Monday, February 28, 2011

The Dentist Part 1

Dr. Peter Walker ran a thriving dental practice.  He didn't know where all the patients came from, but he didn't question it.  It wasn't because he was a great dentist, although he wasn't a bad one.  He just wasn't the best.  He was average, but average worked for most people  And it worked well for him especially considering an average dentist is still a dentist.  Most of the population can't tell the difference between an average dentist and great dentist.

Peter came up the hard way.  He worked three jobs to put himself through college.  Originally he wanted to be a doctor, but Organic Chemistry had something to say about that.  His overall GPA and boards scores were good enough to get accepted into a middling dental school in Ohio.

Peter couldn't take the Ohio winters so he moved south to Moravia, NC.  Here he set up his practice, and the patients started coming.  What he lacked in skill he made up for in personality and good looks.  He was tall, in good shape, and he had a killer smile.  Needless to say he had many female patients.

"Thanks for coming Ms. Turner.  How are those grandkids?  You are too young to be a grandmother."

"They are fine," she giggled.  He mad a sixty-five year old woman giggle.  He had this kind of affect on women, and he knew how to talk to patients.

The male patients loved him because he could talk hunting and fishing with the best of them, and he kept the waiting room stocked with plenty of hunting and fishing magazines.  He also joined Ducks Unlimited which put him into contact with many of the community's key players, and it kept the good ole boys happy.

He also got to know a drug rep named Tanner Stevens, and the two struck up a quick friendship.

Tanner and Peter were at lunch one day, when Peter kept lowering his head.  "What's the matter Peter?  Why are you so tired?"

"I've just had a lot going on lately.  I haven't had much time to sleep.  The dental office just keeps me so busy."

"Why don't you try some of these and let me know what you think?"

"Isn't that illegal?"

"We give these samples to the doctors all the time.  It isn't any big thing.  If you don't tell, I won't say anything."  Try this.  He handed Peter a sample pack of Adderal

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some People Can't Catch a Break

When Stumpy left Viper Repossessions all he had was the stuff that had been in his 2006 Toyota Tundra.  He didn't have the money to catch up the payments on his truck.  He'd come up short like so many other times in his life, and not just cause he was a midget.  At 40, Stumpy was too young to have benefited from disability statutes that would favor his diminutive size.  Instead, he suffered from it.

Stumpy worked at the local Exxon station cleaning up after customers, the clerks and the mechanics.  And he caught more crap for it than anyone could imagine.  Stumpy thought the midget jokes would stop, but they didn't.  What really got to him was the looks people gave him, the pity, which was unbearable.

A mechanic named Tom Clarkson railed on Stumpy all the time.  "Stumpy you are too slow.  Stumpy you can't do anything right, and it ain't got nothing to do with the fact you are a midget.  You are just stupid."  Others laughed nervously, but their eyes said "I am sorry, but I don't want him to turn on me."

Stumpy showed up to work the day after his truck was repossessed.  He convinced his neighbor, a student at the local university whose father had bought him the house next to Stumpy's to live in during college, to take him to work.

"Where's your truck," Tom said to Stumpy.  "You ain't got it no more.  I heard it was repoed.  That's probably best.  That thing was too big for you.  You ought to get one of those Mini-Coppers.  That'd work better for you."  Tom slapped his knee and howled with laughter.

Stumpy didn't say anything, but he had had enough.  He decided he would get revenge.  During his break, he went out to the parking lot and undid the bolts on Tom's Camaro's wheels.  When he drove his car eventually the wheels would fall off.

Tom sauntered over to his car, turned it on and revved up the engine.  The tires screeched, and he sped off.

"Stumpy, did you hear?  The wheels of Tom's car came off on Billy's Creek Parkway.  His car skidded off the road, and he ran into a tree.  He's in a coma."

"Too bad.  Some people can't catch a break."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Driveway Man

Benny Boss claimed to be a professional contractor.  He said “anyone can be a handyman, but the true professionals are the ones who thrive in this business.”  Benny gave home improvement advice on his local TV show called ‘Buildin’ It With Benny.’  And Benny did the business.  People thought he knew what he was doing because he was on TV, when, in reality, the TV station hired him because Benny was a good talker, and he looked the part.
In reality, Benny didn’t know how to do much of anything.  He had failed his contractor’s exam 11 times before he hired someone to take the exam for him.  This was back in the 80s, where it was easier to get away with things.
But Billy had always been a good talker, and this was how he got the jobs.  He was a master at convincing elderly men and women into paying him up front for the jobs.  People trusted him.  Billy believed in getting the money up front, and a surprising number of people were willing to pay him up front.
Rufus and Iris Garner hired Benny to redo their driveway.  “I know you aren’t from around here, but I think I can trust you.  You remind me of a boy I served with in Korea from Pennsylvania.”
“I ain’t no different than you Mr. Garner.  They say Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Arkansas in the middle.  I’m from the middle part.”  Benny was a master at the purposeful use of bad grammar.
“You are worse if you are like someone from Arkansas,” Mr. Garner roared.
“Mr. Garner, I always ask for $9,000.00 up front.  That’s what it will take to cover my supplies, labor and other costs.  I expect to be done in a month or so.”
“That fast, huh.”
“I talk fast and work fast.”
$9,000.00 for a job is curious number.  It is high enough to not seem cheap, but low enough to not seem too high.  It is the perfect number for a shyster. 
The bad economy lessened the number of jobs that were available, and Benny didn’t tell his customers was he was using the money from one job to pay off debt and keep his head above water.  This became increasingly harder because Benny had so many expenses.  When the economy had been good Benny purchased a half-million dollar house and two Ford F150 trucks.  Since that time, the money had all but dried up.
Benny took the $9,000.00 Mr. Garner paid him and paid down some of his debt.  This left no money for the job, so Benny had to look for more jobs.  The problem was he couldn’t find anymore jobs.
A month passed.  Mr. Garner called.  He was polite at first, but another month passed then another.  It was now the end of November, and the job was supposed to be completed by the end of September.  When Mr. Garner called, Benny blamed it on the rain, a plausible argument had he not taken three months.  There were a few weeks here and there where he could have done the job.
“Listen Benny.  I think I will just have my money back.”
“I really wish I could Mr. Garner, but I’ve already bought supplies.  Also, I’ve had to turn down other jobs to complete your job.”
“I don’t care Benny.  It has been too long.  If you couldn’t do the job, you should never have taken the job.  Give me my damn money, or I will make this hard on you”
Benny’s cell phone cut out.  Mr. Garner called back, but Benny ignored the call.  And he kept ignoring the calls for months.
A process server showed up at church one Sunday “Mr. Boss, you’ve been served.”  Benny opened the paper and read the caption Rufus and Iris Garner v. Benny Boss, individually and Benny Boss Home Improvement, 10 CVS 99.
Benny ignored the lawsuit hoping it would go away.  It didn’t.  Benny never filed an answer, and Mr. and Mrs. Garner were able to get a default judgment.
Two days after the judgment was entered, Benny filed individual bankruptcy.  He filled out the petition and filed it himself.  He thought the filing would take care of the judgment.  Benny had $100,000 of equity in his house.  State law said he could only exempt $36,500 in equity.  This meant the remaining equity was left exposed.
Eventually the Sheriff showed up at Benny’s house, and told him the house was going to be sold to satisfy the $9,000.00 judgment against him.  Since Benny didn’t have the money to stop the sale, he had to let the house go.  “But I filed bankruptcy.”  “Doesn’t matter.  The judgment was entered before you filed.  So the claim survives,” said the deputy.
Mr. Garner got back his $9,000 from the proceeds from the sale of the house.  He also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and he joined several others who filed a complaint with the contractors board in Raleigh.  The board stripped Benny of his license.
Mr. Garner called Benny a few months later, and Benny, not recognizing the number took the call.  “I should have known you were full of shit, but I got you back didn’t I boy?  It makes me laugh every time I think about it.  Getting my money back from you and putting you out of business is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.”
Benny hung up the phone.  He felt like crying.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roll Over in Her Grave

