Sunday, December 23, 2007


A friend of mine sent me this, and I thought it was pretty funny. It didn't take much time either.

See Warren Redlich Scrooged.

And make sure your sound is on.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More problems with iPhone activation

I just posted last night about my problems with my iPhone. At the end of that post I mentioned that I was next going to activate two more iPhones (one each for my associates - and yes, there really is a business purpose in mind). I thought it would be quicker to activate the next ones because I had gotten past the creating an account problem with AT&T.

Nope. It's taking longer, and there is no end in sight.

I got that e-mail message 8 hours ago now. For some reason my second iPhone is not activated yet.

Of course I called AT&T customer service, and they were absolutely no help. The rep insisted there is no such thing as an iPhone activation specialist at AT&T, even though I talked to Darameli last night who told me she was an iPhone activation specialist for AT&T. The rep gave me a number for Apple customer support. They're not open until 6 am Pacific time. I will be in court this morning so I don't think I'll get this resolved for maybe 20 hours.

So far I'm really unimpressed with the quality of customer service at AT&T and Apple. This is really a let-down as far as Apple is concerned. I don't expect much from cell phone companies, but I expect more from Apple.

I should stress that I deliberately started this process last night, at night. Why? Because when you switch over your cell phone number, it's supposed to take about 6 hours (not 8 or 20). By doing it at night, this prevents me from having problems with calls during the day when I make money using my cell phone. The whole purpose of my doing it that way was defeated by incompetence at AT&T, Apple, or both.

Here's a simple message for both of them. I am your customer. You are supposed to care about what I think. So far this year I have spent in the ballpark of $5000 on Apple products, and just signed up to spend in the ballpark of $8000 on AT&T service over the next two years. Why on earth would you do this to a customer who is trying to pay you lots of money?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A bad iPhone experience with Apple and AT-and-T

See the picture below to start getting a sense of my frustration with Apple, AT&T, and my new iPhone.

That screen is not in any of the iPhone commercials I saw. No one at the Apple store told me that I needed "an AT&T pre-approved credit check code" before I'd be able to use my iPhone.

I am outraged that there is no way for me to resolve this without going to an AT&T store. I hate going to cell phone stores. [Note that the issue was eventually resolved on the phone - I think -- see below. I began writing this while on hold.]

Apparently this happens to anyone who has never had an AT&T account. Strangely, I did not see this in any of the iPhone ads I saw on TV. It wasn't mentioned in any of the many e-mails I got from Apple encouraging me to buy an iPhone. I didn't see it when I browsed Apple's website to learn more about the iPhone (which I did several times).

One very frustrating detail here is that no one at the Apple store told me about this. Had they told me that, I could easily have walked to an AT&T store or kiosk in Crossgates to get the pre-approval.

The one bright spot in this experience was an AT&T "activation specialist" named Darameli, who somehow made it work. She created a "pre-account" for me and that allowed her to get me the code I needed. By resolving this issue (well, I'm still waiting for some final e-mail confirmation from AT&T, but ...) she removed the urge to drive to the nearest AT&T store and throw an iPhone through their window.

Now here's what gets me, and why I would advise any investor to stay away from stock in AT&T. This has to have happened before. Apple has sold over 1 million iPhones. If 10% of the customers have never had an AT&T account before (and that has to be a conservative estimate) then 100,000 people have had this problem. From talking to Darameli, she has encountered problems like this before, and has had to deal with angry customers like me. I was bouncing off the walls before she calmed me down. I screamed at three customer service reps before they finally got me to her. The process took an extra 45 minutes because of this idiot snafu.

After 100,000 of your customers have had this problem, wouldn't you think management would have found a way around this. If just one executive had sat in Darameli's chair for one day, this problem would have been fixed the next day. It doesn't have to be the CEO. It could be the COO, the CFO, the General Counsel, any member of the Board of Directors. There's a lot of possibilities here. This was my first experience with AT&T as a customer. It wasn't a good one. What a tremendous opportunity to build customer loyalty right from the get-go. Instead, it's a big chink in the armor.

Now let's be clear about something. I should not need a pre-approved credit check code. I am a long-time Apple customer. I have bought several Macs over the past few years, including at least two in the past year. And I just bought three iPhones at a cost of $1500 (including the 2-year super-duper warranty for each. It should be a pretty safe bet that I can afford the monthly payment on the cell phone account.

What does AT&T gain by doing this? How many iPhone buyers (at $399 a pop these days) are going to fail a credit check? Maybe some, but I'd bet it's a small percentage. What does AT&T really lose if someone can't pay their bill anyway? The marginal cost of an extra customer is trivial in this business. Can't anyone at AT&T do that math?

I'm not letting Apple off the hook here. But I have years of experience with Apple and they've been pretty good all this time.

And you know, now that I think about it, my first cell phone was with Cellular One. They were taken over by Cingular. And Cingular became AT&T. So I did have an AT&T account before. These guys are idiots.

After completing my post, I did a little digging. Over three months ago someone made a similar complaint on a very prominent blog: Michael Huffington on the iPhone.

And here's another one from back in June: MacRumors on the iPhone.

Another one from July 4th: Mobilewhack on the iPhone.

I also looked at the video on the Apple website about it. The guy tells you it's really simple, and you can do it at your own pace. I started the process 90 minutes ago and I still haven't gotten the confirmation allowing me to activate my iPhone. Keep in mind that I have to activate two other iPhones and can't do them until I get the first one done.

Update: It took a total of 2 1/2 hours to activate my iPhone. The next two should be quicker. And I've gotten two marketing messages from AT&T so far. Nice.

Further update: See my next post about more problems with iPhone activation.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Interesting Albany trivia

Did you know that Albany, in 1870, was the 20th largest city in the United States?

Check out this table from the US Census Bureau. Albany's status dropped quickly, and by 1910 it was the 50th largest city, even though Albany's population had grown substantially in that time.

Troy was in the top 50 back in the late 1800s as well.

Buffalo, #11 in 1870, is holding on to #50. It peaked in status at #8 in 1900.

Read more at this page from the Census Bureau about the largest cities.

Great tidbits:

In 1810, Albany had more than twice as many people as Brooklyn.

In 1800 Albany and Schenectady were tied, but then Schenectady disappears from the list for 1810 (did they put them together?)

Cohoes was #97 back in 1870

Albany seems to have peaked (in status) in 1840 at #9. You could argue it was really #8 since Brooklyn was counted separately from NYC.

Can you imagine Albany being the 9th largest city in the US? Chicago was #92 at the time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Guilderland - Appointments in January

At our first Town Board meeting as new councilmen on January 3rd, Mark
Grimm and I will be asked to vote on many appointments for various
Town positions. In keeping with our campaign pledge to open up
government, we wish to publicly solicit applications for those positions.

They include membership on the Economic Development Advisory Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board, and the Industrial Development Agency. There are also several part-time attorney positions, including the Town Attorney position, and attorneys for the zoning and planning boards. More information on the Town's boards and committees can be found at the Town website:

If you are interested and feel you are qualified for any of these openings, please send us your resume and a brief statement on why you think your appointment might help improve Guilderland. You can e-mail to, or fax to my office at 518-862-1551. Thank you.

--- Warren Redlich

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Albany Sheriff Cracks Down on Gambling and Marijuana

The Albany Sheriff is really cracking down on the bad guys these days. The Times Union had a couple of articles on November 29th about his team nailing a gambling ring, and another about them bungling a marijuana operation.

In the gambling story, the Sheriff successfully protected the public from four dopes who were engaged in a gambling conspiracy. The story is filled with dollar amounts that are probably inflated for dramatic purposes. Even if you believe them, the "gambling ring" had $1.7 million in bets over a 4-month period, entirely on sports. If the bookie is getting two percent, that's a whopping $34,000 in profit. You can't get much more than that since anyone can gamble online anyway. I do feel much safer knowing that a team of investigators spent so much time protecting us from these dangerous men. And I can still blow my money on QuickDraw.

Next we find out that a team of investigators was cutting down marijuana plants up in the woods in Berne. For some reason they're not wearing uniforms, but instead they're wearing camouflage. So some guy and his dog happen by and there's a confrontation, the guy's dog attacks a detective. Another officer finds a gun and shoots the dog, mostly taking off the detective's thumb in the process.

So I'm reading all of this and I'm wondering ... why are they wearing camo? Why is this operation so secretive? I can't help but suspect that maybe they weren't planning to destroy the marijuana. Maybe, just maybe they were either going to sell it or smoke it. Or both. Now even if I'm off base on that, isn't it nice to know we've got a team of officers in the woods going after about 100 marijuana plants? Makes me feel safe, that's for sure. If it wasn't for them, one of those plants might have stolen a car, driven to a local high school, and then been smoked by a poor teenager who might die 50 years later from lung cancer -- if Bush and Hillary don't get him killed in Iraq first.

