Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Los Angeles Traffic Court story

Just a quick one - the following is a great story about handling a speeding ticket in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles traffic court does not come off well. Great photos, good story, etc.

Certified Pre-Owned and Leasing

I'm getting ready to replace my car. I've had it for 6 years and nearly 110K miles. The backseat is getting too small - something about how the special car seats for kids force their legs forward at an angle - yet another reason why Americans want larger cars.

I've been told leasing is a lot better because of the tax benefits. I don't completely understand, but I want to work with that. It hasn't worked out how I expected.

A lot of car companies have certified pre-owned (CPO) programs. This is a special approach to used cars, where they do a "rigorous" inspection. More important, getting a CPO vehicle means a substantial warranty.

So I had an idea. How about leasing a certified pre-owned vehicle? The logic is fairly simple. When you lease a car, you are paying for the amount that the car depreciates in the time you have it, plus some interest. So if you lease a $36K car for 3 years and it's worth $18K when you give it back, you used $18K of value in the car. That'd be $6K/year or $500/month, plus a bit for interest.

So I was thinking of leasing a CPO vehicle, maybe 3 years old. In many cases the car will have lost about half its value already, and so the depreciation over the next three years would have to be less. And in my experience a car with 50K miles on it usually feels and drives like brand-new.

So here's my rough math. Figure a 3-year-old $50K car (hey, I think big) is now worth $30K, and if I lease it for 3 years it'll be worth $15K when I'm done with it. So the lease payment should be lower than a new version of the same car, somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the new car payment, right?

Wrongo Mary Lou!

This has been a frustrating experience. First I was looking at Audi. Right now they have a Audi Certified Pre-Owned special. It says there are "Excellent leasing rates on 2004-2005 A6, allroad, A8 and 2007 Audi Q7 models."

Following the instructions I called my local Audi dealer for details. They didn't know what I was talking about. They quoted me a lease rate on a 2005 Audi A6, around $800/month. It was a lot more expensive than leasing a brand new one, which is around $630/month. I called a few other dealers and got similar results - not just in Albany, but even in NJ and CT. I tried to follow up with Audi through their website, but they just gave me a run-around.

The problem is not limited to Audi. I had similar problems with Acura. They have a current lease deal for $499/month for a new Acura RL (which seems like a pretty good deal by the way), and the quotes I was getting for a 2005 model were up in the $650 range.

Right now it looks like I'll be leasing a new car in the fall, maybe a 2008/2009 Acura RL or perhaps the 2009 Audi A4 Avant - it's supposed to be getting bigger. And even though I'm annoyed by their false advertising about lease rates, they still make good cars.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Google Analytics, Dublin and Digiweb

I've noticed through Google Analytics, for some time now, that my sites get unusually heavy traffic from what appears to be one user in Dublin, Ireland. Nearly all visitors from Dublin are using Linux with the Mozilla browser with Digiweb as the network location. I see the same thing on each of my websites that I look at.

So either there's a massive hive of people using one set of identical computers in Dublin, or maybe it's really a bot/spider indexing the web.

Comments appreciated.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New speeding ticket pages

We added some new speeding ticket information pages to the Redlich Law Firm website for other states today.

First we added a page about Pennsylvania speeding tickets. My associate has been pushing me to add such content.

We also added a page for Connecticut speeding tickets. We've heard that out-of-state tickets don't affect them - but I read the law and there's a clear statute that says they are supposed to show up on a CT driving record. They may even be worse than an in-state ticket.

More to come if my slave-driver associate keeps pushing me. I thought I was the boss. :-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Testiliar and Barney Fife

As our firm progresses I've been spending less time in court. Our associates have been doing most of the traffic court appearances, while I spend more time managing the firm. But once in a while I still get out there. I'm still the main lawyer for hearings and trials.

The other day I had two hearings (yes, in one day). Thus I was presented with a stark contrast between two kinds of police officer. The first cop was gaming the system. On every question he was trying to figure out where I was going so he could get around it. There is a term for what this kind of cop does: testilying. This young fellow fit that description, so I'll call him the Testiliar. Testiliars think their job is to make as many arrests as possible. He even bragged on the stand that he "produces" arrests.

Let's be clear that I support our police. We want our police to catch real criminals and put them behind bars. But we don't want our police to manufacture arrests. That is certainly not admirable, and not the system of justice we want in this country.

The second cop was likeable. He wasn't polished. He didn't try to game my questions at all. He just answered straight up. He even wished our client good luck at the end of the hearing.

He did make a lot of mistakes, so I'm calling him Barney Fife. That's not really fair because he wasn't that much of a bumbler. The truth is that if Barney testifies, the jury will be rooting for him. He's a regular guy. He's not playing games, just doing his job.

One of the key issues in the case with the Testiliar involved probable cause -- did the officer have a sufficient basis to arrest our client? Both he and Barney followed the same essential steps before making the arrest -- it was the same offense. Barney arrested our client 15 minutes after the encounter began. The Testiliar did it in only 4 minutes. The steps in this process are fairly complicated. Maybe the Testiliar is so efficient he's twice as fast as Barney, but that doesn't get you to 4 minutes.

Efficiency is not justice, and justice shouldn't be efficient. It should be just.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Traffic Court Hits 75K

Our traffic court website reached a new level the other day, with over 75,000 visits and over 65,000 unique visitors in 31 days. There were nearly 170,000 pageviews as well.

We've been adding courts in a few states. Our California traffic courts page now covers 23 counties, and the Los Angeles traffic courts page has become one of the busiest pages on the site. I'm not sure why, but the Alhambra court page is one of the top court pages.

