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Quote of the Day - If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee -- that will do them in. - Bradley's Bromide
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Simple Help For The Technologically Challenged: Antivirus, Maintenance and Backup In OneCare

So, you already use an anti-virus product, and you pay dearly for it each year.  Symantec, McAfee and others are all out there.  A little late but with a lower and broader price tag, Microsoft offers OneCare for up to three computers for under $50.00.

Should you get it?  Yes, if you don't already have other antivirus protection on your computer and you don't regularly maintain it.  The software also provides disk defragmentation and backup and restore.  If you've already got other solutions in place, wait for Version 2.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 18:13. Comments Closed (0) |

Modesto Seeks To Hold Chemical Manufacturers Liable For Contamination

Yesterday's Daily Journal reports (subscription required) that two cases (City of Modesto v. Dow and City of Modesto Redevelopment Agency v. Dow) are now in the jury's hands and may result in verdicts against chemical manufacturers for contamination of groundwater and drinking water.  The cases brought by government agencies seek to hold Dow Chemical Company, Occidental Chemical Corp., PGG Industries, Inc., R.R. Street, Vulcan Materials Co. and others liable for perchloroethylene in the City's water supply.

The case has been up and down the appeals courts for years, and certainly won't stop here.  After the verdicts are in (no matter what they are), we can expect several more years of appeals.  Some $4,000,000 is at issue here, but the money's not really the point for the chemical companies.

It's the precedent. 

If the chemical companies are held liable in Modesto, then it will likely trigger nationwide litigation that will make tobacco litigation look like a puff of smoke.  Not only will the government be able to sue, but also likely the users and individuals affected by contamination, as well. 

You can bet there will be lots of somebodys lobbying Congress.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, May 27, 2006 at 17:43. Comments Closed (0) |

Judge Sentences Short Man To Probation, Not Jail

What happens if you're tall in Lincoln, Nebraska?  Is your sentence longer?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 26, 2006 at 19:26. Comments Closed (0) |

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.

Update:  Maybe Michelle should try a matchmaker.  Then again, maybe not.  Otherwise, she should try English law.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:19. Comments Closed (0) |

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."

With the new hurricane season just days away, it's welcome news to State Farm policyholders in the region. 

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.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:45. Comments Closed (1) |

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.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 21:05. Comments Closed (0) |

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?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 14:58. Comments Closed (0) |

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?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:55. Comments Closed (0) |



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