Being Stalked By Weather
Happily back in San Diego after a couple of days up the coast in Ventura. The little roadtrip was planned back in September as a pre-Christmas shopping trip scheduled around a billable court appearance but ended up just being a rain-drenched driving nightmare sandwiching an otherwise successful little hearing.
There was some anxiety about the scheduled trial, because the judge at our September settlement conference seemed skeptical of some of our legal arguments. Even more anxiety when I showed up at the courthouse and found there were fifteen cases on our particular judge’s calendar for that afternoon, and began to worry if I had enough clean socks and undies to deal with a continuance. Then when checking in the clerk let me know that because of the scheduling crunch we were being transferred to a different department down the hall. The new judge, my new most favorite judge, loved our legal arguments, and the hearing was a breeze. And easily the best part of the trip.
The rest of the trip was simply a rain-soaked disaster. Most Californians simply can’t drive safely in the rain, and despite a major storm with high winds most Angelenos still seemed to be trying to navigate the highways with a cell phone in one hand and a latte in the other. The 170 mile trip took 4 1/2 hours to make. I lost count of the number of totalled cars on the sides of the highways, but loved the semi on the 5 in Los Angeles that managed to block all four southbound lanes after it hit the center divider. Too bad the camera was in the trunk. Fortunately his debris only blocked one of the northbound lanes I was using.
Even walking around Ventura this morning there was snow visible on the nearby hillsides and I almost killed myself sliding on the frozen timbers of the Ventura Pier.
This isn’t the way a trip up the California coast is supposed to go, even in December. This wasn’t even Central California. This is the weather I abandoned in DC and Idaho, and now it’s followed me here. Maybe I should have tried for a restraining order while I was at the courthouse.
Silly Laws, Sung To The Tune of Jingle Bells
Curious reading about the Montgomery County, Maryland, ban on the early sale of Christmas trees. Not the reasons, but the drafting issues. The sale of “Christmas trees” before December 5 (or after December 25) is clearly not allowed under their Zoning Code. But reading their silly code, my first question is what is a Christmas tree? Everything from a scrawny little Charlie Brown tree to the ginormous tree down at the Mall that’s pine or near-pine? What about the little Christmas tree in my snow globe? What if I label my cut pine tree as commemorating Hannukah or Pearl Harbor Day? Can I try to market to a niche audience and offer to sell cut pine trees to people celebrating National Fritters Day on December 2, or would that be infringing on the sacred and probably trademarked tradition of using cut pine trees to commemorate the birth of the Savior?
I guess my point here is why is this any government’s business, period? Is there a growing season where they’re too small to be taken from the wilds, like trout? Do they emit a killer-pollen if cut in the warmer seasons? Or did someone just get pissy about early decorations and pass an irrational and poorly worded law?
Interesting article in the North County Times on the San Diego courts’ efforts to deal with reduced funding at a time when the need for the courts’ services is greater than ever. Sure, reducing staff through attrition is on the list, as is reduced window hours. More importantly though is what’s not on the list: e-filing, electronic files, and a decent online calendar and docket system being at the top of my list. I regularly use the online systems in other counties, Ventura and Riverside in particular, for my current caseload. Both counties provide much more information without the need for a clerk’s time or effort, though neither yet come close to the federal court system of storing all filed documents electronically. Unfortunately my guess though is that the local courts won’t be able to pull together the start-up capital for any decent move forward until times are good again, and then they won’t have the incentive to do so.
Spending the night in downtown San Buenaventura (aka Ventura) after a day of participatic in mindless formalities for the judicial system. Main Street here has a nice mix. On one hand is eclectic retail like antique shops, consigment shops and used book stores. On the other is a wide assortment of restaurants.
But never the two shall meet.
The retailers mostly have very limited hours, like 11-5 and not on Tuesdays. The restaurants might be open, but what’s the point of going for dinner at four in the afternoon at my age. Maybe the two halves work well for the lunch hour, but at dinner it just seemed like a mess of wasted opportunities. Especially considering the number of things in the windows I would’ve considered buying if the shops were open.
Verdict Watch Blues
Been kinda just hanging out since I got out of court Tuesday. It wasn’t a big trial for anyone except the participants, and technically it was a trial de novo of a prior administrative hearing that I wasn’t even involved in. Not pleasant though, and very draining.
Cross-examining children about what their dog had done and whether it was legally vicious. Legal arguments about whether this case was about the total life of the dog (apparantly a devotee of the Philosophy of Lassie who helps ADHD children cope and loves everyone) or the one permanently scarring incident that left a 9-year-old boy with 22 stitches trying to reattach the dangling remains of his upper lip.
