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Annoying Behavior Law

In March, the Grand Rapids City Commission repealed a 38-year-old law. A law that made annoying behavior a crime that was punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

The Chicago Tribune columnist who reported on this law change, John Kass, noted that, “if there’s one thing this country needs, it’s a law against people who are annoying”.

According to their City Attorney Catherine Mish, the reason that the law was struck down was not because the sentence for annoyance seemed a bit harsh. Instead, it was because  the language of the law, “no person shall willfully annoy another person” was vague and unenforceable. I guess what might be annoying to one person… might be annoying to someone else?

DID YOU KNOW that in 1874, Bayer began marketing a cough medicine containing Diacetylmorphine…. which we now know as heroin.

Yes, another cat pic o’ day:

Hair cat

This and That From the Notebook

A Franklin, Tennessee lawyer named Drew Justice was in a word battle during a criminal trial. The prosecuting attorney filed a motion with the Judge that sought to keep defense lawyer Justice from referring to the prosecutor as “the government” during the trial. Justice filed his own motion that requested that the prosecutor only refer to him as “Captain Justice” or “Guardian of the Realm”. I think the Judge just told both of them to move on… Motions denied!

The NY Times reports that Florida Governor Rick Scott intends to appeal a recent decision of U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, who overturned a Florida law that required welfare recipients to submit to drug tests. The state had argued that there was a special need to test welfare recipients because there was a perception that the welfare population are drug users. The opposing argument in ruling against required drug testing, per the Judge’s ruling was that it “would allow the rule against warrantless, suspicionless drug testing”.

The drug testing requirement was in effect from July 1, 2011 through October 24, 2011. During that time, 4000 people were drug tested and only 108 tested positive for drug use. Some have also pointed to recent members of Congress for using drugs and driving while intoxicated. The question is then asked, “Since they are being paid by the government, shouldn’t all Congress be drug tested as well?”.

A blog note… I won’t be able to blog next week but I intend to be back the week after. I promise to be back with my pen (well, maybe it’s my typing fingers) in full research and writing mode!

DID YOU KNOW that President William H. Taft had a bathtub installed in the White House that was big enough to hold four people. He did so because he was unable to fit in the one that had already been installed. Yes… he was a big man.

And for pic o’ day and feeling good with appearance:

looking good

Secrets and No Confidence

I titled this blog “Secrets and and No Confidence” because it involves the duty that a lawyer owes to a client, even after the matter of representation has ceased. In this instance, we also see a difference with a U.S lawyer and one overseas.

Let’s go across the pond where we see how the British treat secrets. A British lawyer (Guardian) has been formally rebuked and fined for violating a secret and confidence of a client. He revealed to his best friend’s wife that the author of the Harry Potter series had written a new novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Once that news hit, the new novel’s sales began to skyrocket but it defeated the purpose of J.K. Rowling, who had hoped to show that she could successfully write without her past success propelling her. When she heard that her secret was out, she sued both the lawyer and the friend who had broadcast the news.

In the U.S. there probably would have been a greater ethical issue with this disclosure. Lawyers are not fined by the bar for an ethical violation, except to the extent of being responsible for the cost of a hearing relating to an ethical charge. I am not sure that Rowling would have much of a civil suit because it sounds as though she benefited financially by having the secret disclosed to the public. Still, how frustrating to have your lawyer let you down.

One final note, I couldn’t bring myself to write another blog on New Year resolutions. Still, wouldn’t it be a good thing just to be known to be able to keep a secret.

And for pic o’ day, it’s getting all dressed up and no where to go:


Angry Face Over Facebook

On Monday,  I went to breakfast with mom and dad to celebrate dad’s birthday. When I got back to the office, Alexandra helped me post a picture on Facebook of dad and me from his birthday breakfast. I was excited about the posting. Then, I saw the news of  someone who was not so excited about her Facebook picture being used without permission.

The NY Daily News is reporting that Chelsea Chaney has filed suit for two-million-dollars against her high school district. The lawsuit claims that a district administrator used a photo of her in a bikini, that he took off her Facebook posting.

