Monday, June 26, 2006

A lovely day

We just had a lovely day. Our original plan was to meet a New Jersey friend in Bear Mountain State Park. The weather forecast was not good, so we postponed that.

But we had promised our older daughter a trip to a park, so ...

We went to Thacher Park in the morning. Put the baby (is 16 months still a baby?) in a backpack carrier and walked the Indian Ladder Trail. The baby really seemed to like the backpack. Older daughter definitely enjoyed the walk also. If you've never done it, this is really a wonderful walk. Basically, you walk down steps at one end of the walk, and then walk under the cliff to the other side of the walk. Along the way you see rock formations, views of the area below and out some ways, streams, waterfalls, etc. Make sure you wear good hiking shoes because there are slippery spots, a lot of steps, and some slopes too. This trail is not wheelchair accessible, keep in mind. Thacher Park is also a good place for leaf-peeping in the fall.

The plan was to do the walk, have a picnic, and then drive up to Magic Forest (just south of Lake George). The baby would sleep on the drive, which is a lot better than her whining during the drive.

Foiled! She fell asleep in the backpack just before we got back for the picnic. I felt her forehead heavy on my shoulder. My wife thought she was just looking down. Right! So she napped on a blanket in the shade while we ate our picnic. Very cute. Older daughter flew her kite, but there really wasn't much wind.

Then it was into the car for the long drive to Northway Exit 21, and then another mile or so South on 9 to Magic Forest. This is a nice spot. It's intended for kids under 10 years old. Admission was $50 for the four of us, and all the rides and shows were included. There's not a whole lot there. Hoffmans Playland has more rides. One nice thing about Magic Forest is that it's in a forest (I guess that explains the name) so there's a lot of shade and it feels cooler than other places you might go. The parking lot, however, is not shady so your car might be pretty hot when you get back to it.

So older daughter did a bunch of kiddie rides. I took the baby on one little ride. I think my back will recover (I've been dealing with spasms in my lower back, but that has been improving). When we first got there the baby found a patch of sand near one ride, and she played in the sand for maybe 20 minutes.

Towards the end of our time there we caught the magic show and the diving horse. Yes, they have a horse that dives into a pool. Not sure what PETA would say about it, but I thought it was pretty cool. It's gotta be a 10 foot drop. You don't see that every day.

Met the in-laws for dinner on the way home, stopped over at their house to put the baby in her PJs, and then drove home. Sure enough, the baby fell asleep on the way home.

A pretty nice summer day in Albany.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Proposed rules on attorney advertising

You may have read about a set of proposed rules that would affect attorney advertising. I went through them quickly tonight and drafted a letter comment that I'm sending in to the appropriate person. My letter is below ([bracketed material] is not in the letter, but is for readers to understand what the proposed rule is). I would appreciate any comments and I will submit a supplemental letter if I see anything good. I would also encourage others to submit their comments. --Warren

The proposed rules are at:


June 20, 2006

Michael Colodner, Esq.
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street
New York, New York 10004

Re: Proposed advertising rules

Dear Mr. Colodner:

I write to comment on the proposed advertising rules. My comments are below:

Rule 1200.6
(d)(5): While I have never used a courthouse or courtroom in any advertising, this proposed rule seems silly. For those of us who work in courthouses and courtrooms, such a scene could be a useful way of communicating what we do to prospective clients. The proposed rule improperly limits our free speech. [rule prohibits use of courthouse/courtroom in ads]

(e)(4): The proposed rule refers to “the quality” of services. My firm website indicates that I speak Spanish, Japanese and some French, and that a person answers our phone. These are “qualities” of our firm, and I assume they are acceptable things to say (I do speak those languages, and a person does answer our phone 24/7/365). I don’t think the rule distinguishes well between “quality” and “qualities”. [rule prohibits describing quality of lawyer's service - I think they mean words like "Great"]

(f)(3): The proposed disclaimer is unreasonably long and seems designed to hamper communication, rather than convey an effective disclaimer. On my site I use the following disclaimer: “Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.” This disclaimer is more effective. The proposed disclaimer is so long some consumers may not read the whole statement. I do not suggest you should adopt my disclaimer instead, but rather that flexibility should be allowed. [proposed disclaimer: "Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future matter, including yours,
in which a lawyer or law firm may be retained."]

