Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year: Best Wishes To:

The American economy and the American people – We deserve better than an economically illiterate President who is wedded to a broken ideology, as shown by Europe.

Small business and the individual entrepreneur – we owe so much to you

The people of Egypt – You deserve better than a repeat of Iran

The people of Afghanistan – If only you could just be left alone

The people if Iraq – Don’t let sectarian violence tear you apart

Israel – the greatest miracle would be true peace in the Holy Land

Our underappreciated military


The victims of Tropical Storm Sandy.

The children, survivors, and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The pain will never go away entirely, but each day is a new beginning. Never underestimate the resilience of the human spirit.

First responders everywhere

Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield, an old northeast industrial city, had a rough couple of years as it teeters on the brink of insolvency,

       The tornado of June1, 2011, which foreshadowed 2012
       The decay of the Dr. Seuss’ real Mulberry Street
       Blizzards – The year started with a major blizzard and ended with one.
       The natural gas explosion in November at the downtown Scores Gentlemen’s Club that leveled or destroyed 42 buildings, including 115 residences, and injured 18 people
       The school board which voted to provide condoms to students as young as 12
       The end of 2012 with unemployment back in the double digits
       The December streaker who entertained the Forest park neighborhood

Governor Mitt Romney  - You ran a decent campaign, but any Republican candidate would have been the victim of a vicious, relentless, malicious, negative campaign.

Speaker John Boehner – You have been dealt a difficult hand, but exercise patience and fortitude.

Governor Sarah Palin and Congressman Paul Ryan – You are winners

The Tea Party – 2014 is coming up, but don’t nominate anymore nut cases for the Senate

Congressman Allen West – Your future still awaits you

Big Ten football. Basketball is great, but the Big Ten is football

USF in basketball. Maybe one of these years USF will get it right.

USC in football and UCLA in basketball. Remember your legacy.

The Los Angeles Clippers – currently the best basketball team in LA

Donald Sterling – the Clippers can do it

Magic Johnson – you keep doing so much for LA

The Butlers and Boise States – It can be done

Bring back football to LA – either a pro team or USC

The NHL – you responded to the LA Kings winning the Stanley Cup by cancelling the 2012-13 Season

T. J. Simers - We need more of you

The University of Michigan – Could you actually win the Director’s Cup?

Penn State – You deserve better than the NCAA

University of California - You better fundraise like crazy because Prop 30 will not save you from draconian budget cuts

Detroit: Michigan, and the industry - Emulate the Phoenix

Dan Snyder & Quicken – May you be successful in revitalizing downtown Detroit

Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – You seem to be the only two adults in Washington in handling the fiscal cliff.

Wisconsin – You need a few years of political peace

California - You can still be the Golden State

Steve Cook – You must keep Apple innovating

To the potheads in Colorado and Washington. Have a Colorado Rocky Mountain High

ONU, UPS, WNEC, and Chapman – Thanks for 4 decades of teaching law

To all the students I have taught over the years

Anyone who reads my blogs

To all the celebrities who keep their personal lives out of the tabloids or off the internet

May the media totally ignore in 2013:
      Anyone named Kardashian, Lohan or Baldwin
      Bethany Frankel; You’ve worn out your 15 minutes of fame
      Jennifer Anniston – I wish you the best with your child and marriage, but spare us the rest of the year
      Paris Hilton
      Snooki, You’ve had a baby and 15 minutes of fame. Go back to the Jersey Shore and leave us alone.
       Megan Fox; You’ve had your baby. Now grow up.
       Charlie Sheen, and Ashton Kutcher
       Miley Cyrus - You got famous too young
       Kirsten Stewart and/or Robert Pattison
       Ron Woods of the Stones – Here’s hoping Viagra and the prenup work
       Any wife or fiancĂ© of High Hefner

Happy New Year to my wife and family

Happy New Year to everyone else

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What's Wrong With Lawyers

I once heard that the law was the world’s second oldest profession. Does that mean lawyers were created to service the world’s oldest profession?

