Monthly Archive for September, 2009

Justice is Blind, But Apparently Not Immune to Jagged Staples

Remember in elementary school how your teacher would constantly harp on you about penmanship?  No?  Apparently, once again, I’m the odd man out as my first-grade teacher said my handwriting was comparable to Jeffrey Dahmer’s.  Well Mrs. Donaldson, at least I haven’t wasted my life for the past 20 years teaching a bunch of snot-nosed kids…  Anyway the point I was trying to make is that all that emphasis your parents, teachers, and adults in general have been putting on you since you were young about making things neat had a purpose after all.

It seems that our justice system is being run by a bunch of Catholic school nuns hell-bent on tidiness because court cases are being thrown out for completely arbitrary reasons.  How arbitrary you ask?  How about poorly-stapled-document arbitrary?

staple_remover_2Yes, that’s right people, if you’re planning on filing a claim in the New York Supreme Court, you better make sure your papers are aligned properly and the sharp points on your staples are filed down because the nuns running that court are also made out of sugar.  According to Justice Charles J. Markey, “[T]he poor stapling of the papers was so negligent as to inflict, and did inflict repeatedly, physical injury to the court personnel handling them.”  That must’ve been one incredibly bad staple job…

I’d hate to be the attorney on that one, what an uncomfortable phone call you’d have to make to the client.

“My motion was denied?  But how, I thought my case had a sound legal basis??  What, a staple??”

Now to be fair, that staple from hell did draw blood, twice.  And at the very least the court gave a reason for denying the motion, as unjustified as it may be, which is much better than what some courts give those trying to shove their cases before an almighty judge.  The court also claims that the reason for the denial stemmed from the lawyer forgetting to include his signature as well as missing affidavits from the plaintiff.  Way to recover…

Seriously though, a staple?  Reading this story, one can’t help but think of the first rule of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: “all civil actions and proceedings in the United States district courts…should be construed and administered to secure the just…determination of every action and proceeding.”  Which any smart-ass first-year law student can tell you basically means that the court is supposed to look at all claims so as to do justice for all those involved.  Justice.  Denying a plaintiff’s motion because the staple they used to keep their documents from flying apart doesn’t sound very fair to me (and I hope it doesn’t to you either).  Whatever happened to, oh I don’t know, judging claims on their merits?  Call me crazy and old-fashioned, but I’m just one of the nutty guys who still believe that courts were created to judge everything fairly.  They should really start tearing down those blind justice statutes all over the place.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Evidently, it’s that when you hire a lawyer make sure you insist that they include their kindergarten teacher on their list of references.

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Uninsured Car Accidents Can Cost You Big Time

amazing car accidentsAccidents are a part of life, right?  That’s why they have erasers on the ends of pencils.  Because when you make a mistake you learn from it.  And even if you don’t, in today’s modern society there are all sorts of fail-safes to ensure that even when you screw up, there will always be someone or some way to make it all right again.  Which is why if someone rams into you with their car, you have nothing to worry about.  Other than the increased insurance premium that you’ll likely have to pay, the person responsible for the accident will pay for their mistake, or at the very least their insurance carrier will.  So everything works out in the end, cake and ice cream for all.

Not quite.  According to the latest statistics from LegalMatch, of the cases received relating to automobile accident claims, nearly a quarter of them are against defendants who aren’t insured.  Weird, right?  Seeing as how it’s illegal (in most states) to drive uninsured.  But is that really a surprise?  I mean, when was the last time that making something illegal was able to deter a hundred percent of people from committing the prohibited act?  It’s like training a cat to use the litter box, at some point their instincts will kick in and they’ll want to use something more natural.

LegalMatch’s statistics fall in line with what’s happening on a national scale.  In 2007, it was estimated that about 23 percent of drivers in America remained uninsured.  It’s a pretty frightening statistic considering the average costs associated with a car accident, let alone the cost to simply own a car.  With medical bills on the rise, one bad accident can easily wipe you out if you have no one (or way) to cover.