And now, waiting for a decision. It might have been mailed yesterday. It might not come down for a couple of weeks. Either way the matter’s out of my hands, but still dragging me down.
Law And Independent Scrutiny
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on DNA evidence as it’s presented in court. Not OJ’s bloody glove stuff, but an look at the analysis and statistics that creates the astronomical odds that are so overwhelmingly powerful to a jury. It’s a very interesting article.
From what I see there, my inclination is to agree with the government scientists that as the number of samples in the database expands, the number of coincidental near-matches will necessarily expand too. Even though that seems obvious, what scares me is how well the article documents the government’s resistance to have this theory independently verified. Outside research is bad, and any research that might make obtaining convictions more difficult must be illegal.
Which gets us to the charming passage near the end of the article:
After the defense filed a contempt-of-court motion, Michelle Groves, the [Maryland] state’s DNA administrator, argued in court and in an affidavit that, based on conversations with Callaghan at the FBI, she believed the request was burdensome and possibly illegal.
According to Groves, Callaghan had told her that complying with the court order could lead Maryland to be disconnected from CODIS — a result Groves’ lawyer said would be “catastrophic.”
Groves’ affidavit was edited by FBI officials and the technology contractor that designed CODIS, court records show. Before submitting the affidavit, Groves wrote the group an e-mail saying, “Let’s see if this will work,” court records show.
It didn’t. After the judge, Steven Platt, rejected her arguments, Groves returned to court, saying the search was too risky. FBI officials had now warned her that it could corrupt the entire state database, something they would not help fix, she told the court.
Platt reaffirmed his earlier order, decrying Callaghan’s “unilateral” decision to block the search.
“The court will not accept the notion that the extent of a person’s due process rights hinges solely on whether some employee of the FBI chooses to authorize the use of the [database] software,” Platt wrote.
I like judges. I like the system when it encourages and allows a third party like a judge or a jury to see and hear all the facts of a case and reach an impartial decision. I really hope we can get back to that type of system at the federal level sometime soon.
Sometimes a little slapstick among “friends” is fun. Like when the Three Stooges turn on each other, or when Hillary and Barack take shots at each other, or the strippers start wrestling in Jello. You know they’re going to make up in the end, or at least pretend to, but sitting on the sidelines and watching them fight is just, well, entertaining.
So, as summarized by one of the other bystanders sitting at the virtual drool rail:
“There appears to be some disagreement between the two groups,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit to challenge Prop 8.
“They realize the tide of history is against them,” he said. “They are becoming more desperate and shrill, and under those circumstances, divisions tend to emerge.”
Apparantly there are differences of opinion between the supporters of Propostion 8 over who has better shown their wacky views, and thus who can better represent them in court. I’ve hated longer. But my hate is deeper. So, yes, this law.com article is lawyer geek stuff, but it’s fun to read. Except it would be nice if both groups would just drown in the Jello.
The Race For The Middle Ground
Just noticed that my last two posts at Beachlaw were about San Onofre State Beach here in California abandoning its clothing optional policy, and a city pool in southern Utah being pressured to abandon its ban on bikinis and speedos. Aside from academic interest due to an article I’ve been trying to write for forever about the different approaches to legislative drafting of silly dresscode ordinances, I’m just terrified to think that Southern California and Southern Utah might actually be of one mind on such an issue, even though they’re racing to the center from such different extremes.
Is It Friday Yet?
Rough day watching other people’s relationships in action. There were a lot of reasons I never wanted to get back into family law, and the emotional stress of spending too much time dwelling on the issues from failed relationships tended to make me dark and cynical. Even darker and more cynical than I was after the nine years with State. Hearing all the stories and witnessing on the pain can make you spend too much time saying ‘what if’ when dealing with your own life. Better to live the life. I think I’m handling it better this time around – having someone around to slap me back to reality when needed helps. But after this morning I’m really ready for a vacation. Sure, I’m scheduled to swing by the courthouse on Monday and put the legal stake in someone else’s marriage, but it’s been undead for years and both sides need to move on. Fortunately they’re getting divorced in Ventura, on the way to this year’s vacation central. So after legalizing that reality, I can put the file away and spend three days on the beach with Spinner and Diego. Eat good food, see good friends, ride good waves, take some (hopefully good) photographs. All the things that go with vacation.
‘Minion’ is Gender-Neutal
A woman who was fired from her job as a receptionist after she refused to get coffee for the men in the office has lost her Title VII sexual harassment suit now that a federal judge has declared that there’s nothing sexist about requiring workers to serve coffee — even if those workers are always women.
Interesting article, not as much for the ruling, which I agree with, but seeing a plaintiff go to court on the theory that because this particular minion is a woman it’s demeaning to have to complete tasks that stereotypically are assigned to women. Minions are minions.