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Monday, May 23, 2016

Thus sayeth the Librarian

Listen to the prophet's voice
Have you ever read the Bible? Whether you have or have not, let me clue you into a pertinent fact. When the text says, "Thus sayeth [the prophet] or [the Lord]," that's the time you should pay attention.  Like the prophets of old, your modern law Librarians are as close to a prophet as most people are ever to come across.  Dang, but everything we say is scripture and should be taken down verbatim!

For example, the other day an oldish woman came in the library.  Seems she was looking to create an estate planning packet including a pour over will, a living trust and powers of attorney (financial and health care).  For the record, while most all law libraries have resources related to estate planning, not all resources are created the same and some are better than others.

Anyway, I started with California Wills & Trusts Forms (Lexis). She says it's too complex.  I then show her Drafting California Revocable Trusts (CEB), California Will Drafting (CEB) and California Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives (CEB).  

Still, too complex, says she.  Throwing a Hail Mary, I led her over to Am Jr Pleading and Practice Forms Annotated (Thomson Reuters).  Says she, "don't you have anything that is easier?!"  Yes, there is one or two titles that will get you to first base, says I, but I would not suggest using it as your only resource. Demanding that I show it to her, I hand her Living Wills & Powers of Attorney for California and Quick & Legal Will Book (both by Nolo Press).

Sadly, she was happy with that and declared that she had everything she needed and would supplement her trust with what she could find on the Internet.  With a heavy heart, I muttered, "Thus sayeth the Librarian, really, really don't want to do that"  but off she went happy with her second string resources.

Months later, children of the woman came in looking to see what they could do because (their words) the probate judge had just struck down the woman's trust and invalidated her "living" will sending her entire estate through probate.  Oops.  I don't like saying I told you so, but....

I guess the moral to this story is (if moral there be), if your local county law Librarian thinks it important to tell/show you something, you'd best heed their warning lest you become an example of what others should not be doing.  

Thus sayeth the Librarian.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Can't Win for Losing

Stamp out vexatious litigation
It is a strange day when I don't see a lawsuit where someone isn't doing something stupid that then causes them grief for untold years to come.

Take the case I read the other day, Goodrich v. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.  Seems Doctor was hired.  When her original contract expired, it was decided not to retain Doctor and Doctor was let go. Doctor didn't like that and filed a writ of administrative mandate contesting her termination (but didn't bother to show up to the hearing).  When Doctor's writ was denied, she filed five motions in quick succession contesting the denial and each motion was denied (i.e. Doctor didn't win).

Sierra Vista petitioned to have Doctor declared a vexatious litigator under CCP 391(b)(2) and was denied (i.e. Sierra Vista lost).  Not to be outdone, Doctor then filed one more motion to overturn the original denial.  I guess it's like that one Monty Python skit where the extremely fat guy eat and eats and then pops when he eats that one last dinner mint.  Anyway, Sierra Vista again petitioned to have Doctor declared a vexatious litigator and this time Sierra won.  Huzzah!

The problem with being declared a vexatious litigator is that if it wasn't a pain just to have to jump through a bunch of hoops hoping to win your lawsuit (or defend against one), now you get to deal with a whole 'nother bunch of hoops, like:
  • Under CCP 391.7, in addition to other relief, the court, on its own motion or the motion of any party, enter an order prohibiting a vexatious litigant from filing any new litigation in California in pro per without first obtaining permission from the presiding judge.  A vexations litigant who disobeys this order may be punished for contempt of court.
What this means is that if you're a vexatious litigant, you can't sue anyone without permission. That's ANYONE in the action you started or any future litigation in the entire state.  Really sucks - particularly if someone finds out about your status and they start to piss you off; you can't go after them in court unless you get permission from the court to file a lawsuit.  Like being in kindergarten and having to ask to go to the bathroom.  What a pain.
  • Under CCP 391.7(b), the presiding judge can require a vexatious litigant, prior to filing any litigation, to provide security to cover costs the defendant(s) may incur.
What this means is that before you can file any litigation in the state against anyone, a vexatious litigant has to post a bond to cover costs that a perspective defendant might incur.  So, if the defense might incur $1,000,000 in costs, you have to post a bond to cover that amount (whether they actually incur all those costs, or not). 
  • Under CCP 391.7(c), the court clerk can refuse any litigation a vexatious litigant tries to file subject to obtaining a pre-filing order from a presiding judge to permit said filings.
What this means is that a clerk and completely ignore your attempts to file any legal documents in any future action (either related or unrelated to the matter you were originally labeled a vexatious litigant).  You could have written the best legal complaint ever written but if you're on that vexatious litigant list, you're screwed until you get permission from a judge to file a lawsuit.
  • Under CCP 391.8(b), a person declared a vexatious litigant can file a motion to be removed from the vexatious litigant list. If their motion is denied, they can't file another application for twelve (12) months.
What this means is that you don't have to be a vexatious litigant forever.  You can ask the court to be removed from the Official Vexatious Litigant list.  If, however, you've pissed off enough people with your insistent litigation, you're request will probably be ignored and you won't be able to file another request for ONE WHOLE YEAR!

Bottom line, if you're one of those persons who are easily offended or hold onto grudges for a long time, stay away from the litigation arena.  I mean, stop before you leap because even if you can, it doesn't mean you should and you're probably best served to avoid the legal system altogether. I'm just sayin.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Calm Down

She was one crazy B****!
For the most part, I really dig being a Librarian.  The part(s) that I don't like is when people take their frustrations out on the Librarian (in this case, me).  

