Quote of the Day - I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
MIPTC's Book Review: Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul Of Clarence Thomas
If you ever wanted to understand a Supreme Court justice, and in particular Justice Clarence Thomas, then Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas gives you the insight that can only come from what appears to be a careful and long investigation into the inner workings of the man, his life and background, all ostensibly to understand his stance on the issues.
It starts with the pain he, Anita Hill and the rest of the country went through in his confirmation hearings. It ends with a thin ray of light for Justice Thomas and all of us. Dark in a deep way, the book paints a gloomy picture, almost bereft of hope at times.
As a lawyer, it offers an insight not normally afforded. As a country, it's an insight I'm not sure we want.
The book lifts the roof off one of the Chambers of the Supreme Court, but it doesn't ask the question whether we should look inside. There's a certain distance we seem to have ignored between our leaders and decision-makers, a distance lost long ago when Woodward & Bernstein peered inside Watergate and found Nixon wanting.
MIPTC doesn't advocate a return to Camelot and the blissful ignorance a pandering media offered us, but there is a respect for some level of privacy we may want to consider offering to those in power, and to ourselves. Yes, we need a critical look at the legislation, decisions and choices made by our government leaders, but tempered with respect for their privacy, which this book tears away from Justice Thomas.
What we expect for ourselves, we may want to consider providing to everyone.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Discusses The Tragedy At Virginia Tech
On April 16, 2007, the tragedy at Virginia Tech rattled the world we know. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we turn to the experts and discuss the issue of legal liability and the Virginia Tech shootings.
Should University officials have done more to prevent the gunman? Could they? Does a recent Virginia law prevent Universities from throwing out a student with suicidal tendencies? Is it really a problem more indicative of today's society that can only be solved by society?
Join me and my co-host and fellow Law.com blogger Bob Ambrogi as we get insight from our guests, Professor Anthony Sebok, Centennial Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research at the Brooklyn School of Law and Attorney Robert B. Smith from the firm Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau, & Saturley and join in the discussion ourselves. Don't miss it!
A Post Office Is A Post Office Is A Post Office
Return To Sender: Church Materials
There are Post Offices and there are Post Offices. You know the standard ones run by the U.S. Government - postal workers in light blue uniforms with dark pants, the ever-present, red take-a-paper-number dispenser that always seems to give you a number that is nowhere near the electronic red flashing number displayed behind the counter. And of course the equally ever-present long line that extends out the door and snakes around the rows of post office boxes, back out to the parking lot and all the way around the block.
But I exaggerate, ever so slightly.
That one condition is likely the main reason that competitors sprang up and the government had to give in and allow privately-run post offices. As many private post offices as I've been in, I've never seen a line.
Ya gotta love private enterprise.
But with private enterprise come other issues, especially when that private enterprise is a church. According to the Associated Press, Bertram Cooper, Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, said he became upset when he went to a post office run by the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, which operates the Sincerely Yours Inc. post office on Main Street in Manchester, Connecticut.
Like any other red-blooded American, he sued.
Cooper, who is Jewish, said ''I'm walking into a place that's doing government business - selling stamps, mailing parcels and so forth - and they're doing this religious bit,'' according to the AP. "The Church's Post Office has evangelical displays, including posters, advertisements and artwork. One of the displays is about Jesus Christ and invites customers to submit a request if they 'need a prayer in 'their lives.'" To top it off, "the office has prayer cards and an advertisement for a mission run by the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church that receives profits from the post office. There is a television monitor for church-related religious videos," the AP reports.
If you remember your high-school or college civics class (or for me, my Constitutional Law class), then you probably remember the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which requires separation of church and state. Here, where the government has delegated its duties of running a post office to private enterprise, that private enterprise is a "state actor" and still bound by the Constitution, which prohibits actions that can be deemed to "establish" religion.
At least that's something close to what Federal District Court Judge Dominic J. Squatrito ruled when he ordered the government's post office to inform the 5,200 private post-office contractors to toe the line and remove all religious materials from private post offices.
It seemed like a fitting post for a Sabbath.
