Monday, June 17, 2019

Yikes, armed security!

You made it to the courthouse with most of your frayed nerves intact, and you still have an entire five minutes to find the right courtroom.  Congratulations!

Except … what's this long line outside?

Los Angeles DMV 1940
This is a DMV office.  Thankfully, the line outside the courthouse will USUALLY not be this long [except, of course, on the day that YOU have to be there].

Denver Colorado International Airport
This is the Denver airport.  At least these people get to wait INSIDE.

Several years ago when I had my first court hearing in the Santa Barbara courthouse, it did not have any type of security checkpoint.  I walked right in.  At first I thought I was in the wrong place, because I'd NEVER been to a courthouse without a security checkpoint.  I thought maybe I'd made a wrong turn and ended up at city hall or something.  But nope, this was the courthouse.  And it was a beauty.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse
Someone recently told me that Santa Barbara now has a security checkpoint.  But I still have the memories.

Nowadays, especially in larger cities and counties, you're guaranteed to be confronted with a security checkpoint, and the long lines it creates.  There's even a metal detector at Disneyland.

Disneyland main entrance
Bring with you: your driver's license or other ID [and for federal court, it must be a federally accepted ID], and a paper which indicates why you're in court [jury summons, case document including the case number and courtroom].  Your ID will get you inside the building.  The paperwork will remind you why you're there and help you find the courtroom.

More on what to bring in a future post.

Do NOT bring with you:  anything that might remotely be used as or considered a weapon, including aerosol spray, pepper spray, scissors, long metal knitting needles, nail clippers longer than about one inch, cigarette lighters, chains including wallet chains, large flashlights, sporting equipment, and (obviously) firearms, even if they're fake [finger guns are okay except don't show them while going through the security checkpoint].

Leave this in your pocket while going thru security
Animals except for service animals.  Alcohol or illegal drugs.  Glass containers.  Handcuffs.  Laser pointers.  It's a long list.  Each county usually has its own specialized list which you should look up online before you leave your house.  Here's the one for Los Angeles.

If security finds anything they don't like, you'll have to take it back to your car, which may be six blocks away.  In the rain.  Or if you're lucky [not lucky], snow.  And right now your legs are sore and your shoes pinch and your hearing starts in less than five minutes.  Option two is to throw the offending item in the trash can.  Sometimes it's worth choosing option two.

Federal courthouses are usually much more strict than state courthouses, but no matter where you are, prepare yourself for a TSA-like screening so you're not surprised.

Columbus airport
ALL personal property (usually including your belt, watch, shoes, and jacket) goes into a tray to run through the x-ray machine.  Then you walk in your socks on the cold floor through the metal detector.  [In the summer, this usually feels REALLY good.  In the winter, not so much.]  Allow extra time if you have a cane, walker, wheelchair, stroller, pacemaker, or prosthetic body part.  Those usually require a separate hand-screening or wanding process.

After successfully navigating the security checkpoint, collect all your personal property and get dressed again.

Fortunately, this step is no longer fashionable
In the comments, tell me about your most interesting experience with any type of security checkpoint.

Next week:  you made it inside.  Now where do you go?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Do you have a map? I can't find where we parked.

Congratulations!  Assuming you didn't take public transportation [which is usually your best option, if it's available],
Leave the driving to the professionals
and after fighting the morning rush hour traffic [you did give yourself at least an extra hour to get there, didn't you?],
This isn't Los Angeles altho it certainly could be
you finally arrive at the courthouse.  Your first order of business is to find somewhere in the same county to park your car.

