Friday, June 30, 2006

Indigent Defense

Interesting story recently in the NY Times, reporting on a recent study and report from a commission appointed by NY's top judge.

There was recently a proposal discussed here in the county to move to a system of full time District Courts instead of the motley array of town and village courts. I think articles like this are good indicators that such a discussion should continue.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Jamestown School Board

Today's Post-Journal has a chronology (available in the free items on the website, save your quarters) of the ongoing dispute between Dr. Deanne Nelson and the school board. A former board member, she was removed by the rest of the board after a hearing, following over a year of disputes that included misdemeanor charges against Dr. Nelson being presented the a grand jury, a very unusual step. Currently, it appears the former member of the board has fired the latest salvo, suing to board for various unnamed damages.

The entire thing will someday be an interesting caselaw in municipal law and administrative law, I have no doubt, but at the moment it's just sort of annoying that this has gone on forever.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Local shooting

So someone who's been at a couple different events where alcohol is served is riding, without a license or a helmet, on a public highway, in an area where a dangerous felon is at large, attempts to run away from the police, including refusing to stop while dragging a trooper along behind the ATV for several hundred yards, and now it's the cop's fault he used his weapon?

I couldn't disagree more. Unless you have something to hide, always cooperate with the police. Even if you have something to hide, cooperate with the police. A lack of cooperation makes things worse for all involved. I feel for the family who lost a husband and a son, but this doesn't appear to be a case of misconduct where overzealous officers had the wrong man--whether or not they thought they had cornered Bucky Phillips, the late Mr. Horton was still legitimately stopped.

Read the Buffalo News story here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Writing Style

Sometimes I want to write letters like this. I haven't, in the interest of civility and because I work from a position of no leverage most of the time, but...that might be fun.

HT BuffaloPundit.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Qui Custodiet, IV

A Rochester area deputy has been charged for, apparently on his own time and using his own equipment, spying on a neighbor who he apparently feared was a child molestor (as is seemingly implied by the article).

I present this out of my usual academic interest in the role of the police--is one ever off duty enough to not investigate something that seems wrong? If not, are there still proper channels to follow? Some lawyers are fascinated by the artificial construct of corporations, assessing their powers and limits. Personally, I'm always more interested in the societal constructs such as police, and how we interpret which laws do and don't apply within our system.

"Experienced License Plate Changer"

Not to make light of the Bucky Phillips manhunt--but instead the Buffalo News. In the litany of reasons that Phillips is so hard to catch is that he's an "experienced car thief and license plate changer." Ok, car thief I can buy. That would be a useful talent for one on the run. But changing license plates is a special talent, reserved for those of a criminal bent? Last I knew you needed a screwdriver and some elbow grease.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sad news

Breaking anonymity for a moment to post briefly on some recent news. Sara Thrasher, an attorney, colleague and friend, passed away yesterday after a brief and valiant battle against a particular aggressive form of cancer. Thoughts and prayers go out to her friends, family and the numerous clients she helped in her time with legal services.

While some of you know of my distaste for the expression "reasonable men may disagree" when used as a smokescreen, no one brought the truth behind the statement home like Sara. She and I could each read the same statute and come to entirely separate conclusions, and I like to think that we helped each other learn and become better practitioners. She'd had a variety of experiences before becoming a lawyer, all of which helped her tremendously in assisting others. She could be tender or gruff, as needed, and sometimes a little of both to clients in need of some tough love. Or new attorneys in need of some guidance.

You'll be missed.

Sara Lynne Thrasher, Esq. (1945-2006)

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Following up on a post from way back when about "if you want to get sued under SEQRA":

Pass a resolution which states that the project is designated as an "unlisted" project and thus, by definition, has no adverse environmental impacts.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Bright flight"

The NY Times (registration required, sorry) recently featured an interesting bit on the phenomenon I prefer to know as "youth flight" instead of "brain drain" or "bright flight." I know some very capable people who have remained "upstate" (a definition of the area just north of Manhattan, apparently, if you're a NY Times reader).

My only critical comment on the piece itself is just the seeming acceptance of M&T Bank as some sort of research institute. Overall, it's an adequate if unsurprising story on how people leave because it's a poor business economy upstate.

