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Author: Dinse


Andy MacIlwaine selected as member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel

We are pleased to announce that Andy MacIlwaine has been selected as a member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC).  The FDCC is an international organization whose members have achieved professional distinction as leaders in the legal community. FDCC Membership is limited, selective, and by nomination only.

Andy is a member of the firm’s litigation practice. He represents clients in complex litigation matters, including commercial, land use/environmental, real estate, and insurance coverage disputes. Andy also regularly advises clients in matters of regulatory compliance and risk avoidance.


Jess Phelps Publishes Second Article, Defining the Role of Agriculture in Agricultural Conservation Easements, in Ecology Law Quarterly

Jess Phelps of Dinse’s Real Estate and Environmental practice groups recently published a second article, Defining the Role of Agriculture in Agricultural Conservation Easements, in Ecology Law Quarterly, the environmental law review published by the University of California- Berkeley. This article builds upon his earlier article, Defining the Role of Conservation in Agricultural Conservation Easements, recent winner of the American Agricultural Law Association’s 2017 professional scholarship award, also published by ELQ. This article specifically discusses the unique challenges that the tax code presents for securing working lands through conservation easements (which require careful balancing of the conservation and agricultural characteristics of these properties). This article is available for download, here.


Dinse Brief: IRS Announces 2019 Pension and Related Limitation

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced the dollar limitations for pension plans and other items beginning January 1, 2019. Please click here for full list of limitations.

If you have any questions about this memorandum, please contact any member of our Employment & Employee Benefits practice group listed below.

Maggie Platzer

Daniel Sharpe

Brian Murphy



Fair, Equitable, Trauma-Informed Investigation Training White Paper Available

Many colleges and universities have recognized that the quality of their sexual assault and intimate partner violence (“IPV”) investigations can be enhanced if they take into account the potential neurobiological effects of trauma.  Institutions have sought and received training for their investigators and adjudicators on these issues, consistent with promising practices, general training requirements imposed by the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Amendments to the Clery Act, and certain state laws.  Recent court decisions, a 2017 OCR Q&A document regarding Title IX, proposed regulations posted in November, 2018, and media commentary have all emphasized, however, that the content of training will be analyzed closely, and that training for investigators and adjudicators, including trauma-informed training, should be presented in a manner that is fully balanced, does not rely on sex stereotypes, and promotes fairness and equity for both complainants and respondents.

A white paper on these topics, written by Dinse Education Practice Group Chair Jeff Nolan for the University of Vermont’s 2018 Legal Issues in Higher Education Conference and updated in December, 2018 to reflect recent developments, is available here. This white paper summarizes the state of the law and some of the public and scholarly discourse on these issues, and offers suggestions for college and university administrators and counsel who are designing and/or selecting investigation training programs.


American Agricultural Law Association (“AALA”) awards Jess Phelps the Organization’s 2017 Professional Scholarship Award

At its annual meeting in October, the AALA awarded Phelps the top award for his recent article, Defining the Role of Conservation in Agricultural Conservation Easements, published in Ecology Law Quarterly, the University of California-Berkeley’s environmental law review. The President of the AALA explained that “Jess’ article provides a thorough examination of the tension between conservation interests and the demands of evolving farm uses on lands encumbered by agricultural conservation easements,” Zwagerman said. “Jess’ reputation as an excellent writer and scholar is known by all who have worked with him over the years. This well-deserved honor recognizes his work and skill on a national level.”

For a link to the article, click here.

For a link to the full press release, click here.


New England Super Lawyers Recognizes Ritchie Berger and Karen McAndrew Among the Top 100 Attorneys in New England

Dinse is pleased to announce that Ritchie Berger and Karen McAndrew have been included by Super Lawyers in the Top 100 Attorneys in New England.

Ritchie is head of the firm’s litigation group and one of Vermont’s premier trial lawyers. His practice concentrates on the defense of complex civil litigation throughout Vermont and New England.

Karen is senior litigation counsel at Dinse. Her practice focuses on commercial litigation, college & university law, and employment law.


Audio of discussion regarding OCR Proposed Title IX Regulations Available for Download

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights’ (“OCR”) posted on its web site proposed Title IX regulations. The proposed regulations are available here: The proposed regulations, if adopted as proposed, would include many potential changes in how OCR will enforce Title IX, including changes to the definition of sexual harassment, the scope of institutional obligations to address sexual harassment, how institutions should respond to sexual harassment, and dramatically different procedural requirements for Title IX-related investigations and adjudications.

