May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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Quote of the Day - Those - what do you call them - tarantulas? That's the closest we've been to them except the Discovery channel. - Nicole McGee
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Tarantulas, Scorpions and Beetles. Wonderful Appetizers, Now What's For Dinner?

Last night at the forever elegant Waldorf Astoria in midtown Manhattan, the Explorer's Club had its 104th annual dinner.  This year marked the passing of two of its greats:  Sir Edmund Hillary and Steve Fossett, although I wondered whether Mr. Fossett was just flying around with Amelia Earhart, a fellow member.

The program focused on "Exploring Planet Ocean," and as famed scuba, deep-sea diver and honoree Dr. Silva Earle closed the program, "onward and downward," she gleefully gave the "thumbs down" sign, a signal universally understood by divers to coordinate the beginning of a dive.  The evening was anything but a downer, but it began that way.

It started from the 34th floor of the Waldorf Astoria Towers, where my room sported an eye-to-eye view of the Chrysler Building, one of the famous landmarks dotting the Manhattan skyline.  Out the other window, the Brooklyn bridge stood stately, gracefully traversing the East river, which flowed slowly toward the ocean.

In the hallway on my way to the event, the elevator doors parted and I stepped on wearing native Scottish garb from head to toe, native being the seemingly preferred matter of dress for attendees, which many there wore.  Once on I met a somewhat shorter but tremendously more charismatic white-haired man wearing an impressive-looking medal around his neck, several small pins I couldn't read, a chrome-plated bow tie and a double-breasted, striped satin tux. 

He was accompanied by an equally elegantly coiffed, stunning woman decked out in a wedding-white long gown with a burnout top full of fingered sparkles and beads.  They were obviously a couple, and well-suited in age and demeanor to one another.  She began the conversation with me first, complimenting my kilt and Prince Charlie tailed coat.  The three of us conversed intently and quickly as the elevator descended and the other riders listened keenly.  He asked about my heritage, which I confirmed as Scottish and Welsh.

As we stepped off the elevator, I caught a glimpse of one of his pins and read "Apollo 11" almost as quickly as I noticed his hand extended, offered in a greeting as he said, "I'm Buzz Aldrin, and this is my wife, Lois."  There he was, the second man to walk on the moon right after Neil Armstrong, and he's walking off the elevator toward a waiting crowd.  I had seen him once before on television when he was wearing a white moon suit when I was twelve.  Now, some 38 years later, I met him in person.  It's a small universe.

My dear friend Sara Shoemaker Lind, a famous underwater photographer and videographer who has quite literally traveled around the world scuba diving on a grant from the Explorer's Club (and the source of my invitation to the event), ribbed me at the end of the evening over my oft-told elevator story.  She overhead once again me telling another member of the Explorer's Club that I had met Buzz Aldrin and his wife in the elevator, saying "Oh, you're telling that story again." 

As the Waldorf Astoria staff escorted us into the event, we passed by the silent auction items, consisting of dinners or diving events in exotic locales around the world with other members of the Explorer's Club.  Travel lust was beginning to stir while I walked up and down the tables with larger-than-life photos of real-life explorers I had only dreamed about becoming as a kid.  Long sigh here.  I'm practicing law, not circumnavigating the globe.

Sara, her husband Kevin and I met up again as we walked into the exotic foods room, where appetizers were served.  No, I'm not kidding.  Take, for example Yak Wellington.  Kangaroo meatballs (quite good).  Elk stroganoff (also quite good).  Stuffed pork bung (no, didn't taste it).  Servers in white gloves whisked around silver trays of tempura wildflowers (orchids, I'm told, very tasty).  But the highlight of the evening were the bugs.

Fried tarantulas, legs and all impaled on a skewer, to be exact.  Beetles speared on top of spring peas.  Scorpions on tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, complete with the stinger (poison in all supposedly removed).  I have photos, since I knew you wouldn't believe me, and once Sara passes them along, they'll get posted, but for now you'll have to be satisfied with the descriptions. 

The black tarantulas were mostly flavorful in a nondescript sort of way given what I was expecting (which I'm not quite sure about, to be exact, other than to say I thought it would taste terrible), but I have to say it was noticeably hairy and crunchy.  The difficult part was dealing with them in several bites, since the little guys are about three inches long.  To put the whole thing in your mouth at once would be, well, impolite.  How much more impolite than staring down at a partway eaten tarantula, I'm not sure, but nonetheless impolite. 

The scorpions were visibly displayed as a bruschetta, their brown bodies with curled tails featured quite in contrast to the white cheese, and for once immobile compared to their live counterparts, which typically scurry away when confronted.  Crunchy little devils, I must say, now that I've had two.

The beetle was the most difficult to stomach, however.  Well not really stomach, but get it through your head you were going to bite what looked very much like a roach.  I got close, but finally drew the line at the spring peas.  They were rather tasty, but I must say the beetle/roach is still perched atop a small toothpick, sans the peas.  I couldn't get it through my head or into my stomach.  There are some things I'll try at least once, and some things I won't. 

