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“House of Cards” Thought

House of Cards” is a Netflix original series that had Wall Street talking last week. Unrelated to the show, Netflix had seen a dramatic rise in its stock over the past few days. That’s because the streaming network has been gobbling up programming and beating its competition. Amazon and Apple TV are suddenly trying to catch-up.

This isn’t a blog about whether Warren Buffet would invest in Internet programming. Instead, new ground has been broken with a slick television series that was available for viewing in our homes, without a “brick and mortar” televison network being involved. Instead, to watch the show, you have to pay the monthly fee to Netflix, not to some cable or satellite company. That’s the only way that you can see Kevin Spacey play a Democratic congressman/ House Majority Whip.

Curiously, they have written the storyline to include Spacey to be a Congressman from South Carolina, whose district includes Gaffney. That’s why it’s crazy that one of the show topics includes a lawsuit over the big peach that is along the highway. That peach has its own claim to fame when you search it on the Internet.

The show does discuss the making of laws in all of its dirty back-room politics glory. No one is living a life that resembles any kind of good character. In fact, it is all unsurprisingly immoral… exactly what we expect from politics.

The reason that the show makes the blog is because of one of the programming methods that is being used. The main character (Spacey) regularly turns directly to the camera and looks to the viewer. Then, he speaks directly ” to the viewer” to give some background or “wisdom” on what is going on in the scene or in the mind of one of the other characters.

I would guess that there is some risk with this viewing method. Of course, Netflix is taking the risk that by spending on this series, more people will subscribe.

As to speaking into the camera directly, wouldn’t it impact our lives if we really believed that someone was always watching everything that we were doing. Would that effect our conduct in life? Perhaps, it would make more people accept responsibility for what they do. Maybe it would even make insurance companies act differently. Well…. maybe I am getting a little carried away on the insurance part. Still, can you believe that the Peach made it into the show?

For pic o’ day I went with a life of practical:

Screwdriver Robbery

An argument against gun control is that you should blame the person, not the gun. For the purpose of this blog, I am not going to tackle that issue. I am not going to comment on whether our founding fathers ever contemplated assault weapons in the right to bear arms. Instead, I turn our attention to a recent robbery in Gaffney, South Carolina.

The Spartanburg newspaper reports that a jeep was recently stolen at a gas station. A man approached the driver, while brandishing a screwdriver. He then stole her jeep and drove off. Police are now looking for the stolen vehicle. It is black with gold trim and has a paper license plate. Yes… a paper license plate.

I don’t want to downplay the serious nature of this crime. I’ve just never heard of a screwdriver being used in the commission of a crime.  No word on whether the National Screw Driver Association has issued a press release, reminding us that people have a right to bear screwdrivers.

For pic o’ day, here is more “behaving badly” conduct:

 

Convicted Union Clerk

When I first opened our South Carolina office, I quickly learned about South Carolina’s court appointments. At the time, lawyers were court appointed to cases in every county where they practiced.

Soon, I started getting court appointments in a multitude of courthouses. Fortunately, the Chief Justice ultimately changed the rule on court appointments there. Now, as a South Carolina lawyer, you only have to have your name placed in two counties. Then, you cannot be appointed to more than 20 cases per year, and I don’t receive that many in any calendar year.

I could spend many words on stories about being appointed to matters of unusual events. For the purposes of this blog, I will discuss Union County, because of a story that I just saw in the Spartanburg online newspaper.

First, my Union court appointments. At the time, Union was about two hours from my South Carolina office. All of a sudden, it seemed that I was constantly getting several court appointments from Union County. I called and spoke to the Court clerk, who advised that there were only 23 lawyers in Union County. Since I had chosen to place advertising in their local phone book, I was added to their roster of lawyers.

The rotation of 24 lawyers meant that I kept coming back up on the master list,  for court appointment and the clerk told me that there was nothing I could do about it. Next time I received a call to renew my yellow page advertisement… I did not renew. I called the clerk and advised that I no longer was advertising there and I had no phone in that county. I was taken off the list!

