Fish Tank

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FORE!

golf golf golfYou probably don't know this about me but I really love to golf.  I don't go out as much as I used to but I still dig it.  Years ago when I was young(er), I would tee off around 5:30AM at a local course - long before most people even woke up.  Sometimes it was so chilly ice would form around my spikes so I would be slipping around - not that it really had any effect on my game.  I mean, I love(d) to golf but I was never the type to get all stickler about golf rules.  My theory is that golf isn't about how low your score is but, rather, it's how many golf balls you can find.  The only thing that really bugs me about golf is slow players.  Let me elucidate.

Once upon a time I and a friend were out hitting the links at La Mirada Golf Course.  We were going along when we came up behind a twosome.  They took forever to hit a ball.  You'd think they were a couple of,...uh...well, they were playing really slow!  Heck, it took 2 hours just to play the last three holes on the front nine!  As soon as we finished the 9th (and while they were still in the club house seeking refreshment, we skipped ahead of them and slow play golf bad jumped on the 10th hole.  They finally caught up with us (only because they skipped the 11th hole) and started nagging at us for getting ahead of them.  We blew them off and continued with the game.  Fact was, they were right - we should have asked them if we could go ahead.  Fact was, they were also wrong because the course Marshall should have kicked them off the course for taking so #@#^%@^!@%$!@ long.  Turns out, what I should have done is instead of just blowing them off, I should have suggested they go to their local county law library and take a look at The Little Green Book of Golf Law : The Real Rules of the Game of Golf (ABA).

The moral to all this is simply this:  If you find yourself with a problem - don't go ballistic and start with the nagging.  Just direct the offending party(ies) to their local county Law Librarian and they'll set them straight for you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Step into my Confessional

Librarian, psedo-priest, all-around great guy
I have a confession - I didn't always want to be Librarian.  When I was going to "library school," I would often hear other students say they wanted to be a librarian because they loved books.  Fact is, I became a librarian because first, I really dig doing legal research and second, I find pleasure helping people.  Turns out, I've done better than I expected because as a Law Librarian I am often treated like a priest in that people often confess their, uh...conduct (or misconduct, so to speak).  Maybe it's the fact that I wear a suit to work or it's my dashing selection of bow ties.  Whatever the reason, I've heard it all (or, a good deal of it, anyway).

evil demon childSome stories are sad, others not so much.  One I heard this last Friday was related to me by two desperate parents.  It seems that they are parents of  a young rapscallion of tender years who knew how to get under his neighbor's skin.  I mean he actually took pleasure driving people mad.  So much so that it was not infrequently that the neighbors felt compelled to complaint to his parents about his daily shenanigans.  Let's see, there was the daily tormenting of the neighbor's cats, over turning trash cans on trash day, tramping through prized flower gardens, tossing rocks in neighbor pools, throwing tomatoes at passing neighbor cars - the list just went on and on and on and....

Seems his parents realized that no amount of "punishment" would ever completely erase their child's "need" to cause discomfort to others so, with an eye toward the anticipation of future litigation, they visited their local county law library.  I felt their pain and, recognizing their sense for haste, led them over to a few resources that might help them in their hour of need.  For those actions involving civil actions (such as negligence or intentional torts), I suggested they look at California Civil Practice: Torts (West) and The Law of Torts: Examples and Explanations (Aspen).  For the eventual issues dealing with possible incarceration, I suggested they take a look at the Bible of criminal law, California Criminal Law (CEB) and Criminal Defense Techniques (Lexis).

Confessionals are never pleasant but as long as there is conflict in this world, I suspect there will always be a need for shoulders to cry on.  As it turns out, mine is just as good as any man of the cloth.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

They Come in Waves

legal wave
Having been in the legal research business for a while now, I've noticed some trends.  For instance, every 6 months we have a wave of people looking for information about the entrapment defense (criminal stuff).  With the economy the way it is, every few months we have a wave of people coming looking for information about foreclosures.  While it is usually a steady stream throughout the year, around February (the month of love) we get an uptick on the number of persons seeking information about marital dissolution (i.e. they want a divorce).

Given the waves we get, it should come as no surprise that we're starting to notice another wave.  Specifically, we're noticing a number of people looking for information about construction defect.  In fact, just the other day we had three people ask the same type of questions on the same basic problem.  Seems they had bought their house in a relatively new housing track.  Seems all three have the same problem - the upstairs bathroom is Mold in your house
leaking water into the downstairs living room and kitchen.  They've got water stains all over the place and two of the couples were complaining about mold issues.  I don't know about you, but mold can become a big issue with kids and allergies.

Anyway, it's a good thing they came to our law library because we have a number of general and California specific resources relating to construction defect issues such as Construction Defect: Claims and Litigation (STP), Construction Disputes: Practice Guide with Forms (Aspen), Handling Construction Defect Claims: Western States (Aspen), and - my favorite - California Construction Contracts, Defects, and Litigation (CEB).  Then, as icing on a cake, I also handed him Toxic Mold Litigation (ABA).

