Monday, August 14, 2017

It's the Little Things

So obvious I can't see it
Once upon a time I had a laptop computer that was giving me trouble.  Seems no matter how long I had the computer plugged in, the battery wouldn't charge. Sometimes, even with a full charge (and right in the middle of a presentation), my laptop computer would just turn off.

Luckily the computer was on warranty.  So, first I had the power ports replaced, then all the ports (USB, HDMI, everything) were replaced, then they replaced the power cord, the keyboard and, the day before the warranty was to expire, they replaced the motherboard.  Nothing helped.

One day, I was in a computer repair shop.  The guy across the counter was talking to a customer who sounded like he had the same problem I did. Then the repair guy said, "Did you remove the battery and run straight off the power cord?"  

Wait.  Remove the battery?  If I remove the battery, then I can't move around.  Turns out, that was the problem.  I removed the battery and the laptop worked fine.  Problem solved.

This, of course, reminded me of a guy who came into the library a while back.  Seems he had filed his complaint, got past the summary judgment and demurrers and was flying through discovery.  When the other side (defendant) would not release documents he had requested, Guy filed a Motion to Compel Discovery and lost.  What?!? he screamed at me. How could I have lost?!??!  Stupid judges!  Stupid lawyers! Stupid "justice" system!

I asked, 
  • Did you do any research before you filed your motion?
  • Did you file a "complete" motion (notice and motion, declaration, points and authorities, order)?  
  • Did you locate case law and/or codes and include them in your points and authorities?
  • Did you Shepardize your cases and codes to see if they were still "good" law (which you/he could then cite in a motion)?"

"Shepardize?" he asked. "What does it mean to Shepardize?"  Doh!  


Turns out he had not Shepardized his research.  Had he done so, he would have found that the only case he cited in his motion had been overruled (a BIG no no to cite an overrulled case).  So, the judge and the lawyers and the "justice" system weren't stupid, he, on the other hand was,...uh....well.....

I guess the moral to this story is, if you think you've covered all your bases and still can't figure out where you went wrong, maybe it's time to call in the experts.  That's right. When next you get in a bind with all things legal, why not head on over to your local county law Library and see if we can't help you see where things went awry.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Running with the Big Dogs

Everything is easy when you do it long enough
The other day I was reading an article on the 15 skills employers just expect people to have.  Number 8 was the ability to do online research.  The article stated, simply, that any fool can do research - just type a search in Google and you can find what you want.

Really?  It's that simple - just google it?  Do you realize how many people have tried to "just google" their legal work and were blown away by the judge or the clerk or opposing counsel? 

The thing is that research is not all that easy for someone who doesn't do it all day, every day.  Heck, even though I've been doing legal research for almost 2 decades, I still get stumped.  Take, for example the question an attorney asked me the other day.

Seems attorney had done some work on a case but was substituted out (client wanted to hire someone else).  Attorney decided that the work he had done on the case thus far warranted compensation - so he put a lien on the case (so that he could get paid when there was a settlement).  Fast forward a few months and the parties reached a settlement - except that the parties didn't bother to include Attorney in their settlement discussions.

Attorney now wants a copy of the settlement agreement but the parties refused to cough it up.  So, to the law library he went.  Yeah, I didn't have a clue what Attorney was talking about. What I did have were mad research skills - so, I first headed over to California Practice Guide: Enforcing Judgments and Debts (TR).  A few minutes futzing around liens and settlements, I see a small reference to intervention.  Back to Attorney I went but, turns out Attorney didn't want to intervene in the case - he just wanted a copy of the settlement agreement.

So, next moved over to Debt Collection Practice (CEB), looked in the Index under Liens, and found a notation for Intervention in pending action by judgment creditor, § 11.16 which really didn't help me but it did have a notation to California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 708.470.  

I then looked under CCP § 708.470 in Deering's California Codes and found a notation under the Heading: Collateral References to look in California Forms of Pleading and Practice Chp. 318 (Judgments).  Without hesitation, I moved over to to California Forms of Pleading and Practice, pulled Vol. 27, Chp. 318 and, after a little perusing, found Sections 
  • 392 (Notice and Motion to Apply Rights Under Judgement to Satisfaction of Lien)
  • 393 (Declaration in Support of Motion for Order Applying Rights Under Judgement to Satisfaction of Lien), and
  • 394 (Order Granting Motion to Apply Judgment Debtor's Property to Satisfaction of Lien)
...which was exactly what Attorney was looking for.

Did you see what I did there?  
  1. First I started with a reputable secondary authority (Enforcing Judgments and Debts), to get a basic understanding of what I'm dealing with
  2. Then jumped to another secondary authority (Debt Collection Practice) to get more foundational information
  3. Followed by a primary authority (CCP § 708.470) to see what the law is
  4. Followed by another secondary authority (California Forms of Pleading and Practice) which led me to what was wanted.
Start with something that tells you about the subject, move to the law, follow up with something that explains what the law is.  Four steps in little under 25 minutes.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  

So, when you're ready to play with the big dogs and bone up on your legal research skills, head on over to your local county law library and we'll help you get where you need to be.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Word of the Month for August 2017: Habit

Habits
A few months back, I turned off my Facebook account because the wankers kept kicking my blog posts.  I hadn't realized how much time I was wasting until I stopped logging onto Facebook.  

Hours of wasted time dinking around looking at stuff that had very little to do with life as we know it.  It was a habit that was relatively easy to break; just turned off my account and never looked back.  Of course, I had to explain to family and a few friends (yes, I have a few) why they couldn't find me any more but, really, that was a habit I didn't mind breaking.

