Wednesday, December 12, 2012

He's still our favorite clown

In case you missed it, I submit for your reading pleasure this evening, Mr. Robert Feder's December 11 tribute to Bob Bell, "Why Chicago will always love the man who brought Bozo to life." The many comments are also worth your time.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of accompanying Edward Austin to the WGN-TV newsroom for his interview on Paul Lisnek's CLTV show, Politics Tonight. To get to the newsroom, I had to go right past Studio One, where the Bozo show was broadcast. The doors were partially open -- and the Bozo sets are still in there. I was instantly a little kid again, part of the 'cast of thousands' for one day only, thrilled to be picked for a tug-of-war (my team lost). I must have mumbled my name, though, because Ringmaster Ned called me "Jeff."

Like every other kid of a certain age, when I was in grammar school, I raced home every day for lunch to watch Bozo -- but I hardly ever got to see the end; I had to be back at school before 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Joy of Spam?

Comment moderation is in effect on this page and on page one of this blog. That means I look at any comments submitted before deciding whether to post them. Most of the comments I've published on judicial posts have been thoughtful or at least civil. But I've also let some pretty mean comments through over the years, not because I agree with them, but because, for better or worse, they too are reflective of the state of political discourse in this country. Every now and then, though, I have to 'flush' a comment that is totally inappropriate. Thankfully, these are relatively rare.

A more common problem, especially of late, has been a deluge of spam comments. The number of spam comments varies; some days there may not be any, but there are days when I log on and find well over 100 "comments" in queue, all asking to get published.

Some of these contain embedded links to porno sites, but the majority of the ones left here of late have carried links for other merchandise -- Ugg boots, Timberland Boots, Louis Vuitton handbags, NFL jerseys. (Just between us, I have my doubts about the authenticity of the designer goods hawked by these spammers.) There are spam comments with links for generic Viagra and other medications. I've seen some for pipes and cigarettes too. Most of these are just 'commercial' comments are just link chains; sometimes they come embedded in nonsensical text.

Sometimes the spam comments seem topical. Remember a couple of weeks ago when none of us won the $550 million Powerball drawing? I found this comment waiting for me one morning during that time:
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Why, though, did the spammer think it a good idea to try and put this comment on a 2008 post?

There are also a lot of spam comments with links for other websites, often for "loans," but sometimes for law firms. Beware what you get when you buy 'visibility' on the web: What benefit would 'drunk driving lawyers in Tampa' or 'personal injury lawyers in Topeka' hope to get from leaving comments on a Chicago lawyer's site? Even if those comments were in standard English -- and they are not.

Cases in point:
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(I'm not mentioning any sites by name in this post, but this last one was plugging a pain relief medicine.)

One spanner tried a very friendly approach:
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This spammer tried reverse psychology:
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Some of the spam posts can be quite flattering:
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These would have been even more flattering if the spammers hadn't attempted to put these on posts that were merely notices about a candidate's fundraiser or a reposted North Town News Magazine video.

When an obviously spam comment is both flattering and proposed for a substantive post, I admit I have been tempted to let the comments through:
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Saturday, December 1, 2012

My suggestions to the BBWA voters

Earlier this week, the Baseball Hall of Fame released its list of candidates for induction in 2013. The complete list is reproduced below.  For any members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who happen by, I have highlighted my recommendations that I suggest for inclusion on your ballots (in addition to whoever else you were considering):


MLB seasons

Yrs on BBWAA ballot

Sandy Alomar Jr. 1988-2007 1st 
Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005 3rd 
Craig Biggio 1988-2007 1st  
Barry Bonds 1986-2007 1st 
Jeff Cirillo 1994-2007 1st 
Royce Clayton 1991-2007 1st   
Roger Clemens 1984-2007 1st 
Jeff Conine 1990, 1992-2007 1st  
Steve Finley 1989-2007 1st 
Julio Franco 1982-94, 1996-97, 1999, 2001-07 1st 
Shawn Green 1993-2007 1st 
Roberto Hernandez 1991-2007 1st 
Ryan Klesko 1992-2007 1st 
Kenny Lofton 1991-2007 1st 
Edgar Martinez 1987-2004 4th   
Don Mattingly 1982-95 13th 
Fred McGriff 1986-2004 4th   
Mark McGwire 1986-2001 7th 
Jose Mesa 1987, 1990-2007 1st 
Jack Morris 1977-94 14th 
Dale Murphy 1976-93 15th 
Rafael Palmeiro 1986-2005 3rd   
Mike Piazza 1992-2007 1st 
Tim Raines 1979-2002 6th 
Reggie Sanders 1991-2007 1st 
Curt Schilling  1988-2007 1st 
Aaron Sele 1993-2007 1st 
Lee Smith 1980-97 11th 
Sammy Sosa 1988-2005, 2007 1st 
Mike Stanton 1989-2007 1st 
Alan Trammell 1977-96 12th 
Larry Walker 1989-2005 3rd   
Todd Walker 1996-2007 1st 
David Wells 1987-2007 1st 
Rondell White 1996-2007 1st 
Bernie Williams 1991-2006 2nd    
Woody Williams 1993-2007 1st 

