Monday, December 28, 2015

Judicial Misconduct


A judge in Florida was caught on video, doing the following while on the job --

 1.  Yelling at an attorney [I've seen this happen, but not to the extent described here] 

2.  Mild swearing at the attorney [“pissing me off”, I've seen this happen also] 

3.  Threatening the attorney with physical violence [“let's go out back and I'll beat your ass”]

4.  Heavy swearing at the attorney [“you want to f*ck with me?”] 

5.  Actual physical violence against the attorney [sounds of a scuffle on the audio, testimony later of pushing and hitting] 

6.  Resumed the bench and dealt with represented defendants as if they had no attorney [which is a major violation of a criminal defendant's rights] 

As noted in the judicial opinion wherein the Supreme Court of Florida took action, “There is no dispute that Judge Murphy threatened violence, had a physical confrontation with Mr. Weinstock, and subsequently resumed his docket with defendants whose attorneys were not present. 

Amazingly, the Florida Judicial Qualification Commission recommended:  

- Public reprimand
- 120 day suspension
- Fine of $50k plus costs
- Continuing mental health therapy
- Attend judicial education courses 

The Florida Supreme Court rejected that recommendation [thankfully] and removed Judge Murphy from office.

That seems about right.



Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas

My son has been enlisted in the Navy for three years. This is not his first Christmas away from home, but it is his first Christmas overseas on deployment.  Merry Christmas, and remember our troops.




Monday, December 14, 2015

Women lawyers are treated like crap


"Women lawyers aren’t taken seriously, and they certainly aren’t treated with respect by their fellow lawyers in this profession.”

So says a recent survey of lawyers, both men and women.  Read the article linked above.  Some of those examples are appalling.  Here are two:

-- I was told I was too pretty for the job. Once, an opposing male counsel asked me out while in the middle of a proceeding.

-- I am usually called sweetie, hunny, hun, dear, miss, etc., instead of attorney — this by clients, other attorneys, and judges.

I have personally been subjected to a few similar remarks.  For example --

-- A judge once berated me on the record [court reporter present and reporting] for wearing a suit with pants instead of a skirt.  [Maybe I should have been wearing this:]

-- After a particularly heated session of oral argument, judge asked me: "Are you done with your little tirade?"  No such similar comment was made about opposing counsel, who made a similarly-impassioned argument.  He was male.

-- An opposing counsel telephoned my firm one day, and ended up speaking with me.  He snorted disgust and asked if there was a male attorney in the office who would speak with him.

Fortunately, these incidents were more than five years ago, and I have found, at least in my area of practice, most interactions between counsel and judges have been much more professional that what I've experienced in the past.


Friday, December 11, 2015

MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT - Sean Ferrell [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2013]

Description: A time travel novel. The main character meets with “himselves” every year in an abandoned hotel in a futuristic dystopian NYC. The only people who come to the annual gathering are current, previous, and future versions of himself, except this year a woman shows up too. One of his future selves is murdered, and he must stop that from happening or everything will unravel.

Plot: This is a murder mystery but not really. Very difficult to explain. The MC has to prevent his own murder, while teaming up with some of his past and future selves and avoiding others. And find out who is the mysterious woman. This author has a seriously bizarre creative streak. The book is mind-bending. I like mysteries because I have to pay attention to try to figure them out, but this book required an extra measure of mental effort because of the time travel element. Very interesting.

Characterization: Most of the characters are the MC at various ages. He has nicknames for the various versions of himself, and each of the individual selves is reasonably well-developed and differentiated, which helps to keep them straight. The MC muses at times about how he has changed over his lifetime, which is an interesting bit of self-reflection. The third quarter of the book contained a POV change into the woman's POV for several chapters, which I didn't realize until quite a bit into it and it threw me for a while until the POV changed back to the MC.

Setting: April in New York City in a dystopian future. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: There are a few sex scenes, and all but one zipped by me and only after they were finished did I realize what they were. The book has chapters but they are not numbered. The narrator for this audio book has an interesting, somewhat monotone voice which actually helped with the characterization of the MC.

Overall: I enjoyed this book but it did require a bit of work. I would read more by this author, altho I need a break between books to let my brain relax.

Grade: B

Monday, December 7, 2015

Save your social media posts for AFTER the verdict


In a November 4, 2015 story, a New York judge declared a mistrial after the jury forewoman was so addicted to Facebook that, despite the standard admonition not to do so, she posted about the trial while the trial was still ongoing.