"I can't take your case. It just isn't the right fit for this firm, but another law firm may see it differently," John Lavine said to Billy Ray Walker. Billy Ray's wife died in a car wreck a few months before, but she had swerved in front of a car going the speed limit. In North Carolina, that probably gave the defendant a contributory negligence defense. This means if a defendant is 99% at fault and the plaintiff is 1% at fault, the plaintiff cannot recover.

Billy Ray and Betty Sue Walker did not have an ideal marriage, although to hear Billy Ray describe it, you would think it was Antony and Cleopatra. In a lawsuit, quite often the truth is often obvious to everyone but the client.

"But I loved my wife. And I believe in you and your firm. I know the jury will see it our way."

"We would have to get to a jury, and that isn't a forgone conclusion. I've seen better cases kicked out at the summery judgment level." In order to prevail at the summary judgment level, the movant (party bringing the motion) needs to show there is no genuine issue of material fact. Juries decide factual issues. If there aren't legitimate factual issues, the case will be dismissed.

Billy Ray didn't see the case stood a good chance of being dismissed. He believed his wife's case would prevail because he had to. He had to believe her death happened for a reason. There had to be some vindication in the end. But the world didn't balance the cosmic equation in favor of everyone. Billy Ray should have known that. His wife's death proved it.

"You were never with me! You doubted me from the beginning!" Billy Ray was up in John's face at this point.

"Sit down Billy Ray. I won't have you shouting. You can be upset, but you can't act like that."

"Fine. I'm going to tell everyone I know what a shitty lawyer you are and to never use you."

"Go ahead. I don't care." Billy Ray stormed out of the office and hopped on his Kawasaki motorcycle and sped off. Despite claiming not to have any money, Billy Ray had taken several trips since his wife's death, and he purchased several cars and motorcycles.

Billy Ray claimed to be a great private investigator, but he said his business had declined sharply since Betty Sue's death. He was simply too depressed to do his work.

John didn't hear from Billy Ray for several months.

John opened the paper one Saturday morning, and he saw the headlines "Grieving Husband Funneled Money for Wife's Charity to Private Account." Apparently Billy Ray had taken money for a foundation he established in his wife's memory, which had as its purpose to provide for the families of those who lost loved ones to traffic fatalities, to live a lavish lifestyle.

A volunteer with the foundation said "Betty Sue would role over in her grave if she knew. Billy Ray's no good. He never has been. The whole world knows it now."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ponzi Scheme

Leroy Tate could charm anyone, and that made him feel he could get away with anything.  For most of his life, he got away with whatever he wanted.  When he got caught, he always talked his way out of it.  He had always done that.  It was only natural that he would become a lawyer.

Out of law school Leroy started a firm, Leroy Tate Attorneys.  He used attorneys even though it was just him because he planned to expand, but he never did.  He hired a large staff of paralegals and support staff personnel instead.  And early on he figured out how to win class action lawsuits.

After awhile Leroy got bored with small fees on hundreds of class action members.  He came up with a plan to make more money.  Leroy decided to treat lawsuits like investments and to find investors.  The only trick was the lawsuits were fictional.

Leroy required a $5,000 flat fee from each "client."  He would use the money to borrow more money.  This money was used to buy houses and flip them.  The clients never knew about this.  He created fictional trust accounts, and, when the right time came, the case settled.  Usually clients tripled their investments so they never asked questions.

"Thank you Leroy.  This was a great investment.  I can't believe I tripled my money in just a year.  It is better than the stock market," said Evelyn Cohen, a retired teacher.

"No problem.  It makes be feel good to get great results for my clients."

Leroy had the same conversation a few times a week. 

This scheme worked well, and no one asked questions until the economy went south.  The properties Leroy bought to flip plunged in value, and he couldn't recover his investment.  But he didn't tell his clients this.

Over a two year period Leroy took $5,000.00 from 600 different plaintiffs.  That totaled $3,000,000.00.  This was money he couldn't pay back.  It was only a matter of time before someone found out.

The State Bar had been paying attention to Leroy for a few years now, and they audited his trust account.  There were multiple accounting irregularities.  In other words, he stole $3,000,000.00 from his clients.

The District Attorney brought charges.  Six hundred counts of embezzlement.  One for every defrauded client.  The Ponzi Scheme earned Leroy the nickname "Mini Madoff."  He is now serving a 50 year sentence in Central Prison in Raleigh.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Operations of Repos

Billy Ray ran a repo business in Moravia, North Carolina called Viper Repossession Services.  Car repossession comprised the bulk of the business’ work.  The work was exciting, and there was always an element of danger.  Billy Ray found people don’t give up their cars without a fight.

Johnny had worked with Billy Ray for ten years, ever since Billy Ray started the business.  Billy Ray had seen Johnny fight off many a delinquent debtor, some of whom were large and belligerent.  Johnny had wrestled large men to the ground, been hit with chairs, bottles and all manner of blunt objects.  But he was a big, tough guy, so he took it in stride.

Billy Ray and Johnny repoed a 2006 Toyota Tundra just before midnight Friday night.  No one tried to stop them.  All indications were it was an easy repossession, until the next day.

Around 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, an irate midget named Stumpy Wilson swung open the door to Viper Repossession Services.  “Where’s my truck?  One of you rednecks took my truck!”

“You need to step back little man,” replied Amy, Billy Ray’s wife, who ran the business end of the operation.  

“Who you calling little man, ho?”  On the other side of the door, Johnny cackled.  “I want my stuff back.”

“That will cost you $50.”

“$50?!!”  Just then Billy Ray walked in the door and laughed.  “What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing dude,” said Billy Ray.  “I respect you little man.  I understand you are ticked and want your stuff.”

