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That Could’ve Gone Better Print E-mail
by John Browning    Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 11:03 AM

Years ago, I tried a case in which the elderly plaintiff, egged on by her adult daughter, turned down what I thought was a pretty generous six-figure settlement offer and insisted on proceeding to trial.  When the jury came back in my client’s favor with a verdict that the plaintiff receive nothing, she looked absolutely stunned.  The adult daughter—never at a loss for words—simply started berating the despondent-looking attorney, screeching “Well, that could’ve gone better!”  It is an image that remains with me whenever I hear of moments at trial that go horribly awry for one side or the other.  Here are a few of my recent favorites:

 

A Defense That’s All Wet

 

55 year-old Marie Rusin was in federal court in New York recently, accused of scamming the Long Island Rail Road pension fund.  In an earlier proceeding, she was accused of “fabricating a medical condition” in order to avoid a trip to Manhattan to meet with federal prosecutors.  This time, Rusin “slumped over and did other things to make it appear she needed medical attention” in court, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Weddle.  To really sell the supposed performance, prosecutors say, Rusin purposely peed in her pants—the evidence of which was still staining the courtroom chair as she was taken to a nearby hospital.  While Rusin’s attorney denies that his client was faking a medical problem to get out of court, the incontinent defendant was released after about an hour and the hearing resumed.

 

She Rubbed This Lawyer the Wrong Way

 

It’s got to be somewhat awkward when you are a lawyer defending someone accused of illegal human trafficking, as Chicago lawyer Douglas Rathe was in August 2011.  Rathe was defending Alex “Daddy” Campbell in federal court.  Campbell was accused of exploiting immigrant women by having them work at his massage parlor and perform sexual favors for money (called “extras”) pocketed by Campbell; he allegedly kept the women under constant threat of deportation.  At trial, witness after witness testified about Campbell’s reign of terror.  But the trial came to an abrupt halt when Ukrainian immigrant Liudmyla “Liuda” Ksenych told prosecutors that she recognized defense attorney Rathe as a client from the massage parlor where she worked for Campbell.  U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman declared a mistrial.  In the meantime, in a hearing that had to give new meaning to the words “awkward” and “uncomfortable,” Rathe testified about how he was indeed a massage client of “Liuda,” and had given her gifts and exchanged e-mails with her—but that there was no sex involved.  Campbell is set for a new trial in January, and with a new defense attorney—one who hasn’t frequented his massage parlors.

 

Some People Beat the Rap, Others Beat the Judge

 

Philadelphia defense attorney Joseph Stanton was defending right to life advocate Margaret McGrath in July 1997.  The 60 year-old McGrath faced harassment and assault charges stemming from her picketing of a northeast Philadelphia abortion clinic.  During an in-chambers hearing in the midst of trial, assistant district attorney Brian Grady “got carried away” and tried to assault Judge Richard Klein.  When defense attorney Stanton intervened, he got pummeled for his trouble.  Grady was held in contempt of court and fined $2,500.  A mistrial was declared and another judge granted a motion to bar the retrial of Ms. McGrath, calling Grady’s acts “a signal of the breakdown of the integrity of the judicial proceeding.”  That’s too bad—I wanted to negotiate the pay-per-view rights for the rematch.

 

Helpful Tip—Don’t Call the Judge an “Ass Clown”

 

Paul Hupp filed for bankruptcy and tried to discharge $80,000 worth of student loan debt, and the legal maneuverings in his case brought the dispute all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.  But perhaps he should have invested in a lawyer instead of representing himself, because his persuasion skills could use a little work.  For example, his brief is one long, rambling missive full of profanity, most of which is directed against the judges themselves.  I can’t quote most of Hupp’s choice wording in a family newspaper—suffice it to say that “slime ball” and “ass clown” are about the most printable ways he addresses the court.  And while there are many ways to respond to an argument by opposing counsel, I’m pretty sure that “Wrong, bitches” is not the preferred way taught in most law schools.  Hupp’s appeal was denied—color me surprised.

 

Taking the Hypocritical Oath

 

60 year-old violinist Martin Stoner wants to be judged for his abilities, not his age.  After being rejected from a competition run by the nonprofit Young Concert Artists, Stoner (who played with the New York City Ballet orchestra for 25 years) filed an age discrimination lawsuit in federal court on his own behalf.  But after his case was assigned to 88 year-old Manhattan federal judge Robert Patterson, Stoner cried foul and filed a judicial complaint seeking a different judge because, he claims, Patterson is too old.  In his complaint, Stoner argues that Judge Patterson “could barely see unless he put his face almost on top of a document,” that he “should be removed from the bench both because of his mental and physical limitations,” and because he’s “too old to preside.”  The irony isn’t lost on anyone, including Stoner.  “I know it sounds kind of like hypocrisy,” he says.  Young Concert Artists director Susan Wadsworth says “The whole thing is pretty comical.”  Good luck appearing credible as a crusader against age discrimination, Mr. Stoner—you’re going to need it.

