Quote of the Day - ďNeither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.
Taking A Shot On The Highest Court In The Land
MIPTC is in Washington, D.C., and doing some business about town, including the Supreme Court. When you're visiting the Court, you can take a tour and participate in a lecture inside the main courtroom where oral arguments are heard. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the Court and learn how much Americans don't know about our court system by the questions that are asked during the lecture.
Bar members are entitled to preferred seating just behind the counsel tables, and the courtroom is much smaller than most federal courts. There is virtually no well between counsel tables and the bench, and the room is not overly intimidating. Bar members can also use the Supreme Court law library, a bit smaller than the law library at the Library of Congress, but much quieter, with no lines to wait in for help from the librarians.
But the best part about the tour is to actually take a shot on the highest court in the land. That's right, above the courtroom and the law library is a low-ceiling basketball court - a full court. You can take a few shots there if no one is using it and the Court is not in session - I did, and even made a few baskets. But when I asked the clerk who took me up there whether any of the justices played, he responded with a groaner.
The justices don't play basketball very much because they spend so much time on the bench.
Farmers Harvest Corn, Soybeans, Hogs and Now Wind
Farming is farming, I guess. It doesn't necessarily matter what you're farming. It could be corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa, shrimp, salmon, pearls, or, for that matter, let's say wind.
That's right. Wind.
You've heard of wind farms. We have a couple here in California, out near Palm Springs and another one outside of Livermore. They're even proposing one in Nantucket Bay, just off the shores of Cape Cod. Everyone there is up in arms about it. For that matter, many people around Palm Springs and Livermore were up in arms about wind farms before the Bureau of Land Management installed them.
Hard to believe for California, land of fruits, nuts, twigs and berries. And environmentalists. Purists call them eyesores. Visual pollution. NIMBY - you know - Not In My Back Yard.
Whatever they are, with rising fuel prices, they are starting to make money. Not a lot of money, say $3-5,000 per acre over 25 years. That's not a huge return, but some estimates peg the rate of return at a fairly respectable 20%, which may drop down to 7%, if tax subsidies were lost.
In Missouri, however, farmers are adding wind to one of their crops. The small family farm is about to go by the wayside given the cost of just about everything, consolidation into corporate farms and lower prices from imports. Now they're going to try a new income stream.
The Missouri farmers are planting seeds that will grow into wind turbines. Right there next to their herds, and they can still farm other crops around the 15-foot bases of the 200-foot high wind turbines. Sounds like a win-win to this former gentleman farmer.
Home Invasion Alarm Vote Lands Fremont City Manager, Council In Hot Water
More and more houses have burglar alarms, and as a consequence, more and more false alarms result, and cause police to spend time answering those alarms. Te police are understandably frustrated when they respond to an alarm, only to find that the wind blew a door open that someone forgot to lock.
Police in the City of Fremont on the the Southeast side of San Francisco bay wanted to stop wasting time answering alarms, and spend more time catching real crooks (isn't that what we say when we get pulled over for a speeding ticket?). The Fremont police proposed to adopt a policy that required verification of the home invasion alarm from an independent third party before they would respond to an alarm.
Whether that's a good policy or not, the police allegedly got the City Manager to brief the Council Members on the policy and gain their support. Later, in a regular City Council meeting, the Council members voted to adopt this new policy.
Just one problem: the City Manager's meeting with the Council members was not public. Yes, the meeting where the policy was adopted was public, but one City resident, J. Dennis Wolfe, believed damage had already been done in the private meeting without public input. So he sued under California's Brown Act, which requires meetings with public officials to be open and public.
According to Wolfe's allegations, one Council member allegedly said that other Council members, after having been briefed on the new policy, had expressed their support for it in advance of the public meeting. The trial court initially granted the City's motion to dismiss Wolfe's Complaint. The appellate court in a case entitled Wolfe v. City of Fremont, however, disagreed, and reversed.
Wolfe now gets to try his case against the City and force a new meeting before the City Council to reconsider the police-proposed policy. The same vote may come again, but this time, the City will have to listen to Wolfe and other Fremont residents who think that it might be a good idea to respond to home invasion alarms, even without independent verification.
After all, if your house has been invaded, it's not too likely that the invaders are going to give you time to call the police and verify that your house has been invaded. I'm not a policeman, but it seems logical to me.
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Gets The Bits and Bytes On New E-discovery Rules in the Federal Courts
On December 1, 2006, new amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will take effect and change how civil cases will be tried forever. In this edition of Coast to Coast, we discuss these e-discovery changes, what the impact will be for corporate America and how companies can prepare themselves before the new rules take effect.
Join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi as we get insight into the world of e-discovery from the experts, Michele C.S. Lange, Esq., staff attorney in the Electronic Evidence Services group at Kroll Ontrack Inc. and Dennis Kennedy, well-known lawyer and legal technology consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri. Donít miss this program.
Vigilante Bounty-hunter Or ADA-Crusader? You Be The Judge.
Businesses who have fended off lawsuits over disability access can take heart in last week's decision in Gunther v. Lin from the Fourth District Court of Appeal here in California. Now don't start flame-out comments, here, there are bounty-hunter-style lawsuits out there filed by people who are more interested in recovering money than in ensuring people with disabilities have access to services. You can be the judge whether this lawsuit falls into the former or latter category.
A wheelchair-bound customer entered a restaurant bathroom, and then sued the restaurant because there was a lack of insulation under the sink and the mirror was set too high for compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The customer was able to access the toilet. The customer's lawsuit sought penalties under California Civil Code section 52.