Perhaps that explains all the lawyer jokes.

I have proudly taught law for 40½ years, or somewhere between 5,000 – 10,000 thousand law students who are now practicing lawyers, the vast majority of which are competent, ethical attorneys at law.

We live though in a litigious society, the “Sue Me” Age, in which lawsuits are filed against seemingly anyone at anytime for anything. Lawyers are quick to draft the complaint because that’s what the law allows them to do in a race to the courthouse.

Once upon a time barratry and champertry were illegal. Today, ambulance chasing is legal, as is lawyer advertising.

Judges in the middle of the Twentieth Century opened up the courthouse doors to new theories of relief and new defendants. Some remedies do not even require a present injury. Our personal injury law, commonly known as Torts, was partially transformed into a victims compensation system. 

The plaintiffs’ lawyers are called “trial lawyers.” No such single obloquy attaches to the defense attorneys, although they might be called mouthpieces or shills for insurance companies, Big Oil, the tobacco companies, etc.

American Tort Law became a lottery system. The odds of winning a large jury verdict are small, but the costs to the claimants are usually small since their attorney normally absorbs the costs if they lose. They can always hope the defendant will settle for the “nuisance” value of the suit, which is less than the costs of actually litigating the case, which are large even if successful. If they win, they win big, with their lawyer receiving at least a third of the proceeds.

The odds of winning the Tort lottery are greater than MegaBucks or Powerball.

They can also hope for a sympathetic jury, who will give them the benefit of the doubt, if the trial judge lets the case go the jury rather than tossing it.

One of the realties of modern America is that tragedies are but chum to some trial lawyers. For example, the victims in Newtown have barely been laid to rest and an attorney for a six year old survivor has filed a claim with the State of Connecticut seeking $100 million in damages.

Irving Pinsky said “Jill Doe” was in her classroom and “over the loudspeaker came the horrific confrontation between the fellow who shot everyone and other people…. Her fiends were killed. That’s pretty traumatic.” His filing claims Jill Doe has sustained “emotional and psychological injury, the extent of which has yet to be determined.”   

I have utmost sympathy for the victims, survivors, and families, but Irv has jumped the gun, or as the phrase goes "jumped the shark," in his lawsuit and is enjoying his 15 minutes of media fame. He gives trial lawyers a bad name.

He now claims the purpose of the $100 million lawsuit is to prompt school safety. One act, which saved lives, was the open PA system which provided warning to teachers to implement their safety plan – the plan they had practiced a short time earlier.

Had Irv engaged in some rudimentary legal research, he also would have discovered that courts have general been unsympathetic to lawsuits brought against third parties, including schools, in these random acts of mass murder by crazed killers.

A second suit, which is causing controversy, was filed on December 21 in Federal District Court in San Diego by eight sailors and the infant child of one of the eight, who were allegedly exposed to radiation during the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The infant was a fetus in one of the eight when they were serving on the nuclear powered U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

The suit is against TEPCO, the reactors owner, accusing TEPCO of conspiring to lie or mislead the public about the extent of the radiation exposure. Strong reason exists to believe this allegation is true, but substantial questions arise about the injuries suffered by the nine plaintiffs. Be that as it may, they are seeking $40 million each and an additional fund of $100 million to cover medical monitoring and future treatments although they have no current injuries of legal consequence.

The large Navy presence in San Diego might provide them a sympathetic jury.

A third example is the escalating cost of medical care. One reason is the extensive malpractice litigation, which encourages doctors to practice” defensive medicine,” which is the administrating excessive x-rays, tests, and other diagnostic procedures to minimize the risks of malpractice litigation.

ObamaCare did not address Tort Reform because that would offend the trial lawyers, who are major backers of the Democratic Party.

It’s these examples which give lawyers and the law a not totally undeserved bad image.

Never forget the law delivers justice to victims, represents the accused, and reforms society. We hear about the bad lawyers and their crazy antics and lawsuits, but they are but the few, just as I always hoped that a few of my former students would never practice law. 