The photo was used in a presentation at a district conference. The speaker was discussing the topic of  “once it’s there, it’s there to stay”. Chaney has filed suit with a claim that the photo was used without her permission.

The photo of Chaney was initially taken while on a family trip. Chaney was wearing a bikini and standing next to a cardboard cutout of rapper Snoop Dog. (Those in the know here tell me that he is now known as “Snoop Lion”. No word on whether he is changing his name soon to “Snoop Unicorn”?)

Chaney claims that she posted the picture only for her friends to see. Now, she has learned that hundreds of strangers have seen the picture, and she believes that the presentation has harmed her, because it has portrayed her as a “promiscuous abuser of alcohol”.

The school has apologized by letter. They indicate that the photo was randomly chosen for the event. Chaney’s attorney responded, “Their idea that putting something on Facebook gives them a license to steal it and carte blanche to do with it what they did is wrong ethically. It’s wrong morally and it’s absolutely wrong legally”.

For pic o’ day, I selected one “randomly” to show a “family” viewing Facebook together?

Facebook family

Discipline for a Phone Call

In April, Italian police arrived at the Colosseum in Rome. They had orders to remove the men dressed up as Roman soldiers, who were having their pictures taken with tourists. Italy’s culture ministry had decided that they were not going to allow these men in red skirts and helmets, with their tunics and swords;  to harass the tourists for money and cheapen the image of these historical figures by not being in full costume.

An eviction notice had been issued because none of these men had the necessary permits for their money-making activities.  As the police began to remove the costumed centurions, at least 25 of the “warriors” began to fight with the police. Soon, onlookers started to take sides. They began to chant, “Leave them alone. We are all centurions”.

I just received my Virginia Lawyers Weekly by mail. On the front page is an article titled “Lawyer disciplined for 60-second call”.

On April 15, 2010, an associate for a defense firm that was defending doctors in a birth injury case; received a phone call. On the other line was one of the plaintiffs . She blurted out details of how the lawsuit was working a hardship on her family and how she and her husband “desired to dismiss the case”.

The uncontradicted facts were that the phone call lasted about one minute. The defense lawyer told her that she could “not help her and she needed to contact her own attorney”. The defense attorney notified her co-counsel at the firm of the call. He notified the plaintiff’s attorney that the client had contacted them directly and he relayed what was said and the length of the call.

Plaintiffs attorney filed a motion to have the lawyer disqualified from defending the case. The presiding Judge denied that motion.  Then, she filed a bar complaint against the defense lawyer under the premise that the lawyer had violated rule 4.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. That rule basically says that a lawyer can have no communication with the opposing party who is represented by another lawyer.

The bar complaint made it to the disciplinary committee, which determined that the defense lawyer should receive a dismissal de minimis. That means that there was a finding of misconduct but not enough to warrant disciplinary action against the lawyer.

Despite the dismissal, the defense lawyer was not satisfied. Such a finding, even though very minor, still becomes part of her disciplinary record, So, she exercised the right to appeal to a three-judge panel. They upheld the finding the of the committee. The finding was that the defense lawyer should have just hung up immediately.

The bar had argued that “good intentions do not excuse a lawyer from a finding that she violated a Rule of Professional Conduct”.   The disciplined lawyer concluded the article with a quote to the reporter by saying that the actions she had taken were exactly what the Virginia State Bar “instructs a lawyer to do, and it underscores the absurdity of the Bar’s determination to prosecute me for how I handled a surprise, unsolicited 60-second phone call”.

Since this involves a finding of the bar, I will not add any editorial.

Of course this is completely unrelated, but do you happen to know where the expression came from “Whistling Past the graveyard“?

For pic o’, I can’t remember if I ever got around to posting this!


A Seminar at the Greenbrier!

In “Mary Poppins”, Julie Andrews sings “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”. (attached here in case you want to sing along!!!). That’s a little bit of my feelings while I’m here at the Greenbrier Resort.

