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Archive for General Law

Stealing Identities

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

We now regularly hear stories of hackers stealing large amounts of credit information that include social security numbers, phone numbers and credit card numbers. When it happens to stores like Target, those who have a Target credit card immediately wonder, “How will this effect me?”.

Last year, all taxpayers of South Carolina were notified that the State of South Carolina’s computers had been hacked. Information relating to those tax filings were subject to theft. South Carolina officials weren’t sure what it meant but just said to be on the lookout, and then offered a credit reporting service.

The Orlando Sentinel brings us another story relating to identify theft. This time, celebrities were targeted. A 19-year-old named Luis Flores Jr. worked at a local Florida call center. Armed with a flash drive, he gained access to credit card numbers and managed to use this information to steal money by having monies directed into an account where he had access to withdraw it.

Florida authorities claim that he tried to access the bank accounts of Bill Gates, Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher and even the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service. According to criminal records filed in Orlando Federal Court, someone called American Express claiming to be Kim Kardashian. The person gave the representative of Amex the reality star’s private information and then changed the primary Social Security number on the account to the number belonging to Flores. The mailing address was also changed to the Florida apartment address of Flores.

After that event, Flores then tried to gain access to the accounts of Tom Cruise, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama. American Express reported the suspicious activity to the Secret Service and agents began surveillance of Flores. Then, the agents learned that Flores’ mother was also involved in the fraud. They were both charged in the scheme and pled guilty in October.

These facts show that such schemes might not even be that sophisticated. It portrays a system where it is too easy to get personal information to commit fraud. It makes me feel as though there is little defense except to continually check credit accounts to see if suspicious activities are apparent or unknown credit or bank accounts have been opened.

DID YOU KNOW that John Hancock and Charles Thomson were the only people to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4. 1776. The last signature occurred almost five years after that. (Thomas McKean)

And for pic o’ day:

deer lighting

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Regulations or Business Restrictions?

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, established the Regulatory Review Task Force by Executive Order on February 12, 2013.  She did so to evaluate current regulatons that “are a burden on South Carolina businesses”.

The appointed Chairman of the task force, Mark Lutz, is vice president of a multi-media company that is based in Belmont, Massachusetts. As a former candidate for Congress, he personally lives in South Carolina.  After the first public meeting, Chairman Lutz summarized the intent of the Task Force by indicating that the task force’s biggest challenge is to figure out which regulations hurt business and which help business. (citizensforafreemarket.org)

There is a balancing act between necessary regulations, and some restrictive rules that make it virtually impossible for a new business to even enter the workplace. Regulations can protect citizens and workers or they can serve as a restraint for trade and the creation of jobs.

That is South Carolina’s current thought on regulations effecting business which leads me to the story of Samuel Plimsoll in the 1800′s. It was a time when there was no regulation on the loading of ships.

In 1867, Plimsoll was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament from Derby. As a British politician, he made it his mission to pass law dealing with the safe loading of ships. At the time, ships were often carelessly overloaded with cargo, causing the ships and crew to ultimately be lost at sea.

On it’s face, it seems sensible that there would be some law or regulation regarding the loading of a ship. It was no secret that lives were being lost. However, there were a number of Parliament members who were also ship owners. They all stood in oppositiion to any law or regulation.

In 1873, Plimsoll was successful in getting a Royal Commission appointed and in 1875, a government bill was introduced. However, Plimsoll felt as though the bill was inadequate as it did not fully address a loading limitation. On July 22, 1875, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli announced that the bill would be dropped. Plimsoll lost control and called members of Parliament “villians”. Then, he shook his fist in the face of the Speaker.

Disraeli moved to have Plimsoll reprimanded. Instead, Lord Hartington was able to get the body of Parliament to adjourn for a week to allow tempers to cool. Eventually, Plimsoll apologized. Many believed that the shipowners had successfully killed the bill despite the public feeling like something needed to be done. The following year a bill was included as an amendment in the existing Merchant Shipping Act.

Through Plimsoll’s efforts and some backdoor dealing, a limitation on loading was passed. It was a line that indicated how far cargo could be filled. It became known as the Plimsoll Line. It continues to exist as a mark on the hulls of ships today. A time when the business of shipping needed to be told how much they could load, because they could not govern themselves for safety.

DID YOU KNOW that left-handed people have been proven at being better at multi-tasking than right-handed.

