Articles Posted in Learn

Societal issues, world events, and things to think on.

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Venn Crawford

For the past several weeks, our firm has been attending event after event – Big Hair Ball, Operation Smile, JDRF, and coming up, the PTI Run on the Runway. We even had a baby shower in February. Today I’d like to take some time to talk about what all goes into planning an event.

Decide the Budget

This is the biggest part. Before you set your heart on that spacious ballroom or the bottle of Port Sandeman that needs to be on the dessert menu, you have to know how much room there is in the budget for it. This is one of the first constraints you need to consider when making your choices.

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Venn Crawford

On Saturday, January 27, our firm attended Big Hair Ball, an event benefiting Family Service of the Piedmont. The highlight of the night was a circus-themed fashion show, which as you might have guessed, featured extravagant hair. Woodruff Family Law Group sponsored three models – Ashley Yates, Sloane Hoefle, and Anna Sardzinski.

Designer Brian Atkins created a stunning ringmaster costume for Yates, complete with a shimmering silver coat. A purple W nestled in the tulle atop her hat, which was created out of hair by artist Pepper Bendel. Makeup artist Emily Jackson built on Atkins’ imposing silhouette, creating a subtle, clown-inspired look. Yates’ lips, painted purple and lined with a bold black, split into a jester’s grin, winning her Best Makeup.

Designer Brian Atkins created this ringmaster costume for Woodruff Family Law Group. IMG_20180127_204140-768x1024

Ringmasters need a performer to introduce, and so Atkins dreamed up a lion costume for Hoefle. Her bodysuit gleamed silver, fringe cascading down from her collar like fur. Jackson used warm neutral tones to give the impression of a lion’s snout, while dark browns in her lips and nose created contrast with the pale outfit. A massive lion’s mane, crafted by designer Brandi Burns, unified the piece. As the biggest hair of the evening, it’s only fitting the mane won Best Hair.

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Venn Crawford

It’s almost a new year – the days are already getting longer, sunlight stretching out a little further every evening. You can feel a fresh sort of energy in the air. And, like many, that energy might inspire you to think about how you’ll change this year, how you’ll make efforts to be a new, better, you. You might even make a New Year’s resolution.

But, in two weeks, or a month (or for some of us the third day of January), most of us will give up on our New Year’s resolution. That inspiring energy fades, and life gets in the way. We just can’t make our resolution stick.

The thing is, changing our habits is hard, and New Year’s doesn’t change that. But if you approach it right, you can make a change any time of the year.

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Venn Crawford

Today marks a turning point – it is the winter solstice, the day of the year with the least light. Our days have been waning since the middle of the summer, growing shorter and shorter with each nightfall. Think of the winter solstice as the sun’s version of a new moon – we will see the least of its light today, but tomorrow, it will wax once again.

Scientifically speaking, the winter solstice is caused by the Earth’s tilt. When the northern hemisphere tilts closer to the sun, we have summer, but when it’s tilted away, we have winter. The winter solstice is the point when the northern hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the sun, which causes us to receive the least sunlight.

The solstice (and winter itself) is one of the origins for our holiday season. Before we had greenhouses, refrigerators, and 24/7 supermarkets, our food supply was inescapably tied to the changing of the seasons. Winter was an unforgiving time of year – food, warmth, and light were all scarce. The entire year was essentially spent preparing for the winter. Cows were slaughtered so they wouldn’t use up precious food during the winter, and the wine that had been fermenting all year was finally ready to drink. The solstice festival was the last feast and celebration of life before winter.

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Venn Crawford

On October 5, 2017, The New York Times released an article exposing decades of sexual abuse perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, a well-known film producer and powerful player in Hollywood. After the article’s publication, a stream of new accusations surfaced, and journalists dug deeper, discovering a network of employees and private investigators who gathered information on victims and used non-disclosure agreements to intimidate them into silence.

The world looked on, many shocked by how sinister the story became as it deepened, others appalled that someone could get away with abuse for so long. But for survivors, each development just proves long-held truths about sexual violence.

Weinstein’s Hotel-Bathrobe-Massage Routine
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Venn Crawford

The opioid epidemic has received national attention recently thanks to the president’s address and a growing number of lawsuits against opioid producers. However, the crisis has been steadily worsening for over a decade.

For me, opioids continue to be a growing problem in family law. They lead to parents losing custody and children losing parents, and they complicate or worsen domestic violence situations. I wrote about a case involving opioids for my firm’s blog in September, and again on this blog in October, but the discussion is far from over. As the government begins to address the opioid crisis, it is even more vital that the general public understands it.

