Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hear v. Listen

Lights are on, but no one is listening

Have you ever been talking to someone and then you ask them a question they say, "Huh?"  Makes you wonder if they were even listening.  So, what's the difference between hearing and listening?  Is there a difference?

According to a BBC recording I listened to, the moderator noted that: We use hear for sounds that come to our ears, without us necessarily trying to hear them! For example, 'They heard a strange noise in the middle of the night.  

Listen is used to describe paying attention to sounds that are going on. For example, 'Last night, I listened to my new Mariah Carey CD.'

So, you can hear something without wanting to, but you can only listen to something intentionally. An imaginary conversation between a couple might go:  'Did you hear what I just said?'  'No, sorry, darling, I wasn't listening.'

Of course, this brings to my attention a conversation I had with an attorney who I was talking to the other day.  Seems he had a case that was giving him quite a bit of trouble and, being a local law librarian, asked me if I had any suggestions no where to start looking.

I started in with some basics like statutes and cases and he'd respond with a "hmmmm" or an "uh huh?"  Then I started talking about some of my favorite resources like AmJur Proof of Facts, AmJur Trials, and Causes of Action.  

I noticed that attorney was drifting off and pointedly asked him, "hey, are you even listening?!"  To which he replied, "Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't listening - what did you say?!"...effectively ending the conversation.  I mean, you want to know where to go and what to use to make money but you don't even pay attention to what is being said?!??!

If I wanted to be ignored, I'd talk to a bunch of paralegal students.

Anyway, I guess the upshot of all this is:  If you want to receive information, be prepared to take notes.  Otherwise, go look it up yourself.

I'm just sayin.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Stacked Deck

Once upon a time when I was still living the single life up in Montana, I remember playing Uno with a buddy of mine.  

Not infrequently, I would wait until he was out of the room to get a snack or whatever and stack the Uno deck.  For those unfamiliar with the game Uno, there are a number of "special" cards that can help you (or hinder your opponent).  These special cards include:

Standard Special Cards

Draw 2 Card

The next player must draw 2 cards and forfeit the turn.  

Reverse Card

The direction of play is reversed.  

Skip Card

The player is skipped (loses their turn).

Wild Card

Change the color being played to any color (provided "any" color is blue, red, green, or yellow).

Wild Draw 4 Card

Choose the next color played and force the next player to pick 4 cards and forfeit his/her turn.

What I would do is take all these special cards and, because there were only two of us playing, I would insert a special card with every other card.  So, he gets a regular color/number, I get a special card.  He gets a boring normal card, I get a special card.  It took him a few rounds to figure out what I was doing.  I mean, what are the odds that I would get all 4 Wild Draw 4 cards every round, round after round?!?

This, of course, reminds me of the threats the democrats are throwing around about stacking the court (in this case, the SCOTUS).  If you'll recall, ruling octogenarian Ruth Ginsburg passed away recently leaving a vacancy on the SCOTUS bench.  

The democrats immediately started screaming that the Republicans don't have the right to fill the slot until after the election (oh, and by the way, 2020 is an election year - meaning that we're voting for POTUS this November).

The process by which the POTUS selects a person to fill a SCOTUS is difficult to follow - if you don't have a reference point.  Thankfully, there are number of resources to pull from including the report from Congressional Research Service (CRS): Supreme Court Appointment Process:President’s Selection of a Nominee.  

According to Article 2, section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution: The “Appointments Clause” states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court.”

So, in a nutshell, when there is a vacancy, the POTUS can nominate someone for the Senate to vote on the appointment of a person to fill a SCOTUS vacancy.  Nothing in the Constitution says when all this may occur - just that it can.

So, what does this all have to do with stacking the court?  Ever hear of Rodrigo de Borja?  Rodrigo was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and served from August 1492 until his death in 1503.  

Before Rodrigo became Pope, the number of Cardinals in the College of Cardinals (the chief ecclesiastical body of the Roman Catholic Church tasked with electing and advising the pope) was anywhere between 14 and 29 (depending on who you talk to).  

During the time Rodrigo ruled as Pope Alexander VI, he stacked the College of the Cardinals by increasing the number to 43 (and, as it turns out they were all related to Rodrigo).  This effectively ensured that every decision by Rodrigo was supported by the full faith and credit of the College of Cardinals.  

Imagine - every decision never questioned.  More taxes?  Granted.  More parties?  Granted.  More largess?  Whatever you want, Rodrio.  What ever you want!

Again I ask: what does this all have to do with stacking the court?  Imagine if one political body (in this case, the democrats or republicans) could pack the SCOTUS with another 9 judges (so, 18 in all) that all believed the way the present ruling political body believed;  What would happen?  The ruling political body would get everything they wanted and no one could stop them.  

