Sunday, December 30, 2001

Judge Elwood F. Melson, Jr.

Decisions made in Family Court are difficult ones. Perhaps no other court deals with issues as difficult and sensitive as the one that involves the State making decisions regarding domestic relations.

This last Tuesday, one of Delaware’s dedicated public servants died. Former Family Court Judge Elwood F. Melson, Jr., was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1940. He was a Navy veteran, and was elected to a position as a State Senator in 1954. In 1964, he was appointed as an associate judge in Family Court for New Castle County. Judge Melson’s best known legacy was bringing predictability and stability to determinations of child support payments. He created a mathematical formula that was focused on arriving at a fair and equitable settlement between parents regarding payment amounts, while recognizing the needs of children, and of non-custodial parents.

The formula became known as the Melson Formula in Delaware, and was also known in other states and countries as the Delaware Plan. It was years ahead of its time, and influenced many other courts and legislatures. On its face, it appears fairly complex, but an attorney who has used it a couple of times can grasp its intricacies as it balances a good number of issues that previously would have been left to the discretion of a judge. It is aimed at achieving consistent results regardless of who the hearing officer might be in Family Court. It has played an important part in helping other states come up with reasoned discussions as to how their laws on child support should be constructed, and has been adopted by a number of other states.

Melson Formula Articles:

March, 1999 Wilmington News Journal Editorial from Family Court Chief Justice Vincent J. Poppiti
Judge Melson and all who have followed in his footsteps by subsequently updating the formula have tried to balance simplicity with the desire to be fair to both parents and the children. Some states have enacted a straightforward formula that uses a percentage of parents' income, certainly a simple solution, but not necessarily more equitable. The Delaware formula addresses issues such as attributing income to unemployed or underemployed parents, income from second jobs, allowances for insurance and pensions, and support of other dependents.

May, 1999 Wilmington News Journal Editorial from State Rep. Gerald A. Buckworth
A 1988 federal law requires all states to have guidelines for setting and modifying child support obligations. Delaware was ahead of the curve, having instituted such a system nearly a decade earlier.

A discussion of the different models for calculating child support, by Laura Morgan, gives a detailed explanation of the way the Melson Formula is applied, and had the following to say about the Formula:
The proponents of the Melson Formula model argue its internal logic makes it the fairest of the models. Even though the Melson Formula model seems to be the most complicated of the models, its proponents contend that its seeming complexity is superficial; once a practitioner has used the Melson Formula model, its subsequent application is simple.

The Melson Formula model is, indeed, the most internally consistent. It takes into consideration not only special custody arrangements and health care needs, it also takes into consideration each parent's needs. It is thus, on its face, the fairest as perceived by the parent. Where perceived fairness is the most important factor, then the Melson Formula model is the clear winner. Moreover, one expert has found that the Melson Formula model tends to produce less extreme differences in living standards where one parent has a very low income and the other parent has significantly higher income. This again contributes to the perceived fairness of the Melson Formula model. Moreover, because the Melson Formula model takes into consideration commonly occurring expenses, it is consistent and predictable. Its only fault is in its facial complexity.

- William Slawski

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

The Alaskan Rule?

Alaska has historically been said to follow the "English Rule" of loser-pay law. Currently set forth in its Civil Rule 82 , Alaska uses a subtle but effective fee shifting process that is more of a compromise between the American Rule and the English Rule than it is one or the other. The Alaska Rule has maintained a high approval rating among the professionals in that jurisdiction. A study of the Alaska method showed that there are positive and negative impacts from the rule but generally accepts it. And as many studies do, it suggests more studies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

American Rule and English Rule

How does our justice system determine who is responsible for attorney fees? Most United States jurisdictions follow the "American Rule" which makes each party responsible for his own legal costs. In contrast, the "English Rule" provides for the loser to pay the winner's legal fees. There is a "shifting" of the law in some U.S. jurisdictions, which is eroding the distinction between the two rules.
Declaration of Independence, 1921

When things get so balled up that the people of a country have to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are on the level, and not trying to put nothing over on nobody.

All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, you and me is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time however he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else...

