May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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Quote of the Day - I can't emphasize enough to viewers how serious FEMA is taking this storm. We've done a lot of planning for a hurricane striking New Orleans because of New Orleans lying below sea level. - Michael Brown
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Coast to Coast Looks At Post-Katrina New Orleans And Status Of Practicing There

What's the status of the legal profession and the judicial system in Louisiana 7 months after Katrina? Coast to Coast examines that issue with my co-host Robert Ambrogi, fellow attorney and blogger determine why some law firms are back up and running, while others are still rebuilding or out of business.  You'll hear first-hand accounts from Attorney Ernie Svenson, solo practitioner in New Orleans and author of the legal blog, "Ernie the Attorney," as well as Tim Doody, Firm Administrator for Chaffe McCall LLP, with headquarters in New Orleans and the Tom O'Connell, President of XOsoft, a technology company that helped law firms restore important legal files after the hurricane.  Don't miss our special segment with Monica Bay about her recent experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Monica Bay is editor-in-chief of Law Technology News, editorial director of Law Firm, Inc. and Small Firm Business, and a rabid New York Yankees fan. She also writes the Common Scold. The Common Scold is named after a cause of action that originated in Pilgrim days, when meddlesome, argumentative, opinionated women who displeased the Puritan elders were punished by a brisk dunk in the local pond. 

Attorney Ernie Svenson appeared on Coast to Coast back in September, right after Katrina hit.  He’s also known for his blog “Ernie the Attorney.”  He continues to practice law with his solo practice.  Ernie and his family evacuated to Houston after Katrina struck, but he is back in New Orleans now.

Tim Doody is the Firm Administrator for the law firm of Chaffe McCall, L.L.P., whose headquarters is located in New Orleans.  Chaffe McCall has 65 attorneys and offices in both Louisiana and Texas.  Tim is also the president of the New Orleans Chapter Association of Legal Administrators. 

Tom O’Connell is the President of XO Soft, a software backup & restoration company.  XO Soft helped firms get back in business after Katrina, including Chaffe McCall, LLP, the oldest law firm in Louisiana.


Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, April 06, 2006 at 11:22. Comments Closed (1) |

MIPTC's Travel Report From Scotland - The Scotch Whisky Edition

This post is the third installment of MIPTC's travel series, the first of which started on April 2, 2006.  Please scroll down and read that post first, and then following in date order.

The country of Scotland is not very big, however, and is just a smidgen smaller than the state of South Carolina.  It has four not-too-remarkable ski resorts (when compared to their counterparts on the continent) but nonetheless present some challenging skiing and good facilities for learning.  The countryside is mostly agricultural, filled with crops of barley, malt and wheat and herds of sheep and cattle.  There is an unusual animal known locally as a "Heilein coo," which Americans would pronounce "Highland cow." 

Scots have also managed to make an art of the treatment of malt, water and yeast, combining those ingredients into a wonderful mixture we would call Scotch whiskey, but we typically referred to as just Scotch.  Locally, it's called whisky (see the bottle).  There are so many distilleries and different types of Scotch, however, that if you tried a different one each evening, you'd have to stay in Scotland just over four years.

Crops and animals share similarities to their US counterparts, but the legal system is markedly different, and slightly different than the English system.  There are only some 400 'Advocates' practicing law in Scotland who are entitled to appear in front of the Lord justices in court.  They practice together in the 'Advocates stable,' and still wear robes and white wigs.  MIPTC's judge gives a tip of his wig to these lawyers and judges.  If you need non-court legal assistance here, you can engage a Solicitor, who also sells real estate.  Not surprising for those thrifty Scots.  

It's a country well worth a visit, not only for its beautiful scenery, but also for the wonderfully friendly people here.  All you need now is a ticket.  You can get a kilt here when you arrive.

The journey's not over yet.  More to follow.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 at 14:34. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travel Report From Scotland - The Highlands Edition

This series on my trip to Scotland and Wales starts on April 2, 2006, so if your'e starting here, scroll down and read the first post, and then this one 

Stirling Castle sits just across a peat bog from the monument, and it is like Scotland's many castles, built up over time to protect its inhabitants from roving armies and bands of warriors.  Walls around cities likely started because of attacks by Norseman and continued with the Romans, who made a notable contribution to history given their time in Scotland.  Soldiers from Rome stayed encamped near Perth, Scotland over a long, hard cold winter a couple of centuries ago after a battle with King Metalamis.  The King entertained some of the upper echelon leaders during their encampment.  As you could likely guess, armies back then did not travel well in winter.

