Saturday, December 30, 2006

365 Days Later

So today is the one year anniversary of the Wandering Bell.


327 posts
3125 visitors
6 months it took to notice that I had comments waiting to be moderated.


Traded 1 girlfriend for a wife.
Have actual office instead of working out of my apartment.
New computer (thanks to those frakking finks who were never caught)

Things that haven't changed

My clients
The number of jury trials I have

Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

So Which Way Do You Come Down?

One of the benefits of honorably completing your military service used to be that you were entitled to be buried in Arlington National Cemetary. (From what I understand, because of the lack of space, this is not amended to burial at a national cemetary). Earlier this year, Russell Wayne Wagner, a Vietnam-era veteran, died of a drug overdose. He was cremated. His ashes were interred at Arlington.

Apparently, the Federal Government is going to disinter his remains.

The part that I did not tell you before was that Mr. Wagner was serving a life sentence for murder at the time he died. (Incidentally, the drug overdoes was heroin.)

I understand the desire of the victim's family to want to deny Mr. Wagner an honor in death for what he did. Furthermore, I understand the idea behind the bill that made this possible.

The reason I ask this is because there are many men and women who will and have served their country honorably and well, and not all of them will have the good fortune to be able to re-adjust once their service is over. It does not seem like a lot, but the historian in me has an appreciation for how and where people are buried. There is a difference between being buried at Arlington, or Baghdad North. So is the burial in National Cemetary honoring their service or their entire lives? Does a mistake committed later in life negate the good that was done earlier?

But then... I'm someone who hates to draw bright lines over murky swamps.

Clients... They'll Be The Death Of Me

So today is a tale of two sets of clients.

I suppose the first set is not really clients of mine. They are clients of a client of mine. Confused? Even though I have my own shingle hanging out there, I still take in contract work from other attorneys. In this case, I was hired by another solo to cover some hearings from him in one particular case. However, somewhere along the way, this attorney's clients were given my contact information and were told to contact me about some aspects of the case. This then lead to the slightly weird situation where the attorney I was contracting for would give me instructions through his clients.

Now this worked fine. Until a decision was made not to contest a tentative ruling. I received a call the day before the hearing from attorney's clients, telling me that I was going to fight the tentative. No problem, thinks I, since I had written the brief for the attorney.

Only one problem. The attorney never intended to fight the tentative (for a tactical reason which makes sense now that I've actually heard it). The attorney's clients, not fully understanding the reasoning for this, called me "passing along instructions" for me to fight the tenative.

I lost the motion. (Normally, I hate losing as much as the Osama Bin Ladin likes sitting down for pulled pork with George Bush. However, I have to say I did a damn good job.)

And I thought that losing the motion hearing was going to be the worst feeling I had until I returned a phone call from the attorney for whom I was doing the contract work. When he told me that he and the clients had decided to not contest the tentative ruling, .... Let's just say my stomach went into free fall.

Essentially the clients had lied to him and myself. Fortunately he believed me when I told him the truth that I had been told he had authorized me to go and contest the hearing. Last thing I need is to get a reputation for trying to shark other people's clients. Or that I was trying to interfere with his handling of a case. Not a good feeling to be in that position.

So the other client is one that is all my own. (Which in retrospect, should be a hint that there is something completely wrong with this person to begin with. If you look back at my postings about other clients, you may notice a theme. The theme is: they're all crazy.)

Anyways, the client was referred to me because they have a good claim about a wrongdoing landlord, but this client is going to start running into a statute of limitations problem if they do not get the complaint filed in the next few days. Sent down a contingency agreement that the client has mailed back to me. I spent a portion of the Christmas weekend drafting the complaint, after making sure that what the client said was close enough to reality to support a case. I consulted with some of the more senior members of the tribe about pitfalls to avoid in drafting the complaint. I have the client review the complaint for accuracy and sign the verification.

And then as I am about to go file the thing this afternoon, the client puts a hold on the whole thing worrying about the a) the agreement which he has signed and b) about complaint I have drafted. Now, this client is getting cold feet and wants the retainer agreement reviewed by a relative who is an attorney. Normally, I would have no problem with this, but the statute of limitations deadline is ticking away.

Clients... they'll be the death of me.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I am just way to tired for this nonesense...

I mean really. I am giving people fair warning today. I am much too tired for the bull that they seem to want to pick a fight with me and my clients today.

