May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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12/4/2008 - How to Get Sued

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Quote of the Day - It becomes a shock to them when they get a notice from the school saying my child's truant and especially if their child really doesn't have an attendance problem or issues. - Pam Anderson
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There are 2034 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 41

When I Was A Kid, We Walked Uphill To School Both Ways

Perhaps an obvious exaggeration, but I did walk uphill home.  It was more of a gradual hill, not too tough.  Except in the snow, when it was not only bitter cold, but also slippery because of the ice under the snow.  But I'm off track here. 

We all remember our youth as more difficult than kids have it these days.  If you're like me, then you've probably gotten one of those viral "do-you-remember-the-good-old-days" emails from one of your buddies.  Some of it's true, most of it is the little white lies we tell ourselves, like walking to school uphill.  It's fun to reminisce, but even more fun to tease your kids with how hard you had it.

But do kids nowadays have it easier than we do?

Let's look at corporal punishment - or in the parlance - spanking.  In my father's house, a belt and lowered pants were involved, resulting in a few red welts to drive home whatever point I needed to understand.  I don't think that qualified as spanking.  On the other hand, it was something less than a Pirates-of-the-Caribbean flogging.  My dad said it best:  "You're going to get a whipping, young man."

And it hurt.  And I was embarrassed.

So, what did Cameron County, Texas Justice of the Peace Gustavo Garza do wrong?  He's being sued by the parents of a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather was given the choice of paying a $500 fine or paddling the girl in open court for skipping school.  Garza even provided the paddle.

In the first place, the girl was in court as a truant - she skipped school, and the parents were there, too, because they apparently couldn't control the kid and make her stay in school. 

To be sure, a judge can't order parents to spank their child - the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct says so.  Garza, on the other hand, makes this distinction:  he offered spanking as an alternative, not an order.  The parents see it the other way around:  since they can't afford the $500, spanking was their only option. 

Garza said he offered the paddle in response to other parents' complaints that they had lost control of their children and were afraid of the consequences for spanking them at home.

In their lawsuit against the Justice of the Peace, the parents claim mental anguish and embarrassment and want an injunction stopping Garza from offering the punishment.  Garza is facing a hearing before another judge on the lawsuit, which likely won't get resolved anytime soon.

You be the judge:  should the Justice of the Peace be allowed to offer parents to spank their truant child in return for waiving the fine?


June 12 update:

Judge Garza has been ordered to stop offering the paddling as an alternative to fines, pending the outcome of his trial, which has not yet been set.  Since injunctions are only issued when there's a likelihood of success on the merits, this outcome of Judge Garza being banned from offering paddling is now almost a foregone conclusion. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, June 05, 2008 at 00:23 Comments (0) |

More HTGS: Jail Time For Long Lawns?

In the annals of offenses that result in jail time, it's unlikely that lawns fall at the top of the list. 

Let me explain.

In Canton, Ohio, the City fathers and mothers are tired of mowing the lawns of scofflaws.  In particular, lawns of scofflaws who let their grass grow more than a foot.  If you get two citations for a long lawn, then you're going to end up in jail.  The City has been paying more the $250,000 a year to mow these "scofflaw lawns."

I don't know about you, but out here on the Left Coast, John Muir and fellow environmentalists would probably sue the City to require an Environmental Impact Report before cutting the grass.  After all, it might qualify as native prairie land after it got over a foot.  They wouldn't be cutting anything out here.

But things in Canton, Ohio are decidedly different.  Decidedly.

According to this report, "The tall grass can also become a health hazard because they attract rodents."   Wow.  What a revelation.   That's the way it was on the prairie. 

On the other hand, we're in the middle of a city, where kangaroo rats and other vermin aren't supposed to be.  So instead,we get a 12-0 vote on the City Council to slap those scofflaws with jail time if they bring rats into our city.

That's logical.  Because if these scofflaws are in jail .... yep, you guessed it.

They won't be able to cut their lawns. 

I guess the City will be providing room and board along with the gardening services.  Maybe they're be serving a filet mignon for dinner, too.


You can read more stories like this one in my How to Get Sued book from Kaplan Publishing to be released today, June 3rd.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, June 04, 2008 at 00:30 Comments (1) |

How to Get Sued Released By Kaplan Publishing, Hits Number 1 On Best Seller List

At the Book Expo America publishing trade show this weekend, my book, How to Get Sued was launched, and I had the pleasure of being hosted by Kaplan Publishing at their exhibitor's booth, which included a wine and cheese party Friday afternoon and dinner at Paperfish Saturday night. 

Lisa and I had a wonderful time with my editor, Susan Barry, publisher Maureen McMahon and the sales team of Elizabeth Pollack, Jennifer Farthing, Jason O'Connor and several Kaplan stalwarts.  Admittedly a great time was had by all, but the impression I'm left with about this whole process is overwhelming.

The publisher and her staff tried to prepare me for the sheer volume of books that would debut along with mine, but I sincerely had no idea.  Two entire halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center were full to the brim, left to right, front to back with not an inch to spare anywhere.