So begins a reinterpretation of the Declaration of Independence, from the pen of HL Mencken. Mencken was one of the most well known, and prolific newspaper writers, and political commentators of his day. He is also well known for his commentary on American English, and American slang. The Declaration that he updated, in a unique style, is filled with poor english, and bad grammar, with a lot of political incorrectness. But, in many ways, Mencken's translated sentences are much more understandable than some of the 18th century language they replace.
- William Slawski

Monday, December 17, 2001

Larry D. Sullivan in the News (Journal)

Today's Wilmington News Journal features an article on employer offered legal service plans, entitled "Benefits Packages Branch Out," in their Business Monday section. The article includes a picture of Larry D. Sullivan, Esq., and several quotes from him on the how such plans work, and how they can benefit a company's employees.
- William Slawski

Saturday, December 15, 2001

Digital Millennium Copyright Act news

fear of linking
A decision in Federal Court (NYTimes - free registration required) regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and hyperlinks that lead to a software code designed to circumvent DVD movie copy protection, has online journalists concerned about linking to pages that might contain illegal materials. The Judge tried to limit his ruling about including links to material that was illegal under the DMCA by creating a three part test, stating that there had to:
be clear and convincing evidence that the person responsible for the link (a) knew at the time that the offending technology is on the linked-to site, (b) knew that the offending technology is illegal under the D.M.C.A., and (c) created or maintained the link for the "purpose" of disseminating the tainted code.

Many online journalists, and free speech experts are concerned that this ruling will cause journalists to become overly cautious, and not link to pages where there might be newsworthy materials that may or may not be illegal under the DMCA.

criminal prosecution
Another story involving the first criminal prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) sees Russian software designer Dmitri Sklyarov released from U.S. custody with charges against him dropped by the United States. The article states that he will be supervised for a year during his release, which points towards a "probation prior to prosecution" disposition for the charge. Sklyarov was being held for creating software that would disable the security on Adobe e-books technology. Adobe's e-book software does not allow for the creation of a backup copy, and will only play the e-book upon the computer that it was downloaded upon. In Russia, it is illegal to release software that does not allow for the creation of a backup.

fear of music
Webcasting is something that many college radios stations have embraced fully. Yet they don't have the budget that large commercial stations have. Will a proposed Music Online Competition Act make a difference? Will college stations be forced to stop webcasting? Will they have to pay extremely large fees being applied retroactively? See Why college radio fears the DMCA.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has started a Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE), which has sections on online censorship and free expression; online content filtering, labeling, and rating; patents, trademark, copyright, and fairuse. A visit to their pages will quickly bring you up to date on some of the concerns many have regarding freedom of expression issues on the world wide web.
- William Slawski

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Getting Involved

There are times when you wonder who it is that you can petition to add an hour or two to the day. Between work, and homelife, it seems like there's never enough time to do everything that you want to do. I've been meaning to go to a city council board meeting for a long time, but never attended one. Between all the other things that conspire to fill the day, adding "watchdog of the government" to the list seemed to finish last to things like doing laundry, or reading a novel, or working late.

On Monday, Delaware Law Office received an email telling us about a meeting that the Newark City Council was going to have which would determine whether or not the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission would continue to exist. The email was from a university student (thank you Nikki!) who was forwarding a message from the chairman of the Advisory Commission, Steve Dentel. He was asking for a "strong showing of citizens in support of environmental priorities." His email also included a letter he had sent to the Wilmington News Journal that highlighted the need for citizens to take part in some of the many environmental issues that face Delaware. After reading the letter, I felt that the Advisory Commission was headed by someone who cared a great deal, and it would be a loss to the community to silence his voice in the City's decisions about the environment. I don't know much else about the advisory committee except for the fact that it has been around for a while (24 years) and is comprised mostly of people who are concerned about the community, and do try to spend some of their time trying to make things better for others.

I emailed a couple of friends to see if they would be interested in attending, and they got back to me with a positive response. We arrived at the meeting around seven. Newark City Council meetings are normally held at 7:30 pm on the second and fourth Monday of each month (except for this month, which will not have a second meeting). You can normally find the agenda for their meetings posted on their web site, and I give the City a lot of credit for trying to be responsive to the community online.

Delaware is a small state, and it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see at least one or two other familiar faces at the meeting. A friend, and his son's Boy Scout troop were also in attendence, learning about citizenship. In addition to the troop, there were a good number of people in attendance - probably more than the City Council is used to seeing in their meeting room.

