Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Anonymous Law Firm Hits The Web

So Anonymous Lawyer's lawfirm finally has its website up. Its pretty funny. And yet sad, since I recognize parts of my old firm in that website.

The Anonymous Lawyer's book is due out in the next few months. I might actually buy it (since there is no way in hell I deserve a free advance copy.)

There are times I feel like this

I saw this over on another blog site and thought it summed up my week.

Little bit more on the whole Reilly v. Ma (or is it Ma v. Reilly) thing

According to the Chronicle's Matier and Ross today, this 12th District, which I apparently live in (or at least live close enough that I get the mailers and have to be subjected to the tv ads) is a pretty big fight. In one corner you have the entrenched Sacramento group, whose outgoing standard bearer wants Ma to take over. In the other corner you have the wife of the man who was the standard bearer's political foe.

What does this mean? Upwards of 2 million dollars has been spent on a sleepy district that includes a large number of dead people (the 12th includes Colma, where the cemetaries are). And this has been a nasty fight. Its included charges that one of the candidates worked for an anti-abortion govenor in South Dakota (one hell of an IRS goof). Then there has been the counter-attack which has included that, horror of horrors, one candidate dared to send her children to a catholic school!

The Chronicle just came out for Ma. However, in reading it, I almost think that they are using the Brian Sabean approach to free agents (i.e. if the player's an older veteran he must be good. And Mr. Sabean if you do read this, don't hold this against me when I put in for season tickets!).

Of course, it would have been nice to hear that candidates debate the issues instead of their choice of schools for their childern. However, one candidate seemed less than eager to do so. So that leads me to wonder why?

As I said before, I endorse neither of these people. I just find the whole thing amusing in a "will you stop putting on these awful commercials the take me out of my Doctor Who/Battlestar Galactica/Veronica Mars groove".

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Everyone gets to be a pharmacist

Apparently, its to increase their own profit margin and not to pool resources of many to make medical costs cheaper. Or at least that is what I am getting from this article in today's Chronicle where UnitedHealth Group, the nation's second largest health insurer, is urging some of its insurees to buy large doses of medicines and cut them in half.

Basically, they are telling people that medicines are too expensive and the co-pays are not going to come down. Therefore, they want people to buy dosages that are double what they are supposed to take and then cut the pill in half.

Now, I have done this in the past, but that was usually because the doctor was taking me down in my medication to a point where they do not make a pill in the amount he or she wanted me to take. And this is done at a doctor's instruction, not an insurance company's. However, in this instance, the insurance companies are saying to their insurees "too bad that costs are so high, we need to keep our profits, so instead of finding some other way to ease the burden, we want you to to play pharmacist."

And that is essentially what they want. Pills do not always split nicely down the center. This means that people could end up getting under dosages and over dosages. With some medications, this will harm the effect the drug is supposed to have on the person. And what is the upside to the patient? By UnitedHealth's estimate a 1 to 2 percent savings. So rather than not be as profitable as possible, they would rather pass it on to the insured. To me, this does not seem like the best way to keep clients healthy.

But never fear, guess who is against this? That's right the drug companies. However, they are claiming to be against it because of the risk to the patients who use their products. Somehow, what I think they are really worried about is that this will eat into their profits as well.

So what is the real problem here? Drug costs are too high. Why is that? Well, I'm sure that the drug companies would say that it is the lawyers that are driving up the costs with their "frivolous litigation". They would probably say that they need to have the high prices in order to recoup the costs of developing the drugs. However, it would seem that the cost is artificially inflated because of the monopoly the companies have over the formulation because of their patent rights. This allows the drug company, and not the market, to set the price for the drug.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Normally, I could care less who represents me in Sacramento. I know that I should care, seeing as how the California legislature is actually closer to me than the politicians in Washington, but nevertheless I do. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm fuzzy about what the candidates actually want to do in Sacramento.

So this year really started out no differently. From what I understand, Janet Reilly and Fiona Ma are fighting it out for a state assembly seat. Until the other day, the only thing I thought about it was that Janet Reilly reminded me of an actress who used to play the girlfriend for Harmon Rabb on JAG.

And then on Friday I recevied a political flyer in my mailbox. Normally, I toss them out immediately, but with the cover defining the word "hypocrite", I decided to read it before tossing it out.