Johnny opened the door and walked out into the lobby.  Stumpy rushed at Johnny and butted his head into privates.  “You little shit!  You hit me in the privates!”  Johnny fell over.  “I want my stuff back, and I won’t pay $50!!!”

Before Johnny could recover, Stumpy drop kicked him.  Billy Ray was laughing so hard he couldn’t stand.  “Billy Ray, you asshole!  Why don’t you help me?”

 “I am sorry Johnny.  I really am,” Billy Ray said, fighting back laughter.

Amy chimed in.  “I am going to give your stuff Stumpy and not charge you anything.  That was worth it.  Too funny.”

Billy Ray said to Johnny “I’m sorry Johnny, but I’ve seen you take down King Kong, and you just got taken out by mini-Kong.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Service of Process

Larry Parker used to be a decent handyman, but that was awhile ago.  For the past few years, he had been taking money and not doing much of anything.  Until recently no one had obtained a judgment against him, although it was only a matter of time.

Maxine Martin hired Larry to build a deck.  He took $4,000 up front, and he would receive an additional $4,000 when he completed the job.  Larry took the money, but he never did any work.

Maxine hired attorney David Maxwell to file a lawsuit against Larry, individually, because Larry worked as a sole proprietor.

The small claims hearing was easy.  "This is the check Maxine Martin gave you with the understanding that you would build the deck and receive another $4,000 when you completed the job?"

"Yes."

"And this is your signature?"

"Yes."

"And this is your bank information, proving you cashed the check?"

"If you say so."  "Is that a yes?"  "Yes."

Larry couldn't show evidence of any work, so the magistrate ruled in favor of Maxine and awarded $4,000 and court costs.

Larry, who was never one to follow up, failed to appeal the judgment in ten days, so the judgment was final.

David sent a letter requested asking him to pay the judgment to Larry certified mail return receipt.  Larry signed for the letter and didn't do anything.

Then David sent the statutory exemption forms.  Larry refused to accept the letter, but the process server did not the letter was taken to Larry's house twice.  Because Larry didn't take the letter he didn't read the forms.  If he had, he would have discovered that he could exempt (protect) certain property such as some equity in his house.  This would have allowed him to keep his home.

A month or so latter the Sheriff showed up at Larry's house and told him he was there with a Writ of Execution.

"A what?" Larry said.

"I'm here to look for assets to satisfy your judgment.  It doesn't look like there is anything here of any value.  Looks like we are going to have to sell your house."

"How can you do that?"

"That's what the law says."

Larry hopped in his truck, hot with rage and drove over to David Maxwell's office.  He stormed in the office and ran up to the receptionist's desk.

"Where is David Maxwell?  That bastard is going to sell my house out from under me."

"Calm down sir.  I will have him come out."  The receptionist buzzed David, and he came out.

David and Larry went to a conference room.

"I'm not going to let you sell my house.  This isn't right."

"If you pay the judgment, I won't have to sell your house."

"But I can't pay it."

"What can you pay then?"

"I can pay $2,000 now and $2,000 in a few weeks."

"Let me check with my client."  David followed up with Maxine, and a cashier's check arrived the next day.  The additional $2,000 came the following week.  It was a cashier's check.  Apparently Larry took out an equity line on his house to pay the judgment.

Machines and Tort Reform

           Tort Reform is a hot topic in American politics.  Ever since the “McDonald’s coffee case,” right wing interest groups have touted the virtues of “reforming” the civil litigation system.  Chief among the proponents of tort reform legislation are doctors.  Dr. Evan Julian had always been a proponent of tort reform.
          
           Maybe it was because Dr. Julian had been sued five times before, but he had managed to fight off these lawsuits without paying a dime to any of the plaintiffs.  North Carolina is a very friendly state to doctors.  Last year alone only two cases out of forty-seven that went to trial prevailed, and one of those is better classified as a nursing home neglect case.

            Dr. Julian was not without blame.  He had made many mistakes, but the defense lawyers were able to trip the juries up on causation issues.  Also, although they could not mention the word insurance, they talked all about frivolous lawsuits and the rising cost of health care.

            One Saturday afternoon after a round of golf at the Moravia Country Club, Dr. Julian sat with his doctor friend, Jim Baker.  The two bemoaned the difficulties in practicing medicine and how their pay had been cut from $600,000 per year ten years ago to a paltry $350,000.

            “Julian, I’m not sure if you have heard the Excalibur MRI machine that Greensboro Orthopedics is using?”
           
            “No, I haven’t.”

            “Well my buddy over there tells me Excalibur pays him $1,000 out of every MRI he takes.  $750 goes to Excalibur, and the remaining $750 goes to the practice group.  He ordered 300 MRIs last year.  You do the math.  His pay is back to about what it was ten years ago.  You should think about getting one of those machines.  There are great financing options, and you can depreciate it over time.  I bought one six months ago, and my income is already up.”
           
             Monday morning Dr. Julian planned to call Excalibur, but, before he could, he received a call.

            “Hello Dr. Julian, my name is Hannah Vidal.  I’m a rep with Excalibur, and we would like to discuss selling our latest model of the MRI machine to you.  Would you like to hear about it?”

            “Sure.  How does Wednesday at lunch time sound?”

            “Sounds great.  I’m here in town, so I know how to get to your practice.”

            At noon on Wednesday, Hannah Vidal walked into the conference room with a camera man.

            “What’s he doing here,” said Dr. Julian.

            “My name’s not Hannah Vidal.  It is Stacey Malone with Dateline NBC.  We are doing a story on doctors who purchase expensive medical machines, order unnecessary tests, profit from it and blame the trial lawyers for increasing the cost of health care.  Do you care to comment on the Moravia University study that shows eighty percent of doctors who practice so-called ‘defensive medicine’ have seen, on average, a twenty percent increase in their salaries over the last two years?  These are the same doctors who purchase multi-million dollar equipment, where many of the tests that are classified as 'defensive medicine' are performed.  Care to comment?”

            Dr. Julian’s mouth moved, but he couldn’t form any words.  Security eventually escorted Stacey Malone and the cameraman out of the conference room and out of the building, but the damage was done.

            The story aired on Dateline NBC, and the public was outraged.  The story began a dramatic shift in the way people viewed tort reform.  All in all, it made for a more balanced debate, but Dr. Julian and his doctor friends were less likely to purchase multi-million dollar machines and order unnecessary tests just to increase their bottom lines.

           
           

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Next Judge Judy

Judge Karen Banks enjoyed being on the bench.  She served as a Circuit Court Judge, a step above small claims court, but not all that different.  Still the same old pissing contests.  People screwing each other over and suing each other in an effort to vindicate the most petty disputes.  Almost always these issues resulted from a lack of communication.  In fact, most legal problems resulted from a lack of communication.