Take, for example, the young lady who came in the other day.  Seems young lady was a paralegal student.  I don't know what her life is like in class but what I do know is that she was a raging, uh....maniac. Yeah, that's a word (not the first one that popped in my head, but it will do).

In any event, there is a term that I use when I teach the "how" of legal research: RANGE.  RANGE is the distance between two points.  RANGE is also the key to finding resources in a law library (because rarely do you see what you need on the spine of the book).  

For example, say you were using Words and Phrases and were looking for case law on Custodial Interrogation.  I would, of course, reach for volume 10B because on the spine of volume 10B it reads Cruel Beating to Cystotomy.  Because "Custodial Interrogation" is within the RANGE (i.e. starts with "Cus") of Cruel Beating to Cystotomy, volume 10B is the book I want to use.  Round about logic but I hope you get the gist.  Thus, unless you know how the alphabet works (i.e. A, B, C, D,....) and how RANGE is applied, you're not going to find squat.

In young lady's case, she wanted to know how to find information related to Easement by Necessity in American Jurisprudence, 2d.  So, we cheated a bit and started looking in the index.  We still have to deal with RANGE and the alphabet so, starting with "E," we looked for "Easement" then under  "N" for "Necessity."  The Index said to go to Easement section 27.  Off to Easement section 27 we went and found her answer and that should have been the end of it ("should" being the operative word).  Young women, however, became "upset" that I was saying the alphabet out loud and explaining the "how" of legal research and RANGE and in mere seconds was stomping around, threatening lawsuits, and all that jazz.  Jeesh, some people's kids.

The thing is, Librarians are pretty cool cats.  We know what we're doing and are more than willing to help you learn what we know (and "how" to do it).  What is not all that cool is when people bring their frustrations to the library.  Here's a suggestion.  If you need help, your local county law Librarian is the person to talk to.  Just, please, leave your baggage outside.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Word of the Month for May 2016: Latent

Just see what you need after you need it
There used to be a time when I was surprised about stuff. Graft, corruption, greed - few things surprise me, anymore.  Take, for example, the story about the latest Parmesan Cheese scandal.  

Seems the FDA recently conducted a raid on Castle Cheese, Inc.  Seems "someone" tipped the FDA onto the fact that Castle Cheese was using wood pulp in its 100% Parmesan Cheese product and passing it off as 100% Parmesan Cheese (and not mentioning that part about using wood pulp).  Turns out the FDA discovered that Castle Cheese was, in fact, adding more than 4% wood pulp to its 100% Parmesan Cheese resulting in a guilty plea by Castle Cheese President, Michelle Myrter, who is facing a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.  OK, who came up with the name "Myrter." Personally, that sounds faker than a wooden nickel but that's the story and the FDA is sticking to it.

The problem is that consumers don't know that makers of Parmesan Cheese use wood pulp as a filler in their product. While 2-4% is legal:
Essential Everyday 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, from Jewel-Osco, was 8.8 percent cellulose, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Great Value 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese registered 7.8 percent, according to test results. Whole Foods 365 brand didn’t list cellulose as an ingredient on the label, but still tested at 0.3 percent. Kraft had 3.8 percent.
While we all need fiber in our diets, it would still be nice if producers actually included what kind of fiber we are eating on the product labels.  Of course, all of this leads us to our word of the month: LATENT.  According to Black's Law Dictionary, LATENT means concealed; dormant (a latent defect).  While LATENT is generally associated with construction defect issues, it has also (more recently) be attributed to consumer laws.  Some great resources where you locate information about consumer laws include:

Yep, there are a whole lot of unscrupulous people out there in producer land.  Good thing there are hard working law Librarians available to help you identify your rights under the law so you can get things moving.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Baggage comes in all sizes
Working as a Reference Librarian can sometimes be a rough job.  Take, for instance, the other day whilst reading an article about a guy who got caught fiddling with young kids, a young woman came in saying she was referred to me by a "friend."  Seems young woman has recently been charged with violation of California Penal Code section 311.4(b) and 311.11 as well as a number of other related crimes.  Basically, young woman is looking as some hard time in the pokey.

The thing is that I really don't keep a running tab of what the code sections are.  So, picture it:  I'm standing with a patron and they have me do a quick search for their codes of choice.  Up comes CA Penal Code section 311.4 which reads:
311.4(b): Every person who, with knowledge that a person is a minor under the age of 18 years ... knowingly ... induces, or coerces a minor ... to engage in either posing or modeling alone or with others for purposes of preparing any ... videotape ... that ... incorporates ... a live performance involving sexual conduct ... shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison...
For the record, 311.11 deals with much of the same (child porn), and the whole time young woman is standing there smiling away with nary a care in the world.  I finished reading (now with a pit in my gut) and young woman wants to know what resources she can use to help her beat the rap.  Being the dutiful Librarian I am, I lead her over to:

Of course, I also pointed out that California Penal Code Section 311.8 dealt with defenses to the charges young woman was facing.  In particular, 311.8(a) reads:
(a):  It shall be a defense in any prosecution for a violation of this chapter that the act charged was committed in aid of legitimate scientific or educational purposes.
I really don't know how young woman is going to spin what went on as "educational"  or "scientific" but she seemed a bit more relieved when she saw that section and off she went happy as a lark.

I guess I'm getting soft in my old(er) age because stuff like this didn't use to bother me.  Maybe it's because of my upbringing or maybe because I've got kids under 18. Whatever the reason, or issue, know that your local county law Librarian has got mad research skills and knows how to put aside their issues to help you with yours.