The story I have attached is about the Union court clerk. This clerk was sworn in around 2004; so it was after my slew of appointments. It’s a story about the clerk being convicted of embezzling county money and being sentenced to jail time, and ordered to pay restitution of $239,982 to the county’s child support fund.

I feel bad that this happened and I am only blogging on this because my of my past experiences there. Now, when a Union story comes across my “in box”, it reminds me of my “practice” there.  Coincidentally, several of my appointments related to juvenile and domestic matters that also sometimes included child support issues. I still don’t feel comfortable handling those matters. Let me stay right in the practice of injury law where I am comfortable!

For pic o’ day, here’s a golf game spoiled:

Jury Selection and Colds

Last week I was working in the South Carolina office. When I am home, I get up early and work out in an upstairs room at my house. I usually head to a workout room at motels, when I am on the road.

This time, I got up early and heard the patter of rain against my motel window. Somehow, I came up with the idea that it would be fun to walk in downtown Greenville, with an umbrella. Well, the temperature was perfect and I truly enjoyed my walk. When I got back to the motel lobby, I was basically dry.  Apparently, not dry enough.

When I got home, I was already fighting the early stages of a cold. I got the Cold EEZE lozenges out and thought I could battle it. At home and at work, I was basically asked if I was out of my mind for walking in the rain. My answer… “Yes, yes I was”, as I worked on my lozenges. No one had sympathy for my cold battling.

With juries in trial, sometimes that thappens in how the evidence is viewed. Psychologist call it defensive attribution bias or availability bias as two of the viewpoints. It doesn’t matter that the defendant was the cause of the crash.

A defensive attribution bias causes a juror to say, “I would have been able to avoid that car cutting in front of me” or “I would have gone to seek a second or third medical opinion, I would not be in the same position as the plaintiff”. That juror places blame on the plaintiff and forgets about the conduct of the defendant.

The availability bias also attacks the plaintiff.  Psychologists say that people are more ready to criticize  those that they are more familiar with, or if they potentially share the same life experiences as the plaintiff. Again, this is an overlap in believing that they would have acted differently. Specifically, they take the information already available to them like taking medication, going to the doctor or how they drive a car, and they put extra burdens on the plaintiff. No matter that the defendant acted inappropriately!

The Judge instructs jurors to only consider the evidence. That doesn’t mean that they have to leave their common sense outside the Courtroom, but it does mean that they are not allowed to ignore evidence, just because they think that they could have avoided the crash. Or, that they excuse the defendant because the plaintiff didn’t act the way that the juror would have acted. Again saying, “That wouldn’t have happened to me”.

Yes, I probably thought I could avoid getting a cold. I guess I did leave my common sense in the motel room.

For pic o’ day… I respect creativity:

Bad Idea in a Patrol Car

On the way home from South Carolina, we saw two speeding police cars go past us. We were creeping along the road in Charlotte. We knew that we would probably be creeping a little longer because the problem was obviously more than just morning traffic.

When the police cars raced by, someone mentioned that it sure looked odd to see them driving so close. In fact, it almost looked like one officer was chasing the other.   That leads me to what happens when a Deputy crashes his own patrol car.

KATC.com reports that a Louisiana Deputy did just that. 911 had been called to report that a police car had hit a tree.

When we start our representation of a client, we usually mail a letter under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get a copy of all the 911 calls. I wonder if the Louisiana call sounded something like, “This is Deputy Hyer. I’d like to report a single-car accident involving a drunk driver”.  (911 operator): “Deputy, would you go to the scene?” (Deputy): “I am the scene”.

According to the story, the Deputy has resigned. I guess if that tree had not jumped out in front of the Deputy, there would be no story. This story ends with its own wisdom. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink and drive in a police car. Yes, watch out for moving trees. And then there’s that.

For pic o’ day, how about some computer advice!

Governor Haley’s Endorsement or Conspiracy?

