Is Your Office Bracket Pool Legal?

This is one of my favorite days of the year.  In addition to the green beer that is flowing, sports fans (and non-sports fans) get to spend an inordinate amount of time completing NCAA basketball tournament brackets in hopes of besting their friends, colleagues and often complete strangers.  The range of bracket pools varies nearly as much as the participants, from high-stakes pools involving fanatics with big money on the line, to office pools competing purely for bragging rights.

It seems like everyone completes a bracket.  But have you ever wondered if your bracket pool is legal?

According to this article on Forbes.com, free-to-enter pools are generally legal, but pay-to-enter pools are not.  As the article details, pay-to-enter pools may run afoul of at least three federal laws, and may be illegal in some states.  What about Wisconsin?

The answer comes down to whether your bracket entry is a “bet” and your pool is a “lottery.”

By statute, anyone who “makes a bet” is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.[1]  Wis. Stat. § 945.01(1) defines a “bet” as “a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.”  There are several exceptions from this definition (actual business transactions, prizes to actual competitors, etc.), unfortunately, they do not appear to exclude bracket pools.  Thus, the ability to win or lose “something of value” determines whether your bracket entry is a “bet.”  If you can win or lose money, it is a bet.  If it is for office bragging rights, it may not be (a very lawyerly answer, I know).

“A lottery is an enterprise wherein for a consideration the participants are given an opportunity to win a prize, the award of which is determined by chance, even though accompanied by some skill.”  Wis. Stat. § 945.01(5)(a).[2]  There is at least a strong argument that success in bracket pools is determined by chance.  (Do you think Warren Buffet would be putting $1 Billion if the odds for winning were better than 1 in 9 quintillion?  How many times has your friend who picked based on uniform colors won?)  Similar to the “bet” discussion above, if money is required to enter the bracket pool, and if the winner receives a prize (usually money), the bracket pool is a lottery.

Now what about those trusted friends or colleagues who take time from their busy schedules to run your bracket pool?  These pool administrators may be engaging in “commercial gambling” and guilty of a Class I felony[3] if they do any of the following:

  • For gain, operating a bracket pool;
  • For gain, becoming a custodian (holding) of entry fees or records;
  • For gain, setting up an online pool; or
  • Conducting a lottery where the entry and prize is money.

As you would suspect with laws regulating gambling, it appears that money is the principal issue in determining whether your bracket pool is illegal gambling.

Thus, while money makes many things more exciting, if you are going to engage in a bracket pool, it may be better to put the checkbook away and stick to bragging rights.


[1] The maximum penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is $1,000 and 90 days imprisonment.

[2] As an aside, a lottery does not include bingo or certain raffle contests.  Good job Lutheran churches!

[3] The maximum penalty for a Class I felony is $10,000 and 3 years and 6 months imprisonment. Yikes!

Atty. Kindkeppel Honored as Fellow of the Wisconsin Law Foundation

Joshua J. Kindkeppel, attorney and shareholder with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C., was recently nominated and accepted membership as a Fellow of the Wisconsin Law Foundation.  The Fellows organization was created in 1999 as a special means to honor members of the State Bar of Wisconsin who have both achieved significant accomplishments in their career and contributed leadership and service to their communities. Membership in the Fellows is considered a professional honor and includes the likes of Russ Feingold, Tommy Thompson, former members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and other well respected attorneys and retired judges.

Attorney Kindkeppel practices in the areas of business, real estate, employment, and civil litigation.  He was elected and served as president of the Dane County Bar Association in 2012-13, and collaborated with long-time Madison attorney Joseph Melli to create the Joseph A. Melli Mentorship Program to assist young Dane County attorneys. Kindkeppel is also active in the Sun Prairie Rotary Club, and serves on the planning committee for the Sun Prairie Kindness Retreats.

Blog Series: Buying or Selling Your Home

Spring is in the air (well, sort of).  Traditionally, the coming of spring brings to Wisconsin a number of things: the ability to occasionally go outside, renewed hope in our Milwaukee Brewers, and the start of the real estate season.  Traditionally, the spring and summer months are the busiest times of year for residential home transactions – and the times when our firm is contacted most frequently by prospective buyers and sellers.

Whether you are a first time homebuyer, or a seasoned veteran, the process of buying and selling a home – replete with deadlines, stacks of paperwork, and legal and technical jargon – may be intimidating.  Fear not!  We are here to help.  Over the next few weeks, this Blog will discuss the home buying or selling process, including the following concepts:

  • Listing Agreements,
  • Why and When to Hire an Attorney,
  • The Offer to Purchase,
  • Contingencies,
  • Title and Title Insurance, and
  • The Closing.

