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Archive for General Law

O.J. Simpson Upcoming Television

Monday, January 25th, 2016

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  premiers on FX Network on February 2. In June, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series will air a five-part mini-series on the rise and fall of Simpson called O.J.: Made in America.

I will probably watch both the docudrama and the documentary. I have a clear memory of that fateful night when O.J. in that white Bronco, captured the nation’s attention. Then his trial on national television everyday, watched faithfully by viewers who treated the televised trial like a riveting soap opera with tremendous ratings. (Click here if you want a refresher on the O.J. Simpson murder trial)

I read an article from Business Insider as a primer for the upcoming ESPN documentary. After watching the upcoming documentary, the writer tells several facts that he learned about O.J including the following:

1. O. J. was asked during his career why he wasn’t doing more for civil rights and African-Americans. His response, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.”. The crafting of a persona for marketing purposes.

2. During the years that Simpson and his wife Nicole were married, the police were called to the house over 10 times.

3. One time that the police were called, they found O.J. holding a bat while his wife was crying hysterically next to a car with its windshield completely smashed.

4. The series gives details about O.J. and Nicole Brown’s murder including Simpson’s blood being found at the scene of the crime and a trail of blood leading back to his home.

5. Simpson declined the police request that he take a lie-detector test after the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. His reason as told to his friend was that “I’ve had dreams of killing Nicole”.

6. To help pay for his “Dream Team” defense team of lawyers, he would sit in his jail cell each night after trial and autograph items for sale. Supposedly, that memorabilia brought him over 3 million in proceeds.

So… that’s probably why I will watch both of these!

And for pic o’ day, I am posting one of those family photos that they classify as “gone horribly wrong”. In this instance, it’s some “superheroes” posing like they did several years ago. This seemed appropriate to the subject matter of the blog. Comparing O.J. looking bad during the trial… and looking worse now! Of course, the more I look at this picture… the worse it gets too!!

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The Florida Black Robes

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

A few years back I drove past a plumbing supply business in Virginia Beach. I recognized a man in the front yard, mowing the grass. What really caught my attention was the fact that he was mowing the grass in a suit and tie.

I stopped the car and hollered, “Hey Hicks!” He idled the mower and asked me how I was doing. Then I asked, “Why are you mowing the lawn in a suit?”. He replied, “There’s no sense in looking bad and feeling bad too!” All about the clothes!

I was reminded of that story, as well as the importance of clothing on an attitude, when I read that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered that all Florida judges must wear black robes. That made me read closer, because I wouldn’t have guessed that they were wearing wild outfits.

So here is there reasoning: Seeking to promote uniformity in judicial attire, last fall the Florida Supreme Court adopted Florida Rule 2.340 on its own motion. This rule governs attire during judicial proceedings and declares that judges’ robes must be “solid black with no embellishment.” A consistent uniform, the court stated, will “promote public trust and confidence in the proceedings and the judicial system as a whole. Guess shorts don’t promote respect?

According to the ABA Bar Journal, apparently. some judges’  choices in apparel had led to the order.  One Union County judge was seen wearing a camouflage robe. Jennifer Zedalis, director of trial practice at the University of Florida’s law school reported that  “Litigants took a photo and posted it. There were complaints. While not blatantly racist, the camo robe was perceived as part of a good ol’ boy sensibility.”

According to Zedalis, this isn’t a new issue in Florida. She also indicated that a blue robe was spotted in Tampa; and  that back in the early ’90s, a judge in the Florida Keys wore a flowered robe, like a Hawaiian shirt.” I guess he was a Jimmy Buffett fan.

The Florida Supreme Court went on to add that non-black robes or those with braids, buttons or velvet panels, might be confusing to litigants,. It might cause them to wonder whether something other than a standard black robe indicates a judge’s mood, status, tenure or ability. “The people of Florida have a right to expect equal justice every day,” the court declared.

 

And for pic o’ day, I am posting two for cats and dogs!

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Hard to Win an Argument

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Stephen Hawking records the story of a well known scientist who was presenting a public lecture on astronomy during the early 1900′s. He described how the earth orbits around the sun. That the sun, in turn, then orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of his lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room stood up and verbally confronted him in front of everyone.  ”What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.”

The scientist coyly smiled at her and then asked her, “If that is true, then what is the turtle standing on”. “You’re very clever, young man, very clever”,  said the little old lady, “But it’s turtles all the way down!”.

I was reminded of this logic this past week as my trial Listserv group was filled with opinion messages. Someone started with the subject title of off-topic. It became a discussion about Muslims and Donald Trump. Soon, lawyer after lawyer was chiming in with opinion.