Yes, oh Guardians of Baseball's Valhalla, each of my highlighted suggestions has been accused of steroid use. There was apparently a heck of a lot of steroid use going on in the major leagues not so many years ago -- and everyone with a brain knew it.

Sammy Sosa was a fast, skinny kid when he was with the White Sox early in his career. But it was a jumbo-sized Sammy Sosa that helped revive the nation's interest in baseball after the 1994 strike when he dueled with Mark McGwire for the home run title. Everyone -- including you baseball writers -- chuckled when Sammy attributed his new massive bulk to "Flintstones vitamins." A famous Nike commercial showed Heather Locklear ignoring Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux in favor of Mark McGwire because "chicks dig the long ball."

How in tarnation can you turn all self-righteous now? You knew they were using then; you didn't protest.

No, I don't condone steroid use. I fully support MLB's belated efforts to clean up the game. But these were the dominant players of their era. If you want to include on their plaques that they were dirty, stinking steroid users who endangered their own health (and, much worse, encouraged impressionable young athletes to try PED's for themselves), go ahead -- particularly if you baseball writers admit your complicity in these crimes. But those plaques belong in the Hall of Fame.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bag the raking; try mulching instead

On what may be the last warm weekend before May, we've been forced to give some thought to disposing of all those leaves that have piled up outside.

In the old days, when I was a boy, this was easy: We'd rake the leaves up and burn them. I loved the smell of burning leaves. In recent years, I've had occasion to be driving along the Interstate on fall days, only to have the smell of burning leaves from a nearby farm pull me back nearly 50 years to the alley behind my parents' South Side home. Farmers can still perform this autumn ritual, but a whole urban and suburban generation has grown to adulthood since most homeowners could last legally burn the leaves they raked.

From an environmental standpoint, raking and bagging the leaves seems like a lousy idea. What's the point of sending the leaves to rot in a landfill?

The most enviro-friendly approach might be to leave the leaves in situ, trusting to natural wind power to disperse them. What the wind does not take away, the snow will eventually cover.

But there are drawbacks to this approach. For one thing, when the wind takes your leaves and piles them on the neighbors' lawns, your standing in the community will be hurt. Your tires may also get slashed.

For another thing, the same gentle zephyrs that deposit your leaves on Neighbor Smith's lawn will bring replacements from up the street. You may gain more than you lose. That rather defeats the purpose.

And after the winds subside, if the leaves left that remain are too thickly distributed, when the snow comes, the leaves may become so heavily matted that anything beneath them, grass and weeds alike, will be smothered.

Our family's search for an environmentally responsible alternative to raking and bagging has led us to try mulching. To the untrained observer, it might look like we're cutting the grass. Our grass needs cutting like a bald man needs a haircut. On the other hand, running the lawnmower over the leaves on the grass mulches them into little leaf-ettes, small enough that they can rot in place while still allowing air and sunlight to reach the soil below. The rotting leaf fragments supply nutrients to the soil like a free jolt of fertilizer. This guarantees that next year's crop of weeds will come back green and strong and healthy.

The grass somehow always seems to die.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Archiving November 2012 campaign links

I'm archiving the campaign website links of the candidates in the few contested Cook Cook County Circuit Court races here:
Most, if not all, of these links will be inactive soon, if they aren't already. Still, the addresses are preserved in case they may have some use for others in the future.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Judges Jacobius and Palmer appear on NTNM

Judge Moshe Jacobius, the Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and Judge Stuart E. Palmer, a Circuit Court Judge currently serving on the Illinois Appellate Court pursuant to appointment, are guests on this week's edition of North Town News Magazine. With the permission of host and moderator Avy Meyers, that interview is posted here as well.

Judges Jacobius and Palmer and over 50 of their brother and sister judges are asking voters to retain them in office on this year's November retention ballot.

For more information about the retention ballot, consult any of the following links:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Philadelphia judicial ethics complaint shows value of local bar association investigations

ABA Journal Law News Now reported last week about the troubles brewing in Philadelphia for a local judge accused of making misrepresentations on candidate questionnaires.

