Monday, March 27, 2017

Be prepared

Be prepared for anything
You can never be too prepared.  This has never been more salient than today when I was reading an article about the San Andreas fault.  Seems, every 100 years, the tectonic plates typically release 16 feet of pent up energy and San Andreas hasn't been putting out (so to speak).  The result is that when the BIG quake hits (and it will), California is in for some major rocking and rolling.  It behooves people, then, to be prepared for a 7-10.0 quake as much as they can.  This means, storing water, food, personal medical supplies, first aid, and toiletries (i.e. sewage removal).

Not unlike an earthquake that can make it feel like your world has been turned upside down, even a small lawsuit can freak you out.  Small claims, civil limited, civil unlimited, drug court, any of which can financially and emotionally ruin even the most stalwart person.  Good thing, then, that your local county law library has resources to help everyone (from the greenest greenie to the eaglest of legal eagles).

For instance, say you know nothing about law and need a quick overview of how it all works.  Turns out we have a few really great titles to help you get going like:
For those who have been in the business for a few years and need more meat to your legal resources, might I suggest a looksee at:
Yep, if you need anything legal, we're the place to bone up and be prepared for what's coming down the pike.  Waste not a minute trying to hunt and peck on the Internet for what you think you need because your local county law Librarians know their stuff and know how to help you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

No one said it was going to be easy

Then end of all things
The thing about law and legal things is that it freaks people out because sometimes (OK, most times) the law is confusing.  Take, for example, a California divorce.  In California, there are two (2) ways to get a divorce.  Under California Family Code section 2310, you can either prove:
  1. Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage, or
  2. Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions (i.e. the person is crazy).
The thing is that you have seemingly conflicting case laws. In Morgan v. Morgan (1923) 190 Cal. 522, 213 P. 993 the court noted that, "It is not the policy of the law to encourage divorce" whereas in In re Marriage of Greenway (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 628, 158 Cal.Rptr.3d 364 the court said, "The decision that a marriage is irretrievably broken, for dissolution of marriage based on irreconcilable differences, does not need to be based on objective facts." 

What?! Quotes like "does not need to based on objective facts" have the Joe Friday's of the world bouncing around in their graves. While the courts refuse to out and out say they're pro-divorce, that if it (the courts) are going to not base its decisions on hard-core facts, aren't you encouraging divorce when people are permitted to come up with their own cockamamie facts?!  The bigger problem is, how can anyone know what facts support an irreconcilable difference if no one knows what an irreconcilable difference is?!?

So, what are "irreconcilable differences?  California Family Code section 2311 sates that:
Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.  
Uh, did anyone get that?  As it turns out, no one really knows what "irreconcilable differences" are.  In fact, the court in In re Marriage of Walton (1972) 28 Cal.App.3d 114, 104 Cal.Rptr. 472 made an obfuscated point that the legislature doesn't know and sent the decision down to the courts hoping they could figure it out when it noted: 
...the courts must depend to a considerable extent upon the subjective state of mind of the parties.  Indeed, it was the legislative intent that that be a major consideration..."
I suspect, what this all means is that if you want out of a marriage, do what they guy in In re Marraige of Greenway did - throw the kitchen sink at the court and hope something sticks.  Apparently, the petitioner in Greenway  (an old guy in an assisted living facility) wanted out of his marriage in the worst way so he said he wanted his wife to stop interfering with his medical care, that his relationship with his wife had been "bad" for the last 30 years, that he didn't want to live with his wife, that he did not like when she visited him, that he did not think the relationship could be restored, and that he understood a divorce would permanently end his marriage.

So, under Greenway, to get a divorce via irreconcilable differences, you have to show :
  1. That you don't "like" someone (subjective, but let's roll with it)
  2. That your relationship is "bad" (again with the subjective "facts")
  3. That you really, really don't like someone (a bit redundant and subjective, but the courts are good with redundancy and subjective, right?)
  4. That the relationship can't be restored (finally, something a bit more solid)
  5. That you know a divorce will permanently end a marriage
So, there you have it; clear as mud (but apparently, that's how California courts like it when it comes to divorce).  I guess, when all is said an done, your best bet, when seeking a divorce in California, is to tell the court what Lisa Kleypas said when she wrote Blue-Eyed Devil: "Bad divorce?" Hardy asked, his gaze falling to my hands.  I realized I was clutching my purse in a death grip. "No, the divorce was great," I said.  "It was the marriage that sucked." 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Not Set in Stone

Nothing is set in stone
One of the things that amaze me about law and the people who try to practice it is the fact that most people (attorneys and pro pers) think that if they find a form in a book, that that is how that form MUST look.  It's almost like people living in the 50's when television was new.  If the television said it, it must be true.

As it turns out, and for the record, any legal form found in any legal book are just templates that can be changed to fit the needs and desires of the person and situation.  For example, say you and a neighbor got in a fight and you lost (badly). Wanting to retaliate, you go to your local county law library and look in California Forms of Pleading and Practice (Vol. 6, Ch. 58, section 58.50) and notice that the 4th paragraph doesn't quite fit the scenario you want to portray.  What do you do?

What you could do is either delete paragraph 4 or change it to fit the scenario as you see fit.  It's just that simple!