One consequence of that "entertainment" was a child born out of wedlock to Centurion Pontius.  The child went back to Rome with his father but because of his status was not entitled to become a citizen of Rome.  He was instead granted the freedom given to slaves and therefore wore a cap known as a "Pilateus."   You likely know him best as Pontius Pilate.

Scots have produced many other notables throughout history including Adam Smith, and many significant inventions.  To list a few, you should include Penicillin, Insulin, Interferon, the telephone, the telegraph, the electric light bulb, tarmac (a type of road named for John MacAdam), the fax machine, the copier, logarithms and the decimal point, and perhaps most famous of all, golf, which was first played around 1400 on 18 holes near the sea.  The Old Course, as many know, is located in St. Andrews, also the home of the famous University of St. Andrews. 

Somewhere in the Highlands, Scots also invented the kilt, which gave us the expression, "the whole nine yards," the length of a tartan cloth needed to make a proper kilt.  Yes, I do wear a kilt given my heritage, and no, I'm not going to tell you what is worn (or not) underneath. 

Inventions are not the country's only contribution.  Scotland also has many well-known authors, including Beatrix Potter (The Tales of Peter Rabbit), Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Robert Burns, and J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter).  Rowling, a single parent, who started as a teacher barely able to make ends meet, is now the richest woman in the United Kingdom, richer even than the Queen – something that every Scot is quick to point out in a discussion referencing the Edinburgh author.

More tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 at 14:23. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travel Report From Scotland - The Hero Edition

First started yesterday, MIPTC is going to cover some Scottish and Welsh history from onsite during my travels through these two countries.  If this is your first post, please scroll down to April 2, 2006, and start there, reading in chronological order.


Scots are famous for their thrift and independence, and those traits are likely where we got some of ours in the states.  Indeed, one famous Scot was reported as having said, "I'm from Scotland; I don't need to ask for my independence."  Other Scotsmen follow the same example.


Paul Revere was a famous American of Scottish heritage who didn't have a hard time renewing his country's dislike of the English when he made that famous midnight ride to warn the Colonialists of an impending English attack.  This dislike of the English goes back almost to the beginning of the relations between the two peoples. 


We're most familiar with one of those struggles from Braveheart, and Scotland has a well-known monument dedicated to a native hero, Sir William Wallace, who was a giant among men not only for his leadership and victories, but also his 6'6" stature.  The monument commemorates not only a number of  Scotland's heroes, of which Wallace is certainly one, but also one of the only major victories against the English in the battle at Stirling Bridge against the English General Walsingham in 1297.


Wallace's 66" sword is enshrined in the tall stone monument, which also features a sizable stone sculpture of Mel Gibson's depiction of Wallace.  Guides at the monument are quick to point out, however, that Wallace's actual Claymore sword is so big that Gibson could not pull it from the scabbard on his back.  I'm not sure I could have either, at only 6'1", but that too is another story.


Stay tuned for the continued report on Scotland tomorrow.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, April 03, 2006 at 14:44. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC's Travel Report From Scotland - The Edinburgh Edition

MIPTC is abroad, visiting Scotland and Wales, land of my ancestors.  Quite a turn that I've come this direction.  Back in 1891, for the rather princely sum of £60.00, my Great-grandparents Thomas and Mary Bees and their daughter (my Great Aunt) Mabel emigrated from Cwmtillery on the White Star Line out of Cardiff, Wales.  They came to the United States and settled in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, where Thomas continued his employment as a miner.  When they reached Ellis Island, our government gave them the present of an extra letter and added it to their last name, making it "Beese."


The other side of my family, the Richardsons and the Walkers, hail from Scotland up in the Highlands near Inverness, and this series of posts is written on the train from Edinburgh to Inverness, which travels over the snow-capped hills (they don't call them mountains) at Schloch, the highest point in Scotland at just over 4,000 feet.


If you've taken the trip, you already know the stunningly beautiful countryside.  If you haven't, but you've seen the train scene starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in French Kiss, then you've got the idea.  The Highlands of Scotland evoke strong, patriotic and familial feelings among the Scots, and I must confess, this land and its Lochs draw me in, too.  I wasn't born here, but the clans I can claim include Gordon, Walker and Wallace. 


