August 10, 2013

How civil forfeiture laws are being used to target the innocent

In the New Yorker, TAKEN by Sarah Stillman

Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?

In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.
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But a system that proved successful at wringing profits from drug cartels and white-collar fraudsters has also given rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties. Over the past year, I spoke with more than a hundred police officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and forfeiture plaintiffs from across the country. Many expressed concern that state laws designed to go after high-flying crime lords are routinely targeting the workaday homes, cars, cash savings, and other belongings of innocent people who are never charged with a crime.

Tip:  Don't ever drive through Tenaha, Texas.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

February 8, 2011

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning."

More candor urged in care of dying cancer patients

WASHINGTON – Patients don't want to hear that they're dying and doctors don't want to tell them. But new guidance for the nation's cancer specialists says they should be upfront and do it far sooner.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology says too often, patients aren't told about options like comfort care or even that their chemo has become futile until the bitter end.

To help families broach the topic, too, the group developed an easy-to-read booklet about those choices, from standard care to symptom relief, and advice about what to ask to maximize remaining time.

"This is not a 15-minute conversation, and it should not happen in the back of the ambulance on the way to the ICU at 3 in the morning," says ASCO chief executive Dr. Allen Lichter. "When everyone is well and has their wits about them, it's time to start the process."

The guidance and booklet — available at http://www.cancer.net — mark an unusually strong push for planning end-of-life care, in a profession that earns more from attacking tumors than from lengthy, emotional discussions about when it's time to stop.

"This is a clarion call for oncologists . to take the lead in curtailing the use of ineffective therapy and ensuring a focus on palliative care and relief of symptoms throughout the course of illness," the guidance stresses.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2010

Billionaire pedophile goes free

On the heels of Roman Polanski, Jeffrey Epstein, hedge fund mogul, is a billionaire pedophile who got off almost scott free after completing his one year of "house arrest" in Palm Beach.

Conchita Sarnoff tells the story of the man who would have been jailed for most of his life, but for the fact he's a very rich and connected member of our ruling class where the members protect each other.

During Epstein’s term of “house arrest,” he made several trips each month to his New York home and his private Caribbean island. In the earlier stage of his sentence for soliciting prostitution with a minor—13 months in the Palm Beach Stockade—he was allowed out to his office each day. Meanwhile, Epstein has settled more than a dozen lawsuits brought by the underage girls who were recruited to perform “massages” at his Palm Beach mansion. Seven victims reached a last-minute deal last week, days before a scheduled trial; each received well over $1 million—an amount that will hardly dent Epstein’s $2 billion net worth.

But the question remains: Did Epstein’s wealth and social connections—former President Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers were just a few of the prominent passengers on his private jets—allow him to receive only a slap on the wrist for crimes that carry a mandatory 20-year sentence? Was he able, with his limitless assets and heavy-hitting lawyers—Alan Dershowitz, Gerald Lefcourt, Roy Black, Kenneth Starr, Guy Lewis, and Martin Weinberger among them—to escape equal justice?

Michael Reiter, the former Palm Beach police chief, certainly thinks so.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2010

Mortgage deadbeats too rich to live

Turns out  the rich are bigger deadbeats then the poor when it comes to walking away from their mortgage debts.    This is what happens when selfishness -  a bad investment for them  - trumps the moral obligation to pay their debts, a moral obligation owed not only to their creditors, but to the community at large, what we used to call, the civic good and it used to matter to most. 

Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich

Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.

More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic
.
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“The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.
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The CoreLogic data suggest that the rich do not seem to have concerns about the civic good uppermost in their mind, especially when it comes to investment and second homes. Nor do they appear to be particularly worried about being sued by their lender or frozen out of future loans by Fannie Mae, possible consequences of default.

They do have their own set of problems though.  With the estate tax set to come back in January, they may be "Too Rich to Live"

It has come to this: Congress, quite by accident, is incentivizing death.
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Not only will the top rate jump to 55%, but the exemption will shrink from $3.5 million per individual in 2009 to just $1 million in 2011, potentially affecting eight times as many taxpayers.