Juror dismissed for sharing trial details on Facebook

I've heard of social media addiction, but really?  You think your circle of friends is so enamored of you that you can't keep quiet about what you're doing during the day, for even the few days it takes for a short criminal trial to be concluded?
You can post all about the trial AFTER IT'S OVER.  Is that so hard?

What's also interesting to me, is that with this juror dismissed from the trial, only 11 jurors were left, and a criminal conviction requires 12 votes of guilty.  Why weren't there any alternate jurors?  In CA, we almost always have 1-2 alternates for every trial, both civil and criminal, so the trial can go forward even if a juror or two must be dismissed for illness or conduct or for whatever reason.

This juror was fined $1000.  Ouch.

I wonder what she wrote on her Facebook page the day she was fined..............

Friday, December 4, 2015

LIFE'S A BEACH, THEN YOU DIE - Falafel Jones [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Amazon, free Kindle book [2013]

Description: Max Fried and his wife retire to New Smyrna Beach, Florida [east of Orlando]. Max was a computer forensic examiner before he retired. He meets an attorney who asks him to help find the assets of a deceased client. Max searches the client's computer, but finds more than he bargained for when everyone who knows what Max has discovered, ends up dead, and now the killer is after him.

Plot: Max obtains the deceased client's computer and finds bank info, emails, etc. Quite a bit of description of how to break into someone's computer. In fact, lots of techno info in this story. Someone, presumably the killer, tosses Max's house, spies on him, and assaults him, looking for something. Near the end of the book, Max figures out what the killer is looking for, which leads him to figuring out who the killer is. A bit of humor, a light read.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably developed and had their own personalities. Most characters were described in a similar fashion, height, weight, hair color, etc. Would have been good for a little variety in descriptions.

Setting: Beach town of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This appears to be a self-published book, and did need a better editor [a few typos and grammar issues, not too many but sometimes distracting]. But the quality of the story was equal to many traditionally published books, in my opinion.

Overall: A good, light mystery. Funny in places. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+


Monday, November 30, 2015

Yes, even yours truly has been benchslapped


A lawyer way out of her league gets benchslapped by a frustrated judge:

>>In a lengthy footnote, [Appellate Judge] Robb wrote, “Counsel’s failures to follow even the simplest rules regarding the content of an appellate brief have made our review of this case unnecessarily difficult. We commend [the opposing party] Maple Lane for largely refraining from comment on the quality of the brief and endeavoring to respond to the legal arguments. Were it within our purview to do so, we would order Brazier’s counsel to verify to this court her attendance at a continuing legal education program regarding appellate practice before submitting any further briefs to this court."

In the case above, this lawyer didn't understand the requirements and limitations of drafting an appellate brief.  Little things like the scope of the brief and the maximum number of pages.  Ouch.


I once wrote a brief on a hotly contested issue, while I had the flu. By the date of oral argument, I was feeling much better.

[This actually happened, although I'm abbreviating the exchange so I don't put everyone to sleep here.]

Judge: “Mr. X [defense counsel], this brief is very eloquent and well-argued.”

Defense counsel: “Thank you, Your Honor.”

Judge, glaring at me: “I wish I could say the same thing about Plaintiff's brief.”

Me, mentally: Hey now! I wrote that brief while I had the flu. Gimme a break.

Me, audibly: “Yes, Your Honor.”

Judge: “Defendant's brief makes a surprisingly good argument about X [the issue we were contesting].”

Defense counsel: Gloats

Judge: “Does the defense wish to add anything today?”

Defense counsel, with sideways smirk at me: “No, Your Honor. Defendant's brief states all of Defendant's arguments, which I am aware Your Honor has already read and understood.”

Judge nods, turns to me: “Counsel, if you're ever looking for employment, I don't recommend using this brief as a writing sample.”

Me: “Yes, Your Honor.”

Judge: “However, I did find one reasonably coherent argument in Plaintiff's brief, on page 12, lines 8-21.”

Me: “Thank you, Your Honor.”

Judge: “Does Plaintiff wish to add anything today?”

Me, flipping to page 12 [which thankfully was the main thrust of the argument]: “Thank you, Your Honor. Plaintiff would just like to draw the court's attention to Plaintiff's reasonably coherent argument on page 12, lines 8-21, which although not as eloquent as Defendant's brief, is a concise and accurate statement of the law [more accurate than the Court of Appeal, although I didn't say that], and is Plaintiff's position.”