But we can all feel a little safer because Albany District Attorney David Soares is prosecuting the poor bastard who owns the dog. You remember Soares. He's the one who opposes the drug war and criticized law enforcement's role on a trip to Vancouver (who paid for that anyway?) a couple years ago. Strangely he's not criticizing the cops on this one. You'd think he could connect the dots ....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Plea to the Charge

As lawyers handling traffic and criminal cases, we will generally talk to the prosecutor and see what kind of deal they're willing to do. In most cases we get some offer for our client to plead guilty to a reduced charge. Simple examples include reducing a moderate speed to a parking ticket, a high speed to a lower speed, a misdemeanor to a violation, or a felony to a misdemeanor.

Sometimes it's straightforward like that, although in many cases there are subtleties about what reduced charge is best for the client. In drug cases, it's important to get a deal for a non-drug-related charge for young clients who might go to college. Drug convictions can make a person ineligible for financial aid. The reduced charge in traffic cases can make a big difference in things like insurance rates.

There are some situations where the defense lawyer is confronted with the offer of "plea to the charge." This is not really an offer. Plea to the charge means that the defendant pleads guilty to the offense they're charged with. If you're charged with a 97 mph speed, it means pleading guilty to a 97 mph speed. If you're charged with DWI, it means pleading guilty to DWI -- you get no reduction.

I attend seminars as often as possible, and one of my favorite speakers at these seminars put it this way once: "Why would anyone plead to the charge?" The point is, if you reject this deal the worst thing that can happen is that you're convicted of the same thing. On the other hand, all sorts of things can happen to lead to either a dismissal or conviction on lesser charges.

We put this into action a lot. Certain situations make the "plea to the charge" offer more likely, and we charge more for these. A typical example is a DWI with an accident, refusal, or a high BAC. In some counties speeding in a work zone leads to this as well. We charge our clients enough to cover our time to fight the charge, rather than just making a deal.

Many lawyers walk into this situation unprepared. They come back to the client and tell them they did the best they could, but the DA wouldn't agree to a reduction, so they pled the client guilty to the charge. At this point the client is wondering why they hired a lawyer. I'd like to say we've never done this in our practice, but it has happened once or twice. In one speeding case I remember, we had not charged the client enough and said we would require an additional fee to do a trial. The client declined. I can live with that one - though I still didn't like it.

In another, we had an attorney appear for us in a distant court and he pled to the charge rather than do a trial. I got pretty mad, but restrained myself and simply explained that in the future he would have to do a trial in that situation. I'm comfortable he understands this now.

When you are prepared (and adequately paid), you fight rather than plead to charge. We have won many cases like this. Sometimes it is so simple as the police officer doesn't show up for the hearing or trial. In other cases the officer testifies poorly, reflecting that he did a poor job at the time of the incident, or in his paperwork afterward. And of course, sometimes you lose. I've been surprised at how often we win in these situations.

One of my hopes is that, over time, the "plea to the charge" prosecutors will learn that offering better deals means less work for them and also, maybe they'll decide they don't like losing. Of course, the "plea to the charge" position is not necessarily the fault of the ADA at the court that night. Especially in Albany this is the result of a policy decision by the higher-ups in the DA's office, and maybe the DA himself.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Martial Arts in Albany

Here's a great personal story about Tai Chi and Kung Fu. The author is a fellow student at the Capital District Tai Chi & Kung Fu Association.

I was a student there years ago, but stopped around the time our first daughter was born. I'm back now, and my daughter is also doing Tae Kwon Do at the same place in the Pil-Sung Martial Arts program.

For anyone interested in martial arts, all of these programs are an excellent introduction. For many students, it becomes a way of life. I'm not there yet, but hope to get there.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Traffic Court - 50K Visits

We hit a new milestone for our Traffic Court website. From October 8 to November 7, there were 51,000 visits. First time we broke the 50K mark.

October 8 was actually a relatively slow day, so tomorrow we will probably hit two other milestones -- 45K unique visitors (some people visit more than once) and 120,000 pageviews.

There are a lot more traffic courts in the hopper about to be added to the site, so growth will continue.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Times Union, Privacy Policy, and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act

UPDATE (11/4/2007): The Times Union exacerbated its violations of the ECPA and their own privacy policy with a further article by Casey Seiler about Sock Puppets.
In a recent article the Times Union "outed" some blog commenters. I've been wondering if they can be sued for this, as it appears to violate both their own privacy policy and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (18 US Code 2702) (ECPA). So I did some research.

First a little background. The TU's blogs allow for registered users to post comments on blog posts. The registered users can register with a pseudonym, effectively making their comments anonymous. Most commenters seem to do so anonymously (I use the somewhat obvious username wredlich). So if a reporter writes a blog post about Guilderland, someone who wants to say something about that can post a comment on it using a pseudonym such as NormalGuilderlandVoter or truthsquad.

This happened and the TU outed the commenters in an article. You can read more about this on their Local Politics blog, and the Times Union article itself.

Times Union reporter Scott Waldman, in a rare moment of actual investigative journalism, checked on the IP address of commenters and/or their e-mail addresses and then wrote an article reporting their actual identities.

The outing created a stir not only on the TU blog, but also on Democracy in Albany (aka DIA), a popular local website for political activists (mostly but not all Democrats). At least some DIA users are regular pseudonymous commenters.

The ECPA at 18 US Code 2702(a)(3) provides:
(a) Prohibitions. Except as provided in subsection (b) or (c)--
(3) a provider of ... electronic communication service to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service ....

There are exceptions of course, but I don't think any apply.

You can also read the TU privacy policy.

Some excerpts:
How does the Times Union use the information it collects?

The Times Union uses this information to provide you with the service you have requested. ...

Does the Times Union share the information with anyone else?
The Times Union may disclose information if it is required by law through a subpoena, a search warrant or another legal process or if we need to protect our legal rights (for example, if we are trying to collect money you owe us for a subscription). In this instance, the disclosure may take place without your consent. In addition, we may disclose information to third party service providers we use to provide products, services or functions on our behalf ... Finally, we may share your information with entities under control of, or under common control with Hearst ...
Beyond that, the information is not shared with any third parties.

What about information I share in your forums?

You should be aware that when you voluntarily disclose personal information (e.g., your name, e-mail address) in the forums, blogs, chat areas, or the user-created Web sites in, that information can be collected and used by others and may result in unsolicited messages from other posters or third parties.

Nowhere in the privacy policy does it state that a user's personal information will be published in the newspaper as news. As I read the privacy policy, the publication of these identities is both implicitly and explicitly prohibited. The "Beyond that" clause is explicit. The "voluntarily disclose" answer to the forum question also at least implicitly prohibits what was done, and I consider that to be an explicit prohibition.

Note that § 2702 of the ECPA is a criminal statute, so perhaps someone will contact the federal prosecutor ( Also, under § 2707, a violator can be held liable in a civil action. A plaintiff can recover any actual damages, as well as any profits made by the violator, and there is a minimum recovery of $1000. Punitive damages are also available if the violation is willful or intentional. In this case there have been prior complaints and so the conduct does appear to be intentional. A successful action also leads to attorney fees. Violation of the privacy policy can create a breach of contract claim.

There are quirks. For example, is the Times Union an electronic communication service provider under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act? I think so. Just having a website would not qualify, but by hosting forums and blog comments, I think they've opened that door.

Now imagine this: Mark Grimm and his attorney Warren Redlich join forces with ... Donald Csaposs. These Three Musketeers ride off into a courtroom battle with the mighty Times Union. Oh the humanity!

No IP addresses were harmed in the making of this post

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Guilderland - Final Days

Less than one week to go until the election -- Guilderland voters will decide who should be on their town board.

Mark Grimm and I are running on a message of ending the secrecy and insider privileges. Mike Ricard and Dave Bosworth are running on, well ... I'm not sure exactly what.

Let's see. They sued me to knock me off the ballot and deprive voters of a choice. That didn't work. They refused to debate us. That sure didn't work for John Sweeney, and it doesn't look good for them on that.

Hmm. Ricard managed to get himself a sweet deal on his tax assessment. His house is bigger than mine, with more than 20 times as much land, an in-ground pool and the biggest shed I've ever seen (2100 square feet) - I don't have a pool or a shed. And his house is assessed more than $40K lower than mine. If that's not bad enough, Mark Grimm's house is smaller than mine, with less land - and again no pool and no shed, and he's assessed even higher.

Oh, and about that pool, Ricard got a variance to put it close to the property line. He couldn't find any other place for it - on 12 acres.

Meanwhile Dave Bosworth has himself a sweet deal with the county. Albany County funds a non-profit he runs to the tune of $1.4 million/year. He's the Albany County Democratic Chair. Two of the non-profit board members are members of the Albany County legislature (Democrats - that's a shocker). The treasurer of the non-profit is a fellow town board member (Democrat). The outside auditor is a contributor to ... wait for it ... the Albany County Democratic Committee (of which Bosworth is chair - but I already mentioned that). And the IRS filings conveniently avoid mentioning these details.