The math is ugly: On a $5 million estate, the tax consequence of dying a minute after midnight on Jan. 1, 2011 rather than two minutes earlier could be more than $2 million; on a $15 million estate, the difference could be about $8 million.
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Advisers say the estate-tax dilemma is especially awkward for heirs. "At least in December 2009, people wanted to keep their relatives alive," says Ronald Aucutt, an estate-tax attorney with McGuire Woods in the Washington area. Now he and others are worried that
heirs may be tempted to pull plugs on Dec. 31. Economists might call the taking of a life to reap a tax advantage a "perverse incentive." District attorneys might call it homicide.
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In New York the lapsing tax spawned a major family conflict, according to one attorney. As a wealthy patriarch lay dying at the end of the year, it became clear that under the terms of the will his children would receive more if he died in 2010, while his wife (not the children's mother) stood to benefit if he died in 2009. The wife then filed a "do not resuscitate" order and the children challenged it. The patriarch lived a few days into 2010, but his estate, like Mrs. Laub's, remains unsettled given the legislative uncertainty.

Mr. Aucutt, who has practiced estate-tax law for 35 years, expects to see "truly gruesome" cases toward the end of the year, given the huge difference between 2010 and 2011 rates

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2009

Life without Lawyers

One of the best essays so far this year.  Philip Howard in the Wall St. Journal on How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless
 
Calling for a "new era of responsibility" in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to "what free men and women can achieve."
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But there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't." Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive.

Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors say they wouldn't advise their children to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.
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We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don't.
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The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. We think of freedom as political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense.
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The overlay of law on daily choices destroys the human instinct needed to get things done. Bureaucracy can't teach. Rules don't make things happen. Accomplishment is personal. Anyone who has felt the pride of a job well done knows this.
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Freedom has a formal structure. It has two components:

1) Law sets boundaries that proscribe what we must do or can't do -- you must not steal, you must pay taxes.

2) Those same legal boundaries protect an open field of free choice in all other matters.

The forgotten idea is the second component -- that law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Law must provide "frontiers, not artificially drawn," as philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, "within which men should be inviolable."

This idea has been lost to our age.

George Will says of Howard's new book  "2009’s most needed book on public affairs.”"

"Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law" (Philip K. Howard)

Imagine the possibilities.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2008

My Will

And you thought lawyers could never get down and funky.  Check out Bob Noone and the Well-Hung Jury singing My Will

   

via Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

November 16, 2007

Gang rape victim punished with 200 lashes

Another horrifying example of the frighteningly intolerant kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi punished gang rape victim with 200 lashes and six months in jail.

She was 19 and in a car with an unrelated male when she was set upon by six armed attackers.

Because she attempted to "aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media" after her original sentence of 90 lashes, her physical punishment was doubled to 200 lashes.

After her lawyer challenged the verdict, the court withdraw his license to practice law and he must appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

And what can we do but pray for this poor woman and be thankful for our own legal system?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

November 9, 2007

Family businesses doing great, except...

A recent study finds that family businesses are increasingly led by women and expect robust growth, yet many will likely face financial problems because they have not prepared for managerial and ownership succession, nor have they prepared an personal estate plan.

Family businesses, increasingly led by women, need succession and financial planning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

August 30, 2007

Property Rights for AIDS widows Now

I've been reading about AIDS for almost 20 years and felt helpless about the growing catastrophe in Africa, but I never once heard about "property-stripping."

Property stripping is the traditional practice of the husband's family inheriting all his property after he dies.

In normal times, this had some logic; the husband's family had responsibility for the widow and her children, a brother often taking her as a second wife and so assuming responsibility for his nieces and nephews.

But things have changed. In the time of AIDS, the widow is likely also infected with the HIV virus, though not yet sick since her husband often gets it first and the disease is less advanced in her when her husband dies. So even if her brother-in-law hasn't died from AIDS himself, he is not willing to marry someone infected with HIV. And often the brother-in-law himself is sick or dead. Nevertheless, the family often still follows custom and seizes her house and farm and so she has no recourse but to turn to menial jobs, begging or prostitution. And since she was infected later, she may have years to spread her illness to her sex partners which are commonly many a day.

In a Washington Post editorial by Richard Holbrooke, published after Dr. Kim's NPR interview, he noted that increased testing and detection efforts was the "only effective prevention strategies can stop the spread of AIDS." He goes on to point out that "...monogamous women [are] thrown out of their homes for a disease they got from their husbands."

In other words, the survival strategies of poor, destitute women have become a major vector of the HIV virus.