     Some have studied the Zapruder film, frame by frame, to conclude that the government is still hiding something about the Kennedy assassination. Others have concluded that there is a connection to Communism, the mob and organized crime, or even Lyndon Johnson.

     The majority now believes that there was no gunman on the grassy knoll. They accept the government’s full investigation. I suspect that others have tired of the topic and may just think that Zapruder is a new meatball sandwich at Subway. If you obsess over something, you can convince yourself into belief.

     Anyone can combine beliefs with events, and come up with their own reason for an occurrence. Soon, logic is thrown out the window and conclusions are made to fit that belief system. It’s as simple as coming to the conclusion that, since you might know that Canadians play hockey, then all Canadians are good at Hockey. Or, since you’ve seen fast marathon runners from Kenya; then everyone must be a runner from Kenya.

     Politicians know that we all believe that the United States needs more jobs. So, they take that information and apply it for a political belief system. Or, support agendas when large donors “financially suggest” their beliefs.

     If Oil companies are supporting a candidate, then we might hear that candidate say that more drilling is needed to create jobs. Have you heard this one? “We need lawsuit caps, or a removal of regulations on businesses; because those are hurting job creation”. It’s easy to say a big, hearty amen, because who doesn’t want more jobs? It’s also easy to forget the consequences of those political agendas. 

    Pharmaceutical companies are still pushing to have caps or restrictions on lawsuits brought against them. Then, politicians get up and announce that we need to curb or eliminate liability on Drug companies; or else they will not have an incentive to experiment and invent more medications to get us better. Don’t we all want to get better?

     I was reminded of this logic when I read the Sunday paper (well, Internet) from Spartanburg, South Carolina. GoUpstate.com had an article titled “Gov. Haley endorses Bright in state Senate race“.

     Governor Nikki Haley has taken the unusual step of endorsing one Republican candidate over another, for their upcoming primary; to determine the Republican candidate for that Spartanburg Senate seat. Usually, office-holders stay out of inter-party races. In fact, many Republicans employ the old adage of Ronald Reagan who always said, “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican”.

     The background to this race is that Senator Bright is the State Senator incumbent. His current opponent, John Hawkins, held the seat from 2000-2008. In 2004, Hawkins was challenged by Bright, but won the primary against him, by a mere 31 votes. In 2008, Hawkins stepped down and Bright beat the other candidate(Hawkin’s friend) by 198 votes. Good old fashioned politics.

     I’ve given you some tedious detail to get to the point of Haley’s endorsement. She says that she is endorsing Bright because “John Hawkins was an incumbent we were lucky to get rid of the first time. We don’t need any more trial lawyers who are going to feed off the system”. She said that Hawkins “feeds off the worker’s comp system” because he represents injured workers. 

     Here’s where my earlier logic discussion applies. Very few people would disagree with the concept that we have too many lawyers. Then, politicians, The Chamber of Commerce, and Big Business have done a great promotion of the message that, lawsuits and lawyers hurt job creation. They even say that lawsuits keep businesses from coming to (insert state name) where the election is occurring. 

     I’ve attached the article for full reading of  the background on this election. Those who accept Governor Haley at face-value on these statements woud not be impacted by any other reasoning. Some might say that the real reason that she endorsed Bright is because Hawkins supported her opponent in the 2010 Governor’s race. Also, Hawkins claims that Bright has held fundraisers with trial lawyers and received thousands of dollars in lawyer campaign contributions. But… those are just mere details.

          One final note, I do smile when I read Haley and Hawkins going at it. Not long ago, I was reminded that I first met Nikki Haley, when she was a receptionist/office manager for a chiropractor in South Carolina. I don’t recall her dislike for lawyers back then.

     A while back, I was informed that John Hawkins was quoted by the newspaper,  by complaining about my South Carolina advertising. He later went on to introduce legislation in an attempt to regulate lawyer advertising. Isn’t life funny!  For blog purposes, I just blog… you decide!

