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Brian Sullivan’s Guest Blog Post

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

I asked Brian Sullivan to write a blog post on lobbying. Then, I realized that I needed to write a quick introduction to this guest blog post. So… Brian  came to work at the firm a few months ago, with an emphasis on governmental issues. Even though he is not a lawyer, he has a diverse background in political/oversight/non-profit organization.

He was present at the 2015 Virginia General Assembly and  worked on/monitored legislation that impacted our firm and practice. As an employee, he did not have to register as a lobbyist but we sure enjoyed his reports.

I asked him to write a guest blog on lobbying. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did…

From the desk of Brian Sullivan… 

What is a Lobbyist?  You are!

Dinners, trips, gifts and deals.  These are a few of the things you may think of when hearing the word “lobbyist”.  Things aren’t always what they seem in the movies, or even in the news; so what exactly is a lobbyist?

Strictly speaking, in Virginia, a lobbyist is:

“any individual who is employed in any manner or who is reimbursed for expenses, or who represents an organization, association or other group for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence executive or legislative action through oral or written communication with an executive or legislative official; this includes anyone who solicits others to influence an executive or legislative official.”

That’s quite a broad definition.  However, paid lobbyists aren’t the only ones who are involved in the process.  Anyone who has ever written an email or called their representative is in fact “attempting to influence executive or legislative action”.  By the above definition, “lobbying” even includes soliciting others to advocate as well.  So, if you’ve ever had a heated discussion on a public policy issue, it could be said that you have engaged in “lobbying”.  Congratulations!

As members of a Representative Democracy, it is our right, and even our duty, to contact our elected officials; it’s an integral part of the process.  Not only do our elected officials want to hear from us about the issues before them, they actually rely on it.   While a legislator’s role is to represent a group of people and cast votes based on that representation, the role of a lobbyist is to represent a single or group of interests, and to provide information to support those interests.  The process just doesn’t work without everyone involved.

This year’s session was 44 days, with 2,775 bills, 10+ hour days packed with Committee, constituent and voting session meetings, not to mention the hundreds of daily phone calls and emails.   To say this time is busy, would be like saying Boston got a bit of snow this year!  As busy as the schedule is, the hallways (and especially the elevators) are even busier! On any given day, the building is packed with hundreds of registered lobbyists, and as many non-registered individuals and groups.  It would be safe to say that the ratio is 50:1.

But as hectic as this all may sound (and it is!), as each bill comes up in Committee, the question is always asked: “Is there anyone from the public here to speak in favor or against this bill?”.  More often than not, the side with the most support from the public is the one that prevails.  From time to time, a legislator will even cast a vote based on a single communication from a constituent!

So, do you need access to private jets and expense accounts to get your voice heard?  No.  All you need is the time it takes to make a call, write an email, or even make your way downtown.  Don’t have time for any of that?  Well then……….……just hire a lobbyist!

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I Want My Pen!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

I have been to several courthouses in several different states. They all have a form of security. Some much more strict than others. Sometimes, it feels like you are getting ready to board a plane.

Some courthouses security requires that you place items in bins as they go through a scanner. To date, I haven’t been asked to take off my shoes. For one lawyer in Nebraska, he has a lost luggage feeling. And he apparently believes that The pen is mightier than the sword.

Attorney John Kerwin went through courthouse security at the Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska. He accidentally left his keys and Montblanc ballpoint pen at the security kiosk. (Omaha.com)

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Later he asked a Judge to unlock the kiosk to get his belongings. The Judge handed him his keys but the pen was missing. The lawyer values the pen at $500; but worse, it has sentimental value because it was given to him by his uncle.

The pen is nowhere to be found. Surveillance video shows the officer who last touched the pen before it went missing. Now, Kerwin wants the County to either find the pen or replace it. And, he is serious. So serious that he has filed suit against the County Clerk’s office.

Kerwin says that he “just wants his special pen back”. I suspect that they will pay him $500 to reimburse him.

I wonder, do you think that the effort is worth the reward? Maybe he should just say… it’s Saul Good!

And for pic o’ day, here’s some wisdom:

wisdom

 

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How About a Cup of Coffee

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

For years, car manufacturers fought regulations that would require them to include airbags in their cars. “Too expensive” was one of their reasons. It wasn’t until 1968 (wiki) until cars had to be equipped with seatbelts. Even then, they were initially only lap belts. Of course, those were the days when car-makers were selling cars that were so low to the ground, they were basically lawn mowers with seats. Not a lot of safety consideration.