The October 25 Law News Now post, by Debra Cassens Weiss, links to the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board Complaint against Judge Thomas M. Nocella. Apparently, in Pennsylvania, candidates for judicial office are required to respond to questionnaires which, inter alia, inquire into the prospective judges' finances and litigation histories. These questionnaires are used to determine whether a candidate receives a "qualified" or "not qualified" rating.

Judge Nocella made some disclosure of financial difficulties and past lawsuits and, at one point, was rated unqualified as a result. He successfully appealed the initial unfavorable rating -- but it appears that the Judicial Conduct Board is contending that, at best, Nocella minimized the extent of his difficulties. According to Weiss's post, Judge Nocella stands accused of failing to disclose "two Internal Revenue Service liens against him for more than $469,000, a personal bankruptcy filing, a contempt finding for disobeying court orders stemming from his representation of a political action committee, and 24 cases in which he was a defendant or a respondent." The failure to make complete and accurate disclosures on the questionnaire can result in disciplinary action in Pennsylvania.

A similar situation may be unlikely to occur in Cook County. Yes, judges and prospective judges get into financial difficulties from time to time in Cook County, just as anyone anywhere might. But, in Cook County, when a judicial candidate steps forward or a judge seeks retention, the bar associations investigate the responses that judicial hopefuls provide. Edward Austin, a former Chair of the Judicial Evaluation Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, explained, "The cornerstone to the CBA evaluation process is the investigation. Our investigators work tirelessly to not only contact listed references but also references not listed by the Candidates. Additionally, a Google search, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk name check for pending or past litigation and an ARDC search are conducted to uncover any and all information pertinent to someone seeking a judicial post. There have been many instances in the past where candidates have not included or omitted information on their questionnaire that was subsequently found during the investigation process. The omissions have included lawsuits, ARDC complaints, and bankruptcy filings."

While he agreed that record searches would likely pull up some discrepancies in a less-than-candid candidate's disclosures, Michael A. Strom, the President of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, a member of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, was uncertain that all of a candidate's financial problems could be ferreted out, even with a vigorous investigation. "I could easily see practitioners in the Chicago area having problems totally unrelated to their area of concentration, and unknown to their colleagues," Strom said. "For example, I know many veteran personal-injury and insurance defense practitioners from years of practice in that field. When bar association judicial screeners call to ask about a candidate, it is extremely unlikely that I would know about any tax problems or IRS liens. Multiply that one interview by 20 and throw in interviews of judges before whom the candidate has practiced, and it would not be surprising to see personal debt, bankruptcy, domestic relations issues, and other issues remaining unknown to the attorneys who would best know the candidate."

Large urban areas and their correspondingly large judicial systems "tend to make individual judges less public figures, less well-known to the bar and to voters who may be called to vote on judicial elections or retention," Strom said. "We often hear how judicial elections in rural or lightly populated regions are [more] effective since people in those communities have a greater tendency to know their neighbors, their community leaders - not just professionally but personally," Strom added. "Accordingly, attorneys in Calhoun County would be much more likely to know about the sort of issues covered in the ethics complaint concerning Judge Nocella whether [or not] the disclosures were made in application forms."

Al Durkin is the Co-Chair of the Illinois State Bar Asssociation's Judicial Evaluation Committee and a member of the Alliance board. "Judicial candidates in Cook County are very concerned when they come before the Alliance," Durkin said. "Candidates do their best to provide information in order to allow the member bars to make as informed a decision as possible."

Every candidate is specifically asked if he or she is or has been a party in any litigation, Durkin said, adding that a negative answer to this question would probably be "a death knell" to the candidate's chances for a favorable evaluation if investigation revealed that the candidate attempted to conceal involvement in a number of legal matters.

Ed Austin stressed that candidates who seem to have provided incomplete information are given an opportunity, under the CBA's practice, to explain themselves. In such cases, Austin said, candidates "are notified of our discovery prior to a hearing pursuant to Rule 22 and the issue is addressed at the hearing if they seek to continue with the evaluation." Durkin said the Alliance follows a similar procedure. "In fairness," Durkin said, "there might be a situation where a candidate did not know" -- a code violation suit involving a building managed by the candidate's spouse, for example. The Alliance hearing can also be postponed "to give the candidate time to put together a response," Durkin said.

Austin noted that favorable rating from the CBA can be pulled if information previously concealed comes to light. The CBA Board of Managers and the Executive Committee can "withdraw a past finding if new information is brought to light that was not disclosed during the original evaluation." Alliance members have also changed ratings in the past.

"Non-disclosure is taken very seriously" by all judicial evaluation committees in Cook County, Austin said, "and, as is often the case, the cover up is worse than the crime."