      I first thought about a “no advertising” sign for pic o’ day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Then, I got distracted like Clyde

 

Kinda Like Jericho

     About ten years ago, we moved our South Carolina office from the town of Easley, to downtown Greenville. Now, it literally sits next to the Greenville County Courthouse.

     Because a lot of traffic drives right by there and on to Route 395, I decided that I wanted to put a large sign right there in front yard of the office. I know, it’s hard to believe that I would want a large sign there!

Soon, I learned that we would need a permit for the sign. Downtown Greenville has gone through a very impressive facelift and everything, including signs, has to comply with a specific sign code, and be approved by City Council. So far, no surprise there.

Dennis Lanier called a sign company and met with them to discuss the designs. Then, a plan was submitted and we heard that the application was going for approval. Soon, we received a call that the sign had been denied. What to do, what to do?

We called our real estate leasing agent and met at the front of the building, and described our problem. We want a sign but can’t get it approved. He gave us another company to call. The owner of that company was married to someone on city council.

I cannot say what made the difference. BUT, the plans were submitted; the sign was approved; and we had our new shiny sign installed in a few weeks. Which brings us to that same office space today:

 

A car ran into the retaining wall right outside of the office.  That is what I look at when I am sitting in my office chair; and, it is directly acrosss the street from the Greenville County Courthouse. It has been like that since a Progressive Insured ran into the wall.

Progessive has told the landlord that they will pay to fill in the bricks. They will not replace the wall;  and, unfortunately, the bricks do not match.

It’s not my fight except that the wall is getting worse. I guess at some point, Progressive will have to do more than a few bricks because the wall will come tumbling down.

Meanwhile in the regulation department, no one has called from the Courthouse or the “government” to complain about that wall directly staring them in the face. Well, I take that back. Today, someone did call the landlord and wanted to know “what was going on?”.

The moral of the story is that advertising signs must not take away from the beauty of the city. Crumbling walls; well, perhaps they remind us of history and isn’t that what restoration is all about?

And for pic o’ day, I went with a sign in the window of a dentist… isn’t that the truth!

Lavinia Fisher’s Loophole

 

I just returned from work in Charleston, South Carolina. While there I also took one of their historical bus tours. The picture here is the old jail. Because of preservation laws, it cannot be torn down. So, it sits unoccupied except for periodic tours.

The jail comes with many stories that include the story of one former occupant, Lavinia Fisher. According to our tour guide, how she got there and her resulting death has become a merger of history and legend.

 

Lavinia Fisher and her husband owned and managed a hotel named the Six Mile Wayfarer House. It was located about six miles outside of Charleston. The Fishers were also known for making money by coming to town to sell things.

After a short time, several reports were made to the local sheriff’s office about motel guests disappearing. Of course, the Fishers simply said that the guests had left and their whereabouts were unknown to them.

One day, a John Peeples went by for a room and was told that there were no vacancies. The Fishers did offer him tea. Despite Peeples not liking tea, he did not want to offend their hospitality and accepted a cup. While Lavinia was not looking he poured it out.

While sitting with the Fishers during this time, he was quizzed about his life and work. Lavinia’s husband kept giving him odd looks during the conversation. After a period of time, Lavinia left the room and soon returned with great news; they now had a vacancy. So, Peeples was given lodging.

When he went upstairs to his room, he could not get the curious looks and conversation out of his head. So, instead of sleeping in the bed, he slept in a chair near the door. In the middle of the night, there was a large bang, as his supposed bed went crashing through the floor and out of sight. Peeples immediately leaped out the window, climbed on his horse and rode quickly to town.

The Sheriff returned to question the Fishers. He still believed that something was going on there, due to the prior disappearances. Now, he had someone claiming that  the Fishers had tried to rob him.