Every now and then, (by mistake) I would read one of those emails. I saw a few lawyers agree with each other. I never saw someone email back, “Wow, you have changed my mind”.

Dale Carnegie wrote about human relations, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still“. Blaise Pascal summed up persuasion, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have discovered, than by those which have come into the mind of others”. 

As a trial lawyer, I live in a world of persuasion. Many times at the conclusion of each case, I  find myself wanting to ask the jury, “What more should I tell you to persuade you? What do you want to hear to make up your mind?”. When I have figured that out… I have been successful for my client.

For pic o’ day, I will start posting some holiday pictures, but Amy M. sent this one and it made me laugh!

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Case Investigation

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Southwest Airlines has announced that their new planes will be equipped with bigger seats for their customers. The new seats are gaining an extra seven-tenths of an inch and will now measure 17.8 inches wide.

When I read that, I really didn’t know what that meant. To compare, seats on the 737′s flown by Alaska Airlines are 17 inches wide according to SeatGuru.com. American Airlines, United  and Delta planes all offer coach seats with 17.2 inch inches of ”room”.  First class seats are sometimes as wide as 21 inches.

I suspect that we will see Southwest advertising their “roomy seats” as a reason to fly. Their “bags-fly-free” campaign  has already been very successful. (CBS) So they know what works in making fliers happy.  It’s a reminder that the difference in success can be in the details.

In the investigation of new cases and potential clients that we begin to represent, it is very helpful to get into the case in the beginning. Conversely, insurance companies attempt to keep claimants from contacting a lawyer. Instead, I have heard adjusters recommend to the person that it will be better to negotiate directly with the insurance adjuster, instead of paying an attorney fee.

Prospective clients don’t begin to investigate their own cases. It usually causes them to wait to see what the adjuster will offer. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes evidence to disappear and cars to be repaired without pictures being taken.

A claimant may not have much property damage to the back of their car after a crash. That might not reflect the force of the crash as much as the fact that car manufacturers reinforce the back of their cars to protect the gas tank. The force then is transmitted through the car and into the occupants who were rear-ended.

The true damage may be to the front of the car that caused the crash (the defendant). That’s because the front is not reinforced like the back of the car. If the insurance company only takes a picture of the minimal damage to the rear of the prospective client’s car… then the hood/front-damaged car may be repaired without documentation. And there goes the details!

The truth lies in the details. Does an insurance adjuster have any motivation to take pictures of both cars before repair?

I hope you have a great weekend. And for pic o’ day…

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An IRS Loss

Monday, November 30th, 2015

This is one of those few stories about an IRS loss. You might want to write this down!!!

From a San Francisco Judge:

Public.Resource.org asked the Internal Revenue Service to provide some 990 forms. These forms show non-profit expenses had been filed digitally by nine tax-exempt organizations. The request was made by the organization to see what kind of expenses and write-offs had been claimed by these nine.

In response, the IRS said no. Claimed it would be too expensive to comply with the Freedom of Information Act request. They specifically claimed that it would cost $6,200 in needed training and technology to comply. According to the IRS response, it would be an undue burden to provide the documents, due to its “sequestration level” funding (Courthouse News). That  IRS denial became a true cost!

Once the IRS denied their request, Public.Resource.org sued for enforcement of the request, and costs and attorney fees associated with the filing and request.  In January, a federal judge in San Francisco said the expense didn’t excuse the IRS from complying with the FOIA request.

Here’s the kicker: Last Friday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick awarded almost $239,400 in attorney’s fees and costs to the nonprofit organization.

As the Judge put it, “I am persuaded that the outcome of this case is likely to enhance the public’s ability to analyze and understand information in Form 990s, and that this represents a meaningful advancement of the public interest.”

Note to the IRS… this blog is just noting the facts :<)

And for pic o’ day… because I like pictures!

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Plato on Law

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

“Laws are partly formed for the sake of good men, in order to instruct them how they may live on friendly terms with one another, and partly for the sake of those who refuse to be instructed, whose spirit cannot be subdued, or softened, or hindered from plunging into evil.”

- Plato

Legend has it that when Philosopher Plato was an infant, bees landed on his lips while he was sleeping. As a result, it caused him to have a sweetness of style during his discourse on philosophy. I would think that instead, he would have complained of chapped lips.

And of course, we have more Thanksgiving Pic o’s:

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And who can argue with my yearly car load of turkeys driving crazy.

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Bad Facebook Judge

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

 

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First, I thought I would start our Monday blog with some good Thanksgiving advice above! Next is the story of a Judge who got carried away on his Facebook account…during trial!

