Cheeky Quotes

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I can't make this stuff up

jockey at the beach
Have you ever read a story and it sounds so out in left field that it can't possibly be true?  Like all those fish stories where the guy fights for hours and lands a prehistoric megalodon, or the 5 year old kid who pulls a superman and lifts a car off his dad, or the story where your dad walked to school and back home uphill both ways?  Tall tales all to be sure.

Anyway, I was reading the Los Angeles Daily Journal about a similar story.  Seems a supervisor noticed a used sanitary napkin on the staff bathroom floor.  I'm guessing this is a girl thing (because I don't know what it is (and don't really want to know)).  Anyway, supervisor rounds up all female employees and asks which one is having their, uh,,...which one was...uh..."leaking" down there?  When none of the female workers fessed up, supervisor lined them up against a wall (under penalty that they would be fired if they didn't comply) and one by one were taken into the bathroom where they had to pull their pants down (or dresses up) and were examined for "leakage."

Yeah, pretty funky.  So funky, in fact, that the female employees all filed suit against the company alleging, among other things, false imprisonment.  I'm guessing company lost and company sought compensation by it's insurance company.  Insurance company (stifling a belly laugh, I'll bet) said "NO" and company sued the insurance company for failing to pay on the policy.

Reading the case, it looks like the court was really scrambling to pull out a win for the insurance company. Seems in the original policy, there was an exclusion clause that made it so the insurance company wouldn't have to pay if certain things happened.  Because there is no way to list every little thing (like lining up a bunch of female employees up against a wall for "inspection"), insurance company added two words to include everything - "such as" - and that's what the court clung to when it handed a win to the insurance company.

I guess there are two morals to this story.  First, read the fine print - it's there to burn you.  Second, if you want to be sued, hire a Gestapo supervisor who does something so fantastic that no one could possibly believe it happened (and, subsequently, get blogged about).  Yeah, that's what you should do.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Word of the Month for November 2014

Criminal sentencing
Ever since I can remember, I have loved to write.  Short stories, poems, limericks, and even the occasional 50 page paper were a blast.  Love it.  What I could never figure out was sentence structure.  See, when I begin to write, the story is already in my head - I just have to turn my fingers loose.  I have no time to figure out where the adverb is or how what the modifier modifies or whether the noun and verb co-exist. Good thing, then, that I went into law because in a legal sense, sentences and sentencing have little to do with the "how" of writing and, as it happens brings us to our word of the month: SENTENCE.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, SENTENCE is the judgment that a court formally pronounces after finding a criminal defendant guilty; the punishment imposed on a criminal wrong doer.  A number of California's initial sentencing codes are found in Penal Code Section 1170-1170.95.  Also, the National Conference of State Legislators tracks legislation relating to sentencing guidelines in all 50 states.

So, how this all works is that person commits a crime, gets charged with a crime(s), pleads not guilty, case goes to trial, person is found guilty, judge imposes a sentence based on the crime and any criminal history and enhancements based on the nature of the crime. So, for any given crime, there can be any number of additional penalties resulting in months to years in jail or prison and/or thousands of dollars in fines.  

To bring it all into perspective, we had a guy in here the other day.  Seems he had been charged in (and was facing trial for) violation of California Penal Code Section 171 (Unauthorized possession of weapons in state or local public buildings or at public meeting) which states that 
(a) Any person who brings or possess within any state or local public building or at any meeting required to be open to the guilty of a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison.
Seems guy had forgotten that he had a two-inch pen knife attached to his key chain when he walked into a public hear at the county building and was now looking at some time in the pokey.  Good thing he came to the law library and spoke to the law Librarian because, apparently, his lawyer had overlooked section 171(a)(3) which states: 
Any knife with a blade length in excess of four inches, the blade of which is fixed or is capable of being fixed in an unguarded position by the use of one or two hands.
What this means is that because his pen knife was a mere 2 inches, he might not be looking at any time.  The operative word here is "might" because any good lawyer will tell you there are no guarantees in law.

