Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

1357 Posts and Counting

Business Card of the Day

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| August 9, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,347


Vocabulary Word of the Day: Emolument.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| August 9, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,346

Image: businessinsider.com

Two State Attorneys General have filed suit claiming that the President is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by operating hotels and taking profits from businesses operating in foreign countries after taking office.

You probably haven’t used this word in your entire life.  So, what in the world is an emolument?

Dictionary.com defines it as “profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services.” It is said to derive from the Latin word: “to grind”.  The payment made to the miller for grinding wheat or corn was an emolument.  

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution is frequently called “The Foreign Emoluments Clause”  or just the Emoluments Clause. It is also called the Title of Nobility Clause. Here’s what it says:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”

The Emoluments Clause has never been litigated, however it has been interpreted in Opinions of the Attorney General over the years to apply to gifts by foreign governments.  It was customary in 18th Century Europe for diplomats to receive expensive gifts.  The intent appears to be to prevent foreign governments from buying the loyalty of American diplomats and government officials.



Thank You, Fire Fighters for Your Timely Assistance.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 11, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,345

We take for granted first responders, including firemen, most of whom are volunteers.  When called upon, they are required to do important tasks that are frequently dangerous and physically demanding.

Last night, large tree branches in our front yard fell onto the electrical wires.  The fire department came quickly and assisted the electric company in removing the branches from the wires and in clearing a large amount of debris from my neighbor’s driveway.

Kudos to Bill, Bob, two men named Chris, Mike and Carl.


TENANT: Make Sure You Know What You Are Getting Before Signing Lease.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 11, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,344

I get variations on this question, which I answered below in AVVO, all of the time.  Although under the law of contracts, the landlord did not provide what was bargained for, as a practical matter, the tenant has no remedy.


Here’s a Ninth Birthday Poem

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 9, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,343

In honor of this blog’s ninth birthday, I republish a poem I picked up in Wikisource.  Its written by Algernon Charles Swinburne, Victorian poet.


February 4, 1883.


Three times thrice hath winter’s rough white wing
Crossed and curdled wells and streams with ice
Since his birth whose praises love would sing
Three times thrice.
Earth nor sea bears flower nor pearl of price
Fit to crown the forehead of my king,
Honey meet to please him, balm, nor spice.
Love can think of nought but love to bring
Fit to serve or do him sacrifice
Ere his eyes have looked upon the spring
Three times thrice.


Three times thrice the world has fallen on slumber,
Shone and waned and withered in a trice,
Frost has fettered Thames and Tyne and Humber
Three times thrice,
Fogs have swoln too thick for steel to slice,
Cloud and mud have soiled with grime and umber
Earth and heaven, defaced as souls with vice,
Winds have risen to wreck, snows fallen to cumber,
Ships and chariots, trapped like rats or mice,
Since my king first smiled, whose years now number
Three times thrice.


Three times thrice, in wine of song full-flowing,
Pledge, my heart, the child whose eyes suffice,
Once beheld, to set thy joy-bells going
Three times thrice.
Not the lands of palm and date and rice
Glow more bright when summer leaves them glowing,
Laugh more light when suns and winds entice.
Noon and eve and midnight and cock-crowing,
Child whose love makes life as paradise,
Love should sound your praise with clarions blowing
Three times thrice.

Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk Turns 9.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 9, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,342

That’s right, 9.

That’s pretty old for a legal blog. Without insulting anyone, I have observed that most lawyer bloggers (Blawgers, so they say) drop off after about a year.  They apparently run out of ideas.  I have had dry spells from time to time, too. Everybody does.  But I never completely stopped writing. And I try not to write the same piece over and over in different format.

Some blawgers write about their cases.  I don’t — except an occasional reference in passing to a case long ago. Some do, like one public defender I recollect, who got into trouble for violating client confidence.

They greatest source of inspiration is reading other blogs.  I read one or more almost every day.  I am always looking for something fresh.  If I have picked up an idea or two from your blog and didn’t give you credit, I apologize for my thoughtless oversight.

It would be great to get close to 1,500 posts by this time next year, when we hit 10.  If you have an idea for something special to do on the 10th anniversary, I’d like to hear it.


Common Level Ratio Down (slightly) in Allegheny County

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 9, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,341

Every year the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue announces a new common level ratio, effective July 1.  It is a factor multiplied by the assessment which gives a calculation of the fair market value for purposes of paying realty transfer tax when a deed is recorded for no or nominal consideration. It is created by taking a random sample of transactions and computing the ratio of the sales price to the assessment in each case and then computing the average.

The current ratio is 1.4.  That means, if the assessment of a vacant lot is $10,000, you multiply it by 1.4 to get a fair market value of $10,400.00.  Of course, if the property is sold in an arms length transaction, you use the sales price, not the CLR, to compute transfer tax.

Last year, the CLR was 1.5.  It has been creeping up since 2001.  It was 1.00 in 2001, right after the reassessment in that year.  In 2000, just before the reassessment, the CLR was 5.24.

Not all Counties have rising CLR.  In Armstrong County, which hasn’t had a reassessment since 1997-8, the ratio is 2.11.  In the assessment year, the ratio was set at 2.00.

Westmoreland County, which hasn’t reassessed in many years, the CLR is 6.17. And in Washington County, which just completed a reassessment, the CLR is 1.00.



Two Entertaining Blawgs from Sunny Florida.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 3, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,340

1.  Gerstein Justice Building Blog, aka Rumpole Blog.

2. Southern District of Florida Blog, which just celebrated it 12th birthday with over 3,000 posts.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Lawyers.

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| July 3, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,339

Image: Pinterest
W & W: Definitely not lawyer material, but they’re richer than you are, aren’t they?


For a very long time, we have been aware that law schools have been producing more lawyers than the market required.  Yet, they kept on enrolling.  So, when USA Today runs a story about the first accredited law school to plan to close, is it even news?

This story has been beaten to death. Everybody who has made the choice to join the profession in the last 40 years was warned over and over.  But we did it anyway.  Why?


Because there is nothing you can do in this world that is like practicing law. Nothing.

Of course, if you are a recent grad thinking about being a lawyer primarily for the money, think harder.  That’s not to say it cannot happen.  If it does, chances are you do it mostly because you love it.  Which is the right reason to choose any calling in life.





“Trust Me.” (Not)

Posted by Cliff Tuttle| June 29, 2017 | © 2017

No. 1,338

Here’s another one.  But they are getting more sophisticated.  Notice the ribbon on the upper left that says: “This message is from a trusted sender.”  Sounds like a Jedi mind trick.

The object, of course, is to get you to click the link that says “verify”.  But you won’t, right? Don’t let this stranger in the door. Ever.

I recently received a solicitation through AVVO, purportedly from a person who was the chief executive of a company on the West Coast.  He said he needed to have an agreement of sale prepared in my location.  Checking Google, this was the name of a real chief executive of a real company.  But the link that he wanted me to click was an email address that misspelled his name.

I responded on the safe AVVO link.  A couple of days later, I received a response through the AVVO system requesting me to contact him on the link he provided.

What is the origin of that expression, “Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly? Here’s the answer.

« go backkeep looking »


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 40 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.


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