Judge: “Submitted?”

Both of us: “Submitted.”

Judge: “Well, as much as Defendant makes a very eloquent and creative argument on this issue that I've never considered before, Plaintiff's argument, although definitely not the best-written argument I've ever read [raises eyebrow at me], does accurately state the interpretation of this issue as I understand it from the Court of Appeal. I'm ruling in favor of Plaintiff.”

So, which brief won?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Have a legal Thanksgiving


Remember the military this Thanksgiving!  Many [including my #1 son] are celebrating far away from home and family.

Closer to home, my previous employer, while not technically "BigLaw", required at least a skeleton staff to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I usually got that day off by volunteering to work Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve.  But, some attorneys ended up working all three of those days.

Here's a chart to help you, as a conscientious BigLaw attorney, determine whether you need to show up at work on the Friday after Thanksgiving:

BigLaw holiday decision tree - should I show up to work?

Those who aren't working that Friday, are usually shopping.  This day is called "Black Friday" because this is the day that retailers, operating in the red [losing money] all year, finally earn enough money to be operating in the black [making a profit].

Although -- the recent trend is for stores to open on Thanksgiving Day in the evening, requiring employees to cut short their Thanksgiving time with their families and head to work.

According to the Huffington Post, in 2013 Thanksgiving Day shopping was illegal in three states.

Rhode Island
Maine
Massachusetts

These states prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Stores allowed to open on Thanksgiving include convenience stores, movie theaters, pharmacies, restaurants, and certain other businesses.

I don't know about you, but I'm inclined to move to one of those three states.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The very next day is the symbol of capitalism taking over the Christmas season.  Let's at least keep Thanksgiving sacred.

If you don't live in those states, here's how to vote with your wallet and your feet - don't shop on Thanksgiving Day!

And finally, here's a page of weird Thanksgiving trivia, including this gem:  Thanksgiving brought about the creation of TV dinners.

Have a safe and cozy Thanksgiving with your friends and family.

Friday, November 20, 2015

DUCK THE HALLS - Donna Andrews [Book recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2013]

Description: The week before Christmas, someone is playing pranks on the churches [most denominations are included] of a small Virginia town, including placing a cage of skunks in the choir loft of one and several hundred ducks in the main sanctuary of another. Meg Langslow, the protagonist, has the task of helping all of the churches find alternate space to hold all their pre-Christmas activities. After a small fire at one church, someone is found murdered.

Plot: The main plot starts with Meg scheduling a church's activities at other churches' facilities, because the first prank leaves skunk stench permeating the entire church. All the churches in this small town are accommodating to their needy neighbors. As the number of churches “out of commission” grows, Megs job of creating the master schedule becomes complicated. Then after one prank, a fire in the basement of a church, the plot changes because a church elder is found dead near the fire. Meg doesn't necessarily “investigate” the murder, but in her efforts to schedule everything, she talks to lots of people regarding the pranks and the murder.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably developed and had their own personalities. Meg, the main character, might be a little “too good” in that she doesn't really have negative character traits. In fact, many of the people in the story are somewhat two-dimensional in that respect. Meg has 4yo twin sons. Each boy has his own personality, which was nice to see, but their language development was much younger than most of the 4yo boys I know. In fact, I was expecting a sub-plot on speech therapy. I would guess the boys had the speech skills of 2-1/2 to 3yo boys. Once I pictured them as early 3yo, their speech and roles became more believable.

Setting: Small town in Virginia. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene. Some scenes were a tad over-described.

Other: The narrator was a good match for Meg's character. A good person, mild, easy-to-get-along-with. This book taught me what a “slow moving” story was like. Lots of description, possibly too much. Meg had quite a bit of interior thought throughout the story, which slowed it down a bit. At several points I almost stopped reading because there wasn't much action on the page. Some humor. Some of the chapter breaks were in strange places, like right in the middle of conversations but the end of one chapter didn't seem like a cliff-hanger, so it seemed odd to break the chapter there. Almost like “here's 12 pages, time for a new chapter” randomness.

Overall: A good holiday mystery, somewhat slow paced. I would read more by this author, but anything slower than this story I might stop reading.