Along the way, we hope to not only inform you, our readers, of the basics, but also to discuss some common misconceptions and pitfalls, answer your questions, and show you ways that we can help.

We hope you will join us for this discussion.  If along the way you decide you would like to meet with one of our real estate attorneys, please contact us at (608) 837-7386.

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

The “S” is for Super Lawyers: Two ELSA Lawyers Named as Super Lawyers

Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. is proud to announce that Kevin M. Laffey and Kimberly P. Sebranek have been named by Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine as two of the top attorneys in the state for 2013.  Each year no more than 5% of lawyers in the state receive this honor.

From the Super Lawyers website: (www.superlawyers.com/about):

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Attorney Laffey is a shareholder in the firm and has significant experience representing financial institutions, businesses and individuals in the areas of business law, creditors’ rights, civil litigation, commercial transactions, and real estate law.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and has been named a Super Lawyer in each of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Attorney Sebranek is a shareholder in the firm with significant experience representing financial institutions and commercial clients.  Attorney Sebranek focuses her practice in the areas of creditors’ rights, bankruptcy (creditor side), banking, lender liability, business litigation, and business formation.  She is a graduate of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and received her law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. This is Attorney Sebranek’s third year as a Super Lawyer as she was selected in each of 2011, 2012, and 2013, after being honored twice as a Rising Star in 2006 and 2007.

Congratulations Kevin and Kym!

If you would like to meet with one of our Super Lawyers or one of our other experienced professionals about your legal needs, please contact us at (608) 837-7386.

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

The Wisconsin 2013-2014 Budget Bill May Have Severe Results for Medicaid Recipients

This is a very good article by Carol Wessels, who is an attorney who practices elder law in the Milwaukee area at the firm of Nelson, Irvings & Wessels, S.C.

http://wesselselderlaw.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/will-medicaid-recipients-ever-be-able-to-sell-their-homes-under-wisconsins-new-budget-law/

This article discusses the potential impact of the new real estate notice requirements for recipients of Medicaid. These new notice requirements were part of Wisconsin’s 2013-2014 Budget Bill that was signed into law on June 30, 2013.  This Budget Bill incorporates changes to the Medicaid program, including changes to the rules governing estate recovery, which expand the state’s ability to recover Medicaid costs from the estate of a deceased recipient of Medicaid.  The new real estate notice requirements are part of these changes to the estate recovery rules.  As pointed out in this article, these new rules could have severe effects on recipients of Medicaid and those recipients’ families.

If you or a close family member is a Medicaid recipient, you may want to consult an elder law attorney on what effects these new rules may have on you and what planning options may be available to avoid those effects.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in U.S. v. Windsor and Its Effect on Estate Planning

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion, U.S. v. Windsor, in which it struck down a major part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional because it denies same sex couples equal protection under the law in violation of the Fifth Amendment.  In that case, Edith Windsor, who was married to her same sex partner in New York, where the couple also resided, and which recognizes full marriage rights for same sex couples, was denied the opportunity to claim the marital exemption from federal estate taxes upon her partner’s death based on the definition of marriage under Section 3 of DOMA.  This Section defines marriage for federal purposes as “only a legal union between one man and one woman.” 1 U.S.C. § 7.  The U.S. Supreme Court, however, in a 5-4 decision determined that Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally denied Edith Windsor from taking advantage of the estate tax marital exemption, which would have been available to opposite sex married couples.  This thus violated the Fifth Amendment’s directive for equal protection under the laws by singling out and demeaning a certain class of people – same sex couples.  The Court also indicated that this provision interferes with the states’ power to regulate marriage.  Therefore, the Court struck down this section of DOMA.  Windsor, No. 12-307 (U.S. 2013).  For further information on the Windsor decision, see the article, “Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act in estate tax case” at http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/20138222.htm.  See also the article, “The Same Sex State Death Tax Trap Post DOMA” at  http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2013/07/01/the-same-sex-state-death-tax-trap-post-doma/.

The effect of this ruling is that legally married same sex couples can now claim the same federal benefits and marital tax exemptions as opposite sex married couples can.  It remains unclear, however, whether federal benefits will be available to same sex couples who do not live in a state that recognizes same sex marriage.

What this means for estate planning is that the same estate planning tools and techniques utilized in opposite sex couples’ estate plans to minimize the federal estate tax owed may be used in same sex couples’ estate plans in states that allow same sex marriage.  In states that do not recognize same sex marriage, however, these estate planning techniques would not be effective and same sex couples in those states would not be able to avoid estate taxes in that way.