(g) and (h): These proposals are overly broad. It is unnecessary for most of the ads I see. I can’t think of any lawyer ads I’ve seen that were not obviously lawyer ads. Such rules might be appropriate if they were made to apply only to advertising that was not already obvious as lawyer advertising. [rules require statements on all ads of "Attorney Advertising" or "an advertisement for legal services" - does anyone not realize that Martin Harding is advertising legal services?]

I find this particularly disturbing as applied to websites. Lawyer websites serve many functions, including as a source of further information for existing clients. Proposed rule (h) is so broad (and the definition of advertising is also so broad) that every page would be required to have the “Attorney Advertising” label on it, even for pages that are not really advertising. I have pages on my website about speeding tickets in other locations that clearly indicate I don’t handle such matters. Under this rule I would still have to have the “Attorney Advertising” stamp on those pages.

As long as I mentioned it, I’ll mention that the definition of advertising is either vague or overbroad, or both. I can’t tell if it applies to my blogs. Does it apply to Matt Lerner’s New York Civil Law blog? His blog is comparable to Siegel’s updates on caselaw, but could be interpreted as advertising under the proposed rules. I don’t consider any of my blogs to be advertising (especially not my restaurant review blog). But how do I know that will hold up since the blogs link to my law firm website?

(j) It’s unclear whether this rule applies to websites and other “computer-accessed communications”. Other subsections (e.g. (h)), state “including computer …”. Does the absence of this statement mean the rule does not apply to websites, etc? [requires name, address, and phone number]

(k) Now this rule indicates that (j) does apply to websites etc. The rule indicates that the website (etc) must disclose all jurisdictions where the lawyer(s) are licensed to practice …. Is this a requirement for every page (unduly burdensome) or just somewhere on the site (more reasonable, but a devious lawyer (if they exist) could hide such information on a page people are not likely to navigate to. In general the rules do not seem to contemplate navigation issues for websites.

Please forgive my techno-arrogance, but I don’t think the authors of these proposed rules understand the web well enough to regulate it. If I publish an article on, does that count as advertising and computer-accessed communication? How about if I put a comment on a blog post?

Another problem with (h), (j) and (k) is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Also known as “Sponsored links”, PPC ads on Google, Yahoo, and other web advertising often have an extremely limited amount of text. The ads generally link to a website that would contain the required information. But do the proposed rules could be interpreted to require all of these disclaimers and information in the PPC ad. This would be impossible given the limited amount of text allowed in such an ad.

(n) This rule is unnecessary in regard to websites and other web content. There is a site on the web known as the “wayback machine” (search google for this phrase). It retains multiple copies of all significant websites. Google also maintains multiple copies of websites in its “cache”. The rule is also unduly burdensome for websites and other web content (i.e. blogs) that are frequently updated. Given the vague/overbroad definition of advertising, lawyers creating web content will be perplexed, to say the least. [requires attorney to keep a copy of each page for a year]

(o) I can’t figure out what this rule applies to. I have no idea. Is this still intended for mailings (and presumably e-mails), or does it apply to everything? If everything, the rule is grossly overburdensome. Websites are already open to public inspection, and are effectively filed in the wayback machine and in Google’s cache. [requires that all ads be filed with the attorney disciplinary committee]

(t) Does this rule apply to criminal defense, including traffic and dwi cases? It doesn’t make sense in that context as far as I can see. The proposed disclaimer in those contexts (and probably others) would be more likely to confuse prospective clients than inform them. [requires disclosure that client will remain liable for costs, disbursements, and other expenses - sensible for personal injury cases]

1200.7(e)(2): I don’t understand this rule. How would someone use a domain name in the practice of law? I just have no idea what this means. The rule is vague, overbroad, or just plain meaningless. [(e) talks about using a domain name that does not include the lawyer's name, and (e)(2) prohibits the lawyer from "engag[ing] in the practice of law using the domain name"]

1200.8(a)(1): What does “interactive computer-accessed communication” include? Is this a reference to chats or instant messaging? Does it include e-mail? How about PPC ads? My website is interactive (if you click on a link, it takes you to a different part of my site, or can even call up your e-mail program to send me an e-mail). What about the new “click-to-call” ads that some sites are developing, where the user enters their phone number and clicks enter, which then directs a phone call be made to that number. I don’t use this type of ad, but others may. [1200.8 deals with solicitation]

