Law 101

Missouri Sunshine Law – A Practical Guide for Requesting Records

There are many instances in which a citizen may wish to obtain records from a government entity. Those may include seeking minutes from a council meeting, contracts between the government body and an independent contractor, or simply requesting more information on a water bill. Fortunately, the Missouri Sunshine Law allows the citizen the opportunity to obtain any open public records. First and foremost, though, the proper procedure must be followed.

  • Make a Written Request. In order to keep a clear record of your request, make your request for records in writing and reference that you are making a request under the Missouri Sunshine Law (Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 610). This way, the government entity will be on notice that you are seeking records and understand the rights available to you under the Sunshine Law.

 

  • Be Clear and Concise. While you may wish to “throw the kitchen sink” at the government body for a records request, the entity cannot respond if it does not understand the records you are seeking. Be clear, concise, and direct in your request for records and give as much information as possible as to the documents you are seeking. This will not only speed up the process in receiving your records, but avoid receiving and paying for records that you do not wish to receive.

 

  • Ask for Costs up Front. In your letter, it is best to ask for a cost estimate in complying with your request. Remember, the government entity may charge you not only the cost of $0.10 cents per page, but the average cost of the clerical staff in researching, copying, and responding to your request. While Sunshine Law requests can cost as little as $1.00, they can also cost as much as $1,000.00. I recommend setting a budget up front and asking the entity to contact you if it is anticipated it will exceed your budget.

 

  • Method of Delivery. Make sure to specify how you want the documents delivered and how you want to be notified. If you want to be notified by mail make sure to put your address. Email, put your email address. Phone number, put your phone number. Make it as easy as possible for the government entity to respond to you so that there are no excuses if you do not receive your documents.

 

  • Calendar, Calendar, Calendar. Make sure to calendar the date the request was sent, the date the request was received by the government entity, and three (3) business days after the date the request was received. The government entity must respond to you within three (3) business days but does not necessarily have to produce the documents at that time. If the government entity requests for additional time, make sure that the specific date and time when the records will be available is set forth in the letter. Calendar that date as well.

 

Should you need any additional help in making a Sunshine Law request to a government entity please let us know and one of our attorneys will be happy to assist you.

 

Brandon Moonier

Brandon Moonier

 

 

Brewery Law


The number of breweries and brewpubs operating in the United States continues to increase.  According to the Brewers Association, it is believed that there are close to 4,000 breweries and brewpubs currently operating in the United States.  The popularity of craft beers has resulted in numerous beer enthusiasts deciding to turn brewing as a hobby into a business by opening a brewery or brewpub. Like any business venture, deciding to open a brewery or brewpub should not be taken lightly.  Careful planning can be vital to the success or failure of the business.

Anyone deciding to open a business faces various decisions and challenges.  Failing to carefully consider and account for these decisions can have long lasting legal consequences and may be the difference between a business succeeding and failing.  Some of these decisions include entity formation, funding, management and operation of the business, location of the business, and the proper ways to protect the business.  Failing to properly plan could result in serious financial hardships to the business, owners, and/or any investors.

All businesses must comply with numerous local, state, and federal laws.  Besides having to satisfy the many requirements that other business are required to satisfy such as maintaining workers compensation insurance, sales tax permits, building requirements, business licenses, etc., there are also numerous state and federal regulations that govern the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol with various government agencies being tasked to oversee and regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages.  These agencies include the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  A business owner must obtain necessary local, state, and federal licenses or permits.  Some additional requirements directed at breweries include completing a Brewers’ Notice, satisfying labeling requirements (COLAs), and satisfying formula requirements.  There are also very specific tax compliance requirements which must be followed.  Ensuring adequate recordkeeping and knowing what the law requires is critical to ensure the necessary documents are accurately and timely completed.  Failing to ensure compliance with local, state and federal regulations could result in serious consequences at a later date.

Therefore, proper planning can help avoid legal traps that may result from various local, state or federal laws which impact breweries and brewpubs.  If you are interested in opening a brewery or brewpub, please feel free to call and set up an appointment to meet with one of our experienced attorneys who can help guide you through the process.

 

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Adam R. Renner

When Children Need Attorneys

Almost fifty years ago, on May 15, 1967, the Supreme Court decided that children accused of crimes were entitled to the same constitutional rights as adults, ensuring that every child in the criminal justice system should be afforded the rights of due process, including the right to confront witnesses, the right against self-incrimination and the right to an attorney.  Prior to 1967, children were routinely tossed into the delinquency system without any legal guide, often completely unaware of the charges against them.  Unfortunately, fifty years later, children in the juvenile system do not have a clear understanding of the system in which they are now immersed, and do not have legal counsel to properly advise them.