In Wisconsin, though domestic partnerships are recognized between same sex couples, same sex marriage is not.  It is therefore uncertain whether same sex couples would be able to take advantage of the federal estate tax marital exemption, since these couples cannot be legally “married” in Wisconsin.  We are hoping, however, that both the federal and state governments will provide guidance as to these issues and questions in the near future and will establish processes and procedures that will facilitate the implementation of these new policies.

A Good Year for the Dane County Bar Association

June 1 is here and Lis Shea is the new president of the Dane County Bar Association! While I am sad to see my term end, I can assure you that the Bar is in great hands with Lis at the helm. She is organized, smart, creative, a good listener, and, most of all, she is dedicated to making the DCBA the best it can be.

This year (the DCBA fiscal year is from June 1 through May 31), the DCBA, by the hard work of its committee and section chairs and members made numerous advancements to the Association for the benefit of its members, the legal community, and the community at large. Here are some of the most notable accomplishments:

• Joseph A. Melli Mentorship Program launches its 6th year with 70 mentee/mentor participants (September 2012)
• Law for the Public Committee launches a Jury Outreach Program in conjunction with the Chief Justice’s Courts Connecting with Communities initiative (September 2012)
• Bob and Le Jordan’s 20th Anniversary of being the Bar’s executive coordinators (October 2012)
• Judicial Selection Committee rewrites poll and has largest response turnout in years (Spring 2013)
• Newly designed and user friendly DCBA website (May 1, 2013)
• Law Day celebration includes keynote address by Judge Colás, three free CLEs for DCBA members, mock trials with juries made up of middle school and Madison College paralegal students, and a well attended pro-bono fair (May 1, 2013)
• The Program Committee hosts an outstanding Electronic Discovery Summit (May 10, 2013)
• First time Largest voter turnout for officer positions in at least 20 years (May 2013)
• Long Range Planning and Membership Committees begin comprehensive review of the Bar’s governance structure and plans for the future
• Relationship between DCBA and the UW-Madison Law School continues to grow and become stronger
• Case Mediation Program continues to be a “best buy” and a wonderful resource to resolve disputes
• History and Memorial Committee generates revenue for Bar through the sale of its Lawyers Who Shaped Dane County book published in May 2012
• ‘Fridays at 4’ socials help build camaraderie amongst members of the Bar and gives old and new friends a great opportunity to meet. Thank you for all those firms that hosted!

Congratulations to Sarah Zylstra, David Friedman, and Janice Wexler on their election as president-elect, treasurer, and director-at-large, respectively.

As president, I was able to work alongside many of you to make Dane County a better place to practice law and to live. My belief that Dane County has the best judges, attorneys, and court personnel has only been strengthened during this past year.

I strongly encourage each of you to get involved in DCBA section/committee work. Numerous opportunities exist to make a difference. My involvement in the DCBA has enriched my experience as an attorney and has introduced me to so many wonderful attorneys, commissioners, judges, justices, and court personnel. Serving as president of the DCBA is a great honor, and it is an experience I will take with me wherever I go in life.

Thank you for allowing me to be your president.

All the Best,

Josh Kindkeppel

MAY IS NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH MONTH

MAY IS NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH MONTH

Early during my first year of law school, I remember listening to a speaker who shared with my classmates and me the “harder”, not so glamorous sides of the legal profession.  The speaker was a practicing attorney, who had owned a tavern in Milwaukee prior to attending law school.  He explained that lawyers and judges suffered increased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, and divorce[1] when compared to the population at large. In several of those categories, the rates were two to three times that of the non-lawyer population in the United States.  The speaker encouraged us to be mindful of our mental health and to seek assistance before things got out of control.

As first year law students, we were hopeful and optimistic that we would be exempt from those ills and the corresponding statistics.  We were convinced that the attorneys and judges in New York and California were skewing the numbers and that being in the Midwest things would be different.  Since that time, I have learned that none of us, including me, are exempt from the hardships of the profession.

It is my belief that if caught early enough, the symptoms of these ills and the ills themselves could be decreased substantially or eliminated altogether.

First, we as a profession need to acknowledge that such ills do and will continue to impact the individuals that make the law their calling.  I do not begin to pretend to know why our profession experiences increased levels of the aforementioned ills, but we do know that legal professionals have endless deadlines to meet, pressures to bill and increase business, offices to run, successes and failures to contend with at every turn, pressures from family and friends to spend more time with them, and feelings of guilt for not being able to “do it all”.