Whenever I see one of these stories, I tend to answer it in anecdotal evidence as someone who was raised upstate (or, "Southern Canada" if you're a NY Times reader). Most of my friends and acquaintances didn't leave our home area because of a lack of jobs. When we went away to college, we never planned on coming back. We'll talk about "home" as a good place to raise kids, and maybe sometime in a couple decades, a nice place to have a second home, or maybe a second career. The dominant culture of the place was just not something welcoming and inviting to a 20 or 30something with dreams and aspirations and that had more effect on youthful plans than the economy.

Qui custodiet, III

Somehow I feel this isn't the last we'll be hearing about the treatment of this suspect. My one question is whether there was anyone else in the house with the sleeping children after the suspect was taken away.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Catchy Title

When thinking of this post last night, I had a clever subject line in mind which I've since forgotten.

My report from the convention never seemed to materialize, due to internet issues and because I attended a great session which sucked some of the pda-scoping cynicism away. Briefly, before anyone gets too worried. Professor E. from a School of Law in Boston, a former NYC housing lawyer, was the presenter in a great session on ethical issues involving unrepresented/pro se adversaries. It probably says a lot about your author that the ethics portion of the morning was the highlight for me.

The program, though, hit on some of what I've been trying to focus on in this blog. His gist, to paraphrase: there are a lot of rules on the page, and then there's what actually happens. He was speaking of the ethical rules, but I think it pretty much applies generally to the practice of law. Law school doesn't teach that judges will demand settlement talks even when one has moved to dismiss, arguing the court doesn't have jurisdiction to even hear the matter. Law school doesn't teach that persuasive case law might be disregarded simply because "there's a lot of bad cases out of [city]" without actually looking beyond the heading. And I certainly never was exposed to the idea that opposing counsel or their clients would lie, cheat and steal on the stand or before the court, if necessary, to win a case. Or that such behavior would be treated with a knowing nod and a shrug.

It seems my cynicism levels have been restored, but I'm also refreshed to head back into practicing, after hearing that a lot of what has been happening in my practice isn't unique.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On the road again...

Now that I have that Willie N. song stuck in everyone's head...or, if you grew up on or over the border like me, memories of the CBC travel series...

I think I'm staying in the last hotel in the universe that doesn't offer free wireless. Even in the lobby, there's a connection charge. The rooms aren't wireless at all, and they offer no technical support for connecting even after you pay the $9.95 daily charge to plug in the ethernet cable. If you're a yutz like me without much hands-on knowledge, a phone number with automated instructions on resetting IPs and Proxies might as well in Greek. Finally I had to just delete all the settings from my home network and start from scratch...and it still isn't connected properly, but at least I can check email. Given that this is a conference for lawyers, I'm surprised they didn't pick a more tech-savvy environment. Then again, it's for budget-conscious public interest lawyers, so I wonder how much tech know-how will be on display. While I'm a techno-ignorant person myself, I'll try to keep an eye open for blackberries and the like for a running commentary.

I'll also probably (and I'm using "I" a lot more than I care to, as I like this to be a work-related blog and not an "adventures of a guy with a laptop" blog) comment on what I'm learning and just my impressions of the state of "poverty law". With budget cuts a regular event, and more pressure to limit the "free" assistance to the unworking (welfare reform, although necessary, is one example, or the current imbroglio over medical assistance), I think we're at a generational shift in this field as the baby boomer era ends. Or maybe I'm just hoping so due to projection related to my own experiences. Either way, if the internet keeps working, expect more comments from the field.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Random thought...

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been spending more downtime writing about things not involving law.

Just a quickie post du jour: I wish NY had a good, comprehensive list of rules and regulations concerning ethical behavior. The Ethical Considerations and Canons and Disciplinary Rules work very well on one level. At the same time, sometimes I want to flip open a book and see, in black and white, if something is prohibited, allowed or in grey.

The other day, for example, a local firm auctioned off a living will as part of a charity auction I was viewing. When I had asked the Ethics Police about that, last year, confused by the lack of specificity in the rules, I was sent an ethical opinion saying that such a thing was prohibited. Prohibited by some very pointless language that seemed to be utter inapplicable, in my opinion, about the attorney's duty to choose only clients with actual legal issues, etc. If I could limit my practice to those that only had legal issues, screening out those that just wanted someone to talk to, had no remedy at law, had mental issues, etc...I'd have three times as much energy and twice as much time to blog.

Point, and there was one there somewhere...the rules are too vague. Something like a donation to charity shouldn't be an ethical morass, but that's how our vague rules make it. I'm sure the system works in a way to allow necessary flexibility, but as a young lawyer without a lot of guidance from above...I'm strongly in favor of some boundaries that are spelled out so I know before I cross them.