The juvenile system is designed with an eye towards rehabilitation, not necessarily punishment. As such, it is easy to question why children need attorneys at all.  Many of these children need the various services the system can provide, so the focus of the delinquency system has been directed away from “guilty” or “innocent” to whether governmental or other services are needed. Though based on the desire to “help” these children, sometimes those who are a part of the system forget that they are ignoring the simple fact that the juvenile system is still a court of law and these services come with potentially life-altering consequences.  For instance, not all juvenile records are closed and a delinquency determination can follow a child into adulthood, for example limiting school and work opportunities.  To provide services, a court must find a child guilty of a crime, thus bringing a child into the criminal justice system who may not belong there.

The legal system can be incredibly confusing for adults.  Despite the often-complicated legal procedures, children are far more likely to proceed in court without representation.  Some studies suggesting that as many as 75% of children in court proceed to a final outcome without an attorney.  Children are generally unaware of their basic rights, including their right to counsel, making enormous life decisions without an advocate in the court room.  This means the vast majority of children are making decisions that could affect the rest of their lives without anyone to explain to them their rights and the legal consequences of their decisions.  Children, often unrepresented, are also more likely to make decisions based on the now, such as choosing to plead guilty to a crime they may not have committed to get out of detention or because they think that is what the judge wants to hear.

Children also have additional rights in the criminal justice system.  A child is not supposed to be interrogated by police officers unless a parent or guardian is present.  The danger of an unrepresented minor in an interrogation room is very real and was brought to a national platform in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer”.  While the story focused on Steven Avery, his nephew, Brendan Dassey, was a painful example of what can happen when a child goes unrepresented.  The child confessed to being part of a murder, all the while explaining that he needed to get back to school for a test.  The ramifications of that confession will haunt him for the rest of his life.  A federal judge recently overturned Brendan’s conviction, recognizing how children are subject to suggestion, particularly those with mental limitations.  The Court also found that some police tactics may not be coercive for an adult, but are absolutely coercive for children.  It is a painful reminder of how important it is for children to be represented by legal counsel at all stages of the process.

While not all children caught in the criminal justice system will confess to murder or even be interrogated by a police officer, it is important to ensure they have a clear voice and advocate.  Every child is entitled to counsel and it is a right that should be exercised.  Linda Freeman has spent much of her career as an attorney representing children in all areas of the court system.  Should you or someone you know be in need of an attorney for a child, or even think the child may need representation, do not hesitate to call the Thurman Law Firm to discuss the options available with a dedicated and experienced juvenile attorney.

 

Linda Freeman

 

 

“Forever Family”

For many reasons, my wife and I were hesitant about “going public” with our story about the adoption of our two boys through the Jefferson County foster care system.  However, our positive experience with the system and the individuals involved and the need for awareness of the foster care epidemic in our County made us step forward.  It’s not fair to ask everyone to open their doors to a foster child, but, we can assure you, there are many ways you can help.  We hope our story encourages others to step forward and help our County and our needy children down the right path.

Click here to read the full story of Brandon Moonier’s journey to a “Forever Family”.
                                                              The Moonier family

Linda Freeman – Attorney at Thurman Law Firm

Linda Freeman was born and raised in Eureka, Missouri, graduating from Eureka High School in 2000. After graduation, Linda continued her education at the University of Missouri Columbia where she graduated with honors with a Degree in English and Biology. She then attended Washington University School of Law, graduating in 2007 and passed the Missouri Bar later that year.

Linda began her legal career with the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office after interning there during law school. During her years at that office she gained extensive experience as a criminal defense attorney. She represented clients charged with various types of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to serious Class A and B felonies. While there she tried multiple jury trials and acquired valuable litigation skills and experience. She also provided legal representation to juveniles and received special recognition for her commitment to juvenile defense.

Since joining the Thurman Law Firm in 2012, Linda has continued to develop her litigation skills, trying and winning multiple jury and non-jury trials for her clients. Linda has also continued to develop her expertise in juvenile representation, representing juveniles charged with serious felonies and successfully arguing to keep them within the juvenile treatment system.

Her practice also includes considerable DWI work, navigating clients through both the criminal and administrative consequences of a DWI. In 2014, Linda completed the NHTSA training, participating in the same training as police officers in order to better understand the field sobriety tests and the training officers undergo to administer the tests. As a result, Linda has a unique perspective in her defense, enabling her to make better arguments when defending her clients in court. Her training allows her to provide a complete DWI defense, focusing not only on the criminal case, but also working to protect her client’s driver’s license from administrative action.