And don’t think that those of you who are uninsured can get off free either.  Because you’re just as susceptible to everything I mentioned earlier with one exception.  You also get the pleasure of possibly being racked up on criminal charges.  Nice, huh?

Still, like I said earlier, criminal penalty along has never been a perfect method to deter bad apples.  So what is there to do if you’re on the receiving end of a rear-ender from a dead-beat driver?

Well, you better hope your insurance is up to date and that you have good enough coverage to get you through the nightmare that’ll ensued.  You might also want to consider going after the person responsible for your injury by filing a lawsuit.  But as we all know, no one likes to file suit against another person if they can’t get money out of it.  It’s a fruitless endeavor right?  Again, not necessarily.  If someone is broke, they’re broke.  But at the very least you’ll be able to recoup some of your losses.  It may not seem like much, but when you’re in a really bad accident, every little bit counts.  Plus, you also get the satisfaction of having your claim and plight justified before the eyes of the law.

I know, I know, money is still better…

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Better Safe than Sorry? When Puritanical Hysteria Harms Children

Few people object to the existence of government agencies charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, nor do they oppose giving these agencies the power to remove children from abusive environments, at least as a last resort.

However, this post from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog shows what can happen when the legitimate mission of state Child Protective Services agencies can become sidetracked by puritanical hysteria.

children in bathtubAccording to the post, parents took innocent pictures of their children in the bathtub. When they went to a local Wal-Mart to have the pictures printed, an employee decided that these pictures constituted child pornography, and turned them over to the police.

The parents were arrested, and their daughters were taken away from them for over a year. During that time, they were required to register as sex offenders. The couple spent $75,000 in legal fees, and the mother was suspended from her job. According to recent interviews with the parents, it took a long time before they were comfortable taking any pictures of their children again, regardless of the setting.

In the end, they were cleared of all wrongdoing, the charges were dropped, and their children were returned after a year living away from their parents.

All sane people recognize that sexual exploitation of children is one of the most evil and disgusting things that human beings are capable of. I don’t know exactly how pervasive the problem is, but one instance of it is one too many. I also don’t know what has happened to our society that people would consider innocent pictures of children, the type which the vast majority of parents take, could be construed as child pornography by any person capable of obtaining employment (even if it is a job at Wal-Mart’s photo department) as child pornography.

Furthermore, this case used up limited resources that could have been used to investigate and prosecute actual instances of child sexual abuse. An argument could be made that, because of the actions of this employee, and the decision of the police and CPS to pursue this frivolous investigation for so long, real cases of abuse went unpunished, and children suffered as a result.

According to recent LegalMatch statistics from the last 12 months, reports of child abuse continue to be common. In most of the cases, the alleged abuser was a parent or someone else who had a confidential relationship with the child, such as a teacher or coach. This demonstrates the need for a robust system that protects children from abuse, and that any frivolous allegations should be dismissed, after being sufficiently investigated, lest real cases of child abuse go unpunished.

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Why You Should Always Check Out Your Lawyers Credentials: A Moral Tale

Being a lawyer is tough.  If you work at a big firm, you have partners breathing down your neck to bill more hours, a seemingly endless pile of mind-numbing documents to review, and a constant sinking feeling that you may be axed on any given day.  Working as a sole practitioner isn’t much better either.  You have to constantly find clients or risk going under, do all your legal research on your own, and deal with something everyone hates: getting your clients to pay for services rendered.

lying attorneyWell, one lawyer has found a way around all of this.  I can’t for the life of me understand how no one figured out before.  Robert P. Mangieri, 68, discovered a way to outsmart all us dolts wasting our time with education and training.  He found that you can just practice law without a license.  It’s so easy and obvious, how did years of attorneys not figure it out sooner?  No need to waste all that money and time on law school or endure countless hours trying to understand how that freakin’ rule against perpetuities doctrine works, just lie and say you did all that crap.  Then all you have to do is open shop, maybe hang up some fake diplomas, and start raking in the money from hapless clients who are too poor to properly check out your credentials.  And the best part is that you don’t have to do any legal research since you’re already lying about your competency or that you’re even legally able to practice law.

