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Archive for The Human Spirit

Authority is the Authority

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

You know the old saying that everyone has a boss… even when they are the boss. I have had a judge tell me that a trial was going to be scheduled during my vacation, and that his courtroom was not dictated by my schedule. Sure enough… he was not controlled by my schedule.

This week, the National Basketball Association kicked off its season. They have 3 referees at the game calling fouls and enforcing the rules. The refs are paid significantly less than the players but they are still the authority.

The rules of evidence, just like rules in a sports contest, are ultimately the rules that govern the play. There is always authority and consequences for not obeying authority, just as there are prison inmates who would ruefully tell us that they broke the rules.

I started the blog with all of that to lead to this video below. I know that you might have a device that will make it difficult to click and watch. In brief description, it shows a boxer who was not happy with a referee counting him out and stopping the fight. Then, he punched “the authority”. I am sure there will be consequences to pay!

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The Cause and Effects

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

 “Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone; But there’s half-a-hundred ripples Circling on and on and on, Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea. And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.” (James W. Foley)

Part of my job as a lawyer is to establish all the injury and damages from a crash. A while back I met with a doctor regarding his care for one of my clients. In the meeting, he told me that he did not like to tell his patients that they had a permanent injury. He felt that it would become self-limiting if they thought that they would never get better.

Sometimes in a jury trial, I will tell the jury about the injuries and medical bills in the case. Then I proceed to the elements of damage of my client that include pain and suffering and mental anguish. Sometimes that would make the jury roll their eyes just to hear the words pain and suffering. I think that they rolled their eyes because I didn’t do a very good job in conveying all that my client had suffered.

In one seminar that I attended, I heard a lawyer quantify pain and suffering. He reminded me that we gladly pay between $25-$75 for a shot of novacaine at the dentist’s office, just to be without pain for an hour. So, how much was pain and suffering worth for someone that was going to have it for the rest of their life.

Now, let me switch lanes here to discuss what would happen, if we could change our mental anguish. More specifically, studies have been done to reverse aging effects, just by changing environment, thinking and mindset. It kind of reminded me of that doctor who did not want his patients to think about their chronic pain and permanent injury.

The New York Times had a story in its Health section titled “What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?   I won’t be able to do justice to the study with a blog summary. Basically, it discusses the studies of a psychologist named Ellen Langer who believes that she has proven that we are what we think we are. She applied it to age.


Basically, she proved that we are as old as we think we are. In one study, she demonstrated in a study involving elderly at a nursing home, that memory can improve when incentives are given to remember. In another study, she brought 8 men in a controlled area and saw effects of the study that reversed the aging.

It’s admittedly a long article. For that reason, on a Monday you might not have time to read it. However, just as the effects of mental anguish may be overlooked; so may the effects of positive reinforcement. We are who we think we are!


And for pic o’ day…



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Pure Determination

Monday, October 6th, 2014

On November 8, 1970, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal as time expired, to give the New Orleans Saints a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions. Just the act of kicking a winning field goal would not be very news-grabbing today, except for the dogged determination that Tom Dempsey represented.

Tom Dempsey was born without fingers on his right hand, and without toes on his right foot. Despite his anatomy, he was determined to play football and become a place kicker. Tom D

With long hours of practice, he played in college and was good enough to be signed by the New Orleans Saints. On that fateful day in November, the Saints sent Dempsey in to kick from the forty five yard line. When the kicked ball sailed through the uprights, it set an NFL field goal record.

His record setting kick, which incidentally stood for 43 years, generated a great deal of controversy because many thought that his foot and modified shoe actually gave him an improper kicking advantage. So much so that the NFL adopted a rule informally called the Tom Dempsey Rule which required that any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.   

Dempsey’s refusal to give up ultimately led him to be inducted into the American Football Association’s Semi Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his record-setting kick, he broke the previous kicking record by 7 yards.

DID YOU KNOW that the opposing kicker for the Detroit Lions had just given them the lead by kicking an 18 yard field goal with 11 seconds to go in the game, just prior to Dempsey kicking his game winner. At the time, his coach called on Dempsey to kick the field goal, by calling him by his nickname… Stumpy. I’m not sure that anyone would want to be called Fatty, Tubby or Stumpy!


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The Beetle Monument

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Yesterday’s stock market was almost like a Grisham fiction novel. The night before, there had been a reported ebola virus diagnosis in the United States, with the possibility of another. All of sudden this virus wasn’t in another country; It was here.

Tekmira Pharmaceutical Company is the leading manufacturer of medication for the ebola virus. It immediately gained 6 dollars a share for its stock price. Can you see why I say that it sounded like a fiction novel? One reported case… a 21 dollar stock moves to 27 dollars. Some shareholders reaped huge profits.