Apparently Janet Reilly has made the environment the centerpiece of her campaign. So a group supporting Fiona Ma has struck back calling her a hypocrite. Why? Ms. Reilly seems to invest a sizeable portion of her money in pharmaceuticals. And because these companies make drugs which have apparently harmed people (e.g. Vioxx) .

So now professing to support the environment and making money has become hypocritical? Please. This is just silly. Why not debate the issues and stay away from the personal attacks? Or is that beyond a group that claims to be the leaders of California?

I want it clear. I am not endorsing or supporting either candidate. I am, however, in favor of candidates debating issues that matter and not ad hominem attacks.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Slow Newsday?

Apparently the AP is reporting that the police arrested some prostitutes. How did they do this? They ran an undercover operation by browsing posted on craigslist.

The question becomes either a) its taken the police this long to realize that prostitutes post ads for customers on craigslist? or, more likely, b) someone at the AP really needed to file something the day before a holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Good Job the AUSAs who tried the case!

It was certainly not a sexy case. It relied on a lot of numbers, a lot of papers, and a lot of things that most people would not find sexy in a case. However, it was a massive case of fraud and the AUSAs who tried the case obtained the verdict from the jurors today.

Kenneth Lay and James Skilling are no longer suspected of committing fraud. The jury today found them guilty. Mr. Lay as convicted on six counts of conspiracy and fraud. Mr. Skilling was found guilty of 19 counts of of conspiracy, fraud, false statements, and insider trading. Lay was also convicted by a the U.S. District Court Judge of four counts of fraud on charges which were tried the bench only. Of the entire indictment, only Skiling managed any acquittals. The jury found him not guilty on nine counts of insider trading. Pretty damn good!

This Mindset Really Disturbs Me

So as I was making my run through the blogs today, I was reading a few postings over This is a well run site by a couple of active duty officers who deal with military issues with some politics thrown in when the situation gets that way.

Most days, I think they make some good points. However, today, in one of their posts, I think that they went a bit off their rails. What the writer wrote is this,

Beautiful. The War on Terror isn't gay marriage or stem cell research or abortion. It isn't a topic that should be debated during high school forensics matches. We have a category here at Op For called "One Team, One Fight." Charlie and I are constantly searching for examples of one America, one war, one fight. It's how things should be, but aren't. There shouldn't even be a need for a category that recognizes something Americans should be doing in the first place.

Not taking into account what your position on the war is, this is a scary statement. We live in a democratic republic. As citizens, members of this society, we have a responsibility to question, debate, and argue over the course of our country. It does not matter where you come down on the issues, its part of being a citizen to participate in the discourse. Otherwise, we cease to be the country which we are.

Americans have fought amongst themselves over every major decision this country has had, even before this country existed. There is not one war that this country has entered where there was not an opposition to it. Were people wrong to oppose some of the wars? Depends on your view now and then. Did it make them wrong to do so? As long as it was in their interests as a citizen, then no they were not.

Are all forms of this discourse proper? Personally, I think not. I am outraged at the acts of some groups, most notably the one that protests at the funerals of soldiers who have died in combat. However, at the same time, I am uncomfortable with legislating restrictions on people's right to protest.

Countries where discourse was discouraged invariably will fall. Going back to ancient times, the Persian/Achamaenid Empire was continually stymied by the quarrelsom Greeks. The colonists in the 1776 quarreled continually amongst themselves, but eventually persuaded enough of their fellows colonists of their position and created the present system we have inherited today. Germany and Japan in the 1930's discouraged discourse. Neither of those political systems survived long after that.

Am I equating the present administration to either of those regimes? No. What I'm saying is this: we must argue over all of these issues. At our core, this country moves forward by getting the agreement of its people, not the obedience. So the authors of OpFor, I say, there needs to be that category.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equitorial Guinia, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Burundi, Comors, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Benin, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivorie, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bisseau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Togo

You'd think someone from one of those countries would cave in and just visit so that I have all the continents populated (I'm not counting Antartica... yet).

This sounds familiar

I was reading Mr. Taranto's column over on when the following struct me as very, very familiar.

It has been nearly three years since the Valerie Plame kerfuffle began, and the Angry Left has shown enormous discipline in focusing with such intensity on it, even if it is an utterly trivial matter (Plame, by all evidence, not having been a covert agent as the kerfuffle's champions claimed). The result, so far: Scooter Libby is under indictment, though not for "outing" Plame.
And then it came to me. Whitewater. Replace the appropriate words with "Angry Right" and etc.