And for pic o’ day, this is a version of being told that “in the old days, we had to walk up hill in the snow, to go to school”.

old pup

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Pastor’s License Plate Lawsuit

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Oklahoma Methodist Minister Keith Cressman did not want to put the standard license plate on his car that was issued by the State of Oklahoma. (Tulsa World) The plate that every Oklahoman receives pictures a Native American shooting an arrow in the sky.

Pastor Cressman objected to the plate because he said that the picture is based on a sculpture by Allan Houser.  According to the Pastor of Methodist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma, the image depicted is an Apache warrior shooting an arrow into the spirit world which is carrying a prayer for rain. So, When Cressman could not avoid using the state issued plate, he filed suit in Federal Court.

The suit claimed that Cressman’s First Amendment rights against compelled speech were being violated. Cressman sought to have the state issue a different plate to him at no charge. In response, U.S District Judge Joe Heaton dismissed the lawsuit finding no constitutional violation because “a reasonable observer would not be likely to discern a religious message from the plate.”

In the Judge’s opinion, he went on to say that “there is nothing about the image that suggests the man is praying or that the arrow he is shooting is sacred”. The Judge also added that, “there is nothing about the image that suggests he is worried about rain, or the lack thereof. There is nothing to suggest that he believes in one god or no god, or several. It simply depicts a Native American shooting a bow and arrow”.

The Judge also noted that there is already an alternative for the Pastor. For a minimal price he can purchase a vanity license plate and put anything on it that he chooses. Cressman’s lawyer said that he would appeal.

DID YOU KNOW that Tulsa, Oklahoma has a law that you may not open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer?

And for pic o’ day we head to the world of music:

Violin stick

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The Controversial Sentence

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

A Montana judge previously sparked outrage when he sentenced a former teacher to 30 days in jail for the rape of a 14-year-old girl. Now, according to NBC News, this same judge is in the news with another curious sentencing.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Pace Anthony Ferguson to a writing exercise after Ferguson physically assaulted and punched his girlfriend, causing her face to be fractured in three places. First, he sentenced Ferguson to the maximum of 6 months in jail and ordered him to pay $3800 in medical bills. No surprise.

Next he ordered him to do an exercise that was reminiscient of elementary school. He ordered him to write “Boys do not hit girls” 5000 times.

The Chief Deputy who prosecuted the case was asked what she thought of the sentencing. She replied, “We’ll continue to prosecute domestic violence cases no matter the outcome. We’ll continue to fight that fight because that’s why we’re here… for the protection of the community”.

It certainly makes you wonder about that judge and whether that represents a way of thinking in Montana.

For pic o’ day, I thought that this picture was filled with curious things. The police seem to be paying litttle attention and the horse seems uneffected. The “other horse” seems completely out of place. A pic o’ with its own imaginery story:

horsing around

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The Value of Freedom

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

We hear stories of defendant’s being found guilty and put in jail; then, years later, some evidence comes out to prove that the defendant wasn’t at the scene and everyone debates the value of being wrongfully convicted.

Well, a story from Pennsylvania’s The Patriot News once again shines a light on the value and fault of improper incarceration. A Mexican man who was jailed by mistake and held there for 129 days, has filed a lawsuit against the police and court officials of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff’s brother had borrowed the plaintiff’s car when he was pulled over by police. He gave his brother’s plaintiff’s passport and Mexican driver’s license to the officer, which led to the plaintiff being imprisoned on a bench warrant. Plus, while in jail, the plaintiff was not provided a spanish interpreter. So, he sat there unable to tell anyone his predicament. Finally, it was determined that he shouldn’t have been arrested.

Now, a lawsuit seeks “unspecified financial damages on claims of false arrest and imprisonment and unlawful search and seizure. So far, the judge has dismissed most of the listed defendants including Pennsylvania’s Attorney General under a governmental sovernign immunity defense. Only the arresting corporal remains.

In explaining her rulings, the Judge pointed to the person that she felt was really at fault. “It cannot be overlooked that the mistaken identity and subsequent arrest…was the end result of…Jose’s (brother) masquerading as (Ever) during a traffic stop”. (Judge Rambo) Guess family gatherings could be tough from now on.

DID YOU KNOW that the average life-span of a major league baseball is 5-7 pitches. We should be thankful for who we are!

