Quote of the Day - Whereas knights of old wore armor of plate, the modern knights of the air wear the invisible but magic armor of confidence in technology.
Coast to Coast Listed In The American Bar Association's Top 10 In Tech
The Legal Talk Network's "Coast to Coast" was listed in the Top Ten in Tech, as published by the American Bar Association. Congratulations to my co-host Robert Ambrogi of Massachusetts on this distinction. According to the article, Bob and MIPTC "have become nationally known legal experts through their Web logs and Coast to Coast." Congratulations to the producers of our show at the Legal Talk Network, Lu Ann Reeb, Scott Hess, Kate Kenny, Bob Philos and Mike Hochman. You can read the article.
Distinguishing Paper Money Remains A Challenge For The Blind
Here's an exercise for you: open your wallet and take out your paper money, then close your eyes and count it. Not the number of bills, but the amount of money you have based on the denominations of the bills. You likely can feel the difference between a penny, nickel, dime, quarter and even a silver dollar piece such as a Susan B. Anthony or Pocahontas coin. But you can't count your paper money, no matter how hard you try.
The American Council of the Blind wants to rectify this problem, and they sued the government to get the U.S. Mint to come up with a way to distinguish bills from one another based on denomination. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed, and issued an order to the Treasury Department to come up with a solution. The government disagreed, and filed an appeal. The government said any remedy would be too costly and interfere with its ability to prevent counterfeiting and that blind people should use credit cards instead.
On the other hand, the American Council of the Blind offered several suggestions, including embossing, punching holes in the paper or using different-sized bills for different denominations. They've got a Petition, if you're interested.
Wholly Guacamole, Batman! How Many Avocados In That Dip?
MIPTC moved from Iowa to Southern California for several reasons, not the least of which is Southwestern food and the many music venues, including the Hollywood Bowl, jazz, rock and other concerts available around the greater Los Angeles area. But it's the food that first turned my head.
To say that I like guacamole is an understatement. It wasn't always that way, however. To put my love of Southwestern food into context, you should first understand that in New England where I was born, my Mother often cooked Yankee Pot Roast, which my brother Todd just as often called Rankee Rot Roast. My Mother was not a great cook, as you can imagine. Before I moved to California, I had never tasted guacamole the way it's made here, and it had not once graced the Williams household kitchen table.
A dear friend of mine, Father Rafael Luevano, makes it fresh this way: avocados, chopped tomatoes and onions, cilantro and lime juice and a dash of salt. That's it, plain and simple. Along with chips, a beer and friends, it doesn't get much better.
Now we learn that Kraft, Dean's, Marie's and Herr's have been sued in a class action because allegedly less than two percent of the ingredients in their guacamole dip products are avocado. In contrast, the FDA requires that at least 90 percent of peanut butter is made from peanuts, but apparently the California Avocado Commission hasn't been as successful with its lobbying efforts.
In any event, the FDA requires that labels accurately describe the ingredients of food products, listed in order of amount, with the largest amount first, and the least amount listed last. The moral of the story here? Flip that container over and read the list of ingredients. Otherwise, just try Father Luevano's guacamole recipe.
Is Gun Ownership Necessary? Can We Just Erase The Second Amendment?
No matter which side you fall on, a difficult legal issue has arisen in our nation's capitol over their problem with handguns. Here's the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
You may think you know - the right to bear arms, you say. But go back and read it again. Is it just the right of a well-regulated militia, made up of the people, to keep and bear arms? Or is it the right of people to keep and bear arms, whether or not they're in a militia? Beyond those two questions, two judges of the DC Court of Appeals, Judge Thomas B. Griffith and Senior Judge Laurence Silberman added another one: is gun ownership necessary any longer? Have we outgrown the need to have guns in our homes?
We're about to find out, if the District of Columbia has anything to say about it. The District's City Council has banned handguns, and that ban is being challenged in Court in the case of Shelly Parker v. District of Columbia, case No. 04-7041. From what MIPTC can see on the NRA's website, the gun lobby hasn't taken a position on the case yet, but the organization's opinion isn't really in doubt. We wouldn't be surprised to have the NRA come out in support of Ms. Parker and her right to possess a gun. Anti-gun advocates, on the other hand, support the ban.
We have a well-regulated militia. They're called the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and even the Marines, Seals and a bunch of other special forces and even some secret agencies like the CIA and the NSA. We have police forces across the country - the FBI, state and local agencies. Heck, the Texas Rangers can handle the whole Southwest, or so they say.
The Court wants to know if we still need guns in our homes? It's a legitimate question. Let me pose an equally legitimate question: can we just erase parts of the Constitution because our country has changed? Amending the Constitution is not the job of the Courts, it's a job for Congress and the several states - the people. Whether we've outgrown the need for guns is not the question to ask in this case. The Constitution is full of things that supposedly don't apply any more - take slavery for example - but we don't just erase parts of the Constitution in court decisions because they don't apply anymore.