So nice to see one thing does not change when the other party takes the Whitehouse. It would be refreshing, perhaps, if the Dems did something useful. Say perhaps coming up with a coherent strategy on how to lead instead of how to be oppositional.

Friday, May 19, 2006

To the moon

This week I've wanted to send a few people to the moon, a la Jackie Gleeson in the Honeymooners. Well, I can't get there, or send others there, but my friend just finished work on a website that will let us have a bit of a better look. So here is the link.

Millberg Weiss is indicted

Millberg Weiss, for those who don't know, is a large plaintiff's side firm who specialize in class action and complex litigation. The firm has been a major force in shareholder suits against companies for a number of years, though it appears that they have begun moving into environmental and mass tort matters.

However, yesterday, the firm's future appears to be in doubt since the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (Debra Wong Yang) indicted the firm and two of its senior partners for what is alleged to be a kickback scheme which generated lawsuits. This investigation has been going on for some time, but it appears that a grand jury finally was empaneled and returned an indictment.

Essentially, the argument is that Millberg Weiss paid people to act as plaintiffs so that the firm could start large class actions against corporation in order to get the attorneys fees and a percentage the settlements or awards. Now, if this is true, then the firm and the partners should get the maximum penalty.

However, there is twist in this. What the government, possibly spurred on by "tort reforming" corporations, may be doing is trying to criminalize a practice that is not only common, but regulated (in California it is Rule 2-200 of the Rules of Professional Conduct): namely referral fees.

So did something happen? Or is this just backlash for years of being successful at litigating against corporations? Millberg Weiss has set up a website to tell their side of the story. For other, more in depth looks at this, take a look at the Legal Underground, TortsProf Blog, or White Collar Crime Blog.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Does Black Jack, Missouri, want to be sued?

Apparently they do. According to CNN, the city council for Black Jack, MO, voted yesterday to keep the current zoning ordinance for residential units. According to this law, the town will not permit more than three people who are unrelated by marriage or blood from living together.

Now, that could possibly be reasonable, though punitive to poor people who band together to rent a unit. However, meet Olivia Shelltrack and Fondrey Loving. They have been living together for roughly thirteen years. They have had two children together. They used to live in Minneapolis, MN. They came down to Black Jack, MO, and bought a home there. They have three kids together. From the reports I have seen this couple has done nothing wrong other than decide that they do not want to get married. Now it seems, Black Jack is telling them to get married or either a) move somewhere else or b) split up your family because you have had too many children.

Officially, Mayor Norman McCourt stated that the reason for not changing the law is overcrowding. However, according to one report, the reason given to other couples in the same situation is that, "While it would be naive to say that we don't recognize that children are born out of wedlock frequently these days, we certainly don't believe that is the type of environment within which children should be brought into this world," the mayor wrote.

This is not the first place where this has happened. Apparently, Manasas, VA, has a similar statute which is being contested. Of course, there could be something in Moore v. East Cleveland that could prove a stumbling block to Mayor McCourt's view of what is a family.

Mayor McCourt's take on unwed parents would do the Saudia Arabian morality police proud.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Chevron backing down?

In an earlier posting, I talked (ok, maybe I ranted, I've been doing that a little lately) about a proposed ballot initiative that was being backed by a number of large corporations, including Chevron.

Thanks to a post by Professor Childs, it appears that this ballot measure has been withdrawn and will not be submitted for the ballot here in California. According to the gentlemen at Products Liability Prof Blog, this is not the first time during this initiative cycle that "tort reformers" have been forced to pull an unpopular measure.

The story about this ballot measure states that the backers of the proposed initiative pulled back because of assurances by the California legislature that they would work on this issue. Apparently there is hope by some in the legislature that a reasonable solution to this will be achieved.

On the other hand, perhaps backers of the initiative are hoping that this November, Californians will elect legislators who are more inclined to vote for so-called "tort reform".

Monday, May 15, 2006

This is bad on so many different levels

Apparently the President has decided that the best way to protect the United States is to send the National Guard to the border with Mexico. Because, really, so much of our ills are caused by people he apparently described as those "who want to work in our economy".

Imagine that. People wanting to work. People who want to do jobs that no native born American typically wants to do.

So the administration's idea of immigration reform, since it was unable to convince the rest of the country, is to deploy National Guardsman from the border states of California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Of course, there are some who think this is a good idea. The AP notes, "
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, strongly supported the plan. He said, "If we'd done this years ago, we'd have put a stop to illegal immigration." He also is not the govenor of a state that will be responsible for supplying the troops.

