Quote of the Day - I have the world's largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world... perhaps you've seen it.
USACOE 3, Turtles 0, Beach Replenishment Still Undone
Hurricane Katrina also wiped away some of Florida's coastline, and in addition to the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to refortify the dikes in New Orleans, the USACOE is also restoring beachfront in Destin, Florida. Beachfront homeowners were upset because the beach replenishment plan would create a public beach in front of their previously private beach. The plan was to add 80 to 100 feet of beachfront anlong a five-mile stetch.
The ACOE met with some stiff resistance from a citizen property owners group made up of these beachfront homeowners, but the ACOE eventually won the right to drege the seabed and pump the sand onto the Destin beach in Walton County.
In the course of dredging the seabed, the ACOE apparently has killed three endangered turtles, and dredging is now suspended. The ACOE has issued advisories about turtles in the past, but it's not a high priority. There's been nothing about protecting sea turtules posted in the ACOE's newsroom of press releases for the last five years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues marine take permits, and it appears the ACOE has such a permit for this project. The dredging will commence again when the permit renews and takes can recur.
Maybe this year's hurricane season will shift sand to the beach, and avoid the ACOE's dredging. Otherwise, the citizens of Florida will have to choose between building up beachfront property and preserving sea turtles. Otherwise, maybe the ACOE can truck the sand from an inland location and dump it on the beach, or leave Mother Nature to her whims.
New Orleans can't keep the water out, and Florida can't bring the sand to the beach. What's the message here?
Art Imitates Life: Boston Legal Covers Internet Postings About Jilted Lovers
Alright, I'll admit it: Boston Legal is one of my favorite shows, even though I don't watch much TV and I'm consequently not very well qualified to make that statement. But still, it's a funny show. Last night's show featured a dispute with a fictional website, DateMistake.com. The site allowed women to post their thoughts about men they dated in order to warn other women off.
Admittedly, Boston Legal is like most TV legal shows: the legal life on the show is not completely accurate. One of Yogi Berra's sayings probably describes the legal actions on the show the best, "We made too many wrong mistakes." But don't get me wrong, Boston Legal is tremendously funny and good entertainment, even for lawyers.
The show also reflects real life. There's a similar, real-life site called DontDateHimGirl.com that attempts the same thing: women warning other women off about bad men. Just so you don't think all women are against men, the converse is out there too. It's a site where women recommend men they formerly dated or were engaged/married to; it's called GreatBoyfriends.com, along with its feminine counterpart on the same site, GreatGirlfriends.
The problem with the Don't Date Him Girl site is explained (oddly enough) by Julie Hilden on FindLaw. In the closing line of her article Ms. Hilden says, "In sum, Dontdatehimgirl.com is a brash, inventive site. But it may be skating on thin ice, legally." The site allows women to defame men by posting what others take as facts when it really isn't much more than opinion. Certainly truth is a defense to a suit for defamation and opinion itself is exempt, but the site itself may well be liable for incorrect facts women post, and the site doesn't appear to police what's written.
Take for example almost any of the postings on this page from DontDateHimGirl.com, and be prepared for explicit references. There are a significant number of defamatory postings on the site that would easily sustain a libel case. Yes, some are opinion, but some appear dangerously close to libel: "then i find out the girl before me was 15 years old and he dated her until she was 18." If this statement is not true, it constitutes libel per se. There are other issues with the site, as well. Detailed descriptions of the allegations of "cheating" come close to an invasion of privacy, if not actually invade it. A cursory review of the postings in the first link in this paragraph will give you more lurid details that invade the lives of the men who are the subject of the postings.
Not only are the women who post about their former dates liable, but the site is also likely liable as well. The disclaimers on the site likely can't overcome the presumptions attendant to defamation and the targets of the site may ultimately be able to get an injunction to shut it down, as well as damages. And yes, there's a Craig Williams listed on the site, but as you can tell by comparing his photograph with those on this site, it's not me. And no, there's no link here to the statements about Mr. Williams - I'm not going to republish identifiable defamatory statements.
Don't Date Him Girl probably shouldn't either. There's a big difference between television entertainment and publishing statements on the internet. When a lawyer's jilted lover makes it on the site, Don't Date Him Girl may find a class action in its future. On Boston Legal, a jilted lover who suffered through a posting on the fictional DateMistake.com recovered $25,000 for his troubles. Will life imitate art?
Resolving The Post-honeymoon Blues Between IT Companies And Management
Maybe you've had the (un)fortunate experience of contracting with an IT company to develop a software application for your business. Like most courtships, everyone has stars in their eyes as the parties come together to create the solution to end all problems. Management knows what it wants and the developers think they've heard and understood exactly what is needed. As an afterthought, someone scratches out the deal on a napkin, and the IT folks start to write the code, while the company eagerly awaits the final product.
And waits and waits and waits. Frustrated now, management sends a team to the IT company, only to discover that the software program is nowhere near ready, and what management has now more clearly defined as the end product (since they've had a long time to think about it but never managed to communicate to the IT company) is vastly different than what is being created. Management wants an inventory control program, but the IT company is busily building a program to locate raw materials.
The two couldn't be further apart.
Whose fault is it? How did we get here? Where are we going? Perhaps most important, who's going to pay for what's been done and what now needs to be done?
If you've ever asked these questions, my bet is that you wish you would have read and implemented this booklet: Avoiding and Resolving Information Technology Disputes by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution. A handy little guide, but powerful in its advice. It's a short read that's long on benefits for both IT companies and management who are trying to learn to speak each other's language.
It will help you avoid the scenario outlined above, and get both parties on track to a successful result. The best problems are the ones you never have.
