Quote of the Day - Alimony is a system by which, when two people make a mistake, one of them keeps paying for it.
Spousal Support Doesn't Have To Last Forever
OK, fine. Comments are open. If you favor indefinite spousal support, then get your computer keyboard ready. Otherwise, just hold on for the ride.
Back in 1979 when real rock-and-roll ended, Greg and Michelle were married. They spilt up in 1995 and ultimately divorced in2000. Michelle was a self-employed florist earning about $650 a month. Starting in 1995, Greg paid $2,000 a month in spousal support, and continued to pay unabated for the next ten years, until he went in and sought a modification.
He wanted to pay less because Michelle was doing nothing to become "gainfully employed" (the court's words, not mine).
The court agreed, and ordered that unless Michelle sought retraining (I could think of another phrase, but you get the idea), her spousal support would terminate. Michelle did nothing to increase her job skills. Apparently, Michelle remained employed in the floral business, and the judge was not happy about that when Greg came asking to stop paying, and granted Greg's request.
Michelle appealed the decision, but acting as his own lawyer, Greg won. He doesn't have to pay spousal support (there were no children).
Now before you scroll down to the comment section, there's one more thing. Despite her relatively low earnings, Michelle somehow was able to squeeze out $500,000 in separate property investments.
Now go ahead and comment.
Hurricane Insurance Depends On Your Coverage And Carrier
Read Before It Hits
Some Mississippians are happy, State Farm is not. Senior Judge L.T. Senter ruled that the flood exclusions in State Farm policies provide no basis for State Farm to deny claims. In other words, State Farm policies cover Hurricane Katrina damage. Judge said, "Of course, I cannot know at this juncture what the evidence will be. But it is my opinion, upon a thorough review of the terms of the State Farm policy, that the damage attributable to wind and rain will be covered, regardless of whether an inflow of water caused additional damage that would be excluded from coverage."
That's not the case with Allstate policies, however. Earlier, the same judge ruled that Allstate's exclusions were "drawn quite broadly, and they have the clear purpose of excluding damage caused by inundation from coverage," as quoted in the FindLaw article linked above.
Would You Hire This Law School Graduate To Be Your Lawyer?
As a law student, I had plenty of opportunities to watch and listen to other law students interact with the professor, perform in moot court and other extracurricular activities during the course of law school. As went through law school, I can remember thinking to myself, "Would I hire this student to be my lawyer?" Of course it was an academic exercise for the most part because none of us at the time had the full gambit of legal training, had not yet passed the bar or been admitted to practice.
But it was a diversion to think about it anyway. I have to admit that there were one or two that I would not have hired, even if otherwise fully qualified. I presume other professions go through the same exercise, as well, such as medical students. It leaves me wondering which doctors the other doctors wouldn't hire. You've probably thought the same about others in your chosen profession.
Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court got to consider that very question for real.
Let's discuss some of the facts first, and in particular, the qualifications of a recent law school graduate. He graduated summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University. He wrote grant proposals for libraries, handicapped individuals and even volunteered time to assist prison inmates to learn to read and write, and founded a family advocacy organization. He's written various position papers, appeared on radio programs, testified in legislative hearings, and spoke at churches, schools, and civic organizations. He has appeared in a public service video encouraging children not to do drugs or join gangs. He also graduated from Arizona State University College of Law and passed the bar.
Would you hire this graduate to be your lawyer? While you might consider it given these laudatory qualifications, in the famous words of Paul Harvey, you first need to know the rest of the story.
He obtained his undergraduate degree and some of his other qualifications while he served a thirty year sentence, which was commuted to seventeen years. He graduated from law school and passed the bar while on parole. He served his time in state prison, having admitted to murdering two individuals. According to the Arizona Supreme Court's review of the facts, he shot one in the back of the head and the other while trying to escape, and then again shot the first victim to ensure he was dead.
The Court denied his application to be admitted to the bar. In addition to the Court's concerns about this violent criminal behavior, the Court also denied the application based in part on omissions on his application for admission and his failure to pay his long overdue child support of a child abandoned when he was much younger.
In Some Cases, Government Is By The People And For The People. In Other Cases, Maybe Not.
What happens when you mix Californians' love for self-governance through adopting ordinances and propositions with home rule? Apart from confusion, you may get two different answers, depending on where you live.
Local governments in California enjoy the ability to regulate themselves or allow the legislature to regulate them. The former are known as "charter" rule and the latter as "general" rule. If a county or city elects charter rule, that county or city drafts up its own set of ordinances that determines how it will govern itself. Most big cities and big counties in California have adopted charters. But some haven't, and for those local governments, they're bound to the laws for local governments as set out in California's Government Code, which was drafted by the legislature up in Sacramento.
The rub comes when locals in a general rule jurisdiction adopt an ordinance or proposition to let the county board of supervisors or a city council know how the electorate wants things done. In a charter rule local government, an ordinance or proposition is just fine. In a general rule local government, self-governance by adopting ordinances or propositions run into trouble.
So much trouble, in fact, that ordinances and propositions in a general rule jurisdiction can be irrelevant. They likely have no legally binding effect, as the County of Ventura just proved. There, the voters back in 1994 got an initiative on the ballot that the Board of Supervisors unilaterally adopted before it could get voted on, as they are allowed to do. The ordinance allocated monies received from Proposition 172 (the one-half cent sales tax) to various public safety agencies, such as the sheriff, the fire department and the like.
The purpose of the Proposition was to fund public safety agencies. The County of Ventura ordinance included one additional requirement not in Prop 172: increases in the 1994 base budgets to include inflation. The ordinance also required the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to increase public safety budgets by an amount taking inflation into account.