On November 19, 2018, Jeffrey J. Nolan, Chair of Dinse’s Education Practice Group, presented a webinar regarding the proposed regulations. The discussion included:

  • A brief summary of the major differences between OCR’s currently-applicable guidance and regulatory approach and the approach outlined in the proposed regulations;Significant differences between the proposed regulations and the draft regulations that were “leaked” in August, 2018;
  • Very significant substantive and procedural changes that colleges and universities would have to consider and/or make if the regulations are finalized in the form proposed;
  • Preliminary thoughts on how colleges and universities could effectively navigate the new proposed regulatory landscape; and
  • Next steps in the regulatory notice and comment process (and how members of the public and colleges and universities can participate in that process).

A recording of that webinar is available here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3. A .pdf of the PowerPoint referred to during the webinar is available here.

Please contact Jeff Nolan at if you have any follow-up questions. Thank you.


Dinse Brief: How 70 ½ Year-Olds Can Make Charitable Distributions Directly From a Retirement Account and Receive a Tax Benefit

Malory Lea and Dan Sharpe

Charitable contributions have long been tax-favored.  Federal and Vermont taxpayers who itemize their deductions reduce their Federal and Vermont taxable income with contributions to United Way, American Red Cross, churches and synagogues, and other charitable, religious and educational organizations.  After taking into account the state and Federal deductions, a charitable gift of $1,000 by a Vermont taxpayer in 2017 might have “cost” only $700 as a result of a reduced overall income tax liability of $300.

For 2018, the out-of-pocket cost of charitable contributions will rise significantly.  The dramatic increase in the Federal standard deduction from $12,700 to $24,000 for married, joint tax filers and from $6,350 to $12,000 for single taxpayers means that many taxpayers will no longer itemize deductions.  More taxpayers will no longer receive any tax benefit from making charitable contributions.  While there are many reasons to be charitable, a tax deduction provides a valuable monetary incentive for taxpayers to make these contributions.  Charitable organizations are understandably worried that this increase in the standard deduction will reduce donations.

Individuals who have reached age 70 ½ and have individual retirement accounts (“IRAs”) are required to take minimum distributions from their IRAs.  The “required minimum distribution” or “RMD” is often calculated by the trustee or custodian of an IRA.  The amount is based on the immediately prior year-end value of the account and the IRA-holder’s age.

A special rule for IRAs applies to charitable distributions made after the account holder reaches age 70 ½.   Distributions made directly by an IRA trustee or custodian to a tax-qualified charity for an account-holder who has reached age 70 ½ are “Qualified Charitable Distributions” or “QCDs.”  QCDs are not only excluded from a taxpayer’s gross income, but they are included in meeting the required minimum distribution from your IRA.  Double counting is not permitted.  To the extent a QCD is excluded from gross income, a charitable deduction may not also be claimed.

This special rule, limited to $100,000 annually, allows charitably-minded individuals subject to the RMD rules to avoid Vermont and Federal income taxes on the charitable distribution, avoid the loss of an itemized deduction that might result from the increased standard deduction, and meet their RMD requirement.

If you are subject to the RMD rules for your IRA for 2018 and want to take advantage of the special QCD rules, you must act in concert with your IRA trustee or custodian in advance of the year end. Contact Malory Lea at or 802-864-5751 for more information or assistance.


Spencer Knapp Rejoins Firm as Senior Counsel

Dinse announced today that Spencer Knapp rejoined the firm as Senior Counsel, after stepping down as Senior Vice President & General Counsel of UVM Health Network and UVM Medical Center on September 30.  Mr. Knapp served in those positions for 16 years.

Before joining the Medical Center, Mr. Knapp was a longtime partner of Dinse where his law practice focused on corporate and health care matters.  He said, “I am so pleased to return to the firm where I began my professional career years ago and look forward to renewing old friendships and client relationships.”

On rejoining the firm, Mr. Knapp will serve as senior counsel and consultant, concentrating on health care law and strategic issues, as well as non-profit corporate governance, collaborations, joint ventures, and mergers and acquisitions.

Jeff McMahan, Dinse’s Managing Partner, said “We are very excited to have Spencer back.  His work in a leadership role at the Health Network will be a valuable complement to his years of legal experience, to the benefit of Dinse clients.”

Mr. Knapp has also been active in community affairs. He serves currently on the Boards of  Vermont Community Foundation, The Curtis Fund, and Local Motion, and he has previously served on the Boards of Vermont Public Radio, United Way of Chittenden County (Chair), Greater Burlington YMCA (Chair), Champlain Valley Union High School; Lund Family Center (Chair), and Vermont Business Roundtable, among others.

Mr. Knapp and his wife, Barbara Cory, live in Shelburne.