How about another one?  Say you're looking to create a California Revocable Trust.  So, you head on over to California Wills & Trusts Forms (Lexis) and look under Inter Vivos Trust for One Person. Reading along, you come to section 7.06 which deals with Intentional Omission of Spouse Married After Execution of Trust.  Since you've have sworn off women for all time and eternity, you want to exclude that paragraph.  What do you do?

What you could do is delete paragraph 7.06 and go on your merry. It's just that simple!

One last one?  Say you've been searching for a velvet (painting) of dogs playing poker. One day you find one at a garage sale. You want to buy it but your good sense tells you you should have a contract.  So, you head on over to your local county law library, pull up California Legal Forms Transaction Guide (Lexis), look in volume 27, Chapter 75, Section 75.200 and find a pretty good skeletal contract that you can use.  Then you notice paragraph 4 dealing with Indemnification and you think it really doesn't belong in this contract.  What do you do.

What you could do is delete paragraph 4, That's what you could do and live happily ever after.

The thing to remember with all things legal and legal forms is that if you don't like something, don't use it.  You think you need to add something, then add it.  It's just that simple.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Word of the Month for March 2017: Boilerplate

Blowing smoke up your dress
Never ceases to amaze how lawyers can take simple language and make it so it freaks non-lawyer people out of their minds.  For example, the other day an older lady comes in to the library.

Seems lady filed suit against a company for an incomplete installation. Company's lawyers' response to complaint to included no less than Forty-two (42) Affirmative Defenses of which only 2 dealt with the issues in the complaint.

This, of course, leads us to our word of the month: BOILERPLATE.  According to Black's Law Dictionary, BOILERPLATE is ready-made or all-purpose language that will fit in a variety of documents.  

The problem is that Company's lawyers were lazy and instead of paying attention to what they were doing, they included a whole bunch of smoke up her dress verbiage that didn't really have anything to do with anything related to what they were responding to and included everything and the kitchen sink just to confuse and obfuscate the issues.

To help lady sift the chaff, I suggested she take a gander at California Forms of Pleading and Practice (Volume 47, Ch. 537) paying particular attention to Summary Judgments.  I also suggested she look at Civil Discovery Practice (CEB) and The New Wigmore: A Treatise on Evidence (Wolter's Kluwer) looking at how to draft Request for Admissions and Interrogatories.

The thing to keep in mind is that finding answers to your most pressing law and legal stuff answers are pretty easy (if you know what you're doing or know someone who knows what they're doing).  So, don't freak out if you get something "scary" from a lawyer.  Take a deep breath and head on over to your local county law library and we'll help you find something to help you make sense of it all.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Danger from below

QUICKSAND!
The other day as I was surfing the television channels, I happened upon one show that featured a whole lot of quicksand.  For those not in the know, quicksand is that stuff which, if stepped in or on sucks the hapless victims below ground resulting their slow demise.  Not the nicest way to go since movies always show people screaming and struggling as they drop below level.

Of course, since when do movies portray real life?  While quicksand does, in fact, exist and can be found lurking along creeks, rivers, dry washes and lakes (where groundwater is close to the surface), apparently, at some point, you stop sinking and simply float.  As it turns out, there are some really, down-to-earth ways you can survive if you're stuck in quicksand.  For example, if you ever get stuck in quicksand:
  1. Stay Calm.
  2. If you start to sink or see earth start to move, turn around and go back EXACTLY the way you came.
  3. If you've sunk in (because you wanted to take a selfie of yourself stuck in quicksand), move slowly and deliberately.
  4. Instead of trying to walk out while standing up, lean to your side and side-crawl out.
  5. At some point (while you're side-crawling out), your feet should hit firm ground underneath.  If not, you'll probably float (because, science!).
  6. If you can, and it's close by, grab hold of nearby vegetation (i.e. bushes, vines, trees) and pull yourself out.
  7. If all else fails, call 911 for help.  Do not call your stupid buddy who is just going to stand there laughing and take pictures of you as you slip beneath ground level.
Law and legal stuff is/are like quicksand; if you don't do something to save yourself, you're going to slowly drown in debt and despair.  If you find yourself stuck in a legal morass, might I suggest:
  • Stay Calm and know that your local county law library is nearby to help you find resources to any and all legal problems.
  • If you think you are about to be served a complaint, be proactive and ask your law librarian what resources might be helpful in your particular situation
  • If you have already been served a complaint, do not waste a minute and head on over to your local county law library and ask to see what resources you can use to ANSWER your complaint.  If you've been arrested for a criminal act, ask to be directed to the criminal law section. Some particularly helpful criminal law resources are:  
  • Even if you are already in litigation, it never hurts to go to your local county law library for some pointers along the way (or to help you get back on track).
  • If you've been stuck in litigation for years (and it happens), do not despair. Always know that there is someone who has had it waaaaaaaay worse than you and that your local county law Librarian has probably been there to help them. Odds are they can help you, too.
Bottom line, if ever you are in need of legal research assistance or just need a shoulder to cry on, your local county law Librarian is the the person to talk to.  We've seen it all and heard it all and most all of us know what needs to be done when you walk through the door. Yeah, we are that good.