The County Board didn't like that restriction, and challenged it. The public safety agencies, on the other hand, fought to preserve the annual inflationary increase. The Board argued that the ordinance took away its legislative power, and the public safety agencies argued that inflationary increases was a mandate from the people.
The Court sided with the Board, holding that because Ventura had chosen general law rule, it was bound by the State Legislature's laws, which vests decisional authority in the hands of the Board, not the people. The Court thought that the addition of the clause in the ordinance requiring annual increases in the public safety agencies budgets to account for inflation intruded too much on the Board of Supervisors' legislative authority. In other words, the Board spoke for the people. Or did it?
Is government by the people and for the people?
Defective Design And Improper Warnings May Bypass Assumption Of The Risk Defenses
Sports injuries are usually barred by the doctrine of assumption of the risk. In other words, if you elect to play, you have to expect to get hurt. There are a number of exceptions to that rule, and one encountered most frequently in skiing accidents is "increasing the risk," which applies if the risk of the sport is increased by someone else's action. Typically, in a skiing accident, it could be something like mis-labeling a ski run as a beginner run, when in fact it's a double-or triple-black diamond run (scroll down to the circle photo), for example.
California courts have now identified another type of end-run around the assumption of the risk doctrine: defective design and improper warnings in strict liability actions. The case of the day involves a personal watercraft, more commonly known as a jet ski.
Unfortunately, Susan Ford got on one as a passenger for the first time and suffered severe injuries when she fell off; the court delicately describes her injuries as "severe orifice injuries." As she fell off the back of the jet ski, the water jet propeller pushed water into her, and she was found floating in a pool of blood. She now claims that the manufacturer of the jet ski improperly designed the watercraft. She argued that if it had provided a seatback, strap or grips to hold onto, then she would likely not have been thrown off the back and hurt. Her suit also claims that the manufacturer also did not provide appropriate warnings. The manufacturer did advise riders to wear a wetsuit to avoid such injuries, both in the manual (which as a guest, Susan didn't see) and on the jet ski itself, which Susan apparently didn't read.
The court appears to be most troubled by the manufacturer's (Polaris) failure to provide alternatives to hold on. One telling point in the court's opinion was that the nature of jet skiing is to hold on, and presumably, therefore, by adding additional holds to grip, the manufacturer was acting consistent with the sport. It likely didn't help that one of the Polaris employees testified that the engineering department "got too busy" to design such grips.
Susan's rare accident was unfortunate, but who do you think should bear the risk? Susan, the manufacturer, the driver of the jet ski or the owner of the jet ski?
Crime-buster Bratton Blogs The LAPD From La-La Land
Even though I live behind the Orange Curtain, I travel up to LA for court and occasional weekend entertainment. Now, however, thanks to Chief Bratton, I can enjoy LA from my chair in the blogosphere. That's right, the LAPD has a week-old blog, which sports a really creative name: "The Official Blog of the Los Angeles Police Department," especially when you compare it to the name of the LAPD's website: "The Official Website of the Los Angeles Police Department."
Beyond lightening up a bit on the name, the blog has this ring of reality blogging - part press release, part cheerleader, part crimesolver and part informational. Chief Bratton (I wonder if he really writes it or whether it's the product of the LAPD's press department) is not too bad of a writer. The post in the last link has drawn 72 comments at the time of this post, but the blog itself needs some technical help. Permalinks and a few other tidbits aren't quite operating properly, and hyperlinks are about as scarce as a policeman during an internal affairs investigation or a doughnut break.
All of that aside, it's good to see the LAPD enter the fray of blogging. I'm not sure they're ready for it yet (the comments are moderated), but it's a fresh start for a notoriously tight-lipped bureaucratic agency. The verdict is still out, however. Chief Bratton's first attempts at blogging are a long way from the appeal of Lee Iaccoca.
Underground Viewing Chamber Leaks Lead To Large Verdict Against Insurance Company
It took the court 67 pages to get to it, but it held Century Surety Company liable for bad faith for failure to defend and indemnify its insureds against a claim from a defective glass installation for an underground viewing chamber. Just over $2.5 million for a $56,000 installation of glass panels in an underground stream viewing chamber. How did it get so out of hand?
You'd have to ask the insurance company. It issued an insurance policy naming the spouse of the insured, but when she got sued over the defective installation, the insurance company balked. It also balked when the insured submitted the claim against the glass installer, but ultimately stepped in. Sort of.
Sure, the beginning of the case reads like a Three Stooges episode: everything that could go wrong for the subcontractor did go wrong. He didn't install a sealant between the window and the frame, and got into a dispute whether the contract required it. Then it rained, flooding the underground chamber and causing solvents to come into contact with the glass, ruining the glass, which was then rejected by the customer building the underground viewing chamber, the US Forest Service.
Then the insurance company got involved, and it went downhill, so to speak, from there. Fiasco after fiasco led to the subcontractor's downfall, each time exacerbated by inaction or wrong action on the insurance company's part. The saddest part of this whole situation is that the claim started in 1997, and it was resolved nine years and $2.5 million later.
This case should become required reading for insurance company adjusters and coverage counsel. They really wouldn't have to read past the first eighteen pages to get the picture.
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Tackles Immigration
Sweeping proposals to change Immigration Laws have been met with strong emotions from Americans everywhere. In this edition of Coast to Coast, we turn to the experts to identify the problems and dissect the proposals for change. Join me and my co-host Robert Ambrogi along with our special guests, Gregory Siskind, founding partner and immigration lawyer from Siskind Susser in Memphis, Tennessee, and Monica Guizar, an Employment Policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. We explore one of the hottest issues of the day.