May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.
Another Class Action; Another Useless Feature?
For years I've been bellyaching for an all-in-one phone device that gets and sends email and text messages, surfs the web, runs like a small computer, handles maps, allows me to dictate, take notes, keeps my calendar and contacts all in one place, works no matter what country I'm in and surprisingly enough, in my house (something my current Verizon cell phone doesn't do), allows me to read books, listen to books-on-tape, plays my music and movies and, oh yes, make calls with a speakerphone.
I'm not asking for too much, am I?
So far, even the iPhone doesn't handle all those requirements well, although it comes close. I'm just too clumsy with my fingers (can hardly type), and it doesn't boot into Windows. It's already difficult enough learning all the programs we have at the firm. Not to mention learning an entirely different operating system, which by way of the long-cut short-cut roundabout the barn brings me to two points.
First, if you're running Windows and are thinking about switching to Vista, I have just one question and one piece of advice. Why learn another operating system? And don't.
XP works just fine, and as proof, just about everything else in our firm and at my home works well with it. After all, it took us just five years to get all the bugs worked out, all the programs synchronizing with each other, and we still have some glitches. So why switch to something that has more glitches? Like I said, don't.
Second, while my list of requirements for a cellular phone is shorter than many, the GPS feature on my phone is a treat. It works fairly well with Microsoft Pocket Streets and hopefully soon with the SigAlert system, which shows traffic jams. Even Google can't match the SigAlert system, which is still in the process of being perfected.
Google's traffic feature doesn't work on cell phones. Which is great if you're driving your car around your home or office desktop or can take your computer and monitor with you on the road. I still haven't hooked up my Tablet in my car, but I'm getting close. The SigAlert traffic system is accessible on a cell phone, but unfortunately it doesn't have a zoom feature. Yet.
They tell me they're working on it. As it stands now, however, it's a real problem. While the SigAlert map is easy enough to see on a desktop monitor, imagine taking that same map and shrinking it down to fit on a cell phone screen. At that very small size, every time I look at it I don't want to go anywhere because everything in LA looks jammed.
Recently, I read that a Blackberry owner in San Diego filed a class action against Verizon because the company allegedly advertised Blackberry phones with GPS, then surreptitiously turned the GPS feature off and would reactivate it only if you purchased Verizon's fee-based GPS service.
While you may be surprised, why anyone would want GPS on their cell phone, we may not quite be there yet, unless you're lost and want the rescuers to find you somewhere on Mount Baldy. The traffic feature on the maps really doesn't work that well, and there's not really too much else you can do with it. Soon we'll get there, but not quite yet.
Now if I could only find where I put my cell phone.
No Separation Of Church And State For Ministries Taking Tax Advantages
Some ministries and churches are far from not-for-profit, or so it would seem just watching television or in my case, driving past the monstrous church complex on the 405 freeway, just across from an equally monstrous (but retail) South Coast Plaza, otherwise known as the Trinity Broadcasting Network in Costa Mesa. Just to give you an idea when I say "monstrous," the TBN nighttime Christmas display requires its own separate nuclear power plant, and it has to refuel with new uranium once a week.
Regular readers may remember that my father was a minister. He started out in the Middleboro Congregational Church, which is part of the combination United Church of Christ denomination (somewhere between Presbyterian and Methodist). After several other stints in churches in Pennsylvania and Virginia, he retired on Cape Cod to a small, one-room house. To say that I grew up poor would be an understatement. My dad would have never been accused of tax evasion because I'm not even sure he ever made enough money to pay taxes. OK, that's an exaggeration, but not by much.
On the other hand, the US Senate Finance Committee is starting to look into opulent lifestyles enjoyed by many ministers in well-to-do megachurches. Senator Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on that committee, has been handing out subpoenas for financial records of those ministers who live quite nicely, thank you very much, but whose churches enjoy non-profit tax status.
It must be nice to make another 50% tax-free. I'm definitely in the wrong business. But wait, it gets better.
Would you be surprised to learn that out of six subpoenas, only two ministers have responded with financial records?
Would you be even more surprised to learn that the IRS does not require churches to make their finances public? That's according to Eric Gorski, the AP's religion writer.
Maybe it's time to take a look at that law, and perhaps time to dig deeper into megachurches who lavishly fund their ministers with private jets and among other things yachts, limos and McMansions. But hang on just a minute. If I remember my Bible correctly, then it was Jesus who rode a donkey and threw the money-changers out of the temple.
But that was 2,000 years ago, and it's unfair to make a present-day comparison.
Oh, that's right, I forgot. The megachurch ministers make that comparison every Sunday during their sermons. How foolish of me.
No Butts About It - This Man Learned His Lesson
Bridgeport, Ohio is so small the mayor serves as the judge. So when Tommy Leshare was hauled before the judge, Tommy had likely voted in the election that put Mayor John Callarick on the bench, so to speak. For a town of only 2,200 people, mostly everyone knows each other. Heck in some places, that's the size of a graduation class.
Tommy and his girlfriend were cleaning their car and house, but unfortunately for Tommy, he dumped the ashtrays on the street in front of their house.
The local constabulary wasn't pleased with the litter, and set an appointment for Tommy to have a visit with John. Mayor-now-Judge John found Tommy guilty and offered him several choices: (1) jail time; (2) community service; (3) a stiff $1,000 fine; or, (4) two, eight-hour shifts as a walking billboard with a hot pink sandwich board that read: "Cigarette Butts Are Litter."
Tommy chose the sign. He still plans to smoke, according to the AP news article in the last link, but no more butts on the street.