I think that the head of the Commission was right. When it came time to have the City Council make a vote on the Ordinance to delete from the City of Newark Code the section on the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission, none of the council members backed the measure. There was to be a public meeting which would allow comments from the public. I think the amount of people in attendance spoke more eloquently to the desire of the community to keep the Commission around than any statements that could have been made. Sometimes just showing up, and being interested is enough.

The meeting lasted little more than half-an-hour. An hour a month to spend with others who care about their community seems like time that can be found.
- William Slawski

Thursday, December 06, 2001

Who is to Blame for Viruses?

You catch a virus from an email that someone sends to you. It then forwards an email out to everyone in your address book listing "your" favorite pornographic sites. Or it damages all of your system files and you lose all of the important documents on your hard drive. Or it destroys all of the picture and music files on your computer, including the ones in the powerpoint presentation that you were going to use at a trade show the next morning to potential clients for your small business.

You spend time and money trying to recover from the damage inflicted, and as you do so, you ask yourself who is to blame. Is it the person who wrote the virus? Is it the parents and teachers of those who released the damaging software into the internet? Is it yourself? Is it the writer of the email program that you use, or the operating system? Is it the intelligence industry, which stands by quietly while such things happen. Is it the legal community which should be righting wrongs that such actions can bring? Is it the government that could regulate many aspects of the internet, as if it were a utility like electrical service?

The answer might be that the responsibility is with all of the above.

Releasing a virus is an act of terroism. Innocent people are inflicted with the harm caused by its release, no matter how noble or misguided the intention was on the part of the person who wrote and set free the software. There's an open source community of software developers who are addressing their political concerns with big business by joining together and working to develop better software than the large corporations. Their attention is focused upon helping others, rather than doing harm. There are people who develop viruses to show off their skills, or to educate people - and these folks don't grasp that the fear, uncertainty and doubt that they are spreading is more harmful than helpful, and that recognition can also be won by writing software that benefits people.

There are teenagers who have virtually unlimited, and unsupervised, access to the internet. Parents have a responsibility to communicate with their children, and to talk with them about what they are doing when they might be spending time learning about phreaking and hacking, and traveling around the world wide web. It's easy for a young adult to apply different rules of behavoir regarding their online activity than their offworld reality because it isn't physically before them, and the implications of their actions online may not seem as immediate or near as what they experience away from the computer screen.

One of the best defenses for viruses is common sense. You receive an email from someone you don't know, which has an attachment. Do you open it? Some people do. You receive an email from someone who you do know, but it has a message and subject line that the person you know probably wouldn't have written. Do you open the attachment? Do you send an email to the sender first, asking about the email? You run a computer, but don't have antivirus software, or haven't updated the antivirus software on a regular basis. Why not? You use an email program that a lot of people say is a target for virus writers, but you don't learn about the safest way of using the program. Isn't that a little like not locking the doors of your car in an area that seems to be in the news regularly as a place where cars are stolen?

Some software does have a reputation for being a target of virus writers. You might have an expectation that they would try to write safer software. Or that they might release patches when problems arise? Or that they would let people know about the safest computing habits to develop when there are people creating problems with malicious programs? Why wouldn't they? Is there a hidden agenda? Or, might they just claim that they are a target only because they have the most popular software? Or that additional security creates additional complexity in software, and that too much complexity makes it too difficult for the average computer user to compute? For instance, an operating system where there is an administrator login that a person would use to install new software and diagnose problems, and a separate login for everyday use where there are restrictions, such as the inability to install new programs or run programs that affect important parts of the operating system and cause damage to the computer. While that's more complex, it's also a lot safer.

Should the intelligence community be educating consumers on best security practices for using a computer? Should they point out security flaws to the manufacturers of software that contain security weaknesses? Should they recommend safer email clients that might have less features, but offer significantly more security? Should they host online or offline educational programs, and build web pages that help people learn about how they can be more secure while traveling on the world wide web? Should internet service providers offer filtered email to clients who want it?

What kinds of lawsuits should happen because of viruses? Virus writers can cause millions of dollars worth of damages. Can civil lawsuits help curb damages? People who write viruses rarely have the monetary resources to address the costs that their virus may cause. Should the software manufacturers be held responsible? In some situations, where there was a vulnerability that was known about, and nothing was done to fix the problem or to warn people, that might seem to be the best response. Should efforts be made to influence lawmakers to impose civil and criminal sanctions against virus writers? Should someone who is found guilty of releasing a harmful virus be kept away from computers? Can law making efforts spearheaded by attorneys be aimed at educational efforts to teach young uses about ethics? These are all possible responses by the legal community.