Judge Banks possessed an acerbic wit, a keen sense of humor, and she bore a striking resemblance to Halle Barry.  Men were often distracted by her looks, but this was short lived because she fired off quips like a medievil archer fires arrows at approaching foot soldiers.

One Monday morning in July, the air damp with humidity and in the low 80s despite being only 9 a.m., a particularly petty pro se case came up for trial.  Both parties could not settle, and they wanted their "day in court."  People failed to realize that your day in court may not be a good one.

The dispute was hotly contested as most lower level cases are.  The parties had an oral contract where DJ Shizzle (his stage name) agreed to play a Meka Jones' 18th birthday party with the understanding that $800 would be paid as an advance and $800 would be paid after he played the entire party.

DJ Shizzle did not finish playing the party because a fight broke out.  The police came and stopped the party.  However, there was some dispute as to who caused the fight.  Meka's parents claimed it was Shizzle's friends, and he claimed it was Meka's friends.

"I can't help it if a fight broke out.  I played most of the party.  Don't I get my money?  I am owed $800," said Shizzle.

"Mr. Shizzle, the deal was to play the whole party, and you didn't play the whole party," replied the Judge.

"That's right," shouted Meka's father Harvey.

"But I do think you substantially performed your contract.  However, I think you both breached the contract.  What I'm going to do is pay you $600 for your services because you finished three quarters of the party.  It is called quantum meruit."

The gallery erupted, some booing, some screaming.

After court that day, a man approached Judge Banks in the parking lot.  "Judge Banks, my name is Parker Hempstead with UPN.  We are looking for someone to star in a new judge show.  We think you could be bigger than Judge Judy and definitely prettier.  Has anyone ever told you you look like Halle Berry?"

"Who put you up to this Mr.....?"

"Hempstead."

"Mr. Hemstead."

"No one.  I have people who watch courtrooms around the country.  They've seen you, and they like you.  Your looks drew us, but your wit and style are what sold us.  We are willing to start you at $1.2 million per year.  We will shoot for one week four times a year.  It won't take away from your job.  I believe you can do both."

"Oh...I doubt that.  I would be a joke, and the State Bar will never agree nor will the county."

"A rich joke."

"Perhaps."

Judge Banks followed up with the State Bar, and, interestingly, the State Bar had no qualms with her doing both.  Apparently the issue had never been addressed.

The County of Moravia didn't have the money to pay someone to replace her because her contract was guaranteed.  If she stepped down, the county would have to pay two salaries for one judge.  Grudgingly, the county accepted the arrangement.

The press slammed Judge Banks for a few weeks, but, after awhile, they laid off.

Ironically,  after the Judge Banks show started Circuit Court civil fillings increased by one-third.  People wanted to appear in front of Judge Banks just to say they had.  The administrative cost of the increased docket was greater than paying two salaries for one judge, but the county couldn't remove Judge Banks.  She was too popular, and they didn't want to have egg on their faces.

Drunk Driver

Martin Coben ran out of Billy Martin's party filled with teenage rage.  His girlfriend Mary Johnson broke up with him at the party.

Billy's party was the typical high school keg party where the parents are out of town.  Everyone was there.  The beer was free flowing, and it was a recipe for disaster or multiple disasters.  The old adage that nothing good happens after midnight is an adage for a reason.

"Martin, I think we should see other people.  We are seniors.  It isn't like we will be together next year when you go off to Georgetown.  I will be here at Moravia University.  It isn't personal."

"I still want to be with you though.  We can work it out."

"No.  We can't.  I'm sorry."  Just then Julio Sanchez, the star quarterback, walked past and whispered to Martin "Dude, can I ask her out now?"  "Screw you," Martin shouted as he shoved Julio, who fell into a glass coffee table, shattering it, sending empty beer cans everywhere.

Billy Maxwell ran up to Martin.  "Martin, you better get out of here.  I don't want the cops to come."  "But Mary drove me here, and everyone else is drunk."  "Not my problem.  You need to leave."

By then Martin was on the verge of tears.  He didn't want anyone to see him crying so he rushed out of the house.  Billy's house was out of town a little ways and it was late.  It was a few miles from Martin's house so he decided to walk home.  It was about 12:30.

As Martin walked down Safehaven Road towards a bridge that passed over state highway 521 he heard a loud motor.  Blinding lights came towards him from the other direction.

Martin tried to move to the right and aviod the truck, but the truck veered towards him, ran across the opposite lane of traffic and hit Martin on the shoulder of the road.  Martin died instantly.

The driver was fine.  He didn't even know what he hit.  He thought it was a deer.  Of course he was drunk, and he was on his way to Billy Maxwell's party.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jury Selection

Scott Johnson didn't mean to neglect the jury summons.  No one ever does.  He forgot about it, and that was understandable because he had a demanding job as an investment banker.  And he did his job very well to the exclusion of everything else.

He made a lot of money for a thirty-year-old, but he didn't have time to spend it because he was always busy making more money.  Scott believed Gordon Gecko's mantra that everyday is a "zero sum game."  So it was never enough.

Scott took a call one day, thinking it was a potential new client, "Mr. Johnson, this is the Jury Clerk, and you missed your jury date.  The judge issued a bench warrant for your arrest."

Scott almost dropped the phone.  "I...."

"There is a solution to this Mr. Johnson.  You can pay a  $2,500.00 fine to the Clerk of Superior Court's office.  The legislature passed this measure as a way of raising revenue  I can take your payment over the phone."

"I'm not sure about that.  How do I know you aren't scamming me?"

"Would you rather be arrested at work and lose your job as an investment banker?"

"No.  Okay I will pay."  He paid the money with his Bank of America Visa and didn't think twice about it.

Ten months later Scott decided to purchase a $400,000 condo in downtown Moravia.  He had $100,000 for a down payment.  He went to Bank of America to take out a mortgage.

The loan officer grimaced.  "Mr. Johnson, I'm sorry, but you don't qualify for the loan.  There are some issues with your credit.  Your Beacon Score is 590."

"590, how in the Hell is that?!!"

"I'm sorry Mr. Johnson.  That's what the computer says."

"That must be wrong.  Last year my credit score was 750.  Doesn't it say that too?"

"It does, but it appears over the past ten months you have incurred quite a bit of debt, and there have been a number of missed credit card payments."

Scott was puzzled.  He concluded he must be a victim of identity theft, but where did it come from?  He was always so careful.

The next day on the way to work Scott heard a story on the radio about a "jury selection scam."  Apparently the scam targeted busy, high income earning professionals.  The scammers mailed a jury summons knowing it would be disregarded by a certain segment of the population.  Those who did not call in after a few weeks   were called and given the speech about being arrested unless a $2,500 fine was paid.  Then thieves opened up numerous credit cards, in the process ruining the victim's credit.