How my last name got to Williams is a whole other story, perhaps one best written by someone with, say, Michner as a last name rather than mine.  If everyone thinks they have a book hidden inside them somewhere, then I'm guessing this blog is mine.  Regular readers know it doesn't focus on family history of scions and patriarchs but instead trades on the law. 


I hope you'll forgive this momentary diversion dedicated to travel and a bit of history while I'm a foreigner in a not-so-strange land, Scotland, where they fortunately speak (almost) the same language.  They just pronounce it differently.  Welsh Gaelic is something altogether different, but we'll get to that later, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps later in this series. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, April 02, 2006 at 13:46. Comments Closed (0) |

Coast to Coast Internet Radio Looks At the Public Defender's Offices

Some of the best lawyers in the country are our Public Defenders.  They have heavy caseloads, longer hours than most lawyers and they take starting salaries of $35,000 in many parts of the country.  Why do they do it?  On this week's Coast to Coast with my co-host and fellow blogger Robert Ambrogi, our guests give us a window on their world as public defenders.

We're fortunate to have Attorney Josh Hayne from the Massachusetts Public Defender's office.  Josh is in his second year as a Public Defender in the Boston Trial Unit of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.  Josh's cases are primarily in Suffolk Superior Court and the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court.

Also joining us is Attorney Greg Apt.  Greg is a public defender in Los Angeles County, where he has been working as a public defender for 11 years

Our third guest is Attorney Robert Spangenberg, President of The Spangenberg Group, which has for the last twenty years conducted research on civil and criminal justice system-related topics.  The Spangenberg Group is a nationally recognized research and consulting firm specializing in improving justice programs.


Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 01:09. Comments Closed (0) |

Big Or Small, 2,500 Square Feet Measures the Same

Small retail furniture businesses in the City of Hanford were upset that the City banned their businesses in certain parts of the City, but exempted big department stores and allowed the big stores to sell furniture as long as they limited the retail sales of furniture to something less than 2,500 square feet in their stores.  This zoning exemption applied only to stores with 50,000 plus square feet of total space.  The smaller businesses cried foul under the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution, and sued. 

The trial court agreed with the City and the big department stores, ruling that the City had a rational basis for the discrimination because the two kinds of stores were not "similarly situated."  The smaller stores had approximately 4,000 square feet of retail space.

It took the appellate court only seven pages of opinion to reverse this ruling and determine that if each the big and the small stores limited retail furniture sales to 2,500 square feet, then they were similarly situated, and the City had violated the small businesses' right of equal protection. 

The most surprising part of this lawsuit is that it took a City Council, some big department stores, one small business, two or three sets of lawyers and two Courts to reach the momentous decision that no matter how you measure it, 2,500 square feet in a small store is the same as 2,500 square feet in a big store.

Maybe it was one of those optical illusion things. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, March 31, 2006 at 00:52. Comments Closed (0) |

NIMBY Strikes Malibu Development Down

Just last September, MIPTC reported to you that the City of Malibu and Trancas-PCH, LLC got tangled up in the Court of Appeal over a development that's taken more than 20 years to come to term, and unfortunately for everyone involved (except the neighboring property owners association), it still hasn't

No one should be surprised why California's housing prices are so high and we have a difficult time bringing young talent into our fair state from elsewhere in the county and across the world.  The housing shortage is due in large part to the problems related to the time it takes to develop houses and the attendant carrying costs. 

Here the City and Developer were embroiled in litigation and each agreed to settle.  The deal required Trancas to dedicate three-fourths of its property to the City to preserve as open space, and City agreed to allow Trancas to develop the remaining one-quarter of its thirty-five acres.  Some ninety homeowners live nearby, and they sued because the City agreed to certain zoning exemptions to allow the development, and then approved the settlement in closed session.  The lawsuit tactic is commonly known as NIMBY.

The appellate court reversed the trial court's approval and vacated the settlement.  The parties are back at ground zero, but perhaps this time with a better road map to accomplish something close to the same thing.  Perhaps next time MITPC covers this long-running saga, someone will be pouring foundations. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 30, 2006 at 00:32. Comments Closed (1) |

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