The Bush Administration insists that this does not represent a militarization of the border. However, the National Guardsmen who are to be deployed will apparently be armed and allowed to fire under a set of specified rules of engagement. While on the one hand, the plan seems to be that the Guardsman will not take part in patrolling, which leads to the question of what are the Guardsman going to be doing, on the other hand they are being kept under state control. The important thing about state control is that it gets around the problem of Posse Comitatus, which prohibits U.S. military units from participating in law enforcement unless authorized. This begs the question, what are they going to do? The speech asking for the National Guard's deployment is here. In it, he states taht they will be in purely support positions (analyzing intelligence, building roads, training and etc.)

Yet, if the problem is bodies doing the actual patrolling, how is this going to make anything better? To me, this just does not make sense.(Of course, if someone will correct I welcome it).

However, there is something else to think about in this situation. How will this be viewed in Mexico. If we as a nation are serious about dealing with this issue, then we need to be on good terms with our neighbor. A presidential election is in the offing in Mexico and if anti-Americanism puts an antagonist in office, then it will be that much harder to do more to deal with the problem of illegal immigration.

Essentially my problem with this is that this reeks of an election year policy decision. Absent finding Bin Ladin or al-Zarqawi, targeting illegals from Mexico and places south is Willie Horton issue for the Republican Party.

Biggest Non-Story of the Day

I have seen this in so many places today, and yet I wish that the reporters had spent their time doing something else. As a suggestion, maybe reporting on things that actually matter.

But no, sadly, what passes for news is that BBC made a mistake the other day. It happens. They apologized. And it wasn't as if anything that bad happened because of it.

Could it be that CNN was happy to see that BBC made a mistake? Although in all fairness to the BBC, CNN's mistake was to not reveal that they were editing their reports in order to stay in good favor with Sadam Hussein's regime.

Here's a suggestion, why not spend more time on stories that could use the additional reporters who can do more than just attend press conferences. There's some issues out there like the militarization of the U.S. Border because our government can't come up with a sane and rational policy on how to admit people into this country. But sadly, after they get done with the BBC story, I am sure that will see more about the Duke lacrosse rape case that everyone wants to try in the media instead of in a courtroom.

Maybe I should just rely on the Daly Show. Well at least these sites don't have any mention of these "stories".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Could someone read what I suggested?

Probably not. This article came out earlier this week, I just have been busy and have not gotten around to writing about it.

Anyways, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors apparently did a little rethinking about how it would seek to penalize people for clearing buildings through evictions prior to enter the condominium conversion lottery process. The legislation that passed differed from the original bill.

First, it did not make the law retroactive to 1999. Instead, the law covers only those buildings wehre two evictions have occurred since May 1, 2005, or where evictions of protected tennants (basically those who are over 60 and/or have disabilities and meet certain other criteria) have occurred since May 1, 2005.

Second, if there have been more than two evictions of non-protected class tenants, the building is barred from the lottery for ten years.

A little harsher, but close to what I proposed back in April. Could someone associated with the Board of Supervisors be listening to me?

Now, I am going back to reality where they most certainly are not.

I used to laugh at these stories...

Now I just cringe in fear that it could happen to me.

Apparently a lawyer in New York is being sued for malpractice by a former client. Now, while this is not unusual, the fact that the case has been going on since 1986 is highly unusual.

The attorney was hired to represent the former client in a divorce proceeding. It turns out that he was the second of five attorneys that this person would hire to handle the divorce. She has since filed malpractice suits against all five attorneys.

Despite the fact that the plaintiff in the malpractice action has consistently lost at every level, she has continued her fight against her former attorney. However, it appears that after 18 years of legal fights, the judge overseeing the case has issued an order designed to curtail her ability to file more motions.

For the full story, take a look at the article here.

After what happened to me yesterday in my family law case, I worry that I could end up like this guy, fighting someone off for nearly two decades.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Hell No!"

I love dealing with tenants attorneys. They do not care a whit about what landlord's attorneys think of them. Even if they are negotiating with the landlord's attorneys, they are still snarling at them.

Or at least it seems that way when I am around them.

So today when I was talking over a case with a tenant's attorney who did not know me, about five minutes into the discussion he asked me, "Do you do any landlord side work?"

Without missing a beat, and answering truthfully, I responded, "Hell no!"