1200.8(e): This rule is unduly restrictive. What if the legislature sets a new filing deadline of 31 days (or 45 days) for something? This would greatly diminish the ability of injured persons to recover for their injuries. I don’t see this rule applying to anything I do, but I don’t like how it treats potential claimants. I have the same concern about 1200.41-a. [these rules prohibit contacting people within 30 days unless there is a filing deadline of 30 days from the date of the incident]

Very truly yours,

Warren Redlich

Monday, June 19, 2006

Constitution Schmonstitution

Our illustrious Supreme Court has again decided that that Constitution thingy doesn't mean much. Who need rights anyway. The police are better trained these days and they don't violate people's rights nearly as much as they used to. The case is Hudson v. Michigan.

Justice Scalia's reference to better police training is a laugh. Well, maybe the police are better trained in how to violate rights and get away with it, but they're not better trained to respect people's rights.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blogging for over a year

I just realized I've been doing this blog for over a year now. My first post was on May 1st, 2005. I missed the birthday. :-)

The first appearance date and suspensions

Somewhere I mentioned that the date on the ticket isn't really a hard date. I was at a seminar yesterday and we were told that the real date is 60 days after that. Once that 60 days runs, the court can (but doesn't have to) contact DMV to initiate a suspension. When DMV issues the suspension notice to you (and hopefully they have your correct address or you have mail forwarding), it gives you another 30 days to appear.

One local court is now sending out warning notices after about 20 days, indicating that they will send the suspension notice out in 10 days if the person doesn't appear. This is inaccurate because, of course, they can't send the notice until 60 days have run.

But it probably doesn't hurt to remind people that their ticket is due to be dealt with and maybe prevent extra paperwork that goes with the suspension notice.

Connecticut and traffic tickets from other states

Connecticut seems like the place for speeders. If I'm getting my information correctly, the holder of a CT drivers license gets no points for speeds under 85 mph if you pay the fine with no fuss. And while it appears that state law authorizes CT DMV to recognize out-of-state tickets, it looks from the regulations like the point system only applies to in-state tickets.

Also, the fines look much lower than NY, but New York has an extremely high set of fines compared to any other state I've seen.

Vermont and NY tickets

I was just reading the VT DMV website. Violations from other states do not count for points in Vermont, but the website indicates that some violations from other states may be reported on a VT driving record, and some violations can lead to a suspension of the Vermont drivers license.

So if a violation from another state shows up on a VT record, but it doesn't carry points, does that mean it can't raise your insurance rates? Hmm.

This is what their site says:

An ACD code may appear on a Vermont driving record if a violation has been reported to Vermont from another state/jurisdiction. There are no points assessed in Vermont for a violation occurring in another state/jurisdiction, however, (in some situations) the Vermont DMV will issue a license suspension based upon receiving a report of certain violations in other states/jurisdictions.

Out-of-state tickets for NY drivers

Once in a while a NY driver will call and ask me about a speeding ticket they got in another state. Generally, the answer is that a ticket in another state won't affect you, as long as you deal with it. If you ignore it or otherwise screw up the process in that state, they might suspend you there and NY would then suspend you here. That's bad.

One comment: Tickets in Ontario and Quebec are supposed to count on your NY driving record - sort of. The DMV website says that - the full text of part of one of their webpages is below - but I'm not sure it's completely true.

I've seen hundreds of NY driving records and never seen an Ontario or Quebec ticket on one. I've seen several records from other states with tickets on them from different states, and I see more NY records than I do from other states, so I'm a bit suspicious. I'm not going to drive up to Montreal and speed around to find out, but I'm suspicious nonetheless.

The other thing is, even if it shows up on your record, I don't think it would count against you for insurance. Insurance Law § 2335 refers to violations of the Vehicle & Traffic Law. Violations in Quebec and Ontario can't be violations of NY V&T Law. Maybe there's a provision somewhere else, but I haven't seen it yet.

The DMV website says:

If I get a ticket for a moving violation in another state, do I receive points on my NYS driver license?

The NYSDMV does not record out-of-state violations committed by NYS drivers in other jurisdictions. The exceptions are alcohol-related violations, drug-related violations, and moving violations committed in Quebec or Ontario. Under special agreements, traffic convictions in Quebec or Ontario are recorded on NYS driver license records and carry points. Except for violations in Ontario and Quebec, points are not added to your NYS record for out-of-state violations.