I had no idea there were so many books out there.  As it says in the Desiradata poem, there will always be those who are lesser and greater than yourself.  To prove it, Simon & Shuster (which formerly owned Kaplan) hosted an invitation-only at Prince's (of the "artist formerly known as Prince" fame) house for one of  it's book launches.  I'm not complaining mind you, but it would have been cool to score a ticket to the purple mansion. 

Which makes me just that much more grateful to report that when How to Get Sued's release opened today, it hit number one on the Amazon best seller list.  I realize this list is fickle and it changes hourly, but for a brief moment, it was number one.  It's still number one on two of Amazon's best seller lists in the law category, thanks very much to you.

So, tell others, keep buying and thank you very much.  If you do buy a copy and want it autographed, send it to me.  I'll sign it and handle the postage to send it back to you. 

Plus, if you go on Kaplan's site, you can get the additional chapter bonus materials for free.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, June 03, 2008 at 22:48 Comments (0) |

More HTGS: Point That Gun Somewhere Else, Will You?

It seems that a good number of folks have a difficult time robbing banks.  Which, if you think about it for a moment, is a good thing because it would be bad if people were really good at it.

But the way that some people rob banks really makes you wonder if we're actually evolving backward.

Take the most recent robbery at a bank in Orlando, Florida.  There, a robber walked into a bank with a gun.  

Pointed backward, just like our most recent evolutionary trend.  Don't believe me?

He robbed the bank and got away with money.  From tellers not facing the barrell of a gun.


You can read more stories like this one in my How to Get Sued book from Kaplan Publishing to be released June 3rd.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, June 02, 2008 at 01:21 Comments (0) |

More HTGS: They'll Figure It Out Somehow

Trade between nations is a matter of commerce, of course.  But what when the nations are in the same country? 

The border between Hong Kong and China is heavily patrolled.  Since its return to China from Britain in 1997, the separation between the haves and the have-nots has grown wider.  Those who live in Hong Kong have, while those who live in China comparatively have not.

Thus the rise of smugglers who until now have mostly dug tunnels, without much luck in smuggling electronics and mobile phones from one side to the other.  In addition, they piped diesel gas between the two. 

If you can't go down, maybe you can go up.

Perhaps taking a chapter from medieval battles, smugglers in China looked up and found a solution quite different than tunneling.

From the rooftop of a high rise in China, they shot a cable across the border to a village house in Hong Kong.  Sixteen smugglers then rigged a pulley system on the zip line to shuffle stolen mobile phones and electronics from Hong Kong to China, and then sell them.

According to the South China Morning Post, [e]lectronics goods worth more than $770,000 were seized, including 3,300 mobile phones and 2,100 computer memory cards."

It was difficult, however, to figure out how to transport the diesel along the zip line. 

What with the price of gas, and all. 


You can read more stories like this one in my How to Get Sued book from Kaplan Publishing to be released June 3rd.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 30, 2008 at 00:33 Comments (0) |

Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Talks To Two Curmudgeonish Authors

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and John Grisham's The Firm and The Client all come to mind when thinking about classic books written about the law. On this week's Lawyer2Lawyer, please join host and blogger, Bob Ambrogi, as he inducts two more books into that "classic" category, by exploring a classic in the legal community and an upcoming book that is bound to be an instant classic.

Bob talks books with Mark Herrmann, partner resident in the Chicago office of the international law firm, Jones Day and the author of The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law and one of the authors of the Drug and Device Law Blog.  Bob also turns to me, his co-host and author of How to Get Sued©, to discuss my new release.  Mark and I discuss how we got involved in writing, how our experience as attorneys served as a source for our books, the inspiration that led us to write and feedback we have received from our peers in the legal community.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 14:12 Comments (0) |

Dive Your Plan, Plan Your Dive - Except If You Flaunt The Rules

First let me say I don't have all the facts; indeed none of us can because we weren't there.  But there are several things that bear perhaps a more considered analysis in the behavior of the couple who were rescued after getting lost off the Queensland coast on the Great Barrier Reef.  Oh, and lest we not forget, the mainstream news media, too.

"Shark-infested waters?

Perhaps a good adjective to sell newspapers, but hardly accurate.  How do I know?  Two reasons:  first, the obvious one -- the couple was rescued.  The waters couldn't have been "infested" or they would have died.  Second, I speak from experience - Last year Lisa (who's a Master Dive Instructor and more perturbed about this episode than I am) and I dove the same place they dove.  Sure, there are sharks in the area, but not great whites, and certainly not the kind that are going to attack. 

Shark attacks are rarer than being struck by lightning.  Plus, sharks that are well-fed don't attack humans, and the marine life around the Great Barrier Reef is plentiful enough to feed the sharks.  Finally, sharks generally attack only unhealthy prey - they're really just opportunistic feeders.  It's highly unlikely they'd attack healthy divers. 