But wait, there's more. Boss Boz and family bring home nearly $200K in reported salary and benefits from this taxpayer-funded non-profit. This does not include the unreported benefits like the loaded Ford Expedition (Eddie Bauer Edition) he's been seen driving, and who knows what else.

But I'm not being fair. They do claim they've lowered taxes. The NYS Comptroller doesn't agree (and he's a Democrat), but they say it nonetheless. My taxes certainly aren't lower.

They claim they've improved the town website. See for yourself - it's nothing special.

They have successfully squashed economic development in the town. But maybe that's not a bragging point.

They claim they've improved Guilderland's Tawasentha Park. I've been doing there for over 30 years and don't see the improvement. The pool is badly outdated. Take a look at the Crossings in Colonie to see what a nice park can be. Lots of Guilderland families go there - including mine.

Time for a change? What do you think? Go to the Guilderland NY website to find out more.

Ron Paul on Leno

Ron Paul appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno just now. I'm sure it will be available on YouTube or other sources any minute.

He really hit it out of the park. He stayed on his message, and he spoke without sounding like canned soundbites. With his fundraising success and all that's going right for him, as he puts it, there really is a risk he might win. :-)

First news story about it appears to be in USA Today

And here's the video:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Speeding tickets: One opinion

Saw this article online about whether it's worth it to fight a speeding ticket:

MSN Money article on speeding tickets

Not sure I agree completely, and also not sure that all the comments apply in New York State. Still, a cautionary tale for those who get a ticket.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Guilderland: Personal attacks in politics

Here they go again. The Mike Ricard and Dave Bosworth team have attacked me personally, along with my running mate Mark Grimm. The latest salvo is in the August 4 edition of the Altamont Enterprise. These are letters to the editor, and do not appear in the online edition. Attributed to Ken Runion, who is running uncontested, and Don Csaposs, who is not an elected official, they are of course really doing this on behalf of Ricard and Bosworth.

Runion has been accusing us of engaging in personal attacks. Wikipedia defines personal attack as follows: Generally, a personal attack is committed when a person substitutes abusive remarks for evidence when examining another person's claims or comments.

I can't deny that we have criticized our opponents, but our criticisms have been focused on relevant issues and supported by evidence. We are not engaging in name-calling or attacking anyone's character.

In sharp contrast, Csaposs refers to us as "the twin peaks of mindless self-promotion," and our views as "the Grimm/Redlich Kool-Aid." Runion calls us "attack dogs," and "very negative individuals."

Gentlemen please ... flattery will get you nowhere. :-)

You can't run for local office without somehow criticizing the incumbents. Maybe at the federal or state level you can run on an issue, like abortion or gun rights. Local politics is mainly about how the local government is managed. If it's run well, you pretty much can't win. It so happens that a number of things are wrong with Guilderland government. They need to be fixed and that's why we're running. Find out more on the Guilderland NY page.

Troubles for new attorneys

I saw another great article in the Wall Street Journal, though it's a couple weeks old now. The law market as a whole has been relatively flat compared to overall growth in the economy. Meanwhile the number of law graduates, and thus, new lawyers, has increased quite a bit.

Many students now graduate from law school with over $100K in debt - I know one who owes $150K. The article details the difficulties many face finding work and making enough to handle the debt load. As one young friend says, he has a mortgage without the house.

They mention one attorney who graduated in 2005, owes $118K, and makes $50K working in Manhattan. Hopefully he lives with his parents.

The public perception is that all lawyers are rich. It's simply not true. I know one lawyer who consolidated his student loans and may still be paying them in his 70s.

I have been fortunate in my career, though the first couple years was a bumpy ride. People should be aware that it isn't easy, and many lawyers struggle.

Follow up on unsolicited attorney mailings

In late July I did a post describing a letter that was mailed to a client of mine. This is known as an unsolicited attorney mailing. I think, but am not sure, that the powers that be in our profession decided there is nothing wrong with such a mailing. Nevertheless, I have no plans to mimic it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Guilderland NY Update

Our Guilderland NY campaign for Town Board rolls onward. I updated the campaign website with more information and a better layout for the home page. There is a new page detailing Mike Ricard's illegal variance, and another page on Dave Bosworth and his unethical abuse of his nonprofit.

Incumbents Mike Ricard and Dave Bosworth are now bravely refusing to debate us. They are consistent, as the Dems also refused to debate in 2003 and 2005.

Things seem to be going well. Our campaigns are coming together and, in addition to the outreach on the web, we will be able to reach more voters in more traditional campaign avenues. We've also put together a good list of supporters.

An important message -- Please vote. And please tell your friends and family in Guilderland to vote too!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Traffic Court Landmark - 100K pageviews in 30 days

Our traffic court directory website hit a new landmark. As the image below (from Google Analytics) shows*, there were over 100,000 pageviews in the last 30 days. Two other landmarks are getting more than 45,000 visits, and over 40,000 unique visitors. Some visitors visit twice, so there are more visits than unique visitors.

We continue to increase coverage of states. Most of our current growth involves traffic courts in Ohio and also Virginia traffic courts.

I'm not sure how or why, but one of the top keywords bringing visitors to our site is the term court. I don't see it showing up on web searches for that term, but Analytics says that many people come to the site searching for that word.

*This morning as I write this there seems to be a problem with Blogger getting the image to display. This will probably fix itself soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Traffic Court booming

Our traffic court website is booming. Starting roughly September 4th, visits to the site jumped. There were over 30,000 unique visitors in the last 30 days, with over 75,000 pageviews. If recent numbers continue, we will approach 40,000 unique visitors per month and 100,000 pageviews.

Busiest pages on the site are the Traffic Court home page (about 10% of the page views), the New York and New Jersey state pages, and county pages for Monroe, Albany, Westchester and Suffolk. The Philadelphia and Albany traffic court pages round out the top 10.

We are also working on a project to revise the underlying programming. This should be done within a couple of months and then we hope to start adding some new features to the site. Stay tuned!

Baseball diversion: Fewest Pitches in a complete game

I was watching a baseball game the other day and the announcers were talking about pitch count -- how many pitches the pitcher had thrown so far. This prompted two questions in my head:

1. What is the fewest number of pitches thrown by a pitcher in a complete game?

My friend David found the answer to that one: 58, by Red Barrett in 1944 for the Boston Braves.

David guessed 60 before finding this, which is pretty darn close. I was guessing low 70s.

Figure that if each batter gets out on the first pitch (grounder, fly ball, etc.), then there would be only 27 pitches. If the pitcher averages 3 pitches per batter then you'd be at 81.

2. What is the most pitches thrown in one at-bat?

We don't have an answer to this one. Apparently this statistic was not tracked at all until the late 1980s.

I found a bunch of things on the web but nothing very reliable. The best I found was on the lower half of this page:

This indicates a 20 pitch at-bat in 1998. I read other sites which suggested there was one at-bat with 24 pitches by a Luke Appling, but that did not seem as reliable. There's another reference to Roy Thomas fouling off 22 pitches in one at-bat, bringing the count to 3-2, for a total of at least 26 pitches. Then I saw something else about Enos Slaughter fouling off 26 pitches in one plate appearance. Still not reliable.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mike Ricard and the assessment process

A quick update on our Guilderland NY town board campaign efforts:

I've been researching incumbent Town Board member Michael Ricard, his assessment, and other issues.

I created a page about Mike Ricard's Assessment showing what I found. It includes satellite images of his property from Google Maps, and photos of his house. One friend is now joking that I'm stalking Mike Ricard.

The short story on his assessment is that he has a 2500 square foot house with a 1 1/2 story garage, and a 2100 sq.ft. steel building, and an in-ground pool, all on 12 acres. He's assessed at $196K. For comparison, my house is 2200 sq.ft., with no pool, no fence, and no steel building, on half an acre. We're assessed at somewhere around $240K.

The pool (21' x 40') and fence were put in 2-3 years ago, at a cost of $29K according to the permit application. I'd bet they cost more than that, but have no evidence. The steel building was built about 5 years ago at a cost of $38K (per the application). That's roughly $80K in value (including appreciation) before you get to the 12 acres, house and garage. So his 2500 sq.ft. house on 12 acres is valued at $120K, or less than $50 per square foot. My house is assessed around $110/sq.ft. and many houses in Guilderland are assessed over $120/sq.ft.

The other interesting detail, that I will explore further in the future, is the zoning break Ricard got in putting his pool in. Despite a 50 foot setback requirement, he got a variance to put his pool 24 feet from the front property line. He whizzed through the permit and variance process in what has to be record time in Guilderland.

I'll do more about this in the near future, but assessment is still the big issue.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NY Election Law: Update

I write with a legal update in the ongoing saga of Ricard v. Redlich. The appellate court ruled against us. We lost. And yet, I'm still on the ballot.

For those who were unaware, New York Election Law is confusing. I have heard that 50% of all election law cases in the US take place in our fair state. Okay, unfair state.