When he arrived at the office, Scott called the Jury Clerk in Moravia.  She informed him "Mr. Johnson you don't have jury duty for another year or so.  Sorry if there was any confusion."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Moving Target

Wade Targus never got any breaks.  Even his name created problems.  On the first day of high school, in gym class the has-been gym teacher made Wade play dodge ball.  Billy Barton threw the red playground ball, and it hit Wade in the butt.  It made a smacking sound, and some random kid cried out "Moving Targus!"  Ever since then, people called him Moving Targus.

After two years the hazing became so bad that Wade dropped out of high school.  This wasn't the only reason, but Wade had never been good at school.  The hazing gave him an excuse to drop out.  It also  didn't hurt that his father willingly hired him full time at his surplus store.

The surplus store went out of business in 2008, so Wade had to get a job at a fast food restaurant.  The job wasn't so bad until kids of the people Wade went to high school with came in and started calling him Moving Targus.

Wade was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, degenerative disc disease and a mild multiple personality disorder.  Tests also revealed his I.Q. was only 78.

One day a kid yelled Moving Targus, and Wade went off.  "You little bastard," he said.  He threw a Coke in the kids face, and he was fired.  After that, he couldn't get a job.  And he gained 80 pounds.

Late one night Wade saw a commercial for a Social Security Disability law firm.  He called the 800 number and set up an appointment.

Wade walked into the conference room.  After fifteen minutes an attorney walked in.  It was Billy Barton, who Wade blamed for causing him to drop out of high school.  Billy had no idea who Wade was.

"You've got a good case Wade, but it is probably going to be awhile.  But we will help you out."  Then Billy got up and left.

Miraculously he won his case a month later.  Even though Billy's firm didn't have to do much work, he received a $6,000 fee.  Wade was outraged.

He called up Billy "you don't deserve that big fee.  You didn't do anything!"

"We have an agreement, and you didn't win until we were involved.  That's the way it goes."

Wade hung up.  He decided to get revenge.

A few months passed as Wade plotted.  Billy was out jogging one Friday afternoon, and he heard a sputtering sound.  Then a scooter sped past him.  He felt a fist hit him in the back.  Billy fell down.

When Billy looked up he saw a scooter tipped over and Wade Targus lying on the ground.  He wasn't breathing and blood was pouring from his head.  It appeared his head hit a tree, and Wade wasn't wearing a helmet.

Wade was put on life support.  Eventually his parents had him taken off of life support, and Wade died of natural causes.  Only five people attended Wade's funeral.

In response to the obituary on the newspaper's online version, an anonymous posting said "What did the tree say to Wade "Moving Target" Targus?  I got you babe."  The comment was sent out over Twitter, and it was one of the top Tweets that day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Down on His Luck Part 3

When Bubba left, Dick did the stupid thing: he texted Joleen.  "Bubba just came to see me about a divorce.  He knows what's going on."

Joleen texted back "I can't live like this anymore.  I'm going to tell Bubba.  It's better that way.  I've been meaning to tell you."

"WTF!!!" Dick responded.

Dick didn't text Joleen again.  And, surprisingly, he never heard back from Bubba.  As the days and the weeks passed Dick realized he would never hear from Joleen or Dick again.  He could live with the latter, but he was sad about the former.

One day, when Dick had almost forgotten about the whole ordeal, a letter from the North Carolina State Bar appeared in his mail box.  He knew this couldn't be a good thing.

The letter began "Dear....."  The letter went on to say there had been a formal complaint against him for breaching the attorney client privilege.  Apparently Joleen had shown Bubba the text message.  Bubba called the State Bar.

After he received the letter, Dick went on a bender.  He never responded.  Another big mistake.

Two months later another letter from the North Carolina State Bar appeared in his mail box stating he had been disbarred without the possibility of reinstatement.  He would never be a lawyer again.

So Dick did what Dick often did when confronted with good news or bad news-- he went out and got drunk.  This time, however, he decided to drive.

When paramedics arrived, Dick was already dead.  He died on impact when his Cadillac sdean ran into a brick wall located in Moravia's historic district.

The story in the newspaper the next day chronicled the entire sad tale.  One of Dick's attorney friends remarked "Dick seemed down on his luck lately, but I didn't know it was this bad.  Is is just so sad."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Down on His Luck Part 2

"I don't know who Joleen has been with, but I've seen the text messages," roared Bubba, a vein in the middle of his forehead pulsing.  The vein strained against his skin. 

Dick had seen a lot of ticked off people, but he had never seen a vein pulse like that on someone's forehead.  It didn't take a genius to see Bubba was pissed.  And someone as determined as Bubba was going to get revenge one way or another.

When Dick's buzz wore off, he started to think that there weren't a lot of women named Joleen.  His arm pits started to sweat.  His arm pits always sweated when he was nervous.  Some people got clammy palms.  Some perspired on their face.  Some didn't show anxiety at all.

Arguably Dick fell into the category of not showing anxiety at all.  But it all depended upon whether Dick raised his arms.  If he did, his arm pits would be drenched.

"Tell me about what text messages you've seen said," said Dick calmly, his poker face coming back.  Dick may be a drunk, but he always thought well on his feet.

"Bits and pieces.  I usually just blow up and throw her phone.  Okay...one message said 'I'm looking forward to you coming over tonight while your husband is out at his softball game.  He may be hitting home runs, but I'm going to steal home.'"

Dick's poker face flinched a bit, stunned by the realize that his Joleen was Bubba's Joleen, but he quickly regained his composure..  He knew she was married, but he didn't know to whom.  Until a few days ago he had never even heard of Bubba, let alone talked to him.

Dick supposed it was a stroke of luck to get this head's up, but the knowledge that Bubba was out there trying to find out the truth rattled him.  He knew his days may be numbered, and he needed to break it off with Joleen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Down on His Luck Part1

Dick Carter had been a good lawyer, but things had changed. It wasn't due to a decline in ability. Drinking and depression created his problems or they were his problems depending upon how you look at it.

Dick had numerous bar complaints against him, and it was a wonder he hadn't lost his license. At least he hadn't stolen from his clients. At least not yet.

Somehow Dick managed to convince a divorce client to pay him a $20,000 retainer. Bubba Jones was mad as Hell, and he had no problem paying that kind of money to stick it to his wife, Joleen, who had been with another man. But Bubba didn't know the man she had been with was Dick.

Dick, who was drunk at the time of the meeting with Bubba, didn't realize it was the same Joleen he had been carrying on with.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The $9,000 Scheme

Jim Barker owned Jim Barker Siding, LLC, and he had been running the business for twenty years.  Barker Siding made it through good economies and bad.  Unfortunately for Jim Barker and Barker Siding, the last few years had not gone well.  But that wasn't because of the economy.  The problem was Jim had a gambling problem.

Other than a Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament pool, Jim had never bet on anything until two years ago.  He started betting on NBA games because his friend Terry told him it would make it more fun.  And his friend was right--until he lost.  He lost again, and he kept losing.  He became further indebted to his bookie with each loss.

