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 - That's the thing about Mother Nature, she really doesn't care what economic bracket you're in. - Whoopi Goldberg
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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 252

It Doesn't Pay to Fool Mother Nature

Underutilized and its potential likewise unrealized, the Polanco Act offers a wonderful opportunity to California counties and cities.

The Act allows a redevelopment agency to clean up environmentally contaminated property. The cost is borne by previous owners and operators of the property. Once clean, the agency can "immunize" the property against further liability arising out of the contamination.

Obtaining an essential interpretation, The Redevelopment Agency of San Diego sued San Diego Gas & Electric to force payment of the cleanup costs for contaminated land. SDG&E claimed that RASD didn't have standing because it had not suffered any injury.

The Appellate Court disagreed and determined that the statute didn't require RASD to suffer injury, but instead furthered public policy of restoring contaminated land to a beneficial use.

Hats off to my friend, Richard Opper for a fine job!

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, August 30, 2003 at 10:05. Comments Closed (0) |

I'll Take Two Lumps, Please

Sometimes even the best of plans go awry. Almost right out of a movie, Brandi Bradley enticed a casino customer to leave the casino to "party." The plan was simple. Once Brandi got the victim, - in the words of the Court, "a Mr. Mataya, [who] wore enough gold, diamond, and ruby jewelry to mark him as the right kind of target" liquored up and into his car, two men planned to jump in the car at a predesignated spot to rob him, stuff him in the trunk and leave him there.

Unfortunately, Mataya was either so drunk or just couldn't pull it together that when the time came to put him in the trunk, he couldn't get it open. Frustrated, the two men pumped eight shots into Mataya and sped away.

Fortunately for Mataya, he survived. Unfortunately for Brandi, she got caught - as if we couldn't figure out that was going to happen given her brilliant planning.

This case is more interesting for its facts, but here's the actual holding: previously depublished, but certified for publication today, the California Court of Appeal found that although Brandi could be convicted of two crimes, she could not be consecutively sentenced for both crimes because she only intended to commit one: rob Mataya.

Kind of reminds me of my first appellate case, Hajek v. Iowa Board of Parole regarding sentence enhancements for committing two, separate consecutive crimes. While in law school as a student, I succeeded in reversing the Iowa Court of Appeal and the Iowa Attorney General.

The moral of these stories is that it never pays to commit a crime twice, or for that matter, two crimes.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 29, 2003 at 18:31. Comments Closed (0) |

Swimming and Diving in 3/4 Time

Usually, California Courts hold that the "assumption of the risk" doctrine prevents claims arising from sports injuries.

In an unusual departure, the California Supreme Court determined that a high-school swimmer might be able to hold her coach liable for instructing her to dive in the shallow end of a racing pool. An inexperienced swim team member, Oliva Kahn followed her coach's instructions, started her race with dive into the pool and hit the bottom, breaking her neck.

The opinion seems largely founded on the majority's factual-specific determinations: the coach had previously promised she didn't have to dive, she was inexperienced and the coach didn't train her and the coach broke his promise during the meet, threatening to throw her off the team if she disobeyed him.

In her concurring opinion, Justice Kennard raises an interesting question: why distinguish coaches from shop instructors who teach students how to operate a power saw or repair a car, and then end up injured? The Justice reasons that all teachers challenge their students to progressively harder tasks.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 29, 2003 at 13:52. Comments Closed (0) |

Sharks, Subs and Shameless promos

Lawyers are not all suits, ties and stuffed shirts - sometimes we even swim with the sharks. In a rapt piece of irony, I volunteered as a diver for the Long Beach Aquarium and, among other tanks, did some of my duty time in the shark tank.

In a recent exhange of emails with the editor of the Deeper Blue ezine, Stephan Whelan, I learned that they have posted one of my old articles on diving down to 700' in a homemade sub in Roatan, Honduras.

The recent shark sightings off San Onofre got me reminiscing for diving again, and I couldn't resist this shameless promo.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 29, 2003 at 13:32. Comments Closed (0) |

God in the Courthouse

Unless you're from Mars, a distinct possibility since it's so close, you've probably heard about Judge Moore. Regardless of where your beliefs stand, here are some additional observations to consider.

Tuesday's Los Angeles Daily Journal (you may need a subscription to view) featured an article that a statue of Moses, holding the ten commandments, is immediately above the entrance to the Los Angeles County Superior Court downtown civil courthouse. He's right there next to a medieval knight holding the Magna Carta and a founding father with the Declaration of Independence. All great documents, to be sure.

This morning's CNN Headline News featured an email comment from someone commenting on Judge Moore's stand that asked the question whether the act of swearing on the bible before you give testimony will be yanked out of court, too. (By the way, it's already gone - and you don't swear "so help me God" anymore.) Courts have consistently required the separation of religous symbols from government-related activities. There are legions of cases where nativity scenes have been removed from city parks, as required by Courts interpreting the First Amendment.

With the plurality of religions now in the United States, the wisdom of our founding fathers couldn't have been more appropos - especially when you consider that they came from the time when religon was often a government cram-down, and the need to avoid that today.

Religous symbolism exists in any number of government activities - just flip over your dollar bill, or read the Constitution as Judge Moore suggests. But we're also founded on religious tolerance, necessary even more now with the many religions observed here.

There's no easy answer to the question, and one that requires each of us to search our own beliefs for guidance before casting the first stone.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, August 28, 2003 at 09:24. Comments Closed (1) |

Notte di Sigari, Prego

A well-known local food chain, Spectrum Restaurant Group, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the first week of this month. While not otherwise noteworthy, it sent a shudder through the ranks of devoted Prego fans, a wonderfully intimate Italian restaurant in Irvine, California. The reorganization is being handled by Mike Issa (coincidentially, my client) of Ballenger Cleveland & Issa LLC.

All is not lost for afficionados, however. Prego appears intact, and on September 25, 2003, at 6:00 p.m. the ristorante will host its famed and periodic Notte di Sigari, more commonly known to us non-Italians as Cigar Night. Great food, great fun and great people. If you're in the area, drop by and say hello.

Disclosure: I own no stock in Spectrum Restaurants Group, Inc., and would decline it if offered (think about it). I do, however, frequent Prego Ristorante.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 at 09:33. Comments Closed (1) |

Tired of Waiting in Line?

Banks are changing, and here's one at the cutting edge: Commerce West Bank, stock symbol CWBK. Although this website is not particularly informative, it will get you contact information about the bank. A recent offering was so over-subscribed, the bank actually returned about $2M.

What's unusual about this bank is what happens when you walk in. You're greeted by a concierge and taken to a conference room, where you meet your banker. No more discussing your financial business out in the open.

Once you establish an account, you no longer have to show up at the bank to do business. Not only are there no lines, but a courier comes to your office to pick up your daily banking materials. If you're looking for this kind of service, contact my friend, Mike Lewis.

Disclosure: I own no stock in the bank, and do not yet bank there.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 13:57. Comments Closed (0) |

Go Forth and Copy No More

The California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in DVD Copy Control v. Bunner and ruled that Hollywood can stop those who decrypt the technology that allows DVDs to be copied.

The Court resolved the issue of whether free speech controls over trade secret law, and held for that good, old-fashioned capitalist mentality (which writes my paycheck). Trade secrets won out, and cash registers will continue to cha-ching with the sales of DVDs. The Napster revolution stumbles once more.

That is until the next website posts the code to decode DVDs.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, August 25, 2003 at 16:29. Comments Closed (1) |



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