We've also gotten a good start on Houston on our Texas courts page. Texas is, of course, a huge state, and there's an awful lot of courts there.

I went to college in Houston, and grad school in California, so I have a bit of a personal attachment to these areas.

Finally, a family member has been adding traffic courts in Florida. He's doing a great job. We still have a long way to go in terms of traffic though. It seems like our pages do better over time. CT now gets over 7000 page views a month, and MA gets over 5000. Florida is still at 1000 or so, and Texas (which we just started) isn't close to that yet. Rhode Island still gets more than Florida.

Judicial salaries

I saw this comment on the Times Union Capitol Confidential blog: "Students graduating from law school this year (who have not even passed the bar exam) are making more then these judges who have worked hard through out their career to be voted or appointed to these positions."

Yes, a few law graduates get jobs at $160K/year. It's also true that once or twice a year a high school kid goes to the NBA and makes millions. Bill Gates made billions after he dropped out of college. But in reality there are plenty of young lawyers making far less than $50K. Few lawyers in Albany make more than $100K, and the vast majority of us work very long hours for our money.

Most of our local judges are very good, and I have no problem with them getting a raise. In my personal opinion they should get a raise. But people shouldn't pretend that $150K/year (with excellent benefits) is inadequate. There's no shortage of people who want those jobs. Even Family Court, which is the most unpleasant and demanding court, always finds people who want to be the judge.

This is true in NYC as well. While $150K doesn't buy nearly as much there as here, there are still plenty of people who manage to live on less there, including lawyers. And there's no shortage of applicants for that job.

Our City Court judges get paid a lot less even though it's more work than most of the other courts, and with one exception in an outlying county, every single City Court judge I know is outstanding.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Prosecutors: Some Things Never Change

I've blogged a lot in the past about prosecutors in the Albany area. I had a new experience about a half-hour ago that I feel compelled to relate.

In one local county the District Attorney's office has undergone a lot of changes in the past year or so. I had substantial problems with that office in the past. With the recent changes I had hoped that things would be better. Today tells me I might be wrong.

We have a case that's been around for a while. Our client was charged with a misdemeanor, but initially charged in the wrong town. That case was dismissed. The officer re-filed the charges in the correct town, but never served the papers on our client.

So, after a sufficient amount of time, we moved to dismiss on "speedy trial" grounds. There was no response from the DA's office. We waited two months or so. A few days ago we submitted a proposed order to the judge, on notice to the DA's office. I think our letter even asked the judge to wait 10 days to give the DA time to respond.

I should mention that my associate did all the paperwork, and much of the research. We discussed the proposed order before he sent it, and what should be in the letter. For now I have to assume he did it the way I told him.

So I get a message on my voicemail, left at about 4:30 pm today (Friday). I get it about 4:45 and someone I've never heard of from the prosecutor's office is yelling at my voicemail about ex parte communication with the Court, and some arguments about why speedy trial is inappropriate. For those who don't know, ex parte communication is when one side communicates with the judge without the other side's participation - usually improper without consent, and some times even then.

I haven't had any ex parte communication with the Court. I did go to the Court once on this case, but there was an ADA there. We made a motion to the Court, but as far as I know we served a copy of the motion on the DA's office. Then we sent our proposed order and obviously a copy of that got to the DA's office since I got this call.

I figured I'd call up and discuss the situation in a calm manner with this ADA. When she picked up I asked her to assume I might be right and she might be wrong. And she started yelling at me, with the same stream of stuff that I already heard in my voicemail.

Before I go on you should understand that it's shortly before 5 pm on a Friday. I have a cold or something, and really don't feel great. I want to go home, see my wife and kids, and get ready for the older one's soccer practice. I'm an experienced trial attorney who's used to being treated with some amount of respect, and don't like being yelled at. It's one thing for a judge to do it. It's another to get yelled at by someone I don't know, have never met, and who has probably never talked to a jury before, especially when my associate is the one who was handling the case.

Keep in mind that if they didn't get a copy of the motion papers, or even if they lost them, all she had to do was tell me that and ask us to send another copy and give them some time to respond. Yelling is not necessary. Wait. Let me say that in language that this prosecutor might understand. YELLING IS NOT NECESSARY!!

So I hung up. I don't have time for this crap. I e-mailed my associate to call them next week. He can deal with it. Sucks to be the employee I guess. :-)

I don't know what gets into people when they work in certain prosecutor offices. I've always had good dealings with some DA's, like in Saratoga and Schenectady. Most DA's offices really. Even in one of the troubled local DA's offices there are some good people. And in this particular office I know at least one prosecutor who's reasonable. But for some reason this particular office seems to have an infection of imbecility, and a lack of civility.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Film Festival for Albany Indie Team

My buddies the Masuccis have a short film that is playing in some festivals. I'm one of two Executive Producers of the film. You can see it at the box[ur]shorts Film Festival website.

Short description: In the twilight of his life, Ned reflects on his past, his remaining years, and discovers how his role in life has changed. Against the Wind is a sentimental film that shows the old truly are young at heart and that universal emotions live within us all.

Check it out, and if you like it, please rate it a Thumbs Up!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Albany Ron Paul Meetup

As one sees with any movement, there can be different factions. In the Albany Ron Paul movement, there are two different "Meetup" groups. One is run by a guy who seems a bit off. Well, okay, to a lot of people outside the movement, we all look crazy. But this guy looks crazy to most of us inside.

For those who want to find the "sane" side of the movement, check out the sensible Albany Ron Paul Meetup. It also happens to be a group interested in the Steven Vasquez campaign (who was endorsed by none other than Dr. Ron Paul himself).