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Noose in the Neighborhood

You don’t expect to come to a legal blog for some Uber humor. Right?

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And much like leaping into an Uber, let’s leap right in to our topic today. I thought I would get crazy and actually write about a case where the Virginia Supreme Court is going to rule. (Richmond.com)

The Supreme Court of Virginia is scheduled to hear arguments this week over whether a man broke the law, when he hung a black-faced dummy in his front yard. It is a question of free speech versus intimidation.

Why is this getting attention? As background, from 1877 to 1950, there were more than 4,000 lynchings of African-Americans in Southern states.  84 of those were in Virginia.

In 2015, Jack Eugene Turner was convicted of violating a state law that specifically prohibits hanging a noose to intimidate. He used a rope to hang an effigy of a black man from a tree in his front yard in 2015 in plain view of the street. A black stuffed dummy hanging from a rope! Is that free speech?

Not surprisingly, Turner is white. He was upset at his black neighbors.

On the circuit court level, Turner got six months in jail for violating the “noose statute”. He argues that his free speech rights were violated and that state law only bars displays of nooses on public land, not private property. His conviction was affirmed at the Appellate Courts. Now, his case heads to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Virginia attorneys disagree, arguing that the noose was meant to intimidate, and did instill fear in his neighbors. His attorney disagrees.

While race relations are at the forefront of nearly every news cycle, courts should not stray from following the law as it is written, albeit at times unpopular or controversial. The law in this matter is clear,” wrote Turner’s lawyer, C. Holland Perdue III.

In asking the justices to hear the case, Perdue wrote in his appellate brief, “While I agree with the court of appeals and the trial court’s rationale that hanging a noose and a ‘dummy’ is reprehensible and offensive, both have erred on the side of public opinion and not the law. Poor and distasteful speech must be protected.

He went on to write,“Private property affords the owner exclusive and absolute rights to display any symbol or symbols regardless of how reprehensible or offensive we may find them and these symbols are protected speech“.

According to the article, Christopher P. Schandevel, an assistant attorney general, wrote to the supreme court justices that, “Turner hung a black-faced dummy in a noose from a tree in his front yard to intimidate his African-American neighbors, with whom he had been feuding.

The display had its intended effect — causing Turner’s neighbors to fear that Turner might harm them or their children,” Schandevel reported. “Expressive conduct is generally protected by the First Amendment, but expressive conduct that communicates a ‘true threat’ is not. Intimidation constitutes a ‘true threat’ when it is designed to place people in fear of death or bodily harm,” he wrote.

Originally, Turner was convicted of violating the 2009 Virginia law that bars the display of a noose on a highway or other public place “in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury.” The charge is a Class 6 felony. That is the conviction that he is appealing.

The briefs set forth the arguments well. All I can say is, can you imagine coming home to a neighbor who has that hanging in his yard?

And for pic o’ day, because we are currently hiring additional lawyers and staff, this seemed topical… and it made me laugh:

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Don’t Just Pay

How often do you receive a bill, and then the vendor says, “Never mind”? Probably not very often, but it just happened to me.

By the way, is it nevermind or never mind? I googled it and nevermind is not a formal word, but grammarist predict that it will be readily used in the future. Because this paragraph was not very interesting, I know you won’t click (here) for a discussion of the two words. So… never mind.

It’s one of those paragraphs that you didn’t see coming. Kind of like:

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On to our continuing bill collection story:

I received a medical bill for 248.49. It showed no entry of payment from insurance. But the bill indicated that it had been submitted for payment to my insurance, and that was what I owed. However, it just did not make sense. How did insurance make no payment?

A call to the doctor’s billing rendered our answer. No, it had not been submitted to insurance. Just ignore that bill. Never mind!

My original first inclination was just to send payment because it said that I owed it. I am blogging on this because it served as a reminder to me, don’t just pay it just because it says so.  It seems to me that the more I question, the more things make me question.

Honestly, that call was just one of those times that just made me feel good.

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It’s just good to be awake!

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Blame Alvin the Cat

You’ve heard the old excuse  “I don’t have my homework because the dog ate it”. Well, how about the cat?

