Category: Law

Early Racism

| October 21, 2014 | Reply
Early Racism

They were marched into the classroom, single file, and lined up along the blackboard to face the roomful of white faces. It would be sheerest invention to say I remember everything about that day. The only things I recall had to do with questions about how my own situation was about to change.

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Monkey takes selfie. No one owns the copyright

| October 20, 2014 | Reply

I love this story about Indonesian macaques who borrowed a camera and took their own photos. It brings together intellectual property law and animal rights into one conversation.

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Myths of Authority in Practice

| August 22, 2014 | 2 Replies
Myths of Authority in Practice

I’ve been trying to come to terms with Ferguson since it began. The shooting of Michael Browne sparked a response that surprised many people and the counter responses have been equally surprising among certain people, not so much among certain others. Every time I start to write something I find what I intended to say had already been said better elsewhere. [More . . . ]

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The new version of brick and mortar

| August 15, 2014 | Reply

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine, a lawyer from Kansas City, who mentioned that he is moving to Birmingham, Alabama. He’s fully intending to maintain his Missouri practice with his Kansas City law partner.

I’m increasingly hearing these sorts of stories from experienced lawyers who handle complex litigation. That is my situation too, and it’s working out well. My two law partners ( John Campbell and Alicia Campbell) are based in Denver, where John teaches law at Denver University, but also handles litigation with our firm. We have a workload based mainly in Missouri, and the Campbells often “commute” by airplane to Missouri to handle court hearings, depositions and trials. In the meantime, much of what all of us do involves creating pleadings and researching at our computers, exchanging tons of email and having phone conferences with other attorneys and judges. We keep our files almost entirely in the cloud and we make use of quite a few internet services and computer programs to keep our workload moving and accessible.

IMG_0764 CampbellLaw - trio portrait - March 17 2013

Functionally, it’s really not much different than it would have been had we been working together daily in a brick and mortar office. Campbell Law, LLC was featured for the way we employ technology in an article published by the Bar Assn of Metropolitan St. Louis for being one of the prominent St. Louis firms to make such extensive use of technology (I’ve attached the article as a jpeg). I’m feeling gratified about how well things are working out, especially as Campbell Law is in the process of preparing for its five-year anniversary, Alicia having founded the firm in 2009.

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Recipe for dysfunction, corporate or governmental

| August 13, 2014 | 2 Replies

Because of my recent divorce, I needed to make some changes to my health care policy which my family had purchased under Obamacare. Therefore, today, I spent almost 3 hours on the phone, first with the Obamacare people at Healthcare.gov and then with my current insurer, Anthem/Blue Cross, one of only two health insurers offering coverage on the exchange in St. Louis. For me, it was as revealing as it was frustrating. Significant dysfunction permeated both organizations.

For those who say that they would not trust the government to have a hand in health insurance, I would respond that Anthem was terrible. It took 15 minutes to even get a live human being on the line. After the man demonstrated that he was not able to answer my concerns, he refused to elevate my concern to a supervisor. He made claims that he would not confirm in writing. I do not trust large powerful corporations to be responsive to consumers whenever there is a monopoly or a near monopoly (e.g., health insurers and telecoms).

For those who say that they do not trust big corporations to handle health care, I would say that a big lumbering government is not necessarily going to solve your problems either. Healthcare.gov runs a dysfunctional site when it comes to people like me, who are attempting a special enrollment due to life changes. I would offer that the problem is that there is little meaningful pressure we can exert when the government site is deficient [In fairness, signing up for my family's original policy through Healthcare.gov was somewhat straightforward].

The bottom line: Whenever there is substantial power and no direct pressure consumers can assert to force a big organization to change its ways, there will be substantial long-term dysfunction. It doesn’t matter whether the organization is a big corporation or a government entity.

Unless there is a meaningful feedback loop whereby consumers can force the government OR corporations to improve performance, we can expect dysfunction.

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John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders

| August 12, 2014 | Reply

John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders with a vengeance.   Check out Sarah Silverman’s payday loan alternative commercial at the end.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/PDylgzybWAw” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

I have often been highly critical of Payday Loans at this website. They are dangerous financial products that drive the working poor into bankruptcy, foreclosure and worse.