His bookie's name was Earl Watson.  Earl was a gregarious guy until you didn't pay him.  Then he gave you one pass.  After that...well opinions varied.  He'd heard some people lost fingers.  Some lost ears.  But it all could have been urban legend for all Jim knew.

Jim owed Earl $18,000, and he had a week to come up with the money or Earl was going to cut off his thumbs.  One thumb for each $9,000 owed.

Jim decided to go door to door in a neighborhood with elderly people.  He would sell two jobs for $9,000 each.  Money up front.  It would only take two jobs, and he would do the work--eventually.

Anelle Porter paid him $9,000 up front to put vinyl siding on her 2,220 square foot house.  The check cleared.  It barely took any convincing.

Bobby Thomas paid him $9,000 up front for his 2,4000 square foot house.  Again, the check cleared.

On Friday he paid Earl Watson the $18,000 in cash.  "Pleasure doing business with you Jim," said Earl with a slight grin.  His eyes twitched back and forth, searching for his next victim.

The scheme worked so well that Jim decided to keep running  it.  The problem was he made a lot of enemies.  He did quit gambling, however, but he exchanged one vice for another.  Gambling for schemeing.

Eventually most scam artists are caught.  Their luck just runs out.  The only question is: when's it going to be?

Jim rang the doorbell at 356 Orange Street one Tuesday afternoon in April.  Bucky Burns walked to the door.  Bucky was a big guy, and he carried himself like a former athlete.  Although not as large, Jim had been a footbal player.  He knew this would be his angle.  All ex-jocks were suckers for compliments about their playing days.

"I bet you played football," Jim greeted him.  "How'd you know," said Bucky.

"I have heard you were quite good when you played for......"

"Moravia University.  Lineman."

"That's right.  Weren't you all conference?"  Bucky had been honorable mention all conference his senior year.  Lucky guess.

Jim walked away with a $9,000 check.  All it cost him was an empty promise.

Bucky started calling after a month passed with no work done.  After two months he started to get more agressive.  After three he was down right rabid.  He would call more frequently, leave nasty messages.  "Listen to me you rat bastard.  No one takes money from me.  I know what your scheme is.  Give me my damn money!"

One day he left a message "I've told you for the last time you piece of crap.  Either put on my siding or give me back my money!  In cash!"  Then he hung up.

A few days later Jim was driving his 2004 F-150 down the road, and "BAMMMMMM."  His truck jerked to the side and spun off the road.  It was Bucky.  Bucky came charging out of his truck Louisville Slugger in hand.  He swung and broke the window of the driver's side window.  "You sonofabitch!!!!  You stole my money.  I've done some checking on you.  I'm on to you!"

Just then Jim hit the gas.  His front tire spun out, but it kicked mud into Bucky's eyes.  "You ass hole!  I've got mud all in my eyes.  I'm going to kill you!  Do you hear me?!!"  Just then Jim's wheels caught traction.

Jim was scared.  He needed to do something because he was pretty sure Bucky would try and kill him again.  And he couldn't go to the police.  The DA would indict him for fraud.  No one had seen the incident.

Because he didn't have many options he went to talk to Earl Watson.  He needed a hitman, and surely Earl knew some.  Of course he didn't realize Earl wasn't above killing for moeny.

"It'll cost you.  And I'm going to need 80 percent up front.  $16,000 of the $20,000 up front.  You will owe me the last $4,000 after I polish off Bucky for you."

Jim paid him the money.  A few weeks later he read in the paper that Bucky Burns died of a heart attack.

Jim called up Earl Watson.  "Earl, you made it look like a heart attack.  Great job!"

"What are you talking about Jim?  I didn't do anything yet.  These things take time, but I guess it took care of itself.  Look at it this way.  You won't have to pay me $4,000 now."

House rejects extensions of Patriot Act provisions


WASHINGTON – The House on Tuesday failed to extend the life of three surveillance tools that are key to the nation's post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law, a slipup for the new Republican leadership that miscalculated the level of opposition.

The House voted 277-148 to keep the three provisions of the USA Patriot Act on the books until Dec. 8. But Republicans brought up the bill under a special expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority, and the vote was seven short of reaching that level.

The Republicans, who took over the House last month, lost 26 of their own members, adding to the 122 Democrats who voted against it. Supporters say the three measures are vital to preventing another terrorist attack, but critics say they infringe on civil liberties. They appealed to the antipathy that newer and more conservative Republicans hold for big government invasions of individual privacy.

Earlier on Tuesday, Republicans also pulled a bill from the floor because of dissatisfaction about extending trade benefits for three South American countries while continuing a program that helps retrain Americans who lose their jobs to foreign competition.

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision that gives the FBI court-approved access to "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation.

The third deals with the "lone-wolf" provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terrorist organization.

Sen. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the former Judiciary Committee chairman who authored the 2001 Patriot Act, urged his colleagues to support the extensions, saying they were needed as a stopgap until permanent statutes could be agreed upon.

"The terrorist threat has not subsided and will not expire, and neither should our national security laws," he said.

But Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Republican supporters of the tea party movement should show their opposition to big government by joining Democrats in opposing the measure.

"How about the Patriot Act, which has the broadest reach and the deepest reach of government to our daily lives?" he asked.

The defeat means that Republicans may have to bring the bill back to the floor under regular procedures that only require a majority for passage but allow for amendments. Time is of the essence: The three provisions will expire on Feb. 28 if the House and Senate can't agree on how to proceed.

The House had pushed for a nine-month extension to give lawmakers more time to come up with an approach that would give the measures permanent legal status. The Senate is considering longer-range ideas.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., last month introduced legislation that would extend the three provisions through 2013 while improving oversight of intelligence-gathering tools. Leahy would also phase out, at the end of 2013, the use of national security letters, FBI demands for information that do not need a judge's approval.

The Senate also has on its legislative calendar a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would reauthorize the three measures through 2013 and a Republican proposal that would make them permanent.

The White House, in a statement, said it did not object to the House bill but "would strongly prefer" extending the provisions to the end of 2013, saying that "provides the necessary certainty and predictability that our nation's intelligence and law enforcement agencies require."

Leahy, who introduced a nearly identical bill last year that the Senate did not take up, said in December that he had received a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder saying that the Justice Department was implementing several oversight and civil liberties measures included in his legislation.

Those included requirements that the government show relevance to an authorized investigation when seeking library or bookseller records, and similarly that the FBI show that information it is seeking with a national security letter is relevant to an investigation.
 
Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was "glad to see there is bipartisan opposition to the Patriot Act 10 years later." The ACLU is a strong opponent of the three provisions, saying they lack proper and fundamental privacy safeguards.
____
The bill is H.R. 514.
Online:
Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Conservative Shepard Won't Post My Comment

I'm not sure if any of you all have read the website/blog The Conservative Shepard.  From what I can tell, the website peddles the tired old politics of fear.  It talks about "protecting the values" of the country.  But it does not say what those values are. 