Don't Complain To Me: Write To Your Legislator
As an adoptive parent, if you elect to give up your child in New York, you still have to pay child support, even though an unwed mother who elects to do the same thing is excused from paying similar support for her biological child. While it doesn't seem right, that's the law.
The court will tell you that it is just upholding the law, that it didn't enact these laws, and complaints should be directed to the legislature.
Here's the situation: three years ago, a divorced woman adopted a special needs child, but found she couldn't cope with the child's daily requirements. She then asked the court to grant a judicial surrender of the child, which it granted. The NY Department of Social Services, however, ruled based on a New York statute that apparently requires an adoptive parent to pay support if able, and the court upheld that ruling. On the other hand, had she been a biological parent, she wouldn't have been required to pay support under New York law.
Disparate treatment for desperate circumstances? MIPTC votes to require payment from both parents, and indeed all parents.
I'd call that the "you gotta pay to play" rule.
Hercules Takes On Wal-Mart
You may remember how the Supreme Court razed Suzy Kelo's house in New London last year by approving that City's use of its eminent domain power to condemn her house and turn over her land to a shopping center developer. You know the city council's mantra: we'll make more money in tax revenue from the mall-o-rama and bring more jobs to the community.
Hercules (it's not a comic book hero, it's a town some 20 miles north of San Francisco) has turned that theory on its head. According to the New York Sun, Wal-Mart owns a sizable 17-acre parcel in the town and wants to build there. Wal-Mart says it will create 275 jobs and bring in millions of dollars of tax revenue to a town of some 20,000 residents.
In response, the town has initiated an eminent domain action against Wal-Mart's property, and intends to seize it. The Friends of Hercules and the Sierra Club support the City. Wal-Mart is predictably none to happy about it, according to news reports.
There is apparently more than one way to use eminent domain laws. While Suzy may have lost her house to a shopping mall, Hercules' town council says they have taken steps to preserve their downtown merchants by taking away big box shopping.
Is turnabout fair play?
Professor Beats Team Of Lawyers, Bar Association
Maybe he should take the bar. Adjunct Professor Brian Woods of Cuyahoga Community College was upset that his son was not receiving care in school. Brian argued that his autistic son Daniel deserved more but wasn't getting it. So Brian sued, and the school hired a team of lawyers. Brian won, and won big. In addition to numerous concessions, he also won $160,000 for his son. Brian, however, is not a lawyer.
When the Cleveland Bar Association found out about it, they sued Brian, too. For the unauthorized practice of law. While you might think the suit was a vendetta, the Bar thought it was taking a preemptive strike. The Bar took the position that Brian was helping other parents who couldn't afford or obtain legal help.
The US Supreme Court is about to hear a case involving a similar issue where parents sued on behalf of their son, also autistic. The decision is pending, but a stay in that case prevented dismissal because the parents didn't have a lawyer for their son. Pressure from the Plain Dealer and the yet-unresolved case forced the Bar to back down, and back down a bit apologetically.
The federal courts are split on the representation issue, thus the intervention by the Supremes. Parents argue that they can't afford to pay attorneys fees and costs to secure their children's rights. Bar associations argue that laws prevent nonlawyers from representing others, which would preclude parents from representing their children.
Tell that to Brian Woods.
University of Pennsylvania Law Review Solicits Submissions
If you love to write academic articles, here's your chance, directly from UPenn:
The University of Pennsylvania Law Review is seeking submissions of student-written work advancing a legal argument related to the 2006 symposium topic: "Liability for Global Warming: Law, Economics, and Science." The symposium will explore the potential feasibility and efficacy of lawsuits seeking both monetary and injunctive relief against private and public actors responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to global warming-induced harm. The symposium will examine the implications raised by global warming liability from a wide variety of academic perspectives, including law, economics, politics, and environmental science.
The winning paper will be published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Symposium Issue in Spring 2007, and the author will be invited to Philadelphia in November 2006 to present the paper at the symposium. After the presentation, the Symposium Scholar will take part in a question and answer session with scholars in the field.
Entrants must be enrolled in a postgraduate degree program during academic year 2006 - 2007. Submissions must be the student's own work and must not have been accepted for publication elsewhere. Citations must conforms to the 18th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Submissions should be 10,000 - 15,000 words.
More information on the Symposium Scholar Essay Competition can be found here.
Line 7 to Line 21 - How (Not) To Get To Zero On Your Tax Return
Paul Petrino is one happy tax accountant now that he's been acquitted (for the second time in three months) of tax evasion. Except that Paul didn't evade paying any of his own taxes, he had helped his clients not pay taxes. Nearly $500,000 of taxes by some sleight-of-hand between Lines 7 and 21 on tax returns.
Before you rush over to the IRS 1040 forms to see what the difference is between the two lines, I can let you in on a little secret: it's not zero and the two lines are consequently not the same number. Line 7 is how much you earned, and Line 21 reflects your losses.
Here's Paul's gig: he's alleged to be a tax protester, and (previously) advanced the theory that earnings "that wages and salaries are not taxable because they are simply a return for an individual's labor - 'his blood, sweat and tears,'" according to this Newsday article. His next trick was to deduct the entire reported salary as a loss. Not surprisingly, the IRS disallowed the deduction and unfortunately for Paul's clients, their luck wasn't the same. The IRS made the clients pay the back taxes.
One of his clients' loose lips sunk Paul's ship. The bragger client detailed enough about the "zero tax" scenario that another taxpayer who had actually paid taxes was upset. That taxpaying taxpayer turned the deal over to the IRS, and viola', they sued Paul in tax court (where else?). The IRS, however, was unable to convict Paul because it couldn't show that Paul intentionally committed a crime.
Call me silly, but I didn't know that accountants unintentionally filled out tax returns. How the IRS lost this case is beyond me.