Fish Tank

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Legal Research is Easy!

So, I had a lady come into the library yesterday.  She was stomping all over and whining (that's right, whining) about how hard it was to find anything in the law library and why can't he find anything and why is it legal research is so #%@^@^@#$!@!!@#$!!! hard?!?  The fact is, as I pointed out, legal research is no harder than any other research; you just have to follow the #1 rule of legal research: always ask the law librarian first.  That's right, come and talk to me and most of your troubles will dissolve away in seconds (because I do this legal research stuff all the time and I know what you need probably before you realize you need it).

For instance, after this young lady settled down she tells me that she had been sued for failing to pay on his credit cards (i.e. breach of contract) and he needed to file an answer.  Before she could blink twice, I walked her over to American Jurisprudence Forms of Pleading and Practice and California Civil Practice: Procedure, (both of which can help her prepare an answer).  Because I work in California, another great resource is the California Judicial Council Forms which have all sorts of civil and criminal forms already to use and fill-out.  Finally, I led her over to the California Codes to see the laws on contracts (look in the civil code for information relating to contracts).  See, easy peasy.  In less time than it took to build up all that steam, I was able to ease this lady's pain, calm her down to a low roar, and hand her answers to all her problems.  ALL of them.

So, next time you find yourself in a legal quandary and don't know what to do, what do you think you should do?  That's right - save yourself a whole heap of grief and just go to your friendly neighborhood law librarian and ask for help.  We know all the answers and know what you need long before you think you even think you need it.  Yeah, we are that good!

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Daffynitions" is more like it!

When I was a kid, my dad used all kinds of words to describe things which, as it turns out, weren't really words but, as it turns out, I thought were scripture (coming from my dad and all).  For instance, "Gizzy."  If my dad couldn't remember the name of something, it was a gizzy.  So, paper is a gizzy, a car is a gizzy, a pencil is a gizzy - if it's out of reach (or out of mind), it was a gizzy.

The reason I bring this up is because of a discussion I had with the San Diego Police Department a while back.  Seems they're having a hard time with people dealing/selling/using bath salts.  Now, when I was growing up, bath salts were what women used in their bath to help make them smell good.  Other uses of bath salts included the name brand "Epson Salt" which our family used as a cure/clean-all.  Turns out these days, the police refer to "bath salts" as a synthetic crystal-like powder that people typically smoke or snort (up their nose) and which acts as a stimulant.  Who knew?!  For more information on what bath salts are, take a look at the EDPM Blog.

 In any event, I've been educated and now you know what I know and (as the G.I. Joe cartoon told their audience every afternoon for 3 years), knowing is half the battle!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What a Joke!?

Lawyer jokes are often trueQ: What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in wet cement? 
A: Not enough cement. 
Q: Did you hear they just released a new Barbie doll called "Divorced Barbie"?
A: Yeah, it comes with half of Ken's things and alimony.
Q: What's the problem with lawyer jokes?
A: Lawyer's don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they're jokes.
Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Fifty four. Eight to argue, one to get a continuance, one to object, one to demur, two to research precedents, one to dictate a letter, one to stipulate, five to turn in their time cards, one to depose, one to write interrogatories, two to settle, one to order a secretary to change the bulb, and twenty-eight to bill for professional services.
Q: Where can you find a good lawyer?
A: In the cemetery.
Q: Where can you find a good lawyer?
A: At the city morgue.
Q: What do you call 100 skydiving lawyers?
A:  Skeet.

The thing with lawyer jokes is that there are so many of them.  The problem with that is that each time you tell a lawyer joke or hear one, your perception of the legal field diminishes a whole lot.  The thing is that I know lots of attorneys who are hard-working stiffs who put in over 100 hours a week for their clients.  On the other hand, I know people who act like attorneys who couldn't find their way out of a wet paper sack and I gotta wonder how in blazes they made it out of law school.  Whether the attorney is a hard worker bee or a slough, it's the jerks that make it hard for the good ones to get from under the load of lawyer jokes.