This is a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course, but how can you complain when they schedule it at such a beautiful place. I won’t discuss the topics because I’m sure that you would just click away. “New Developments in the Law”  is like the medicine but it goes down well, when you look at this scenery.

Tomorrow, I will send you a technology video. (Isn’t that called a tease). It might let you in on my “learnins” here.

Here’s a picture from the Greenbrier. Do I look like I’m at a seminar? It proves that I’m here and it’s like I always heard as a kid, “How many F’s are in Present?” See, I’m already a winner. For the seminar, I guess I can’t use that slogan, “I always arrive late but I make up for it by leaving early”.


Winning But Losing Verdict

Sometimes at dinner or a reception, someone will ask me if I am working on any exciting cases. Even as I typed that last sentence, I wondered how to respond, and that’s usually what happens when I’m asked that question.

Clients’ secrets and confidences normally put some restriction on what I can say. But, the truth is, I usually am working on “some exciting cases”.  In my mind, I define that as unusual and challenging.

The restricti0n on discussion is waived a bit, if I have filed suit. It’s odd though; I never describe a jury trial case. Maybe that’s because I’m not actually working on those right then.. Plus, my mind works like an old number 9 wash tub, which makes me forget details of  past cases, after I don’t need to know them  … first you fill it up and then you empty it when done.

So, while thinking about cases, and number 9 wash tubs, I sorta traveled down memory lane and did think about some past trials. One that specifically came to mind was the one that I always describe as “the one I won but lost”.

I had been practicing law for less than a year. Have you ever heard someone say that they “need a young lawyer who is willing to fight for me but won’t cost a lot of money”. Yep, that was me. Especially the money part; because I did not have that many cases to work on. Self-employed with more emphasis on self.

So, one day, a boy that had just enlisted in the military came to see me. He told me the story about a Navy chief  that had gotten drunk and beaten him up. He wanted me to sue the chief. I know, I should have stopped there. But a consultation only, doesn’t make for a  blog story about winning and losing.

I told him that I would take the case. I don’t even know if I understood the difference between negligence and intentional tort. The easiest way to describe that is that intentional means, NO INSURANCE is paying for the damages. That chief meant to hurt that new enlistee. Oh yes, they had both been drinking at the same place too.

I filed suit for civil damages relating to assault. The chief hired an attorney and never made an offer. That was OK, because I was ready to go to trial.

We put on our case. I cross-examined  the defendant. The jury seemed to be listening attentively; Although, while the trial was going on, I did notice that my client probably weighed 80-100 lbs. more than the defendant. That detail had previously escaped me. I just kept saying to myself…. assault has nothing to do with weight. Plus, my minister used to say, “the  freedom for your fist stops where my nose begins”.

I introduced my client’s hospital bill through him and after all the testimony, the jury got the case in about 2 hours. That included picking the jury and the Judge’s instructions.

The jury was out about 40 minutes. They came back with the verdict form in their hands and the judge asked the foreman to stand and read the verdict. “We the jury, find in favor of the plaintiff”.

My heart took a bit of a jump because I knew my client had won. The foreman went on to say, ” and award damages in the amount of $1″. I think I noticed the Judge fight a smile back.

The Judge then thanked the jury for their service and excused them. I walked my client out of the courtroom and into the hallway. I tried to give him some “glass half full” by saying that at least the jury had believed him.

He thanked me for “going to the mat for him”.  At the time,  humor was not proper, but  I thought , “look, I’ll waive my 1/3 attorney fee. You can keep the whole dollar”. Taking that case to trial made me realize that I was really a “glass half fool”.

Now, pic o’ day. It might be how I looked when the jury said “one dollar”.

Rock, Paper, Scissors Order

     There are some certainties that exist in the practice of law. Those certainties include that lawyers become adversarial with each during highly contested cases; and that Judges grow impatient if they have to be the referee of those disputes.

     When I first started practicing, I remember experienced lawyers threatening to “get the judge on the phone”  if I did not agree to some question or issue during depositions. I quickly learned that mostly, that was a veiled threat because Judges don’t want to be on the phone for every little discovery issue. Plus, it is getting harder and harder to get an available Judge on the phone.    