Yes, I know.  Once you've eaten a black tarantula and a brown scorpion, why stop at a beetle?  Just look at the photo in those last two links, and you'll understand. I'm not even sure it was cooked.  Beetle sushi, in other words.   Ugh.  Oh yes, the meal worm sushi endive, almost still squirming, was a no go, too. 

The cocktails, and I mean that literally, were the highlight of the evening.  Each on of the cosmopolitans had some type of testicle pearls in the bottom, some blue, some clear, but all laced with testosterone, I'm sure.  There was enough of that in the room, but the drinks made it ever more so evident. 

Dinner was comparatively pedestrian, with a typical couscous-tomato-zucchini-eggplant appetizer, red and white Shark Trust wine from San Diego, a nice slab of rare beef with a medley of root vegetables and a delicious chocolate desert.

But the food is not the reason to go.  Neither is Buzz Aldrin.  The rest of the explorers, like my friend Sara and her friend Michelle, a true-life rocket scientist at JPL in Pasadena who works on the software for the Mars rover, together with many others just like them and just like you and me.  They push the boundaries of exploration and science.  Not everyone can be the first to go the highest, the deepest or the most times around this or that, which is not to discount those who have, but rather to compliment those who haven't yet nonetheless expand our knowledge and discover what we don't yet know.

The program for the evening consisted of awards to other accomplished explorers, each deserving kudos in their own field.  The most interesting aspect, however, was the presentations about the state of the world's oceans.  They should know:  they're out there everyday diving below and on the surface.  They see.  Universally to a speaker, save one comment ("reefs have constantly changed over time"), the picture of our oceans is not pretty.

We've explored only five percent of it.  We take out too much, and what we leave behind will consequently not be able to sustain itself.  We put too much pollution into it.  We're killing the little bit we leave behind.  It's the world's largest repository of carbon, and it may not take much more, which leaves only one place for it to go:  into the atmosphere you and I breathe.

Dr. Earle perhaps made the most poignant comment of the evening when she compared the colossal amount of money we've spent on space exploration to the minuscule amount we've spent on exploring our own oceans - a literal drop in the bucket. 

Maybe it's time to look down and around us instead of up into the sky.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 20:00 Comments (0) |

The Subprime Crisis Started Where? What happens Now?

Our firm is dealing with the subprime mortgage crisis one case at a time.  Bear Stearns is dealing with the crisis with the support of the federal government and J.P. Morgan.  It's important to the larger economy for the fed to bail out a company that can cause a giant ripple in the fabric of banking, lending and funding.

The federal government as also adopted a mediation program to allow individuals and mortgage lenders to talk with one another to work out a solution to the issue of defaults on mortgages that should have never occurred in the first place.

But what of the real villains here? 

You know, the mortgage brokers who took big commissions on refinanced mortgages?  The individuals who refinanced their homes and took money out from the refinancing? 

There's at least one immediate punishment for the individuals who refinanced in California.  They lose the protection of the anti-deficiency statutes.  In other words, once you refinance your home, you no longer have the protection of "purchase money" if you default on your loan.  In that instance, the bank can not only foreclose on your house, but it can also pursue you for the unpaid balance owing on your mortgage, just because you elected to refinance. 

If you had not refinanced your home, then all that the bank could do is foreclose.  It could not pursue you for the difference between the unpaid mortgage and the funds it received from the sale of your house. 

But where did those big commissions the mortgage brokers go?  I don't know yet, but once I find out I'll let you know.  We're going after the mortgage brokers in our cases, and I'm very interested to know because the money went somewhere, not just lost through decreased property values.  Real money went into real pockets.  Now we have to find out who has it. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 10:16 Comments (1) |

So You Want To Be A Lawyer? Here Are Some Stats:

From the Law School Admission Council:  last year, 515,000 applications were submitted to law schools.  Approximately 140,000 LSAT exams were administered (there are repeat test takers in this number), required by the approximate 195 law schools for all applicants.  Some 84,000 students completed their applications to law school.  55,500 of those students were accepted into law school, about sixty-five percent.

On a regular basis Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions (a division of worldwide education services provider, Kaplan, Inc.) surveys its students about a variety of relevant topics.  In this particular case, Kaplan surveyed about 2,000 students who took the December LSAT.

With the elections this year, how many of those 55,500 law students will get involved in politics?  Who's looking for money?

Glen Stohr, the director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, says "law school remains a breeding ground for future politicians - but a significant gender gap remains."  Forty-two percent of LSAT takers reported they will "definitely" or "probably" run for political office, a breakdown by gender reveals that among male students, the figure jumps to 52 percent - versus a drop to 34 percent among female students.

Seventy three percent of LSAT takers said high income potential was a "very important" or "important" factor in their decision to attend law school.

The first number surprised me, but the second one didn't.  After all, the range of debt of law students after they graduate can run from $80K to $140K.  But then again, the top starting salaries for the upper one percent of students at the top of their class graduating from the top law schools can reach $160K.