There were a few issues in our case. First, we filed the wrong form on July 26th. While the error was made by someone else, I bear some responsibility for relying on that person and not checking it out myself.

The basis of the suit was not that we filed the wrong form, but rather that it did not have the required content - specifically, the signatures of a majority of the committee to fill vacancies. In an odd twist, one of the signers was on that committee, and the notary was also on that committee, constituting a majority out of the three.

The "trial judge" (there was no trial) ruled in our favor on mootness. We had filed a correct certificate on August 1st, and that certificate was not challenged, even though it was late.

The Appellate Division reversed, stating that the August 1 certificate was not properly before them. They then found the July 26 certificate invalid.

The Board of Elections is nonetheless putting me on the ballot because of the August 1 certificate. I'm wondering if I'll get sued again on this one.

I felt ignored in the process. When we argued in front of the appellate judges, a couple of specific questions came up for the other lawyers. First, one judge asked if the August 1 certificate was in the Record. That lawyer answered no. When I got up I explained that it was in the record, in my papers, with a stamp from the Board of Elections showing that it had been received. Still, the court said in its decision that the August 1 certificate was not properly before them. It seemed like they disregarded that in my papers and what I said in oral argument.

Second, they asked the attorney working for my fellow Republicans if he agreed that the July 26 certificate was invalid. He agreed. I disagreed, and pointed to the fact that the second signature was on the document, but not in the correct form (notary rather than as a "signer"). This is an important detail because in the case of Hutson v. Bass (54 NY2d 772), a matter of form is not fatal as long as there is "substantial compliance." Absence of "prescribed content," on the other hand, is fatal. This argument was not only in my papers, but was my main argument. The appellate court did not even address this point.

An interesting side note is the lack of partisanship. The appellate court had five judges, all Republican. All five voted for the Democrat and against the Republican. Everyone I talked to who was involved in the case expected that we would win because of the partisan makeup of the bench. Having worked for a judge, I didn't think it would play a role. I thought we would win because we were right.

One other interesting note, and perhaps an explanation for the brief decision, is that the decision was ready on the court's website before the end of the day. We argued at 1:30 pm, and I think it was ready by 4 pm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A good debtor-creditor experience

I've complained in the past about some annoying experiences with debt collection, particularly the Yellow Pages companies. I was starting to have what seemed like a similar experience, but then things changed.

In 2004 I agreed to do a free trial of a listing on lawyers -dot- com. Then I got a bill. I refused to pay and sent a letter in February of 2006. I'd get a letter or bill every once in a while, but nothing too bothersome and I ignored it.

Several months ago we switched our online legal research service from Westlaw to Lexis. Lexis owns lawyers -dot- com. I told my sales rep about the issue and was told it would be taken care of. It wasn't, but I still wasn't worried about it.

Then today I got a threatening letter delivered express mail. Now this didn't worry me, but it did make me angry. I sent an e-mail to my replacement sales rep at Lexis and also a firmly worded letter to the person who had written that letter.

Within a few hours I got a call from a Lexis manager. He apologized and assured me the disputed account had been cleared. He even followed up with an e-mail. I was very impressed and have to say that this experience added significant loyalty for me to Lexis. They were confronted with a challenging customer service moment and they rose to the challenge.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Virginia Traffic Court and DMV fees

About a month ago I mentioned Virginia's new speeding ticket fees. I saw a more complete breakdown of them and wanted to just give a quick update on that. These are fees imposed by the Virginia DMV, on top of the fines that come from the traffic courts in Virginia.

It starts at $750 for driving with a suspended or revoked license (commonly called AUO in New York). A variety of offenses lead to a $900 fee, though they're all odd things like driving with crappy tires or driving a school bus without the proper license. These are real things but we rarely see them.

The famous one is the $1050 fee (though it may be as low as $900) for reckless driving. In NY reckless driving is its own offense, but there are states, such as Virginia, where certain things are automatically reckless driving. This includes speed more than 20 over the limit, speed over 80 mph, and a few other things.

DWI offenses lead to fees of $2250 or $3000 depending on the circumstances, and there is a "felony reckless driving" that also has a $3000 DMV fee.

All I can say is that you should drive slow in Virginia, and otherwise be careful, and if all that fails, hire a lawyer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Auto Mechanic in Albany - Broadway Auto Clinic

I drive a 2002 Audi wagon (an A4 Avant, 1.8t with a 5-speed stick, for those who care about such details). After 5 years it's approaching 100,000 miles, and I thought it was time to get some things done.

I bought it at Langan West, a Porsche/Audi/VW dealership on Route 5 on the way to Schenectady. For most of the life of the car I took it to the dealership. I wasn't completely satisfied, but most of the time things seemed to be okay.

I heard about Broadway Auto Clinic a couple years ago. The owner, Rick, is known and respected within the small community of Audi fans in the area. One time my car stopped working and the dealership said they wouldn't be able to fit me in for 2 weeks. So I took it to Broadway Auto Clinic then and they did a great job. The price was fair and the problem was solved.

I hadn't yet broken my addiction to the dealership, and I also got a lot of routine stuff done at a Monro Muffler across from my old office -- that way I could leave the car in the morning and it was very easy. I was very happy with Monro, by the way, but the heavier duty stuff was beyond them and they were open about that.

So recently I got new wheels and tires for my car. When I got them put on, the local mechanic I went to said that I needed an alignment, and that he didn't have the right equipment. He recommended Broadway Auto Clinic so I made the call.

I had been thinking about replacing and upgrading the shocks and also installing a chip that gets more boost out of the turbocharger. Rick knew about all of these things and gave me solid advice about what to do. The cost of parts was reasonable (I had priced some of them myself before talking to him), and in the end my car came out better than it was. Better, stronger, faster. Must be some bionics. :-)

They also did the work in a timely manner. And one thing I noticed while I was there was the number of people who came in, dropped off their cars and appeared to be perfectly happy and trusting of what would happen. This was very hard for me, having seen too many Seinfeld episodes about car mechanics and having been burned once or twice over the years myself.

In the end I did leave my car in their hands and did not get burned. With the caveat that I'm not an expert in judging car repair shops, I am happy to recommend Broadway Auto Clinic, especially for Audi and VW owners, and really for most cars. Their website is at: Broadway Auto Clinic.

Oh, one other caveat. Their e-mail didn't work right for me and I had some other, minor communication difficulties when I was first getting ready to set things up with them. That had increased my anxiety. Once the ball was rolling, however, communication improved and I'm completely satisfied.

Profile: Monkey

One of the best known and least liked members of the Albany area legal community is someone I'll nickname Monkey, mainly because I couldn't think of a better name. Monkey is quite possibly the worst lawyer in the area.

Monkey advertises himself in little-known publications, and his ads stress absurdly low fees. They do not include any caveat about getting what you pay for. He mishandles several areas of law, mainly representing individuals.

Certain personal traits are notable. Monkey is often quite passionate about his cases, and will discuss them with other attorneys. After about one minute of such a conversation, the other attorney will usually have noticed two or three flaws in Monkey's argument, but most are polite enough not to tell him. He's also a very energetic person, possibly with some amount of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. -- No, I'm not a doctor and am not qualified to make a diagnosis. I'm just having fun here. -- Conversations are frequently interrupted as Monkey's mind wanders to another topic about which he is equally passionate and equally clueless.

Monkey is also a strong self-promoter and proud of his tremendous financial success. In my limited time with him I have heard about literally millions of dollars he's made recently. Despite this his office and accoutrements never seem impressive. You'd think the guy would be driving a Ferrari by now.

Monkey is also prone to making extremely negative comments about other attorneys. This is generally because they actually represent their clients and defend them vigorously, apparently unaware they are depriving Monkey's clients of their entitlements. He also complains about judges.

In my experience, most other lawyers are familiar with Monkey and do not like him at all. I would bet many judges feel the same. His is a life I wouldn't want.

A couple of other things I should mention. First, Monkey dresses in an odd manner. If he's wearing a suit, there's something just not right about it. Maybe an accessory that just doesn't go. And if he's not wearing a suit, then there's something else weird, perhaps strange headgear. Second, Monkey has the second hottest wife of any lawyer in Albany. No one can figure out how he landed her. I'd say he paid for her, but I don't think he could afford that price.

Of course, I have the hottest wife, and all of my friends have gone bald from scratching their heads trying to figure out what she sees in me. :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Traffic Court: Connecticut

I think we've finished with the courts in Connecticut. The Superior Court pages get far more views than the Judicial District Court pages. I think people are just more likely to search on Google for "Superior Court" rather than "Judicial District Court." The top court of all is New Haven Superior Court. The top J.D. court (the J.D. is not about juvenile delinquency) is Tolland Judicial District Court in Rockville.

I haven't really figured out yet what the deal is with CT courts. Judicial District courts are really also part of the "Superior Court" system, with the other part being "Geographical Area" courts. I think the traffic cases are in the J.D. courts and other things happen in the G.A. courts, but I don't have that for certain yet. Comments on this are more than welcome.

