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Archive for General Law

Early Release: Computer Confusion

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

The power of computer software… or not!

At the end of 2015, the state of Washington announced that more than 3,000 inmates in Washington state had been released too early from their prison sentences.  Since 2002, a computer software program had miscalculated good time credits, according to Governor Jay Inslee.   At a press conference, the Governor noted,  “That this problem was allowed to continue to exist for 13 years is deeply disappointing,” Inslee said. “It is totally unacceptable, and frankly it is maddening.”

The problem was discovered in 2012 after a victim’s family questioned the release date of an inmate. Finally at the end of January, the Department of Corrections announced that the computer glitch was fixed.

On average, prisoners were released 55 days too early. Many were allowed to remain out of prison on time served, based on a previous legal precedent that allows inmates released early to get sentencing credit for the time spent outside; Assuming they have had no further criminal charges.

Websites began listing the names of inmates who were released too early.  Families of victims and victims are contemplating filing suit for emotion damages relating to these early releases. The names of the criminals released too early was publicly available… apparently from a working software program!

And for pic o’ day… some more crazy news:


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The Electric Chair Option

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Some might say that this is a story that is similar to one of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes, “We made too many wrong mistakes”. I write this blog with the realization that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue… the death penalty.,  in an article titled Who Supports the Death Penalty?, tells us that the percentage of Americans in favor of the death penalty has fluctuated significantly over the years. Those in favor have ranged rom a low of 42% in 1966, to as high as  80% in 1994.

Gallup polls now indicate a range of a little over 60% of those surveyed, support the death penalty. That breaks down by party in the following way:  Eighty percent of Republicans support the death penalty, while 65% of independents and 58% of Democrats support it. So, it appears that there is still a majority that support the death penalty in certain circumstances.

That brings me to recent legislation in Virginia that has been placed on the Governor’s desk for signing into law. It is still a question whether he will sign it. It’s not whether the death penalty should exist… it’s whether method matters.

Currently Virginia carries out the death penalty through lethal injection.  The drugs for lethal injection are becoming scarce.

New legislation would bring back the electric chair. This, despite the fact that the electric chaired has been determined to be cruel and unusual punishment in two states. Georgia and Nebraska are the states, with the Georgia court criticizing the execution method for its “specter of excruciating pain and its certainty of cooked brains and blistered bodies.”

As a basis for the passage of the legislation,  Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw reasoned that when someone murders multiple people, they no longer deserve to be treated humanely.

“When you commit acts like that, you give up your right to, as far as I’m concerned, to say well I want to die humanely,” Saslaw said.

In 2014, Tennessee passed a similar law to this Virginia legislation. Oklahoma became the first state last year to approve nitrogen gas for executions if the lethal injection drugs are not available. Last year, Utah approved firing squads for executions if the drugs aren’t available.

It is a serious subject. No fiction, all reality! It reminds me of another Yogi Berra saying “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”.

A lot at stake for the Governor’s signature.

I usually close the blog with  pic o’ day. Fortunately, it is not a serious category. After that blog… I needed something that made me smile.  Credit goes to Amy M, who sent it:


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Munchkin Evidence

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Is it forensic evidence… not so much! It’s how the internet can get a story started and then somehow it becomes real.

Here’s what the internet started as a story about the Wizard of Oz.  ”In the original Wizard of Oz, during the scene in the forest, you can see a body hanging from a tree in the background. This is real. He was an actor that hung himself after he didn’t get the part of the Tinman. They cut it out of the later versions, but if you have a movie from before the golden age of film editing, you’ll see him.”

So, here’s the copy of the movie that shows the forlorn Munchkin that hung himself:



As you watch it, especially when it plays in slow motion, it makes for an amazing story. A hanging Munchkin?

No… it’s all a hoax!  Once people started to really watch the clip of The Wizard of Oz on video, they noticed that in the background of that scene, you can see something moving. Something crazy there!

Unfortunately, the resolution of the clip is not very good to make out exactly what is going on there. But it does look as if it could conceivably be a munchkin, suspended from a branch and slowly turning as though he had hung himself.

The rumor gained momentum, that a munchkin had been driven to suicide by his misery of either not getting a key part in the movie, or his misplaced passion for another munchkin.  Judy Garland  (Dorothy) might have fueled the notion of the heartbroken munchkin by telling stories on talk shows of the conduct of the munchkins on the set.

To this day, people still claim that there was a suicide on the set, and that it was covered up by Hollywood. Just google it, and you will see the argument for it, despite the craziness of the actors dancing toward a supposed hanging body on the set.

The reality is that it is nonsense. It’s probably something related to a bird’s wing, and then someone just decided to “doctor” the movie a bit.