I am trying to be reasonable. I am trying to resist the urge to go to the mattresses (which quite frankly my client wants to do) and declare all out war. It would, in the end, be counter-productive, I believe for everyone. But no one wants to even consider a frakking compromise.

All I want to do is complete the settlement negotiations. But it seems to me that the other side wants to establish a double standard and make my client the second class citizen. Now this client of mine is never going to win the Miss Congeniality competition. This client is complete pain in the posterior. This client will not listen to most of my advice. In my opinion, this person is a bit of an anti-semite.

On the other hand, the opposition is alternates between times of passive agressiveness and outright aggressiveness. They demand everything from the situation, drape themselves in the mantle of being wronged, and have not the least iota of a problem in being completely and totally hypocrtical in their arguments.

Say what you want about my client, at least this person is not a hypocrite.

The more I think about it now, the more pulling everything together for an out and out fight seems like the right idea. Now I just got to get a little smarter and figure out the best way to fight them.

Something About the Argument Does Not Work

For more than five years the Bush Administration has been trying to roll back the civil rights of people charged with crimes. Essentially, the argument goes that there are certain crimes that the regular criminal justice system just absolutely cannot handle. Therefore, the Executive Branch must be able to make determinations in each case as to whether the a crime should be handled by the criminal justice, with all the rights accorded under the U.S. Constitution, and when you end up in a special federal prison, with extremely curtailed rights.

So far, the argument does not seem to work. Zacarias Moussaui is currently spending a life sentence in prison for his terrorist activities. And then two days ago, Demetrius Crocker was convicted of planning to use a dirty bomb.

Interestingly enough, this was a case that was conducted entirely as criminal matter from the begining by all accounts. A retired sheriff's deputy tipped off the local authorities who asked for, and received, help from the FBI. After taking the time to make sure that this was an actual crime, and not the harmless ravings and plotting of a deranged individual, he was arrested and brought to trial. There was no Navy Brig, nor military commission. Instead, he was convicted by a jury of twelve people on al lcounts which he was indicted.

So let's see, two major terrorism cases that have gone to trial. Prosecutors, despite the Bush Administration's intereference in the Moussaui case, managed to get convictions on both of them, putting both of the men away for significant terms in jail.

On the other hand, we have the ongoing embarrasment which is the Jose Padilla case. Based on the flings, he has been kept in conditions which we do not condone in other nations. And yet, we are not closer to bringing a close to his case.

Interesting Hearing That Just Finished

The f-bomb was apparetnly flying about in a Second Circuit Court of Appeals courtroom. The Second Circuit was hearing oral arguments about how the FCC has been enforcing standards for language on broadcast TV.

At issue is when is it permissible to use what some would consider profane language. Fox Television is appealing the FCC's policy on language, claiming that its too vague. For instance, language used in Saving Private Ryan, which has been broadcast on TV, cannot be used in other shows without incurring fines. Essentially, what Fox is arguing is that the government arbitrarily enforcing the rules and infringing on the First Amendment.

Not that I want Janet Jackson's nipple on my screen all the time, but I think that they have a point there.

Its a bad week...

When the contract work you are doing for various clients is having to be sent out at 5 a.m. local on successive days.

Its even worse when sending those email out means you finally get to go to bed.

Only to be awakened by calls from your other clients at 7:30 a.m. asking where the where their documents are. Leaving me to ask if they had checked their email yet.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What do you call this type of person?

Perhaps you know the type. They are the ones who make statements that insult and demean others under the guise of promoting peace or diversity or some other platitude. They are the ones who, when called upon to defend their ideas refuse.

Sometimes they have an excuse. Sometimes they just say that they refuse because the person challenging them to defend their ideas, in their opinion only, is described as someone who knows nothing about the situation.

I know what I would call them.

Now in the case that I am thinking of, the invitation for a debate was not issued by either Oxford or Cambridge Union. It was, however, offered by a univeristy which does have an interest in the situation and desire to promote discourse on the subject. Furthermore, it is not as if the person involved was being challenged to defend his position against a drunken, un-educated lout. In fact, the person who was going to put the ideas espoused by this person is a professor with more than a passing interest in matter.

So, given that situation, what would you call the person who refused to take the opportunity to defend his position?

Unfortunately, I have to call him Mr. Carter. The idea he is promoting is that Israel practices a policy of apartheid and is not committed to seeking peace, and instead seeks to perpetuate the violence in the Middle East.

