The Random Yak

More Important Life Rules

Filed under: Law Yaks,Lessons Learned — Random Yak @ 12:25 pm on October 19, 2009

In case you were wondering:

1.  No matter which other rules you’re functioning under, politeness does count.  (Read: even if they’re not your parents, people with the power can still smack you down for inappropriate behavior.)

2.  If you don’t know whether or not someone has the power to put The Smackdown on you, it’s best to behave as if they could.  (Corollary: Even if you know they can’t, better behave as if they could anyway.  See Rule #3.)

3.  In an academic, employment, or business situation, assume everyone can put The Smackdown on you.  (Trust me.  They can.  See Rule #3 and Rule #6.)

4.  Talking to an academic, employment or business associate as though (s)he was your child, immature friend, employee or an inferior always qualifies as a “Bad Idea.”

5.  Bad Ideas, when acted upon, generally result in The Smackdown.

6.  The Smackdown is not nice.  (Particularly when administered by Officers Of The Law).

Bonus Rules (for the really wise):

- Do not, under any circumstances, post evidence of your Bad Ideas (or the fact that you acted on them) on the Internet.  (Note: this includes Facebook.  Facebook has a URL, is reachable via computer, and is therefore included in “The Internet” – facts I mention because some people seem to have forgotten.)

- People use the Internet (and its Grand High Inquisitor, Google ) to explore the past and present activities of prospective employees, girl-and-boyfriends, spouses, business partners and co-conspirators. (Statistically, 67% of you know where this is going.  The others post their Bad Ideas on Facebook.)

- Generally speaking, posting evidence that you act on Bad Ideas doesn’t inspire the kind of confidence that leads people to look at you with admiration and say, “Wow, this guy has his act together!”  (Although it does help them get out of the way, for which the civilized world thanks you.)

Today’s installment of Important Life Rules comes from The Yak’s Big Book of Rules, Chapter 4:  Avoiding The Smackdown.  Brought to you by this guy, as referenced at Above the Law.

Ignorance is Bliss

Filed under: Law Yaks — Random Yak @ 10:14 am on September 28, 2009

but ’tis not necessarily folly to be wise – just somewhat less convenient at times.

This morning something (what is another post) reminded me how much fun I used to have ‘rewriting’ Dr. Seuss.  Yes, rewriting.  Keeping the original meter and ring, but using the old-and-familiar to riff on the new-and-deserving-of-snark.  The good doctor gave me some of my more memorable Pinatas of Fisk, and I’m grateful for it.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I earned a law degree, and a license to practice, and even farther along (farther up and farther in, as some might say) I made a commitment to practice for the team in white hats.  More specifically, to practice intellectual property law on behalf of the White Hats.

Which, you may ask, has precisely what to do with denying the rest of us humorous renditions of re-written Seuss classics?

Precisely this, and precisely that: you can’t steal Seuss’ poetry and wear a whitish hat.

Or, in English: it’s the difference between parody and satire.  Parody, which makes fun of the original, is fair use.  Satire, which uses the original to make fun of something else, is (regrettably) copyright infringement.  And though I blog here without personal names (or pronouns) I have a moral duty not to do what I send snarky letters to others about.  At least, no more often than I can help.

But, while I’m being good, I can at least post and whimper about it to the vast reaches of the Internet.  Not that I expect any sympathy, mind you.  It’s neither deserved nor anticipated.

I will snicker softly to myself, however, at the knowledge that now the rest of you have no more excuse than I do, because you know the difference too.

Even Judges Know Fire is Hot

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks,News Yaks — Random Yak @ 12:41 pm on September 21, 2009

In a startlingly appropriate decision, the California Supreme Court has refused certiorari in the case of a man injured when he deliberately walked into the bonfire at  the 2005 Burning Man Festival.

The incident, which technically resulted in festival-goers burning two dummies instead of one, occurred when the plaintiff (name withheld to protect the ignorant) intentionally approached the burning man to throw a photograph onto the fire.  As he walked between pieces of burning debris, the plaintiff stepped too close to the flames and received burns.

Now, when I say “stepped too close” I paraphrase.  In reality, our hapless plaintiff “walked seven to ten feet into the burning embers” of a sixty-foot high bonfire (emphasis added).  Intentionally.  Walked into a fire.  Not just close…into a fire.  A six-story high fire made of burning wood and other miscellaneous debris.

