May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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There are 2034 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 65

Are Tattoos A Constitutionally Protected Form Of Self-expression?

For Now, Not In Hermosa Beach

Johnny Anderson can't practice his chosen profession of applying tattoos in Hermosa Beach, California because the City has outlawed tattoo parlors.  In this federal court complaint, his lawyer says, "a person may wear his heart on his sleeve, and the government may not prevent him from wearing it on his arm," despite a City Ordinance to the contrary.  Like all red-blooded Americans, he sued.

The Complaint starts out like a novel, citing tattoos found on the Alpine "Iceman," Egyptian and Nubian mummies and "the Greeks, ancient Germans, Gauls, Thracians and ancient Britons."  Wow.  I never knew tattoos had such a colorful history.

Anderson fast forwards this history to the U.S. Constitution and claims tattooing is a protected form of self-expression under the First Amendment, which the City of Hermosa Beach can't abridge under the Fourteenth Amendment, as "communicative, artistic and decorative."  Art, in a manner of speaking.  The federal judge will decide this one without a jury since it's a question of law, not fact.

The Complaint claims some twenty percent of us have tattoos, supposedly including a tiger on former Secretary of State George Schultz's backside.  I wonder how his lawyer will get that one into evidence

Tattoos were once fashionable among Egyptian women, and have been used by tribes, including the present-day Maori in New Zealand, who wear full-face tribal tattoos.  Tattoos have a dark side, too.  Nazi prisoners had them on their arms, and after World War II, they became almost solely the province of tawdry waterfront locations, sailors and disreputable women, sometimes referred to as "tramp stamps," and now largely the bane of parents.

Unless, of course, you already have one, you rebel.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 01:02 Comments (0) |

Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Crosses Borders

There are many attorneys who are giving back to their communities, whether it is through pro bono work locally or internationally or donating their time and money to help those in need through their humanitarian efforts. On this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we discuss how attorneys are helping others overseas and will be concentrating on those involved in human rights.

Pleas join me and my fellow blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi as we welcome Christina M. Storm, founder and director of Lawyers without Borders, Inc. and Attorney Jerry Shestack, trial attorney and world leader in the international human rights movement, to discuss the power of helping others internationally through the law.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 16:44 Comments (0) |

MIPTC's Corner Of America

Remembering Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville

As the parade rounded the corner, you could see an almost undersized, Navy-blue woven straw hat, Fedora-style, covering not very much grey hair for a 75-year old, a dark blue windbreaker, plaid shirt and grey pants topping his working-man black shoes.  But it was that ever-present cigar that signalled my Grandfather's arrival, large jowly cheeks framing a slight smile leading the way.  It was the Fourth of July and his birthday, which the whole Country celebrated, he perennially pointed out. 

He led the small-town parade proudly seated in the open-air cab of the lead, bright-red fire engine with the obligatory gold lettering spelling out "West Pittston."  He occupied the honorary seat as the oldest and only remaining charter member of the hose house, which is what they called the fire station in his day.  Oh yes, and the so-tiny-you-almost-couldn't-see-it red, white and blue flag pin in his jacket lapel, my Grandmother's last-minute parting touch to his outfit as he headed out the door.

It was America as I knew it growing up in the late 1960s. 

I followed him down the parade route, my bike festooned with crepe paper, playing cards clothes-pinned to the fender supports, clapping loudly against the wheel spokes, sounding, I thought, like one of those fancy motorcycles the Shriners drove, with tiny U.S. flags Scotch-taped everywhere to the frame, streamers flying from my handlebar red vinyl grips, glittering in the sun. 

And then a plane crashed into a World Trade Center tower, and then another.  People ran as the buildings collapsed, smoke billowing everywhere in downtown Manhattan.  Imagine.  The World Trade Center, the heart of our financial district.

Then the news flashed to the Pentagon in flames.  Imagine. The Pentagon, the command center of our military.

Finally, reporters wildly speculated about another plane somewhere above Pennsylvania, presumably headed for Washington, D.C., who knows where.  Imagine.  Knowing what they knew, American citizens acting to protect our nation's capital.

I still fly the flag on July 4th, remembering my Grandfather, but also on September 11th, remembering my Country.

They're both the America I know now.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 23:25 Comments (1) |

Competing Attorneys, Businesses Come To Rescue One Of Their Own

Your brain has stopped sending signals to your muscles.  Your muscles, in turn, have stopped working, and atrophied away.  Most importantly, the muscle in your chest that makes you breathe, your diaphram, has likewise stopped working.  You're on a breathing machine, but it's a temporary fix.  You need to get your diaphram restarted, but your body won't cooperate.  You are San Fransisco attorney David Ames, and you have Lou Gehrig's disease. 

Then, you discover a new surgery procedure at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, but also two other problems (subscription required).  You can't get there and your body will stop breathing shortly.

The airlines won't take you because of the breathing machine, and you wouldn't make it by car.

