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 - Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death. - James F. Byrnes
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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 168

Round Up The Posse

I thought the Wild Wild West was a thing of the past, but after reading the following article, I realize now I may have been mistaken. Apparently, if you are dissatisfied with the job the Department of Homeland Security is doing patrolling our nationís borders for illegal immigrants, the Minuteman Project seeks your assistance in helping guard the United Statesí Southwestern border.

The group claims that their effort is essentially just an expanded version of a Neighborhood Watch group, but I canít imagine McGruff the Crime Dogģ approving. This tactic is a far cry from your neighbors keeping an eye out the window during dinner or watching your house and bringing in your newspaper while youíre on vacation.

As grateful as I am that my neighbors look out for my family in those ways, I wouldnít feel comfortable if one of them spent 24 hours a day sitting on their front porch with binoculars and a police scanner either, but thatís just me.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Michel J. Ayer on Tuesday, April 05, 2005 at 13:15. Comments Closed (0) |

Mix Together Houses, Freeways, Open Space, Regulations, Lawsuits, And What Do You Get?

The process to get through CEQA is not an easy one. Even the Guidelines can be daunting. Depending on who you're talking to, the California Environmental Quality Act is either a benefactor or the devil.

Governor Schwarzenegger wants to streamline CEQA and honor his campaign pledge to have us spend more time at home instead of on the freeways.

The governor and the legislature are considering changes to CEQA designed to provide affordable housing. Environmentalists claim more housing means more cars, which translates directly into clogged freeways. Environmentalists want less pollution, less cars and more open space.

Builders want less regulations and less lawsuits challenging environmental issues. Increased time dealing with regulations and court challenges drive up housing costs.

There are a significant number of bills pending on housing, and more than 24 on CEQA alone. Homeowners, on the other hand, are seeing record prices for homes, and the median house price has hit well over $400,000 in many counties. Some homeowners think that more houses will drive down the value of their home, since supply is short now.

The legislature has apparently focused the debate on infill, not necessarily urban sprawl that attracts the most resistance from environmentalists.

There seems to be no easy answer to the combination of high housing prices, clogged freeways, preservation of endangered species and open space, the need for affordable housing and less government regulation and (can you believe a lawyer's saying this?) less lawsuits.

So, here's your chance to weigh in. If you live in California, or even if you don't, how would you solve this confluence of issues?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, April 04, 2005 at 15:56. Comments Closed (0) |

Put Your Pen Where Your Mouth Is: Sign On the Dotted Line

Yep, I'm lecturing. Again.

On a rant.

You've undoubtedly discussed the Terry Schiavo matter. I've asked you to put your pen where your mouth is, and get a living will.

Hopefully, you've followed through or are in the process.

But, do you have a financial power of attorney? Sure, your friends and family know whether you want them to pull the plug. That's not your entire life, however. There's the money part, too.

A financial power of attorney allows them to put their finger in the dike if you are incapacitated.

Please, please plan ahead. Everyone will be the better for it.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, April 03, 2005 at 14:59. Comments Closed (0) |

What's The Difference Between An Airboat And A Snowplane?

Here's one for you: What has a propeller, no wings, skis, is called a plane but never leaves the ground?

Think I'm kidding? Nope. Check out the snowplane, the snowplane and the snowplane. Each a little bit different, but the same thing.

There were some 125 people that held permits to use (no, not fly) them in the Grand Teton National Park. Now, however, they've been (pardon the pun) grounded.

The National Park Service revoked the snowplane permits, but allowed some 50 snowmobiles into GTNP. The NPS said the snowplanes were too loud, and interfered with the values of silence in the Park. I've never heard a snowplane, but I have heard a snowmobile. I've even ridden one. They're like motorcycles on skis. Loud.

I don't know, maybe they thought it was supposed to be like a library. In my law school, we had a sign on the door of our library that said, "If your books have pictures in them, please don't act like it." The NPS apparently doesn't want people to enjoy the Park with machines that make noise.