What role does government have to play? How open to their constituents are they? How aware of this problem? Do they have regular meetings where people can talk to them? Do they have an email address, and an internet site where they keep those they represent informed of their actions? Do they ask for feedback on certain issues? Legislative efforts don't have to be aimed at regulating the internet to the point where the regulations severly limits its use. It can also impose some regulation upon responsibility when it comes to writing software. It can also introduce ideas about online ethics and education to communities.

There are many steps that can be taken by many people to help curb problems caused by viruses, and to help influence those who would release viruses to pursue more positive activities. An interesting article on the subject entitled "Viruses and Worms: More Than a Technical Problem" addresses some of the questions I've asked above. We would enjoy hearing other possible solutions or thoughts on the subject.
- William Slawski

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Delaware Links

It's not easy finding links to the towns and cities of Delaware. Maybe many of those places are too small. Not every municipality in the state has its own webpage. Some of the following links point to chambers of commerce, and some of them point to commercial sites. One of them is the excellent work of an elementary school class. I will be looking for additional pages, and will add these links to the link page on the DeLawOffice in the near future.

Kent County


New Castle County

New Castle

Sussex County
Sussex County Municipalities

Bethany Beach
Dewey Beach
Dewey Beach
Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach

If you have any suggestions for other links to homepages for Delaware towns, please let us know. Thanks.
_William Slawski

Monday, December 03, 2001

Delaware Ranked 38th Out of Fifty in Health

The United Health Foundation ranks each of the fifty states in a number of categories to determine which states are the healthiest. While there may be some questions about the methodology of this ranking, Delaware doesn't do very well in most categories.


Overall Ranking 38


Prevalence of Smoking 23
Motor Vehicle Deaths 21
Violent Crime 44
Risk for Heart Disease 33
High School Graduation 37


Unemployment 29
Adequacy of Prenatal Care 37
Lack of Health Insurance 15
Support for Public Health Care 17

Occupational Safety and Disability

Occupational Fatalities 30
Limited Activity Days 43


Heart Disease 31
Cancer Cases 40
Infectious Disease 31


Total Mortality 34
Infant Mortality 47
Premature Death 33

Visit the for more details, and for a more comprehensive explaination of what the different categories mean, see the full report.

Friday, November 30, 2001

The Social Security Administration keeps track of the names of applicants, and has released information about the popularity of first names for different time periods, on the web.

The Global Positioning System is run by the U.S. military and controlled by the government. It is the only functioning network system of its type, and is used by other governments. It is managed by a multi-agency board, and run by the Department of Defense. A number of other governments see the American standard that this system brings as an American monopoly, and are working hard to develop systems of their own.

The American Bar Association has published a stance on judicial vacancies, and they would like to see those filled as quickly as possible. They begin this position statement with the following paragraph:
Protracted delays in the judicial nomination and/or confirmation process weaken the federal judiciary by depriving it of the judges needed to resolve disputes expeditiously. Protracted delays also contribute to dangerously crowded dockets, suspended civil case dockets, overburdened judges, and understaffed courts.

Message Boards and Libel

There are many people who write messages in forums and message boards on the internet, and often those messages are opinions rather than published facts or news articles meant for dissemination to the world at large. But sometimes the topics discussed become statements about people or companies that may be untrue, or cast the subject of the conversation in a negative manner.

Large corporations have taken to visiting message boards, and to using software that allows them to find online statements about their companies. Sometimes the statements can appear to be so harmful as to threaten the company's reputation. Sometimes the statements might impact negatively on the corporation's value in the stock market. The 'Lectric Law Library's definition of libel is:
Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; The defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, The material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published; distinguished from slander.

In California, a court of appeals has just issued a ruling regarding statements made in message boards about a public company. The court decided that that the message board was a "public forum," the statements of the people posting were opinions of shareholders and not competitors, and that the matters discussed were an "issue of public interest." This means that a California statute protected the statements from action against the company.

