Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Public Defender Work

The State's top judge, Chief Judge Kaye of the Court of Appeals, recently released a report concerning the status of the public defender system in New York. Currently, each county operates its own system. In some counties, all qualifying defendants are assigned a private lawyer who is then paid (at a statutorily-set rate) by the county. In others, such as Chautauqua, the county will operate a PD's office who will handle the majority of qualifying cases, with conflicts and overflow assigned to private counsel. In others, such as St. Lawrence, the county operates two PD office: the Public Defender and the Conflict Public Defender, which reduces the amount outsourced to private attorneys. In nearly every case, public defenders have a higher workload and lower pay rate than comparable positions with the District Attorney.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Brief blurbs

Some news stories that caught my attention:

The Chautauqua County Legislature has proposed a change to the hiring process, so that the leg. must now be informed of appointments. It seems innocuous, but we'll see what all the varied interests have to say. It doesn't appear to be a separation of powers issue as long as they are just asking for info, but we shall see.

An anti-capital punishment forum was held in the region last week(Buffalo) and there were some interesting perspectives. It is certainly a hard issue to separate economics from law from emotion.

Not law related, but tangential: I work with a few local bands in interpreting contracts and the like, and this article covers some of the daily life that you won't see on "Cribs." Music (and entertainment in general) is a rough business to break into, whether you're the performer or someone working for that 10% cut.

ATV decision, Lewis County

I accidently removed the recent post re: Lewis County's attempts to get local legislation passed with regard to opening roads to ATVs. Since I have yet been unable to find a proper link or news story, checking out commentary at NNY Follies until such time.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Wisconsin's attorney discipline system is looking into some "undercover" work undertaken by a lawyer seeking evidence for a trial.

The Jamestown Lawyer opinion? Shady and reprehensible. Probably good for many of my brethren in the profession that I don't get to make those calls.

Fed Court Invalidates Anti-Porn Law

A First Amendment case gets brief mention today, as covered by CNN.

A lawyer for the government, in supporting the act which established a duty on website owners to check for visitor's ages and imposed stiff fines, said:
"It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children, rather than the government's addressing the problem at its source," a government attorney, Peter D. Keisler, argued in a post-trial brief.

Without editorializing too much, I would have to strenuously disagree that government has any sort of duty in this arena, at least as far as legal material. It will be interesting to watch this develop on appeal.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Falconer: Election Law

An interesting tale (via the P-J) from one of the local villages: a ballot error may have effects on today's mayoral election. The ballot will be correct at the polling places, but the absentee ballots sent out previously will contain the mistake. The error appears to be related to the interpretation of one section of law, setting the number and/or arrangement of ballot lines per candidate. A local man running under the label of an independent body was bumped to Row D when the law seems to read he should have been at Row C.

County Jail

The addition to the Chautauqua County jail is finished, yet empty. As reported in today's Post-Journal, the state agency overseeing prisons has refused authorization to begin operation. The state has safety in mind, requiring sufficient staff to protect both guards and inmates, but at the same time, decisions on staffing as related in the article seem completely arbitrary. Either that, or someone at the county level dropped the ball in following the regs to determine the required staff numbers. Somehow, I'm guessing the former.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Town of Chautauqua has been in the news a bit lately for a proposed plan to shift road maintance away from the town, to the county. Sunday's Post-Journal carried the latest developments.

Consolidation makes sense in many ways, but the tail of this article raises some of the questions posed regarding the county takeover which are good food for thought on consolidation generally. Delivery of governmental services is likely to change following any regionalism initiative, going hand-in-hand with reduced costs, but that seems to be the practical-level material not answered in the Chautauqua proposal.

Legally, it also appears to be out of sync with some of the law. If there's a car accident because of poor plowing, is it the town or the county that's on the hook? In our overly litigious society, the answer is probably "both", but it's that sort of liability issue that once scuttled auto leasing, for example, and may be relevant here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Albany Lawyer posts a fun exchange from a recent trial on his blog. I have to say that I've never managed to snap off a witty bon mot during a trial. Which, on a slow Tuesday, I'll turn into one of those "life lesson" sorts of posts that I wish I'd read as a law student. In other words, my opinion and perspective which can be easily disregarded should you so choose.

Trials are the most visible and publicly-recognized aspect of American lawyering. They are also, relative to the number of cases filed in most courts, exceedingly rare. Further, a lot of what the average lawyer handles in daily practice will never be part of an adversarial proceeding. I know some attorneys, including managing and senior partners at several firms, who have never argued a case at trial. Some of this is due to the area of practice: estates work, traditionally, hasn't involved much litigation (although a local attorney recently stated she's frustrated with the increasing amount of trial practice in that field). Some real estate, corporate work and parts of the booming IP field both are research/counseling/paperwork heavy and don't involve appearances.

The point I'm building toward is this: the trial, on tv or in the moot court society of your local law school, has an inflated importance. Making and defending your arguments while distinguishing and disproving your opponent's positions: a necessary and vital part of the legal experience. Doing so orally via a combination of oral testimony and the arcane NY rules of evidence? Not so much. The trial is an important part of the legal experience, but it isn't the be-all of it as presented in the media. Some people, like the Albany Lawyer, do well in a trial-heavy practice. Others have found a happy career researching and writing, or counseling clients, or doing many other things that don't bring them into a courtroom on a regular basis. In short, if you love trial work, you have a great shot as a lawyer, but if you don't, don't get discouraged and think it isn't for you just because your law school or NBC tv seems to revolve the trial as the highest calling.

Professional Responsibility, 2nd Circuit

A story from, as printed in the New York Law Journal, indicates that the Second Circuit has instituted it's own grievance committee.

It's an interesting aspect of our federalist system, that we have lawyers admitted and regulated by the various states who can practice in multi-state federal circuit courts. Every court should have the teeth to enforce the rules of conduct and professional responsibility.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Online info

A story reported on the website poses an interesting question in this technological day and age. Some prospective job candidates are arguing that information about them on the web is sabotaging their job search. The problem is not, as one might expect, strident blogging or ill-publicized photos on a myspace page. Instead, it's discussions or information about said person from other people. The article raises a very good point about whether or not this sort of information should be relevant. Then again, as someone who is involved in hiring, the occasional glimpse into the life of the person across the table, all shiny in his suit and tie and discussing how law school was simply the most rewarding experience ever, may be useful in learning about the person him- or herself.

(ETA: I googled my name and found only two mentions of myself on the first ten pages, neither with commentary. Perhaps I should be sending out resumes.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Usually I'm a fan of the NY State Bar Association. Admittedly, my sole connection to the organization is the discount I use for CLE programs and a magazine I, at best, skim on a monthly basis. However, as they cashed my renewal check almost two weeks ago, it'd be nice if whatever call center NYSBA hired in the 757 area code (Norfolk, VA) would get notice and not call me at work to "discuss my renewal status."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby verdict

I tend to avoid politically-related posts on here, since it's pretty much guaranteed that 50% of the population will disagree with whatever is written. So without commentary, Lewis "Scooter" Libby was found guilty (NY Times story) on four of the five counts against him.

In other news, posting will likely continue to be sporadic for the indefinite future.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sex Offenders: Civil Confinement Close

The Times-Union is reporting that the various legislative interests and Gov. Spitzer are close to a deal on a law authorizing post-sentence civil confinement of sex offenders. Details are to be released later today (3/1).

I'd expect that, no matter what is signed into law, there will be a period before anything is settled as this is an area ripe for Constitutional challenges.