Nice that there are two clients of Morrison & Forester willing to help you by donating their corporate jets to get you to the surgery.  Here's how the Cal Law story put it:  "Without much hope, [John Ames', the father of David Ames] had mentioned the dilemma to a friend at Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco partner Stephen Freccero, who in turn sent an e-mail to his fellow partners asking for help on Aug. 24.  Within days, two MoFo clients, both represented by Palo Alto partner William Sherman, had stepped up and donated their corporate jets to take Ames to Cleveland for the surgery and return him to the Bay Area."  The other client's jet flew David back to San Fransisco.  The clients and their attorneys had faced one another in litigation, but put aside their differences to help David.

Thankfully, the surgery ultimately successfully implant a diaphram pacemaker to allow David to breathe easily again. 


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, September 10, 2007 at 10:01 Comments (0) |

Don't Like Your Judge? Just Ask For A Replacement.

If you're in Palestine, that is.  Hamas is replacing judges who refuse to cooperate with local authorities.

Now that's justice.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, September 10, 2007 at 00:20 Comments (0) |

Texas Company's Insurance Policy Certificates Issued To Californians Trigger California Law

Texas is a big state.  So big, in fact, that when Texans come to California to find oil and gas and bring their Texas insurance policies along, we're going to treat them like natives, invoke California law and ignore Texas law.

Howdy, pardner, welcome to the Golden State.

Makes sense, if you think about it.  But before you go too far, consider the trial court''s ruling, which we at first don't need the facts to muddy up:  "the insurance contract was made and accepted between a Texas insurer and a Texas-based insured in Texas and was to be performed under Texas law."

Sounds convincing, until you stir in two little facts:  first, the Texas insured came to Beverly Hills (despite the obvious pun to hillbillies and "oil that is, black gold, Texas tea"), that City is in California.  Second, the Texas insurance company issued several Certificates of Insurance to public agencies associated with the City of Beverly Hills, permitting the Texas insured, an oil company, to drill for oil and gas in the Hills around Beverly. 

The situation triggers a conflict of laws analysis, the dream of every Civil Procedure law professor, and this case is no different.  The trial court thought Texas law applied instead of California.  But a close look at a little-used statute, California Civil Code section 1646 essentially says when there's a question over which state's law applies, look to where the contract is to be performed or where it was made.

When this lawsuit wound its way up to the appellate court, the justices saw it quite differently than the trial court.  But first we have to stir in one more fact to this mix.  the lawsuit that triggered the Texas company's insurance policy was brought by Lori Lynn Moss and others, who alleged the Texas company, Frontier Oil, released toxic chemicals at their Beverly Hills drilling site, which resulted in personal injuries and deaths.

Now we have two California connections:  a promise by the Texas insurance company, RLI Insurance, to insure Frontier in Beverly Hills and an alleged injury in Beverly Hills. 

The appellate court took 44 pages to say that California law applies, but by now, you can see why.  The insurance contract was made between RLI and the City of Beverly Hills in California for Frontier's drilling operations in California.  To top it off, the alleged injuries occurred here, too. 

It doesn't take much imagination to understand why the appellate court overruled the trial court, once you combine the facts with the law.  Isn't that, after all, what they teach in law school?  IRAC?  Issue, Rule, Analysis of the facts to the law and Conclusion.

The moral of the story?  If you come to California to do business here, expect California law to apply. 

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, September 09, 2007 at 13:56 Comments (0) |

Obesity Is Not A Protected Constitutional Class

Some people have no problem with being overweight.  I used to be, but now some 85 pounds lighter and still losing, I'm almost as fit and trim as I was in high school.  It's a constant struggle for me, so I have some empathy for those who may not be able to control their weight. 

A man weighing 500 pounds and his wife wanted to adopt his cousin's child, but was prevented from doing so because, among other things, according to the social worker, he apparently can't take care of himself, let alone a child. 

No matter how hard he tries though, obesity isn't a protected Constitutional class.  Age, sex, race, religion and a few others are.  But not being overweight.

The only cure is to eat less and exercise more. 

Filing a lawsuit won't do it.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, September 08, 2007 at 14:54 Comments (1) |

Stay Tuned: Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake Super Bowl Performance Set For Rerun

Can you stand it?  Three-and-a-half years of infamy later, CBS is still in the trenches appealing the Federal Communications' $550,000 indecency fine for a split-second view of Janet Jackson's breast on a Sunday afternoon Super Bowl halftime show.

Can you even remember who played or the score? (The New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers in a squeaker, 32-29). 

Do you care?

Apparently CBS does, and it's trying to bring down the FCC as a consequence of the fine.  The challenge now pending in the Third Circuit seeks to overturn the FCC's authority to fine the networks for indecency.

Whether that's an indecent proposal remains to be ruled upon, but MIPTC is betting this Super Dispute is headed for the Supreme Court. 

Stay tuned to see how much more of Janet we get to watch.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, September 07, 2007 at 15:15 Comments (0) |

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