Be warned, this ruling is limited to certain types of statements and to California. A court in another state, or with somewhat different facts might make a completely different ruling. This matter will probably be appealed to the California Supreme Court, so this isn't the last word on postings in message boards in California.
-William Slawski

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Court Ordered Home Video Cameras

Privacy concerns can be seen in many places on the internet. There are watchdog groups online like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center which provide a great amount of information about pending legal actions and concerns centering on privacy. Protecting your identity, your online habits, your credit, and credit card information are all valid considerations, and these groups are working hard to try and find safeguards for that type of information.

But what about our privacy offline? How about a map of Manhattan that can help you plan a trip through the streets along a route with the least amount of surveillance cameras? There is one online:

"iSee is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments. With iSee, users can find routes that avoid these cameras -­ paths of least surveillance -­ allowing them to walk around their cities without fear of being 'caught on tape' by unregulated security monitors."

Then again, how do you avoid cameras if a judge orders them placed within your house? A divorced couple in New Jersey, involved in a visitation dispute, with allegations of abuse, have had a Family Court Judge order that video cameras be placed in every room of their homes, except the bathrooms. The request was made by one of the parties asking that the other have video installed. The other party agreed on the condition that both houses get wired for video. The Judge agreed to the request, and then when the original party tried to back out of the agreement, the Judge refused to let them. The cameras have not been installed yet.

Is this an invasion of privacy? Or is it a legitimate method of insuring that a child doesn't get harmed? The answer will come from a New Jersey appellate court judge.
-William Slawski

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Lost and Found

Most people don't think about a state running a lost and found department. However, in a good number of instances, the Legislature of the State of Delaware have passed bills into law that have had the State holding on to property unclaimed by others. The Delaware State Escheator (at the Delaware Division of Revenue) is responsible for maintaining and safeguarding property that has been abandoned by its owner for an extended period of time. You may ask what types of abandoned property, and what do you mean by escheator?

Here are some examples that can be found on the Unclaimed Property page of the Division of Revenue.

  • Dormant Bank Accounts

  • Lost or Forgotten Uncashed Checks

  • Stock or Bonds, Dividends & Bond Interest

  • Insurance Proceeds

  • Utility Refunds

  • Safe Deposit Box Contents

With some of these examples, it's easy to see how some property might go without being missed and remain unclaimed.

The word escheat comes from the time of feudalism, when a person was granted a hold, or lease on land by the owner of the land in exchange for the return of future "knightly" duties or occasional payment. The granting of the property was known as the giving of a fief, or hold on the property for the life of the person receiving it, and was often transferred to the heirs of the property holder. The word escheat means that the fief is returned to the lord when the property holder has no heir.

The word "escheator" is meant to refer to the person holding the property when there seems to be no one to claim the property, and the original owner cannot be reached. In many instances the original owner is known. The Division of Revenue page includes an index to pages where property owners' names are listed. You might want to take a peak and see if you or someone you know is on one of those lists. The State needs help in keeping its lost and find department to a minimum size.

There is also a link on the Delaware page to a States' National Database. Good luck.
- William Slawski

Monday, November 26, 2001

One of the best articles I've come across on unsolicited commercial email (aka spam) is from the pages of the United Kingdom based Journal of Information Law, and Technology. Spam Law for the Internet is written by W K Khong (a lecturer at the Multimedia University in Malaysia), and is in-depth, informative, and up-to-date. The abstract from the article reads as follows:

"This paper briefly surveys the movement to regulate spam or unsolicited commercial emails on the Internet. It discusses the history of spam, definition of spam, and identifies parties fighting spam. Also, it examines legislative efforts in the European Union and the United States to regulate spam and the various schemes and mechanisms employed."

- William Slawski
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke

Question: I am a Paralegal with a Law Firm that specializes in Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Recently a Client was involved in an accident with an independent trucker on I-95. We are having difficulty in effecting Service of Process. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Yes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sponsors a website. This web site offers information regarding license plates, insurance coverage, addresses, insurance policy numbers, DOT, and Motor Carrier numbers, and “SafeStat” results. "SafeStat" is information on previous accidents and roadside inspections. Contact the Insurance Carrier for additional information regarding the driver. The defendants can then be served via DE Title X, ss 3112 by serving the Secretary of State in Dover. Don't forget to contact the Division of Corporations to see if the trucking company is incorporated in DE. Most of them are…..

Question: Our client feels he is under surveillance. What should he do?