A Minnesota Judicial Board has reprimanded (PDF) Judge Edward Bearse because of his in-trial Facebook posts. The reasoning? The board says that his posts and conduct cast doubt on his impartiality, and violated rules that require judges to be “dignified and courteous with litigants” and to also refrain from putting personal interests above the duties of a Judge. At least one mistrial resulted from the judge’s posts. (Associated Press story)

As a sitting judge in a sex trafficking case, Judge Bearse posted the following during the trial, “ ”I just love doing the stress of jury trials,” the judge posted. “In a Felony trial, now State is prosecuting pimp. Cases are always difficult because the women (as in this case also) will not cooperate. We will see what the 12 citizens in the jury box will do.” (You can almost imagine the Judge talking in a golf announcer voice)

On that case, the jury found the defendant guilty, two days after the Judge’s post. The county attorney’s office then learned about Bearse’s post and disclosed it to the defense attorney. The defense moved to set aside the guilty verdict and order a new trial.  Another judge was called in to hear the motion and he granted it. He vacated the original guilty verdict and ordered a new trial.

Based on the motion and ruling of the subsequent judge, the board reprimanded the judge. However, it found that Judge Bearse was remorseful and hadn’t been familiar with privacy settings on the social media site. The Judge said he thought that his Facebook posts were available only to his 80 friends, family and church members.

Not so much privacy! In fact, they were available to all the public,  The judge later admitted that he should not have shared his posts from the bench, even within his expected limited Facebook group. The danger of too much technology!

 

And for more Thanksgiving pic o’s:

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Would You Like a Bottled Water?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

In December 2014, six people were charged with allowing  seven-thousand gallons of a toxic chemical to leak into the Elk River in West Virginia. (CNN) Over a year after the leak, it was still determined that the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginia residents was still contaminated.

The chemical is commonly used in the coal mining industry for cleaning and was kept in tanks that were shown to be cracked and not maintained. The indictment for these individuals alleged that money was the reason that the tanks were not serviced. Elk River primarily provides drinking water for the city of Charleston.

That leads me to why I had no interest in having an ice cold glass of  water when I was just in Charleston. I was not swayed despite the assurances that the water is fine. I simply said, “How about a bottled water?”.

Because of my Charleston work, a news story grabbed my attention from the Detroit Free Press , that reports on a lawsuit recently filed by several Flint, Michigan families.

Four families claim that 14 government officials  deliberately deprived Flint residents of clean water in an effort to save money. The plaintiffs claim that the water has caused health issues including skin lesions, hair loss, “brain fog” , convulsions, hypertension, autoimmune disorders, and high levels of lead and copper in their bloodstreams.

In many states, it is difficult to file a civil suit against a city or town because laws protect them under governmental immunity. In Michigan, if gross negligence is shown there is a potential right to bring a lawsuit. That legal standard is partially defined as ”shocks the conscience and was deliberately indifferent … and so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results”.

When I was a kid, my grandparents kept a tin cup at the sink. Anyone who was thirsty, could grab that cup and fill it up right at the sink. Thirst quenched! I miss those days!

And more health in pic o’ day:

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Tuesday Traveling

Monday, November 16th, 2015

I am coming back from some work in West Virginia. I so enjoy downtown Charleston. Not a vacation spot but a good stop-by.

I will be back in the office this afternoon, so I thought I would post a pic o’ day that made me smile!

 

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Rambling to Charitable Gifts

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

“Do you mind if I ask you a legal question?” I sometimes was asked that question, even before I graduated from law school.  Now I sometimes hear, “I know you don’t handle this kind of law but can I ask you a question?”.

I think that while I was in law school, I had  broader knowledge of the law. I know that as I studied for the bar, I definitely did. The bar made you brush up on all kinds of topics.

One of my bar questions sounded something like, ”a man fails to tie up his horse and it runs through the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor sees it and is angry that the loose horse is once again on his property, so he shoots it. It keeps running into a nearby yard, where it drops dead. Who is now responsible for removing the horse off the  neighbor’s property, if anyone?”

I’m not sure if I knew the answer then,. I would only be guessing now. I haven’t brushed up on property law in a while. Plus, I wish the example had been a fox. No one should be shooting a horse!… but I digress.

The law of personal injury does require keeping up with new cases and information. Along the way I still try to read about other areas of law. That includes articles that are quick reads that tell me “here are seven” or “here are five ways”, that I can skim through on a topic.

My ramblings lead me to an article in the area of tax from the NY Times titled Navigating the Tax Rules on Charitable Gifts. (article)  It summarizes topics of receipts, retirement accounts, donating used items, donating stocks and some property rules. I am attaching it if you want to just brush up  for year-end planning.

I have to admit that I still don’t read too many articles on the enthralling  topic of property!

And for pic o’ day, dog and homework pictures always get me!

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