Wednesday’s stock market was down across the board. For some, panic set in. For others, it was a buying opportunity. The “Haves” and the “Have-nots” on opposite sides. An opportunity for some to turn a negative into a positive, if you believe that the market will rebound.

That reminded me of the beetle monument in Enterprise, Alabama. They call it something more formal: The Boll Weevil Monument.monument

It’s a tribute to the beetle that was erected by the town’s citizens, in 1919. It stands as the only monument that was built to honor an agricultural pest.

The story behind it is what happens when a negative becomes a positive. In 1915, beetles appeared from Mexico into the fields of Alabama and began destroying the cotton crops. By 1918, farmers were losing entire crops. They were in financial ruin.

One farmer saw it as an opportunity to switch to peanut farming and convinced other farmers to do the same. It was a switch to success. Soon, the catalyst for change was recognized and honored as reflected in the statute inscription which states,  “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity…”.

In my law practice, I have seen this same catalyst occur. Some clients have taken their settlement proceeds to effectuate change or bring attention to some product defect. Others have told me that after fighting through their hardship to get better, it made them truly appreciate good health. As Albert Einstein put it, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.

DID YOU KNOW that one out of every four “animals” on earth is a beetle?

And from our pic o’ day comes wisdom… or something like that:

on the computer

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Asked and Answered

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

As a young lawyer, I would get very frustrated when a witness would not answer the question. It was not unusual for me to continue to ask the question until the opposing lawyer would stand with the objection, “asked and answered”.

(Warning: you are going to think that I am getting paid by the word. I just really enjoy this topic! Feel free to wander)

That’s usually where I would make another rookie mistake. I would look to the judge for help in making the witness fully answer the question the way I wanted it answered. I can still hear the judge’s response, “Move on Mr. Bieber”.

Since those days, I have been taught a lot about juries as well as voters because  asking and answering plays a big role in law and politics. This even goes back to my days of being involved while working in the middle of political campaigns. So, what do I think that I have learned? Well besides “not enough”… here’s my 2 cents worth.

As to juries, I have learned that they get it. For those who attack the jury system and want to go to a more controlled environment of forced arbitrations… they don’t give enough credit to those sitting on a jury.

I now believe that juries get it when a witness constantly dodges an answer. I’ve also seen them greatly discount defense experts who are professional witnesses for the defense versus the testimony of treating doctors. Plus, it’s better for me to let the jury be bothered or angry at a witness, rather than me trying to beat up on that witness. Since the jury has the ultimate final say in the case… they will take care of it.snack

(Just to break my rambling up, I thought I’d better throw in a random pic o’)

I’ve also learned that people don’t necessarily answer what they truly believe. When a waiter walks up and ask, How is everything?”, many people say it was fine. Never mind the fact that they were just complaining about the taste of the food or the terrible service. We just don’t want to get into it.

When a prospective juror is point blank asked, “Can you be fair in this case?”, rarely will a person answer that they cannot be fair.  In fact, we really have a hard time admitting that we can’t be fair. Instead, the juror might answer that this might not be the case for them because of some reason. Or, they might admit that something is going on in their lives that makes it difficult to fully sit through the case and be attentive.  That might come out with some kind of response to someone being sued or whether there are too many lawsuits.

We all carry some form of bias or prejudice. Just sometimes, it’s hard to admit it.

That brings me to the political process and voting. When Eric Cantor was running for his re-election  nomination against a same-party opponent, his pollsters advised that he was leading by approximately 34 point (National Journal), leading up to election day. Then, he was crushed for the nomination, by 10 points.

Now why were the polling numbers so wrong? Well, the article does give some possible explanations. I think that people are tired of pollsters. Plus, they might just give a wrong answer… just because.

That leads me to the final poll thought. Jim Gaines (Reuters) has discussed in this attachment, a recent poll that shows that one in four Americans wants their state to secede from the U.S. That’s what people truly said. That they want their state to be independent and leave the U.S. Do you believe that they really mean it? Once again, I think that they are answering in the affirmative… just because. Asking might bring an answer; just not the real answer.

And for our pic o’ day, here’s a cow asking:

cow asking

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Friday And Then Some

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

For our week-ending blog, I have put together a a collage from the collection of possible pic o’s that have been sent to me.

First, is a jury applying the double negative grammar standard.

Double Negative

Next is a bit of Friday.



And some more Friday:


      Have a great weekend!!

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Making Choices

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I still can’t decide whether I want the new iPhone. One of our lawyers handed her new phone to me and it just confused me more. Maybe if I understood the features, it would entice me to choose to upgrade.


See, I think the features even confuse me more! Plus, it seems too big and now I’m told that people are having trouble with the phone bending. Which brings me to the blog topic of choices.