She has also expanded her areas of practice to include all aspects of family law, including dissolution, paternity, child custody, juvenile court and allegations of abuse within the Children’s Division. She has successfully guided her clients through the court process, working hard to ensure they, and their children, do not get lost in the system. Her ability and willingness to advocate for her clients and their interests enable her to provide the best representation possible. Linda’s understanding of the difficult and complicated situations her clients are facing as well as her compassion allows her to effectively represent her clients through what is often an incredibly difficult and emotional process. Her knowledge of the Courts and the judicial system, her litigation talents, and her desire to be the best advocate for her clients has made her a respected member of the Jefferson County Bar Association and of the Thurman Law Firm.

Linda currently resides in Imperial with her husband, Matthew, a science teacher a Fox High School, and her two daughters, Charlotte and Audrey. She is active as a Girl Scout leader and is a member and volunteer with other civic minded organizations in the Jefferson County community.

Linda Freeman Attorney - Thurman Law Firm

Linda Freeman
Attorney – Thurman Law Firm

Patricia Riehl for Judge

Judges play an essential role in our community and government. They are asked to interpret agreements, interpret the law, determine conflicting interests in property, discern whose testimony is the most credible, determine whether a person charged with a crime should remain in the public while they await their trial and on what conditions, determine if a person convicted of a crime should be granted probation or sentenced to incarceration, etc. They are required to remain independent, resolving the conflicts brought before them on the basis of the facts and law, and to not be persuaded by politics.

In Jefferson County, MO., there are several judicial races in 2016 to determine who will be elected by the voters as Judges of the 23rd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri, and thereby assume or continue the responsibilities of a Judge. In two of those races, Divisions 3 and 5, one of the candidates in each is the current judge of that division. Each of these judges has many years of experience and has proven that they are well qualified and capable of satisfying the duties of the position. We would like to discuss each, separately.

The Thurman Law Firm is proud to support Judge Patricia Riehl for re-election as Judge of Division 5 of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. Judge Riehl has been a member of the Jefferson County Judiciary since 2003, and has established a reputation for fairness to each of the parties who have come before her.

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Judge Riehl has been a resident of and spent all of her professional career in Jefferson County since 1982. She was raised in Troy, Missouri and graduated from Buchanan High School. Following graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree in 1979 from Southeast Missouri State University, she received her Juris Doctorate Degree with Distinction, in 1982, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. While in law school, she received the American Juris Award for Constitutional Law.

In 1982, after graduating from law school, Judge Riehl began her practice of law as an associate attorney with the law firm of Hollingsworth and Kramer, in Hillsboro MO. She and the other members of that law firm maintained a broad general practice of law, handling both civil and criminal matters. In 1998, she opened her own law firm in Hillsboro, and continued to handle both civil and criminal matters for her clients.

In 2003 Judge Riehl was appointed as the Drug Court Commissioner for the Circuit Court of Jefferson County by the judges of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. As the Drug Court Commissioner, she handled criminal related matters in which adults were charged with drug related offences. In 2006, she was elected Judge of Associate Division 13 and was assigned the same duties as previously performed as the Drug Court Commissioner, as well as hearing family law matters, involving both divorcers and adoptions.

As the Judge of Associate Division 13, Judge Riehl expanded the Drug Treatment Courts to include a Juvenile Drug Court, and Family Abuse and Neglect Treatment Court and a Veteran Treatment Court. “As the Judge of the Drug Court, Judge Riehl heard and decided cases involving drug offences by…”, reported Stephen M. Vighi, a partner of the Thurman Law Firm who has concentrated a large part of his practice of law in the area of criminal law. Mr. Vighi further reports that the expansion of the Treatment Courts has provided an opportunity for hundreds of first time drug offenders to avoid incarceration, get educated, and become a productive member of society.

“Judge Riehl extends courtesies to all parties and attorneys that come before her, offering them a reasonable opportunity to present their evidence, argument and law”, states Linda M. Freeman, an associate attorney at the Thurman Law Firm who concentrates a large part of her practice in domestic law and criminal law. “Her decisions reflect a serious consideration of the evidence and facts presented before her, and the applicable law”, states Mrs. Freeman.