The reason I'm writing this post is because the other day we had a guy come into our law library who had paid his attorney thousands of dollars to do his case only to find out at the first hearing that the shyster had done nothing - had filed nothing, had served nothing, had basically taken the money and went on a shopping spree and I gotta say that really gets my blood boiling because I hate it when people get taken for a ride.

As a Law Librarian, though, what I suggested is first, contact the state bar association and file a complaint (in this case the California Bar Association at www.calbar.org).  Knowing how slowly the Bar acts (and the fact that often times, the Bar does nothing at all against these bums), I also suggested he take a look at California Practice Guide (Rutter Guide) Professional Responsibility and Legal Malpractice: Liability, prevention, litigation, insurance by Ronald E. Mallen.  Another older resource that deals with dealing with unsavory attorneys is called Mad at Your Lawyer (Nolo Press) by Tanya Starnes.  Finally, I found a pretty good article published at nolo.com that provides helpful advice for dealing with a deadbeat attorney called What to Do when You're Mad at Your Attorney.

So, if ever you're in a situation where you've been misused by an (or your) attorney, don't just stand there and take it.  Get on over to your local county law library and get smart on what you can do to get satisfaction because there's nothing a smartypants attorney hates more than someone who knows more than them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Devil's in the Details

A few days back, I had a lawyer friend of mine come into our library.  Seems he had a case he was working on that he was rather giddy about because he was about to give opposing counsel no small degree of grief based on a rule of court he had just discovered.  Seems opposing counsel's brief had failed to comply with a little known rule of court and my friend the attorney was going to lower the boom and get the opposition's complaint thrown out of court.  What is ironic about this is that no less than 3 months previous, friend attorney was in the library complaining that his complaint had been tossed on a similar technicality.  The point I'm making here is that sometimes, legal documents get bounced out of court not because the legal theory upon which it is based is incorrect (i.e. breach of contract, negligence, fraud, etc) or how something was written.  Rather, they get rejected merely because someone failed to follow a particular rule of court.  Let me elucidate.

In California, the state rules of court can be found at www.courts.ca.gov/rules.htm.  In these rules is a little know rule (specifically rule 2.101(a)(1)) which says:  

(a) Recycled paper must be used for the following:
(1) All original papers filed with the court and all copies of papers, documents, and exhibits, whether filed with the court or served on other parties;

The point is that if you're writing an original pleading (like a complaint), it must be on recycled paper or it can be rejected.  What does that mean?  What are the implications?  Well, let's say that the limitations period is going to run out at 4:30PM on the day you need to file your complaint for a person injury action and you've gone and NOT used recycled paper for your complaint.  If the clerk catches it, s/he can reject the filing of said complaint resulting in your missing the deadline to file your complaint and you're out of luck (meaning, you are precluded from filing your complaint on recycled paper the very next day).  OOPS!!!

 Let's try another one.  Under the Indiana Rule of Court (located at www.in.gov/judiciary/2695.htm), Rule 3.1(A) states that:

(A)  Initiating party. At the time an action is commenced, the attorney representing the party initiating the proceeding or the party, if not represented by an attorney, shall file with the clerk of the court an appearance form setting forth the following information:
(1) Name, address and telephone number of the initiating party or parties filing the appearance form;
(2) Name, address, attorney number, telephone number, FAX number, and e-mail address of any attorney representing the party, as applicable;
(3) A statement that the party will or will not accept service by FAX;


So, if, when you file an action in Indiana, you fail to include any of the above in your pleading, the court could reject any or all of your documents based on a mere technicality.  What are the odds of that?!  Well, as it turns out, there is a whole court system dedicated to deciding cases on their technical merits.  Decisions from that court can be found in the Federal Rules Decisions.  

If you're wanting to see other Rules of Court for courts all over the United States, you can point your attention to www.washlaw.edu (a free and awesome service from the Washburn University School of Law).  If you happen to live around a county law library and you want to see a paper copy of the rules of court, waste no time and go see your local county law librarian who will be happy (happy, I say) to help you help yourself to their plethora of print (or online) legal resources...and you have a great rest of the day!