Schaefer in How Stripping Spreads Aids says the cure for property stripping is "cheap, technically quite easy and would have an enormous secondary impact on economic growth"

The AIDS community talks endlessly about women's rights so why are they so silent one a problem which the community itself identifies as vitally important? The real irony is that solving this problem is politically correct in every aspect. A solution for property stripping will help widows and orphans and expand women's rights for every woman, whether affected by AIDS or healthy widows. Money is power and having control of their homes is a source of personal, social, political leverage that African women sorely lack today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2007

Another twist on alimony

Another case in uncharted legal territory.  If a man couldn't marry a man in Florida, does a divorced husband have to pay alimony to his former wife if she undergoes a sex-change operation?

Ex-wife becomes a man; ex-husband seeks to end alimony.

I'm betting the ex-wife will win.  Sanctity of contracts and all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

A Computer as Your Health Proxy? The 1% rule

With a health proxy, also known as advance medical directives, people can empower surrogates to make medical decisions for them when they can't.

How well do these surrogates do in predicting the wishes of their patients?

New Scientist reports Can computers make life-or-death decisions?

A review of 16 studies found that surrogates got it right only 68% of the time.

Bioethicist David Wendler of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, US and colleagues wondered whether a formula could be used to better predict a patient’s wishes.

The data suggested that most people want life-saving treatment if there is at least a 1% chance that following the intervention they would have the ability to reason, remember and communicate. If there is less than a 1% chance, people generally say they would choose not to have the treatment.

“The difference between zero and 1% is all the difference in the world for someone,” says Wendler.

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Wendler says he was surprised at the formula’s accuracy. “I think it’s fascinating. At first when you hear it you think ‘That just can’t be right,’” he says.

He imagines a situation in which a surrogate is told there is only a 5% chance that an incapacitated loved one will survive a life-saving surgery following an auto accident. He says that the relative might predict that the patient would not want the intervention while the formula would predict that they did.

Wendler now wants to collect medical care preferences from people of various ethnic, religious and gender groups, which will help his team refine the formula. He believes that a computer program might one day predict patient’s wishes to an accuracy of 90%.

And the tool could take some of the pressure off of relatives who sometimes have to decide whether or not to switch off a patient’s life support machine.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 17, 2007

Post Nups on the Rise

Post-Nuptial Agreements on the Rise as couples work to avoid fights in the future over finances.

While some people use a post-nup because they think their marriage is on the rocks, it's not unusual to write one to update a prenup.
Indeed, one factor in the rising use of post-nups is that more couples are using prenups and post-nups, especially in a second marriage.

Post-nups also get written after a major life event such as receiving a large inheritance, taking a business public, or even winning the lottery. Some of the strangest uses of the agreements include limiting the future number of children and, in the event of a divorce, deciding pet visitation and divvying up cemetery plots.

While a post-nup "suggests a lack of trust in one another," said Debbie Cox, a wealth advisor with JPMorgan Private Bank in Dallas, "it's really about prudent management of assets."
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Similarly, couples with "blended" families could use post-nups to ensure that the children from a previous marriage receive assets —such as a beloved family vacation home —in the event of a death or a divorce.

Cox said that while couples may not be thinking about a post-nup, a financial advisor should raise the issue to prepare for "a low-probability but high-impact event."

Ferro said that by setting forth expectations and obligations, the agreements actually can reduce everyday stress.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:54 PM | Permalink

November 17, 2006

Public lawyer, public fool

Brian Hathaway, 20, was accused of having sex with a dead deer, but  he found a public lawyer willing to defend him by arguing that because the deer was dead, it was not considered an animal and the charge should be dismissed. 

Lawyer argues sex with dead deer not crime.

The statute does not prohibit one from having sex with a carcass,”
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the Webster’s dictionary defines “animal” as “any of a kingdom of living beings,” Anderson said.

If you include carcasses in that definition, he said, “you really go down a slippery slope with absurd results.”

Anderson argued: When does a turkey cease to be an animal? When it is dead?

When it is wrapped in plastic packaging in the freezer? When it is served, fully cooked?

A judge should decide what the Legislature intended “animal” to mean in the statute, he said. “And the only clear point to draw the line in that definition, I believe, is the point of death.”

I wonder if he had any idea that he made himself and his client  a laughing stock across the nation.    Sometimes, it's better to take your lumps and not make a public fool of yourself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 18, 2006

First, second and removed

The best explanation for the difference between second cousins and first cousins once removed I have ever read comes from the Answer Girl.