Sometimes we call it, “If only I had (insert choice)”. That thought takes me back to one of my law school choices.

I was becoming acutely aware that I was losing hair. I even started the “mirror thing” by constantly checking with a hand-held mirror, to see if I had lost more hair. That’s when my haircutter suggested that I lighten my hair. Supposedly that would make my hair look less fine, which was code for balding. That, and people start making jokes about your hair like, “I guess you have summer hair… Some are here and some are gone”. Now, the Internet is the new joke place, right?

Internet crying

Anyway, that was my motivation for my color choice. So I gave the “go-ahead” for the lightening of the hair. Soon the hair dyeing commenced. When it was done, my hair color had moved from my brown God-given to  some kind of unidentified, never before seen red. The lady said not to worry; that the red would wash out and it would turn more to blond.

Six weeks later… they were still calling me “Orange head”. It had lightened to an out of this world color. My bad choice.

Looking back, I still shake my head at the memory. As you read this, do you blame me or the hair person? You’ll notice that this story is told from my point of view.

In auto accident cases, psychologists say that you should always tell the story from the point of view of the person at fault. Jurors more easily place blame on that person. That means that if you tell the story of the case from your client’s perspective of getting hit, jurors may put blame on your client. They should have been more careful; or gotten out of the way; or not travelled down that road that day. Blame falls on their choices rather than the person who caused the crash.

So as I sit here typing today, perhaps I should have told my hair story a little differently.

So the hairdresser said, “you really should change your hair color”. I started to shake my head no…

And for our pic o’ day, some perspective:


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A Working Blog

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

I felt like I spent all weekend downloading the new Apple update. Every device would remind me that I had downloaded on another device. The update took so long to download that I felt like answering each device with… no kidding. Yes… I know that the iCloud is on the other device. Just my quick Apple rant!

I titled this  A Working Blog because it includes  “work stuff” variety. Here are two pictures from our TV production last week. First is from the spot that we shot for a UNOS TV spot. It has Lisa Shaffner, public relations director for UNOS, and me. We are doing a commercial to advertise the upcoming UNOS event supporting Donation and Transplantation. As soon as the spot is ready, it will be on the website.


And then a shot while I was filming one of our 15 second Joel Bieber Firm TV spots. I am always fascinated with the green screen and how barren that a TV production studio feels and looks. After the magic of production, they can put any background in there they want, and it makes it look like I am standing in front of a bunch of books or an office overlooking some grand window. The finished product always makes me smile. Maybe someday they will even make it look like I have hair!!!!!


And since we have been hiring additional paralegals, assistants and lawyers, I thought this was firm timely. Here is a funny interpretation of the interview process:

Job interview

I hope it’s a great Monday! As I say at the conclusion of each of our attorney meetings… Carpe Diem!

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Just No-Names

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Famous Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry was asked about getting ready to play the Miami Dolphins. At the time, the Dolphins were known as a high-flying offensive team. Landry said that he wasn’t afraid of the offense, it was the defense that concerned him. He admitted that he didn’t even know any of the players’ names on the defense. As a result, he is credited with coining the phrase the No-Name  Defense.

It was this same 1972 NFL Miami Dolphins that is remembered as the only team to win the Super Bowl after going undefeated in the regular season. In fact, they used Landry’s quote as “billboard material” to fire them up. Of course, after that season, everyone knew their names.

During every football season, those remaining Miami Dolphins get together to celebrate when the last undefeated team gets beaten during the season. They are then able to continue to celebrate their accomplishment of being the only undefeated champion. That year including all regular season, playoff, and their Super Bowl victories; they finished a perfect 17-0.

I was somewhat reminded of the No-Name Defense, as we resolved a significant case last week. I counted 7 lawyers and at least 4 paralegals who had worked on the case. In this instance, the case settled for a confidential amount. It was a confidential settlement because of factors involved in the injuries as well as some remaining defendants. So, there will be no outside recognition for anyone; Despite the amount of work that they put in on the case.

I guess that truly defines personal satisfaction. A satisfaction of a job well-done that does not require the recognition from others. They all deserved the recognition. However, they truly received their satisfaction by knowing that a wrongdoer had to pay for their responsible conduct; and a family will be positively impacted by the acceptance of that responsibility. That is a job well done!

DID YOU KNOW that hippophobia is the fear of horses? I wonder what the fear of clowns riding horses is called?

And for pic o’ day…

foreign exchange


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The Neighborhood

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

      I am at the Virginia Beach office today. That partially explains this shorty blog.

      I also admit that this is a backwards blog. I posted the pic o’ day and then the thought came to me. We have several claims involving neighbors. Usually, that involves a dog bite or some kind of dangerous condition that was created. All said, none of them are funny… except this one!


neighbor cat


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