"That's the right answer," he chuckled as he proceeded to help me plot some mischief for the landlord's case against my client.

Mr. Clark, I respectfully disagree

Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States during the Johnson administration, has come out again against the tribunal that is conducting the trial against Saddam Huessein. He says that the court's attempt to protect witnesses have been "absurd" and that the case is in "chaos".

Essentially, he wants the tribunal disbanded and the case transferred to another country. Why?

Mr. Clark has stated that he has been denied access to documents which he maintains are centeral to his client's defense. He also states that his team needs more time to prepare the defense of the former dictator.

However, in this case, Mr. Clark is wrong. Hussein is being charged, primarily, with crimes he committed against his own county and his own citizens. Why should he not be tried by them? An argument could be made that there is not a person there who could be what is known in the United States as an "impartial jurror".

At the same time, the litany of reasons to try him in Iraq by Iraqis is stronger. The crimes he is being accused of happened in Iraq. The witnesses to the crimes are in Iraq. A procedure is in place that would seem to give him more rights that we are affording "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo. More importantly, Iraqis need to see that they can deal in justice and not simply revenge. Finally, if we are to say that Iraq is not being colonized by the United States, then we must allow them to administer their own laws.

For some differing view points about the trial there are pro-tribunal editorials here and anti-tribunal editorials here.

Mr. Ramsey wants the trial moved for one reason: his client is guilty. He wants to stave off the day of decision, whether it come from a judges' tribunal or a jury of impartial jurrors as long as possible. Perhaps he has the hope that he mire the process down to the extent that The Hague allowed to happen during the trial of Milosevic.

Is the Iraqi Special Tribunal perfect? No. Trials are messy things and perfection is sought but rarely ever attained in them. However, it is also seems that it is not a kangaroo court, instead a serious attempt to afford due process to a person who failed to give that to his own people.

Some thoughts about people in the legal profession

Today, and not for the first time, I reached out for some help on a case that I just took on. The guy who I asked for help from has a small firm with his partner not too far from where I am. Although he and his partner are busy trying to make their firm go, they took a good chunk of time out of their afternoon to help me on my case.

I never saw that when I worked for a mid-sized firm. There the concept was that if it didn't generate billables, it was not to be done. Nothing was done because it was you were really that interested in. It was done for only reason: making money.

Just reminding me how much better it is to interact with people who like what they do and want to help others do it well.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stress Toy Abuse

Alright, normally I don't like to link to advertisements, but this one is too funny. Especially in light of the research I am doing today.

No endorsement intended.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Trial Interuptus

This has been a long, long week. I've covered two settlement conferences. I've helped prep one trial for Monday and was the back up lawyer for a second (which in hindsight I should have taken on as my own).

I know, I know, clients have to have their say over whether the trial happens or not. And whether they like the deals or not. But come on. Will some of these clients keep that righteous indignation and obstinancy going past trial call instead of taking deals which, quite frankly, are not that good for them. On the other hand, they all avoided having unlawful detainers on their record.

Thats another two incidents of trialus interruptus.

In case you're wondering how a solo can end up as the backup, I think I should add I was doing a burst of pro bono work for the VLSP. And if you happen to be standing around when something needs help, you tend to get asked to pitch in. Barring a real problem, I'm liable to say yes to most pro bono cases.

Eventually I will get back to doing paying work. For now, its kind of fun jumping in and helping others.

Lucas Capitulates?

Where was I the other day? Apparently George Lucas has finally given in and is going to release the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD.

The original. Not the altered. Not the "Han-is-only-shooting-in-self-defense" version.

I'm not sure the last time I actually looked forward to a DVD release.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Convict me when I'm guilty alright?

Is that asking too much?

Not when you think there is a possibility that I might be guilty. Not when you find something that might, could be incriminating. Not when you know where I have been for the past year.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

He won?

Earlier today, the jury in the Zacarias Moussaui case came back with a sentencing verdict. Instead of death, they decided he should spend the rest of his life in jail.

When he heard the news, Mr. Moussaui apparently pumped his hands in the air declaring, "America, you lost... I won."

So... let me see. He did not get to fly a plane into a government building. He did not manage to kill even a single person. If it had not been for institutional inertia and, in hindsight ill-advised divisions of responsibility and jurisdiction, he would have given away more of the conspirators. He did not get the matrydom he so fervently wanted and volunteered. And he thinks he won.

This guy is starting to remind me of Franz von Papen.