 

Maybe the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

 

Joshua Monson, a defendant up on felony drug charges in Snohomish County, Washington, is finding it hard to come by both defense lawyers and office supplies lately.  That is because he keeps stabbing his attorneys with pencils and pens—to the point where Judge David Kutz has declared that Monson has forfeited his right to counsel.  In the first two incidents, Monson was accused of stabbing two different lawyers with pencils smuggled in from jail.  In the third incident on November 1, Monson allegedly grabbed a pen from defense attorney Jesse Cantor and stabbed him in the head during the prosecutor’s opening statement.  For the rest of his trial, Monson will not only have to represent himself, but he’ll do so strapped to a special chair—a lá Hannibal Lecter.  Judge Kutz instructed the jury to ignore the pen-stabbing incident, the absence of counsel, and Monson’s unique restraints.  And for goodness sake, don’t let him anywhere near an office supply store!

 

When All Else Fails, Blame Your Legal Education

 

Finally, there are those lawyers who personify the old saying about how it is better to remain silent and risk people thinking you’re ignorant than to open your mouth and confirm their suspicions.  This exchange comes from an actual trial transcript quoted in a case that went up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The judge and the plaintiff’s attorney, Mr. Phipps, are discussing the applicability of certain cases to the one Phipps is arguing:

 

          Judge:   What do you do about Morgan?

          Phipps:  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know Morgan, Your Honor.

          Judge:   You don’t know Morgan?

          Phipps:  Nope.

          Judge:   You haven’t read it?

          Phipps:  I try not to read that many cases, Your Honor.

          Judge:   I must say, Morgan is a case that is directly relevant to this case.  And for you representing the Plaintiff to get up here—it’s a Supreme Court case—and say you haven’t read it.  Where did they teach you that?

          Phipps:  They didn’t teach me much, Your Honor.

          Judge:   At Tulane, is it?

          Phipps:  Loyola.

          Judge:   Okay.  Well, I must say, that may be an all time first.

          Phipps:  That’s why I wore a suit today, Your Honor.

          Judge:   Alright.  We’ve got your attitude, anyway.

 

Yeah, that could have gone better.

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Let Me Tell You (or Not) About the Birds & The Bees Print E-mail
by James Reza    Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 10:48 AM

All through my working career and even now in the music business I’m still in, I’ve seen lots of crazy and wild love bug interactions between men and women.  I’ve worked with men and women who seemed happily married and all of a sudden they start fooling around with someone at the workplace and bam! He or she is no longer married and they move on with their new found love and adios wife, kids, the house, etc.

In other work place situations I’ve seen where married company owners, supervisors, mostly male, find themselves being charmed by alluring female workers for a variety of reasons one can only imagine.  By the same token, I’ve seen men due to their supervisory status at work, grope or make unsavory and sexual advances at women who are under their authority. Most often, women who are single or divorce with children endure all that sexual harassment in fear of losing their job, which is sad indeed.  As the father of 2 fine-looking daughters, I’d get PO big time if they worked under those circumstances.  If one of my daughters would tell me they were being harassed at work, I definitely would go and have a talk with whoever was harassing them.  Thankfully, my daughter, Cecilia, an RN, works in the delivery room at JPS Hospital and my other daughter, Michele, works for a banking firm as a teller and data entry technician.  Neither of my daughters has ever told me they’ve been harassed at their work place.

Right after high school I worked as a mobile home builder.  Almost all of my co-workers were men, thus, I didn’t see any hanky panky in that work environment.  Then, I became a linotype operator (a trade I learned in high school), for a large printing firm.  Again, most of my coworkers were men.  However, the typesetting industry soon gave way to computers, and I flowed right along with the new typesetting technology.  Suddenly, I found myself working alongside women.  As I recall, some of the women were downright beautiful and friendly as heck.  What can I tell you, though married with 3 kids, I, as a young man, like so many others, started to goof around with the ladies at the workplace. Able, to somewhat control my emotions, I nonetheless enjoy fooling around with the opposite sex.  Some of you might be saying, “James, shame on you! Married with 3 kids and a wife, how could you be such a flirt?”  Folks, I’m just being honest.  Furthermore, I’m not gay, and though married, I love talking and being friends with one of God’s most beautiful creations — women!  To this day, after many years I still keep in touch by phone or email with many of my former female coworkers.