Grade: B+

Monday, November 16, 2015

National Love Your Lawyer Day

Okay, so I didn't learn about November 6, 2015 being National Love Your Lawyer Day until AFTER I'd written my blog post last week, so here is my belated entry, with the comment --

Really?
 
Now I know most people think their lawyer is only somewhat more lovable than slime mold or a used car salesman.  That is, until you actually need one.

As astutely worded by the Palm Beach Post, "In an observance that may have escaped the attention of most people, including attorneys, today has been designated National Love Your Lawyer Day by the American Bar Association."

Here is Above The Law's list of the 5 lawyers you should love to love [list and descriptions from Above The Law]:

1.   Roy Cohn
This vicious hate-monger of an attorney graduated from Columbia Law School as a spry 20-year-old before kicking off a long and distinguished career as a caricature of repugnancy. He followed up his work executing the Rosenbergs by becoming — upon the personal recommendation of J. Edgar Hoover — the “man behind the man” of McCarthyism as Senator Joe McCarthy’s chief attack dog ruining lives based on conjecture and innuendo at a ferocious clip.

2.  Richard Nixon
Like Cohn, Tricky Dick — the most recent President to argue before the Supreme Court — also spent some quality time trampling the Constitution during the Red Scare as the head of the House Un-American Activities Committee before upping his game and so thoroughly shredding the nation’s foundational document that his own political allies were prepared to impeach and convict.

3.  Nathaniel Carr
This Arizona attorney [...] it’s hard to find a more lovable lawyer than a guy who says of his own client: “He looks like a killer, not a retard,” all while billing Maricopa County $370,000 a year for his work.

4.  Michael Fine
Ohio lawyer Michael Fine made headlines when, after one client took it upon herself to tape her meetings with him, police pinched him for hypnotizing female clients into performing sex acts.

5.  Atticus Finch
The character is a beloved champion of the oppressed who launched the legal careers of thousands of white liberals and sits so securely atop the pantheon of fictional lawyers that the ABA Journal doesn’t even let him compete in its “greatest fictional lawyers” contest.
He’s an inveterate racist.

ALPIA is the American Lawyers Public Image Association, founded in 2000. It is the only legal organization in the world formed solely to promote a positive public image of lawyers. ALPIA is the leader on attorney image issues and has received media coverage from all over the world.

The website is www.alpia.org.

I don't know about you, but I'm not so sure this organization has done much, if anything, for the public image of lawyers.  Altho the whole concept that this organization even exists is telling........

Q:  Why does New Jersey have more toxic waste dumps and California have more lawyers?

A:  Because New Jersey had first choice.


 

Friday, November 13, 2015

DEATH OF A LIAR - MC Beaton [Book Recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth investigates the report of an attack on a village woman. He soon discovers the woman was lying. Later, she reports another attack but Macbeth admonishes her to seek help for her compulsion to lie. The next day he finds her murdered. He investigates her murder, encountering other murders and illegal activity in the process.

Plot: This is a murder mystery set in the Scottish Highlands. Sub-plots include Macbeth's personal life filled with his dog and cat and disappointment with his love life, and his relationships with the constable who works for him and the other people in the village. The main plot of the murder investigations grew rather broad, with several new developments and a lot of suspects that sometimes made it a bit on the complicated side to try to keep everything straight.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, altho this may be because I've read quite a few Hamish Macbeth mysteries already, but it did appear to me that if a reader was starting the series with this newest release, she would still have a good idea of the different personalities of Macbeth and the other regular characters.

Setting: Scottish Highlands. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The main storyline was more complicated than most of the other Macbeth stories. I don't know that I would recommend a reader start with this book, which is probably number 30 in the series. Better to start with previous books and work your way up to this one.

Overall: A good Scottish cozy mystery, altho a bit on the complicated side. I would read more by this author [in fact, I've read a lot by this author].

Grade: B+


Monday, November 9, 2015

Veterans Day - Thank you for your service


Veterans Day this year is Wednesday, November 11, 2015.


Why do we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11?  Here's the description from The US Department of Veterans Affairs:

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

The holiday was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I.  In 1938, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars.

My #1 son is a member of the US Navy and currently deployed overseas.  The last time he was home, he went with us to Knott's Berry Farm, one of the many business establishments which offer free and discounted rates to active duty military and veterans to thank them for their service.  He was NOT wearing his uniform, but his posture, demeanor, and haircut definitely identified him as military.  It was amazing the number of park visitors and employees who came up to specifically thank him for his service.