Traffic Court: Massachusetts

Our Traffic Court website continues to grow, with 11 states under way. We have almost completed the Massachusetts traffic courts, but there are a few left to fill in.

The hottest courts so far seem to be Lawrence District Court in Essex County and Quincy District Court in Norfolk County, though plenty of other courts seem to be getting a substantial number of views. I did see somewhere that the Quincy court is the busiest in the state, though I'm sure there are arguments about that. Boston as a whole is almost surely busier, but it's broken up into several different traffic courts within Suffolk County.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Baseball: Barry Bonds and Pete Rose

I used to be into sports a lot more. These days I play almost no sports (except for my Tai Chi and Kung Fu class, and the occasional round of golf), and watch very little. This weekend was unusual. Yesterday I happened to catch the 500th homer hit by A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees). I missed Barry Bonds 755th homer yesterday, but saw it several times on SportsCenter this morning. And tonight I actually watched nearly all of the Mets game where Tom Glavine got his 300th win. That's a pretty big weekend of watching sports on TV for me.

Especially with Bonds' home run chase, I've been following these events more than usual. Bonds has been quite controversial, though I think people are making way too much of the controversy. Maybe he took steroids, and maybe he didn't. I don't think that has much to do with his results on the field. If you believe the talk about steroids, everyone in baseball was using them (or at least a lot of players), and not that many hit home runs like Bonds.

Hitting a baseball thrown by a major league pitcher is a very difficult thing to do. Steroids do not improve your vision, your patience, your hand-eye coordination, etc. Barry Bonds should be celebrated for his accomplishment. It's disappointing to see how he's mistreated by the media and many fans.

I rarely talk about race, but I do think there's something about it here. Pete Rose is fairly popular among baseball fans. I did a little research and Rose consistently does well in polls as to whether he should be reinstated and in the Hall of Fame. Bonds does much worse in comparable polling. This even though betting on baseball (Rose's transgression) is at least as bad as steroid use, and worse in my opinion. It's hard to explain the difference between Bonds and Rose and how they're treated, except for one thing. Bonds is black and Rose is white.

Pete Rose and Barry Bonds have had fantastic careers, and both should be in the Hall of Fame (Bonds when his time comes, Rose immediately).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Michael Ricard

One of the worst things about career politicians is how many of them eventually distrust the voters. They view their job as their job, instead of recognizing they serve the voters, and the voters should decide who holds the job.

Just as Eric Sundwall and the voters of the 20th district were victimized by John Sweeney, the voters of Guilderland (and me) are now being attacked by Mike Ricard.

The short story is that a document was filed with the Board of Elections designating me as one of the two Republican candidates (along with Mark Grimm) for Guilderland Town Board. You can read more about our campaign at my new Guilderland NY website.

Mike Ricard filed an "objection" with the board of elections, and then followed that by suing me (along with a host of others). All of this to keep Guilderland voters from having a choice in the election.

I ran against Mike McNulty twice. He never challenged my petitions and always ran a good, clean race. I don't agree with his voting record and political philosophy, but he's a decent guy and he respects the voters.

So, over the course of the next few weeks (return date on the Order to Show Cause is August 22nd), readers of the Albany Lawyer blog may get a taste of Election Law. Hope we all learn something.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guilderland Town Board

Well Guilderland, it's official. I'm running for Guilderland Town Board, along with Mark Grimm. I created a website for our campaign -- Guilderland NY -- at

Mostly I will keep that off this blog and on my other website --

Monday, July 30, 2007

Profile: Rodney

My last post was about one minor player in the local criminal law community, and this one is about another. I've named him Rodney after Rodney Dangerfield, one of my favorite comedians. Unlike the comedian, I'm happy to say that this Rodney is still alive.

Dangerfield's signature line was about not getting any respect. Our local Rodney is a bit like this. He often makes negative remarks about himself, as if he's not as smart as the other lawyers around him. While it isn't true, I think he actually believes it himself.

The thing about Rodney is that he's always helpful to other lawyers. He's just a fundamentally decent guy. He seems to work very hard, running around to all the local courts all the time. And despite his negative self-image, he's actually quite talented at handling certain types of cases. He doesn't see himself as a fighter and may be underestimated by some, but he can handle himself well in a trial if he has to do it.

Rodney is also generally well-liked. Everyone seems fond of him, including not only attorneys but judges and police as well. There are exceptions, but they don't like anyone.

The other thing about Rodney is that he's a character. He would not be out of place in a Woody Allen film. He always has a story to tell, and it's usually a good one. He has certain mannerisms and he talks with a distinctive cadence. Rodney is one of a kind, and I'm happy to know him.

Profile: Snidely

One minor figure who stands out to me in the Capital Region legal community is a criminal lawyer whose nickname, for purposes of this post, is Snidely. I don't know him well at all. I'm pretty sure he doesn't like me, though I don't know why (there are plenty of good reasons).

There are things about Snidely that I noticed the first day I saw him. He has what seems like a permanent sneer on his face. I've seen it there when he's speaking to others, so it's not just me. Maybe he could use some face coaching.

This may just be me, but Snidely seems to interrupt my conversations with others, and does so as if I'm not even there. If I actually have the audacity to assert myself at such a moment (I usually do), the sneer grows dramatically. Somehow it seems like Snidely is "inside" the criminal lawyers club, and I'm on the outside, and he has some sense that I'm invading his turf.

We've never had any kind of verbal disagreement. It's not like there's any gossip going back and forth. Neither of us is on the other's radar enough to provoke any kind of war. We're too busy with other things I guess. Just somehow I have this negative feeling. I saw him within the past week and it prompted me to think about him.

With many of my profiles, a number of people seem to think they know who I mean. I suspect in this case no one will pick up on it, but we'll see. And if you're reading this and you think it's about you, you're probably wrong.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Batman, Robin, Batgirl and ... The Joker

There's one particular firm in the area that stands out in so many ways. They are clearly the best at what they do. They exemplify what it means to be good lawyers. They are passionate about their work, ethical to the extreme, decent and polite to all they deal with, diligent in researching the law, and to top it all off, they're interesting.

I struggled with this for a while -- what to call them, how to describe them. It came together for me recently and it starts with the guy at the top. He's Batman. I struggled with other names -- The Guru stuck with me for a while -- but I think Batman works best, and the other names follow well from it.

Batman is a living legend, known far and wide for his prowess in the field of battle ... um ... I mean the courtroom. He is a legend locally as well. Many are jealous of his fees, rumors of which border on the mythical. I have heard it said that he charges as much as $25,000 up front to take a case that some would take for less than $2500. From somewhat reliable sources (but not inside the firm) I have heard that he charges $6500-7500 for a simple local case that may require only one appearance.

Others are jealous of his reputation, thinking they are just as good as he is. I've also seen judges who think they're smarter than Batman. Both groups are wrong. I have seen Batman in action. When an opposing witness testifies, Batman fixes his eyes upon that person with a stare that penetrates into the soul. His victim ... I mean the witness ... is intimidated by a guy in a suit sitting dozens of feet away. And Batman knows the finer points of his field of law as well as anyone, not only in our state but in many others.

I first encountered Batman when he spoke at a CLE years ago, before I started my own practice. He was an inspiration then and remains so today.

Batman is not alone. Robin, his understudy, is rapidly developing a reputation of his own. He is razor-sharp. Some who know them say he is actually smarter and knows more than Batman himself, though Robin makes no such claims.

Next we have Batgirl. Batman is cloaked in an aura of mystery and seems unapproachable. In stark contrast, Batgirl is friendly and loved by all. This, however, should not be construed as weakness. Indeed, she is also well respected for her knowledge and skill as a lawyer. Somehow she easily manages to handle something that escapes many great women. She is outstanding at what she does but still well liked.

Last, and certainly not least, is my personal favorite - The Joker. As you might guess from the name, he has a sense of humor and he's not afraid to share it. Along with the brains, he brings wisdom and something lacking in most lawyers - he's got style. The Joker can deliver a line with timing and flair. He can develop a personal connection, even with hostile witnesses. He can entertain a jury without offending them. I can picture him shredding a witness on the stand, and then taking the guy out for a beer afterward. Also going along with his name, there is this subtle hint of a dark side. Maybe I'm imagining it.


It's been a while since I've done a profile. I checked and it looks like I started on this idea in August of 2006, and ran out of steam. One profile I did seemed to get a lot of attention: The Bully. It was a semi-fictional and unflattering profile of an area judge.

A surprising number of lawyers seemed to know who I was talking about, and they all thought it was the same judge. I even heard that this judge had read the profile and was angry about it. What's interesting is that I didn't name the county, level of court, or even type of court. I cover a lot of courts, including village, town and city courts, county courts, Supreme Court, and even federal court (admitted in both Northern and Southern Districts). And we cover a wide area, regularly appearing in something like 10 counties (I was in Poughkeepsie and Kingston this past week).

