Sunday, February 26, 2006

Personal injury - taking in tricky cases

Some personal injury cases are straightforward. Car accidents are a good example. Fairly early on, for little or no cost, you can get a good idea of who was at fault, how the accident happened, and what the injuries are. For the facts of the accident, the police report is usually accurate, or at least in the ballpark. For injuries, you get medical records from the client's doctors.

Others are more complicated. I have a case resulting from a bar fight. The case is against the bar, mainly on the theory that they knew the assailant was behaving in a violent manner and they didn't keep him out or otherwise protect the patrons (including my client, who was badly injured) from him.

So how do you prove the bar knew he was behaving violently? I was thinking about taking another bar fight case. I was contacted by the mother of the "victim". On their description it was a good case.

However (the key word in telling a good story?), a careful personal injury lawyer does not take a case solely on the prospective client's description. In the new case, I told the mom I would only take the case if we first had a private investigator go out and take statements from witnesses -- and mom was going to have to pay the bill (about $500).

I introduced the investigator to the mom, she paid him, and he investigated. The story did not turn out so good for the "victim", and I did not take the case.

In the one I did take, which is getting closer to trial, I did something similar. As appropriate with tricky cases, I made the client put up the initial expenses. You have more confidence in the case if the client shows their belief by putting their money up.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Vacation challenge

I'll be leaving town for about a week shortly. This is a tremendous challenge for a solo practitioner.

You have to get all the work on your desk done, so when you get back you can deal with all the stuff that came in while you were gone.

You have to get someone you trust to read your mail, and tell you if anything comes in that requires attention before you get back (or right when you get back).

You have to arrange for others to cover for you on things that come up while you're gone. And you generally have to pay them to do that.

You have to accept that you will lose revenue while you're gone. Some clients will not hire you if you're not going to be there.

Perhaps worst of all, you have to deal with things beyond what I describe above, that you didn't anticipate, and you have to make decisions on the fly.

And somewhere in there you have to enjoy the vacation. :-)

Interview on Schenectady Public Access

I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Ernie Tetrault for Justice Now. We discussed criminal justice issues and some other topics. Very nice experience.

Well now Ernie tells me it's actually going to be on television. Okay, that's not really a surprise. The show will air on the local UPN affiliate, cable channel 4, on Sunday, 2/26, at 11 am.

I'm particularly flattered that Ernie asked me to interview others. So I persuaded my friends Dan & Joe Masucci to come on the show. Dan & Joe are local indie filmmakers. Both live in Schenectady County, and are natives of the Albany area.

They are almost done making a film called "The Last Round". So I interviewed them about the process of making an indie film, and also about this particular film. They managed to get a celebrity, William B. Davis, to appear in the film. Davis is best known as "The Smoking Man", or "Cigarette Smoking Man", from the X-Files TV series, but he has done a lot more than that in his career.

My interview of the Masuccis will appear sometime in the next few weeks.

We continue to look for good interviewees. A major focus of our interviews is criminal justice issues, and perhaps more important, injustice in the system. Beyond that we want to hear from potential interviwees on general topics of interest in the Albany Schenectady Troy Saratoga area (and beyond).

Thursday, February 16, 2006


What's brrreeeport? It's a hot new meaningless term on the web. Some guy named Scoble's idea of an experiment. This just shows how complicated the process of search engine optimization is. If you want to learn more about it, search Google for brrreeeport, or SEO, or search engine optimization.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Personal Injury - copyrighted

The other day I received my "Certificate of Registration". I copyrighted my screenplay and treatment of my "Personal Injury" TV series. I'm so excited I scanned it in and have posted it here. I've never been copyrighted before.

Of course this is silly. The odds of success on a TV series are slim to none, and all I really did was pay a fee ($30?) and fill out a form. But I'm excited nonetheless.

The idea is based on my experience as a personal injury defense lawyer for Allstate. Unlike all the criminal law shows, this show has both drama and humor. Personal injury cases can be very funny. The pilot is about a case I defended where the plaintiff had suffered a testicle injury. That's just funny, and it gets more funny if you get all the details, both about the injury itself and how people reacted to the case in our office and in court.

Of course you can't have the same degree of drama in a car accident case. The stakes just aren't as high. No one's going to jail, and generally no one died. Sometimes the amount of money involved is enough to make the stakes seem high, but it's just not as big a deal as murder.

I'm getting into all these other things (screenwriting, web publishing), and occasionally talk about how I won't have to be a lawyer any more if this works out. But I like being a lawyer. I know so many lawyers who are unhappy with their lot in life, who don't enjoy their work. And here I am, happy, and even passionate about my cases, and yet I'm still talking about getting out.

Pleading guilty to speeding tickets

In contrast to my earlier post today, something in the same ballpark just popped up.

In this case, the client pled guilty by mail to three speeding tickets between 5/04 and 9/05 (within 18 months of each other). Under NY law, you get your license revoked for that. Each of his speeds were relatively minor (81-85 mph in 65 mph zone).

Had she hired a good lawyer to handle these tickets, each would likely have been reduced to a non-moving violation (the 85 would be a close call, but still a good reduction).

So now she's paying me substantially more than what it costs to handle one of these normally, for me to do writs of coram nobis. Under coram nobis, I apply to the Court to vacate the original conviction, then we start over.

Unfortunately in the first Court, the ADA was unwilling to agree to anything less than a 3-point speed, so now we have to move in another court (or go to trial in the first court, which is unwise). The reason for not reducing lower -- client has 3 recent speeding tickets. I explained that one of those is the one we're negotiating, but even with 2 recent tickets, the ADA would not agree to a larger reduction.

That's why you want to keep your record clean, and why it's generally a good idea to consult a traffic ticket lawyer early on, rather than when it's too late.