Of course, not everyone is so lucky.  Take, for instance, the Tasmanian Devil looking brutish young lady who came to the law library.  Seems she had decided to take up with "loaning" sums of money to persons down on their luck at the rate of 200% per day and was now being charged with California Civil Code (not all crimes are found in the Penal Code) Section 1916-3.  Known colloquially as "loan sharking," because young lady charged interest far above that which was allowed by law, she was looking at a felony and a punishment of no less than 5 years in state prison.  Yeah, not how you want the year to end.

Bottom line, before you go and accept any deal dealt to you by the DA, might I suggest you visit your local county law library.   Take a look at the state codes under "sentence" or "crimes" or "punishment" or "crimes and punishment" so that you know whether you're looking at some serious time or none at all.  Yeah, that's what you should do.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

liar liar pants on fire
It is rare these days to not open the newspaper (yes, I read the paper version) and see the vast numbers of people lie to get out of doing something (like getting a legitimate job).  

Take, for instance the guy who faked a coma for two years to avoid prosecution from stealing money from an elderly neighbor.  Seems Alan Knight stole about 40,000 pounds ($64,000 US) from his neighbor. To avoid going to trial, though, he (and his accomplice wife) faked that he was a quadriplegic in a comatose state. Of course, two years into the ruse, police say they were able to get video of Mr. Knight as he was walking around with his family. Oopsy on that.  Best be careful when next we practice to deceive.

Then were the two women who faked having cancer so that they could get their weddings paid for. Women #1, Danielle Watson, told donors that she had stage-four cervical cancer and had a 15% chance of survival. Of course, her story fell apart when she became pregnant and bragged about it on Twitter (to the utter bewilderment of her donors). Subsequently, Ms. Watson pled guilty to fraud by false representation.

Woman #2, Lori Stilley, claimed to have Bladder Cancer. Donors delivered meals, held raffles and a T-shirt sale, hastily planned and paid for her wedding and raised more than $10,000 for treatment that was never to be. Subsequently Ms. Stilley was charged with theft by deception,  Ms. Stilley told family and friends in February 2011 that she had stage 3 bladder cancer and would need chemotherapy and radiation. Two months later, she told them – and posted on her Facebook page and personal website – that it was now stage 4, which means the cancer was spreading to other parts of her body. Stilley even wrote an e-book about her experience. 

Eventually, it was her sister to turned Stilley in to "get help."  Don't know how sister figured out the lie but I gotta wonder if the sister knew about the scam the whole time.  I mean, did she turn Ms. Stilley in because she wouldn't share the proceeds equally?  Maybe there was a little threat of blackmail?  I mean, everyone is happy when the money is flowing but, as with all things money, you can never get enough.  

The sad thing is that Ms. Stilley's attorney is proffering that he doesn't believe Lori did anything wrong.  Really?!  Yes, attorneys need to advocate for their clients, and all, but does he have to go on television reporting that she didn't do anything wrong?!? I mean, defraud people out of time and money and there is nothing "wrong" about that? Guess Ms. Stilley has enough cash to keep attorney happy - for now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

You really can't trust anyone

Can't trust a politician
Call me cynical, but if there is one thing I have learned about government is that they don't do anything without an underlying goal/purpose.

Take, for instance, Gov. Brown (California) who signed Senate Bill 962 that would allow persons who have a cell phone stolen to activate a "kill" switch turning off their phone so that the thief can't benefit from his/her prize. On the surface, that's a good thing, right?  Your phone is stolen and someone is making calls on your phone running up your bill.  You want to stop those calls post haste!  Now that I'm thinking about it, a phone bill isn't the only thing that is at stake; because many people tie their banking accounts to their phones, a thief could start buying stuff on your dime.  The nerve of some people!

