Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two quick items

Light-to-no posting will probably continue for a few more days. Since we're already here, though, two items of interest from the NY Times.

First, a prisoner rights case is climbing to the highest appellate levels. It seems NY had a system, recently changed, of adding fees to the collect calls leaving NY's prisons.

Second, the Supreme Court is going to hear a case related to the NY judicial selection process. Complaints in the past few years, including indictments in Brooklyn for illegal acts, have cast a negative light on the current system of nominating conventions.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


As a fan of stage and screen (well, mainly the small screen in my living room), I have a spectator's interest in entertainment law. Variety, one of the top trade papers in the entertainment biz, recently presented a view into the meeting of law and entertainment.

New Judge

The Court of Appeals has a new member, following on the recent appointment of former 4th Department Presiding Justice Piggott. Judge T. Jones Jr., a Supreme Court judge from Brooklyn, is Gov. Spitzer's first appointment to the top court.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Erie Co.: Former Legislature Chairman Removed

An interesting saga is going on just to our north, in Erie County. George Holt, a scandal-plagued former chairman of the county legislature, recently pleaded guilty to a tax evasion charge. He claims the DA told him the plea wouldn't have an effect on his elected position. The County Attorney disagreed, issuing an opinion that the seat was vacated by the conviction under the Public Officers Law. Holt sued, for an injunction preserving his seat, and the State Supreme Court ruled against him. Holt has claimed racial reasons are behind the removal, citing a former legislator who was not removed after a DWI conviction.

New advert rules challenged

Alexander & Catalano, the "heavy hitters" have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the recent rules which more closely regulate lawyer advertising. Among other things, the new rules prevent nicknames such as the "heavy hitters" and require a certain amount of decorum in commercials (ie, no f/x depicting yourself as a "legal giant" or with superpowers).

I have friends who do personal injury work, and they are good lawyers and good people. Yet it is the excesses of a few firms in that area of law that have motivated this new rule. Law currently suffers from an image problem, as a profession. Perhaps I should care more about lining my own pockets short term than thinking of the future of my career and my field, but this "race to the bottom" spurred by PI advertising seems the antithesis of the learned practice of law.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Local attorney passes away

The Jamestown Lawyer would like to extend condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of Susan Amsler, who was the law clerk for County Court Judge Ward. While I had very limited interaction with her, our few telephone conversations were always of the sort that I could tell she knew her stuff and practiced in a professional yet genial fashion.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Homeless and Municipal Law

This article, from CBS News, concerns attempts in various locales to deal with more visible aspects of the homeless problem. As a softie with a background in "poverty law" it would be easy for me to take the predictable stance on this. Banning congrating, feeding, etc., seems to violate parts of the First Amendment (and may well violate human moral decency). At the same time, this softie has also lived in some scary parts of town(s) and seen the results of drugs and vandalism. Without sounding uncaring or NIMBY, I certainly wouldn't want a feeding area for transients right near my house.

The answers, if there are any, probably are far more holistic and inclusive. Pushing the homeless out of one area doesn't reduce their number. We're somewhat fortunate, locally, that we have few "street people." (Although a JPD officer once did tell a professional acquaintance that we only have one homeless person here, and he choses to live that way, so perhaps the issue is not fully understood in all sectors.) While we have people without permanent homes, the available resources seem sufficient so that we aren't turning people out onto the streets. That said, homelessness is prevalent in WNY and is something that needs to be considered in community planning and community policing strategies.

Friday, February 02, 2007


A brief post to an anonymous (and hypothetical) landlord: You are a business person. You sell a certain service, for which you receive compensation. Like any other business person, you are bound by certain rules. If you don't get paid, you can have the person tossed. If your property is damaged, you can sue for repairs. I'm quite sure the Real Estate Investors Association maintains a blacklist of undesirable tenants. You're authorized by law to do background and credit checks and, barring discriminatory reasons, to decline to do business with anyone for any reason whatsoever.

That said...if you rent to Person Z and then change your mind because you did shoddy follow up on figuring if this person was someone you wanted to do business with, it isn't my fault if the laws say you can't take the doors off the house and turn off the power to force Z to leave. Call Mr. Parment's office or Mrs. Young's office and tell them you want the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law changed to return to a vassal/serf/indentured system where your subjects reside in your property at your pleasure.

And lastly, don't tell me you have no rights. We live in a jurisdiction where it is easier to have a tenant removed than any other place I have encountered in New York. Yes, it may take 30-45 days if the person is current on the rent. That's part of the price of being in business. In other parts of the state, evictions are often stayed longer than that even if the person is behind in the rent, if you can even get a court date that quickly. You do not have the right to act arbitrarily and without consideration of the law. You do not have the right to immediately terminate a tenancy on improper notice, for illegal reasons, or because a tenant disagrees with you on something. Yes, there are scumbags and junkies and people who have no concept of how to keep a clean house. Yes, even the most careful screening will sometimes allow a bad tenant to slip through. The point is, though, that this is a business. It's not supposed to be "buy the property and do nothing but collect $$ every first of the month."


Sex Offenders and Visitation

A story out of Northern New York unveils a new wrinkle to the State's classification system for sexual offenders. Child's father lives in an apartment. Level 3 (most likely to repeat/most serious offense) offender also lives in building. St. Lawrence County Family Court has now ruled that father can't have visitation with the five year old child at his home, because of the proximity to the registered offender. It will be interesting to see if this is appealed or if any further developments occur on this topic.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Advertising Rules

Returning to the world of law, but keeping the advert theme: the Rochester paper has a good story on the new attorney advertising rules that go into effect today, including some 4th Department backstory.

Boston Bomb Scare

As a enthusiast of geocaching and letterboxing, the Jamestown Lawyer may admittedly be a little biased on this matter. This isn't a strictly legal post, in the sense of advice on procedures and substance, so feel free to skip ahead. Apparently there was a widespread panic in the Boston area yesterday, following the discovery of number electronic devices featuring a cartoon figure (based on the old square aliens of Space Invaders) waving a middle finger at viewers. The idea was "guerilla marketing" wherein numerous pictures of a character from the show are posted in random places, leading spectators to wonder what's up, talk about it, look into it, etc. The CNN story linked above notes that similar devices have been in place for days in other cities.

Perhaps it is a known fact to MA authorities that Al Qaeda operatives always design their explosive devices with cartoon figures, and if so, then the City's reaction makes a little more sense. Otherwise, what resulted was masses of people, including city leaders, assuming that anything left in a public place had to be nefarious. To me, the calls for apologies and threats of criminal prosecution against the network that sponsored the promotion seem to be excessive. This was not a "hoax" in the sense that fake bombs were left around town. It was a poorly designed marketing plan that resulted in overreaction when it was assumed that full-scale panic and fear is the only suitable reaction to anything out of the ordinary.