The person who was offered to debate him is Allan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor. The site of the debate was to Brandeis University.

And Mr. Carter's response was, "I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz," Carter said in Friday's Boston Globe. "There is no need ... to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

Now what do you call someone like this?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Death Penalty Ruling

Earlier today, a federal judge ruled that execution by lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Now, I understand that some people believe that the death penalty is unjust and should be abolished. There are some days when I agree with those people. However, based on the research I have done (and I had to do alot of it), the death penalty, in virtually any form, is not unconstitutional.

The basis for most attacks on the death penalty is that it violates the constitutional guarrantee against cruel and unusual punishment. So where did we get this notion that cruel and unusual punishment should be prohibited?

Like many other concepts in our Constitution, we derived it from English law. In particular, from a guarantee in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. In it, it states, "That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;". When the founding fathers were drafting our constitution and the first ten amendments, they were essentially seeking to enshrine the rights which they had been brought up believing were inherent to all freeborn men.

Now, what became the 8th Amendment was as a result of some of the abuses which happened during the 17th century. Among them was the way in which some people were punished. The prohibition did not intend, or in fact, curb th euse of the death penalty. It was meant to curb sentences for crimes where the punishment was less than death. In particular, it was in reaction to a sentence handed down to a cleric by the name of Titus Oates, who had been implicated in teh Popish Plot against King Charles II. The sentence handed down, as related in Harmelin v. Michigan, was,

"The court then decreed that he should pay a fine of "1000 marks upon each Indictment," that he should be "stript of [his] Canonical Habits," that he should stand in the pillory annually at certain specified times and places, that on May 20 he should be whipped by "the common hangman" "form Aldgate to Newgate," that he should be similarly whipped on May 22 "from Newgate to Tyburn," and that he should be imprisoned for life.

501 U.S. 957

And by and large, it has remained that in American jurisprudence. The Supreme Court has variously held that hanging, firing squad, gas, and the electric chair are all allowed under the Eighth Amendment. The one that I am aware of that has not been allowed is drawing and quartering.

So is this is a correct ruling? Based on my understanding of the Eighth Amendment, the judge has written a bad decision. (As of this time, I have not been able to get a copy of the ruling.) However, does that make me hypocritical when it comes to my basic support for judges who interpret the constitution rather than remain strictly literalist?

How Sad

So K-Fed is threatening to write a tell-all book about Britney Spears if he does not get what he fels he should. Apparently, being a kept man with no marketable skills, other than dancing, entitles him, according to his filings, to 20 million dollars and sole custody of the two sons he has with Britney Spears.

I'm wondering... has he ever tried to get sole custody of any of his other children? Or is it only when he can shake down their mothers for millions?

In other news, Mr. Federline has apparently rented a house for $7,000/month. He says, ""It's a great area for young families and it's safe and peaceful." Since he's got multiple families, maybe my earlier thought was wrong and he is actually trying to pull all his children together under one roof.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This is the way my life works

Over the past two years, I think I have taken a number of cases from the VLSP. Most of them on the eve of trial. All of them with the hope of actually taking the case through to a jury trial.


Because I am still waiting for my first jury verdict.

So anyways, the people over the VLSP took my name off their list of people to call while I was away on my honeymoon. And then they did not put my name back in the rotation as cases came up that would require an attorney for trial.

And one of them, one that I would normally have been on the list for, went to verdict today.

On the one hand, I'm happy that a friend of mine got the case. On the other hand, I'm jealous as all hell.

Oh well, that is the way my life works I guess. I'd still rather be married.

This Is Something Important To Think About

And my initial reaction is that this is an extremely ill-conceived notion.

What is this of which I speak? It is a bill which was introduced recently and called "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act of 2006".

So am I for the exploitation of children? Of course not. What I am against is are some of the provisions of the proposed bill. As Think Progress noted, the bill would do some of the following:

– Commercial websites and personal blogs “would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000.”
– Internet service providers (ISPs) are already required to issue such reports, but under McCain’s legislation, bloggers with comment sections may face “even stiffer penalties” than ISPs.
— Social networking sites will be forced to take “effective measures” — such as deleting user profiles — to remove any website that is “associated” with a sex offender. Sites may include not only Facebook and MySpace, but also, which permits author profiles and personal lists, and blogs like DailyKos, which allows users to sign up for personal diaries.