Short, relevant legal lesson here: section 52 allows penalties with a showing that the business's actions in not complying with ADA standards was intentional (actual damages, punitive damages and a $25,000 penalty, plus attorneys fees). Another section, California Civil Code section 54.3 creates strict liability for a violation (a sure win upon a showing of noncompliance), but the penalties ($1,000) are much less than section 52. A plaintiff cannot pursue remedies under both statutes, she must choose one or the other.
In the case, the restaurant owner, John Lin, said he was in the process of remodeling the bathroom: the insulation hadn't yet been installed and an employee did not install the mirror correctly. In other words, the court believed that Mr. Lin's actions were unintentional. Because Mr. Lin's actions were not intentional, the wheelchair-bound plaintiff was unable to recover any damages for the noncompliance.
In other words, plaintiffs suing for ADA-style violations must first prove intent before the court will award substantial damages. Recovery under Civil Code section 52 will likely now take the form of preliminary requests for compliance with the ADA that repeatedly get ignored, causing an actual injury to someone, rather than just non-compliance with the technical aspects of the law.
What Do Tattoos, The Lottery And Teaching Kids To Read Have In Common? Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, land of the Broadway hit musical by the same name, has become the last state to legalize tattooing. It's a Scandal! It's An Outrage! That's right, folks, women can now wear makeup in Oklahoma, too. Don't get me wrong here: MIPTC comes from the land of corn-fed beef and ham, that somewhat nearby state of Iowa, so I'm not poking fun at Midwesterners. I am, however, poking fun at Oklahoma, the land where the "Oklahoma State Lottery Teaches Kids To Read."
I kid you not.
It says so, right there on the State's lottery website. I suspect it's a conspiracy to get Oklahoma children to learn their numbers so they can buy lottery tickets, too.
It's been a sore subject for some time. Tattooing; that is, not Oklahoma children who can't read. While the law preventing tattooing used to exist in the state, it was not regularly enforced. Some have been arrested, but now practicing body art will take an application, a stiff licensing fee, a bond and classes, and an ink pen. Most surprising, the license requires proof of previous professional practice in tattooing. It's as if the state is granting amnesty, I suppose.
After all, tattooing has only been around 6,000 years.
The Halloween Queen Fights City Hall Over Sign Law
Just in time for Halloween, Raleigh, North Carolina has determined that kids dressed in costumes outside a costume store constitute a sign for the store. That's right, take a look at Part 10 (comes right after Part 14 in the Code), Chapter 2, Article E, section 10-2083.2. See if you can figure out how a kid dressed in a Halloween costume fits into this Ordinance. Here are the categories that qualify as signs:
- Announcement signs.
- Awning, marquee, and canopy signs.
- Changeable copy signs.
- Community watch signs.
- Directional signs.
- Directory signs.
- Ground low profile signs.
- Ground signs for double frontage lots.
- Ground medium profile signs.
- Ground high profile signs.
- Landmark signs.
- Product and information signs.
- Projecting signs.
- Temporary signs.
- Tract identification signs.
- Wall signs.
- Windblown signs.
I can't, and I'm a lawyer. I don't see the words "kids dressed in costumes" or anything even approaching that. Perhaps it's because I'm not licensed in North Carolina, and I just don't understand how they do things in Raleigh, just up the road from Mayberry. I used to live South of the Mason-Dixon line, but I still don't quite get it.
For that matter, neither does the mother of the kids, Louie Bowen, who also owns the offending costume shop, Hughie & Louie's. Her kids, 13 and 9, were dressed as Mrs. Claus and an elf. They earned a $100 ticket from Raleigh's zoning department for failure to have a permit. The editorial staff of the local paper, the News & Observer, is behind Mrs. Bowen, and has called on the mayor to intervene.
Meanwhile, the zoning department has threatened a $500 fine for a repeat violation. Of the sections on the list above, the Product Signs category looked like a possible fit, but the definition requires a sign of at least 32 feet. At 13 and 9, it's doubtful that the kids are that big. I wonder how Raleigh would treat headvertising, where you get paid to put an ad on your forehead.
N&O writer Josh Shaffer quoted Larry Strickland, Raleigh's inspections director, interpreting the sign Ordinance. "It could even be a person. If she's in the costume business and she's got people in costume out there, that could be a violation,'' the inspector claimed. The reporter goes on, "Bowen's violation note reads: 'The display of portable sign(s)/banner(s)/pennant(s)/ balloon(s) at the above location is a violation of Raleigh City Code Section 10-2083.2, which allows for the display of such signs only after the issuance of a thirty (30) day special event sign permit." An inspector scribbled an addendum: "This includes people dress up.' "
In protest, Ms. Bowen donned her own costume: a crushed velvet cape and faux-gold tiara and scepter. As the Halloween Queen, she's going to fight City Hall.
It seems to me that if you have a scepter, you can overrule City Hall.
Coast to Coast Internet Radio Gets Merck's Perspective
Recently a federal jury ruled in favor of Merck & Co. Inc. in a lawsuit over the painkiller Vioxx, finding there was not enough evidence to link the drug to a Kentucky man's heart attack. In this show, we speak with a key attorney on the team representing Merck in the Vioxx cases, Phillip Beck.
On past Coast to Coast shows, we have hosted the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs affected by Vioxx as guests, but this time around we get Merckís take. Join me and my fellow co-host and Law.com blogger Robert Ambrogi as we discuss Merckís perspective with Attorney Phillip Beck, partner with the firm of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP in Chicago. Donít miss out on this highly-anticipated show.