Speeding ticket websites

I knew this kind of call would come someday. It came today.

Caller: Do you handle appeals of speeding tickets?

I asked him to tell me more about the situation. He had gotten a speeding ticket in Athens Town Court. Athens is in Greene County, a bit south of Albany. The ticket was for 90 mph in a 65 zone.

He went to trial himself, using the Tipmra method. He seemed surprised I'd never heard of it.

Of course he lost the trial. I checked out the Tipmra site later and found out that, like others, they guarantee you a refund. Whoopee! This guy just got whacked with $655 in fines and surcharges, his insurance rates are going to go through the roof, his license is in jeopardy, and you'll refund his $29.95. Thanks.

Of course, it turns out that this guy didn't actually pay for the whole thing. He read the free part of the site and went from there. Now he's calling me for free advice on how to do his appeal. The conversation went a bit downhill after I told him I'd charge $2500 to do an appeal in County Court.

And now he's got another ticket, for 93 mph in a 65 zone. Hmm. 6 points plus 6 points equals 12 -- about to lose his license. Nice going.

If he had hired me (or any other competent lawyer), he would have gotten his first ticket resolved for about $400, with minimum fines, no risk to his license, and no impact on his insurance.

The funniest part -- he got the first ticket when he was on his learner's permit. I asked who was in the car with him -- his dad. So he's going 90 mph with his dad in the car.

Reminds me of the Darwin awards. :-)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Superbowl - Worst referees ever

That was the worst officiating I've ever seen. The most lopsided calls ever. I'm a Giants fan, and I like both the Seahawks and the Steelers. I thought the Seahawks were the better team going in, and after those calls, I still feel that way.

Take nothing away from the Steelers. They're a good team and they played a good game. But the refs stole that game from the Seahawks.

Bogus interference call. Both players were pushing each other.

Bogus holding call.

That's two touchdowns right there.

Then, late in the game, Roethlisberger is running left and Hines Ward holds the corner - no call.

And what about that penalty on Hasselbeck on the tackle after the interception. Ridiculous call!

I did think Roethlisberger scored on the touchdown. That was a good call. But overall, the refs stole the game from the Seahawks.

I had to get that off my chest.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Marijuana defense - dismissal under NY law - CPL 170.56

If you're facing marijuana charges in New York State, we might be able to help. Please check out our Marijuana Lawyer page.
Got part of another case resolved tonight. Client was charged with UPM (unlawful possession of marijuana). Criminal Procedure Law section 170.56 provides for dismissal or ACOD (adjourned in contemplation of dismissal) for UPM and the two misdemeanor marijuana charges, if it's a first-time marijuana offense. Defendant has to move for it, and the DA's consent is not required.

When I first appeared on this case, the ADA wanted my client to do 20 hours of community service. Sometimes DAs make up their own laws. This is not the ADA's fault. We have a new DA in Albany County, and this is part of his agenda. It's quite disturbing because he ran on a drug policy reform platform, and now he is giving the worst deals on minor marijuana offenses. No other county DA in the area seeks community service on a UPM.

So when that happened, I made a "letter motion" (I sent a letter and said "Judge, I move for ...") for dismissal under 170.56. I appeared in Court tonight and the ADA still insisted on community service.

We approached and discussed with the judge. In this case it helped that my client already volunteers extensively doing something very nice and noble. The ADA initially told the judge that he did not have the authority without her consent. I disagreed. We took a break while she looked it up. We went back in front of the judge and she admitted I was right. Yes, that does something for the male ego. :-)

So the judge granted my motion, and because of NY law regarding UPM and this dismissal, it's as if it never happened. My client was never arrested, under New York law.

I should mention that I've never had a problem with this ADA before, and we had done deals on UPMs before the new DA, and there was no problem then. While I am often critical of prosecutors, I do respect this particular ADA even if I disagreed with her on this case.

DWI - Lawyer thinking on his feet

Finally made a deal tonight on a case that had been going for a while. Client charged with DWI after an accident. He was also charged with a few other misdemeanors.

The case has been dragging on for a while now. The first ADA seemed to be disinterested and we weren't making any progress. I jumped through a few hoops, and had my client jump through a couple more (alcohol evaluation). I had the consent of the victim's attorney. Yada yada yada.

So we finally get the new ADA to agree to a deal - DWI and another misdemeanor, no jail time and 3 years probation. I go up to the judge to finalize, and the judge wants to adjourn 8 weeks for a presentence investigation (PSI). I said we'd waive it. The clerk says it's mandatory. I think she's wrong, but I'm not winning the argument.

The 8 weeks matters because it's 8 weeks before the DWI revocation starts, and therefore 8 weeks before it ends. Two more months without driving. Client has a prior within 5 years, and will probably not be eligible for a conditional license.

So, thinking on my feet (hey, once in a while I'm not an idiot), I ask the judge to sentence my client on the DWI now, and sentence him to 3 years probation on the other misdemeanor. The judge agreed, so the revocation started tonight.


Speeding tickets

With all the traffic on the Speeding Ticket FAQ page on my main site, I figured I should add more information. Plus, I get calls occasionally from people with tickets in other places that I don't handle. I've had calls about Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and many for New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

So I've added three new pages:

New York City speeding tickets,

New Jersey speeding tickets,


California speeding tickets.

Now I'm going to watch Google Analytics to see if these pages get any traffic. I doubt they'll rank on searches, but maybe some of the visitors to the main faq page will see the links and click over. I will probably add some other states in the future, but for now I want to see how these do.

It's somewhat interesting to see how other states handle speeding tickets. From a brief look around, NY may be one of the toughest states, with high fines and surcharges. On a brief review, California may be even worse.