The "first" and "second" designation refers to how many generations back you share an ancestor.
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"Once removed" and "twice removed" refer to whether or not you and the relative are members of the same generation. Nick and Chuck are sons of my first cousin Marie Louise, so they're once removed from me; they are second cousins to my children, Chris and Claire.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

Everyone loses

Two lesbians married in Vermont in 200 and had a child by artificial insemination.  Let's call them Anna and Susan.

Anna, the biological mother, renounced her homosexuality and taking the child with her, moved to Virginia where she won custody in the Virginia courts.

Susan brought suit in Vermont where the family court gave Susan custody and the Vermont State Supreme Court ruled that Vermont has exclusive jurisdiction.

So who's most closely following the twists and turns of this jurisdictional battle?  Fathers, who after divorce, lost custody battles against "moveaway" petitions filed by their ex-wives.

Kids, dads have much to lose

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Brooke Astor and Elder Abuse

Brooke Astor, now 104, inherited millions from her husband, Vincent Astor whose father died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Astor  is a noted philanthropist, giving away millions to the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall and the Museum of Natural History as well as many smaller projects and for which she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

No matter how rich, no one is immune from the perils of old age and incapacity.  Her legal guardian is her son from her first marriage, Anthony Marshall, 82, a Broadway producer. 

Her grandson, Philip Marshall, has filed papers in court alleging "elder abuse" and requesting that his father Anthony Marshall be moved as Brooke Astor's guardian.

Despite the $2.3 million Anthony Marshall pays himself yearly as his mother's guardian, he cut off Astor's access to expensive medication, reduced her doctors' visits and ordered her staff not to take her to an emergency room or call 911 without contacting him first. 

Relative says N.Y. philanthropist abused.

Philanthropist Brooke Astor, the 104-year-old society queen who gave away nearly $200 million to city charities, is now sleeping on a filthy couch in torn nightgowns while her son withholds money and proper medical care, her grandson charged in court papers.
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The papers also claim that Astor has been denied many of the staples of her high-society life. Her Estee Lauder face creams were replaced with petroleum jelly and her French chef was fired, they said. Nurses had to use their own money to purchase hair bonnets and socks for Astor, the papers say.

It is appalling how some children treat their aging parents.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 22, 2006

Estate of War

John Donovan hoped his fortune would create a legacy. But it tore his family apart.

After amassing a fortune of $100 million, was John Donovan shot in a plot by his son James, a money manager at Goldman Sachs, or did father John stage the crime scene?

Estate of War (WSJ subscription required)

After examining forensic evidence and financial records -- and interviewing Mr. Donovan, his two ex-wives, his five children and Goldman officials -- prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Donovan staged a crime scene to discredit his son James, whom he believed had masterminded a campaign by his children to take over his money and property, according to people interviewed by prosecutors.

The violent incident was the climax of a sordid feud that has torn apart the Donovan family and shaken Hamilton, Mass., a town of estates and horse trails north of Boston. Over the course of three years, what began as a dispute over tens of millions of dollars in trust funds has become an acrimonious battle featuring allegations of violent threats, betrayal, forgery and sexual abuse.

All that seems clear is that John Donovan lost his family and pretty much everything else.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2006

Noam Chomsky's estate planning techniques.

If you rail against the concentration of wealth in "trusts" by the wealthiest 1% of the population and you make a lot of money doing so, be sure to set up an irrevocable trust to protect your assets.

If you attack the "massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich" and make a lot of money doing so, be sure to have your own tax attorney.

If you attack private property rights as a tool for the rich and of no benefit to ordinary people, be sure to assign the copyrights of your books to your daughter so the copyright will last longer and she is taxed at a lower rate.

If you call capitalism, a "grotesque catastrophe", be sure to charge for your speeches, charge for your books, charge for post-talk receptions, charge a download fee for clips of your speeches and charge for CDs with clips from your earlier speeches.

With all that money, don't invest in bond funds or green companies or socially responsible enterprises, go for the funds that invest in oil companies, military contractors and pharmaceuticals yielding the maximum return.

It's okay because you're trying to help suffering people.

More on Noam Chomsky's estate planning techniques at the National Post.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2006

Checklist for the Business of Life

The Financial Planning Association and the National Endowment for Financial Education have teamed up to create an online life-stages financial planning tool.

  Life Events And Financial Decisions

Life Events & Financial Decisions is definitely a site to bookmark if only for as a checklist for the Business of Life™.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

Quite a story

When may federal courts hear claims that involve state probate proceedings? A dry legal question if you don't know the context.