And he got burned.  Fancy.

Being a red-blooded American, our hapless and now somewhat crispy plaintiff decided to sue the promoter of the Burning Man Festival (which just happens to be based  in liberal-and-lawsuit-friendly San Francisco).  Unfortunately, the plaintiff failed to take a couple of facts into account – facts which the court would later consider somewhat more important than the plaintiff and his legal counsel: (more…)

Legalese for Common Folks (part 1)

Filed under: Law Yaks — Random Yak @ 2:19 pm on July 31, 2007

It occurs to me that many people have difficulty understanding lawyers. I attribute this difficulty to the fact that most lawyers prefer to speak Legalese, a derivative of English picked up by members of the Bar some time between matriculation into Law School and finally grabbing the brass ring commonly known as “partnership.” In the interests of promoting greater understanding between the population at large and members of the Bar, I will attempt to provide a basic “Legal-to-English” translation kit.

Part 1. Legal Nouns.

1. Brief (n.)A legal paper used in a court or other legal proceeding.(See also: Oxymoron, verbosity, ravings of a pompous windbag.) As a rule, not.

2. Litigation (n.) A. A hole in the legal system you throw money into. B. An opportunity for brief legal exchanges (heh), punctuated by long periods of lawyers yelling at one another. (See also: quadruple bypass performed with meat cleaver.)

3. Judge (n.) A. A hole in the legal system you throw arguments into. B.Someone who makes brief decisions in public.

Useful Legalese Phrase of the Day:

“You fail to appreciate the difficulties of my situation.” Translation: “I may sue you shortly.” “My client intends to sue you shortly.” “Quit your obnoxious insistence on your side of the story and capitulate to my demands. (Or I will sue you shortly).

Legal Question of the Day:

How do most lawyers manage to acquire such rotten reputations? Answer: They practice.

(Statistically, only attorneys and my mother got that, but I couldn’t resist.)

More to follow, unless the Bar finds me first.

Trackposted to Perri Nelson’s Website, Planck’s Constant, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Conservative Cat, and Adam’s Blog, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

Church Cannot Refuse To Employ Homosexual Youth Minister UK Tribunal Rules

Filed under: Faith Yak,Just Yaks,Law Yaks,Yaks of the Week — Maniyak @ 2:15 pm on July 27, 2007

An openly practicing homosexual who was refused a post as a youth officer by the Bishop of Hereford has won his case for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation beforethe Employment Tribunal (UK).

(more…)

Bong Hits 4 Jesus: Life Hits 4 Ironic Impact

Filed under: Law Yaks,News Yaks — Random Yak @ 11:07 am on June 25, 2007

In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that suspending a student who displayed a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner at a school-sanctioned event after school officials requested removal of the sign constitutes a permitted restriction and not a violation of the student’s first amendment rights to freespeech.

Although I haven’t had time to read thecourt’s decision (Yak, meet weeds) the CNN summary (hey, if CNN said it, it must be true, right?) reports that Chief JusticeRoberts, writing for the majority, stated that the school principal in question could reasonably have inferred that the banner advocated illegal drug use and that “failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge.” The case is being described asextending the general rule that students do not maintain all of their first amendment rightswhile in school to govern expressions advocating illegal drug use (and potentially otherillegal acts).

The court broke along fairly predictable lines, with Justices, Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg dissenting. Justice Breyer joined the majority’s decision to hold the school principal immune from suit, but refused to join the portion of the opinion restricting students’ speech rights.

Now the ironic part: Joseph Frederick, the student whose insistence on freedom of speech in spite of a message some clearly found objectionable in time, place and manner, is now living in China, teaching English to Chinese students.

One might wonder whether he feels any temptation to push the boundaries of free speech in his new surroundings, or whether he’s learned that some things are situationally inappropriate whether or not you feel you should have the right to do them. Something tells me he won’t be offering “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” at Tienanmen Square. At least, not for long.

Trackposted to Committees of Correspondence, third world county, DeMediacratic Nation, Dumb Ox Daily News, Right Voices, and The World According to Carl, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

Voter Identification Law OK, Temporarily (No Election Pending)

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 12:43 pm on June 11, 2007


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Child Pornography Sentence Too Harsh? Judge For Yourself

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 8:17 am on

Defendant was convicted of possession child pornography that he acquired over the Internet,engaging in prurient speech concerning child pornography (“I was just role playing,” he protested) in chat rooms on the Internet, and other behavior that I won’t repeat here also involving the Internet and child pornography.

