Monday, June 19, 2017

Island politics

No man (or state) is/are an Island - we are all connected
You ever read the poem by John Donne titled, "No man is an island?"  It goes like this:

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

This concept of "islands" and "mankind" came to mind whilst I was reading an article about California's further attempt at being a sanctuary state.  Apparently, the California Senate is further cementing the concept of becoming an island unto itself by considering a bill that seeks to limit the ability of local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

See, a while back, the state of California adopted legislation which turned California into a "Sanctuary State."  Now, the California senate wants to add more rope to its noose by adopting AB 103 which "makes it illegal for a city, county, city and county, or local law enforcement agency to enter into new agreements or expand existing agreements with the federal government or any federal agency" to detain those in the country illegally. 

On its face, it's a funny piece of legislation written by funny people.  What it aims to do, though, is to limit the authority of the federal government to enforce the immigration laws of the United States.  Herein lies the problem.  See, those who wrote the bill know that due process requires a deportation hearing.  Their objective is to make it so hard to effectuate that hearing process and let criminal go free - regardless of the consequences.  What consequences?  How about the young lady that was raped and killed in San Francisco by a career illegal alien?  

Doggone it but over 2,400 illegal immigrants out of a total prison population of 130,000 are imprisoned in the state’s prison system for the crime of homicide.  For those not in the know, that "homicide" as it killing a (or at least one) person.  Really, when is this insanity going to stop?  When are the politicians in Sacramento going to stop pushing for laws that put legal citizens in jeopardy for their lives?!?  Sad but maybe it'll take violence against a politician for politicians to realize that their words and actions are a direct link to crime in California (and, no, I'm not advocating crime against politicians but dang - get a grip people).

Of course, you can all get smart on the issue of immigration and bone up on this stuff by going to your local county law library and taking a look at:
The funny thing about the Nolo Press resource is that immigration policy is NOT simple (kind of like legal research is not all that easy when you first start doing it).  I guess, over time, with lots and LOTS of practice, immigration policy does get simpler and easier to understand but how many of you out in blogland are going to spend that much time trying to figure out the ins and outs of immigration policy in an effort to make it simpler?!

Yeah, didn't think so.  In the meantime, just keep reading this Blog to learn the ins and outs of legal research so that you can get at least this one thing (i.e. legal research) under your belt and you all have a great rest of the day.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's all about the money

You are what you think
Today's blog is more a commentary on greed than anything else.  In and of itself, greed is good.  Notwithstanding what the left says, greed encourages innovation and development.  Of course, greed also leads to other things - like selfishness (which is pretty much what happens when people get to thinking life is more about them then it is about helping others).

Take, for instance, the Ford Pinto.  My brother had one. Small car with a big rear window (not as big as the GMC Gremlin, but it was pretty big).  Thing was, it got good gas mileage for a car in the 70's.  The problem was that if you were ever involved in a rear-end collision, you were toast. Literally.  About 27 people were killed in similar accidents and, it turns out, Ford factored the liability into its financials by creating a trust fund in anticipation of future litigation. Ford knew the Pinto's gas tank was a defective design but sold them anyway because they figured they'd make more money selling Pintos then they'd lose in litigation.  In the end, it was all about the money.

Then there was the Corvair.  Labeled, unsafe at any speed (actually, that was the name of the book), the Corvair had a pretty cool design - unless you were, in fact, driving said car and were, in fact, involved in the many, many accidents where the car flipped when it turned a corner.  This was due to its rear suspension which caused drivers to lose control of the vehicle.  One other things was that it used air from the engine to serve as the heater filling the driving compartment with carbon monoxide. So, if a funky swing-axle rear suspension wasn't enough, now you have drivers going around half asleep making for a deadly mix.  Of course, Chevrolet wasn't all that interested in driver safety - they wanted to make money; lots and lot of money and, in the end, it was all about the money.

Fast forward a few years and we come to another product that makes money.  Drugs.  In particular, we're looking at OxyContin which has, since its introduction, been labeled as being able to knock out pain for 12 hours.  Problem is, it doesn't last 12 hours and leaves users scrambling for more resulting in withdrawal, addiction, and/or agonizing pain.  Of course, side-effects don't determine the profitability of a product since OxyContin has reaped some $31 Billion in revenue for drug maker Purdue.  With allegations that Purdue knew all along that its product couldn't live up to the marketing, in the end, it was all about the money.