With that kind of debt, it's tough to imagine anyone going into politics. 


Disclosure here:  Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions invited me to interview Mr. Stohr, in part because its sister company, Kaplan Publishing, is publishing my upcoming book.  More details and a proper announcement later, but in the meantime, it seemed like good material for a post.  Mr. Stohr is a lawyer, having graduated from ASU law school and both designs test prep courses and teaches them for Kaplan.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 00:07 Comments (0) |

Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Praises Paralegals

The work of a paralegal is never done.  Although paralegals cannot offer legal advice to clients like attorneys, they are considered the backbone of the law practice. Please join me and my fellow blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi as we explore the important role of a paralegal.  

Lawyer2Lawyer welcomes Tita A. Brewster, Current President of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and Chere Estrin, CEO of Estrin LegalEd, to discuss a paralegal's importance to a firm, the hurdles paralegals face, the Richlin Security Service Co v. Chertoff case and the growth of this legal profession.  You can download the podcast here or just click on the link below.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 12:35 Comments (0) |

An Alarming Employee Discrimination Verdict

There you are, ready to go home, and that damn alarm goes off again.  For the fortieth time.  You work at the City of Colton, California's wastewater treatment plant.  It's late and you just know the alarm is a false one.  It's been on and off that way for awhile.

The book says you go check.    Just hit the reset button and it'll go off.  Buzzzt.  There - silence once more. 

Whoop, whoop, whoop. 

There it goes again.  Well, the reset button didn't work.  What the hell.  Clock says it's time to go home.  At least you won't have to listen to that alarm anymore.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I imagine it went something like that.  Daniel Villanueva, the Lead Operator of the City's wastewater plant, went home instead and left the City's wastewater treatment plant in the alarm condition overnight. As a result, the wastewater system overflowed and City had to report that it violated the conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the California State Water Quality Control Board.

If Villanueva had gone to look at the cause of the alarm, then he would have found that the alarm was not false. Because he didn't, the City suspended him for five days.  Later during a budget crisis, the City cut more than 35 jobs, and in part due to Villanueva's poor performance, the City terminated him.

He sued the city under the Federal Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), claiming employment discrimination. The City filed a summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  On top of it, the City won an award of attorneys against Villanueva.  More than $40,000 worth.

Villanueva appealed, claiming in part he didn't have enough money to pay the attorney's fees and costs award, but the court of appeals sustained the trial court's ruling, reasoning that FEHA allowed an award of fees and costs to the winner, and Villanueva lost.

I've covered before why he lost; he didn't produce sufficient evidence of discrimination by the City.  Villanueva did submit some deposition transcripts and declaration, but the City objected and the Court upheld the objections, and excluded the submitted evidence.  Without proof, the City's evidence of a sufficient reason to fire Villanueva is more than sufficient to defeat his claims.

Case closed, alarm off. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 01:44 Comments (0) |

What Of A Fall From Grace?

What is the mark of a man?  For that matter, what is the mark of a woman?  Let's take a man named Eliot and a woman named Kristin, for example. 

This post is no piece of investigative journalism, so you'll have to satisfy yourself with news reports of Kristin and her $4,300 per hour price, which I may say is slightly more than I charge by day.  I suspect, however, that I'm not as much fun.  Verbally, on the other hand...

Admittedly, I want only to take a snapshot of  the man from a single perspective:  his approach to environmental matters, which tends to be very limiting but perhaps instructive beyond an occasional fault, or more than one fault.  Qualifiers aside, let's look:

Back in 2003, he sought to enforce Clean Air Act New Source Review laws.  He forced a change to the law.  His was an egalitarian approach, at least on paper.  Allegedly, he sued the EPA some 15 times over environmental laws.  He did not win each time. 

There were others who sued, too, and many claim Spitzer made enemies easily, and extorted money from big companies and equally so big government.  Many say he made demands without facts.  He was a man who many time did not give and who did not take and likewise got in the way.

Time will tell.  Even if pollution is a sin.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 00:17 Comments (0) |

Is The Vatican Writing A Blog?

It doesn't look like one, but it is posted online weekly.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 10, 2008 at 00:32 Comments (1) |

How About Brunch At The Waldorf-Astoria In NYC On Sunday, March 16?

MIPTC will be in New York just before St. Patty's Day, and Bruce MacEwen (who writes the constantly stunning Adam Smith, Esq.) and I plan to get together at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, March, 16, 2008 ,at the Waldorf Astoria for brunch.  We're meeting at Peacock Alley in the Main Lobby.  Somewhat fitting for bloggers, don't you agree?

So, we thought we'd make an open invitation to New York City bloggers or any other blogger who happens to be in the city to get together for brunch and have a modern-day Algonquin-style roundtable.  Just send me an email (jcraigwms at and let us know whether you can make it so we can make reservations. 

Looking forward to seeing you there. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, March 07, 2008 at 17:42 Comments (0) |

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