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Monday, March 2, 2015

Word of the Month for March 2015: Abuse of the Elderly

Elder Abuse
Don't know if you know but did you know that elder abuse is on the rise?  While Black's Law Dictionary defines Abuse of the Elderly as abuse of a senior citizen (generally those at least 60-65 years old) by a caregiver or relative; examples include deprivation of food, or medication, beatings, oral assaults, and isolation, I'm thinking that that should be broadened to include salespeople who take advantage of lonely old people or legislators who tax social security.

Anyway, I bring this up because the other day this "lady" comes in. Seems a while back "lady" was living with her dad. Apparently "lady" made dads daily life a living hell what with the occasional beating. I say made because "lady" got arrested and was charged with violating California Penal Code 368 which deals with crimes against elder or dependent adults.  Fast forward a few years.  Dad dies and his estate goes to probate.  This is where "lady" comes in. Seems "lady" made a claim on dad's estate.  Because "lady" had been convicted of Penal Code 368, however, she is not able to get any money out of Dad's estate.  Mad as all get out is "lady."  Can you say wet hen?  

Anyway, "lady" says her criminal attorney "convinced" her to plead guilty to the Penal Code 368 charge.  Because of that advice, "lady" can't collect on Dad's estate so now "lady" wants to go after her former attorney for his "bad" advice. Being the neutral law Librarian that I am (in that I help most anybody who walks through our doors), I suggest she take a look at California Practice Guide: Professional Responsibility (West) and Legal Malpractice (West).

Thing is, law Librarians get a whole lot of people who come in their front doors.  Regardless of what they've done (or done to people) law Librarians are always open to help anyone and everyone.  Yeah, we're like that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

People in your neighborhood

Looks like Detroit
Ever wonder who lives in your neighborhood.  Around my library, we have a number of "colorful" people.  Take the guy who lives over by the trashcan.  He doesn't live in the trashcan, only next to it. On rainy/windy days, he'll put up a tarp to add that homey touch.

On Wednesdays, there is the crazy lady on the corner who screams at people when they don't give her money.  Did I say scream?  I meant berate and chase after them and she does it with such passion that people are encouraged to give till it hurts (or she leaves them alone).

Then we have the wheelchair guy who teamed-up with a local attorney to file ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits against business owner.  Apparently, the scam works like this.  Wheelchair guy rolls around looking for businesses to sue for alleged ADA violations.  Then attorney fires off an extortion letter saying that unless the business pays his client (the guy in the wheelchair who never actually frequents any particular business but went there once to say he used the business) a sum of money that they'll sue the pants off the business and seek costs and attorney's fees.  See, the problem is that if there is an ADA violation ("IF" being the operative word), maximum ADA penalties are about $75,000.  Most times, the business settles for something less than then maximum penalty and wheelchair guy moves to the next victim.  Thing is, attorney doesn't file actions through the federal government - these guys just want civil judgments (i.e. quick(er) cash).

I understand the plight of the business owners.  A while back, I was teaching legal research in a local university paralegal program.  When time came for the mid term exam, one student told me that she was "ADA" and demanded I give her extra time to complete the test or she would sue me.  I didn't know what an "ADA person" was (or what one looks like) so I laughed at her and wished her good luck.  To cover my bases, I contacted the director of the program and was informed that they knew about the situation (but didn't bother to tell me about it).  I found out ADA violations had a $50,000 penalty attached to them so to rectify my problem, I changed the mid-term exam from a one hour, easy peasy in-class test to a 20-hour take home, brain crunching exam.  En garde!