The moral to this story is, don't trust anyone because everyone has an angle and they're all out to make your money their money.  Cynical?  Yes, I am - but it's born from years of seeing people get fleeced in court.  Your best bet, then, is to go to your local county law library and get educated on your rights.  Then, when you go up against your Goliaths, you'll be prepared with your mighty sling and staff. Well, better prepared anyway.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Word of the Month for June 2017: Service Animal

No bad dogs, just bad people
I gotta wonder what some people think about when they wake up in the morning.  Specifically, I'm talking about the people who come into my library looking to pick a fight with a Law Librarian. 

Take, for example, the Lady who came in the other day.  Seems she has a dog that she doesn't like to leave in her hot car - so she brings it everywhere she goes.  The problem is that like our Library, not all businesses just let you bring your dog/animals into their place of business.  To get around that, Lady started claiming that her dog was a "SERVICE ANIMAL."

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a SERVICE ANIMAL (aka service dog) is:
a dog trained to assist a disabled person with everyday tasks of living and alert the person to threats.  A service dog may be identified by the type of disability it's trained for.  Also termed assistance dog; guide dog; seeing-eye dog; hearing-ear dog.
The problem is that Lady is standing in front of me demanding to see the law that requires that her dog be a "Service Dog."  So, I did a little digging.  First, I started looking in the United States Code Annotated, Title 40 Section 3103 and Title 38 Section 1714.  Title 40 referred me to title 29 USC 794 (Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and 28 CFR Part 39 (non-discrimination based on handicap).  For the record, "CFR" stands for Code of Federal Regulations.

After a little reading (well, a little for me), I found references to 28 CFR 35 (part 2 of the ADA) and 28 CFR 36 (part 3 of the ADA).  Then I stumbled upon 28 CFR 36.104 which states that:
Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability....The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
So, what does all this mean?  
  • First, just because it's a dog, does not make it a "SERVICE ANIMAL."  
  • Second, if the only reason you want to bring your animal into a place of business is because it comforts you, it's not a "service animal" and can be denied entrance.  
  • Third, if you do not want your dog/animal to swelter in a hot car, get used to leaving it at home because unless it is an animal that is trained to service a particular task as it relates to a particular person's disability, then the business owner does NOT have to let that animal in their front door.  
Another thing to note is that there is a difference between a SERVICE ANIMAL and an Emotional Support Animal ("ESA").  Where a SERVICE ANIMAL can accompany its owner most anywhere, an ESA designation only allows said animal:
  1. To fly with their emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in a cabin of an aircraft (under The Air Carrier Access Act of 1990), and
  2. To qualify for no-pet housing (under The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988)
In fact, an ESA pet has no more rights than any other pet. Oh, and if someone does bring an animal to your place of business and says it's a "SERVICE ANIMAL," you can legally ask what its specific task is (and point them to 28 CFR 36.104 if they put up a fight or threaten an ADA lawsuit).

Of course, by the time I came up with all of this useful information, Lady had threatened lawsuits, vowed she would be vindicated, and left in a huff...which is how these things usually end.  Talk big and walk out before they get a definitive answer.

Bottom line, if you have questions (or think you have what it takes to take on a Law Librarian), we take all comers.  Just be ready for a take-down (because Law Librarians have scary awesome research skills).

Monday, May 29, 2017

What Does It All Mean?

Misapplied is still wrong
The other day, I was going about my business when I heard a person use a word out of context over and over and over.  After a while it was just funny and I asked her if she knew what the word meant.  Said, she, "who cares what it means - it means what I need it to mean!"

Yeah, that might be a problem since that kind of thinking only leads to chaos and confusion and the degradation of language.  I mean, what's the purpose of a dictionary if everyone associates different meanings to various words?

