May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - That dog won't hunt.
Pet Trusts Come Into Vogue As Pets Get Old; Retirement Homes, Too
Nine lives or not, cats get old. Dogs, apparently too. And when their owners get old, pet owners may go to a retirement home. Don't look now, but there are also retirement homes for pets themselves.
That's right. Fluffy and Fido can live the life of luxury in their wheelchairs.
Don't get me wrong here, I've pretty much had a pet in my home since I was born. From a Cocker Spaniel to a Springer Spaniel to a mutt cat to a Bengal cat. Some have come and gone with various relationships, some died and some ran away. But a retirement home?
Surely they do not jest. Just run a search on your favorite search engine, and you'll likely find plenty of results, like Rita's Purrever Ranch Sanctuary in Tennessee, which by the way offers a handy-dandy Pet Guardian Form, just in case your favorite pet doesn't have one. And don't miss out on Rita's Mewsletters.
Speaking of guardians, how's your Pet Trust coming along? Pet Trust you say? They're not just for Leona Helmsley anymore. As a matter of fact, there's an entire site dedicated to estate planning for pets, along with the advice that the IRS won't tolerate a charitable remainder trust for Spot.
Not to worry, though. The site also features a state-by-state listing of pet trust statutes you can review to determine if your state is pet-friendly.
While there are a significant number of people who don't have wills or trusts, if you've got a loved one of the furry type, you may want to contact your local lawyer to ensure your pets will be handled according to your wishes if you're not around.
Otherwise, the fur will fly.
The Department Of Redundancy Department
This headline from the AP says it all: "State Report: Texas Has Too Many Reports."
Current count places the number of reports at 1,600 that various state agencies must complete according to Texas laws and regulations.
It only took the Texas State Library and Archives Commission 18 months and questioning more than 170 agencies and public colleges and universities to come up with this conclusion.
And yes, they created a report about it.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Gets the Skinny on Downloading Music
From musicians speaking out about the effect illegal downloading is having on the industry, to college students being sued, the issue of illegal music downloading is all around us.
Please join me and my fellow co-host and Law.com blogger Bob Ambrogi, as we turn to the experts: Attorney Richard L. Gabriel, from the firm, Holme Roberts & Owen LLP and lead national counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America and Attorney Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney specializing in intellectual property issues with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
On this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we will discuss the ethics behind downloading music illegally, copyright law, the lawsuits brought by the RIAA, the fate of the music industry and alternatives to illegally downloading music.
When The Fat Pipe Gets Thin
Back when you had to walk to school uphill both ways in the blinding snow, there was dial-up Internet access. In fact, there may be some readers who remember taking the AT&T handset and squeezing it into two circular rubber holders so your personal computer (the term PC hadn't yet been invented) could warble those analog signals to a big
You remember War Games with preteen Matthew Broderick, don't you?
Then our kids were born, cell phones were invented, the sun finally dawned on man and the cable companies introduced - taaaa daaa with a drum roll, please - Broadband, with a capital B, thank you very much. The Internet was born and Wikipedia became The Word.
Broadband, a.k.a. the Fat Pipe, promised and for the most part delivered blazing speeds and fast downloads. And for the geeks among us, fast uploads. That is unless you're on the Internet in your time zone from about 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m, when kids, Dads and Moms plunk down in front of their computers and surrrrrfff the 'net. All at the same time.
It's like a virtual traffic jam. In fact, if you think that's bad, try the weekends when the Internet turns into a parking lot and the Fat Pipe gets thin. Very thin.
So, it's Class Action Man to the rescue. San Fransiscan Jon Hart wasn't happy with his download and upload speeds and suspected that his Internet Service Provider, Comcast, was intentionally slowing down his file transfers with his friends. His friends thought so, too, but they couldn't prove it.
Then the Associated Press published a report, allegedly validating their suspicions. Now our hero has sued Comcast, alleging damages from slow Internet speeds and false advertising. His lawyer wants to turn the suit into a class action.
Meanwhile, MIPTC's cable provider, Cox Cable, is briefly shutting down our Broadband Internet service next week to install a fiber network and replace the Fat copper Pipe. Here, downloads from the Internet will be like drinking from a fire hydrant. I guess they'd rather switch than fight.
What's The Point Of Having A Will?
Now don't get me wrong here, but this situation comes dangerously close to too much government regulation. Let me explain. 60-year old Anthony "Corky" Sliwkowski had the nerve to die with a will.
Well, that's not really the problem, is it? It's what happened after he died that presents the issue prompting my question in the headline. You see, Corky was a dentist, and a wealthy one at that. He had a $3 million dollar estate, the kind worth fighting over.
And it's a fight we indeed have. Corky divorced some time ago, and had three children from his prior marriage. Two years ago, he signed a will disinheriting his three children. I'm guessing here that the divorce was a nasty one.
Trouble is, two of the three children were minors, aged 11 and 13 at the time of his untimely death. The oldest child was of majority, over age 18. The money, Corky's entire estate, went instead to his sister, Flossie.
His former wife, Barbara Sliwkowski, was not happy that Corky disinheirited his two daughters, so she sued to ensure they'd inherit at least part of his money. To be fair, you should know that Corky hand-wrote out some notes about adding his daughters back into his will, everyone involved in the dispute agrees Corky very much loved his daughters and around the time Corky wrote his will, he was likely in a manic-depressive state.
And all's well that ends well: Flossie and Barbara settled the lawsuit, and the girls each get $200K toward their education, and apparently Barbara had earlier received an allegedly sizable settlement in her divorce, and Corky's life insurance policy went to his two daughters.