So, what is/are a habit?  According to Black's Law Dictionary, HABIT is defined as:
Something that a person does often, generally with little or no thought.  A person's usual behavior.
Simplex, Inc. v. Diversified Energy Sys., Inc., 847 F.2d 1290, 1293 (7th Cir. 1988) noted that “before a court may admit evidence of habit, the offering party must establish the degree of specificity and frequency of uniform response that ensures more than a mere ‘tendency’ to act in a given manner, but rather, conduct that is ‘semi-automatic’ in nature.”  

So, do you have any semi-automatic habits?  Things that you do without thinking?  Like smoking, picking your nose, biting your fingernails, binge shopping, swearing like a sailor, all work and no play, that sort of thing?  You know, things you do without thinking that cause that cute blond sitting next to you turn away because you just grossed her out?

Thing is, some habits can actually save your life.  Take, for example, the guy who came into my library the other day. Seems he was an alcoholic by trade.  Typically not the job description you want on your resume but I guess some people set low goals.

Anyway, guy had been charged with California Penal Code 245(a)(1).  Seems guy had been accused of attacking a person a person with a knife a few weeks before.  Problem was, guy couldn't remember attacking anyone on the night in question (what with being drunk most of the time).  In fact, there was one bit of testimony that really got guy thinking: the victim had said that guy attacked him at 11PM. 

The problem was guy could always be found at his favorite bar at that time and had a number of people who could attest to that fact (including the barkeep).  Guy wanted some information (that he was always at his bar at 11PM every night) about how to get information of his particular habit in front of a judge.

Knowing my collection like I do, I suggested guy take a look at:
and guy was off and running developing a defense as best he could (I mean, it's not easy functioning sober when you're typically a functioning alcoholic).  Turn's out, his habit of getting mindlessly drunk every night at 11PM was a good thing and actually got him off the hook.  Who knew?!

Good thing guy's got habits that help. Heck, good thing he's got a county law Librarian who has mad legal research skills and who knows what can help him when he's down on his luck. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

What was he thinking?!

Live long and prosper
Don't know if you know but I'm married to a most beautiful woman, have kids, have a mortgage, bills to pay, places that I want to go, things I want to do, people I want to annoy. Because of all this, I try not to put myself in situations that are going to get me killed (any time soon).  OK, yes - I work in a stressful environment where, at any time, someone could (and have) just flipped out.  But, besides, that, you don't see me bungee jumping into a hornet's nest just because it's there.

This was the thought that was going through my mind the other day when I was reading about some guy that got killed/murdered.  Seems he was standing outside his home at 3am arguing with some drunk guy.  First, if you don't work the night shift, why are you not in bed dreaming about unicorns and rainbows?  Second, if you're going to be outside your home at 3am, have the good sense NOT to argue with drunk people!

Seems this guy didn't follow my sense of logic and was outside his house arguing with a drunk guy at 3am, got stabbed (multiple times) and died on the way to the hospital.  What a waste.  I hope he didn't have kids.  I hope he didn't have a wife to take care of.  I hope he didn't have a mortgage, bills, places that he wanted to go to or things he wanted to do or people he wanted to annoy - because all of that is over; all because he wasn't where he was supposed to be (i.e. in bed dreaming about unicorns and rainbows).

While this isn't so much a blog post about legal research, it is a rant to people who feel the need to stand outside their homes at 3am and argue with random drunk people.  

Just, don't do it - because there be crazy people roaming the streets at night.  Best to stay inside where you have a fighting chance at survival because if you go outside in the wee hours of the morning, you're just going to wind up being another statistic.

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's alive

If you're not you, then what are you
Do you know who (or what) you are?  Do you have a name?  An identity?  Are you animal or vegetable?  The thing is that most everyone is someone (or something). Their parents knew they were someone when they were born and the government recognized them as a type of person when they were born (i.e. male or female).  Heck, even the SCOTUS got into the act and says a fetus is human in the third trimester. Yet, even with all this, there is still someone out there who insists on relegating the individual as a non-element.

Such was my thinking when I read an article (online, this time) about a hospital who left the identity of a newborn blank.  It was neither male nor female.  Forget the internal plumbing - we're going to call this thing an "it" for (at least) the first 8 years.

The (or a) problem with this is that when you deny a person's natural identity (be it gender or a human), you devalue that person's very existence.  Heck, labeling a human fetus as a "blob of tissue" denies unborn human children the acknowledgement of life.  For goodness sake, a freaking Revolutionary War was fought to determine that 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
To be fair, the woman who bore this "it" of a kid is Canadian (and Canadians are pretty out there by most anyone's standards (heck, even their money is called "a loonie")). Thing is, there are a fair number of people in these United States of America that think this is a good thing.

So, uh, where might all this "it" stuff lead?

In the very least, it'll lead to a bunch of confused people.  No way to identify you so we'll just call you an "it."  An "it" is a non-element.  Dang but if you thought introverts were withdrawn, wait until you see what calling a bunch of kids "it" does to their psyche.

Then there is the government element.  Allowing society to call a human entity an "it" allows government to do anything it wants to "it."  They can experiment on/with "it," abort "it," deny "it" benefits that would be granted to a male or female, or ignore "it" when "it" comes in for a doctor's exam.  It's and "it," after all.  No gender, no rights, no existence.  Really, guys - you're OK with this?  

Maybe I'm out in right field with this stuff but when I read constitutional resources like:
...I start to wonder how far "we the people" will take "we the people" until "we the people" realize that "we the people" are just a bunch of neutered rats?  Remember Soylent Green? Yeah, great movie but what I got from it is that it's easy(ier) to control and ignore that people are people when you can simply reduce them down to a cracker (or a pronoun, as the case may be).