Now there is a lot of thought and testing that is going into making a safe football helmet. I suppose the NFL won’t get too serious unless they think that their product is threatened by either less TV viewers, or less parents who are willing to allow their kids to play in youth leagues. Remove the interest; impact the dollars; and the NFL will certainly make safety more than a talking point.

For now, I can’t do much to impact those two things but I can give you something to think about… as it effects “your thinker”. Today.com provides benefits and statistics on daily coffee drinking. Of course, because I am such a coffee fan, I decided that this article needed to go right into the blog. Some of this is even cut and paste.

The latest news about coffee is that it may lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Researchers presented data at a Neurology seminar that suggests that coffee consumpion may help because of how its properties impact inflamation.

coffee

       Researchers enlisted 1,629 Swedish patients with MS and compared them to 2,807 individuals without it. In addition, the researchers compared 584 California patients to an additional 581 healthy participants of the study.

Their findings: In the Swedish group, consuming at least 6 cups of coffee a day lowered the risk of MS by 33 percent. The American group showed researchers a suggested finding that consuming four or more cups of coffee a day also lowered the risk by 33 percent.

That’s one of those studies that makes you go Hmmm. Also, researchers at Pittsburgh Medical Center have released some additional findings on coffee. This  medical facility has also been in the forefront of brain injury research that includes concussion studies.

According to Leslie Bonci,  their Director of Sports Nutrition, coffee appears to help prevent Parkinson’s disease and help control the tremors in patients who have already been diagnosed with it.

So, with that in mind, the article referenced above also provides the following health benefits from drinking coffee:

1. It protects the liver from a disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis, as well as possibly counteracting the harmful effects of drinking alcohol, according to a 2014 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A separate 2014 study from researchers at the National Cancer Institute found people who reported drinking three cups of coffee a day were less likely to have abnormal enzymes in the liver, indicating improved liver function. The researchers tracked 27,793 men and women, age 20 or older.

“That doesn’t mean you should drink a lot of alcohol and then have coffee to protect your liver,” Bonci says.

2. It increases the amount of sex hormone binding globulin, which in turn lowers the risk of diabetes. There are scores of studies on coffee and diabetes and the results are consistent: Coffee drinkers have lower diabetes risk. “And this isn’t a caffeine effect,” Bonci says. “But rather an effect of the antioxidants and polyphenols, which are plant nutrients, some of which are unique to coffee.”

3. Moderate consumption may lower the risk of heart failure, according to a review of five studies. The key is moderate: about two cups a day.

4. It possibly protects against certain kinds of cancer. “There have been studies looking at coffee lowering the risk of various cancers,” Bonci says. “That’s hard to tease out. But there does seem to be evidence that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of liver and prostate cancer.”

5. It helps athletic performance. Caffeine boosts endurance so you can exercise harder and longer, studies show. To get a rough idea of an effective “dose” for you, take your weight in pounds, divide it in half and multiply by three, says TODAY nutrition and health editor Madelyn Fernstrom. If you weigh 200 pounds, that would be 100 x 3 = 300 mg, about the amount in a large coffee.

Perhaps too much of a good thing is too much. For now, I’m glad that my morning coffee appears to be beneficial.

 

 

And for pic o’ day, this one made me stop and think…and agree:

car alarm

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A Bunch of Snow

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Someday I hope to be scrolling through the blog collection on a hot day, and then stumble on this Friday blog. I know it’s not much of a legal blog but it does reflect the mindset… SNOW!

It did allow us to return some phone calls and get caught up on email. And, the lawyers in the intake department stayed faithful. Way to go Intake!!! The offices that really never close, even when the doors might be closed.

Meanwhile, I worked a bit (a very little bit) from the warmth of my home office. And here are the snow pictures from the house. Maybe you’ll come back to this blog on a hot day too.

From the side of the porch

snow 1

 

From the back of the house… through the window. (that means I was being really lazy)

snow 2

And then down the street from the front door.

snow road

I hope you have a great weekend!!!!

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The Universal Emergency Number

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

I have to admit that I really have not thought much about how 911 became the emergency number. Yet, I know how important it is. As a side note, I  have had parents tell me that they tried to teach their young child about the number by asking them who to call in an emergency. Many smile and say that their child has replied, “Call Joel Bieber”.

That’s a good answer too! Still, we all learn at a young age when and why to call 911. Now I know the story of 911. Rather than trying to act creative in writing about it, let me post a portion of an article from Howstuffworks.com. It’s how the number began:

Prior to 1968, there was no standard emergency number. So how did 911 become one of the most recognizable numbers in the United States? Choosing 911 as the universal emergency number was not an arbitrary selection, but it wasn’t a difficult one either. In 1967, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met with AT&T to establish such an emergency number. They wanted a number that was short and easy to remember. More importantly, they needed a unique number, and since 911 had never been designated for an office code, area code or service code, that was the number they chose.