I can’t tell guys – was I laying the sarcasm down a little too thick in that last paragraph, or not enough?

As I mentioned in a previous post lawyers in America already have a bad enough reputation without yahoos like Mangieri screwing it up even more for us.  If he had attended law school, he would have learned that lawyers are subject to an incredible number of rules on ethical lawyering, which cover everything from proper notice to guidelines on fees.  Though chances are as a fake lawyer, he probably already knew some of these and chose to ignore them.

Do any of Mangieri’s former clients have a legal recourse against him?  You better believe they do.  Not only is the would-be lawyer being subjected to criminal punishments including grand larceny, impersonating an attorney, and conspiracy to defraud (all of which carry an incredibly light sentence of 4 years – way to deter people federal government!), but he’ll also be open-season to a plethora of tort claims.  The most obvious being fraud and maybe malpractice, but since he’s not officially a lawyer that latter one might not be so obvious.  Though as the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a turnip.  Despite Mangieri duping people into paying him money for services he wasn’t qualified to render, most of his clients weren’t very wealth themselves so Mangieri himself might not be worth so much.

But don’t let Mangieri’s tale fool you into thinking all lawyers are shysters.  Though you should always be sure of your lawyers credentials, according to the latest LegalMatch statistics attorney malpractice cases are among the lowest received.  So don’t be scared to hire a lawyer, just make sure they are actually lawyers first…

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Loser-in-Love Drops Fraud Class Action Lawsuit

broken-heart-robotFor anyone who likes weird news like I do, you’ll be tickled to know that Sean McGinn, the loser at love who made a lawsuit out of his unfortunate nickname (which I just gave him), has dropped his lawsuit against Match.com.  Why did he drop it?  Because he’s a sensitive boy and can’t take all the meanie-weenies leaving ridiculing (and hilarious) comments about him on the internet.

For any of you unfamiliar with the site, Match.com is a dating website that purports to get over 86 million searches a month from its members looking for a love connection.  McGinn originally claimed in his class action suit that the website defrauded him because it didn’t tell him that most of its members have either cancelled their membership or have never become full members.  McGinn claims this deceptive practice led to many of his emails going unanswered which caused him emotional distress (and I’m sure many sleepless night pulling petals from roses).

Now to be fair to the crybaby…er… I mean McGinn, yeah, definitely meant McGinn, this was a class action suit with 15 other people joining McGinn on his crusade against loneliness (which also means there were 15 other equally sad and pathetic people).  Okay, I’ll stop now.

But this story got me thinking about whether McGinn actually had a leg to stand on.  I mean to most people this sounds like a funny, albeit frivolous lawsuit.  But he did state a claim that he was able to plead validly enough to be accepted to be heard before the court.  Though that’s still not saying much since we all know how easy it is in America to sue anyone for literally anything.

So this case would’ve come down to the evidence he had against Match.com and whether it showed his claim had enough of a legal basis to warrant awarding him his request for $5 million.  From not knowing anything else about the case other than what’s been released in the news, I’d say the answer is no.

Why?  Well, as much as we would all love to sue every company that advertises how great their product is, that’s just not possible.  Anyone familiar with basic contract law knows that the mere puffery (basically an advertising opinion designed to get people interest in a product, e.g. a car company that says their cars are the best) is not a valid claim for a lawsuit.  Though McGinn was suing on what appears to be a tort claim and not a breach of contract, I think the court would probably side with my assessment since allowing him to prevail would have open the floodgates to all kinds of other crazy lawsuits, especially class actions since they can be litigated for years on end.  Recent LegalMatch statistics show that most class actions involve more important matters, such as defective products and exposure to toxic substances, and not being lovelorn.

Courts want people to utilize the legal system to correct wrongs, but they don’t want to clog it with a lot of pointless claims; which sucks because I really thought I had a good false advertising lawsuit against these people.  I’m still waiting for my money back…

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