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.