A bill like this would certainly abridge First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and turn hosting sites and ISPs into monitors of what is and is not legal. And we all know how much corporations like to err on the side of protecting themselves.

Now, I know that its very rare that I get comments here, but think about other sites where you do leave comments and what that does add to the discussion of... anything.

If you would like to speak out on this to McCain directly, you can do so here. If there is some other way to protest this bill that someone else is aware of, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Actually Remember Watching This Back in 1978


The Worst President and Now The Worst Ex-President

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter was, in my humble opinion, one of the least effective presidents we ever put in office. One of the few good things which could be said about his administration is that it ended after only four years. He managed to create a deadlock with Congress (controlled by his own party), preside over stagflation, allowed Americans in Iran to be held hostage for more than a year, and made the most ineffectual protest to an act of aggression by cancelling the United States' participation in the 1980 Summer Olympics.

After leaving office his triumphs have included the now failed North Korean nuclear weapons deal. This was supposed to provide a solution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

And now, almost thirty years after the Camp David Accords, Mr. Carter has decided to weigh in again with a new book and speaking tour. Its nice to see that he is providing a balanced look at the Arab-Israeli problem with comments such as:

"No, that's not true at all," responded Carter. "Israel hasn't really tried to give 'Palestine' back to the Palestinians. They did give up some of Gaza. And then they moved out, and the Palestinians captured one soldier and tried to swap [him] for 300 children – some as young as 12 years old – and 94 women, but the Israelis wouldn't swap. So then Israel reinvaded Gaza. But if Israel ever wants peace – and they do want peace – a majority of Israelis have always said, 'Let's get rid of the land, and let's have peace.' That's what we need to have."

and this lovely pronouncement from a man who failed to rescue people under his leadership

"I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no."

An advocate of trades, he fails to see what trading prisoners for hostages has gotten Israel. In his own article, Carter notes that the three of trades involved, "1,150 Arabs, mostly Palestinians, for three Israeli soldiers in 1985; 123 Lebanese for the remains of two Israeli soldiers in 1996; and 433 Palestinians and others for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers in 2004."

And what have these trades gotten Israel? Certainly, it has not put an end to the Arab practice of taking Israelis hostage. It has not increased the chances of a workable peace, since it merely returns willing foot-soldiers to the ranks of the terrorist groups which seek the destruction of Israel. In reading the Washington Post editorial from August 1, 2006, it is clear what he wants: for Israel to appease, at all costs, the demands of the Arabs. He makes the obligatory remark that Israel is entitled to defend itself, and then immediately undercuts this position by stating that its attempts to are per se inhumane and counterproductive and should be abandoned. IF that is the case, then under Mr. Carter's formulation, national self-defense against outlaw groups can never be justified if civilians sheltering them might be injured or killed.

In case anyone wonders who the people that the Arabs seeks the release of from Israelis prisons, here is one that has been at the top of their demand list for years. His name is Samir Kuntar, his story is here. Its nice to see that an ex-president of the United States is urging the release of people who have committed those crimes. Had he been tried in some U.S. courts, he would have long since been executed.

Mr. Carter, on the off chance you are reading this, please stop talking and writing about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Your stature as an ex-president gives too much weight to your ill-conceived notions of what is right and what is just in that region. Your desire for peace appears to be a peace at any price, in much the same way that in an earlier generation Mr. Chamberlain desired peace over the Czecheslovakian-German dispute. Please, quiet your voice and stop adding stature and support to people who have been unwilling to make peace at any price short of the destruction of what is still the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Things I Am Never Doing Again

Allowing a client to go line by line through a motion I have drafted as a trial brief. I cannot believe I allowed myself to get sucked into that. They kept questioning every tactical decision made in the brief forcing me to explain, multiple times, the purpose of the motion and the underlying law which dictates why certain things are written in certain ways.

So not only did I get to spend last night writing the thing, I got to miss my yoga class tongith.


I understand that clients have to have some say over the work, but they wanted to correct the freaking grammer... when sometimes the bad grammar is caused by the old legal terms of art.


So that is an hour and a half. I feel guilty about it, but I am going to have to bill them for this. And I hate billing for things when I do not feel that they have advanced my representation of the client.

Yes, perhaps I am ill. I do not like running up the client's bill.