OK James, some might ask, where are you taking us with your opening comments?  My friends, I like so many of you am bored with the overkill coverage by the media of the Herman Cain (a Republican candidate) accusations that he sexually harassed several women.  Just recently, another woman who seems that she can’t get her story straight, alleged that he fondle her when he promised her a job some 13 years ago.  What troubles me about this gal (Sharon Bialek) is why didn’t she come out with her allegations when Mr. Cain ran for a Georgia Senate seat in 2004, or when he announced his candidacy for the Presidency as a Republican months ago.  Or, when his approval rating was at 2%.  No, it seems, she waited until he became the front-runner that motivated her to come out with her allegations.  At this juncture I have no Republican candidate I’m supporting.  To be honest, I thought Gov. Perry was going to be my candidate, but his inept debate performances and his decision to grant in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants made me change my mind.

What I personally have found so disturbing in all this Herman Cain fiasco, who I as of yet have not thrown my support for, has been the hypocrisy of the media in their bias reporting.  According to the Media Research Center, ABC, CBS, and NBC hit Cain sexual allegation stories 50 times in less than four days. In contrast, over a similar period these networks mostly ignored far more substantial and serious scandals relating to President Bill Clinton.  These same networks only released one story of Paula Jones sexual harassment charges.  Three mere reports of when Kathleen Willey a White House aid, who on March 15, 1998 alleged President Clinton sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President.  Ms. Willey was also subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.  For Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward in February 1999 to say Clinton raped her, only three stories followed charges appearing only in the Wall Street Journal.  The women who accused President Clinton of sexual misconduct were dragged through the dirt by this same media bunch now besmirching Mr. Cain, by defining them as trailer park trash and other belittling names.

It should be pointed out that all these women (Jones, Willey, and Broaddrick) offered their names.  They weren’t anonymous.  Additionally, the accusations of assault and rape go far beyond what’s being mentioned with the Cain scandal.  Then, let’s don’t forget the Lewinsky scandal when President Clinton pointed his finger at the American people on TV and told a bald face lie.

Almost always, the mainstream media will cover up the sex shenanigans of Democrats.  They praise the Democrats in their ability with their help of course, to cover up or lie about their sex misdeeds and are still able to help them get elected.  In other words they tell you all you want to know about the birds and the bees when it pertains to Republicans, but hush up when it applies to Democrats.

What many of us are witnessing with this Herman Cain fiasco is a modern day lynching of a black man by the KKK mainstream media because he happens to be a Republican and who as of yet not been convicted of sexual misconduct in a court of law!

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Coming Home Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, Nov 8, 2011, 09:52 AM

This story is a first person account, submitted by an American Self-Defense Institute member, Preston Schoentube.  Almost any one of us, however, could have written it under similar circumstances. . . . 

I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry-on’s and grab a seat, so we could start what I was sure to be a long, uneventful flight home.  With the huge capacity and slow moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead, and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head knowing that the flight was not starting out very well.

I was anxious to get home to see my loved ones, so I was focused on “my” issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns to get their act together.  I knew I couldn't say a word, so I just thumbed through the "Sky Mall" magazine from the seat pocket in front of me.  You know it’s really getting rough when you resort to the overpriced, useless sky mall stuff to break the monotony.  With everyone finally seated, we just sat there with the cabin door open and no one in any hurry to get us going, although we were well past the scheduled take off time.  No wonder the airline industry is in trouble, I told myself.  Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed.  The entire plane let out a collective groan.  She resumed speaking to say, “We are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane, and the delay shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes.”  

The word came, after waiting six times as long as we were promised(!), that I was finally going to be on my way home.  Why the hoopla over “these” folks?  I was expecting some celebrity or sports figure to be the reason for the hold up. . . .  Just get their backsides into a seat and let’s hit the gas, I thought.  The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and excited voice that we were being joined by several United States Marines returning home from Iraq !  Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into applause.

The men were a bit taken by surprise by the 340 people cheering for them as they searched for their seats.  They were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm’s distance of them as they passed down the aisle.  One elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the Marines as he passed by her.  The applause, whistles and cheering didn’t stop for a long time.  When we were finally airborne, “I” was not the only civilian checking his conscience as to the delays of “my” getting home, finding my easy chair, a cold beverage, and the remote control.