The Pennsylvania practice appears to rely on candidate self-disclosure -- and one would certainly hope (and expect) that persons seeking judicial office would be honest and truthful. Our Cook County judicial screening process also depends on self-disclosure. But in our practice, as Ronald Reagan said to Mikhail Gorbachev, we trust, but verify.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

State court efiling is nearly upon us. Let's have two cheers for efiling. Maybe one-and-a-half.

I find myself unable to work up a great deal of enthusiasm about the Illinois Supreme Court's announcement yesterday that brings us one step closer to efiling in all Illinois counties.

Chief Justice Kilbride says Illinois "is behind on using e-business and e-filing in its courts" and I won't argue the point.

My experience in federal cases reassures me that efiling has some advantages, chief among them the ability to file and serve a motion or brief by pressing a button. That is a distinct advantage for solo practitioners -- and I am one -- who otherwise have to endure 'down time' copying, assembling, sending, and filing documents.

But I have never used efiling in a Cook County case -- Cook County had a pilot efiling program predating yesterday's Supreme Court announcement -- and I hope I won't now be forced into using it anytime soon. Not when it costs $4.95 to file a document and the payment of any filing fee automatically incurs another 4% surcharge.

In the Federal system PACER seems to function well enough without massive per document surcharges. If we must go down this road -- and I fear we must -- why not go toward a PACER model?

But my tepid response to yesterday's announcement is not motivated solely by personal parsimony.

But I keep reading -- online and on paper -- that studies continue to show that people don't read things on screens the same way as they read paper. A quick Google search this morning (because that's how things are done now, right?) pulled up these interesting articles (none of which I'd seen before) on the topic: "Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read?", by Maia Szalavitz, posted on Time Health & Family, March 14, 2012; Does the Brain Like E-Books?, New York Times, October 14, 2009; "Our 'Deep Reading' Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions", by Maryanne Wolf on Niemann Reports, Summer 2010.

I would sum up my reading (today and previously) this way: Most of us -- even those of us who live increasingly online -- feel, on some level, that screens are for ephemera -- LOL cats and water-skiing squirrels, bad jokes, inconsequential emails and, yes, blog posts. Serious stuff needs to be on paper. At least, a lot of us read paper more carefully and more critically.

Now, of course, those of us who feel this way may be a dying breed -- or, more optimistically, perhaps we can look forward to working through a transition period from which we will ultimately emerge able to read screens with the same intensity and care as we now read paper.


And in the meantime, our most carefully thought-out work product, the briefs and motions that we lawyers prepare, will be reduced to pixels on a screen, to be read by a judge who may or may not have mastered this hoped-for digital transformation.

Can this really be good for us lawyers... or for our clients?

Also, I could not help but note the restrictions on discovery filings. In Cook County, a lot of us still file our discovery responses with the court -- it saves arguments down the road about who served what when. That may no longer be possible under any standardized efiling regime. Yes, it works in Federal court, but in Federal court one denies receiving documents that he or she has in fact received at some substantial peril.

I said I would not argue that our courts are behind in matters of e-business and e-filing. But I am tempted to believe that this is not necessarily bad.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The questionable value of precedent in politics

From the web comic xkcd, by Randall Munroe
Before 1936, Maine was perceived by the chattering class as the ultimate bellwether state: "As Maine goes, so goes the nation."

After 1936, the saying had to be amended: "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." Although Maine had voted Republican in 1936, Alf Landon did not defeat FDR. Landon carried only Maine and Vermont in the general election.

Mr. Munroe's many other examples here are worth considering as one considers the grave (and contradictory) prognostications of political columnists and TV talking heads.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual

Zay N. Smith will henceforth be providing QT at the Beachwood Reporter. From his first column on the new site:
News Headline: "Video surveillance cameras everywhere in our lives."

News Headline: "Congress OKs drones over U.S. cities."

News Headline: "Texas schools punish students who refused to be tracked by microchips."

Do we need to review the notion that 1984 was a warning and not an instruction manual?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

You can't believe everything on the Internet... or on TV... or in the newspaper, for that matter. Now what?

State Farm has an amusing commercial in heavy rotation these days poking fun at its Internet-dependent competitors -- and making the more general point that not everything you see online is credible.

Yeah, who'd have guessed, right?

But TV news is no better. Watch two TV stations tonight and you'll see different stories covered or, frequently, the same story covered with two different spins. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Other times, though....