Anyway, as this relates to wheelchair guy and his pet attorney and to the numerous business owners who have been attacked by this guy, I have suggested they take a look at:
Then, a while ago, I was speaking with an attorney and he noted that even if the business was in non-compliance with the ADA, if their business was in compliance with the state's building code, they might want to file an interpleader action against the state because the state has a duty to keep it's building regulations in compliance with the ADA.  So, why not drag the state into the lawsuit and/or split the cost for the alleged violation.  As such might be the case, I have begun to suggest local business owners take a look at
While it can be a real pain to have to deal with some of the people in your neighborhood, know that the good folks down at your local county law library are ready to help you fight for your right to party (or do business, as the case may be).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gotta love those hidden fees

Screwed and pissed off
I realize that this is a blog about all things law and research but every now and again I read something that sticks in my craw and I have to tell somebody.  For instance, this article in the Press Enterprise: Moving (violation) Targets really got me going.  A tale of graft, corruption, and greed (never met a politician who wasn't greedy) at the highest levels of government, it is a discussion about the increase in "assessments" for tickets written for traffic violations in California.

For instance, did you know that the fine for failing to stop at a stop sign went from $134 in 2005 to $238 in 2015; from $525 in 2005 to $695 in 2015 for passing a school bus with flashing signals and that driving 1-15 mph over 65 mph went from $99 in 2005 to $238 in 2015?  Broken down, that's:
  • $35 for the base fine
  • $8 Criminal justice construction fee
  • $9.60 Courthouse construction fee
  • $.40 Forensic laboratory fee
  • $2 Automated fingerprint fee
  • $8 Emergency medical fund fee
  • $8 Emergency medical services fee
  • $4 Emergency medical air transport
  • $20 DNA program fees
  • $10.40 State courthouse construction fees
  • $9.60 Immediate needs construction
  • $7 State surcharge/criminal fee
  • $40 Court operations fee
  • $40 State penalty assessment fee
  • $35 Immediate needs/infraction fee
  • $1 Night court fee (San Bernardino County excludes this because it does not have a night court)
Looking at all these extra "fees" tells me one thing: that the government of the people and by the people and for the people is screwing we the people big time.  I mean, look at this: there are three (3) separate "medical" fees, four (4) construction fees and then the other stuff is just padding. Talk about a bloated system!

People are screaming that taxes are rising, that the Feds and states are looking at a mileage tax (on top of all the other taxes/assessments/fees) because gas prices have dropped. The problem is that politicians hide these fees and assessments in the tickets police write every day; millions of tickets to fund a bloated political system.  If you thought the IRS was out of control, take a look at the criminal "justice" system.  While the Press Enterprise article deals with the state of affairs in California - imagine what is going on all around the country?  With the top news story in being what Michelle Obama was wearing in India, it is easy to see why we the people are so not pleased with "them" the politicians.

Anyway, I just had to vent.  I now return you to your normal programming and you all have a great rest of the week.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Choices we make

Not all choices are good ones
Have you ever wondered what would have happened had you chosen a different path in life? Maybe had you studied harder in school and not taken that job flipping burgers to buy a car you would not still be flipping burgers for minimum wage (and still be driving that jalopy). Maybe had you stayed in college and not eloped with the treehugging hippy your mother didn't like you would not now be single, barefoot, and pregnant in Arkansas (not to say Arkansas is a bad place to live, but at least it's not Alabama!).

Anyway, the reason I'm thinking about decisions (good or bad) is because of a case I read in the Daily Appellate Report, People v. Zinda.  Apparently on the night that changed Mr. Zinda's life forever, some drunk guy drove his car into a ditch near Mr. Zinda's home. Around 4:00 AM, Zinda discovered that his house had been burgled.  Snatching up an ax Zinda ran outside and sees the soon to be deceased (and still slighly drunk) guy who had driven into a ditch.  Brandishing his ax, Mr. Zinda, thinking guy was one of the burglars, he yells out "Did your buddies leave you, man?"  Apparently guy was sober enough to see his life flash before his eyes and took off running (I mean, who wouldn't? - Zinda had an ax!) with Mr. Zinda in hot pursuit ending in Mr. Zinda burying the ax not a few times into guy.  Mr. Zinda was subsequently charged and convicted for second degree murder and is looking at 15 years to life.