These men had done for all of us, and I had been complaining silently about “me” and “my” issues.  I took for granted the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life; I took for granted that others paid the price for my ability to moan and complain about a few minutes’ delay to “me” for those Heroes going home to their loved ones.  I attempted to straighten out my selfish outlook some, and minutes before we landed suggested to the attendant that she announce over the speaker a request for everyone to remain in their seats until our heroes were allowed to gather their things and be the first off the plane.  The cheers and applause continued until the last Marine stepped off, and we all rose to go about our too often taken-for-granted, everyday freedoms. 

I felt proud of them.  I felt it an honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and say “Thank You” for a job well done.  I vowed that I would never forget that flight or the lesson learned.  I can’t say it enough: “THANK YOU.”  Thank you to the active duty service men and women returning—and to all veterans, thanks for a job well done.  Welcome home.  And for those, who cannot come back because they are no longer with us, “THANK YOU” most of all.  And may God bless always these United States of America .

____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

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The Zombie Lawyer Apocalypse Print E-mail
by John Browning    Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 09:58 AM

Okay, first things first: this would have been an ideal subject for my column running last week, on Halloween weekend.  Unfortunately, deadlines—or “un-dead lines’—come and go with frightening speed.  Besides, anything pertaining to zombies lately is hot regardless of the time of year.  The AMC show “The Walking Dead” is setting ratings records (over 7 million tuned in to watch the program’s second season debut); Max Brooks’ book World War Z will soon be a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt, and zombie novels like Colson Whitehead’s Zone One are being devoured by readers faster than, well, zombies gobbling up human brains.

So why are zombies striking a popular chord nowadays?  The thought-provoking Slate magazine article “First, Eat All The Lawyers” by Torie Bosch espouses the theory that the public’s fascination with zombies is a reflection of our soured economy and the economic fears of white-collar workers.  As Bosch puts it, “The zombie apocalypse is a white-collar nightmare: a world with no need for the skills we have developed.  Lawyers, journalists, investment bankers—they are liabilities, not leaders, in the zombie-infested world.”  Bosch points out that, as in many post-apocalyptic scenarios, the strongest survivors in “The Walking Dead” tend to come from blue-collar backgrounds.  The people handiest to have around have farming and mechanical skills, and are comfortable with guns and hunting.  As proof, she points to one of the weakest characters—Andrea, a former civil rights attorney.  According to Bosch, “In the zombie apocalypse, your J.D. is worthless—which is actually not so different from the real world of recent years.”

Other writers have echoed this fear.  In World War Z, author Max Brooks describes it this way:

“You’re a high-powered corporate attorney.  You’ve spent most of your life reviewing contracts, brokering deals, talking on the phone.  That’s what you’re good at, that’s what made you rich and what allowed you to hire a plumber to fix your toilet, which allowed you to keep talking on the phone. . . . That’s the way the world works.  But one day it doesn’t.  No one needs a contract reviewed or a deal brokered.  What it does need is toilets fixed.  And suddenly that peon is your teacher, maybe even your boss.  For some, this was scarier than the living dead.” 

And in Zone One, Colson Whitehead paints a similarly bleak picture of those who “had graduated with admirable GPAs, configured monthly contributions to worthy causes, judiciously apportioned their 401(k)s across diverse sectors,” and who had otherwise “been honed and trained so thoroughly by that extinguished world that they were doomed in this one.”

Yes, for Bosch and other writers, pop culture’s boom in zombies is a reflection of our uncertain economic times, where corporate layoffs and the worst legal job market in decades serve as reminders that skills we might otherwise consider meaningful (like contract negotiation) aren’t quite so vital in the grand scheme of things.  Shows like “The Walking Dead” mirror the fear that all that book learning and corporate ladder-climbing will count for nothing when you’re world is turned upside down.  Bosch identifies with “[t]he suburbanite/urbanite viewer who can’t hunt, can’t slaughter animals, can’t grow her own food, [who] is meant to shudder at her ill-preparedness while watching.”

Bosch has a valid point, but perhaps she’s shortchanging lawyers.  As fans of The Walking Dead graphic novels (on which the TV show is based) know, weak link former attorney Andrea turns out to be an Annie Oakley-like crack shot who proves her worth to the struggling band of survivors.  And the zombie body count goes way up with the appearance of the mysterious, samurai sword-wielding Michonne, who it turns out had been a lawyer before the zombie pandemic.