I've often heard it said that the closer one is to a news story, the more errors one finds in the news coverage. Many lawyers have had the experience of becoming involved in a case only to see news coverage that, in the lawyer's opinion, completely distorts the facts of the case. (The converse of this rule is also true: The further away one is from a story, the easier it is to believe the news coverage. This is why presidential candidates know all about how to solve problems in Iran, Afghanistan or Guantanamo -- and why presidents often find the same problems extraordinarily difficult. This principle is also an extension of the more general one, "where you stand depends on where you sit.")

In these days of YouTube and Hulu and iTunes it is often possible to diagnose the "spin" that this reporter or that columnist or blogger puts on a speech or news conference. If a person could only take the time to investigate the original sources on any interesting event, he or she could reach a truly informed opinion. He or she would also be unable to hold a job... or sleep much.

The temptation is to think that this sort of news 'spinning' is new.

It is not.

Some of the terms are new, but news reporting has never been an exact science. Here is a case in point.

I found these clippings among my late father's effects. His mother had saved these when her husband died -- in March 1946. I can't tell you which newspapers these clippings are from. Only these scraps were saved.

But look at the discrepancies in these three accounts of the same event. In reporting my grandfather's death, my grandfather's brother is named Daniel Lyons; in another, Daniel Leyhane; in the third, Daniel is given no last name at all. Actually, Daniel's surname was Lyons and my grandfather was really named Leyhane -- and, no, they weren't half-siblings, the family name was changed by my grandfather's parents at some point, perhaps -- so family legend has it -- to enhance another of my great-uncle's chances to enter the Seminary). My grandfather's age varies from story to story. His age is given variously as 42, 48 or 51. My father's age is mentioned only in one story. There, his age is given as 18; actually, he was then 20.

It's just a little story, a sad reminder of the risks that firefighters take, but really important only to the families involved. There was no interpretation needed here, no 'spin,' just objective facts that could have been ascertained. And weren't. Not quite.

Just something to think about as you watch the news or read a newspaper.


See also, Chicago Fire Department Line of Duty Deaths.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wishful thinking?

(From Zach Weiner's webcomic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

¡Ojalá! If only it were so.

And, speaking of comics, did this morning's Chicago Sun-Times carry yesterday's comics -- or am I stuck in some sort of temporal loop?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember 9/11... and 9/25?

Zay N. Smith strikes a very appropriate note in yesterday's QT:
News Headline: "Remembering 9/11—Let us never forget."
And here is something we should do after we remember 9/11:
We should remember 9/25.
It was on that day, in Los Angeles, two weeks after the attack, that a German surgeon in a Jewish hospital performed a kidney transplant from a white Muslim woman to a black Christian man.
It was routine surgery.
Remember 9/25, too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cartoon brief does not carry the day but fires the imagination

Attorney Bob Kohn wanted to file a 55 page amicus brief in the case of USA v. Apple, Inc., in the Southern District of New York. He was opposed to the government's proposed antitrust settlement with three publishers of e-books. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote limited him to five.

Mr. Kohn came up with a creative way of making his point in those five pages; he made his point in comic book form. (Debra Cassens Weiss provides additional background in a post on ABA Journal Law News Now.)

While Lowering the Bar may go too far in suggesting that All Briefs Should Now Be in Comic Book Form, I suspect this brief brief may inspire some imitators.*

Here are the actual cartoon pages (click to enlarge any page; if this proves insufficient, the entire brief, with appropriate table of authorities, may be found can be accessed by clicking here):

* Note to would-be imitators: According to the ABA site, Judge Cote rejected Mr. Kohn's arguments and approved the proposed settlement. My thanks to Lynn Dowd for sending me the brief.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't put a kid in charge of your professional image

Someone named Brad Friedman posted a link to this article on LinkedIn's Legal Blogging Group.

The article, "11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn't Run Your Social Media," by Hollis Thomases, appeared August 10 on Inc.Com. An excerpt:
Just because you don't understand social media doesn't mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend's sister-in-law's kid) because "they're really good on Facebook."

If your business targets the young and hip, most definitely look to a recent grad or young social-media nerd to help your business. But don't assume, either, that you need to hire someone young to manage your social media "just because."
Thomases goes on to detail all 11 reasons, and they're all good -- but to Ms. Thomases' list I would add one more: Don't let someone launch a social media strategy for you unless you can understand both what the strategist is trying to accomplish and how the strategist proposes to accomplish those goals.

If you can't understand what the heck your social media maven is doing or how he or she is doing it, it might be because you are old and dense and simply no longer 'with it.' Or it might be that your social media wunderkind works only with smoke and mirrors:

From Randall Munroe's webcomic, xkcd
(click on the link to see the cartoon in situ -- and
to read Mr. Munroe's embedded comment)
At depositions lawyers typically ask a number of background questions of a witness. Sometimes these questions are necessary in case the lawyer needs to locate the witness later on for trial, but most lawyers go beyond 'name, rank, and serial number' when starting a witness deposition.

