh start—they provide an invaluable tool and an opportunity.  Instead of rewinding and requiring individuals to begin their lives anew, the exemption scheme allows debtors to carry on—without the worry of losing invaluable possessions.

-Caroline M. Reebs, Attorney-at-Law

Financial Crisis and Bankruptcy: Don’t Fear “Fear Itself”


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BOO!! It’s that time of year again — when the days get shorter and darker, the leaves fall, a cold wind blows, and our thoughts might turn to mortality as we reflect upon another summer come and gone. In fact, … Continue reading

Debunking Myths About Bankruptcy and Retirement


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Happy Seniors’ Day! Debunking Myths About Bankruptcy and Retirement Recent reports highlight an alarming trend:  an increasing number of seniors are burdened by credit card debt and are facing foreclosure.  In fact, according to a University of Michigan Law School … Continue reading

Facebook Privacy Rights when it Comes to Employment

Social Media Information as Part of the Employment Process

Aunt Marge just posted pictures of her vacation to Las Vegas, my brother just checked in that he was at a concert in San Francisco, and my status today is reminiscent of the serenity prayer. So what does this have to do with my job? For a growing number of employers, it could make the difference between hiring me and sending me the “Thanks, we’ll call you” letter.

When deciding if an applicant is a good fit for their organization, employers increasingly use a prospective employee’s social media information as an effective source. It raises serious issues, however, to demand that a prospective employee provide a password, or to “shoulder surf” an applicant’s social media website during the interview process. To begin with, such information is arguably private — and it could be an invasion of that privacy to require access. Second, social media sites could provide a prospective employer with information (race, marital status, sexual orientation, etc.) that would violate employment law if it were demanded during the interview process. Third, the prospective employee’s consent is insufficient to protect the employer, because in the context of an employment situation the consent may result from coercion or duress (for those interested in a relevant court case, see Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group 2009 WL 3128420 (D.N.J. 2009)).

While no current case law in California exists banning the practice of requiring prospective employees to provide their social media information, both the state and the federal government have proposed legislation to address this issue. The Federal Password Protection Act of 2012 (S. 3074, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. (May 9, 2012)), would prohibit employers from requiring or requesting job applicants to provide their social media accounts as a condition of employment; similarly, the Social Networking Online Protection Act (H.R. 5050, 112th Cong., 2d Sess. (Apr. 27, 2012)), introduced in the House of Representatives, would prohibit employers from requesting user names, passwords, or other access to online content, and would prohibit employers from using information obtained through social media sites to discipline, discriminate against, or deny employment to current or potential employees. In California, AB 1844, amended July 2, 2012, would enact similar protections for employees and prohibit employers from accessing employees’ social media information in making employment decisions.

Social media sites that are specifically related to an individual’s professional career (LinkedIn for example) can arguably be fair game for employers; but it’s a stretch to argue the same for, say, using Facebook to assist in evaluating prospective or current employees’ suitability for employment. And even from an employer’s perspective: why provide fodder for discrimination complaints by individuals who for legitimate reasons were terminated or never hired? Moreover, employers should respect the privacy of their employees. Employers have a number of tools at their disposal to make informed decisions about their employees without resorting to “Facebook Stalking.” Individuals have the right to privacy in their personal lives. Demanding they provide information that is unrelated to their professional careers digs too deep to be anything but an invasion of that privacy. The California constitution codifies that individuals have a right to privacy. If an employer violates your privacy to either deny you employment, or as the basis for some form of adverse employment action then you may have a right to sue your employer for damages.

- Aro Ebenhahn, Employment Law Intern