In 2016 Judge Riehl was appointed by Governor Nixon to fill a vacancy in Division 5 of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. Presently, her docket consists of domestic relation cases, the Adult Drug Court, the Veterans Treatment Court, and adoptions. Assignments of types of cases are made by the Presiding Judge, and may change from time to time.

Judge Riehl has also been active in the community. She has spoken to various groups of legal professionals, including the Missouri Association of Defense Attorneys, to the Jefferson County Women’s Bar Association, and at the Crisis Intervention Training provided to Law Enforcement, Juvenile Officers and Division of Children’s Services employees. Additionally, she has spoken to members of various Jefferson County Organizations, including the Rotary, V.F.W. and Kiwanis Clubs.

“Judge Riehl has established a reputation in Jefferson County and the State of Missouri as being a considerate, fair and thorough judge, and a valuable asset to the Circuit Court of Jefferson County”, states David P. Senkel, a partner of the Thurman Law Firm who has represented various clients in domestic cases before and that were decided by Judge Riehl.

Because of her reputation and experience, we encourage the voters of Jefferson County to vote and re-elect Judge Patricia Riel as Judge of Division 5 of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County.

Should a Decedent’s Will be Filed in Probate?

Often, following the death of a parent or spouse, surviving family members find the Decedent’s Will, Trust and other Estate Planning documents.  Occasionally they conclude that due to various circumstances there appears to be no assets, there appears to be no dispute regarding the distribution of assets, etc., and decide to not file the Will.  This is a mistake, and can be serious.

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Under Missouri Law, a person in possession of the Decedent’s Will has a statutory duty to file it with the Probate Court.   Filing the Will with the Probate Court does not, itself, open a case for administration of the Will.  The purpose of filing the Will is merely to make it available to the Court in the event that it becomes necessary to administer an Estate.  For instance, it is not unusual to learn of the existence of a bank account more than a year after the death of a family member.

A Will not filed with the Probate Court within one year of the Decedent’s death cannot be used by the Probate Court to carry out the instructions of the Decedent.  From time to time assets of the Decedent are discovered more than one year following the Decedent’s death which had not been known by the surviving family members earlier.  If the Will was not filed with the Probate Court within one year of the Decedent’s death, the Decedent’s intent may be thwarted or titling an asset may be made much more difficult, and more expensive.

At the Thurman Law Firm we will be happy to meet with you and discuss your obligations when you are in possession of the Will of another, as well as your obligations with respect to the administration of an estate, or your obligations as a Trustee with respect to the administration of a Trust.

Floyd T. Norrick Partner and Attorney - Thurman Law Firm

Floyd T. Norrick
Partner and Attorney – Thurman Law Firm

Parents or Grandparents – the Simone Biles controversy and the role of grandparents today

Increasingly over time we find ourselves helping grandparents with difficult decisions on what steps to take when they have to raise their grandchildren.  The other day some controversy was ignited when an Olympic commentator called Simone Biles’ parents her grandparents.  So what are they and was the commentator really being insensitive?  It turns out that Simone’s maternal grandparents came to a point in their life where they had a tough decision to make – whether they were going to raise their grandchildren and what that relationship would look like going forward.  Apparently the facts were, for whatever reason, the natural parents were not fulfilling their role.  In their situation they eventually came to the conclusion that the best solution was to adopt their grandchildren.  The legal effect of such an adoption is that their legal role changed from grandparent to parent.  The biology did not change, but their roles and responsibilities did.  Today, more than at any other time in this country’s history, we see this type of decision being made more and more.

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What a huge decision that is for any grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or relative.  Many of those faced with this type of decision have already raised their families or have their own families they are raising.  Taking on other children means rearranging everyone’s lives and responsibilities.  No matter how much you love someone this is a giant step, but what option is there when parents won’t or can’t care for their kids?  (Regardless of the reason, whether it be drugs, money, injury, illness, death or any other number of reasons.)

There really are several options when faced with this dilemma and not all of them are mutually exclusive.  We often find ourselves counseling individuals about the possibility of adoptions, guardianships, or getting the Children’s Division involved.

There is no cookie cutter solution when it comes to trying to make sure the right decision is made for children whose parents have fallen down on the job.  Adoption is the most severe decision when it comes to rearranging and redefining the roles of the family members.  An adoption by a grandparent changes grandparents to parents and parents to siblings.  This is no easy decision but sometimes it is the best decision for all involved.  Sometimes the right decision is guardianship.  Guardianship is temporary and thus may be the right decision when, among other reasons, there is hope that the parents can one  day return to their natural role.  There may even be other options that provide parents with not only reasons to get better, but resources to help on that journey.