If you do not respond to a ticket or fail to pay a fine for a moving violation that you committed in any state except Alaska, California, Michigan, Montana, Oregon or Wisconsin, the DMV suspends your NYS driver license until you respond to the ticket or pay the fine. If a driver from a state except these six states fails to respond to a traffic ticket issued in NYS, their driver license will be suspended until the driver responds to the traffic ticket in NYS.

Drivers from other states must contact the DMV in their home state to get information about the effect of a traffic violation conviction that occurs in NYS.

If you receive a conviction for an alcohol-related or drug-related driving violation in any state, your NYS driver license is revoked for at least six months.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Debt Collectors and Debt Collection Letters

I'm coming to believe there may be no lower profession than the debt collector. Keep in mind I'm not referring to attorneys who do debt collection. I deal with them on a regular basis and they follow the law. I'm referring to the businesses that repeatedly call and harass the supposed debtor.

I've got a pro bono client now who repudiated a contract. The contracting company is treating her like a deadbeat (and no, it's not okay to treat actual deadbeats this way anyway). They call her repeatedly, literally on a daily basis. This after I've sent them several letters instructing to direct all communication to me.

The last guy I talked to was a flat-out liar, and an idiot to boot. This must be a great industry for felons who are looking for work, because these guys have no standards whatsoever. A felony record is probably a plus on a job application.

The good thing is, if you're a lawyer who's comfortable with this stuff, these guys blow over like fine paper in a hurricane.

It can also be frustrating for people to get a debt collection letter. In my own life I've had a few disputes with companies where I refused to pay bills for good reasons. Rather than engage in a genuine discussion with about how to resolve the issues, some companies will just hand it off to debt collectors. The debt collectors will then send annoying letters and make harassing phone calls to the consumer for years.

In general I try to ignore them. If they're calling I'll mail a letter instructing them not to call me again. Then it gets handed off to a new debt collector who apparently is not bound by the earlier letter. That's one of the games they play with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If the debt is small enough, they're probably not going to sue (but there are exceptions). When you refused to pay for a valid reason, the lawsuit is what you've been waiting for because you can explain (calmly) the reasons why you refused to pay and why it's not a valid debt.

Lucky morning

Showed up to Court this morning. Client met me there, which is unusual as I always tell my clients they don't have to come -- all they have to do is sign a form and fax it to me but anyway ...

The Trooper didn't show up. The Court was already pretty quiet. After about a half-hour, the Judge called me up to the bench. I moved to dismiss. Motion granted.

The Troopers usually show, maybe 95% of the time. I told the client he was very lucky.

He told me what a great job I did. I tried to explain that I didn't do anything special. I just showed up. He remained very pleased with me.

I guess sometimes that's all you have to do is show up.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Interview on UPN - This Sunday

I interviewed Peter Christ for Ernie Tetrault's show recently. The interview will air this coming Sunday (11 am, I think) on UPN (Time Warner cable channel 4 in most places around here).

Peter is the co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of police officers who support drug policy reform and, as you might guess from the name, feel that prohibition doesn't work.

Despite my poor interviewing skills, Peter explains their position very well.

Thanks again to Ernie for letting me do interviews like this.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Consequences of criminal conduct

I've got a couple of clients dealing with the consequences of their actions. One is facing a long prison term. The other will be out soon, but discovered a different kind of problem the other day.

His wife and young son visited him. He had talked with both on the phone some in the last couple months, but for some reason the authorities made it nearly impossible for him to call them. He and his wife continued to communicate by letter, but his communication with his son was virtually cut off.

So when his son visited him, he would not talk to his father. They only had 30 minutes for the visit, which was not enough time for the son to warm up, so the visit ended without any genuine contact between them.

This was clearly a crushing experience for the father.

It's something I don't think occurs to a lot of people who get involved in crime. They have some sense that they might go to jail, but they generally are unaware of how their actions might affect their family.

While I am in a sense criticizing my client, I'm more concerned with how our criminal process (I will not call it a criminal justice system since it is so unjust) fails to recognize these family consequences and fails to make efforts to preserve family relationships.