For that matter, what about a world in which a zombie lawyer figures prominently?  Meet Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law, the heroine of novelist James Scott Bell’s (writing under the nom de plume K. Bennett) new book Pay Me in Flesh.  Caine is smart, stylish, and very much a zombie; as Bell puts it, she’s “hungry for justice—and brains.”  Caine may be one of Los Angeles’ walking dead, but she’s a practicing attorney helping other paranormal figures like a vampire hooker with their legal problems even as Satan himself plots to turn L.A. into his own headquarters (that last part may be as close as the book comes to non-fiction).  Caine doesn’t have a soul—a byproduct of being a zombie, not a defense attorney, though some may disagree—but she’s trying to get hers back.  In the meantime, however, she has to devour human flesh and brains, which is why the defense never rests—in peace.  As the tagline for Bell’s book puts it, “In L.A., practicing law can be hell.  Especially if you’re dead.”  A second Mallory Caine novel, The Year of Eating Dangerously, is due out in early 2012.

If flesh eating zombies ever emerge from anything other than pop culture and our collective subconscious, I hope that these lurching and drooling undead who come my way will leave me alone—if for nothing else than out of professional courtesy.

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U.S. Government Funds Manufacturing Jobs Overseas Print E-mail
by Tom Pauken    Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 09:08 AM

A government-guaranteed loan to a so-called green energy company Solyndra has been in the news lately. Solyndra was supposed to employ thousands of Americans in the production of solar panels and received federal loan guarantees from the Obama administration in excess of half a billion dollars. Now, the company has filed for bankruptcy, and the American taxpayers are expected to get little or nothing back from this dubious investment.

Solyndra wasn’t the only questionable investment made by the Obama administration under its “green energy” initiative. The latest example to emerge, Fisker Automotive, also received loan guarantees of more than half a billion dollars in late 2009 ostensibly to make capital investments in order to begin domestic production of energy-efficient, economy-class cars at a former General Motors factory in Delaware. The Department of Energy approved the loan of $528 million in 2009 as part of a larger package of government venture capital investments in the relatively young clean-tech auto industry. At the time, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “This investment will create thousands of new American jobs and is another critical step in making sure we are positioned to compete for the clean energy jobs of the future.”

If only that were true.

In October, Americans marveled at the debut of the Fisker Karma, a flashy sedan that more closely resembles a hotrod than the more conservative hybrid cars we’re accustomed to seeing on the road. As impressive as it was with all of its bells and whistles, critics have noted the absence of one important feature – the “Made in America” tag. As it turns out, Fisker had contracted the assembly of the new Karma to the Finnish-owned manufacturing firm, Valmet, located in Uusikaupunki, Finland. Co-founder Henrik Fisker told ABC News that his company was unable to find a contract manufacturer in the U.S. capable of assembling the vehicle to their standards.

“We're not in the business of failing; we’re in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business,” Fisker said. "That’s why we went to Finland.”

 

Energy Loans

 

Adding insult to injury, Fisker Auto recently announced that the start date for production of its economy-class model – the model that was supposed to start production in Delaware in 2012 – would be delayed until 2013 at the very earliest. While time will tell if Fisker Auto will be successful in the relatively new industry of clean-tech vehicles, I question whether this was an investment American taxpayers want our government to make, especially when the only jobs created to this point have been overseas. Investments in clean technology and alternative energy are inherently risky, and no doubt should be made in the free market where risks can be absorbed without burdening taxpayers with more public debt. This should be evident from the past mistakes of the socialist government of Spain, which heavily invested public money into green energy initiatives that failed to ever be competitive or create jobs. In fact, one study from the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid showed that each “green job” created by government-supported subsidies resulted in the loss of 2.2 jobs in other areas of the private sector, while costing an average of $774,000 per job.

Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. manufacturing employment declined by 5.8 million jobs. That’s a drop of one-third, the largest ten-year period loss on record. As a consequence, our national economy has given way to high levels of debt, trade deficits with 105 nations, and record long-term unemployment rates.  It is insulting that our tax dollars are being used by the current administration to create jobs abroad while our existing corporate tax system – the most onerous in the world – already has the effect of exporting manufacturing jobs overseas. Companies that operate in the U.S. must do so under a system that encourages debt and outsourcing, rather than savings and investment here at home. In contrast, our national competitors have border-adjusted tax systems that exempt exports, and in turn reward firms for keeping operations in their home country. Finland, for example, has a border-adjusted tax of 22 percent which must be paid on all imports coming in to their country, but is exempted on those goods going out – like new Karmas being shipped to the United States.

One idea to correct this was proposed by Austin businessman David Hartman. His plan would eliminate the corporate income tax on American businesses and replace it with a revenue-neutral, border-adjusted consumption tax. Such an approach to taxation would level the playing field with our trading competitors, and, more importantly, would ensure that future hybrid cars came with a “Made in America” tag.

 

Tom Pauken is the chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home

 

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