What Do You Want To Say To Lexis-Nexis? MIPTC Meets With The New Vice President and Managing Director of LexisNexis
Our law firm recently switched legal research providers to Westlaw from Lexis-Nexis for a variety of reasons, and high on the list were both price and ease of use. Now, the new Lexis VP and our local rep want to go to lunch next Tuesday to discuss why we switched and get an update about lawyers' reactions to Lexis' products. We use a number of Lexis products: Martindale Hubbell, Lawyers.com, Time Matters, CiteCheck, CourtLink and are considering CaseMap.
The email requesting the meeting said in part that Lexis would like "to get your input to help attorneys in small practices and shape LexisNexis for the future."
I'm not sure whether the lunch came as a result of our switch or whether they're actually interested. In any event, if there's something you want to reach the top ranks of LexisNexis, comment away below, and I'll be sure to pass it along.
After lunch, I'll follow up with the company's response.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Discusses Faith
From Presidential hopefuls trying to "out-faith" each other on the campaign trail to law schools spreading their faith in the classroom, faith is all around us. Please join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi, as we call on experts Dean Jeffrey A. Brauch, from the Regent University School of Law and Rob Boston, assistant director of communications, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, to tackle this hot topic.
On this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we discuss faith and the law, how some are using faith to educate law students, separation of church and state and how faith is coming to the forefront of the race for the Presidency and affecting present day policy issues. Closing the show, we speak to Monica Bay about her new role as host of the new Legal Talk Network podcast, Law Technology Now.
Save The Date: WLF's Sixth Annual Fall Harvest Open House
Yes, I understand Winter is in full swing everywhere else in the country other than Southern California. Not that I want to rub it in, and I will certainly express my sympathies to those who have suffered at the recent Winter storms raging across the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Northeast. That's why I live in Southern California. I can drive with the top down on my car, which I did this morning, but may not be able to do tomorrow. It's supposed to rain. Aww, you say. Dig up some of this white stuff, you say.
Well, yes I can do that here, too, since we keep our snow where it belongs: up in the mountains, not down here in the valleys.
So why am I talking about our next Annual Fall Harvest Open House? Especially since this year's has already passed? You can thank Blawg Review Ed. and David Lat over at Above The Law. They're talking about law firm holiday parties. You remember? While I do, most of those stories don't bear repeating here.
While we certainly don't throw parties like they do in New York, we know how to have a good time. There's plenty of interesting folks, which make the party a huge success year after year. Judges, politicians, lawyers, clients, vendors and many others in our community show up for the first-of-the-season kickoff party. We hold it in early November to avoiding interfering with Thanksgiving and the several different "winter holidays," which is how we now refer to Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Ramadan, Christmas, Diwali and New Year's (for you atheists out there). It works well because folks aren't as overburdened with holiday commitments in early November as they are in December.
So, like the headline says, save the date November 13, 2008. You won't want to miss our sixth. Just don't forget to RSVP next October. We need a head count.
Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio has Deja Vu As We Look Back On Prison Release
Please join me and my fellow attorney Bob Ambrogi, and co-host and and Law.com blogger for legal analysis on the Tavares case, and the effect this case may have on Mitt Romney's run for the Presidency.
Was the Massachusetts judge who released Daniel Tavares from prison within bounds? Lawyer 2 Lawyer welcomes Attorney and WBZ News reporter Dan Rea, also host of WBZ Radio's NightSide with Dan Rea and David Frank, attorney and reporter from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Dissent Turns Into Majority Opinion; Third Circuit Finally Falls In Line
Companies Who Voluntarily Cleanup Contamination Can Seek Contribution From Others
While the courts struggled with the issue of whether a volunteer who cleaned up a contaminated site could sue others who contributed to the problem, many such cleanups were shelved. Companies accused of contaminating sites simply sat back and waited, doing nothing and risking an order or lawsuit from the government. Luckily, that order from the largely overworked and understaffed governmental agencies charged with overseeing environmental cleanups typically never came.
The gamble paid off, and paid off big for company pocketbooks.
Now, with one of the last holdouts in the county, the Third Circuit, in line with the US Supreme Court and most other state supreme courts, voluntary remediation can begin once again, safe with the knowledge that the volunteer can seek contribution from other companies who also contaminated the site. In particular, volunteers can also sue the U.S. and state governments for their participation in the contamination without fear the government has the power to avoid liability.
Back in 2006, U.S. Circuit Judge Dolores K. Sloviter dissented to the Third Circuit's majority opinion, where the majority blocked volunteers from seeking contribution. According to the then majority in E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. v. United States, a company who voluntarily cleaned up a toxic waste site could not seek contribution from the federal government, even if the government itself was also a polluter at the site.
At the time, MIPTC complained that this opinion made no sense, and echoed Judge Sloviter's dissent. The 2006 decision made little sense because it allowed not only the government, but also other companies who contributed to the contamination to escape liability - patently unfair to those companies who elected to voluntarily remediate the problem.
Since then, the Supreme Court has clarified its earlier ruling in Cooper Industries v. Aviall and U.S. v. Atlantic Research Corp., where it restored sanity to the interpretation of CERCLA, the federal statute that regulates contamination cleanup liability.
As a consequence, Judge Sloviter's dissent and MIPTC's complaints were vindicated, and finally, the Third Circuit has seen the light in its 2007 version of E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. v. United States.
Sometimes dissenting opinions are worth considering, especially when they make more sense than the majority opinion. Companies can now voluntarily cleanup contamination safe in the knowledge they can sue others who contributed to the problem and make them pay their fair share.