Through investigation, it was determined that Lavinia had been drugging or poisoning the travelers that would stay at the motel. Then, when those unsuspecting guests went to bed, if they had not died from the tea, the collapsing bed would ultimately kill them. The sheriff found several items in his preliminary search that revealed a connection to the missing travelers. Then a full search of the house found the remains of several bodies in the Fisher basement.

The Fishers were tried and convicted of highway robbery, which was a capital offense at that time. Both of the Fishers were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

At the time, a woman could not be executed if she was married. Lavinia argued that a sentence of death was against the law. So, the Judge informed her that her husband would be put to death first, so that she would not be married at the time of her hanging. When hearing that, she asked the Judge to allow her to be hanged in her wedding dress and to be able to say some final words at her hanging. Those strange requests were granted.

Sure enough, her husband was hanged the day before Lavinia. So, when she was taken before the crowd to be hanged the next day, there she stood in her wedding gown. The assigned priest was next to the gallows. Lavinia came up with a loophole for the law.

History records that she was a woman of great beauty. She stepped forward and called out to the men present and invited any man to marry her. If someone took her up on the invitation, she could not be hanged. When no one stepped forward for her hand in marriage, she angrily began screaming and pointing to the local socialites and blamed them for her conviction. Then, she shouted out, “If any of you has a message for the Devil, tell me now… for I will be seeing him in a moment”.

Then, she jumped from the gallows without waiting for the executioner. In doing so, she committed suicide. Legend says that she was kicking and screaming for over 15 minutes before the noose finally choked her to death. She was unable to convince anyone to help her take advantage of that legal loophole. Instead, she still faced the real loophole.

On February 4, 1820, Lavinia Fisher became the first woman to be hanged in the United States. Witnesses record that 27-year-old Lavinia Fisher never showed any remorse. Instead, she went to her death with a chilling sneer and wicked stare at onlookers.

For pic o’ day, I wanted to somehow mention the great Charleston hush puppies. One restaurant was even giving them out on the street. Guess that’s why there are T-shirts that say this:

Mayor: Drunk or Church?

Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce

     Sunday, a South Carolina Beach mayor was arrested on suspicion of DUI. (story) Politicians and alcohol are not really an unusual story. In fact, I thought I would find the new Walgreens in Chicago to be more “blog-worthy”. I mean, where do you see a pharmacy store that offers sushi, manicures, a barista and eyebrow-shaping. That’s real blogging right there. Until….. I saw this story.

     I’ll just recite and let you draw your own conclusions. It will be hard, though, not to be a bit sarcastic. So, here goes:

     A call was received by the local dispatch, advising that there was an SUV that kept just stopping on the roadway. When the police found the car, it was sitting still at a green light.

     The officer stated that the SUV stayed motionless and then began moving slowly. It then straddled the roadway and then stopped at the green light again.

     At that point, the officer activated his lights to make a traffic stop but the SUV did not stop. Finally, it stopped on a bridge up ahead. Yes, directly on the bridge with no where to get off the road. The officer then came up to the vehicle and moved it to a safer location.

     It was the mayor sitting in the SUV, and her eyes were reportedly glassy. She failed several sobriety tests and was arrested for DUI. Officers located three pill bottles in her purse containing Percocet, Toradol and Flexeril.

     At the Detention Center, the mayor’s blood registered a 0.00 blood/alcohol  content. She was requested to give a urine sample but refused because she wanted to keep half of it with her, according to the report. When she was told that she could not do that, she refused the sample.

    The next day, during a hearing at Municipal Court; As she was being led into the hearing, she began to holler, “I was on my way to church, and they put me in jail overnight, knowing that I don’t drink. It’s Horry County as usual, with their corruption and with their evilness, trying to do onto Retha Pierce”.

     Her hearing is currently  set for February 8. It is her second DUI arrest.

     I blog and you decide. In this instance, you will decide the “evilness” of Horry County or the believability of Retha Pierce.

     And now, pic o’ day. Above, you see the angry mug shot of Retha. Below is a dog that is showing his serious face as well.

Would it have been better to have Richard Simmons in his party dress?

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