It's a common problem in New York. A downstate man gets arrested, convicted, and eventually shipped to an upstate prison. Five hours away from NYC, with virtually no meaningful public transit. And the inmates can only call home collect, at exorbitant rates. You would think the families could get a toll free number, but the inmates are not allowed to call toll free numbers. Why? Because that would cut into the prison's revenue from the collect-call scam.

If you were ever looking for a worthwhile charity, look into Prison Families of New York.

You may be the kind of person who wants to punish criminals, but do you really want to punish their families too?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

New York speeding tickets and Ontario drivers

I get calls from Ontario and Quebec drivers who get speeding tickets in NY, and I've represented a number of them. Today I came across a page from Ontario's Ministry of Transportation that discusses the Ontario demerit point system and specifically mentions violations from New York (Michigan too).

The short story is that if an Ontario driver gets a NY traffic violation, Ontario treats it as if it happened in Ontario. Another site I read suggested that insurance rates could double for higher speeds and other offenses for 5-6 years. Ouch!

It also looks like if I can just get your speed down to 9 mph over the limit, that doesn't count as points in Ontario. Not sure about that, but maybe.


It's semi-official now. I'm running for Congress again. I ran in 2004 and, considering the small amount of money, we did well. 30% of the vote doesn't sound like much, but the previous 7 challengers each got 25%.

The campaign theme then was "Stop Wasting Money Overseas (defending rich countries like France)". We're trying to be more efficient this time, so we're reducing the theme to just three words: "Stop Wasting Money".

I'll be talking about a variety of issues, but with that simple focus -- government shouldn't waste our money.

The campaign website is Not much there yet, but we'll get something going.

A beautiful drive

One of the nice things about being a lawyer in the Albany area is the occasional drive somewhere different. Tonight I went to Claverack Town Court one of the traffic courts in Columbia County. Then I went to a meeting in the Town of Schoharie, in Schoharie County.

Initially, Google Maps suggested going back to I-90 and then to I-88 and down into Schoharie. But that seemed way out of the way. And I always like to try local roads and back roads. So I goofed around a bit more on Google and found Route 145, which runs from just west of Catskill (in Greene County) to Middleburgh (in Schoharie County). Route 145 was a very nice ride and a gorgeous drive. Some beautiful mountain and valley views.

The day before I drove from Fort Plain (just west of Canajoharie) in Montgomery County up to Johnstown in Fulton County. I went up Route 10 and took a shortcut on "New Turnpike Road" to Route 67 East. That's another great drive.

Something different about the Albany area. I lived in Texas and have spent time in Florida. Most of the drives in those states (where I was) are a lot of flat land. The rivers, valleys, mountains and lakes in this area make for great views. California has a lot of that too.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


I've really been struggling for the last month or so. The move to our new space took a lot of time. While that was going on I had a very high pressure criminal case with a judge who was pushing too fast for my tastes. Fortunately, both for client and myself, the client took a deal with a rather lengthy prison sentence. Fortunate for him because he faced a big risk of a lot more time. Fortunate for me because I now have some time to dig out of the paperwork hole I'm buried in. It's a pretty sad story, but I'm going to wait a while before discussing it.

We also had a college intern start with us this month, and she's doing great. She's doing some fairly simple and routine tasks, and that makes my work a lot easier. I keep apologizing for the boring work but she insists she likes it. I'll try to keep varying the work and helping her understand various aspects of what we do. I reviewed a DWI bill of particulars with her the other day, and I hope that was interesting for her.

I worked for about 6 hours on Saturday and really feel like I made progress on catching up. Also, my DWI case for this coming week was adjourned, so I'll have time this week to get things going. That's really a case of SWI (Sleeping While Intoxicated). Don't know how the DA can go forward with it, but at least he's pleasant about the whole thing.

Town Court site - completed three NY counties

Thanks to a gung-ho law student intern and some sleeplessness on my part, the town court directory website is on a roll. We've completed three counties now, including courts in Albany County, courts in Schenectady County, and courts in Onondaga County. We now have over 85 courts in 14 counties in the directory, and should have well over 100 by the end of the June.

There's a lot of learning along the way. I didn't know that Delanson was a village in Schenectady County. I thought it was a hamlet. It also doesn't seem to have a court, but I thought all villages had courts. Hmm.

The site is starting to get some traffic, in the ballpark of 300 visitors a week. This should increase dramatically as the pages get known on the web.