So, the body that creates the laws would also control the body that rules on the laws.  Forget about the craziness of it all - talk about a blurring of lines!

Few things are more predictable than incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives winning reelection.  With wide name recognition, and usually an insurmountable advantage in campaign cash, House incumbents typically have little trouble holding onto their seats.  While Senate races still overwhelmingly favor the incumbent, re-election is not as assured as House races.

So, picture it.  You have entrenched members of the house who have been in power for decades.  Now, add another 9 judged to the SCOTUS in step with their ideologies.  With control of legislative branch, the executive branch, and a stacked judicial branch, they could do whatever they wanted for as long as they wanted to do it (or as long as they can get the American people to believe the lie that 'we the people' are in control).

It sounds crazy but have you been listening to some of these politicians lately?  

Crazy as loons, they are (and crazy enough to try to pull it off).

Thursday, September 3, 2020

That's gonna hurt

Even the horse thought it was funny!
There are so many things to talk about these days but the one that I'm going to talk about is torn jeans.  I remember back when I was a kid, my mom had a fit anytime I came home with a hole in my jeans.  My mom would then break out the iron and patch my pants - over and over, again.  Thing is that even though I kept falling, I didn't wear out my knees.  Bruised them a few times, yes, but rip and bloodied, they were not.

The question, then, is why wear pants?  Is it just to cover yourself up so that the general public doesn't see your bare skin?  Maybe that's part of it but I'm guessing the other part is that it is supposed to act as a sort of protection from scraps and falls.

I bring this up if for no other reason than a young lady I saw walking downtown the other day.  Young Lady was wearing the latest fashion - jeans that had HUGE torn holes in the pants around her knees.  I watched as Young Lady was navigating the downtown sidewalks when, for whatever reason, she tripped and did a face plant on the sidewalk.

Can you say ker-SPLAT?!?

I'm thinking, ooooh, but that's gonna leave a mark.  After a while she stands up and while her nose was still in the right place and proportional to her face, her knees were a royal bloodied mess.  Maybe had she not had holes in her jeans her knees might now not look like rare ground beef.

If falling on your face and grinding your knees wasn't enough, Young Lady started in with screaming that she was going to sue the living heck out of the city for not providing safe sidewalks upon which to walk.  OK, she didn't really say it like that but sometimes kids read these posts and I'm not going to type the blue-flamed laced words that she actually did spew to everyone within earshot.

The problem is, and I'm betting that, Young Lady probably didn't have a clue how to go about suing the city for her sidewalk issue.  Good thing that there was a law librarian nearby who could witness her acrobatics and then blog at out it to the world.

Believe it or don't, cities really don't like being sued and will do most anything to reduce any award to zero (0) if given the chance.  Of course, this is probably why states around the country have enacted things like Tort Claims Acts which are written in favor of government entities and whose sole purpose is to limit liability and protect government employees and the departments they work for.

As it turns out, South Carolina, where Young Lady happened to trip and tear up her knees, has it's own Torts Claim Act called, not surprisingly, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act under § 15-78-10.  As is normally, the case, the statutes themselves are vaguely written so that even if you do understand the language of lawyers, you're not going to understand how these Tort Claims Acts work.

Because most people are ignorant of the workings of government and how to sue said government, it is up to publishers like that are willing and able to help the unsuspecting consumer navigate the currents of governmental litigation.

So, the general process of these things is that you must first file an administrative claim against whatever governmental agency you're going after and wait to have your claim sustained or denied.  In some jurisdictions, you have about 6 months to a year to file a claim against a government agency.  

What often happens, though, is that you file a claim against your agency of choice, the agency waits 6 months to do anything and, after the limitations period runs, the agency denies your claim thereby barring you from filing suit.

Sounds like a racket so you gotta stay on your toes.  Which is why (love 'em or hate 'em) people hire lawyers to handle personal injury lawsuits.  It's because attorneys know and understand the workings of government agencies and know how to play the system to the benefit of their client(s), they are the best choice when looking to sue anyone.  

So, whether you are a Young Lady with ground beef for knees or are simply looking to bone up on the laws relating to suing government agencies, take a moment and look at your states Tort Claims Act (and every state has one) to see where you stand.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Get Focused

What is it that you want?  Money?  Fame?  Fortune?  Amnesia so that you can forget all the stuff you'd rather not remember?

The other day, as I was driving to work, I noticed a little black sports car coming up on my 6 at an accelerated rate of speed.  I noted that black sports car driver wasn't paying attention to where she was going as she looked up (from, I'm presuming, her phone) just before she slammed into the back of my car, slammed on her breaks, swore a blue streak, flipped me off, screamed some more, changed lanes, swore some more, flipped me off again, and sped off to tailgate someone else - because tailgating is an Olympic sport around here.