Scary on the freeway, perfect for parking in Los Angeles
I work in Southern California, primarily in Los Angeles and Orange counties, but I've also been to courthouses in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties.  If you live in a less urban area, you'll probably just drive up, park within 50 feet of the front door, and saunter right in.  You can therefore simply read this blog post and laugh at all of us who live in SoCal or other urban counties.  We still like you.  We're just VERY envious =)
Sometimes we even look green
If you're going to court because you received the dreaded jury summons, it is likely the summons will include instructions on where to park at no charge [one of the perks, if you can call it that, of jury service].  When you get to the designated parking area, you'll usually take a ticket and when you get to the courthouse, the jury coordinator will validate it.  You MUST be parked in the lot indicated on the summons because it's the only lot that accepts the jury validation.  Be proactive [read: paranoid] about this.  Check the summons and a map twice, and verify in the jury room that you parked in the correct location.  A different location will NOT accept the jury validation.  Then you'll be out some serious cash.
This might be enough
Now for the rest of you unfortunate souls.

If you're going to one of what we term “outlying courthouses”, away from the county seat, you're usually in luck.  The courthouse parking lot is often adjacent to the courthouse, and sometimes you can actually see the courthouse from your parking space!  Many times it's even free, although sometimes you get what you pay for.

I've parked in lots with more bumps and weeds than this
And other times, you're in for a treat.  I've been to the courthouse in the below photo.  Close parking, a well-maintained and secure lot, and free!  Well, it was free the last time I was there.  I can't speak for now.
Vista courthouse in northern San Diego County
For courthouses with paid parking, some only accept cash, and sometimes it's exact change only.  Others are at the mercy of the credit card clearing system, which isn't always reliable.  So I always carry $40 cash in small bills, just in case.  Which is a good reason not to park too far away from certain courthouses, although most of the time I leave my purse/money locked in my trunk. 

In downtown Los Angeles, almost all parking within a half-mile of the courthouses [yes, there are at least five courthouses downtown] is in a structure, and will cost somewhere between $12-25 for anything longer than an hour.
This is in Long Island NY and probably costs much more than $25
Most of the time I can park 2-3 blocks from the courthouse and pay around $12.  Closer costs more.  Farther can get a little nerve-wracking if I'm leaving court after 3pm.  The night life in that area isn't the safest.
Skid Row, a few blocks from LA courthouses
If you thought San Diego would be less expensive than Los Angeles, you'd be wrong.  The last time I was in San Diego, the closest parking was about six blocks from the state courthouse [which is a LONG way in the rain while wearing a suit, trust me on that] and cost $22.  Ouch.  And federal court is worse.  When I was at the below courthouse, I parked about two blocks away [close, by San Diego standards] and gave up my entire $40 cash, which thankfully was sufficient.
Lovely old courthouse, nightmare parking
The first time I went to the San Diego central courthouse, I checked the court's website and a map to locate available parking, and it still took me 30 minutes of driving around before I found somewhere to leave my car.  [It also took me 30 minutes AFTER my hearing to find where I'd left it.]  This is yet another reason why I add at least an hour to my anticipated travel time.  Showing up to court late is not always an option, even for attorneys and even if I call the courtroom and let them know I'm still trying to find a parking place.

Hint from someone who learned the hard way – ALWAYS make a written note describing where you parked your car, and if more than a block away, also note the name of the street you walked down and the names of the streets you crossed to get to the courthouse.  Doing this will allow you to get home before midnight.  Although your view in San Diego at midnight might be worth it......
San Diego
Let me know in the comments about your most nightmarish parking experience!

Next week:  Yikes, armed security!  Will they let you inside?

Monday, June 3, 2019

Why are you in court today?

Can you believe it's already JUNE??  Time sure flies when you're having fun.  If you want to keep up with more frivolous lawsuits, here's a good website to follow:
http://www.facesoflawsuitabuse.org/

Starting today and every Monday until the end of the year, I'll be taking you on a step-by-step journey through a typical day in court.  I hope you find it interesting and that you'll learn enough to navigate your next court appearance!