Here are lists of Veterans Day discounts compiled by The Military Wallet 
 
Free and Discounted Meals

Free and Discounted Park Admissions

Discounts – Retail Stores & More

To all veterans, thank you for your service.

Friday, November 6, 2015

LUNATICS - Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel [Book Recommendation]



Book obtained from: Library, audio book [2012]

Description: Philip Horkman is a pet shop owner, family man, and kids' soccer referee. Jeffrey Peckerman is a forensic plumber [LOL yes I checked, it really is a profession] with an attitude. They have a “slight” disagreement which results in them being pursued by the police, terrorists, revolutionaries, bears, and assorted other bad guys.

Plot: The book is a farce - an exaggerated and improbable comedy. I've read all of Dave Barry's non-fiction, but this is my first time reading his fiction. After an initial disagreement at a kids' soccer game, the MCs [love those names] end up pursued by the police, mistaken for terrorists, and they either encounter or cause an escalating set of situations which get more and more improbable. Occasional chapters are television news reports and newspaper articles. The final situation is supposed to be the most improbable, but oddly it appears the authors did have a prophetic vision because one of the final improbabilities is actually historically accurate here in 2015. I imagine the authors had a WTF moment when that situation actually occurred.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Horkman is a true straight man, loves his family, good father, etc. Peckerman is wild and crazy, also a family man but makes you wonder about his sanity. Definitely reminiscent of the Odd Couple. They don't live together, but they end up relying on each other to get themselves out of their various predicaments.

Setting: South Florida and several other states and countries. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is narrated by the authors, alternating telling the story from their character's point of view. Dave Barry used a lot of F-bombs, which was definitely in character but sometimes I thought was a bit much. It ended just when I was getting tired of the slapstick, so it was the perfect length, possibly one chapter too long. The end wrapped up all the loose ends in a very humorous way.

Overall: Laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes a bit too over-the-top improbable. I would read more by these authors.

Grade: B+



Monday, November 2, 2015

Why attorneys call the trial judge "the court"


Yes, there is a reason attorneys call the trial judge “the court”. And it's not just because that's the formality we were taught in law school. As so excellently phrased by this article:

“But the very best litigators know that however prepared the litigator is, however much experience in the relevant area of law she has, and—here is the hardest part—however right the lawyer may actually be on the law, the only law that is going to matter in deciding the motion is the law as the trial judge in front of them, right then and there, finds it. The best litigators who win know to listen to what the judge thinks the law is, and make their argument to that interpretation of law of that judge—the court on that motion.”
 
Yes, the law is what the judge says it is, even if the attorney can quote the actual language of the actual law which is actually NOT what the judge actually thinks it actually is.

In fact [actually], back before I realized this particular principle, I was once in a courtroom and I pulled out a copy of the relevant statute, and read from it verbatim.

The judge replied - “Counsel, I know what the law is. But in my courtroom, we do things my way.”

Then he ruled contrary to the law.



Friday, October 30, 2015

WICKED CHARMS - Janet Evanovich with Phoef Sutton [Book recommendation]


Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The inside flap tells us that Lizzy and Diesel, the protagonists, are searching for the Stone of Avarice. They want to find it before others do, including Diesel's cousin Wulf. The search involves a treasure map, a ship, and an island.

Plot: The book is a light read and moves quickly. The storyline is somewhat over-complicated in that I got lost in a few places. The end includes a small twist which I didn't see coming but it didn't seem to affect the storyline much anyway. The very end was rather flat.

Characterization: The characters are not as well-developed as they could be, and if a reader hasn't read the previous two Lizzy & Diesel books [which I have], they will feel flat. All of the main characters have some type of special power, which made the story more interesting that it would be otherwise.

Setting: Massachusetts. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This story didn't have the “spark” that the previous Lizzy & Diesel stories had, possibly because it read more like a sequel and not a stand-alone story.

Overall: a fun book altho slightly disappointing. I would read more by this author [and in fact I've read most of her books], altho her newer books are not as good as her earlier books.

Grade: C+


Monday, October 26, 2015

Swamped at work? Don't try this.

A New York paralegal, swamped with work and tired of working long, under-appreciated hours at his firm, decided to “make his job a little easier” by forging the signatures of 76 judges on 117 personal injury settlement agreements over a two-year period.