Wonder what they do in the Everglades with airboats?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, April 02, 2005 at 23:02. Comments Closed (0) |

Don't Worry, The Insurance Company's Check Is In The Mail - 11 Years Later

You bought an earthquake insurance policy, and then your house collapsed during the earthquake. You submit your claim, and wait for the insurance company's check. It's 1994.

You wait. You wait some more. No check arrives.

You go talk to an attorney, and find out you're not the only one. There are lots of you who haven't been paid. So many, in fact, that the California legislature passes legislation, allowing you to sue your insurance company for bad faith and collect punitive damages. That's because you had to wait so long for the check that the statute of limitations passed you by.

The year? We're in the new millennium - it's 2000.

Guess what happens next?

That's right. The insurance company says the statute is unconstitutional. They claim it's an ex post facto law.

This scenario seems so unreal that you may think I am making this up. I assure you, it happened. Right down the street from where you live.

The Court finally decided that you are entitled to collect punitive damages from the insurance company. Now, however, it's 2005. Eleven years after you submitted your claim.

How long do you think it will take 21st Century Insurance Group, the insurance company that denied the original claim, to write a check?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, April 01, 2005 at 18:35. Comments Closed (0) |

Lessons From Terri Schiavo? Get A Living Will.

Frequent readers know that MIPTC does not address sensational or entertainment news, and I have steadfastly avoided the Terri Schiavo story.1 MIPTC would like to express its sympathies to both the Schiavos and the Schindlers over their loss.

If there is one thing that we all take away from this tragedy - please, please - sign a living will that expresses your wishes.

Craig's Notes

1 Spain's Freelance Corner asked me for an American lawyer's thoughts on the case. I obliged, and FC's author, Emilio Alonso, posted them here, with comments. Part is in English, and you can translate the Comments on site.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 10:40. Comments Closed (1) |

Both Sides Turn To The Courts To Litigate Environmental Laws

The epic battle over property set-asides for endangered species is about to come to a head. Late last year, the Bush administration changed regulations to allow development to move forward if there were late discoveries of endangered species on the property.

Environmental groups fought back, and the dispute has now spilled over into the courts. Not once, but twice.

The suits argue that the critical habitat designations do little to save species, but drive housing costs though the roof.

The first suit seeks to force the USFWS to change critical habitat designations for 27 plant and animal species and the second suit seeks to force the agency to change habitat areas for 15 vernal pool species. PLF filed the two lawsuits on behalf of associations representing California family farmers and ranchers, home builders, and business owners throughout the state.

The environmental battle is being fought on other fronts, too.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a third suit yesterday challenging the Bush Administration's new regulations governing logging, mining, and grazing. This suit argues that the regulation prevents forest planning decisions from being subjected to judicial review by granting unlimited discretion to local forest rangers. The suit would affect 192 million acres of National Forests in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 10:14. Comments Closed (0) |

Podcasters Using Copyrighted Music Beware

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, it's not.

As Denise Howell has warned, it was just a matter of time. A state court in New York ruled (subscription required) that prosecutors do not need to show intent to prove criminal violations arising out of the sale of "DJ remixes" using copyrighted material.

Take away for a moment that this case is criminal (which is easy to do because without intent, the criminal statute looks more like contributory copyright infringement), and take away that this is a "DJ remix" (which is likewise easy because some podcasters have used snippets of copyrighted music). What you're left with is liability for using copyrighted music.

Justice Lewis Bart Stone issued a 22-page sentencing memorandum in this case, People v. Colon, 3962/04 in the New York Supreme Court (NY's lowest court, and I haven't been able to locate the decision online), and spent five of those 22 pages explaining his views on copyright infringement, according to the New York Law Journal article cited above.

Before you add music to your podcasts, check to see if it's copyrighted. If it is, don't use it. There are other alternatives out there.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 12:41. Comments Closed (0) |



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