Soon after, the U.S. Congress agreed to support 911 as the emergency number standard for the nation and passed legislation making 911 the exclusive number for any emergency calling service. A central office was set up by the Bell System to develop the infrastructure for the system.

On February 16, 1968, Alabama Senator Rankin Fite made the first 911 call in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The Alabama Telephone Company carried the call. A week later, Nome, Alaska, implemented a 911 system. In 1973, the White House’s Office of Telecommunication issued a national statement supporting the use of 911 and pushed for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist government agencies in implementing the system.

After its initial acceptance in the late 1960s, 911 systems quickly spread across the country. By 1979, about 26 percent of the United States population had 911 service, and nine states had passed legislation for a statewide 911 system. Through the latter part of the 1970s, 911 service grew at a rate of 70 new local systems per year, according to the NENA. Approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population had 911 service by 1987. In 1999, about 93 percent of the U.S. population was covered by 911 service.

I guess if Paul Harvey was still alive and reading this story, he would finish the blog in voice with… And now you know the rest of the story.

And for pic o’ day I am attaching two in the “education genre”;

 

and 1and 2

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Last Words

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I always try to give you something to think about for the blog. Especially a mid-week blog.

James D. French was executed in Oklahoma in 1966He had been sentenced to jail with a life sentence but couldn’t bear it. So, he wanted to commit suicide but was but was too afraid. He concocted a solution to his fear. He murdered his cellmate so that the state 0f Oklahoma would execute him.

Sure enough, he was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death. At his execution by electric chair, he was asked if he had any final words. His reply?  How’s this for your headline… French Fries.  

Steve Jobs’s sister claims that his last words were Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow. Now, people wonder what he saw before he died.

Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word… Stopped.

Poet Emily Dickinson was famous for phrases as “it is better to be the hammer than the anvil”. He last dying words… I must go in, for the fog is rising.

Inventor Thomas Edison awoke from a coma, opened his eyes and said these words before dying, It is very beautiful over there.

Something to think about for the blog… Last words.

And our source of wisdom in pic o’ day…

Internet

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Pop Goes the Soda

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

There are some products that just seem to be bad for us. For instance, does a soda seem like a good thing despite what Coca-Cola might advertise? I am blogging on this because of a recent study on dark sodas. Just to keep an eye on it. A blog to maybe think about, the next time the waitress says that we have “Pepsi products”. (yes,  this last sentence gives me an excuse to post this)

Sit and worry

So here’s the warning. This applies even if you are trying to stay trim by drinking Diet Coke. Ok… maybe not trim.

So, back to the study on Soft drinks. (Tribune.com)  People who consume one or more cans of soda per day are at a higher risk of cancer. That’s because of an ingredient, 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) that is formed during the manufacture of certain sodas. It gives a caramel color to the soda.

According to the senior author of the study, “soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes”. Basically, the study is saying that these manufacturers are adding this to make the drinks dark, for marketing purposes.

There is something being done about this. Consumer Reports has petitioned the FDA to set limits on the amount of this carcinogen that can be added to these drinks. Currently there is no limit and no warning. According to the Consumer Reports spokesman, “This new analysis underscores our belief that people consume significant amounts of soda that unnecessarily elevate their risk of cancer over the course of a lifetime.”

 

And for pic o day:

Got em all

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Deciding the Value

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

We start the Monday blog with a picture that Mom sent that needs no real introduction… if you have been living with snow:

fetch

And now a sweater story from ESPN. A reminder that something is worth what someone will pay for it.

A man walked into a Goodwill store and found an old West Point sweater that caught his attention.

lombardi 1

He took it to the front to be weighed because that’s how they determine the price. The price of the sweater was 58 cents… so the man got change from his dollar plus a sweater.  No one had looked on the inside of the sweater. Inconspicuously written on the tag at the neck area was Lombardi 46.

lombardi2

The man took the sweater home and didn’t think much about it until he was watching a documentary on the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. On the documentary, he noticed that Lombardi was wearing the sweater that the man had bought. That’s when he pulled the sweater out and noticed the name written on the tag. It was the sweater that Lombardi wore at West Point while coaching there from 1949-1953.

He eventually decided to turn it over to Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. This past Saturday it was auctioned and ultimately sold for a bid amount of $43,020. A sweater that had a value of what it weighed until it was determined that it had been owned by the most famous football coach of all time.

