Sunday, January 24, 2021

On the Edge

It's a new year and like most new years, I generally take stock in how I did the previous year.  

In the last couple of years, the family and I have taken some serious blows what with moving from the west coast to the east coast, taking on a new job, buying a new (or different house) and dealing with other "stuff."  

Its been a rough ride.

This year's review I got to thinking about how I've grown (or whether I have) and my mind got to wandering (as it often does) and settled on the topic of pride.  What is pride?  One of the seven deadly sins, pride is defined as: 

a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired

Ever hear that line pride cometh before the fall?  I gotta wonder whether a person can ever be proud of their accomplishments but not prideful to the point that they think they are the best.  I've never heard a librarian say they're the best (pretty good, maybe) but I'll bet there are a few who have thought it.

Anyway, I've been teaching legal research and writing (on and off) for little over 12 years at various institutions and to/for a variety of persons.  As I was reflecting on what I've been doing and how I've been doing it, I got to thinking whether I'm as good as I think I am or, more to the point, whether I'm good at what I do or whether I just think I'm good at what I do. 

Of course all of this came to my mind when I read a case the other day about an attorney who tried to barter sex for legal services.  I'm guessing attorney thought he was the cock of the walk when he tried that move.  Dang but he must have thought he was coated with Teflon - that he could get away with anything.

See, back in 2013, Mr. McGinnis E. Hatfield visited the Cherry Bomb Gentleman's Club and met a young woman who was working the establishment.  Seems instead of charging the young woman his customary fee of $1,500, Mr. Hatfield offered to represent the young woman, in an upcoming divorce action, in exchange for sex.  

While reading this, I had a flashback to a television show back in the 80's called L.A. Law which revolved around the lives of a law firm and the employees at said firm.  One character, Arnie, was the divorce expert and was very handsy with his female clients. 

Anyway, young lady didn't appreciate Mr. Hatfield's proposal and filed a complaint against Mr. Hatfield.  Subsequently, Mr. Hatfield had his law licensed annulled.  Note: not just revoked - but annulled (like it never happened).  They didn't just want to get this guy off the books, they wanted him to disappear like he never existed!  A bit much but I guess you reap what you sow.

You know, I've known a number of attorneys who, over the years, were suspended or out and out lost their licenses for things like mismanagement of client funds, not filing documents, holding on to a client's files until they paid a past due bill, and other crazy stuff.  

I suspect there are a lot of attorneys out in attorney land who get away with this.  Me?  I'd be too terrified to pull something crazy like this....which is probably why I'm a law librarian and don't have to worry about such things Of course, I've got other things to worry about - but not that!  So, maybe one in my corner?

Yeah, best not to tempt the fates.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Use it the way it was intended!

The other day, yesterday in fact, I was standing on my driveway looking out and about and up walked a teenager.  What caught my eye was that he was holding a skateboard in one hand and a helmet in the other.

I thought, to myself, that's odd.  Shouldn't he be riding that skateboard and wearing the helmet?  I suspect he could have been going to a party and was going to give the skateboard/helmet to someone - but then wouldn't the skateboard/helmet be wrapped?  Heck but even I know presents are the best thing about birthdays.  I mean, cake and ice cream rank right up there but presents?!  Yeah, love opening presents, I do.

But I digress.  Teenager was not using the skateboard/helmet the way a person (in this case me) might ordinarily use (or think to use) a skateboard/helmet.

This, of course, reminds me of a situation I recently saw.  I was walking around a public library when I came across a study room.  While a study room in a library isn't all that odd, what was odd was that the door was being propped open by a law dictionary.  A Black's Law Dictionary, to be specific.

You know, before I became a omnipotent law librarian, I never much cared how books were treated.  Rip a page here, fold over a corner there, splash a drink on the pages - all's fair in love and war.  When I became an omnipotent law librarian, things changed.  I suddenly became aware of ripped pages in books; found myself telling people not to fold corners on pages; and DON'T be drinking or eating when reading a book else you might spill on that precious book!!!!

I became the a-typical librarian with a bun in her hair shushing everyone (except I don't have enough hair for a bun - but you get the idea).

Anyway, no one was around to shush or say not to use the dictionary as a doorstop.  Thankfully, it wasn't a library book (probably owned by the person who was using it as a doorstop).  Yes, I would have looked darned silly shushing someone in a library where I don't work - but it was the omnipotent librarian rising up in me.  Sometimes, I can't help it.

Had there been a person around, I would have, probably - most likely, have admonished them to use the Dictionary for its intended purpose - you know, like looking up definitions of legal words?  

I mean, have you ever HAD to have a definition of a legal word but couldn't find it because all the Black's Law Dictionaries were being used as doorstops?!  It would drive a person insane.  

Clearly, this person didn't know the power contained in a Black's Law Dictionary.  Clearly, this person was not aware that using this Black's Law Dictionary was damaging it.  Clearly, this person was missing out on critical definitions that could - quite possibly - change their life!