To me, this is a perfect example of the phrase – It takes less time to do something right than to do it over.




In this case, however, doing it over doesn't appear to be an option. The paralegal has been arrested on 234 counts of forgery. Ouch.

Additionally, the Court has ordered higher payments for the personal-injury plaintiffs whose settlements were not officially authorized by the Court.

The insurance company paying the settlements has sued the law firm for failure to adequately supervise the paralegal.



Ya think?

Story on Above The Law 
 


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Chocolate Clown Corpse - JoAnna Carl [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: The back cover tells us that Lee Woodyard, the protagonist, owns a chocolate shop. The owner of the shop next door, a clown named Moe, ends up dead. When Moe's widow and children list the clown shop for sale, Lee tours it and finds Moe's widow unconscious inside. Lee attempts to learn who killed Moe and who is trying to kill his widow.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read, and has several scenes where Lee finds herself in sticky situations, including one scene where Lee extricates herself in hilarious fashion. The end includes a small twist which I saw coming about half-way through the book, well before it occurs. This did reduce the tension somewhat.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as they could have been. I wanted Lee to succeed, but I wasn't as invested in her success as I wanted to be, possibly because of the reduced tension level, see plot above. Lee's husband is a criminal defense attorney who is appointed to defend the man accused of killing Moe, which made for an interesting sideline.

Setting: Michigan in winter. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: Occasional chapters were followed by a page called “Chocolate Chat,” containing information, history, and trivia about chocolate.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B


Monday, October 19, 2015

Australians apparently take their social media seriously

Australia’s workplace tribunal recently ruled that a woman was bullied after she was unfriended on Facebook following a work dispute.

The inciting incident appears to have happened one day when the victim [real estate agent] complained to the agency principal that her properties were not being adequately displayed in the store window.The bully then accused the victim of being a "naughty little school girl running to the teacher." 

The victim left the office crying and then checked to see if the bully had commented on the incident on Facebook [which as we all know, especially after this ruling, is akin to firebombing the victim's house], only to discover that the bully had instead unfriended her. 

The horror!

Now to be fair, the bully was the wife of the boss, so the positions and work relationship of these two women couldn't be considered equal.  And apparently the bully had also engaged in other bullying-type behavior directed toward the victim, including, over a two-year period, failing to say hello in the morning and delivering photocopies and print-outs to all staff but the victim.

The commission has issued an order to stop the bullying. “This action by Mrs Bird [bully] evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour,” the tribunal ruled. 

Moral of this story:  never friend anyone you work with.

Article in The Telegraph

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bye, Bye Love - K.J. Larsen [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that private investigator Cat DeLuca, of the Pants on Fire Detective Agency, it out running with her beagle when she literally stumbles over a dead body. As she pulls out her phone to report it, she is stun-gunned by the apparent murderer. When the police arrive, the body is gone. Cat “helps” the police find the killer.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. I read this book at the beach, and it is definitely a beach book. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It was a who-done-it and a why-done-it. I had a vague inkling of the “who” and the “why”, but the ending did surprise me. The end included a high-tension, scary predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. I wanted Cat to succeed, at the expense of her police relatives. I did find the book had a few too many characters that I had trouble differentiating, and at one point I decided not to try to figure out who everyone was. It didn't feel like that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, but of course I don't know if I would have enjoyed it more if I could have kept the characters straight.

Setting: Chicago. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is advertised as similar to Stephanie Plum, and I found that accurate, altho the Plum books do contain more humor.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+

Monday, October 12, 2015

Your online negative review could cost you money


In New York, a judge has ruled that if you post a negative review on Yelp that includes certain words, your review is no longer your opinion [protected by the First Amendment] but is libelous.


As of now, in New York, don't use the following words [or, presumably, words like them] in your online reviews:

Scam
Con-Artist
Robs

The customer hired a floor-refinishing company to refinish her floors, for $700. The completed project wasn't to her expectations, so she blasted the company on Yelp, using the three words above. A New York judge decided those words implied more than just the fact this lady wasn't satisfied with the service. They implied criminal behavior. As I read the ruling, the judge ordered as follows:

1. The dissatisfied customer must pay the refinishing company $1000 for the “libelous review” [which apparently he decided was not protected by the First Amendment, which means it qualified as legally more than just this lady's opinion].