For example, once upon a time, according to Websters Third New International Dictionary (1986), the word DISCRIMINATION meant
good or refined taste.  For example, that person has discriminating taste in clothes.
Fast forward a few decades and according to Black's Law Dictionary (2014), DISCRIMINATION took on a darker meaning and refering to:
The effect of a law or established practice that confers privileges on a certain class or denies privileges to a certain class because of race, age, sex, nationality, religion, or disability.
This word "discrimination" was brought to my attention when I was reading an article about how a guy didn't get a job because the new potential employer didn't want to hire someone who wasn't presently working.  The guy objected saying that the potential employer was "discriminating" against him because of his unemployment status.  The thing is, "unemployment" is not a suspect class but if people use it enough, it might become so (i.e. disability). 

The problem with the mis-application of a word is that that word becomes a useless term if regularly misused and soon has no meaning whatsoever.  Remember XEROX?  It used to be the name of a company but now means just to copy something. It also has other meanings which, because of the rampant abuse of the word, I don't think anyone could have foreseen.

Another word that has taken a beating over time is BULLY. Back in the day, BULLY meant: Jovial, dashing, gallant, excellent, first rate.  For example, a person might say: That's a bully of an idea or what a bully car.

More recently, BULLY has changed from an adjective to a noun to describe:
A cruel person person who uses physical strength or verbal intimidation, usually involving insults, to frighten or hurt someone who is weaker.  For example: My boss always demeans me in front of other staff.  She's a real bully
This is another problematic word.  If someone makes fun of your kid at school, are they a bully or are they just being a jerk?  It's important to know the difference because a bully can get expelled from school whereas a jerk is just a jerk.

One more word?   How about GAY.  Once upon a time, the word GAY meant: excited and merry; manifesting or inclined to joyous exhibition of content or pleasure.  Of course, these days, GAY refers to: the act of engaging in homosexual relations; see same sex relations.  

Sad that a group sought to degrade a perfectly good word to make it mean something relating to base pleasure.

Of course, there are other words out in word land that are fast becoming meaningless like Racist. Hint: racism is about the color of a person's skin, not whether they have limbs missing or whether they have blue or green eyes or whether they are from another country.  

Of course, who knows, maybe in a few years, racism will mean all those other things and, so, also go the way of another abused word.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Inconvenient Truths

illegal means it's against the law
I teach a class on the "how" of legal research.  In one of my post-class discussions, one vocal person emphasized her point on immigration saying, "They can't deport them all!" referring to the recent call to deport illegal aliens.

Two things came to mind.  First, she's right.  I mean, even if "they" deport all the people who broke the immigration laws of the United States by slipping past border patrol illegally, there will always be more who will slip past border patrol.  There's a never ending supply of scofflaws in the land of the "free".

Second thing, is that illegal immigration is illegal.  If you're in a country illegally, that means you broke the law.  Forget the reasons why you came here illegally, if you're going break one law that is inconvenient, odds are you are going to ignore other laws that you think are inconvenient. 

For example, how many people out there in blogland exceed the posted speed limit on the highway.  I know, I have, on occasion (particularly on this one two-way 55mph road in the middle of nowhere California.  No cows, no people, no buildings, no cops - and I'm going drive 55?!). Fact is, most everyone blows past the posted speed limit on occasion because....well, who cares?  What an inconvenient law, right?!

How about anti-drug laws?  Up until recently, smoking pot was illegal in most all states - unless you were a politician.  I mean, it's almost become a national pastime for politicians to come out saying they are pot smokers (kind of coming-out-of-the-closet was a thing 10 years ago).  What an inconvenient law, right?!

How about prostitution?  For all the laws on the books (state and federal), it still happens.  Heck, if you don't watch where you're walking, you'll get propositioned by some of the strangest people.  The other day, I was hit on.  Turns out, the person who propositioned me was an undercover cop looking to arrest anyone who acquiesced to her requests (but like I told her, my wife would stomp her silly if she didn't leave me alone).  

So, while prostitution continues to be a thriving business, what with an never ending supply of johns, cops will keep trying to catch people who drop their guard.  I guess it keeps the courts busy enforcing yet another inconvenient law.

Bottom line, illegal is illegal.  I'm sorry, but that's the way it is.  If you're going to flaunt the laws, then don't be angry when you get caught.  In fact, you should pat the cop on the back when s/he gives you a ticket.  They finally caught you, you scofflaw you.