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Archive for General Law

A Curse Word Amendment

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

This is a blog about curse words… or it could also be called “Times have sure changed!’.

In 1897, the state of Maine enacted a statute that banned boxing from being shown in films. Then, in 1915, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case that held that there could be censorship in films because they were considered commerce and not art; which meant that there were no free speech first amendment protection.

Wikipedia provides an interesting listing of the various content that was disallowed in early films. (here) Such censorship ranged from language and subject matter, to content that still would not be allowed today.

The Motion Picture Production Code was drawn up by a Republican lawyer/former Postmaster General by the name of Will H. Hays. He prepared guidelines for filmmakers to assist in what would become standards of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. It was known as the Hays Code, which was enforced under the Hays Office or Board.

That brings me to the infamous  movie Gone With The Wind. Prior to that movie, curse words were not allowed.

On November 1, 1939, an amendment was passed that would effect the dialogue of that movie.  The amendment still recognized that using the words “hell” or “damn” were still not allowed unless their use “shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.”

With that amendment, Scarlett O’Hara tearfully asked Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), “Where shall I go? What shall I do?”. With that, a nation was shocked when Butler uttered his last words to her, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn“. In 2005, that quotation was voted as the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Festival.

My how times have changed. I hope you have a great weekend!

And for our pic o’ day:

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Insurance in Sports

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

This picture with chopstick instructions made me laugh.

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It’s why the Preakness horse race on Saturday would cause people to bet on the horses. Different odds for different beliefs in their possibility of winning. Although, the result would cause me to believe that only American Pharoah had a chance.

While many of us don’t believe that life is just about luck or chance, insurance companies look at it as risk measurement. A belief that life is a bit of chance is what insurance companies count on in selling their product. They collect premiums with the hope that you will never need payment of insurance. We make payment for insurance premiums… with the hope that we will never need to collect!

That brings me to Ekpre-Olomu. The fact that you probably don’t know the name is part of the story. He used to play cornerback for the University of Oregon and was expected to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

He was a concensus All American who tore his ACL in December practice. Because of that knee injury, he was unable to perform at the NFL combine nor at pro day at his school. Those are the times when NFL scouts make their recommendations.

Because of his injury and subsequent fall in the recent draft, Ekpre-Olomu is now in line to collect on a 3 million dollar insurance policy. Last year, to encourage him to stay and play at the school, Oregon took out an insurance policy against such an injury that would effect his pro career.

When he wasn’t selected in the first round, he was eligible to collect on a portion of the policy. When he fell out of the second round, he was in line to collect the full 3 million. It won’t make up for his full loss because if he had been drafted around the 12th pick, he would have collected somewhere around 10.5 million in guaranteed money in that slotted spot. Still, that insurance policy will be a helpful offset as he works to get better from his injury.

That’s a form of disability insurance that is now becoming more popular among athletes. When I first started practicing law, I purchased a disability policy that would  pay if I am unable to physically try cases in a courtroom. I am thankful to be paying those small premiums… without ever collecting.

 

And for our Monday pic o’ day, a lack of confidence…

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The Law Excuse Blog

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

I have been out of town on a case, which is my excuse for not writing a blog the last couple of days. I could have written a short blog or at least posted a pic o’ day with the ease of technology by iPad these days, But,  I now claim the law as my excuse!

I did receive some great pictures. Here’s one from Jeff R. that just makes me laugh. You will only appreciate this one if you are not a fan of the Patriots. In light of the recent Tom Brady suspension and all the discussion of football deflating, this is a classic sarcasm picture  of their championship Super Bowl ring. (couldn’t help it, I had to post)

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I also thought that the Friday blog is good time to post a few more unusual laws that are still on the books in various states.

Here’s a curious one from Maryland: It is illegal in Maryland for lions to attend the theatre.
And, in Alaska it is against the law to wake a sleeping bear, just to take a picture. That seems more than curious. And finally in our Friday blog look at some unusual laws: In South Dakota it is against the law to lie down and fall asleep in a cheese factory. Guess that was a real problem.