Lawyers who made a difference to the world include Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama, Thurgood Marshall, and Branch Rickey.

Think of them when you think of lawyers.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Philistines Unplug Phonehenge West

Alan Kimbel Fahey is eccentric, like many artists and visionaries. He lives on 1.7 acres in Acton, California in the high desert of the Antelope Valley.

Fahey is retired after 30 years as a telephone company technician, giving rise to his dream, his vision, his art.

Generations have enjoyed building out of Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Erector Sets, and Legos,

His vision is different, radically different and unique: To build out of telephone poles not just fences, but entire structures.

He started building in 1986, and building, and building, and building – 20,000 square feet of an unique edifice, a work of art, based on telephone poles – 13 structures including a 70’ tower, two windmills, a 16th Century Viking House replica, a yurt, and a barn where the family lived. Bridges and ramps connected the structures.

Words alone cannot do justice to Stonehenge West, but photos are available on line. It’s not my kind of art, but a lot of “art” doesn’t appeal to me. His artistic vision is worthy of respect.

His vision followed that of Simon Rodia, who from 1921 to 1954 built the equally eclectic Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The City of Angels mounted an assault on the Watts Towers in 1959 and unsuccessfully attempted to raze them. The Towers were recognized in 1990 as a National Historic Landmark.

More traditional visions were held by Gutzon Borghum with Mount Rushmore and Korczak Ziolkowski with the Crazy Horse Monument.

All their visions survived, but Fahey’s is only in digital form today.

Fahey’s problem is that Acton and the Antelope Valley may be anti-LA in their values and life style, savoring open space and freedom. They are not cool, or hip, or avant-garde, or haute couture. They are of the salt of the earth or true individuals, but their curse in life is that they are a remote corner of Los Angeles County, and thereby subject to the Los Angeles bureaucracy they so wish to avoid.

The inspectors of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Building, and Safety paid a visit in 2008. They did not like what they saw. It wasn’t just art; it was unpermitted art. Mr. Fahey lacked building permits from the county.

The inspectors asked to see his Phonehenge West specs and plans. He refused, explaining he did not know here it was going. Of course, true art cannot be designed by Etch-a-Sketch. Bureaucrats are Philistines who cannot appreciate free form art. 

They piled on an assortment of Mickey Mouse charges against him with the assistance of the prosecutor’s office.

They include:

1)   Failure to abide by setback requirements;
2)   Exceeding the height limit of 35 feet; and
3)   Possession of two non-commercial windmills.

They also pointed out that the building was primarily constructed of wood (What a novel concept!) and thus would be at risk for earthquakes and fires, but lacks water and a proper access road for firetrucks.

This is the desert!

So much for green power in LA; Fahey should have stuck with solar in the desert.

Setback lines are used in urban communities to increase the cost of construction by limiting the amount of land that can be built on. They are irrelevant and unnecessary in relatively unpopulated desert land.

Part of Fahey’s problem is that the County is displeased with the citizens of the Antelope valley and is doing its best to harass them.

The Philistines of the County of Angels destroyed Phonehenge West. They could not value “art” when they sought it out, when they saw it. 4 big rigs hauled 53 tons of telephone poles away as well as an additional 280 tons of debris.

Having destroyed his art, they then billed the “public nuisance” for their costs. They wanted $83,488 from him.

He was criminally prosecuted on 14 misdemeanor charges, convicted on 12, each giving rise to a possible 6 month sentence.

His crime was non-violent. LA is releasing prisoners early because of overcrowding. Celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan or Winona Ryder barely get booked before being released.

His art was to show contempt for the proper authorities. That crime could not go unpunished.

The prosecutors sought a tough sentence. They had to make an example of Alan Kimble Fahey. Judge Daviann L. Mitchell threw the book at him on Wednesday, December 19, 2012: 539 days in jail for misdemeanors of a chicken feed nature. Merry Christmas, Alan. The judge thought you were holding out on your assets.