What the lawyer is doing is getting a 'feel' for how the witness answers uncontroversial questions -- how the witness speaks normally and without stress. This preliminary testimony provides a baseline for comparison. Does the witness talk easily and expansively on softball, background questions -- and in clipped monosyllables when the 'meat' of the deposition is reached? Those differences in tone and inflection and speech pattern tell the lawyers something about the credibility of this witness or, at least, the likelihood that the witness will come over well before a jury.

I had a deposition recently of a young man who was employed by some advertising concern in some social media capacity. He had no difficulty expanding on his explanations about his job and his duties -- but every expansion made his testimony more opaque than it was before. None of this mattered to the case and I had to move on -- but, if I was interviewing this same man to market my firm, I would be profoundly concerned by his inability to tell me what he does and how.

If your strategist can't explain to your satisfaction what he or she proposes to do and how he or she will do it, can you really hope that this same strategist can adequately explain your business to potential clients?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lawyering for the middle class?

Shortly after I posted this morning's page one article, Two articles in today's Law Bulletin suggest structural flaw in the legal profession, I happened across this article on ABA Journal Law News Now, Underserved Middle Class Provides Opportunity for Recent Law Grads, Ex-US Attorney Says.

The article, by Debra Cassens Weiss, describes a National Law Journal article by former prosecutor and Miami lawyer Kendall Coffey. Quoting now from Weiss's article:
“The reality is that with prudent office economics, recent law graduates could earn decent compensation and launch successful practices, with the opportunity to continue to earn more,” Coffey writes. “Rather than work for a law firm at high rates, of which two thirds goes to the employer, new lawyers could charge much lower rates and keep the earnings for themselves. Rates of between $50 and $125 per hour would make new lawyers affordable to the middle class while providing the lawyers with enough income to succeed.”
More clinical training in law school and peer mentoring afterward would be necessary to accomplish this, according to Coffey.

It has been my observation, over the years, that big firms charge big hourly rates because they can (and, indeed, they must, in order to maintain both the levels of service that wealthy clients demand and the income expectations of very talented partners), while smaller firms and solos charge high hourly rates (though not as high as the big firms) because they so often run into collection difficulties: A client's willingness to pay the lawyer is often directly proportionate to the client's immediate peril. When the lawyer does his or her job well, reducing the imminent threat, clients too often forget where their checkbooks are located.

Whether setting up a new generation of lawyers with lower hourly rates would be greeted with enthusiasm by established practitioners (the mentors Mr. Coffey would like to see) is open to debate. (Established practitioners might see new lawyers with low hourly rates as a threat to bid down hourly rates generally.)

What is not debatable is that there is increasing recognition within the profession that some means must be found for the unemployed and underemployed members of our profession to deliver quality legal services to the swelling ranks of those who need our help but are unwilling to pay according to the traditional models.

I closed this morning's page one post with a throwaway -- that hourly rates, per se, are not the problem here.

Mr. Coffey does not persuade me otherwise. I think there are ways we can price our services that can make them affordable to more persons in need other than lowering hourly rates. I will return to this topic in future posts. But in the meantime, let the debate continue.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Here's something I need to write about... sooner or later

ABA Journal Law News Now put up a post on August 14 about how persons prone to procrastination can avoid the pitfalls thereof.

Meanwhile, I've got it on my reading list.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On political blogging: choosing a role model

There are a great many Benjamin Franklin Baches out there -- but a bare handful of Benjamin Franklins.

If you aspire to be a political blogger, which one should you imitate?

And, if you don't even know who Benjamin Franklin Bache was, should you really be inflicting your opinions on the Blogosphere?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

About this Higgs boson business

Scientists recently claimed to have proved the existence of the elusive "God particle," the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson would not (if it really exists) be the smallest particle; apparently Higgs bosons break up into smaller particles after a momentary existence, but in that brief existence, the Higgs field imparts mass to otherwise massless fundamental particles.

The foregoing is not intended to be funny; it represents my honest effort to make sense of what I've read on the subject. It's just that there seem to have been a few changes in physics since I last took the basic course. I hear there are more than four elements now, too....

I reacted to the news of the apparent confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson in my dull, uncomprehending way by recalling a cartoon posted by Randall Mulroe on xkcd last September, when the news carried claims that faster than light particles had been discovered.

(Click to enlarge. See original for embedded comment.)

