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Gay marriage foes mobilize for ban in California
Law Firm News | 2008/08/25 14:03
Michael Bumgarner says he's never campaigned for a political cause before, but his strong opposition to same-sex marriage has prompted him to join thousands of volunteers going door-to-door in support of a ballot initiative that would ban gay nuptuals here.

"I've never stumped before, but I want to be a part of this," Bumgarner said. The retired insurance executive and devout Mormon said his late mother would "turn over in her grave" if she knew that gays and lesbians could marry.

With less than 11 weeks until Election Day, supporters of Proposition 8 are ramping up their field organization and refining their message as they seek to persuade California voters to shut the door on same-sex marriage. It's the first time voters will be asked to weigh in on the issue in either California or Massachusetts — the states where gays have won the right to wed.

An estimated 15,000 backers of the measure, most of them members of Mormon, Catholic and evangelical Christian churches, knocked on doors and distributed campaign literature to registered voters throughout the state this weekend and last, according to Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Yes on 8 campaign.

The initiative is a constitutional amendment, similar to ones already enacted in 26 other states, that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. It needs a simple majority of votes to pass.



IRS updates and expands EPCRS procedures
Press Release | 2008/08/24 15:37

The IRS has released the long-awaited revenue procedure, updating and expanding the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS), the system of voluntary correction programs for retirement plans. The EPCRS has been expanded to cover additional plan failures and includes streamlined application procedures under the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) for numerous categories of plan failures.

“Employers and plan administrators want to comply with the tax laws and regulations to protect plan participants,” said Michael Julianelle, director of the IRS’s Employee Plans division. “EPCRS helps employers and plan administrators take a proactive role in identifying and fixing mistakes. It also encourages implementation of practices and procedures that ensure retirement plans comply with laws and regulations.”

The updated EPCRS revenue procedure generally will be effective January 1, 2009. However, plan sponsors will be permitted to apply the provisions of the updated revenue procedure beginning September 2, 2008.

Time to self-correct expanded
The Self-Correction Program (SCP) permits a plan sponsor to correct insignificant operational failures in plans such as qualified plans, 403(b) plans, SEPs or SIMPLE IRA plans without having to notify the IRS and without paying any fee or sanction. The updated procedure expands the SCP in situations where employers discover failures in their plans and have begun the correction process.

The time by which a plan sponsor substantially corrects a significant operational failure and is therefore entitled to use the SCP has been liberalized. Sample correction methods for improperly excluded employees for both employer and employee contributions have been added to Appendix A. In addition, sample correction methods for the failure to implement an employee’s elective deferral election and to provide matching contributions have been added to Appendix B.




Russian oil tycoon's parole bid rejected
Law Firm News | 2008/08/22 15:36
A Russian court rejected jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky request for parole on Friday.

The judge said Khodorkovsky was ineligible for early release from a sentence for tax evasion and fraud because he had refused to undertake professional training at his prison, which specializes in sewing, and because of an incident in which he flouted prison rules.

Khodorkovsky reacted by shaking his head as the decision was announced in the courtroom in the Siberian city of Chita.

Khodorkovsky — who headed the Yukos oil company and was once Russia's richest man — has spent almost five years in jail. He was sentenced in 2005 to an eight-year term and has been eligible for parole for the past 10 months.

Khodorkovsky's parole hearing was seen as a test of new President Dmitry Medvedev's commitment to reforming the judiciary.

The prosecution of the oligarch was widely viewed as an attempt to silence a Kremlin opponent and consolidate control over Russia's strategic energy sector.

The charges and subsequent demand for huge back taxes led to the effective renationalization of Yukos, which was taken over by the state oil company Rosneft.

Khodorkovsky also faces new charges of embezzlement and money laundering, brought in June against both the former billionaire and his business associate Platon Lebedev.



Court says Guantanamo documents should be released
Topics | 2008/08/22 15:36
A British court ordered Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Thursday to disclose secret documents that could prove critical to the defense of a Guantanamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured while in U.S. custody on terrorism charges.

Miliband now has a week to decide whether to comply with the order to release of the documents pertaining to Binyam Mohamed's detention. The British government has argued the release of the documents could compromise national security, and it could appeal the court order.

The High Court made the ruling in the case of Mohamed, who was captured in Pakistan in April 2002 and accused of conspiring with al-Qaida leaders to attack civilians. His lawyers say the British government is withholding information about his treatment in U.S. custody which is critical to his hope of receiving a fair trial.

"The information held by the foreign secretary is not merely necessary, but essential, if Binyam Mohamed is to have his case fairly considered," Judge John Thomas wrote in the 75-page judgment.

Mohamed claims he was transferred illegally from Pakistan to Morocco after his arrest and alleges he was tortured during his 18 months in detention. Neither the United States nor Britain has disclosed any information about his time in custody until he arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 2004.



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