I'm guessing what Black sports car wanted was a lawsuit - given how she was driving.

Sad that.  I mean, did black sports car wake up thinking, "Today I'm going to drive like a crazy lady and rear-end someone?"  Probably not but as long as she tries to focus on two things (drive and phone), she's on a short road to the junkyard.

This all reminds me of the student who contacted me the other day.  Seems student is looking to write a research paper.  Seems student has not quite thought out what they want to write about since, when I asked what they wanted to write about, student said: Real Estate.

Uh huh.

The problem with this is that "Real Estate" (i.e. property) is pretty nebulous (as in a really big topic).  I mean, there are hundreds of avenues that can be taken when examining Real Estate.  Like, do you want to talk about eminent domain?  How about zoning, or hazards and disclosures?  Maybe environmental issues, cell phone towers, or do the effects of low-income housing on property values, catch your eye?  Yeah, there are a number of ways student could take this.

I know, when I'm in a quandary about where to start researching (or even picking a topic), I know I can always reach out to the Digests.

Organized by headnote topics and key numbers, the digests is a system of identifying points of law top help locate cases related to thousands of topics.  The digest works like an encyclopedia in that the topics are listed in alphabetical order and printed on the spine of the book.

Each case published in a West Reporter is evaluated by an editor who identifies the points of law cited or explained in a case.  Each case published in a West Reporter is evaluated by an editor who identifies the points of law cited or explained in a case.  

The editor places the summaries of the points of law covered at the beginning of the case.  These summaries are usually a paragraph long and are called headnotes.  Each headnote is then assigned a topic and key number. The headnotes are arranged according to their topic and key number in a multi-volume set of books called Digests.  A digest serves as a subject index to the case law published in west reporters. 

Got all that?

Now, I could go all day on how to use the Digests but let's break things down simple.  So, the easiest way to work the Digests is to look on the spine of the book. 

So, find the general subject you want to use and pull that book.  For example:

  • Looking in the United States Supreme Court Digest for cases on Insurance, Look in Vols. 8B & 8C
  • Federal Practice Digest 5th Series for Bankruptcy, look in Vols. 31-61 (a mere 31 volumes)
  • 11th Decennial Digest Part 3 for Civil Rights, look in Vols. 11-13,
  • Southeastern Digest 2d for Homicide, look in Vols. 26D-27B

See?  Easy peasy.  

Of course, there are other ways to find what you need - like hunting down a legal information professional (i.e. law LIBRARIAN) who can help you find whatever it is you need to be finding.

So, whether you want to hunt alone or hunt with a wingman, know that you're covered whenever you walk into a library because Librarians are here to help YOU!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Told you so!

Told you so!
Have you ever had the opportunity to rub something in someone else's face?  Like, you tell your kid not to put their hand in an open flame and off to the emergency room you had to go because kid didn't listen?  

Maybe it was the time you told a buddy that not paying taxes would result in the IRS come knocking on their door and they get audited 5 years running?

Maybe it was the time you told your classmate that if they didn't uncross their eyes that they would stay that way and they wound up wearing glasses?

Satisfying, isn't it?

Take, for example a former student of mine who came up to me.  Seems, once upon a time, I had said something during a library tour about AmJur Proof of Facts.  For those not in law school or who may never use AmJur Proof of Facts,
Proof of Facts provides expert advice on how best to prepare your case. It shows how to determine which facts are essential and how to prove them. It discusses the elements of proof, practice and evidentiary considerations, and defense considerations, and provides model discovery. It is organized and indexed so you can find facts-in-issue, sample proofs, and collateral references quickly and easily. Question-and-answer dialogues guide lawyers in assembling facts, preparing factual issues for settlement or trial, and examining every type of witness. Technical, scientific, and medical information help the user speak the language of the experts.
Now, back to former student.  Seems former student was interviewing for a job - a really good job - when the interviewer asked him whether he was familiar with AmJur Proof of Facts.  I mean, it's one of those questions that are so out in left field but so apropos that you'd never expect it in a real life interview.

Anyway, former student vaguely remembered something I said during a tour of the library about how useful it was and that it helped me (the professor) so many times in real life.  

Former student, couldn't actually remember anything I'd said about AmJur Proof of Facts but he did remember that I had told them how awesome it was and that I liked it and, wouldn't you know it, student got the job BECAUSE he knew enough to say he had heard me talk about it.

Yeah, pat me on the back.  Seems AmJur Proof of Facts is so popular with students' new employer that new employer insists former student include it with everything former student submits.  What is even more surprising is that someone was actually listening in class!  

Who knew?!

I guess it's one of those things that sticks to a synaptic connection somewhere in the brain that you hope you'll never have to use but are sure glad you had it when you need it.

Yeah, it's just like that.