He was sentenced to six years imprisonment (71 months) to be followed by probation under restrictions (1) that he never access the Internet again, a lifetime ban, including for work or entertainment, (2) that he never possess pornography again, not just child pornography, and (3) that he have only supervised visits with his children, in the presence of someone aware of his background and conviction. He appealed the terms of probation.

What did the Court do? Judge for yourself.

(more…)

Buy Back Your Legal Residency? Judge for Yourself

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 10:26 am on May 30, 2007

If a legal resident alien is caught engaging in embezzlement, pleads guilty but then repays all of the victims (about $85,000 total), can she avoid deportation proceedings under immigation law because she “paid down” herfelony to a loss involving less than$10,000? (more…)

NY Times Crossword Disses Free Legal Services for the Indigent

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 11:42 am on May 29, 2007

The answer to a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle for Sunday May 27 made fun ofpro bono legal services to the needy with the mock headline:

“Lawyers Give Poor Legal Advice.”

Stop that. Truth is not always a flattering defense.

Downpayment to an Assassin, Attempted Murder? Judge for Yourself

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 12:01 am on May 23, 2007

Everyone understands buyer’s remorse, the feeling that maybe you made a mistake after buying some big-ticket item. So, suppose you have made a $5,000 downpayment to an assassin to murder your sister and her friend, saying you are “100% sure” that you want to do this, and then you are caught before the murders are performed (because you hired a police officer impersonating a hitman, stupid).

Clearly you are guilty of solicitation of murder. But can you also be tried for attempted murder, a more serious charge?

Why solicitation of murder should not be considered as heinous as attempted murder and murder itself is not at all clear to me, but that’s a different problem. Here we want to know whether the law should protect you from the more serious charge of attempted murder simply because (1) you got arrested too early and (2) you were so inept that you hired an undercover cop as your hitman, someone who was not actually going to attempt to murder the two women, contrary to your intent and actions.

Judge for yourself.

(more…)

How Unappealing! The Trial No One Remembers

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 10:37 am on May 17, 2007

How do you appeal a trial no one remembers?

The turning point of the life of Wilfredo Arias Cervantes may have been riding a bicycle at night without a headlight — or not. He got himself arrested, and convicted, for possessing the drugs he threw into the bushes when the police officer stopped him. So he appealed. But then things got interesting. The court reporter reported that due to a mechanical error, no transcript of the jury trial existed. When the judge and attorneys got together to reconstruct the case for appeal (on what is called a “settled statement”), the defense attorney was new to the case and knew nothing, since the trial defense attorney had taken a leave of absence from the law firm for health reasons, and the judge could not recall what happened in the case. Nada. Makes you wonder about what it means to have “your day in court” when the judge cannot recall the facts of your case. Only the prosecutor had notes, and the Court of Appeal ruled that appealing on the record created only by the prosecutor was not fair. At least they got that one right. So the case was ordered back to the trial court, either to locate the original defense attorney and, despite his health leave, get a settled statement, or else . . . vacate the conviction and retry the case.

The second time around, Your Honor, please, take some notes. No snoring through the trial.

People v. Cervantes (California Court of Appeal 2007)


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Justice Drops His Pants, or the Judge-Emperor Has No Clothes, Nor Sense

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 12:07 pm on May 5, 2007


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12 Duffel Bags Stuffed with Money v. Common Sense. Judge for Yourself

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks — Maniyak @ 5:46 am on May 2, 2007

When a famous California criminal lawyer receives 12 duffel bags from a criminal defense client accused of taking money unlawfully, each bag stuffed with $500,000 cash, can he get off by simply saying that this was the fee paid to him by his client and not illicit funds?

No. The Court of Appeal says he has to answer questions about the money. PCO, Inc. v. Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro (2007). [Sorry, with the new TRY text editor I can't insert a link to the case.]

It appears that celebrity lawyers can successfully defend any celebrity, except a celebrity lawyer.

Partial Birth Abortion Banned, Supreme Court Holds

Filed under: Just Yaks,Law Yaks,News Yaks — Maniyak @ 10:49 am on April 18, 2007

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