This is the US Supreme Court.  Most likely you won't be going here.
This courthouse is in Serbia.  You're not likely to be going here either.
This courthouse is in Orange County Florida.  For heavily-populated counties, your courthouses probably look like this
This courthouse is in Orange County North Carolina.  For moderately-populated counties, your courthouses probably look like this
This courthouse is in Orange County Vermont.  For sparsely-populated counties, your courthouses probably look like this.
Here's a sample of what we'll be discussing:
Today – why are you in court in the first place?
Next week – congratulations, you found the courthouse!  Now where do you park your car?
Later
yikes, armed security!  Will they let you inside?
Even later – you got inside, but this place is huge!  Where do you go?
Later still – you found the courtroom.  Now what?
Etc

Today we'll talk about why you're going to court in the first place.  If you're a normal American citizen [and not, for example, a lawyer], you are NOT happy to be at court. 

Mr. Frowny Fish
Most normal people you see in a courthouse on any given day are only there because they have no choice.  It's like your general education classes in college, which you signed up and paid for because they're required, not because you had the slightest interest in them.
You've never done this?  I don't believe you.
The court staff and the lawyers are also there because it's required, but we're PAID to be there.  Not like you.  Most likely you had to take a day off work.  And it's also likely that the get-the-work-done fairies will not visit your desk while you're at court, and everything will STILL be there tomorrow and you'll be a day late in finishing it.  MWAHAHAHAHA

Wait.  That's a lawyer's curse too.  Drat. 
This is obviously the wrong photo
This looks more accurate
The four most common reasons why you, as a normal American citizen [eg:  not a lawyer], find yourself in a courthouse are because (1) you received a dreaded jury summons and all your efforts to get out of it failed,
Everyone's favorite mail
or (2) you received an even more dreaded traffic ticket and you were only driving one mile per hour over the speed limit and the guy next to you just passed you doing at least fifty miles per hour over the limit so why did you get the ticket and not him and you are not just going to voluntarily pay this extortion and how can you even get a speeding ticket when you live in LOS ANGELES for heaven's sake,
The red taillights are a good indicator that you're in Los Angeles now
or (3) you are suing or being sued in small claims court, or (4) you and your spouse are divorcing.

It's no wonder you're not happy to be in court.

Yep, this is what you look like
Let me know in the comments the reason why YOU were in court!

Next week:  You found the courthouse.  Now where do you park?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Does the term "plant-based burgers" mislead consumers?

Turtle Island Foods dba Tofurky v Missouri
2:18-cv-04173-NKL
Western District of Missouri

The ACLU of Missouri has joined together with the plaintiffs in this case, filed in August 2018.  The lawsuit challenges a Missouri law which forbids the use of the word “meat” and other meat-like terms to describe vegetarian foods that contain no meat.

The lawsuit states:  “Plant-based meat products that use such terms like “deli slices,” “burger,” “sausages,” or “hot dogs,” with accompanying qualifying and descriptive language, clearly indicate that the products are plant based and accurately convey to consumers the products’ ingredients.”

Plaintiffs believe the law improperly restricts their truthful commercial speech.

“A consumer who is looking for a plant-based product that has the texture of chicken but is not the product of animal slaughter would find a label that includes terms such as “teriyaki chick’n strips” or “slow roasted chick’n” in addition to a declaration that the product is plant based more useful than a label that says only “plant-based food product.”

Similar laws have been enacted or are under consideration in South Dakota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Montana, Arizona, Arkansas, Washington State, and others.  In most cases, the laws are theoretically designed to prevent advertising which is misleading to consumers but the actual purpose is to protect the meat industries in those specific states.

A tentative settlement of this lawsuit was announced in February 2019 but the details are still being worked out.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Does the term "vegan butter" mislead consumers?

Brown v Miyoko's Kitchen, Inc.
2:18-cv-06079
Eastern District of New York

Miyoko's Kitchen vegan butter is made from non-milk ingredients.  The name says VEGAN, after all.