Supreme Court hears ex-playmate's case.

With an oil fortune on the line, former stripper Anna Nicole Smith encountered a sympathetic audience at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Several justices said they were concerned that the one-time Playboy Playmate was kept from pursuing a piece of her late husband's fortune.

"It's quite a story," said Justice Stephen Breyer.

  Anne Nicole Smith

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:24 PM | Permalink

Why every couple needs a pre-nuptial agreement

John Mayoue on Why every couple needs a pre-nuptial agreement

Let's face it - marriage may well be a union of the hearts, but it is also a union of bank accounts. When couples marry, they create a legal relationship between one another. There are many financial advantages to marrying - this is how the government encourages people to marry instead of just living with one another - but if those marriages end, by divorce or even death, the legal relationship you have with your spouse may create unplanned financial fallout.

Who needs such fallout when you are going through the emotional trauma of a divorce, or mourning the death of a spouse? In many respects, a pre-nup is the practical way of avoiding at least some of the unpleasant realities. Couples who get a pre-nup, in my opinion, are doing the responsible thing - helping the person they love most by removing some aspects of the thing couples argue about most: money.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2006

Overcome frazzing

Maybe it's just the time of year, but all 3 news weeklies had stuff to note about the Business of Life. Time had a special report on How to Tune Up Your Brain.

My takeaways. apart for learning new words like screen sucking, frazzing, pizzled and doomdart. The best is frazzing defined as "frantic, ineffective multitasking, typically with the delusion that you are getting a lot done. The quality of the work, however, is poor."

Maybe our brave, new world making us all develop Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Millions of people don't prioritize and do what is most important, and so feel distracted, guilty and inadequate because they'll never get it all done.

For staying on track in a world when everyone is multi-tasking, don't be at anyone's beck and call and prioritize ruthlessly Minimize interruptions, the cost of which to the American economy is $588 billion/year. Turn everything off and take at least 30 minutes of downtime every day to think, relax and meditate.

For staying productive. Get a good night's sleep. You'll be more efficient and mentally sharp.

More anon.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2005

User-friendly family law

This should be helpful to a lot of people, like the 2.2 million who will get married this year, the 1.1 million couples who will get divorced, the 1 million who live with an unmarried partner and the new parents of 100,000 adopted children and who knows how many involved in child custody and child support cases.

It's the Family Law Center launched by Findlaw.

The FindLaw Family Law Center features information on a full range of topics, including prenuptial agreements, cohabitation and marriage, divorce, child custody and support, and domestic violence. The site also provides comprehensive and easy-to-understand articles, checklists, legal forms and links to a variety of state-specific resources and government agencies.

These resources are presented in a user-friendly format that enables FindLaw users to quickly and easily find the information that meets their specific needs. “Our mission is to give people the information they need to make informed decisions,” said Scott Kinney, vice president and general manager of Thomson FindLaw. “We built the Family Law Center to be a helpful, trustworthy resource for those seeking a legal perspective of their relationship and parenting issues. And, FindLaw can help them find a local attorney who specializes in representing individuals with Family Law needs

HT Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2005

Abortion - Understanding what's at stake

I have never read a more moving, intelligent discussion about abortion than by Amba, an accomplished writer, whose AmbivaBlog is describes as "the swing state of the religious and political blogosphere."

Here are the first two of a three-part series.

Part 1

The simplest central tenet of feminism – that being female is a full human plenitude, not a shameful lack – had saved my soul. Abortion, I believed, was a woman’s business. My body, my choice. Case closed.

Then I had one.

Part 2

But once it has successfully taken root, there’s something else we know about a human embryo:

-- That it has a drive to live and to become. How sensate or aware it may be at this stage is a mystery. That it intends with every molecule of its being to survive and fulfill its design is not. In fact – and it is a fact -- that drive is powerful enough to propel it eighty years into the future.

I should probably amend my statement that “we know this.” When we’re young, we don’t. We just think about “having a baby,” and maybe raising a child, from the foreshortened perspective of our own desires and life plans. This is one of the drawbacks of living in a culture that does its damndest to stay “forever young.” Only someone older, who’s taken a step back from the life cycle, can point out to you the reality that “a baby” will, barring misfortune, become a young adult, a middle-aged person, an old woman or man. I now look at the young and see how time will change their faces; I look at the old and imagine how they looked as a child. And when I think about a new embryo, and our “choice” to uproot it or harbor it, I don’t only, or even mainly, see an “innocent child.” I see that what we hold in our hands is the power to greenlight or to cancel – to make nothing -- a potentially eighty-year human life.