That's fine.  I can live with that.  What I cannot tolerate, however, is the lack of debate.  The other day I wrote a comment, and I have yet to see my comment posted.  For now I will assume it has not beem moderated yet.

My comment spoke of the necessity of working together to solve the undocumented worker (illegal alien) problem.  I argued the CHANGE ID card for undocumented individuals from Mexico is a necessary compromise.  Further, I stated the "enforce the law" approach does not work, and we need to consider some form of amnesty.  I used the example of the 1986 amnesty under Reagan.

Time will tell, but I will make a bold prediction:  my comment will not be posted.  This website does not consider varying viewpoints.  It does not foster debate.  It fosters monologues.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CHANGE ID is a Necessary Compromise

CHANGE, which is a non-profit based in Winston-Salem, NC, recently created an ID card for undocumented Mexican individuals.  Although not a legal form of identification, law enforcement recognizes the ID as valid form of identification.  This is a necessary compromise because those who are here unlawfully are here to stay no matter what we do.

Unlawful entry (illegal immigration as most call it) is a problem.  There is no question about that.  However, those who are here illegally are not going to leave.  Making them leave would cost billions in terms of resources as well as billions in indirect costs.  Moreover, it would tear apart families and alienate those Hispanics who are lawful.

A blog known as "the Conservative Shepard" rails on the CHANGE ID, but it fails to offer a viable alternative.  The "follow the law" approach does not work. 

Ronald Reagan realized the value of limited amnesty in the 1986 reform bill.  Nowadays, unfortunately, the Democrats and the Republicans by and large refuse to work with each other.  That is unfortunate.

Employment at Will

"I'm sorry Danny, but I am going to have to let you go.  You've lost your temper too much around the kids.  I can't have that kind of thing," Principal Stan Comm said to Danny Cart, the now former-janitor at Moravia Elementary.

"But I am your friend.  We play golf together, and our wives have coffee," Danny hissed, hot tears of anger visible in the corners of his eyes.

"That makes it much harder to do this Danny.  I've warned you five times.  Five times Danny.  Any other person would have been out on their ass by now."

Danny turned and stomped out of the office.

Principal Comm didn't hear from Danny for a few months, and he thought the whole thing might blow over.  That is until he received a letter from an attorney announcing Danny had filed a complaint with the EEOC.  And the EEOC had granted a right to sue letter.  Subsequent to that Danny's attorney filed a claim for wrongful termination.

Because the case was based on a state cause of action it remained in state court.  North Carolina, however, is an employment-at-will state.  This made it hard to prevail in court on such a lawsuit because an employer can fire you for almost anything.  Here there were clear grounds for termination.  Eventually the case settled for $20,000.00 which wasn't too bad all things considered.  The settlement was confidential, so the media wouldn't know about it.

Again Principal Comm thought he had heard the last from Danny Cart.

About a year after the incident in the office with Danny, when Principal Comm had almost forgotten about Danny, Danny slipped into the auditorium during a school Assembly.  No one noticed.

Principal Comm was talking about the success of a few of the fifth graders at the county science fair.  It was a happy day until he saw Danny.  Before Principal Comm could do anything, Danny rushed up the aisle at him.  The security guards chased after him, but not before Danny fired two shots into Principal Comm's chest.  He died instantly.

The security guards knocked Danny to the ground, and he dropped the gun before he could hurt anyone else.  The children cried and screamed, and their teachers tried to shield them from the carnage, but that was impossible.  Everyone saw the gruesome event.

Police arrested Danny.  He was later charged with 1st degree murder, and he awaits trial.

How Google removed the muzzle on Twitter in Egypt


SAN FRANCISCO – Even before his first day on the job at Google, Ujjwal Singh was trying to figure out how to use his passion for the spoken word and the company's technological prowess to help Egyptians bypass government efforts to muzzle the massive protests there.

Singh, 38, helped start an online service that lets fans share voice messages with the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Google bought the startup Jan. 25, and a Google product team leader trying to figure out a way around Egypt's recent Internet blackout asked Singh for help before he reported to work.

A weekend of brainstorming and programming later, Speak2Tweet was born — a service that lets people call a phone number and leave a message, then posts a link to the message to Twitter.

It allowed Egyptians to communicate even as the regime of President Hosni Mubarak cut Internet and cell phone services for days, trying to squelch furious protests in the streets of Cairo demanding an end to his three decades of authoritarian rule.

By the time Singh started his job Monday, his service was already part of the uprising.
"He designed, built and launched his first product before he started at Google, which is now our all-time record," says Steve Crossan, a Google product manager who has been working at the Internet search leader for five years.

Almost 2,900 spoken tweets had been posted as of Friday afternoon on the Twitter account (at)speak2tweet. Some of the heaviest volume came after access to both Twitter and the Internet was restored in Egypt earlier this week. The alternative method of tweeting has turned into a forum for longer-form expression because the voice recordings aren't confined to Twitter's 140-character limit.
Another Twitter account, (at)AliveInEgypt, has been set up to transcribe the messages, which are mostly in Arabic, into text. An Internet radio station also is playing the voice recordings at http://egypt.periszkopradio.hu.

The service has been used to express outrage, indignation, fear, exhilaration and pleas for help in the fight to oust Mubarak. "This corrupt regime must be eliminated," said one of the translated tweets on AliveInEgypt. Another said: "For all our Arab Brothers, for all the men in Tahrir Square. Please help us, stand with us, if you abandon us we will die."

One woman, speaking in English, said it would take more than an Internet blackout to silence her. "The last time when they did this I was completely freaked out," she said. "I was so scared that they are going to, like, shoot us all and nobody would know about us. This time I am not scared at all. I feel like I want to tell them, `Bring it on.'"

There is no way to verify that every tweet came from the site of the protests, or even from Egypt. When the service can trace the country code of the call, it adds a note, or hashtag, specifying the location.
The service's use was limited by the very problem that created it: Without Internet access, most Egyptians didn't know Speak2Tweet existed, says Jillian York, a project coordinator for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society in Harvard University.

Even so, it provided a vital link between Egypt and the rest of the world, says Cynthia Wong, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology's Project on Global Internet Freedom. As the word of the service spreads, York expects it to attract more voice messages because only about one-fourth of Egypt's population has Internet access.

"It's important for activists and companies to do everything they can to keep the channels of communication open when a government is trying to shut them down," Wong says.

The service got its start Jan. 28, when Crossan began to wonder how people might be able to get their messages out to a mass audience without the help of Internet or text messaging on mobile phones.
Crossan says he wasn't interested in making a political statement — he just wanted to tackle a complex problem that also might further Google's crusade to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible."

So Crossan contacted a former Google colleague, Katie Stanton, who now oversees Twitter's international services. She referred him to Benjy Weinberger, another former Google employee who is now a Twitter engineer. The two men spent the rest of Friday swapping ideas through instant messages and e-mail.
 