And for pic o’ day, how about a good argument?

a good argument

 

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Finding an Excuse

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

When I say “a life of excuses”, does someone automatically pop into your head? Always an excuse for being late, not arriving or not bringing something, and it seems to be the same person.

Last week, I was in our South Carolina office. It is a reminder of how technology has changed. No matter where I sit, even at my kitchen table, I can look at the activities of a file and even negotiate a case. It’s why we work so hard to make sure that notes are documented. As an old lawyer used to say, If it’s not written down… it didn’t happen.

The American Bar Journal put a together a list of reasons that have been used by lawyers. There were many, but they streamlined these excuses that were used in court or related to a court filing:

• Bales of hay fell off a trailer, blocking the road.

• My dog ate my filing.

• I picked up a stray coonhound that had been “skunked.”

• I broke a bone in my hand after angrily hitting the steering wheel.

• There was an eviction notice on door of my kids’ day care.

• There was a live bat in my bathtub.

• A small plane went down at the one entrance / exit of my apartment complex.

• I was holding my cat when he got spooked and slashed my neck.

 

And, for Pic O’:

photo

 

 

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Categories : General Law, Misc., Web/Tech
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Virginia License Plates

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Is it a story about a license plate or a story about First Amendment freedoms? The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t consider it as either. To them, it is a story of reasonable regulation.

One Virginia driver decided that he should be allowed to put “ICUHAJI” on his license plate. It didn’t matter to him that some Muslim and Arab Americans consider being called “Haji” offensive. (Pilot Online) ”I see you Haji”.

Former Army Sergeant Andrew Bujino believes that he should be allowed to put that on his license plate. He is willing to fight for it, even after Chesapeake Judge John W. Brown ruled that he could not reclaim his desired personlized tags after DMV advised that the tags fit within the interpretation of “socially, racially or ethnically offensive and disparaging” and therefore not appropriate for a Virginia license plate.

Bujino doesn’t deny that  ”Haji” is a common and often derogatory term that U.S. soldiers used to describe Muslims in the Middle East. Wikipedia describes the name of “Haji” as an honorary title given to a Muslim who has successfully completed a trip to Mecca.

Bujino believes that his first amendment rights entitle him to have whatever he wants on his license plate and he and his attorney claim that they are now considering an appeal of Judge Brown’s ruling to the Virginia Court of Appeals. They are also considering a suit in Federal Court.

One person commenting on the article on Pilot Online, questioned why Bujino was putting so much effort into this. As he put it, “Don’t folks print bumper stickers anymore?” Another sensibly stated, “The state owns the tag. They can do as they wish”.

Speaking of the importance of a name, DID YOU KNOW that while sailing along the Caribbean coast of South America in 1499, Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojedo saw several Indian houses that were built on stilts over the water. The area so reminded him of Venice that he named it Little Venice. Because of the Spanish pronunciation, that is how we now have a country called Venezuela.

And for pic o’ day, here is a dog’s interpretation of a jackpot!

jackpot

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Anything but Law Scholarship

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Willie Nelson sang the famous lyrics “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don’t let em pick guitars and drive them old trucks. Make em be doctors and lawyers and such”.  A Chicago lawyer is now spreading a contrary message . (National Law Journal)

“Anything But Law School” is the scholarship program that attorney Matt Willens is offering. He has announced a $1,000 scholarship to a college graduate who goes on to graduate school… as long as the recipient avoids law school.

Willens explains that the scholarship is an attempt to raise awareness about the rough job market for law graduates, and to encourage students to pursue “less risky careers”. As he put it to the reporter, “People finish law school, they have $100,000 in debt, and there aren’t jobs out there.”

He feels like “hanging your own shingle” without experience does not constitute a job.  I say “why not?” First it might be a shingle. Pretty soon… a whole roof!

So far, he hasn’t figured out how he will select the recipient of the scholarship. He just knows who it won’t be.

In other news, Denver Broncos offensive lineman John Moffitt announced on Twitter that he is calling it a career, Here was his retirement message, ”Football was fun but my head hurts-haha kidding roger goodell. I’m on to new things, thanks to everyone along the way!!!” (not quite sure why joking about a head injury is a joke but just thinking out loud)

He decided in the middle of the season, at the end of this bye week, that he just didn’t want to play anymore. (Richmond Times-Dispatch) He claimed that he had lost his love for the game and was just tired of risking his health. He also added that possibly winning a Super Bowl just didn’t mean that much to him.