Next, we need to remember that as humans we are not only susceptible to the common cold, but also mental illness.  Abraham Lincoln and Fighting Bob La Follette[2] are two of the most famous attorneys to ever practice law in the United States (certainly the Midwest).  Both of them were excellent attorneys, leaders, and elected officials.  Amongst their commonalities, both Lincoln and La Follette suffered from severe bouts of depression during their lifetimes.  Unfortunately and unfairly, our society places a negative stigma on mental illness.  Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and will likely impact most of us at one time or another during our lifetimes.  In order to address the issues related to mental health within our profession, we need to rid ourselves of that stigma and realize that mental illness is similar to the common cold in that it is not something we hope to get, but when it arrives we need the tools to deal with it.

Finally, we need to support each other and not look the other way when we see a colleague in need. Because we are required to be strong in so many aspects of our lives, it is extremely difficult for most of us to reach out for help.  We believe that such an act would show weakness.  Mental health professionals will be quick to tell you that seeking help for depression and anxiety is essential.  One reason is that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide in our nation.  When faced with that reality, untreated mental illness can be a life and death matter.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.

RESOURCES:

Several resources exist for lawyers and judges licensed in Wisconsin.  Linda Albert heads up the Wisconsin Bar Association’s WisLAP (Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program), which is based on the premise of “Lawyers helping Lawyers” and “Judges helping Judges”. For a confidential consultation call (800) 543-2625 or email Linda directly at lalbert@wisbar.org.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (“NAMI”) of Dane County is another local resource that is willing to assist in helping you find competent mental health professionals to assist you.  www.namidanecounty.org/resources/ or (608) 249-7188.

If any of you ever wish to have a confidential conversation with someone who cares, please feel free to contact me on my direct work line at (608) 318-4952.  I am not a mental health professional, but I would be happy to talk with you and point you in the right direction.

Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

All the Best,

Josh Kindkeppel, President
Dane County Bar Association

 


[1] This list is not meant to be exhaustive of all ills that plague the legal profession.

[2] Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (1855-1925) passed the Bar in 1880 and went on to one of the greatest careers in public service in Wisconsin history.  He served as District Attorney of Dane County from 1881-1895, served three terms in the U.S. Congress, Governor of Wisconsin, and as U.S. Senator for Wisconsin.  He is considered the founder of the firm that has become Boardman & Clark, L.L.P.  Source: Lawyers Who Shaped Dane County: A History of the Practice of Law in the Madison Area.

Sun Prairie’s Sunshine Supper $5 Family Challenge

For the past three years, the Sun Prairie community has been hosting the Sunshine Supper, which is a free, nutritious dinner open to the public every Monday evening.  The dinner is sponsored and coordinated by a dedicated bunch of volunteers with the assistance of various community groups within Sun Prairie.  Throughout its three year history, the Sunshine Supper has moved from place to place but for a number of reasons has never been able to establish a permanent home . . . until now.

In May 2013, the Sunshine Supper hopes to move into its new, permanent, location in Sunshine Place at 1632 West Main Street.  In order to support its move and help open its doors, the Sunshine Supper is putting on the $5 Family Challenge.  Due to a generous dollar-for-dollar match donation, all donations to the “Open the Doors Campaign” will be doubled, and the Sunshine Supper is encouraging families to make a donation in the amount of $5 or more in order to maximize the dollar-for-dollar match.

It is very easy to participate:

1.  Send your $5 (or more) to Sunshine Place, $5 Family Challenge, 18 Rickel Road, Sun Prairie, WI  53590 or donate online.

2.  Print this challenge sign.

3.  Get a photo of your family with this sign and post it on the Sunshine Supper facebook page.

4.  Post your sign in your front window so that all your friends and neighbors can see that you participated in the challenge.

For more information or to donate online, visit the Sunshine Supper website at http://sunshinesupper.org/..

Dane County Bar to Celebrate Law Day on May 1, 2013

On the first day of May every year, local bar associations across the country celebrate Law Day, a nationally recognized day celebrating our nation’s commitment to justice and the rule of law.  According to the American Bar Association (ABA), Law Day was first celebrated in 1958, after being established by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Three years later, in 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution officially declaring May 1 the official date for Law Day.

Each year, a Law Day theme is chosen, and activities are planned which forward the message of that theme.  This year’s theme is “Realizing the Dream – Equality for All.”  To celebrate Law Day, on May 1, 2013, the Dane County Bar Association (DCBA) is hosting an open house at the Dane County Courthouse which includes a variety of activities, including a community mock trial, free legal consultations, free CLE courses for attorneys, and more.

For more information about this year’s Law Day events, please visit:

http://www.dcba.net/programs/lawday13.pdf.