Cooperating with Google on the project was a no-brainer for Twitter. "Twitter is more about human communications than technology," Stanton says. "We want people's voices to be heard."
 
Initially, Crossan and Weinberger tinkered with a system that would interpret the tones of a telephone keypad and translate the sounds into tweets. After that idea proved too complicated, Crossan remembered something he had read earlier in the week: Google had just acquired a Palo Alto, Calif., startup called SayNow, which developed technology that lets teens exchange spoken messages with celebrities.
 
Crossan, 39, decided to contact SayNow's founders, Singh and Nikhyl Singhal, about the problem before they were scheduled to start work for their new parent company.
 
Crossan was helping his 2-year-old son ride a bike for the first time in a neighborhood park Saturday morning when he heard back from Singh. The two men figured they might be able to develop a voice-to-tweet service by building on the same technology SayNow used.
 
"Voices capture emotion, personality and the moment," Singh says. "It gives you the intangible that you can't get through text and data."
 
The idea had another appeal: It would work whether the person was calling on a rotary telephone or a smart phone.
 
With the help of Google employees in Switzerland and Australia, the new tweeting service was taking shape late Saturday night when Crossan realized he had overlooked one detail: He hadn't even told Google what he was doing.
 
That wasn't a major oversight because Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have always encouraged engineers to devote 20 percent of their time to pet projects. In theory, the freedom is supposed to foster new ideas and drive employees to work harder so their pet projects might turn into actual products more quickly.
 
The formula worked well in Google's early days, but the pace of innovation has slowed as the company grown to more than 24,000 employees. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is stepping aside from that job in April and handing the reins to Page as part of an effort to weed out bureaucracy and accelerate decision-making.
 
In Crossan's case, he saw that one of his bosses, Bradley Horowitz, happened to be online late Saturday. Crossan e-mailed him about the new service. Crossan said Horowitz told him the idea was "awesome." Crossan and Singh spent the rest of the night spent coding.
 
Although the speak-to-tweet service was available before dawn Sunday morning, it didn't attract a lot of attention until Google announced it on its corporate blog Monday afternoon.

Now, Crossan and Singh are hoping the speak-to-tweet survive will survive long after Egypt quiets down. If nothing else, they say it will serve as a reminder that phones still can serve another purpose besides texting and surfing the Web.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Some People Have Issues

My name is David Coben, and I am an attorney in the City of Moravia.  Because of the increase in the Hispanic population in Moravia I have started handling more immigration cases.  Recently I also began hosting a lawyer call-in show on a local Hispanic radio station.  I don't speak Spanish that well so I have a translator.

The saying "the past is prelude" applies in my case.  In hindsight, it all makes sense.  A lot of things make more sense with hindsight.  If we had the benefit of hindsight, we probably wouldn't make ninety percent of our decisions.

One night in May of this past year I was at Lowes Home Improvement with my wife, Carol, searching for some sort of specialty bulbs.  I don't know what kind of bulbs.  Carol knows about those sorts of things.  People say we have a pretty house, but that's because of Carol, not because of me.

I saw a guy across the aisle who looked familiar, but I couldn't place him.  He didn't speak to me, but he did stare at me.  In the past, I've gone up to people who I thought I recognized only to find out I didn't know them. I wanted to avoid an embarrassing situation, so I didn't say anything.  No big deal, but, in hindsight, it created some issues.  Carol always says "some people have issues," and she is right.

Carol and I are both left of center.  However, we are realists.  We recognize there are bad people in the world.  When you are an attorney, you become more aware of this fact everyday. 

Carol's father had worked in law enforcement until he retired, and he urged us to purchase a gun.  We laughed it off for a few years, but I finally broke down and bought  a gun.  Since we don't have children yet, we don't have to worry about a child getting ahold of the gun.

One Friday in August ,while on my radio show, I received a series of calls from undocumented workers (illegal aliens) about their legal options.  I advised them that they have no legal right to be here, etc.  However, I mentioned to them an ID card that, although not legally official, nonetheless it was recognized by law enforcement in Moravia as a valid ID.  In other words, it represented a compromise between law enforcement and illegal aliens.  I didn't think much of it at the time because I always presented both sides to callers and told the callers it was up to them.  I didn't tell them how to break the law, or at least I didn't think I did.

Lawyers only advise people of the consequences of their actions, they do not tell people what to do.

The following Tuesday I received a white envelop with my name in, blue, block letters.  I opened the letter.  It read:  "David Coben, you are the same asshole you were in high school.  I never could figure out why you thought you were so much better than everyone else.  You and your wife look like shit.  Maybe you will talk to an old school mate next time you see one."  Of course, the letter was unsigned.  Cowards never sign anything.

I was rattled.  I had never received hate mail.  I called up my friend, who is a police officer, and he told me not to worry.  He said "Your first hate mail.  Don't you realize that means you have arrived?"  This did not comfort me as I had to leave to San Francisco for an ABA conference the following day, and Carol couldn't make it due to work obligations.

Reluctantly, I went to San Francisco where I went to boring meetings and ate room service and missed Carol.  The unexpected highlight of the trip was a pro-bono project I created won a national ABA Young Lawyers Division award for service to the public.  I was pretty cranked up about that so I almost forgot the hate mail.  Almost.

I was bar hopping with my friend and his wife at Fisherman's Warf celebrating my award around 7:30 San Francisco time because my flight didn't leave until 12:00 a.m.  A true red eye.

My phone rang, and I picked up on the first ring.  "David, David!  I shot him! He's dead.  The police are here."

"What!???  ARE YOU OKAY?!!  Sweeite, are you okay?"  I was in tears at this point.

"I'm fine.  Some nut broke into our house.  I didn't hear him.  He got into our bedroom.  Our bedroom David!  Abbey (our silky terrier) jumped from the bed and bit his arm.  She wouldn't let go, and it knocked him down.  I pulled the gun out of the bedside table.  He shook Abbey off, and he lunged at me with a knife.  I shot him twice.  Your dad already got Joel Cohen--that criminal defense lawyer form Charlotte--to come over.  He was in town for a Moravia University reunion.  He said it was a clear cut case of self defense.  And Abbey is fine.  She saved my life.  That sweet little angel.  What a good dog."

The police later informed us the attacker was a guy I went to high school with named Ronnie Walker.  I vaguely remembered him.  Apparently he hated me and had for some years, and soon after he saw me at the Lowes, he had posted a number of nasty comments about me on lawyer rating sites.  Then he found out about my radio show and the advice I gave illegals about the ID card.  That sent him over the edge.  Ronnie had lost a number of jobs, but the most recent job he lost to an illegal construction worker who worked cheaper and did better work than Ronnie.

Ronnie dropped out of high school, so he didn't have many work options.  He blamed the illegals for this, and I think he blamed me too or so his rants online indicate.  Carol was right "some people have issues."