What assets?

He’s an artist whose major asset was destroyed by the County.

Phonehenge West will not be confused with New York’s historic Penn Station, but it could appear in a future edition of “Lost Los Angeles” or “California Crazy.”

Alan Kimble Fahey has become becoming an international celebrity. Check out his Facebook page: :Support Alan Kimble Fahey."

The destruction of Stonehenge West, his creation, and the jail sentence are giving him more publicity, at the expense of Los Angeles, than he ever could have imagined. Most people, outside LA, don’t know the difference between the city and the county. It’s just LA that destroyed his art, now the world’s art. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Illegal to Sell Candy Cigarettes in St. Paul, Minnesota

Tobi Lynden opened Lynden’s Soda Fountain in St. Paul, Minnesota last April. It’s an old-fashioned soda shop, offering vintage candies and sodas.

A city inspector paid a visit on Tobi recently, threatening a $500 fine. Tobi’s crime is selling candy cigarettes, the sale of which was banned by a St. Paul ordinance in April 2009.

Candy cigarettes were her biggest seller.

Robert Humphrey, spokesperson for the St. Paul Safety and Inspections Department, said “We enforce this on a complaint basis. This isn’t taking time away from major enforcement [actions].”

Of course it is. Selling candy cigarettes has become a crime in St. Paul.

Even well-intentioned measures can lead to stupid results. It’s legal to sell cigarettes, often called cancer sticks, to adults in St. Paul, but it’s illegal to sell candy cigarettes, that is fake cigarettes, to anyone.

It’s still legal to sell toy guns in St. Paul, but not candy cigarettes.

Candy cigarettes have been around for a century. They look like cigarettes and are often packaged in faux cigarette packages. That leads to the argument that they encourage children to smoke when they get older. Thus, the move to ban them.

By the same reasoning we should ban candy canes and lollipops because who knows what adult behavior they might lead to. Savoring a Kiss could also trigger adult cravings, perhaps PDA’s.

Flicking a Pez could lead to the nostalgic act of flicking a Bic.

Velvet Turtles could lead to consuming terrapin meat and Gumni Bears to bear meat.

St. Paul has real issues; candy cigarettes are not one of them.

Congress is just as confused.

It banned candy flavored cigarettes in 2009, but candy flavored cigars are still legal. You can still light up a chocolate flavored stogie.

Tobi has complied with the city’s mandate, but on the store’s Facebook page appears this message: “Stop in and try a Soda at half price between now and the end of the year while sugar is still legal. Just tell the jerk ‘you heard we were busted’ to receive your 50% off on a handmade soda. Bring the whole family.”

Of course Tobi is right. If are worried about children’s health, including childhood obesity and diabetes, then ban all sugared candies and all other products, such as glazed or chocolate donuts, ice cream, chocolate pudding, apple pie.

You can’t buy candy cigarettes in St. Paul, but it’s OK to gulp down or consume copious amounts of sugar in the form of candy: Hershey’s, Nestles, Cadbury’s and M&M’s, Godiva’s and Sees, Dove Bars, Charleston Chews, Ruth, Orange Slices and Spearmint Leaves, gum drops, Jolly Ranchers, Canada Mints, Dots, Crows, Junior Mints, candy apples, Red Vines, licorice, President Reagan’s favorite Jelly Bellys, E.T.’s Reeses Pieces, Tootsie Rolls, candy corn at Halloween, chocolate Santas and peppermint sticks at Christmas, Easter bunnies, eggs and chicks at Easter, and hearts at Valentine’s Day, salt water taffy, Mounds, Almond Joys, Peppermint Paddies, York, not to mention cough drops.

That doesn’t even get us to the various sugared sodas, not to mention natural drinks, such as orange juice.

Eat your heart out on Valentine’s Day.

Life Savers and Jaw Breakers are the Dentist’s best friend.

Even if candy cigarettes are banned, we can still purchase toy guns.

Explain that to the city fathers of St. Paul.