2. The refinishing company owed this lady $400 because it was not properly licensed.

3. The refinishing company is not required to reimburse this customer the cost she had to pay to have the job re-done by a different [presumably licensed] company.

Now I don't understand why, if the company wasn't licensed, the judge didn't require a refund of the entire $700 the customer paid.

A Yelp representative, who appears to have a firm grasp on reality, stated that most businesses prefer to address negative reviews informally on the review site, not by taking legal action which can result in even more harm to the business reputation.

The customer plans to appeal this decision.

Hopefully the judge who hears the appeal is someone who was actually paying attention when he took Constitutional Law in law school.



Friday, October 9, 2015

SHARK SKIN SUITE - Tim Dorsey [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that Serge Storm, the protagonist, is a “fixer”, a sort-of paralegal and wannabe lawyer who travels around Florida as a kind of vigilante. Brook Campanella is a new lawyer who is good at representing homeowners against big banks engaging in shady foreclosure practices.

Plot: The book has 2-3 interwoven plot lines, and it did get confusing at times. Certain chapters read like they belonged in a different story entirely. Serge could be really funny, somewhat slapstick at times. The mystery aspect was more of a how-done-it. I did NOT guess the “how”. The trial was more on legal technique rather than questioning the witness, but it was well-done without being too technical for a non-legal reader. The end included a reasonably high-tension predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as I've read in other books. I wanted them to succeed, although except for the trial, I was somewhat confused on the ultimate goal.

Setting: South Florida and several of the Keys. The descriptions were very detailed, in some places somewhat overboard in my opinion. I was able to picture every scene, although sometimes I skimmed over the descriptions.

Other: This book had several interesting minor characters.

Overall: The confusing aspects of this book made it difficult to finish. I'm glad I finished it, because the trial and the end were fun to read. I'm not sure I would read more by this author.

Grade: B-

Monday, October 5, 2015

The mother of all continuance requests

In mid-August, a Pennsylvania defense counsel requested a continuance of his client's preliminary hearing, so counsel's wife wouldn't kill him for not being with her for the birth of their baby.


His reason was entirely too believable, even tho not technically a valid legal reason for a continuance.  Fortunately, his request was granted and he remains alive today.

The most common reasons for continuances in my area of practice [eviction law] is that a party or counsel is too sick to appear in court.  Evictions have priority over all other civil cases, because by definition the Plaintiff is alleging the Defendant remains in the property without permission [non-payment of rent being the most common, followed by prior owners losing the home to foreclosure].  Every day the Defendant remains in the property equals lost money for the Plaintiff, so every day the Plaintiff's money damages increase.  Therefore, Defense requests for continuance are generally denied unless there is a really good reason.  Here are some of the reasons I've heard, given by Defendants, most of which haven't worked:

1.  I'm too sick to be here [this works only if accompanied by Defendant passing out while making the request, which did actually happen once]

2.  Defendant passed away [request obviously made by a third party, usually attorney or family member.  Sometimes, trial proceeds anyway, depending on the nature of the case.]

3.  I want time to find an attorney [most of the time, Defendants have had at least a month to find an attorney]

4.  I want more time to gather documents [see above]

5.  Plaintiff's lawyer isn't being nice to me [this accusation usually results from the lawyer telling the Defendant s/he can't live there for free]

6.  I'm having an anxiety attack [not too long ago, a Defendant had a major attack and was removed to a hospital by paramedics who had to strap her to a stretcher so she wouldn't hurt herself on the way out of court.  That Defendant DID obtain a continuance.]

7.  I broke my shoe [yes, this really was requested once.  And denied.]

8.  I have to pick up my kids from school [you didn't arrange for that in advance?]

9.  I didn't know I couldn't wear shorts [bailiff didn't allow Defendant in the courtroom.  Defendant traded pants with a family member, who waited in the hallway wearing the shorts until the case was concluded.]

When I was in law school, I always thought of court as an intimidating place where everyone wore suits and shiny shoes, and was on their formal behavior.  In eviction court, we're lucky when the parties show up in unripped jeans and shirts which cover their mid-sections, and keep the curse words to a minimum.


Friday, October 2, 2015

PAW AND ORDER - Spencer Quinn [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, audio book

Description: The back cover tells us the book is narrated by Chet, the canine partner of Bernie, an Arizona private detective. The team travels to Washington DC to visit Bernie's girlfriend, a reporter working on a big story she won't divulge. A source gets himself killed, and Bernie is arrested. After he's released, he and Chet work to solve the mystery.