     Most Judges require that you schedule hearings on  issues that exist, with opposing counsel. Sometimes, those hearings are more than a month away. Virginia Beach gives a little break from that. They have motion day on Fridays, with a duty Judge hearing quick motions. You file, and basically get in line.

     One Judge in Florida, got tired of all the disputes. His order to deal with all the issues is here. You can tell that he had gotten tired of the parties who were a business and an insurance company. He ordered them, to be accompanied by a paralegal of their choosing, to the Courthouse steps. There, they were ordered to resolve their issues through the use of the old game “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. I thought that was a good one!

Here’s Pic O’ Day! Quite a sign, and a dog that I think I’d remember.


Lawyer Questions

     A salesman was running late for his train. As he came running to the train platform, he saw that his train was starting to move down the track.

     With his suitcase in hand, he began to run after the train, in an attempt to jump on. Despite his effort, the train continued to move away until it was far from him.

     He slowly headed back to the station as he worked to catch his breath. One of the people sitting on a bench nearby asked him, “Did you miss your train?”. Without missing a beat, he replied, “No, I just love the chase out of the station.”

     In the practice of law, we are constantly reminded that we are to treat opposing attorneys with courtesy. It’s part of the profession of law. Sometimes though, I feel the few hairs on my head begin to bristle.  Because we are by nature, in an adversarial situation already, it usually means that trials and depositions serve as a good test of self control.

     Last week, I was in a deposition where I was put to the test. My client had recently been determined to be totally disabled by the Social Security Administration.  According to her doctor and repeatedly listed in the Social Security opinion, my client is disabled with no ability to work.

     The defense attorney asked about my client’s ability to work in different ways, “So when are you planning to go back to work?” Then, she followed up with, “Does your doctor think you can work?”

     Perhaps being disabled might not mean permanently. Still, I couldn’t tell if the attorney was unprepared or being tricky. Afterward, my client asked why she was being asked about going back to work. I felt like saying that I just felt like we were loving the chase of the train.  As you can see, sometimes it makes me feel better to vent a bit in the blog.

Now, pic o’ day. A reminder to be careful what you wish for. 


Job Listings and Resumes

     This past week, I had lunch with our law firm’s retirement account manager. He had come up to meet with any employees that wanted to discuss their current accounts.

     I met him before going to law school after answering a job listing ad. At that time, he was hiring for a chemical supply company that sold equipment to the Navy.

     Later, he told me that he had received almost 100 applicants for the position. When he saw my letter and resume, as he was throwing it out, he happened to mention to his wife that he had gotten a letter from one applicant that didn’t even know how to spell.

     I had written that I hoped that he would interview me and that this resume would only serve to “whet his appetite”. I know, pretty corny line. His wife asked how he thought it should be spelled. “Well, wet your appetite.” She said that “you’d better interview him because he’s obviously a better speller than you”. That started a life long relationship, after his wife had given me the advantage.

     At the firm, we are looking for more paralegals, assistants and even an attorney. Occasionally, we get some usual inquiries.  It reminded me of the article that listed “10 crazy things that people put on their resume”. Here they are:

     1. “The more you pay me, the harder I will work.”

     2. The applicant had been fired from multiple jobs and included each as a reference.

     3.  One job-seeker listed her dog as a reference

     4. A husband and wife applied for the same position and submitted a poem as part of “their” application.

     5. A candidate listed the following email address that included the phrase “shakinmybootie”.

     6. Throughout the entire resume, the candidate’s first name was only listed. (dispensing with formalities?)

     7. On two different resumes, the following selling points were listed: “versatile toes” and “ability to do the moonwalk”.

     8.  One applicant insisted on getting paid to come to the interview “because his time was valuable”.

     9. Candidate mentioned that he was arrested for assaulting his previous boss

     10. A job seeker asked, “Would you pass up an opportunity to hire someone like this? I think not”

     Now pic o’ day that was sent to me because football season has started


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