So Its After Midnight

And I keep getting emails from other attorneys. I thought it was only the big firms where the lawyers were up at all hours. Aren't we solos supposed to be doing it this way for a better quality of life or something like that?

Back to prepping a trial.

Monday, December 11, 2006

California Rulle 1-400

Apparently I ran afoul of it today. Now in the process of memorizing it.

Apparently on one of my advertisements on craigslist, I forgot to put "AngryBell" on it to identify who put the message out there.

Rather embarassing.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lounge Wear

While I'm sure this is not what the U.S. Government intended when it developed a new battle uniform for the U.S. military...

But maybe there might just be a market for husbands who want to hide on the couch and watch football.

HT: to Op-For.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sad News

So this might not mean much, but for long-time Giants fans some sad news came over the wire today. Apparently Jose Uribe, who played most of his 10 years for the San Francisco Giants died yesterday in a car crash.

He never made it big, but for ten seasons he was a solid shortshop who always made the play (to the tune of .996 fielding average). And I always liked watching him play. Had it not been Ozzie Smith of the Cardinals, he would have earned a few more gold gloves over his career.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Even Pornstars...

Will not admit to shagging K-Fed. What does that say about him since the divorce proceedings began?

Careful what you wish for....

I've said that a hundred times. Of course, then I went and wished for it.

Ever heard about those nasty family law divorce and cusotdy disputes that drag on forever? Well, if you have not, then I suggest you pop on over and read about the case of Jacqueline Anom and John Ofori-Tenkorang.

Now cases like these are not restricted to family law alone. However, I got off of a conference call which had been proposed by one of the parties in a case that I am involved in. The party proposing the call wanted to try and work everything out so that we could avoid a hearing tomorrow. Unfortunately, it appears that their version of working things out is asking for a surrender.

Now my client in this matter is already feeling extremely put upon. And my client, after hearing the proposal made by the convening party is digging in his heels. Hard.

And suddently my office is starting to feel alot like the Red October steel factory.

I'm starting to wonder...

...if adding a blog to my list is a way to kill it off.

Sadly, Sidebar appears to be going off the air.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gaming the System/Abusing The System

Well, there is a reason why there is a push to "reform" our civil justice system.

Did someone forget their ethics?

Anyways, read the story here.

In my previous incarnation as a defender of insurance companies' monies, I routinely faced one of the firms in the article. I was always left with the impression that they were somehow... no better than the firm I was a part of (and if you want my opinion about them, you will have to ask me in person).

Fortunately the plaintiffs attorneys that I interact with now are more interested in representing people with actual cases, instead of double dipping mentioned in the article.

Anyway, if you want to read about my thoughts on the mess that asbestos litigation has become, that posting can be found here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thinking About The TSA

One of the wonderous bureaucracies created by terrorist attacks on 9/11 was the Transportation Security Administration. In addition to be so very effective as the guardians of who gets on aircraft, they also screen the baggage on all the flights.

This comes to mind, only because there was recently a great number of people which I was talking to about their flights. And a number of them seemed to complain about things going missing from their bags. One person in particular had gifts, which he was carrying for a number of people, stolen from his bag. Now, unlike one friend, who had her iPod taken, these were not small things. They were large bottles and boxes which were removed form his bag.

According to the TSA, since they took over screening the bags, they have received 84,000 "administrative claims" (translation: claims that items have been taken from travellers bags) during the period up to May 6, 2006. That works out 2,100 claims per month.

Now, the absolute numbers may not be that large, but at the same time, how can people who are charged with the security of air travel allow that many reported thefts to occur.

Some Katrina Litigation News

As you might have heard, Hurricane Katrina caused a lot of damage. The insurance companies, they who had incredibly profitably years of late, decided to exclude damage caused by water during the storm. Consequently, a lot of people's claims were denied. A number of them have sued, though some like the Paul and Julie Leondard lost at trial.

However, a recent E.D. of Louisiana decision gives hope to some. Apparently Judge Stanwood R. Duval refused to dismiss a case. He found that while exclusions of the policy could be construed to exclude damage from water caused by the storm, the standard exclusion language does not cover damage as a result of negligent maintained or defectively constructed levees or dikes. Therefore, the plaintiffs now need to prove that there neglience with regard to the construction or maintainenance of the man-made water barriers.

Whether they will be succesful at proving that remains to be seen. Hopefully they will.

Either way, the insurance companies in the case have stated they will be appealing the ruling.