What are opioids?
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Carolyn Woodruff

Shows like Law and Order depict lawyers winning cases with confident arguments and saucy comments. However, charisma doesn’t make a trial lawyer successful – trial preparation does. Each case hinges on having the proper information prepared and having the right evidence to build on. Because lawyers prepare for trial behind the scenes, we don’t often see how much work goes into trial preparation.

First, the lawyer files their pleadings with the court. A pleading is a document that states the party’s position. In divorce, the lawyer files a “complaint for divorce.” If one spouse files the complaint (rather than both filing jointly), then the other will respond to it by filing answering pleadings. The lawyer must be meticulous and make absolutely sure they file the pleadings correctly.  If they don’t, it will undermine the rest of their trial preparation.

After filing the pleadings, the lawyer begins discovery.

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Venn Crawford

The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” released a report this weekend revealing how Congress and pharmaceutical companies deliberately allowed the opioid crisis in America to worsen by passing a law that crippled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to combat the epidemic. The opioid epidemic itself has resulted in over 200,000 deaths in the past two decades, a number which continues to increase.

The effort succeeded in April 2016 when Congress passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which the DEA had fought for years. The law makes it much more difficult for the DEA to freeze suspicious drug shipments by making the criteria for such actions more stringent. The effect is immediately visible – the DEA has issued only six suspension orders this year, compared to 65 in 2011.

The DEA’s troubles began far before 2016, however. In 2013, Jim Geldhof, the Detroit DEA program manager, discovered that Miami-Luken, a medium-sized Ohio-based drug distributor, had shipped 11 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to Mingo County, West Virginia, which has a population of 25,000. Of those, 258,000 were shipped to one pharmacy in Williamson, which has a population of 2,924. West Virginia has the highest opioid death rates in the nation. However, Geldhof’s attempts to suspend Miami-Luken’s shipments were unsuccessful as he was dismissed by the company and lawyers.

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Venn Crawford

In the cradle of civilization, Babylonian scholars studied the stars and made predictions based on their movements, recording knowledge that would serve as the foundation for the astronomical sciences. After three thousand years of scientific advancement, scientists made a new discovery on October 16, when they observed two stars merge.

The phenomenon, called a neutron merger, occurs when two neutron stars in a binary system come into contact and merge, emitting gravitational waves and visible light. Neutron stars are one of the densest objects in the universe, typically measuring around 10 miles in diameter yet possessing the same mass as our sun. Due to this density, they move very quickly, and only 5% are in binary systems.

This discovery begins to answer long-held questions about where the elements in our universe originated. Scientists observed that the explosions in neutron mergers release radioactive waste and propel heavy, opaque elements into surrounding space, creating a telltale red hue. The heavy elements produced by these mergers include gold and platinum. In fact, scientists estimated that the merger produced 200 Earth masses worth of gold – Earth’s mass is 5.972 × 10^24 kg. Written out, that’s 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. According to scientists, this data indicates that neutron mergers could account for all the gold in the universe, as well as half of elements such as silver and platinum.

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Venn Crawford

Last week we discussed the damaging nature of emotional abuse, as well as the cycle that abuse follows. We emphasized the importance of understanding the cycle of abuse in recognizing and combating domestic violence, but how can we tell when someone is being abused, and what do we do?

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First off, the individual being abused will often undergo major changes in how they act – even if they were confident before, they will likely lose this confidence, their self-esteem dropping rapidly as the abuser undermines their self-worth. The individual will be afraid of their partner and may alter what they say or how they say it when their abuser is around, restricting their speech to avoid angering them. They may agree with whatever their abuser says or be hesitant to say anything negative about them. They may suddenly alter or cancel plans due to the abuser’s demands, and may not be able to see friends or family often. Their resources may be limited as well, such as their access to money or transportation.

So if we see these signs, what do we do? In helping a victim of abuse, we have to be careful with our approach – attracting the attention of the abuser could result in the victim’s situation worsening. The best approach is to find an opportunity to talk to the victim in private and express your concern. Tell them about what you’ve noticed and let them know that they have your support. It’s important for the victim to know that they have someone they can go to, as the abuser wants them to be entirely dependent upon them. However, the victim may not be receptive to your approach – abusers are highly manipulative, and victims may often take their side. Be understanding of the victim’s feelings and respect the fact that the decision to get help is up to them. Victims of domestic violence are given very little autonomy by their abuser, and what independence they do have is vital.

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