Plot: The book is a bit more gritty than my usual “light, fun read,” altho Chet is a really funny narrator. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It wasn't really a who-done-it, because Chet gives the “who” away with something he sees and reports but doesn't know why it's important at the time. The process of Bernie figuring out the “who” as well as the “why” was interesting. The end included a somewhat-high-tension [altho not as scary as many books I read] experience and a satisfying twist. The main problem I had with the plot is that the triggering incident [where the story question began], didn't happen until the end of chapter 4. If Chet wasn't such a funny narrator, I may not have been sufficiently interested to read through the end of chapter 4.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Chet is really funny in what he reports as important. He notices all the smells and sounds he encounters, and gives the reader hints of things that Bernie doesn't know about because he doesn't have a dog's keen sense of smell or hearing. I wanted Bernie and Chet to succeed, altho the tension and danger level wasn't as high as I expected from this grittier story.

Setting: Washington DC. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The narrator, Jim Frangione, took a while to get used to. I heard sharp intakes of breath frequently. In the beginning few chapters, his style kind of grated on me, but as I got used to it, it did get better.

Overall: started too slowly, but the humor carried it to where it really started. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+


Monday, September 28, 2015

Class action suit against Twitter

Earlier this month, a citizen of Texas allowed his name to be used as Plaintiff in a federal complaint alleging [this is my plain English interpretation] that when Twitter said its direct messages were private, he thought they were in fact private. The complaint seeks determination of a class action, on behalf of all Twitter users who have ever sent or received a direct message, and five million dollars in statutory damages.


Does anyone nowadays expect anything on the internet to be private?

Anyway, Mr. Wilford Raney sent and received direct messages on Twitter, and he was theoretically upset that Twitter intercepted those messages, without his knowledge or consent, and modified any links so they didn't include so many characters.

Apparently his “upset” was the fact that he wasn't paid for such modification of links.

The complaint is very good at describing, at least from the Plaintiff's point of view, the inner workings of Twitter, and the fact that Twitter gains financially from shortening links by proving its reach and impact on internet traffic, which results in the negotiation of better advertising rates. Plaintiff alleges that Twitter violates the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

Now, I don't do a lot of federal work, and I haven't analyzed the two statutes cited in this complaint, but in my personal, lay opinion [which is probably worth less than the proverbial two cents], I come to the following knee-jerk reactions:

1.  If in fact Twitter said these direct messages were private (and did not define the word private as meaning “not visible to the general public” instead of “only between sender and receiver”), then Twitter needs a better legal team.

2.  The Plaintiff's bar in California, upset with the change in law that made it so they could no longer shake down small business owners for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act because their handicapped parking striping was one-quarter inch too narrow, have now found another way to make money.

3,  Wilford Raney doesn't understand the internet, because anyone with half a brain realizes that nothing on the internet can really be deemed private. What Wilford Raney does understand [probably quite well], is that there is money in being, or pretending to be, naïve and/or stupid.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Free speech under attack - Part 2


A New York town recently discovered that its citizens, much like San Diego's citizens from last week's post, would not meekly roll over when the police trampled their free speech rights.

Back in 2012, a 21yo man was cited for speeding in Liberty, NY. Being a normal college student, he was not happy with the $175 fine, it being enough to keep him in mac'n'cheese dinners for several months. But William Barboza paid the fine, writing a rather pointed message in college-student-ese, venting his ire on the payment form.

 
Instead of accepting the payment like a normal police department, the town rejected the payment and had Mr. Barboza arrested and charged with aggravated harassment.

An ENTIRE YEAR passed before these charges were dropped by a different judge who was paying attention when he took Constitutional Law in law school all those years ago.

Barboza then sued the town in federal court for violating his free speech rights. Not surprisingly, last week the federal court agreed with him.


Okay, so the “few harmless words” were rather crude, to put it mildly. But nothing says Barboza argued with the police officer who cited him. He did not fight the ticket. He apparently paid the fine on time [unlike a large percentage of folks who choose to ignore tickets and hope they go away]. He did not encourage others to riot in the streets.

He did not complain anonymously.

If you can't complain about your government, what's the point of having the First Amendment?

Thankfully, a federal judge agreed.