 

But Jasmine Brown contends the labeling is misleading because consumers who see the word “butter” will assume it contains milk, which in turn means it contains calcium and other nutrients.  In fact, the US government requires that any product sold as “butter” must contain at least 80% milk fat.  Therefore, she believes it should be labeled as margarine, instead of butter.

She filed a federal complaint in New York on October 30, 2018.

Miyoko's Kitchen asserts that consumers are not mislead by “rice milk” or “soy cheese” or other similar names, so “vegan butter” is also not confusing or misleading.

“Unlike other lawsuits against plant-based alternative foods, this lawsuit doesn’t allege that consumers will be confused between “real” butter and vegan butter. Instead, it argues that consumers are being misled because they would expect that Miyoko’s products “are nutritionally equivalent to butter or margarine, when they are inferior — lacking vitamin A, D, E and calcium.’”​

The case was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff with prejudice on February 28, 2019.  A voluntary dismissal with prejudice often means the parties reached a settlement, usually confidential.  In this case, that's what happened.



Monday, May 13, 2019

A to Z Blogging Challenge - Reflections

Congrats to everyone who completed the challenge!  It's tough, but worth it.

As usual, I barely had enough time to create my own posts, despite starting in January.  At the end of March we had a death in the family, and the managing partner of my law firm had surgery on April 2 and was out the entire month, which greatly increased my workload.  So the word CHALLENGE in the A to Z Challenge was especially applicable this year.

I visited quite a few participating blogs, but I was NOT good at leaving comments.  My bad.  There's always next year, but that's what I always say =)

Here are the blogs/themes I found interesting and/or fun:

Adjusting to Life as a Military Spouse


Africa

Trucks 


Living in Fairbanks Alaska

John Williams' film scores

Haiku

Signs from road trips across the USA

This year, in honor of the A to Z Challenge 10th anniversary, here's a list of ten questions the challenge folks proposed for us to consider using in our reflections post:


1. What did you love about the challenge this year? I had a lot of fun with my theme, and several of the blogs I visited had really interesting themes.  I love geography and learning about our world, and there were several blogs that had a geography theme.
 

2. What would you change about it? It would be nice if all the participants either had the month of April off work, or were granted an extra 2 hours per day, so we would be able to visit more blogs.
 

3. What was the best moment for you during this year's challenge? My husband checked out my blog every day, which he almost never does.
 

4. What is the best comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment? The country of Wales was not on any of the country lists that I used, and AJ Blythe noted that.  Is it a true country?  Or just part of the UK?  An interesting question.
 

5. Will you do the challenge again? Absolutely.
 

6. Was it well organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?) Yes I did the after survey.  I thought the hosts did a great job.
 

7. How did you and your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? Did you find new blogs out there to enjoy? I deviated from my usual legal/military theme, which was interesting but I miss my legal/military stuff.  I found several new blogs that I'll be visiting throughout the year.  Others I've enjoyed for several years and still do.
 

8. Were you on the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it better this time without the daily lists?) I was definitely on the master list.  I never looked at the daily lists so that part didn't really affect me.
 

9. Any suggestions for our future? I loved the separate column on the master list for the specific theme.  I didn't really visit any blogs that didn't include a specific theme that I thought would be interesting.
 

10. Any notes to the co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics? A picture with your A to Z shirt, if you ordered one? Great challenge and good work!

I'll see everyone next year!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

AtoZ Blogging Challenge - Z answers

Thank you for playing along with me for the A2Z Blogging Challenge.

Here are the answers to yesterday's Z prompts.
1. Country - Zimbabwe
2. Famous Person - Catherine Zeta-Jones
3. Vehicle - Zamboni
4. Animal - Zebras
5. Plant - Zebra grass
6. Sports - Zip line
7. Everyday object - Zipper
8. Book or Movie - Zootopia
9. Occupation - Zoologist
10. Mystery word - Led Zeppelin


Come back on May 6 for the Reflections post!
So long and thanks for all the fish