The judicial debate over the Second Amendment should involve an interpretation of the language in the Amendment itself, not whether the Constitution is out of date. That's a matter for a different forum. Courts are supposed to interpret, not legislate. Let's hope the Court sticks to the issues within its purview.
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Gets Toasty
The highly debated issue of global warming takes center stage in the US Supreme Court. Justices questioned the effects of auto and truck emissions on the environment. The justices also questioned how the coastlines can be saved and whether the USEPA should be called upon to stop this damage.
Join me and my fellow co-host and Law.com blogger Robert Ambrogi, as we discuss the role of the government, the USEPA and the Supreme Court in this case. Coast to Coast welcomes David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC), Douglas T. Kendall, founder and Executive Director of Community Rights Counsel and Anne Kelly, director of governance programs for Ceres. You won't want to miss this show!
UCI School of Law Shines Brightly On Its First Night Out
The power curve visited the newly-approved University of California at Irvine School of Law last night, and MIPTC was lucky enough to attend, having wrangled a media invitation from Tiana Johnson, UCI's Associate Director of Development for the Professional School Initiative. Wow, that's a mouthful. The School of Law celebrated the approval of its proposal for a new law school from the Regents of the State of California in fine style at the Bren Events Center, on campus.
The luminaries shone brightly - Chancellor Michael Drake, Provost Michael Gottfredson, several Deans of the various schools, the entire search committee for the new Dean of the soon-to-be Law School, prominent members of the community, including Joan Irvine Smith, members of the judiciary, including appellate court justices, several federal court judges, numerous state court judges, leaders of prominent large law firms, and the four members of the team that successfully lead the effort to get the Regent's approval, former State Senator Joe Dunn, local lawyers Mark Robinson and Gary Singer.
The School will open in 2009 with 65 students, and grow to 200 per class, for a total of 600. UCI intends to recruit a top Dean, and hire only the finest faculty members, some 30 in all. They will seek accreditation through the American Bar Association, and MIPTC expects UCI will easily earn it. Students will be able to earn a Juris Doctor, a Master of Laws and a Doctorate, known as a Science of Laws. The UCI School of Law also plans to offer joint Masters programs with other graduate disciplines offered by UCI, as well as an accelerated joint JD/MBA program.
The stars fell on Irvine last night, and will continue to shine for years to come. Welcome UCI School of Law.
U.S. Mint Does Literal Double-take Over Double Eagle Coins
Well, it's happened again. The family of Israel Switt found two 1933 Double Eagle coins in Mr. Switt's safety deposit box after his death. They're pretty rare, and set the record for the highest single coin sale. One Double Eagle coin fetched just under $8 million at an auction in 2002 that took less than nine minutes to complete. The rest of them, perhaps with the exception of only eight known coins, were melted down after FDR took the US off the gold standard in 1933.
But back to my story. It's virtually illegal to possess these coins in the United States without government approval since we've retired most of our gold to Fort Knox for safekeeping. So, to comply with the law, Mr. Switt's family, Joan S. Langbord and her sons, Roy and David, turned the two coins over to the U.S. Mint for authentication. If it were me, I would have just tried to bite them to see if they were real. Turn them over to the government? Come on! Their teeth are no better than mine.
And perhaps not unexpectedly (or just plain old expectedly if you don't like the double negative), the U.S. Mint kept them.
That's right, the government seized them, which is what they do best. Heck, the government even has a whole department dedicated to seizing money.
You know, the IRS. I know, <groan>, you saw that one coming. I didn't want to disappoint you.
So to get the coins back, Mr. Switt's family filed suit in Philadelphia (Mr. Switt's hometown - it's the best you can do since the federal government has a hometown in Washington, D.C., where the Mint is). We'll see where this one goes, and keep you informed.
I'm betting on the Switt family, but I'm only taking bets in gold.
Twice Is Just As Nice: If Firing Your Employee Didn't Work The First Time, Then Try It Again
You can fire your employees twice.
That's right, twice, I said. Why would you need to fire an employee twice? Let's say, for example, that your employee sues to be reinstated after you fire the employee the first time. Then the employee gets reinstated, and just to add insult to injury, say with back pay and penalties. Ouch.
Can you fire your employee again? The answer is yes, if you're in the Ninth, Seventh or now Third Circuits. Click on the link for map. Of these three, MIPTC is admitted only in the Ninth, so consult your local attorney if you're an out-lander. Mirroring decisions in both the Ninth and Seventh Circuits, the Third Circuit just released this opinion, approving the second termination of an employee, once for using a stolen receipt to pick up meat from the company, and the second time for beating up a security guard who was involved with the first termination.
Presumably, if an employee wins reinstatement a second time, you can fire the employee a third time, but no court has approved that circumstance yet.
Call me silly, but maybe the arbitrator approving the first reinstatement got the message the second time around.