So, if I didn't name the type of court or the county, why did all these people - including the judge himself - think it was about him?

Moving on, I've been stewing on a new profile for a while, and it's coming soon. Watch out for Batman!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unsolicited attorney mailings to prospective clients

One of my clients got a letter from a local lawyer that I thought was inappropriate. Images of the letter (with information about both the lawyer and the client whited out) are at the bottom (click on them to see them enlarged). Let's take a look and see what's wrong with this:

1. Notice the enlarged fonts, boldface, and underlining. Maybe it's just me, but lawyers shouldn't shout. The only time I think we use bold in a letter is when we tell our clients that courts do not accept personal checks, and that they need to send a money order.

2. This is one of the big problems -- How did this lawyer know my client had a ticket? We've heard from one source that this lawyer does FOIL requests on all the local courts, but I don't know that for certain. Disciplinary Rule 1200-8(h) requires that he was supposed to disclose how he obtained my client's identity and learned of his legal need. It's not in the letter. I sent a letter asking for this information and he hasn't responded to that either.

3. Another big problem is the substantial exaggerations. The biggest one is where he says that if you plead guilty to a 6-point speeding ticket the total cost will be $3800. The $3800 includes:
a: $355 max fine
-- The fine range is $90-300 and there is a $55 surcharge. Technically correct, but he leaves out the minimum.

b: $300 DMV Assessment
-- This one is dead-on -- unless the client already has points.

c: $3145 insurance hike (estimated over 3 years)
-- Um ... where on earth did he get this figure? I'm guessing my client, a really nice retired fellow, pays about $500 a year now on his insurance. If his rates got bumped at all, he'd probably be looking at a 30% increase for 3 years, for a total increase of about $450. I'm guessing too, but I'll bet my guess is a lot better, and it's not an unreasonable scare tactic.

The funniest thing is where he estimates with a reduction to a speed of 75 in a 65. Notice for fines he now has $150 with (+surcharge if applicable). I don't know where the surcharge is inapplicable, and you have to wonder why it's left out here but included in the plead guilty estimate. Funnier still is his estimate of the insurance hike at $1550 for 3 years. Under Insurance Law 2335, your rates cannot be raised for a speed of 15 mph or less over the limit. The insurance hike for this reduction is zero.

I'm eager to see comments on this. Please fire away!

Another DWI Win

I mentioned that we keep winning DWI cases in a recent post. Well, we won another one. This time the DA responded very late to an "omnibus motion" (well after the judge had already given them a generous extension). While we were waiting, I made a further motion for dismissal on speedy trial grounds. The DA did not oppose the speedy trial motion.

I'd like to claim that we're brilliant, and we're winning these cases because we're so great. But the truth is that we just do what we're supposed to do and things have been falling right for us, and of course for our clients.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A busy DWI lawyer

Got a call yesterday from someone with her third DWI case. The second was fairly recent, and third time is a charm so it's a felony.

Was talking about the second time to find out what had happened. She had hired a lawyer with a big web presence for DWI cases. She told me his name, and I started laughing. I'll call him Smelly to avoid making it too obvious who he is.

You see, this one DWI lawyer is becoming well known in the community of DWI lawyers, and not in a good way. He advertises heavily on the web and I've even heard ads for him on local radio stations here in Albany. I've never seen him in person, however. That's part of the joke. There is a community of DWI and traffic lawyers and we tend to see each other in court. Here's the guy with the heaviest advertising and yet we've never seen him.

From what I understand, Smelly's modus operandi is that he gets the cases in and then hires other lawyers to appear for him as of counsel. Maybe in his home area (a city west of Albany) he handles cases himself or has his associates do it - though I can't tell if he actually has any associates.

On his website he also claims to be a member of the National College of DWI Defense. This is interesting because I only know about the National College of DUI Defense. If there is one with DWI in the name, I haven't heard of it. He is listed as a member on the NCDD website, so I will give him credit for that. I should join and attend a workshop, but haven't done it yet.

Speaking with last night's prospective felony DWI client, she did not seem happy with the quality of the representation. I didn't get complete details, but it seemed like she had paid a lot of money for Smelly, someone else showed up, didn't do much for her and didn't explain anything to her (I spend a lot of time explaining things to our clients), and it also sounds like she didn't get much of a deal, pleading guilty to DWI on the first appearance.

Perhaps I'll learn more about Smelly as time goes on.

Why are phone companies so difficult?

I had a call today from a prospective client who left two numbers to call him back -- both overseas in different countries. I've been burned before making international calls and getting socked with huge bills, so I wanted to check the rate before I called.

First I dialed "0". The operator forwarded me to some automated system that was not helpful. Then I checked out the website for our phone company, One Communications aka Choice One. I simply could not find the rates for international calls anywhere on their site. So I called "0" again and insisted no speaking to a person. She told me to dial "00". Ugh.

So I called "00". I went through three or four different people, none of them able to answer my question. Finally I expressed to the 3rd tier supervisor how dissatisfying this experience was. This is a simple question and it should be easy for customers to get the answer. We spend about $400/month on this service. You'd think we could get an answer to a simple question. I asked her to forward that to her supervisor. She was pleasant though. :-)

I called my cell phone company (Sprint) and did no better. I got one person who put me on hold for ten minutes (yes, really) and then I got shifted back into the same voice menu I had before I spoke with her. While I was waiting I found rates on their website, though I couldn't tell which was applicable to me. $0.99/minute versus $.07/minute (on the international calling plan) is a big difference.

So why are phone companies so difficult?

Spotting difficult or unpleasant clients

I had a call today and turned away a prospective client because I picked up on signals that made me uncomfortable. One very difficult thing for lawyers is deciding which clients we don't want. It's very important, because unpleasant clients require a lot more work than pleasant clients. It's often difficult to do but sometimes we're lucky and we pick up on the warning signs.

Today's caller had a warning sign right off the bat. I recognized his name and he had called a week earlier. My instructions to potential clients is always that they do not need to call back. If you want to hire us, make payment and get us your paperwork, and we'll take care of the rest.

The fact that this gentleman was calling back was a subtle and minor hint he might be a problem. Sometimes, of course, there's a good reason for calling back.

Anyway, the second warning sign was much bigger. It's when a prospective client asks a question and is not satisfied with the answer. This client wanted to know how he would be sure we're taking care of things. I told him we would be in touch with him and all the things I generally tell people that we do to make sure. This was not enough, but I couldn't figure out what he was looking for in an answer from me.

Something he said, and I don't remember exactly what it was, I took as an insult. Essentially his question (again, I don't remember exactly what he said) implied that we don't do a good job for all our clients and that he wanted to make sure we were going to do a good job on his case.

This made our conversation much shorter. I explained to him why his question was insulting. He did not disagree, but insisted on his question and threatened not to hire me if I didn't provide a satisfactory answer. I still didn't know what he was looking for, and at that point I didn't care. I told him to hire another lawyer.

My experience with callers like that in the past suggests to me that this guy would call our office repeatedly and harass me and my staff. Aside from this being unpleasant, it also distracts us from doing our work, on that client's file and for all of our other clients. I actually saw this the other day at my bank, where the bank manager was on a call with an obviously difficult client, and this kept him from helping me open a new account. Fortunately for him and the bank (and me), I was happy to leave my paperwork and we resolved the details over the phone.

We are fortunate in our office. We get enough business that I don't hesitate to turn away unpleasant clients when I see the warning signs. For other attorneys, who do not have enough business, it's harder to turn away those clients. And even for us, we often do not see any warning signs until we've already accepted the client.

Today's call involved a speeding ticket case. The vast majority of our traffic clients are easy to work with and appreciate our work for them. We do represent criminal defendants, and it is a reality of that business that some clients are really not good people. I've actually been surprised that even in this area, most of our clients are decent, even the ones who are "guilty."

While I'm on the topic, I forgot to mention the caller last night, after 10 pm, who wanted to know if it was legal for them to let their kids ride motorcycles. I tried to find out what made her think I could answer that question. She said something about my website. I have a page on motorcycle accidents, and we do handle traffic cases, but this does not sound like something you call a lawyer for. When I told her that she called back and left another message saying that I was rude to her and she was going to report me. Not sure who I get reported to for that, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

I know, woe is me. Poor Warren, having to suffer with a few odd phone calls. Yes, I will get past it. Hey, I gotta complain about something, right?

Friday, July 20, 2007

More about phony lawyer websites

A comment on my most recent post on fake lawyer websites asked how the scam works.

The scam is that potential clients see a somewhat attractive website that gives the appearance that it is a law firm in New York State. For example: "Our professional staff of Lawyers and Paralegals specialize and concentrate solely on NY traffic tickets." (from the home page)

This is not a law firm, at least not in New York. NY law firms are required to state their firm name and their firm address in any marketing. You cannot find the name of the law firm, any lawyer, or the address on the site. Lawyers in NY are also generally prohibited from saying they "specialize" in anything. This is picky, since we can say "focus", but it's still a rule binding NY lawyers.