My previous blog (here) discussed a Roanoke lawyer who missed a statute of limitations over 2 dollars. Now, a  lawyer in the D.C./Virginia area has also failed to file a timely response to a summary judgment motion in Federal Court. His excuse is  part of his court filing that includes Alvin the Cat.

The ABA Journal and  Abovethelaw.com describes an attorney’s court filing on February 10, in an attempt to get a judge to excuse his failure to file a timely response and to grant him an extension to now file.

The lawyer’s initial problems started when he contracted both gout and pneumonia in January. He found himself bedridden, according to the filed pleading, with severe pain and coughing. He wisely went to the emergency room where they gave him painkillers.

Over the course of the next few days, he was taking Percodan and Percocet as well as steroid indomethacin. The lawyer describes that the medication caused him severe gastrointestinal disturbance that required perpetual hobbling to and from the restroom, generally interfering with the level of concentration need to oppose a motion for summary judgment.

Then the lawyer went on to describe a series of events that, combined with his illness, really made it impossible for him to work. This included the next section of his brief that was titled Alvin the Cat.

With his court deadline bearing down on him, his children came home from school on January 30, and became worried because no one could find their longtime house cat, Alvin. A missing cat search began throughout the house, only to end in the finding of Alvin in the closet… dead.

With all the kids tremendously upset, the lawyer promised to bury Alvin the next day. In addition, his court pleading notes that after all the emotion of the search, he was just too exhausted to work on the pleading that night.

The next day, there was a ceremony and funeral for Alvin. There was also a discussion “at the funeral” about the nature of life and death and where Alvin had gone after his death. This took a great deal of time. Unfortunately, it got worse.

As the lawyer was digging the hole to bury Alvin, his shovel hit his foot the wrong way, triggering another painful bout of gout. This was a Saturday night too filled with pain to perform legal work. Then Sunday, he apparently rested.

He was back to work on Monday; but as he read his previously prepared work on his pleadings, they did not look as good as they did while on pain killers.  

The next roadblock was the emotional issues that his roommate was going through. The lawyer again was distracted by his work because he needed to provide legal and emotional support concerning the state of the man’s failed marriage.

The attorney concluded his extension request by summarizing his plight in stating that For reasons wholly unclear, that morning he was in need of counseling concerning the state of his marriage to the point where I was concerned for his immediate well-being. I think Alvin’s funeral and ceremony with the kids triggered something. In any event, we spoke for several hours, following which plaintiff’s counsel was exhausted and his foot was on fire.  

The attorney explained to the ABA Journal that the reason that he was so explicit in his detailed explanation was that he felt that honesty was the only way to make the Court understand what had happened. He felt that his events fell outside the typical reasons of why deadlines get missed.

The Judge probably will rule against the extension. In the meantime, the least we can do is have one final thought of Alvin.

And for pic o’ day, this is one that I didn’t get posted after Christmas. But for this blog, it just seemed apropos:

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All About the Mind

This blog cites two NY Times articles on aging and how to keep the mind sharp. One is a reminder of what to do and the other is a recommendation on what not to do.

First is the positive. The first article is titled Living on Purpose. It’s an article/story that no matter your age, you have to stay active. It’s living life with a purpose that keeps us young. It also keeps us alive!

And the second highlights a concern with medication. There could be a real connection to Alzheimer’s. This article tells us that a Study Links Anxiety Drugs to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Long term use of drugs that are used for sleeplessness like Ativan, Xanax, Valium and Klonopin is causing researchers some concern. It’s worth reading.

And finally… see, I can do a short blog!

And for our pic o’ day:

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Some April 1 Stuff

     When I researched the origin of “April Fools’ Day”, I soon learned that there was just too much to learn. Every country seems to have its own version of the day and why they call it by a name that has some joke associated with it.

     In Denmark, they “celebrate”  “May-cat” day or “joking day” on May 1. In Sweden, their pranks include the ending saying that includes, “you stupid herring, I can fool you wherever I want”.  In Italy, France and Belgium, children traditionally tack paper fishes on each other’s back and then scream, “April fish!”. When I read that, I thought someone was trying to pull the mackerel over my eyes.

     So, since I’m not big on pranks, here’s something like pic o’ day. I will post two pictures and let you decide if either, or both are real… or April Fools’.

 

bacon scope                                                                  unicorn

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