JCW Turns 50 and Looks At Life Now
These Are The Good Old Days
I'm not in the office today, and won't be in this weekend, a bit rare for me lately given how busy things have been lately (in the last four years since WLF | The Williams Law Firm, PC started). It's not because a case settled (although that's true - one resolved just before the end of the business day).
This time, it's a once-in-a-lifetime weekend. April 28 is my 50th birthday.
Perhaps this post is a bit self-indulgent - not your typical "here's the case of the day." But it's perhaps more of a time for reflection than writing about the latest decision from one of the courts that find their way into this blog on an almost-daily basis. It's about writing and the realization that I'm actually 50. At the end of this summer, MIPTC will have turned four. A bit young compared to me, but don't worry - you get all that experience.
At least that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.
One of my dear friends, Jeff Lewis, who writes SoCalLaw Blog, sent an email to me today to report that after much reflection he's elected to stop posting. Closing that blog will leave a huge hole in the blogosphere, and I have to report my disappointment.
For me, posting has become a great way to stay informed. It requires me to read, and read a lot about what's going on - not only blogs (which tend to be my first source) but also legal news and sometimes even regular news. Jeff's decision to stop writing caused me to question whether I should keep writing given how busy things have been lately.
I thought about it for about three seconds and then said, "Nah, I'm not going to stop, I love to write." It's an expression of what's going on in the world and another way to look at it. My reports to you of cases try to look at both sides of the matter or the event I'm highlighting, and very subtly give you the way I see it without coming right out and saying it. According to what you tell me, it's working so far, and I appreciate your votes of confidence.
I'm not really sure I'm fifty, despite what my birth certificate says. I am pleased to report that I couldn't find an expiration date on it, so I'm expecting at least another 50. Even so, I still feel like I'm about 23 or so, and I'm still skiing and scuba diving like I did then. It's my mindset. Another dear friend of mine, David Moore of Reid & Hellyer in Riverside (who was admitted to practice law in 1965 and has one of the lowest bar numbers I know of) reports that all in his life is well because he is "upright and air is moving in and out of my lungs."
It's a bit more than that for me. All of my body parts are working as far as I can tell, although after one of my sport outings it's obvious from the pain and torture I go through that they've fallen out of warranty. Despite that pain, there are still several goals I have yet to meet. Hang gliding, parachuting, kitesurfing and several others come to mind.
Getting out of bed and standing up is certainly a good start, but it far from ends there. The intellectual challenges of work coupled with some traveling, enjoying family, trying out new sports and contributing to the community all are part of it. Most unusual, however, is how much more comfortable I am with myself and how little it matters what others think.
Perhaps that freedom comes from independence - financial, work and personal, and perhaps a few other sources. Most of all, though, I think it comes from within and believing in yourself.
Maybe it takes 50 years to get there. Maybe it's more important to just be here now. I think I'll go with the latter.
Soprano-Style Mob Story About To Play Out In Chicago Court
For The First Time: The G-men's Calabrese Santiago Proffer
The Sopranos have many fans on TV, but we're about to step into the real-life Sopranos in an upcoming Chicago trial on June 1 against Nicholas Calabrese. Prosecutors filed a 63-page description of four decades of mob hits. Although heavily redacted to protect witnesses, the document makes very good reading.
And good scripts.
One of the mobsters identified in the document in the case has already inspired a character played by Joe Pesci in the 1995 movie, Casino.
Here's the document, called the Calabrese Santiago Proffer (so named for the appellate case where the government was first required to set out the facts of its case), if you're an aspiring screenwriter, or otherwise just curious about The Mob (skip to page four of the Proffer for the facts). It was previously sealed by the court, but thanks to the Chicago Tribune, it's now a matter of public record.
Plus, none of the news sites I've searched so far have made it available to the general public, so here it is for your viewing, straight from the case, United States v. Nicholas Calabrese, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Case No. 02 CR 1050, the Honorable James B. Zagel presiding. Zagel has already sentenced Frank Calabrese.
Property Manager And HOA Named As Employer Where Unlicensed And Uninsured Contractor's Employee Injured
What happens when you hire an unlicensed contractor whose employee gets hurt on the job? You get to pay for injuries to the contractor's employees. Essentially, you become the insurance company.