How do I know all this?  I'm a dive instructor and dive master.  Plus, I dove in the Coast Guard where they taught survival skills, both of which bring me to my next point.

"They surfaced 220 yards from the boat?"

Admittedly, Richard Neely claims to be an instructor, too, but here are several rules you don't break, otherwise you end up in trouble like he and his companion, Allyson Dalton, did.  First, always know where the boat is.  While you're underwater, you can ask.  The sign used is your two hands cupped together like the hull of a boat with a slight shoulder shrug.  In response to this signal, your buddy first gives a directional signal with one hand and then a relative distance measurement with both hands. 

Too far, and you both head back to the boat.  If you and your buddy can't answer the question, then one of you stays down and the other surfaces, always staying within sight of one another.  The diver on the surface spots the boat and then drops back down and informs the other diver with the same set of hand signals.  You never, ever lose your perspective on the boat's location and your distance from it.

Frankly, if you think about it, why would you want to stray from the boat?  Nothing good can come of it, as perhaps is more than obvious now.  Rule violation number one. 

As a second rule, stay with the group.  There's not only safety in numbers, you can be assured one of the members of the group is the boat's dive master, and s/he will always know not only where s/he is at any given moment.  In fact, if you think about it a bit, you'd realize the dive master has been diving the dive site so long that s/he knows all the dive site's boundaries, but will also know where the boat is, even if you don't. 

In this instance, Neely and Dalton obviously violated that rule, too.  They dove alone, as one of the other divers on the boat reported.  Rule violation number two.

Finally, every dive boat, on every dive the dive master gives a briefing on deck before you get in the water.  It's your job as a diver to pay attention to that briefing and follow it.  The mantra is always plan your dive and dive your plan.  The dive master will identify the outer boundaries of the dive site, the speed of the current outside the boundaries, where it's located and its direction.  Now let's pause here for a moment and give some thought to where the dive boat was moored.

It was in a lagoon.

That means no current - that's the very definition of a lagoon.  It's calm.  And if you've been following along here, the current is where?  Yep, you guessed it:  outside the lagoon.  Neely and Dalton were swept away by?  Yep, you guessed it:  the current.  Which means? 

The reason they were found some seven miles away from the dive site?  Current outside the lagoon.  Where they weren't supposed to be in the first place.  Where the dive master told them not to go.  They claim they weren't briefed.  Right.  Remember that part about plan your dive and dive your plan?  It's part of every dive - which you would have drilled into you, especially if you were an instructor.  Rule violation number three. 

One last thing. 

"A dive whistle?"  Take a look at a dive whistle.  If you're going to flaunt these rules, then at least you should have a dive alert siren.  Think semi-tractor trailer horn.  No way the boat isn't going to know where you are with one of these things, even if you pop up 220 yards away from the boat.  Rule violation number four. 

Talk about unprepared.  Talk about sensational news media. 

Gives diving a bad name it doesn't deserve. 

They're lucky they're still alive. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 23:20 Comments (2) |

More HTGS: Wolf Whistle Works With Woman While Walking In Wellington

Perhaps one of the most universally understood pair of sounds (sharp but short ascending tone followed by first by a similarly high tone with an immediate lower and longer descending tone), the wolf whistle is considered flattering by most men and offensive by most women.  Well, certainly there are a multitude of interpretations by men and women, but it's meaning is typically rooted as a compliment for sexual attractiveness.

In case you're a historical buff (no pun intended), the first record of the wolf whistle was about 400 A.D. in only one act in Plautus' Mercator (403-408) [Mercator is Latin for Merchant and is a comedy]. In the play, Demipho says to his son Charinus, referring to the beautiful slave girl they both secretly love and whom the son pretends to have bought for his mother: "I can't permit it. She is hardly the proper sort of person to attend your mother." Charinus: "Why not?"  Demipho: "Because it would cause scandal if such a beauty were the attendant of a wife and mother; when she passes through the streets all the men would look at her, leer, nod and wink and whistle (sibilent). [Latin for a type of wolf whistle.]"

There you have it.  Some 1,500 years of the wolf whistle.  No wonder almost everyone understands it.  If it was first in Latin (or Greek), it has to be old.

It apparently is understood in New Zealand, too.  There, an Israeli tourist tired of men constantly whistling at her, and when she walked by a construction site (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), she got fed up and gave them what they wanted.

She stripped.

Then she calmly used the ATM machine, and once finished, got dressed and left.  Well, almost.  At that point, the New Zealand authorities intervened and took her to the downtown Wellington police station.  There after dealing with the woman, Police Sergeant Peter Masters told a local newspaper, "She gave the explanation that she had been ... pestered by New Zealand men. She's not an unattractive looking lady," Masters said. 

"She was taken back to the police station and spoken to and told that was inappropriate in New Zealand," the police officer said, apparently with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. 

Right.  That's exactly what he said.  Left off with just a warning.  Mmhmm. 


You can read more stories like this one in my How to Get Sued book from Kaplan Publishing to be released June 3rd.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 08:39 Comments (0) |

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