Good points all - but what I (a student of law) see is government's new ability to quash civil unrest.  Picture, if you will, a police officer who is beating the living heck out of a person.  A group of people gather, whip out their smart phones and start to record the event via their video cameras.  Officer, stops mid-beatdown, sees the group of people videotaping his activities, calls dispatch and with a flip of a "switch" orders dispatch to kill all the smartphones in his area - effectively stopping people from recording his actions as he continues his "lawful" assault.

Think I'm a conspiracy theorist?  Don't think it couldn't happen?  How many times have you seen police in the news scream at people to stop recording them.  Now they can stop you without your "permission."  Who knows - maybe in a few months they'll have litigation on Brown's desk that authorizes the police to seize your phone if the police even think you took a picture.  You going to wait for that to happen?  Think your local "representative" hasn't thought of a way to curtail your freedoms?  Might I suggest you get smart on smartphone law and all other matters relating to the 1st Amendment by going to your local county law library and taking a look at
Yep - there's a whole lot of stuff brewing on capital hill that most people don't realize.  Better to know what's in store than stick your head in the proverbial sand.  Better to know what's at stake than to hope that your local, state, Federal "representatives" have your best interests at heart.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stop passing the buck

stupid lawsuits
If there is one thing I have learned in the legal business it's that if people took more control over what they did (or didn't do), there would not be so many lawsuits.  I know it's an outdated notion but think about it.  If people acknowledged that it's their own fault for stubbing their own toe and not fault of the shoe or furniture manufacturer, how much less litigation would there be?

Take, for instance the false advertising lawsuit against makers of the Red Bull energy drink.  Personally the stuff makes me gack but, apparently, a number of people were upset that they didn't actually grow wings when they drank Red Bull.  Really?!? People out there thought they would be flying through the skies after drinking a caffeinated drink?  Sad, so very sad.

While you might this that's a pretty sad reason for a lawsuit, it wasn't the saddest.  For instance:
  • A Nebraska man filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging that his wife died by defective grocery bag.  Apparently, the bag tore open on the way to her car and dropped a can on her foot.  The can cut her foot, her foot became infected, her infection spread throughout her body eventually killing her.  Nebraska man is seeking $696,000 in damages.  What I want to know is why didn't she take some responsibility, clean the festering wound and put a bandage on the cut?!  No, let's just let it fester until we have a lawsuit.
  • Scott Simon, 17, went to a party in New Jersey in 2011, where he was offered Xanax stolen from a local pharmacy. He overdosed, slipped into a coma and suffered permanent nerve damage. The party host, his out-of-town parents, the other partygoers, Xanax manufacturer Pfizer and the looted pharmacy were all responsible, naturally.  A settlement of $4.1 million paid by the pharmacy and the host’s parents.  What I want to know is - why was this kid allowed to be out by himself?  What part of personal responsibility don't people get?!  If you do drugs, you're going to do something stupid.  Suck it up and move on (unless you're in a coma - in which case, serve as notice to everyone else what not to do).
  • A prison inmate sued himself for getting arrested. Two years earlier, Robert Lee Brock got drunk, broke into some storage compartments in Virginia and got pinched. He then sought $5 million in damages from himself, (payable by the state) since he couldn't work.  Of course, he couldn't just resist the urge to rob from other people.  That would require personal responsibility.
  • When a student at Sterling Regional High School in Somerdale, NJ, was kicked off the track team because of his unexcused absences, his dad filed a $40 million lawsuit, claiming the dismissal will cost his son college scholarships.  Of course, we can't tell the son to get to class and stop screwing around.  Again with the personal responsibility thing.
  • A group of Idaho inmates are suing 8 brewers for not warning them of the dangers of alcohol.  One inmate wrote. “At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.”  Uh, yeah.  I got nothing here.
Reading these lawsuit, you can see a running theme - a refusal to accept responsibility for one's actions.  Sad that some people think the world "owes" them.  Sadder still is that the courts won't stop these types of lawsuits and allow them to continue to "social menace" status.