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Civil Rights Organizations Sell Out

| August 6, 2014 | Reply

The Nation reports that venerable civil rights organizations are selling out on the issue of Net Neutrality. Literally.

[T]elecoms are desperate for third-party approval, and have even resorted to fabricating community support for their anti–net neutrality lobbying campaign. Perhaps the bigger picture here is how so many of the old civil rights establishments have become comfortable with trading endorsements for cash. Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other telecom companies have donated, either directly or through a company foundation, to nearly every group listed on the anti–net neutrality letters filed last week. We saw a similar dynamic play out with Walmart when the retailer handed out cash to civil rights groups in order to buy support for opening stores in urban areas.

Times have changed. Just as Martin Luther King Jr.’s children have embarrassingly descended into fighting bitterly over what’s left of his estate, the civil rights groups formed to advance Dr. King’s legacy seem willing to sell out their own members for a buck.

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Ubiquitous Crime is the New Normal

| July 21, 2014 | 1 Reply

I was called to jury duty this week in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. This happens every 2 years for me; this was my fifth or sixth time. Although I’ve sat through voir dire several times, I’ve never been chosen. This probably has to do with the fact that I’m a lawyer. Today’s case was a criminal case, and I come with special baggage, since I was a prosecutor for the state of Missouri for four years, after working for the state juvenile court two years before that. This is the kind of background a defense attorney would rather not deal with, so I was not chosen to hear the case.

In today’s proceeding, the defendant was charged with the sexual assault of several teenage girls, while using a gun. These were very serious charges, indeed.

The reason I’m writing this post is that I was overwhelmed with the amount of serious crime that has touched the lives of the 75 people on the jury panel. Ubiquitous crime appears to be the new normal.

We were only asked about two types of crimes, gun violence and sexual offenses, but it seemed as though most of the prospective jurors were victims or at least their close friends and families were victims of these types of crimes. About 20 jurors discussed their encounters with sexual predators. About half of the 20 approached the judge to discuss their experiences in private—you could tell from their faces that these were, and still are, emotionally wrenching experiences. Many of the jurors openly discussed their experiences in front of the full courtroom. The victims includes young and old, men and women. Two men on the panel stated that when they were children they had been sexually violated by babysitters. Several of the jurors had difficulty speaking of the incidents, because they were overcome by emotion. More than a few prospective jurors stated that they would be unable to sit in judgment of today’s defendant because of the continuing emotional impact based on their own history.

[More . . . ]

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| July 9, 2014 | Reply

How pervasive are binding pre-dispute arbitration clauses imposed by for-profit businesses upon consumers? Herman Scwartz of The Nation reports:

Two reports issued at the end of last year show how effective the Court’s arbitration rulings have been. Last December, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a preliminary report, which found that contract clauses mandating pre-dispute arbitration are a “common feature of consumer financial contracts”; a final report is due by year’s end. The agency found such clauses in over 50 percent of credit card loans, 81 percent of prepaid charge cards and in checking accounts covering 44 percent of all insured deposits.

The CFPB found further that about 90 percent of such contracts, including almost all credit card loans, insured deposits and prepaid cards, also prohibit participation in current or future class or other joint actions in both judicial and arbitration proceedings. This usually forces consumers who have been injured in small amounts to drop the matter entirely, even though the defendant may have harmed many others the same way, for too little is at stake for each individual to justify the time, trouble and expense of individual arbitration. . . .

These two clauses are not just in consumer financial contracts, but are standard in cellphone and nursing home contracts, individual employment contracts, shipping agreements, passenger tickets and in many other areas. They have also been imported into the exploding commercial traffic on Internet websites. When consumers click their assent to the conditions imposed by a seller online, few if any realize they are often acceding to these limitations on their rights to a judicial resolution and a class action. Some merchants have gone so far as to claim that just opening a box for a computer, for example, is enough to constitute the necessary assent to such conditions in an “agreement” placed in the box.

What is the bottom line?

The Supreme Court has given financial institutions, businessmen, unscrupulous employers and others a license to do wrong. As the California Supreme Court put it, they have been given an “exemption from responsibility for [their] own fraud.”

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