And then I found this cartoon on Fake Science:

This explains everything neatly, don't you think?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

QT post leads to West Virginia weirdness and three interesting stories

An item from Zay N. Smith's June 29 QT post caught my attention:
News Headline: "Lawsuit: Kim Kardashian a terrorist, had sex on tape while unicorn watched."

There is probably an interesting story behind that.
Actually, there are three interesting stories there. Allow me to explain.

Mr. Smith's quoted headline refers to not one, but two suits filed filed recently in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

The "unicorn" matter is Kimberly v. Kardashian, et al., No. 1:12 CV 105. The "terrorist" reference comes from Romano v. Kardashian, et al., No. 5:12 CV 90.

Gino Romano alleges that, just this past June 17, while "deep in the hills" of West Virginia, he stumbled across an "Al-Qaeda Secret Training Camp," organized by none other than Kris Jenner. Plenty of senior Al-Qaeda members were present including, per Mr. Romano's pleading (styled "Preliminary Injunction [/] Temporary Restraining Order"), shoe bomber Richard Reid's cousins and the parents of convicted terrorist "Johnny Walker Lindh."

Mr. Romano claims to have witnessed quite a spectacle: Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kanye West, and Bruce Jenner all "plead allegiance (sic) to Al-Qaeda," then burned an American flag and stomped their feet on "Baracks Picture." Then Kanye West performed a concert for assembled Al-Qaeda throng and then everyone "drank Jim Jones Juice" (apparently without any ill effect). Indeed, after the Kool-Aid break, the Defendants were sufficiently refreshed to pitch in with the campers and help dig coal to "get fuel to make weapons of mass destruction" -- all except for Kris Jenner, that is -- she was busy enriching uranium.

Sadly, according to his court filing, Romano was not able to get away cleanly to alert authorities. When Romano was spotted, Kim Kardashian fired a rocket at his head, Bruce Jenner chucked a grenade at him, and Khloe Kardashian tried to behead him. Despite these efforts, Romano got away and filed this pleading.

The Kardashians must have broke camp shortly thereafter, too. At least that's what Jonathan Kimberly says in his pleading (also styled "Preliminary Injunction [/] Temporary Restraining Order").

According to Mr. Kimberly, on June 22, whilst he was whiling away the evening in Room 68 of the Days Inn outside Clarksburg (or was it Bridgeport?) he was disturbed by a "bunch of banging, and sounds of sheep." Kimberly traced the sounds to the room next door, Room 69 (*ahem*). He looked through the peephole and saw "Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, and Myla Sinanaj making a sex tape together."

(For those of you who, like me, can't keep track of all the various "personalities" chronicled in the tabloids and their online equivalents, Ms. Sinanaj was apparently linked romantically to Mr. Humphries at one time and is now rumored to be carrying his child.)

And now back to our story: According to his pleading, Mr. Kimberly thought the situation, as viewed through the peephole, was a trifle weird. What struck him as weird was not so much the alleged activity engaged in by the human occupants of the room or the presence of recording equipment (including, apparently, a tripod and a 'cannon') that was "E! Network stamped and sealed," but rather the presence of a menagerie: in addition to the aforementioned sheep, Kimberly alleges, there were two goats and a unicorn.

Things really got strange, Kimberly says, when Charlie Sheen showed up with a bag of "Esctasy." Kimberly wound up with Mr. Humphries pointing a shotgun at his head (one he obtained from fellow Net Jayson Williams) and forced to watch for five hours as the sex tape was made. And he was forced to watch reruns of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" for another six hours after that. He says he wound up a broken wrist, violated, humiliated and unconscious, finally waking up at a truck stop, his wallet gone, and Kardashian lipstick all over his clothes. Naturally, in his view at least, he too needs protection.

The common titles of the pleadings and the choice of defendants and venue are not the only similarities between them. The consecutive chronology raises questions. Moreover, while both documents are riddled with spelling errors, the names of all those prominent in Tabloid America are spelled correctly, meaning that the drafters could spell when it suited their purposes. And both pro se plaintiffs seem to have gone to the ALL CAPS SCHOOL OF PERSUASIVE PLEADING. All these similarities would seem to reduce the chances that these pleadings were coincidental matters filed by two unrelated (and perhaps mentally disturbed) individuals.