I hope you have a great weekend. And here is our pic o’ day:

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Lawsuits After the Big Fight

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

It’s boxing and lawsuits. And, there’s a lot of money involved.

Last Saturday night in Las Vegas,  Floyd Mayweather won a 12-round victory by  a three judge unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao. Initial financial estimates indicate that the fight generated approximately $400 million in revenue. Now, fans want a piece of that prize money.

Two fans have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that consumer laws were violated and bettors didn’t get fair fight because of Pacquiao’s failure to disclose that he had suffered a shoulder injury before the fight. The lawsuit seek damages from Pacquiao as well as his promotion company, Top Rank Inc., on behalf of all who purchased tickets for the fight; those who watched the fight on pay-per-view television; and gamblers who wagered on the fight.

Since the boxing match, it has been reported that Pacquiao has already had right shoulder surgery to repair a “significant tear” in his rotator cuff. More fuel to the lawsuit, that the fight never should have taken place.

A separate suit has been filed against the victorious fighter, Floyd Mayweather.  The mother of three of his children has now filed a defamation suit against him in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit was brought because of remarks that he made about her in media interviews before the fight. In an April interview with Katie Couric, he claimed among other things that he wasn’t really assaulting her in a 2010 incident at their Las Vegas home. Instead, he was just trying to restrain her because she was on drugs at the time.

At the time, Mayweather was arrested and charged with domestic violence after two of their children witnessed him pulling her hair and twisting her arm so hard that she thought that she had broken it. He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge and spending two months in jail.

The lawsuit seeks $20 million. It is estimated that Mayweather could get as much as $200 million from the fight, once all the fight income including pay-per-view profits are totaled.

It just makes me shake my head!

Have a great weekend!

And for pic o’ day…

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Wal-Mart Wage Lawsuit

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The greeters at the doors of Wal-Mart leave me with a positive feeling, because they smile. Not all Wal-Mart employees are smiling.

In 2002, several employees brought suit against Wal-Mart claiming that they were made to work on breaks, and that they did not get paid for those breaks as promised. Basically, a claim for failure to pay wages.

In 2005, these employees were certified as a class action. In 2006, the class went to trial and secured a jury verdict in the amount of $187 million. Wal-Mart appealed but ultimately the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the verdict.

From that opinion, Wal-Mart has taken their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is not whether the employees were improperly joined as a class to bring an action. Wal-Mart had previously been successful in a 2011 case for that reason,  when the Supreme Court struck down the certification  of a class for 1.6 million female employees who had brought suit with a claim for gender discrimination, relating to pay and promotion policies at the stores. (Wal-Mart v. Dukes)

Instead, the basis of appeal for this present wage lawsuit is an attack on the expert testimony at the original trial. According to Wal-Mart’s appeal, the testimony was based on a condensed version of information rather than actual evidence, which caused the expert testimony to be given in error. The argument… that there was no real evidence at trial relating to lost wages since there was no evidence of time-clock records.

At one time, Wal-Mart had used time clocks for employees. Close to the time of the original suit, all stores had ceased requiring time clock  “clock-in” by the employees. As a result, Wal-Mart now argues to the Supreme Court that no claim for loss of wages should exist without specific proof. The case will be heard during this term of Court.

And pic o’ day is more cartoon today:

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The Rules of Law

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Some things are just taken for granted. Before a rocket is launched, they start the countdown. Why wouldn’t there be a countdown? In fact, the idea of a countdown before a rocket launch originated to build drama tension in the 1929 movie “The Woman on the Moon”. Maybe if there was no movie… no rocket countdown that we take for granted before launch.

Yesterday the Baltimore Orioles played their baseball game against the Chicago White Sox. It had been moved to the afternoon from a night game, because of the Baltimore riots. In addition, there were no fans in the stadium. It was the first time in major league baseball history that a game was played without any fans in the stands.

You could hear the pitched ball hit the catcher’s mitt and the outfielders shout out “I got it” when a fly ball came their way. As the announcer said, “You can just hear everything”. Again, as I watched the game, I realized how I take it for granted that there will be cheering fans or someone to catch foul balls. Even the ball girl once caught a foul ball and then appear to lean and hand it to a fan… but there was  no one there to hand the ball for a souvenir. As a fan, I was glad that the Orioles won 8-2!