The truth is that the entity behind this website is a Canadian marketing operation, not a NY law firm. How do I know it's Canadian? For one thing, the whois mentioned above shows a Canadian (.ca) e-mail address. For another, the site menu has the word "Offences" in it, and the site refers to "Demerit Points". Here in America we spell it Offenses, not Offences. And demerit points is the Ontario term for points you get on your license. NY does not refer to them as "demerit" points.

So what they do in the end is charge a fee to the client. Then they find a lawyer in the US to handle the case for them, and pay that lawyer a share of the fee. In other words, they do not disclose to the client that the $X they are spending really buys them a lawyer who is only worth $X-Y. I don't know how much they charge, but if they charge $750, and pay a lawyer $250 to show up, then you just paid $750 for a $250 lawyer.

To be clear about this, there is nothing wrong with a lawyer having another lawyer appear for him or her at a court appearance. We handle most tickets ourselves, but in some cases we have attorneys outside our firm appear for us. They appear "of-counsel" to us, and we certainly do not pay them the entire fee we received from our client. But we do a substantial amount of work on the case before and after the court appearance, and we instruct that attorney on how to handle the case. And we are legally responsible for their work, since it is our client. These marketing operations do not have NY law licenses and cannot be held responsible in the same way.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Virginia Speeding Ticket Fines Make the New York Times

Seems the State of Virginia has decided to up the ante on speeding ticket fines. According to an article in yesterday's New York Times about Virginia speeding fines, getting ticketed for a speed of, say, 20 mph over the limit, carries a civil penalty of over $1000, plus the fines from the Court (up to $2500 more), and then maybe court costs too. Ouch!!

So as a result, of course, we are working on adding courts to our Virginia Traffic Court directory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another dubious "lawyer" website: New York Traffic Ticket Solutions

I found another dubious traffic lawyer website today. It's nytrafficticketsolutions -dot- com. It does not identify who the lawyers are, if any, that work with this "company" - New York Traffic Ticket Solutions.

I did a whois lookup and the administrative e-mail address is a Canadian site. Indeed, the site looks remarkably like the Canadian site, trafficticketsolutions -dot- ca. The whois shows a guy named Kevin Markis. This savvy marketer posted a comment on a speeding ticket blogpost:
where he said that his Canadian website would be a great help.

Oh, and the address shown on the whois is:
55 America St
Newyork, NY 10019-5497

I couldn't find an America Street in New York City, and that 9-digit zip is the same as The Museum of Modern Art.

I like the line on their site:
"Our professional staff of Lawyers and Paralegals specialize and concentrate solely on NY traffic tickets."

Of course I called just now. It does not appear to be the same as the previous fraudulent website. The person who answered the phone claimed she is a paralegal. I asked for the office address and she said that they're in upstate New York. She had a distinctive Canadian accent (I represent many Ontario drivers and one of my best friends is from Timmons).

The other day I had a call from someone in Long Island who had been looking at the other fraudulent lawyer website I've posted about: New York Traffic Tickets -dot- US. He was thinking of hiring them and read my posts, and wanted to thank me and ask for a referral to a real attorney.

Well, at least I'm doing something worthwhile with my life. You'd think the government would protect consumers from stuff like this ... oh no, wait, that's why I'm a Ron Paul fan.

More problems with AdWords -- Audio Ads

Back in January I posted about a problem with AdWords, the advertising service I use for sponsored links on Google searches. I do generally like AdWords and continue to run ads. I also carry Google ads (AdSense) on our traffic court directory.

AdWords has a new feature for "Audio Ads," and I'm trying it out. Once I started with it I had some problems and requested a review. I'm not satisfied with their efforts. The e-mail conversation is down below, edited for brevity and perhaps for privacy where appropriate.

I found this "conversation" extremely frustrating. It appears to me that "Varun" did not read my e-mails or investigate my concerns in any way. The most offensive part is that some of my radio ads appear to have been static (I wonder if that station might be dead), and I raised that in my e-mail and "Varun" says he didn't find it. This guy is supposed to be a specialist and I'm just learning it, and I found it easily.
I'm also irritated that he did not understand, and did not try to understand, the difference between Pittsfield and Albany-Schenectady-Troy. You would think Google would spend some money for better customer service than what you see below.

My first message:
> > From:
> > Subject: Audio Ads - not really in market, not playing
> > Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2007 21:18:13 -0700
> >
> > I listened to a few of the ads for my Audio Ad campaigns. I then learned that apparently all of my ads are playing on Massachusetts radio stations. There appears to be some limited coverage in the very edge of New York State, but almost none of this is what I would refer to as the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area.
> > A second problem is that the "Listen" link on the "Oldies" ads are all static. It appears my ads did not actually play.
> > I would appreciate it if someone would review this and contact me. I'd like to know if any stations that are actually in Albany, Schenectady or Troy (or maybe other nearby cities/towns in New York State) are participating. I'd also like a thorough review of my ads to see if they actually played -- especially the "Oldies" ads.

The first response (long), with my comments in **stars**:

> On 7/16/07, AdWords Support wrote:
> > Hello Warren,
> > Thank you for your email. I understand that you are concerned with the targeting of your Audio Ads. Also, you are not able to use the 'Listen' link on the 'Oldies' ads and are not sure if your ads are playing. I have looked into your account and am happy to inform you that all your Audio Ad campaigns are active and running. They are successfully accruing impressions and Ad plays. Below, I have addressed your concerns in detail.

**The next several paragraphs explain how Audio Ads works - I already knew this and it did not address my question**
> > First, while we don't offer the ability to select specific stations on which to play your ads, we do allow you to fine-tune a number of targeting options. These options include the types of station on which to play your ad, to ensure that your ad reaches your desired audience. It's also worth noting that each station in our network is rated by Arbitron (, a third-party company that measures the number of listeners likely to tune in to a station at any given time. Once your ads air on the radio, the call signs for many of the stations in our network will be visible in the Report Center, accessible from the 'Reports' tab in your AdWords account.
> > Adding additional, relevant markets will increase the likelihood your ad will win a spot in the auction and air on the radio. Follow the steps below to edit your target market selections:
> > 1. Sign in to your AdWords account at
> > 2. From the Audio Ads tab, check the box next to the ad group you'd like to edit, and then click 'Edit Settings.'
> > 3. Click 'Edit' next to 'Target Audience.'
> > 4. Use the search box to find additional target areas by market, state, or zip code.
> > 5. Click 'Add' next to any of the markets in which you'd like to play your ad.
> > Second, we want to make sure you know exactly how your money's being spent, so we've provided detailed, real-time reports of your ad plays in the Report Center accessible via the 'Reports' tab in your AdWords account. From the reports generated from the Reports Center, we can often provide a link to an 'air-check' - a recording of your ad as it played on the radio, including a short snippet of the surrounding broadcast for your reference.
> > There are times when we're unable to provide an air-check, either because we haven't yet placed a recorder in your market, or due to technical issues. In these cases, there will be no link from your reports, but we will have record of the exact time your ad was played.
> > For additional information about Audio Ads, please visit
> > If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at to find answers to many frequently asked questions. Or, try our Learning Center at for self-paced lessons that cover the scope of AdWords.
> > Please feel free to write me with any further questions. Google looks forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.
> > Sincerely,
> > Varun
> > The Google AdWords Team

My response:

> From: "Warren Redlich"
> Subject: Re: [#174165184] Audio Ads - not really in market, not playing
> Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2007 09:29:01 -0400
> I'm sorry to say your failure to read my original message is becoming typical of AdWords customer service.
> As I said in my original message: "A second problem is that the "Listen" link on the "Oldies" ads are all static. It appears my ads did not actually play." The Listen link does work for "Oldies" ads, but unlike the other ads, when I click on it what comes up is an audio file that is just static. I don't hear my ad or anything else intelligible.
> Your message also fails to address my concern that radio stations in Pittsfield MA are not really in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy market. All three of those cities are in the State of New York, approximately 1 hour from the border with Massachusetts, and Pittsfield is not on the border. Technically it may be that Pittsfield is in the correct DMA, but I still think it's deceptive to market these stations as part of the Albany market.
> I spend a lot of money on AdWords, generally over $1000/month. If customer service continues to assume I don't know what I'm talking about when responding to my questions, my spending will drop significantly.
> Warren

The next response from Google/AdWords:

On 7/17/07, AdWords Support wrote:
> Hello Warren,
> Thank you for your email. I understand that you have questions regarding your Audio Ads. I apologize for your frustration and any inconveniences caused. Below, I have answered your questions in detail.
> First, If you can't find your city in the Metro areas available list, try entering your selection in the search box just above that list. It's possible that your city isn't listed as a top-level metro area, but is instead included below a larger area.
> If you still can't find your city, it's likely because we don't have any stations available there yet. We're constantly expanding our network of Audio Ads radio stations, so keep checking back to see if we've entered your city. In the meantime, try selecting a major metro area nearby.
> Second, I have looked into your account but can't find the 'Oldies' ads that you are referring to in your email. I would be happy to assist you further if you send me more specifics about the same.
> If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at to find answers to many frequently asked questions. Or, try our Learning Center at for self-paced lessons that cover the scope of AdWords.
> Please feel free to write me with any further questions. Google looks forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.
> Sincerely,
> Varun
> The Google AdWords Team

And my latest response to that:

Tue, Jul 17, 2007 at 11:22 AM
To: AdWords Support

Thanks for another generic response to a specific question.