But, here's where things get funny/sad.  Well, not funny in the sense that someone is dead but funny because it looks like Mr. Zinda represented himself in a criminal action. See, Mr. Zinda appealed his conviction for the primary reason(s) that:
  1. the homicide was justified (because he was in the process of making an arrest), and
  2. because he made an "honest" mistake (because he thought guy had burgled his house).
Now, does anyone, looking at the facts, think for a second that Mr. Zinda was looking to arrest guy with ax in hand?  Really?!  Raise your hand if you think hacking someone with an ax is a justifiable way to arrest someone.  Generally, when you arrest someone, you say things like "you're under arrest." What you don't do is chase someone with an axe and then jump on top of them and start hacking away.

Which brings us to the issue of Zinda's "mistake."  Zinda thought guy was a burgler.  I mean, reasonable assumption given that who except a burgler would be out and about at 4:00 AM, right?  Problem is, Zinda didn't really ask if guy was a burgler; Zinda just assumed guy was a burgler and, when guy took off running for his life, Zinda, with ax in hand, took off hot on guy's tail looking to do a little midnight plastic surgery on guys' sorry backside.  In guy's defense, anyone with a brain would think if someone is running after you with ax in hand, it is probably time to run - which guy tried to do. Too bad guy was still feeling the effects of his alcohol binge (which, no doubt, contributed to his demise).

In any event, while it is sad Mr. Zinder chose to use an ax to get his "point" across, I suspect that's why they say some people are in this world to act as a warning to others.  Moral: when next you see a guy/gal standing outside your house after the commission of a felony, don't just assume guy/gal was the one who did it (but if you are going to arrest them, try to keep the mayhem to a minimum).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Word of the Month of February 2015: Guilty

You are GUILTY
Lately, I've been thinking about the concept of guilt. Specifically, why might a person who, with witnesses all around, pulls the trigger and then enters a "not guilty" plea.  How about the mom in Oceanside who "allegedly" drowned her 22 month son? Even after confessing to the crime and being charged with first-degree murder and assault on a child under the age of eight causing death - she pleads not guilty.

Of course, this all leads us to our word for this month:  GUILTY.  According to Black's Law Dictionary, GUILTY means having committed a crime; responsible for a crime.  A plea of a criminal defendant who does not contest the charges.  The funny thing to this is that rarely does anyone ever say they are guilty.  Heck, prisons are full people who were set-up (because no one in prison ever did anything wrong. No, really - just ask anyone in prison if they weren't set-up).

Speaking about wrong doing/doers, I was reading in the newspaper (yes, the paper version) about how some debt brokers (i.e people who buy and sell other peoples' debt) bought a number of defaulted loans/debts and then posted people's personal information on their website.  We're not talking one or two people's info.  Nope - we're talking Tens of Thousands of files with people's bank account and credit card numbers readily available on the Internet.  The problem with this is that even though the people who posted this information have been charged with violating consumer information protection laws, these broker people say they've done nothing wrong thus leading to a "not guilty" (i.e. "I didn't do anything wrong) plea.

Then there is the story of California senator Leland Yee.  On top of trying to promise guns to an undercover FBI agent, Mr. Yee allegedly sought money in exchange in passing legislation making it harder for professional football players to obtain workers compensation in California.  After being told an NFL official would pay $60,000 for his help, Mr. Yee voted for the bill and was subsequently charged with racketeering and other counts of accepting and soliciting bribes in exchange for exerting his influence in Sacramento (i.e. on bills under consideration in the state senate).  What a piece of work, huh?  Of course, even after being caught dead to rights, he still copped a "not guilty" plea.

OK, did the crime but don't want to do the time?  The question, then, is why enter a not guilty plea?  Is it to delay the inevitable?  Maybe they're hoping that time heals all wounds and the prosecutor will forget why they filed charges?  Or, as I suspect, the reason they enter the "not guilty" plea is because the charges being filed against them are harsher than they thought they would get and they are angling for a lesser sentence?  Maybe?!

Meh, I don't know.  What I do know is that if you're ever been charged with a crime and you're looking for a way out, know that the good folks at your local county law Library have the resources that you need to help you get to where you want to be.