Now that everyone's calmed down, consider these two other points made in this Boston Globe Online story by Jenna Russell: first, she notes "Some states have already wrestled with the question and determined that a father's duty does transcend his death. A Massachusetts ruling, decided by a 4-to-2 vote of the Supreme Judicial Court in 2000, found that a father's death 'does not extinguish his duty to support his minor child,' even if his will severs ties to the child."
Next, the story points out Barbara and her lawyer want to introduce legislation in Rhode Island, where Corky died, preventing fathers from disinheriting their minor children. [July 24, 2008 correction: Barbara Silwkowski has informed me that she and her lawyer introduced the legislation "to make child support a valid claim against an estate." MIPTC regrets the error. Further, according to Ms. Silwkowski, the legislation was introduced and passed on the first reading.] Certainly it seems a good social policy to ensure fathers provide for their daughters, but legislation? I thought that's what divorce courts were supposed to do with that thing they call child support. Otherwise, if Mom and Dad are still married, would such legislation invade the marital finances and require certain financial standards to have children?
Where do we draw the line? You can only have kids if you can afford it? Who determines how much you have to earn to have children. Silly questions, yes, but ones that may get asked in this type of statute.
WLF's Fifth Annual Fall Harvest Open House - We've Got A New Name
WLF grew a bit last night - we added a name to our letterhead, unveiled appropriately at our Fifth Annual Fall Harvest Open House. We're now WLF | The Williams Lindberg Law Firm, PC, and we've very proudly changed our logo on our website. If you weren't here, we missed you. If you missed it and want to come next year, then please save the date now - it will be Thursday, November 13, 2008. Make sure you let us know you want to come so we can send you an invitation.
Our named partner, Craig Lindberg, is a well-known litigator, having established the precedent in contributory copyright infringement, used most famously to shut down Napster. He's also an excellent litigator, writer and all-around good guy. He's been my partner since we started, now almost five years, and he successfully twisted my arm to change that logo you see at the top of the page. I'm tremendously proud to have him as a named partner, as were all nearly 140 guests at last night's party.
The party, put together by our very own Leigh Dierck and catered by the always yummy Plums Cafe, was a big hit with our guests, including one very well known anonymous guest, known best in the blogosphere as Ed. of the Blawg Review. Leigh got him to give up his last name for his nametag, and it read Ed Post. I'm not convinced. But just so you're convinced he was here, here's his business card, drawn from the offbeat (just like our famous editor) Gaping Void by Hugh MacLeod.
Remember, though - next year's Open House won't start until you get here and won't finish until you leave. We're looking forward to seeing you.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Contemplates Early Prison Release
William Flynn, the teenage lover who murdered Pamela Smart's husband in 1990 is asking a judge to reduce his prison sentence 11 years before he is set to become eligible for parole in 2018.
Please join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Bob Ambrogi, as we talk to the experts, Attorney Marsha Kazarosian and Attorney Allan H. Stokke, to discuss the potential early release of William Flynn. On Lawyer2 Lawyer, we also discuss how the request is filed and the criteria, the pros and cons in this particular case, and Flynn's juvenile status at the time of the murder vs. the expectation that "he should pay for what he did." Join us!
Signs, Signs Everywhere There's Signs. Except in San Diego And Maybe Beaumont
Laws about billboard signs rarely make the news, except when a sign company wants to plant one near your business or home, or in these two cases, in your city. Big signs make easy targets for politicians because attacking them generally garners support among constituents. After all, how many sign owners are voters? Not very many. Recently, the courts got in on the act, too.
The first of November was a banner day, so to speak, for the advancement of sign law. If you're a company who owns billboards, it was half good and half bad. If you're a city trying to prevent billboards from going up, it was half bad and half good. The Ninth Circuit came out with two, side-by-side opinions about the First Amendment right of free speech and the constitution.
The sum and substance of the rulings go like this. In San Diego, if you own a business, it's likely you will be able to put up a sign to advertise your business, as long as it's on or near your business and small. If you want to erect a freeway-sized billboard, then you probably won't have too much luck. The Ninth Circuit upheld the City's size and height restrictions, which pretty much eliminate big signs.
In the Inland Empire City of Beaumont, it doesn't pay for politicians to play with their sign ordinances. It looks too much like you're trying to play favorites, and if there's one thing the Constitution won't tolerate, it's favorites. Equal treatment under the law is the call of the day.
In fact, it was equal treatment under the law that doomed the signs in San Diego, and equal treatment under the law that gave the signs a second chance in Beaumont. It's a law school professor's dream. Two cases involving virtually the same law and at first glance similar facts, decided the opposite way. Both lawsuits challenged sign ordinances based on the free speech right embodied in the First Amendment and the equal protection right in the Fourteenth Amendment.
Notice I said "at first glance."
That's the rub. Most issues in the law are fact sensitive, and that's what makes it a horse race. Let me explain. In Beaumont, sign company Outdoor Media Group applied for a permit to erect four signs. In response, the City repealed its sign ordinance and then enacted a new one. OMG claimed it suffered an equal protection violation because the sign ordinance discriminated between commercial and noncommercial billboards.
In San Diego, the sign ordinance makes no distinction between commercial and noncommercial speech. It simply limits the size and placement of any sign, no matter what the content. Therefore, the regulations were content-neutral and limited only time, place and manner restrictions. The Court found that San Diego's purpose in enacting the sign code was to optimize communication and protect the City's public and aesthetic character. It furthers these interests by setting its restrictions according to the width of public rights-of-way and the speed limit. Get Outdoors, II, the sign company challenging these restrictions, lost because everyone was treated equally. There's just not going to be any more big signs in San Diego.
The lesson for cities is an easy one: don't discriminate and permit some signs to do one thing and others to do something entirely different. Treat everyone the same, and you will have a constitutionally attack-proof ordinance. For sign companies, the lesson is equally easy. Look at the ordinances first and then pick your battles. Or just find an empty stretch of well-traveled freeway.