That brings me to the rules of law. Sometimes, I will pull up to a red light and see someone run the light. It catches me by surprise because I expect the other drivers to obey the traffic signals. Even in the middle of the night with no other traffic around, a majority of drivers will obey traffic signals and stop at stop signs or red lights. Even at 2 in the morning.

Sometimes the law recognizes that you have to pay attention, instead of just moving forward when the light turns green. We can’t just assume that  other drivers will stop when the light turns red. In fact, the law says that you cannot proceed without first looking to see that it is safe to do so.

Rules of law.  It’s easy to take them for granted. Instead, we  still have to pay attention for that one driver who doesn’t obey the law. It’s what keeps us safe.

 

And for pic o’ day,

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Police Officer Lawsuits

Monday, April 20th, 2015

On Sunday afternoon I received an alert from my Baltimore Sun subscription that advised that Freddie Gray, injured during arrest, has died.(story) I previously didn’t know anything about this story until I read about this young man who was arrested by Baltimore police last week. According to their report, he was arrested, placed into a van and was transported to the district station.

During the arrest, the police report indicates that he suffered trauma injuries that included a broken neck and that he lapsed into a coma. Seven days later he died. The family does not yet know what happened.

Unfortunately, It seems that we are regularly seeing news stories like this. Are police officers overracting? Are they doing their job correctly and just protecting themselves. Well, we know on a few occassions that there has been questionable conduct that erodes public confidence. That includes the recent police officer in South Carolina who shot and killed an unarmed man.

This leads me to the following two news stories about lawsuits that have been recently filed against law enforcement. When I see these, I think that it would probably be difficult to empanel a jury without bias or prejudice.

From The Cinninnati Enquirer,  a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a girl who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy as she was leaving a party in Boone County, Ohio. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in federal court in Covington by the girl’s parents. It names a deputy from Boone County and a Boone County sheriff as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the 19-year-old girl was leaving a field party in her car when the deputy jumped on to the hood of her car.Without warning the Deputy jumped on her hood and demanded that she stop the car. “As she was stopping the car, the Defendant Brockman fired his weapon four times through the windshield”. He killed driver Samantha Ramsey and “terrorized her three passengers”. For this lawsuit, we now know that there are at least 3 witnesses that don’t sound favorable for the Deputy.

From the Indianapolis Star, a story of a lawsuit being brought against an Indiana police officer. This Indiana resident  claims he was harassed and threatened by police officers. The lawsuit describes events that occurred in January at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Three officers have admitted to harrassing and threatening plaintiff  Timothy Vander Plaat after he texted the fiance of one of the officers and asked for her phone number. According to the lawsuit as well as information that has been received by the investigation of the officers’ internal affairs department, they wanted to send the message about what happens when you mess with an officer’s family.

The officer left the message for the plaintiff and on the recording , the officer states, “I’m going to (curse word) kill you. And it’s not going to be awesome. I mean, it’s going to be like little body parts in a fireplace kind of death”.

Yes…. probably not a good lawsuit ending for these officers.

We live in difficult days for law enforcement.

And for pic o’ day…. the line is testing this lady’s patience because it does not seem to be moving!

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The Law of Plagarism

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Early in grade school, the teacher assigns homework. At some point, you hear the word plagarize when the teacher tells you that your writing has to be your own work; or, you can recite someone else, but you had to give them credit. It’s not criminal to steal someone’s work but it can get you in real trouble ethically, which is code for failing the class.

This is a story of the Post Office and its research. Or, you might find that the Post Office was just trying to send a message. A nice message for life. You decide.

Maya Angelou was known as a poet, author and civil rights champion. After she passed away, the post office announced that it was honoring the late Angelou with a postal stamp.

Maya Angelou Stamp

After the stamp was distributed, Children’s 89-year-old author Joan Walsh Anglund told the Washington Post that the quote on the stamp was first printed in her book of poetry that was published in 1967. She said that she didn’t know about the stamp but she did praise Angelou and hopes that the stamp is successful.