Regarding the audio ad that is static, please check out the following Air Check, which shows up on my latest Audio Ad report:

Morning Drive Time n/a* Oldies Albany-Schenectady-Troy MA, NY, VT
Jul 13, 2007 8:43:00 AM EDT Jul 13, 2007 8:47:25 AM EDT Redlich -
Code Red Listen 1,800 1,800

**The above is the detailed report on one play of my ad on an unspecified Oldies station.**

The listen link points to:

The file is attached.
** Readers can download the file at:


DWI Laws and "The Joe"

On a previous DWI post, I got a comment from pml, a regular commenter. Originally I was going to respond in a comment on that post, but decided to do a whole new post once I realized how long it was going to be.

I certainly agree with pml that all drivers should know about the .08 law and that they should not drink and drive. However, a recent experience hit me with the contradictions of the nanny state. I just went to a Valley Cats baseball game at "The Joe" (named for NY Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno). They serve alcohol at the Joe. The Joe is a government-built, government-run facility on the campus of a government-run community college (which has a number of under-21 students I might add). There are sponsored messages from alcohol producers - I remember one from Bud or Bud Light that seemed to really captivate the many children at the park - I think it was Mr. Baseball Glove Wearing Guy, or something like that. The Joe also has plenty of parking.

The Joe is a wonderful place for people to bring their kids, have a few beers, and then drive home with them.

Please understand that I'm not criticizing minor league baseball. I had fun at the game and think it's a wonderful thing for kids and families.
But it's hypocritical for the government to invite people to an event, encourage them to drink at the event, provide alcohol, offer no meaningful public transit to or fro, offer free parking, thereby encouraging people to drive, and then punish them when they drive home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Our associate David M. Cooper went to court last night and talked with a prosecutor I've always liked (since before he was even a prosecutor). This particular prosecutor made a remark to David, saying "Warren thinks everyone is innocent."

I am quite flattered by this remark. There's this long-standing phrase that sticks with me -- "innocent until proven guilty."

Now I am aware of the reality that some of our clients may have done something wrong. In most of these cases, our clients are good people who made a bad decision at the wrong moment. In a few cases our clients are really not wonderful people.

But nevertheless, there is this principle about being innocent until proven guilty. If I'm going to represent criminal defendants, you better believe I'm going to embrace this concept.

Unfortunately our system often presumes guilty and treats defendants - even the truly innocent ones - quite badly. That's why all defendants deserve a lawyer who believes they're innocent.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reckless Driving

We've been seeing more reckless driving cases lately. Maybe summer does that. So I added a page on that topic to the firm website. Often the reckless driving charge comes from a high speed alone, which should not be enough for that offense (VTL 1212).

We have been getting a fair number of cases with AUO - Aggravated Unlicensed Operation, so I added a page on that too.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Albany DWI Crackdown Coming

Today's Times Union reports there will be a crackdown on DWI for 10 days around July 4th, running from Friday through July 8th.

We're already busy, getting a lot of DWI cases in the Albany area recently. Due to what we've been seeing lately, and with the latest changes in DWI laws, I added two pages to our website, one on Aggravated DWI and the other on DWAI.

We keep winning DWI cases. Just got a case dismissed, for a reason I didn't even anticipate. The officer was testifying at a suppression hearing. I was being my usual difficult self, objecting everywhere I could (and appropriately so - as it turns out). The officer was testifying about the place where they stopped our client, and the town judge began inquiring further about the specific location. Turns out they stopped our client in the village. Judge said the village had primary jurisdiction and dismissed the case. My objection had triggered this line of inquiry.

But that wasn't what I was going for. This was a low BAC case involving a checkpoint. The checkpoints are often unconstitutional, and the low BAC makes it much tougher for the prosecution to prove a DWI case. Also, our client had passed two out of three of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). I had a lot of ammo, but never got to use most of it. The location issue was related to a problem with the paperwork I was aware of - and this was why I had objected - but I was not aware that the village lines were near the stop.

Lately I've been thinking we need a slogan for our DWI practice. Hmm. Keeping Drunks on the Road Since 2003 ? Nah. Making the World Safe for Dangerous Drivers Since 2003 ?? The latter is more inclusive of the speeders, you see. But no. Still doesn't sit right. In all seriousness, I don't believe either is what we really do. Partly this is because many of our clients are actually innocent, and partly it's because I believe our traffic and DWI laws are just wrong. Speed limits are generally inappropriate on Interstate Highways, and they're certainly too low. And I do not like the "per se" DWI laws where a BAC over a certain number is illegal in and of itself. I've now seen several cases where defendants with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.12 were very clearly not intoxicated.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Jersey Traffic Courts to enforce a new law

As you can read about in the following link, New Jersey Assembly has found a new way to make traffic courts busier without accomplishing much. In short, they want a new law requiring new residents to register their vehicles in NJ right away. I'm sure that will solve all New Jersey's problems. Phew!

Meanwhile, the busy New Jersey traffic courts, such as Jersey City Municipal Court will take care of this and make life better for all.

Meanwhile, in news about our traffic court database, we have now added an attorney advertiser in New Jersey. His name is Thomas Carroll Blauvelt, and he seems like a nice fellow. Based in Middlesex County, one of his busiest courts (and closest to his office) is Edison Municipal Court. I think the place was named for a lesser known Portuguese explorer, but others say it was some inventor guy.

I was talking to Blauvelt today and he mentioned a few other busy courts in New Jersey, like Newark, Woodbridge, and Trenton Municipal Court. Nice thing about our traffic court directory project is that I'm learning quite a bit about other places.

Avvo - Lawsuit over Attorney rating website

There's an interesting lawsuit going on right now for those who are interested in lawyers and the web. A website called Avvo offers ratings of lawyers. As the San Jose Mercury News and the Wall Street Journal blog explain, some lawyers who didn't like their ratings are suing to shut down the website.

I'm particularly interested in this because I was thinking about creating a site, or sites, like that. I had registered the following web addresses as part of my plans:,,, My mom told me I couldn't use the first two, so that was out. We actually started working on a site. I hired a programmer and we had a first draft, but we never figured out exactly what we wanted to do with it, and then our traffic court directory site took over and we dropped the idea. If we had stuck with it, we would have beaten Avvo to the punch, and then gotten sued like this. :-)

Basically, some lawyers are complaining that the site misrepresents the quality of the lawyers rated. There is a big difference between what Avvo does and what we were planning. Avvo makes its own assessment and rating of the lawyers, based on various factors it reviews. We were just going to allow "consumers" to rate the lawyers they had dealt with (I think . We weren't going to offer our own ratings. And we had plans for strong and prominent disclaimers, as well as a process for lawyers to challenge ratings. We even had some ideas about how to make money doing it.

Having looked at the ratings for some local lawyers (go to the site and enter a local zip code), I can say that the ratings are very much junk. A very prominent local attorney, who is widely considered the best DWI lawyer in the state (no, not me), is rated 7.2 out of 10. Their profile of him says his practice is 50% criminal defense - if I'm not mistaken, his practice is 100% criminal defense. His rating apparently suffers for a lack of "recognition." A number of other prominent lawyers in the community have similarly low ratings.

Two lawyers in the area are rated as 10s. One is pretty well known in his narrow field and deserves a very high rating in my opinion. The other, who I like and respect, and is a very good lawyer, benefits in part from a top rating for experience. This despite having one less year than me (I get 2 out of 5 for experience and a 6.2 overall). Aha, but this second lawyer has claimed the profile -- signed up with an account with Avvo and provided more information. I don't fault the lawyer for this at all. But if Avvo's system increases a lawyer's rating based on the lawyer signing up and providing more information, that's an unreliable method, and essentially a mild form of blackmail. We had a more sinister form of blackmail in mind for actually, but that's water under the bridge. :-)

Of course I'm now in the process of claiming my profile - wonder if it will help my rating? :-) Another interesting flaw I noticed in the process is the terms of use contain a very thorough disclaimer about the quality of their ratings, but that disclaimer is either not obvious or invisible on the actual ratings pages. If they need that kind of disclaimer in the registration process, why isn't it posted with the ratings?

Next in the process, I had to enter a credit card. Well, in the interest of journalism (what's happened to me?) ....

So I went through the registration process and now I'm rated 7.4. I should add some publications. That would probably help. :-)

Okay people. Form your own conclusions now.