That’s pretty terrifying, when you think about it. And I’m suggesting that we should think about it. I know I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of convincing the “pro-life” that early abortion should stay legal, as I still sadly believe it must. But I do think I have a chance of convincing at least some of the “pro-choice” that women should be as terrified of risking accidental pregnancy now as we were back when abortion was illegal – not out of fear of the law or the dirty scalpel, but out of understanding of what’s at stake.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:19 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2005

Slavery in my home town

For those who think that slavery was so two centuries ago, a Saudi princess was arrested yesterday on forced labor charges. Full details at Solomonia

The wife of a Saudi prince was arrested yesterday for allegedly forcing two Indonesian housekeepers to work for her family at homes in Arlington and Winchester for meager wages over nearly two years.

A federal grand jury indicted Hana F. Al Jader on 10 counts of forced labor, domestic servitude, and other immigration offenses, alleging that she hid her servants' passports and work visas and threatened they would be harmed if they failed to perform the work.

Jader, a 39-year-old Saudi national married to Prince Mohamed Bin Turki Alsaud,
shuffled into US District Court in Boston yesterday in handcuffs and shackles, wearing a black leather jacket and copper-polished fingernails...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

March 5, 2005

How to Win Arguments

Do the lawyers in your life drive you crazy?  Do they always want to argue, even the littlest thing?  If so, you need a crash course in the art of argument. 

Kevin Eismann, a lawyer in Kaukauna, Wisconsin has disclosed lawyer tricks of the trade, an event, in and of itself, so remarkable and the presentation so hilarious that it was noted and quoted by the Wall St. Opinion Journal  two days running.  Here it is, just slightly edited.

UPDATE:  Turns out that Kevin Eismann has plagiarized a piece that Dave Barry wrote in 1981.  How embarrassing for Attorney Eismann to have this fact noted in a correction
in the widely read WSJ's  Best of the Web.   

Use meaningless but weighty-sounding words and phrases: Memorize some Latin abbreviations such as “Q.E.D.,” “e.g.,” and “i.e.” These are all short for “I speak Latin, and you do not.”

Suppose you want to say: “Iranians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don’t have enough money.” You never win arguments talking like that. But you WILL win if you say: “Let me put it this way. In terms of appetizers vis-a-vis Iranians qua Iranians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D.”

Only a fool would challenge that statement.

Memorize this list:
  • Let me put it this way
  • In terms of
  • Vis-a-vis
  • Per se
  • As it were
  • Qua
  • So to speak
  • Res ipsa loquitor
  • Ergo
  • Ratiodissenti
Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks: The best are:
  • You’re begging the question.
  • You’re being defensive.
  • Don’t compare apples and oranges.
  • What are your parameters? (This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what “parameters” means).
Plea for justice: Even the most coldhearted mercenaries have some decency. Explain how championing your position would reap social benefits. Nobody is ever against virtue. Play it up and dramatize your arguments. Throw in facts and figures. Bring in concrete examples to illustrate your point. Introduce visual documents if you can, they are usually indisputable.

Drink liquor: Suppose you’re at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you’re drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you’ll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance. But if you drink several large martinis, you’ll discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You’ll be a wealth of information. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

Make things up: Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid, and you’re damned if you’re going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don’t say: “I think Peruvians are underpaid.”

Say: “The average Peruvian’s salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 before the mean gross poverty level.” NOTE: Always make up exact figures. If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up too. Say: “This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon’s study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 1982. Didn’t you read it?”

Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler: This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: “That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say.”

So there it is: The art of the argument. Use at your own risk.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:05 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2005

The Stress of Lawyers

Did you know that lawyers are more likely to be alcohol abusers than other professionals?  I didn't either until I read  "I'll Drink to That. On Second Thought" by Bruce McEwn over at Adam Smith Esquire.   Alcohol abuse among lawyers is 18% vs 10% nationwide according to the ABA.  Adam Smith Esq  has two thoughts as to why:
1. Lawyers don't control what they work on but instead work on goals determined by others.
2. The role of lawyers is to be risk averse, cautionary, even negative.

No wonder, I don't practice law anymore.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:47 PM | Permalink