Until last year, the quote on the stamp was attributed to Angelou. No one remembers whether she actualy claimed it as her own. The postal service notes correctly that the stamp does not necessarily say that the saying was attributed to her. They tell us that the saying was chosen, “to accompany her image on the stamp to reflect her passion for the written and spoken word”. The post office spokesman goes on to add that, “the sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity”.

Is this an instance of plagarism or a moment of inspiration? All I know is that I read about this story from the Associated Press!

Speaking of the press:

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More Than Employment Cheerleader

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

The announcement came though Executive Order of the Governor. Ban the Box in all state employment applications.(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

When I saw the announcement to ban the box, I had no idea what it meant. Then I learned that state employees will no longer have to indicate on their employment applications whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.

According to the Governor, the order is supposed to remove a current barrier of employment for anyone who has not applied because of a past crime. According to the Governnor’s spokesman, Virginians who have done their time and paid their price should not be excluded from state employment. It means “forgiveness and second chances”.

I assumed that this meant that it was basically an order of encouragment. “Don’t be afraid to apply”. That Human Resources would still do a criminal backround check.

Like buying a chicken rotisserie from an infomercial… but wait, there’s more. The caveat. The order states that a background check can only be conducted after a prospective employee has been determined to be qualified and is being considered for the job. Basically, getting through the door and being considered for hiring. Maybe the perverbial phone call that says, “You are now one of three still being considered”.

One legal note on state law regarding employment for the state. This does not apply to applicatons for state jobs that involve money or the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. I almost feel like inserting a punchline there.

For positions categorized as state “sensitive” such as state troopers, child care and corrections and prison officers, background checks will still be required. A waiver will have to be signed for those to be conducted.

Does this mean that child molesters are now able to work at Medical College of Virginia hospital? That computer hackers and identify thieves will be working at DMV?  According to the Governor… No. It just means that individuals convicted of a felony are not automatically disqualified from applying for state jobs.

Does this mean that private businesses will soon be subject to this change in hiring because of a state law change? Well, such companies as Walmart, Home Depot and Target have already ”removed the box”. However, I’m guessing that Virginia still does not want to upset the apple cart of being considered as friendly for business and will not take the next step to apply this to all private businesses.

This same bill had been presented in the Virginia legislature this past session. It passed the state Senate but got defeated in the House. That’s why the Governor took the step of issuing the Executive Order.  Virginia joins 14 other states who have embraced this second chance employment opportunity in “banning the box”.

One final thought. More than 650,000 are released from prison nationwide every year according to the Department of Justice.

 

And for pic o’ day, a high five for Monday!

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Mystery of the Axman of New Orleans

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

It’s still considered unsolved.  From May 1918 until October 1919, New Orleans residents lived in fear as a serial killer brutally murdered at least 8 people and may have attacked more. The victims included women and children.

In most instances, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on the residents of the home who were either killed with an axe or a straight razor.

Nothing was stolen from the homes and the only possible motive was that many of the victims were Italian descent. Reporters of the day began referring to the killer as the Axman of New Orleans.

On March 13, 1919, a typed letter that was supposedly sent to the newspaper from  the Axman was published to advise that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19. However, he advised that he would spare the occupants of any household where a jazz band was playing.

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Once the letter was published in the newspaper, people rounded up every instrument in town, parties were planned and dance halls were filled to capacity. All professional and amateur bands were hired and played jazz at parties in hundreds of households throughout the city. Sure enough, the city awoke to learn that no murders had been committed that night.

The last attack occurred in August of that year. The Axman was never caught and brought to justice. Speculation was rampant that he had something to do with jazz and that he was a respectable citizen with an alter ego like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type.

Wikipedia lists the victims and also suggests why the killings may have stopped including the fact that perhaps the husband of the last victim exacted revenge by ultimately killing the serial killer.

One of the tunes that likely was performed on that fateful jazz night was The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa) by local musician Joseph John Davilla.

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The sheet music for that song became a “best seller” and still remains on display in a New Orleans museum.

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The Axman’s letter stated that They have never caught me and they never will. His letter turned out to contain that truth.

 

 

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