So, whether you're legal issue is unique or is so common that everyone on your block is having the same problem, know that your local county law library has heard it all before and is just waiting to help you find whatever it is you're looking for.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"No Brainers" rarely are

no brainer
A couple weeks ago, I was asked why would anyone need to know how to do their own research?  Why stress over creating a legal document when someone else can do it for you?  He ended each point with the statement, "...to me, it's a no brainer."  While it may seem that having someone else do your work is a "no brainer," the thing that I have learned is that when you absolutely, positively have to have something done - the only person you can rely on is yourself.  Let me elucidate with some real world examples.

The other day, a middle-aged couple came into our library.  Seems they had an attorney who was supposed to be representing them in a foreclosure action (i.e. the bank was taking their house).  Seems they gave their attorney over $25,000 and their attorney never even bothered to file the complaint.  $25,000!!!  Now homeless and $25,000 poorer, they had had it up to here with all the legal shenanigans.arrogant attorney When they finally met up with their friendly neighborhood Law Librarian (i.e. me), I calmly walked them over to Legal Malpractice (West) and also suggested they take a look at BNA Lawyer's Manual on Professional Conduct (ABA) and Selected Standards on Professional Responsibility (West).  In no time, they were blissfully plotting their attack against their former attorney.

Need another example?  There is a law firm that advertises on television and radio saying they will fight for you.  As it turns out, this law firm is really great when it comes to settlements.  If, however, a case can't be settled out of court, this particular law firm doesn't seem to know what to do. 

tearing hair out
Such was the case of a young lady who came into our library.  Her claim was that she had been "mistreated" by the local police and had hired this particular law firm to represent her.  For almost two years the firm stammered around, never returned phone calls, and basically blew her off.  Bottom line, they couldn't get a settlement and shortly after her emotions hit the boiling point, she walked into our law library.  In less time than it took to tell you about this woman's story, I gingerly walked her over to Police Civil Liability (Lexis) and Police Misconduct (West) and she was off an running with her lawsuit against the city of her choice.

To me, the "no brainer" is that only by doing your own work will you know what's going on.  If you have a legal issue that is important to you, find the time to work with your friendly neighborhood county Law Librarian before you hire anyone because we're here to help you understand what you're up against (and hopefully prevent you from being taken to the cleaners).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Word of the Month for September 2012

legal definitionsA question I get from people who have recently been sued (or want to file suit) is, "Why can't I just talk to the judge like a "normal" person?!" I suspect at some point in our nation's history there was a time when, if you had a dispute, you could just walk into a courtroom and start talking to the judge like they were your next-door neighbor. I suspect this is the case because that's how many people treat the legal system - they expect to be able to just walk in and explain their story.  Because people don't understand how the legal system works, many issues go unresolved and hurt feelings ensue.

It's important, therefore, to understand the basics.  The initial steps of a civil process (in California, anyway) are: first you (the "plaintiff") file a complaint.  After you file the complaint, the other party (called the "defendant") can answer, deny parts of the complaint, or file a demurrer to the complaint.  What's a demurrer?  According to Black's Law Dictionary, a DEMURRER is a legal document allowing a person to object to the legal sufficiency of a claim alleged in a pleading without admitting or denying the truth of the fact stated.  So that we're clear - we're talking about "demurrer" as in a legal document - not "demure" like how you might describe Marlene Dietrich.

Broken down, a demurrer basically says the complaint is full  of baloney and should be
phony baloneydismissed. Now, let's say that the judge grants the demurrer and dismisses your complaint.   Even if that's the case, the judge usually gives you a chance to fix the errors (called "leave to amend" or "dismissed without prejudice"). If you are unable to fix the errors in your complaint in the time allotted (usually 30 days), your case will be dismissed.

The word of the month for September actually came to me in the form of two doe-eyed people who came into our law library begging for help.  Seems they had filed two (2) complaints, been demurred to twice and were just short of having their complaint dismissed forever. In the first complaint, they just made up a bunch of accusations and hoped it'd fly.  It didn't.  On their second cluless attorneyattempt, they went to an attorney who practices Bankruptcy Law to fill out the forms for them.  The problem with that is that just because a person is an attorney, it doesn't mean they know how to practice every area of law - which is why their 2nd complaint was demurred to, too. 

It was at about this point that these two people bumped into me at my law library.  In less time than it took to write this blog, I handed them what they needed to fix their complaint (complete with correct format and causes of action).  This time when they file their 3rd complaint, they should have an easier time in court.

Bottom line, there are few short cuts in law.  If you want to go about things the hard way, stick with Goggle-ing everything and try to figure out things on your own.  If you want to reduce the migraine of going it alone, go to your local county law library and let the Law Librarian help guide you through the morass that is the legal arena.