Definitions like:

Incidental Damages: 1. Losses reasonably associated with or related to actual damages (also refer to 1 James J. White & Robert S. Summers, Uniform Commercial Code § 10-3, at 561-62 (4th ed. 1995); C.J.S. Sales §§ 396, 400-401, 404-405).

Interdict (in-tǝr-dikt), n. Roman & civil law. 1. An injunction or other prohibitory, exhibitory, or restitutory decree (refer to C.J.S. Injunctions §§ 2-4, 12, 14, 22, 24, 166).

Neutral, n. 1. A person or country taking no side in a dispute; esp., a country that is at peace and is committed to aid neither of two or more belligerents.  Cf. Belligerent (see also Theodore D. Woolsey, Introduction to the Study of International Law § 163, at 276 (5th ed. 1878)).

Pro hac vice (proh hahk vee-chay or hak vi-see also hahk vees).  [Latin] For this occasion or particular purpose.  The phrase usu. refers to a lawyer who has not been admitted to practice in a particular jurisdiction but who is admitted there temporarily for the purpose of conducting a particular case (see also C.J.S. Attorney and Client §§ 26-28).

Rout (rowt), n. The offense that occurs when an unlawful assembly makes some move toward the accomplishment of its participants' common purpose.  Cf. Riot.  (see also C.J.S. Riot; Insurrection §§ 2-10).

Steganography (steg-ǝ-nog-rǝ-fee), n. A cryptographic method that digitally embeds or encodes one item of information within another.  Because a digitized audio or visual file usu. has unused data areas, indelible (and nearly undetectable) information can be added without altering the file's quality. Copyright or trademark tags can be hidden in every fragment of a digital work, making disassociation almost impossible (also termed digital fingerprinting; digital watermarking).

Viator (vi-ay-tǝr).  A terminally or chronically ill life-insurance policyholder who sells the policy to a third party in return for a lump-sum payment equal to a percentage of the policy's face value.

Zygocephalum (zi-gǝ-sef-ǝ-lǝm), n. [Greek fr. zygo- "yoke, pair" + kephalos "head"] Hist. A measure of land, esp. the amount that can be plowed in one day.

I mean, this is powerful stuff!  Did you know these words?  Heck, did you know the definitions of these words?!?  Probably not - because you (or someone) was using the dictionary as a doorstop.  

Oh, the humanity!

So next time, when you need to prop open a door or something, take a moment and think of what you're doing.  Next time, think about the power you hold in your hands before you go and use that book (or dictionary) as a doorstop.

Just, use whatever you're holding the way it was supposed to be used.  

That's all I'm asking.

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 Nolo.com 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 8, 2020

Oh, yeah, that's fair!

No two ways about it, you were screwed by your HOA
It's been a while since my last post but in my defense, I've been pretty busy of late.  I decided that I'd write about something when something came along that really caught my attention.  Well, guess what?!?

Here in South Carolina, there is a publication called South Carolina Lawyers Weekly at sclawyersweekly.com).  Great periodical, it is, full of stories about lawyer and law and legal things.  In fact, in the January 6, 2020 edition (Volume 19, Volume 28), there was a really great story (Home foreclosure over $250 debt stuck down) about a family that had been foreclosed upon.

Seems that Devery and Tina Hale purchased their home in Richland County for just over $100,000 in 1998.  Around January 2011, they fell behind on HOA dues (owing about $250) and the HOA filed a lien and later filed a complaint seeking the sale of the property over $500 in unpaid dues, plus interest.  For whatever reason, the Hales didn't respond to the complaint and the HOA filed an affidavit of default.

Here's where things get interesting.  Seems the Hales home was put up for auction at which the home was sold for a whopping $3,036.  Whereupon the buyer, Regime Solutions, promptly sought to have the Heals evicted from their home - which is about the time the Hales finally woke up and took things seriously.

Upon appeal of the default and foreclosure sale, the Court of Appeals affirmed both the default judgement and the sale of the home.  When the matter finally came before the South Carolina Supreme Court, Justice John W. Kittredge, writing for a unanimous court, noted that, "the price paid for the property was so grossly inadequate that the sale could not be sustained."  The full opinion can be found at the South Carolina Supreme Court website under Winrose Homeowners' Association, Inc., v. Hale.

What is bothersome is that this case had to go to the Supreme Court before someone realized the Hales were being boondoggled.  I mean, first there was the $250 in HOA dues.  Really, you're going to flip out over $250?!?  Seems to be the case what with the HOA's attorney (one Stephanie Trotter of McCabe, Tortter & Beverly in Columbia) bragging that her firm had received seven judgments in favor of various HOA clients.  Then there was the lopsided foreclosure sale of a mere $3,036 on a $100,000 home?  Really?!?  That didn't shock the conscious of a single judge at the Court of Appeal???

I suspect, if I were an HOA board, I'd be happy to have someone like the HOA's attorney on my side but when you have a ruthless HOA who is litigation happy, who does that help?  Maybe it's time to remove that HOA board and get people who understand that sometimes people get behind on dues.  Maybe it's time they get a board that isn't so litigation happy.

Just maybe.