It’s somewhat like crazy forensic evidence without proper support. The story doesn’t make sense, but I guess we see what we want to believe.

I have been watching the TV show The People v. O.J. Simpson on FX Network. In it, the defense lawyers are trying to figure out a way to explain the evidence away. Finally, Johnnie Cochrane blurts out that it doesn’t matter what the evidence is, if you can get people to believe the trial story. That was Hollywood’s quote, but he was basically saying that once people make up their minds, the rest is ignored.

The Munchkin suicide story is all over the internet and people defend it. In reality, it really is a crazy story… but it’s Hollywood!

And for pic o’ day, I thought I would include something that Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy, in one of his love letters. There’s something truly touching about such emotion, as we say goodbye to Nancy Reagan.



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The 911 Call

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

This is a quick story about one of our cases… and not taking no as no!

Our client said that he was driving down the road and got rear-ended by another driver who was not paying attention. Our client pulled off the road as close as possible to the side, to properly get his wrecked car off the roadway.  The other driver slowed down, and then just gunned it and raced away from the scene. It was a hit and run crash.

Now to make matters worse,  Our client went on to say that within a minute or so, a truck driver came down the road and swerved and clipped the back of our client’s car, causing it to spin around…and more injury to our client   Not good!

We initially filed a claim for both crashes. The first against the driver who left the scene. That claim was filed under our car’s uninsured motorist for the car that took off. That is known as a John Doe claim because that driver is unknown.

The second claim was against the truck driver. Soon, we learned that the insurance company for the truck driver was claiming a different story. The insurance adjuster said that their truck driver/insured said that we (our client) had swerved into the trucker’s lane. He couldn’t help but hit us.

It was our client’s word against the truck driver. As the insurance adjuster put it in denying the claim against the truck driver, “we have to believe our insured”.

Meanwhile, the John Doe claim only has $25,000 minimum limits, and that company offers its limits because of the significance of the injuries. The crash with the truck had caused significant medical bills unrelated to the John Doe claim… but we were at a standstill. What to do? What to do?

We did a Freedom of Information Request for the emergency dispatch records. Jackpot! Another driver coming up the road had saw the truck hit our car on the side of the road. That person called… and it was recorded. That unknown caller simply told the 911 dispatch operator that “a truck just hit a car on the side of the road” and went on to describe the car and truck.

Later… the truck driver’s insurance company just said, “Our insured lied to us”. They paid on the claim. Without that 911 call, it would have been uphill sledding! Our client had been hit by two different drivers without the character to accept responsibility.

And for pic o’ day that was just sent to me, no matter where you fall politically, this still is funny!


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Self Analysis

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and the father of Psychoanalysis. So I start with him because this blog might seem to be a bit “psychological. I might be able to explain the blog. I cannot explain why Freud would have such an angry face… and want the sculptor to forever catch that angry face!


Of course, you don’t have to take a family photo for the eternal posting on Facebook to prove that you are happy either!


But there are some clients who tell me that they “want their day in court” while others nudge me toward settlement because “they want to put it behind them”. On occasion, I suspect that they really don’t want to go to court. Could it be a bit of introvert/extrovert considerations? Maybe sometimes?

That’s why it caught my attention when I saw this article from that asks the question, “Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”.

For the blog today, I thought I would paste this 10 question test (RIGHT HERE) in case you like these kinds of tests. The very first question is “Do you feel drained when in a large crowd of people?”. I’m glad it doesn’t ask, “Do you feel drained by long blogs?”.

I know I have already posted 2 pics today… but pic o’ day is my favorite part of the blog. This is one that reminds me of either church or my law school classes. Who likes up front?


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The Love of Lawsuits

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

When two words are combined to form a single word, the new word is called a portmanteau. For example:  motor + hotel = motel, breakfast + lunch = brunch.

When you just read that sentence, did you ask ”Why?”. Maybe you wondered whether this warrants a mention in a legal blog. Of course, I have been known to wander a bit!

I wrote it because it came to mind as I watched an old episode of Shark Tank the other night. For brevity, I won’t discuss the show except that start-up businesses are pitching their idea to get a “shark” to invest.

One man presented an idea about providing water to plants and trees with a conservation hood over each. By description, it saved hundreds of gallons of water and also better watered the plants and trees.

The “Shark” who calls himself Mr. Wonderful, was clearly bored with the initial idea until he learned that this start-up might be in litigation with someone infringing on their patent. He admitted that he got excited because he likes to sue people.  His possible reason for an investment.

I watched that and just asked myself “Why?”. How can that be a business investment motivation?  But, there are people who love the conflict and not the resolution.

Lawsuits can be a necessary evil to hold someone accountable.  But an investment reason?

For pic o’ day… I think this was something like my expression as I watched the episode:



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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 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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