Take the case of Freddy Aguilera, who was hired at $65.00 per day to install rain gutters. Unfortunately, one of the gutters held by Mr. Aguilera came in contact with a high voltage line while he was on a ladder. Not surprising, Mr. Aguilera fell from the ladder to the ground and was injured.
Here's where it gets a bit tricky.
Mr. Aguilera was employed by Mark Hruby doing business as Rube's Rain Gutter Service. Rube's was in turn hired by Pegasus Properties, a condominium manager for Montana Villas Homeowners Association. The HOA elected to install the much-needed rain gutters recommended by Pegasus, and instructed Pegasus to get the job done.
Unfortunately for Pegasus and the HOA, Rube's did not carry worker's compensation insurance, and was not licensed by the California State Contractor's License Board. So, when Mr. Aguilera sued Rube's for his injuries, he also sued Pegasus and the HOA.
In this court opinion, the court reasoned that Mr. Aguilera was employed not only by Rube's, but for the purposes of the lacking worker's compensation insurance, also by Pegasus and the Montana Villas Homeowners Association because Rube's (the employer) was illegally uninsured.
Although the case doesn't identify the cost of Mr. Aguilera's injuries, it does note that the rain gutter contract was a mere $1050.00.
Disconnecting From The Electronic Tether
Crackberry users got a bit of cold turkey last week, sending a shiver down the spines of many of us whose electronic umbilical cord is connected to the office. As regular MIPTC readers know, I spent a bit of time in Australia recently, and discovered that Down Under has yet to enjoy the benefits of coast-to-coast broadband access.
One of the high-end hotels we stayed at was proud to offer dial-up connectivity in an ante-room off the hotel office, but you had to use your own provider.
Whoa, there cowboy. Don't go into shock yet.
Being disconnected worked marvelously. In fact, I highly recommend it. I don't use a Blackberry, but I'm just as bad: I use a global Samsung cell phone that gets my office email, telephone calls, spreadsheets and documents all in the palm of my hand, and my head is frequently buried in it when I'm away from the office.
In Australia, however, I had no choice: while my cell phone worked there and occasionally got email, not everywhere in Austrialia is covered by the type of service I need to stay connected. The first few hours of disconnectedness were awful. One day into it, I was going through delirium tremens and feeling the shock of no email.
Withdrawal, in a word.
On the third day I was thinking about pyschological help, but by the end of the week, I discovered the freedom I had before cell phones with email were invented. I think they call it relaxation. It was great.
You oughta try it, too. Just don't take a week to get there.
DNA Proves Husband Is Not Dad, But He Has To Pay Child Support Anyway
Imagine you're married and have a three-year old child, but you can't get along with your wife. You get a divorce and are ordered to pay $1,200 a month in child support. You may not like it, but you understand because you want to support your child.
But after your divorce, DNA proves otherwise.
Mom may be Mom, but her child is not yours. After learning the devastating news, you go to court for an order to stop paying child support. Let the real father kick in for the child support, you reason. The courts rule against you, so you appeal all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Somewhere along the line, someone has to make sense of this problem.
The Florida justices ruled 7-0 against Richard Parker. The Court ruled Parker must continue to pay $1,200 a month in child support. Parker's child support payments will total more than $200,000 over 15 years to support another man's child. Unfortunately, however, Florida has a one-year statute of limitations to prove fraud after a divorce, and Parker didn't file in time.
"We find that the balance of policy considerations favors protecting the best interests of the child over protecting the interests of one parent defrauded by the other parent in the midst of a divorce proceeding," Justice Kenneth Bell wrote for the Florida Supreme Court. "We recognize that the former husband in this case may feel victimized," wrote Justice Bell. He quoted another writer to explain the ruling: "While some individuals are innocent victims of deceptive partners, adults are aware of the high incidence of infidelity and only they, not the children, are able to act to ensure that the biological ties they may deem essential are present."
Is the Court saying, "don't trust your spouse?""
Is that the right result? Shouldn't the biological father pay the child support?