If you find yourself facing this dilemma and not sure where to turn, or what options you have, or what options are best for you and your loved ones, give us a call and sit down with one of our attorneys who are experienced in these areas.  We understand that grandparents often become parents and the confusion that can arise from the change in those relationships.

Derrick R. Good Partner and Attorney - Thurman Law Firm

Derrick R. Good
Partner and Attorney –
Thurman Law Firm

Piecing the puzzle together – Why I practice law

Why I like to practice law.

As a child I enjoyed working on puzzles.  Every Christmas my parents would get a new puzzle that we would complete as a family.  As I got older the puzzles became more challenging and I became aware that it became more important to work with others to solve the puzzles.  I quickly realized everyone has a different perspective when looking at a puzzle and what one person may not see another person may see immediately.  I have noticed that these same principals carry over into my legal practice as well.

One of the reasons I enjoy practicing law is that I often find the same principals of working together and solving puzzles apply to working with a client to solve that client’s needs.  Each client that comes in the door has his or her own unique problems, circumstances, and goals.  It is important to piece together why the client is seeking legal help or advice of an attorney.  Sometimes clients come in and know exactly what they want, although at times they may not be fully aware of other options available. Often clients know they have a problem but do not know how to solve the problem.  Therefore, it becomes important to know each client’s unique circumstances and have a clear understanding of his or her desires, so that the attorney and client can work together to accomplish the desired goals.

Whether I am putting together estate planning documents, helping a business, or working with an individual or business entity to solve their other needs, there are always unique pieces to each client’s puzzle.  I enjoy the challenges of understanding the circumstances that a client faces and what I can do to best represent that client’s interests.  I look forward to the challenge that each client brings, and I appreciate the opportunity to work with and help a client piece together the solution to that client’s problem.

Adam C. Renner Attorney - Thurman Law Firm

Adam C. Renner
Attorney – Thurman Law Firm

 

Attorney and Partner Brandon Moonier Selected as Jefferson College 2016 Alumnus of the Year

The Jefferson College Faculty Senate recently selected Thurman Law Firm attorney and partner Brandon Moonier of Crystal City as Jefferson College’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year.

A life-long Jefferson County resident, Moonier graduated from Crystal City High School and attended Jefferson College through the A+ Program, where he received an Associate of Arts degree in 2002. In 2004, he graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He received a Juris Doctorate degree, graduating with honors, from St. Louis University School of Law in 2007.

Brandon is currently a partner at the Thurman Law Firm in Hillsboro, where he specializes in real estate and contract litigation/transactions, developing estate plans, and representing municipal entities. For the past four years, he has been selected as a Missouri and Kansas Rising Star in the real estate field and is the only Jefferson County attorney to be recognized.

As a member of the Public Law Review, Moonier’s article, titled “The Legal Game Behind Fantasy Sports: Copyright Protection and the Right of Privacy in Professional Performance Statistics,” was published in the St. Louis University Public Law Review.

He has served as the president of the Festus/Crystal City Rotary Club and has organized food drives for Brenden’s Backpacks and Helping Hands of Crystal City and other fundraisers for local charities. Moonier is also a member of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) which advocates for children in the foster care system.

Brandon met his wife, Erica, while they were both students at Jefferson College. They have a daughter, Eliza, and two foster children, Jakob and Jionni.

Moonier is grateful to receive the Jefferson College Alumnus of the Year award, saying “Jefferson College was my springboard to success. It is my sincerest hope that this College will further your career, hopes, and dreams, just as it did for me.”

Award recipients must have graduated from Jefferson College with a certificate or associate degree, achieved distinction in their chosen field of employment, been involved in community service; and not presently serve as a trustee or an employee of Jefferson College.

Brandon Moonier (left) is presented the 2016 Jefferson College Alumnus of the Year Award from Vice President of Finance and Administration Daryl Gehbauer.

Brandon Moonier (left) is presented the 2016 Jefferson College Alumnus of the Year Award from Vice President of Finance and Administration Daryl Gehbauer.

Latest Legal Briefs

May 15, 2017 In the event you need to obtain records from a government entity, The Sunshine Law allows you the opportunity to obtain those records.  +

March 24, 2017 If you are thinking about opening a Brewpub it is important to know the laws associated with this type of business.  +

February 7, 2017 As many as 75% of children in court proceed to a final outcome without an attorney. Children are generally unaware of their basic rights, making enormous life decisions without an advocate in the court room. It is vital to ensure they have a clear voice and advocate if faced with a legal situation. +