One final note. When I ask a jury to consider the damage of pain and suffering in a personal injury case, sometimes it’s difficult to put a value on pain and suffering. However, an old sweater reminds that whoever gave that sweater to Goodwill… is probably feeling a bit of pain and suffering and maybe even some mental anguish in an amount of at least $43,020

And finally, a password idea:

password pic

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I Do…6 to 10 Years

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Maybe it’s a perspective of happiness that’s a bit hard to understand. But, it’s a “love story” that belongs in the Friday blog. The kind of story that makes you take a second look.

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From the Associated Press and Yahoo comes the story of Israel Silva, who got married and then sentenced. And, his attorney warned him before it all took place.  ”There will be no, ‘You can kiss the bride,’ or whatever they say when people get married,” Silva’s defense attorney, Sarah Miles, said before her client’s impromptu wedding on Feb. 11 in Park County’s District Court.

Israel Silva wore his orange jail jumpsuit and shackles while his bride-to-be stood the mandatory 15 feet. The judge married the lovebirds before one became a jailbird. The ceremony lasted about a minute and then the judge directed them to sit down.

Next, Judge Cranfill sentenced Silva to six to 10 years in prison for a drunken crime spree which included crashing two trucks, firing a  stolen gun at other oncoming cars and leading the police on a car chase that was reportedly up to 110 m.p.h. The chase ended after Silva ran over an irrigation pipe and got stuck in a muddy barley field. At the time, he was already out on bond for another misdemeanor charge.

Silva pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, property destruction and a third conviction of driving under the influence Somehow, all that was apparently attractive enough to woo his lady to get married… at the courthouse… well, you know. And he didn’t even wear a tie with his orange suit.

Despite the cold, I hope this pic o’ makes you smile into the weekend:

lol

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Blame Alvin the Cat

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

You’ve heard the old excuse  “I don’t have my homework because the dog ate it”. Well, how about the cat?

My previous blog (here) discussed a Roanoke lawyer who missed a statute of limitations over 2 dollars. Now, a  lawyer in the D.C./Virginia area has also failed to file a timely response to a summary judgment motion in Federal Court. His excuse is  part of his court filing that includes Alvin the Cat.

The ABA Journal and  Abovethelaw.com describes an attorney’s court filing on February 10, in an attempt to get a judge to excuse his failure to file a timely response and to grant him an extension to now file.

The lawyer’s initial problems started when he contracted both gout and pneumonia in January. He found himself bedridden, according to the filed pleading, with severe pain and coughing. He wisely went to the emergency room where they gave him painkillers.

Over the course of the next few days, he was taking Percodan and Percocet as well as steroid indomethacin. The lawyer describes that the medication caused him severe gastrointestinal disturbance that required perpetual hobbling to and from the restroom, generally interfering with the level of concentration need to oppose a motion for summary judgment.

Then the lawyer went on to describe a series of events that, combined with his illness, really made it impossible for him to work. This included the next section of his brief that was titled Alvin the Cat.

With his court deadline bearing down on him, his children came home from school on January 30, and became worried because no one could find their longtime house cat, Alvin. A missing cat search began throughout the house, only to end in the finding of Alvin in the closet… dead.

With all the kids tremendously upset, the lawyer promised to bury Alvin the next day. In addition, his court pleading notes that after all the emotion of the search, he was just too exhausted to work on the pleading that night.

The next day, there was a ceremony and funeral for Alvin. There was also a discussion “at the funeral” about the nature of life and death and where Alvin had gone after his death. This took a great deal of time. Unfortunately, it got worse.

As the lawyer was digging the hole to bury Alvin, his shovel hit his foot the wrong way, triggering another painful bout of gout. This was a Saturday night too filled with pain to perform legal work. Then Sunday, he apparently rested.

He was back to work on Monday; but as he read his previously prepared work on his pleadings, they did not look as good as they did while on pain killers.  

The next roadblock was the emotional issues that his roommate was going through. The lawyer again was distracted by his work because he needed to provide legal and emotional support concerning the state of the man’s failed marriage.

The attorney concluded his extension request by summarizing his plight in stating that For reasons wholly unclear, that morning he was in need of counseling concerning the state of his marriage to the point where I was concerned for his immediate well-being. I think Alvin’s funeral and ceremony with the kids triggered something. In any event, we spoke for several hours, following which plaintiff’s counsel was exhausted and his foot was on fire.  

The attorney explained to the ABA Journal that the reason that he was so explicit in his detailed explanation was that he felt that honesty was the only way to make the Court understand what had happened. He felt that his events fell outside the typical reasons of why deadlines get missed.

The Judge probably will rule against the extension. In the meantime, the least we can do is have one final thought of Alvin.

And for pic o’ day, this is one that I didn’t get posted after Christmas. But for this blog, it just seemed apropos:

fat

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