I post these two stories together because I found them to be a two-sided comparison. A job of mental and a job of physical. To be successful in the workplace, doesn’t it really take passion and a desire to do something other than just pursue employment? Isn’t that what separates success from failure?

DID YOU KNOW that the Snickers candy bar was named after a horse that the Mars family owned. (The Mars candy company is located in McLean, Virginia)

For pic o’ day, this reminded me of taking a chance in the workplace and it also made me laugh. Something about that expression:

fun

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The Foil-wrapped Hot Dog

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Injury by wiener. Not your usual reported injury. Still, as described by Sports Illustrated, this is the story of a sports injury that is headed to the Missouri Supreme Court.  The Court is deciding whether the “baseball rule” applies to injuries that are caused by a team mascot.

mascot

There is a legal doctrine called the baseball rule that protects sports teams from being sued over fan injuries that are caused by events on the field. This has never been extended to injuries that fans suffer as a result of conduct by a team mascot.

In 2009, the Kansas City Royals mascot Sluggerrr, hit a fan with a foil-wrapped hot dog when he tossed it behind his back and into the stands. John Conner did not see the hot dog and it hit him in his eye. As a result, he has had two surgeries; one to repair a detached retina and the other to remove a cataract that developed. Coomer’s vision is now permanently damaged and he has paid approximately $4800 in medical bills.

The case went to trial and the jury sided with the Royals, determining that Conner knew what was going on around him. Conner appealed and the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment for the Royals but found that a mascot’s conduct was protected, just like getting hit by a foul ball.

Now, the Missouri Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments on the appeal. This appears to be a case with few prior rulings across the country relating to whether the Royals or any sports team owes any duty to its fans.

Whatever the ruling, this case could have some impact on the future liability of teams and what is considered to be an essential part of a game. The attached article also cites other recent cases that did find some basis for liability.

One 1997 California case found that a mascot’s conduct did not extend as an esssential part of a baseball game. In that case, a minor league baseball team’s dinosaur brushed against a fan, distracting him right before a baseball hit him in the face. That fan suffered several broken bones in his face. So, from a legal viewpoint, the Court will decide the question in Missouri of how far the “baseball rule” extends to protect from liability.

DID YOU KNOW that before 1859, baseball umpires sat in padded rocking chairs behind the catcher, to call balls and strikes.

And for pic o’ day…

balloon

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A List of Trials

Monday, November 4th, 2013

     Edward W. Knappman compiled a book of 200 cases that he felt well illustrated the principles of law throughout the ages. The title of his book “Great American Trials: From Salem Witchcraft to Rodney King”, describes important trials based on several factors that included history, politics and even the literary fame of the trials.

     This book caused the American Bar Journal to survey lawyers and put a list together that they considered as the 10 most eclectic and thought-provoking trials in history. As described by the Journal; each case, in its own way, has had an impact beyond the law.

     I am listing the cases with the lawyer’s name next to it, who helped compile and describe the case. This might not be a simple Monday morning blog for reading but I think that these cases do fulfill the description of thought-provoking. Quite a look back.

List of Cases, in Chronoloical Order

1. God punishes Adam and Eve, and the Serpent – by George Anastapolo

2. Parliament puts King Charles I on trial – by Maura McGowan

3. Susan B. Anthony is convicted for casting a ballot – by Deborah Enix-Ross

4. Clarence Darrow is tried on charges of bribing jurors – by Michael E. Tigar

5. A court decides who is white under the law – by Sahar F. Aziz

6. An Allied tribunal brings Nazi leaders to account at Nuremberg – by Lori B. Andrews

7. The Supreme Court rejects the separate but equal doctrine – by Kim J. Askew

8. Adolf Eichmann is convicted for his role in the ‘Final Solution’ – by Mark S. Ellis

9. Nelson Mandela is spared from a death sentence – by Richard J. Goldstone

10. Serb leader is tried by an international tribunal – by Randy J. Aliment

DID YOU KNOW that Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee were the only brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence? Their cousin, Henry Lee, was a famous Revolutionary War commander and also the father of another who became a famous General… Robert E. Lee.

And for pic o’ day, I am posting a picture that also does a good job in describing how I felt after all the wonderful eating that I did this past weekend, at my father-in-law’s birthday celebration.

mints

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