Thus, in addition to the very interesting stories of Messrs. Romano and Kimberly, a third interesting story is suggested, namely, what sort of sanctions will be imposed on the fraternity brothers that concocted these papers. Rule 11 may be only the starting point. I don't practice in the area of criminal law, but I have to wonder if the authors of these tales may also be subject to criminal prosecution.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Intelligence Community protects our privacy from an overly inquisitive Senate

I only wish QT's Zay N. Smith was making this stuff up:
We Have Seen the Present, and It Does Not Work:
The National Security Agency has refused to tell two U.S. senators how many Americans it is spying on because that would "violate the privacy" of the Americans being spied upon.
Sadly,'s Danger Room blog confirms Mr. Smith's item... even providing this link to a .pdf copy of a June 15 letter to Senators Ron Wyden (D. Oregon) and Mark Udall (D. Colorado) from I. Charles McCullough III, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. (Intelligence Community. Community. Doesn't that sound entirely benign?). Here's a relevant excerpt:

Clearly, the government is concerned about our privacy. Except when they want to invade it. Don't you feel better now?

UPDATE: More commentary at Lowering the Bar.

It really is an exciting time

From the webcomic xkcd by Randall Munroe.
Click on the link to read Mr. Munroe's embedded comment in situ.

A new Age of Exploration is underway. Will the United States participate?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

America Lost in Space - a continuing series

Three Chinese astronauts (or do you say taikonauts?) are in space this morning. The first Chinese woman to fly in space, fighter pilot Liu Yang, is part of the crew. Their mission, according to a Reuters account by Maxim Duncan in this morning's Tribune, is "to dock with the orbiting Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module launched last September, part of a 13-day mission crucial to China's ambition to put a space station in orbit around 2020."

Meanwhile, in the once-proud United States, we're still giddy about the private launching of a cargo rocket to provide supplies to the International Space Station, the place our astronauts get to by thumbing rides with the Russians.

One can only hope that the private sector will quickly find a way to achieve manned spaceflight, to get into space and stay there. Although... unsupervised corporate America or the Red Chinese in control of the ultimate high ground... is that a choice between the Devil and the deep blue sea?

News headline: Chicago to issue tickets for small amounts of marijuana possession

From the webcomic Married to the Sea, by Drew and Natalie Dee

If we really are still in a War on Drugs, is it time to seek a peace treaty?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Keeping your Durkins straight

There's been a lot of news lately about Chicago attorneys named Thomas Durkin of late. One of these (the one at right) is among the attorneys representing the NATO-3, the three out-of-towners picked up during the recent NATO Summit on state terrorism charges.

The CBS Chicago website refers to this attorney only as "Thomas Durkin," as does the ABC7 website.

But, although it did not do so originally, the Chicago Sun-Times has begun referring to this attorney as Thomas Anthony Durkin. As far as I can tell, the Chicago Tribune has referred to this attorney as Thomas Anthony Durkin right along.

The use of the attorney's middle name is important because another Chicago attorney named Thomas Durkin -- Thomas M. Durkin, a Mayer Brown partner, was recently nominated, just last month, to the Federal bench in Chicago.

That's Thomas M. Durkin, above.

Regular readers of this blog are, by definition, assumed to be sufficiently sophisticated to make this distinction between Durkins. But U.S. Senators may be more easily confused. Consider this, then, a public service.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lots more pictures from today's Memorial Day Parade in Norwood Park

The Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade had its share of politicians and bands, but this is traditionally a parade of neighbors, through the neighborhood.

Of course, this group is always a crowd favorite.

Especially when they salute the fans by shooting off a volley.

Even the reenactors can get startled when the shots are fired, however, at least the youngest ones.

Here are some more shots from early in the parade that didn't fit on page one.

Long-time parade organizer James C. Del Medico was remembered in the parade today.

Del Medico passed away last August.

Here are more shots of the Taft and Kelvyn Park High School groups.

And there a great many school groups, including this one from Onahan School, where the parade forms up.

This young man from Garvey School showed some pride in carrying the colors.

And then came the scout groups. The scouting movement is alive and well in Norwood Park.

There were Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups from Immaculate Conception Parish.

The parade of scouts was interrupted a hint of the parade of antique autos yet to come.

But not for long.

And church groups were heard from as well.

The Norwood Park Dog Association was included in the festivities as well -- but the hot weather today held down the numbers of the canine component.

A lot of local businesses use the parade to advertise their products or services. But I have it on good authority that this is not the vehicle in which this moving company moves households.

There is always a parade of cars at the end of the parade, all allegedly antiques.

These may qualify.

But these? I admired cars like these when they were new. If they're antiques, then... what does that make me?

And what would you expect at the end of a parade? Santa Claus?

Well... this almost qualifies.

But it was the Chicago Police who actually brought up the rear. And even the little kids were interested to see the horses.

Still want to see more pictures? Even if you've already seen the ones on page one, there's still more online at the 41st Ward Citizen's Blog.