Answer: First and foremost, the client should cease any behaviors that might cause adverse momentum to his case. Investigators conduct surveillance in an effort to document the activities of an individual during a specific time frame. Most lawyers will advise a client of the most probable time for surveillance. During that time period, stay alert. Exit, and enter, the shopping center, place of employment, and your residence differently each time. If you spot someone tailing you, call the police. Inform the dispatcher you are experiencing fear, and alarm, and request contact from a Police Officer. Insist on a Police Report. Report all suspicious vehicles you observe in close proximity to your residence as well. Although Title 24, ss 1302, allows a Private Investigator to conduct surveillance on you, Police Contact really puts a hamper on the assignment. It is even more insulting when you have to advise your client you’ve been "burned”.

Question: I work for a Law Firm that does a large part of their business in the Insurance Subrogation field. Occasionally I receive calls from Defendants stating they have filed for Bankruptcy. I hear so many stories, is their any way to verify this?

Answer: Utilize the internet. Try this to access the District of Delaware’s United States Bankruptcy Court. Use the Web Pacer to locate the individual's name. You can also search by Case Number. Your other option is to go to the Court. It is located at 824 N. Market Street on the 5th floor. The Court provides three computer systems for your use. The Clerks are especially helpful. All information, including Docket Sheets can be downloaded, and printed. Be sure to stop by my office for a cup of coffee. I’m on the 4th floor!

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator, Michael specializes in Insurance Defense.

He invites your questions to

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
(302) 427-3600.

Or you may e-mail him at

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

In preparing for this article, I was unable to find any internet hits for the phrase "Delaware tort reform". I guess that's because there isn't any. The Pennsylvania Civil Justice Coalition states that every state except Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Arkansas, and West Virginia have taken some action in the furtherance of tort reform. Is that because our civil justice system in Delaware is running perfectly? For whom?

Our court system is not working smoothly, it is swamped. And like many swamps, there are murky waters and reptiles. The courts do the best that they can to process the cases before them in a proper manner, but they are continually understaffed. This is the murky waters. Where is the effort to keep frivolous cases from getting into the system in the first place? Where is the effort to give parties incentives to settle in a timely fashion?

All of the taxpayers of the State of Delaware pay for this inefficient process. We pay in dollars and we pay by having a slow and overburdened process for our legitimate grievances. I ask myself then, if we are paying, who is cashing in on the current state of affairs? Someone politically powerful must be benefitting, or we would surely have done something to fix the problems. Right?

The following suggested partial cure to this ailment might help you to identify the reptiles. If Delaware instituted a “loser-pay” law, allowing judges to make some law-suit losers pay the legal fees of the prevailing party on clear cut cases, there would be an economic incentive to:

avoid filing frivolous cases;

honor our contracts and obligations; and,

to settle cases reasonably before the legal fees have a chance to get too high. (Yes, here is a lawyer arguing for lower attorney fees)

This would relieve some of the pressure on our legal system and on us. Delaware is a business oriented State. We give businesses, including insurance companies, guidance and suggestions by structuring financial costs for activities that we find harmful to the public. When we have a system that allows unscrupulous contractors to bilk honest citizens of thousands of dollars without a penalty, or one that permits insurance companies to make more money by investing settlement funds while they delay litigation, we have a system that gives an economic incentive to snarl up the system and rip off our citizenry.

Let’s work to reverse that incentive by making it financially advantageous to stay out of court. Contact your state legislators to discuss these ideas.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Second Thanksgiving

This Thursday is the second day of Thanksgiving of 2001. Thanksgiving day in the United States is not like other national holidays, such as Veterans’ Day, or Presidents’ Day. Those are days that have been recognized as national holidays by the power of Congress. Thanksgiving becomes a holiday each year by proclamation of the President.

The first recorded Thanksgiving proclamation known was made in Charlestown, Massachusetts on June 20, 1667. The first Thanksgiving was actually years earlier, when in 1621 the pilgrims at Plymouth celebrated a feast of thanks with Indians who provided food that allowed the Pilgrims to survive through their first winter in the new land.

Thanksgiving proclamations began to become part of the tradition of our country when George Washington made a proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving in his first year as President. It wasn’t uncommon for different states to have their own days of Thanksgiving in the 1800’s, and the idea of Thanksgiving as a national day was revived with Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

It has become a bit of a custom to have our President make a proclamation each year declaring a day of Thanksgiving. This year is a little unusual in that we had our first such proclamation in January, naming January 21, 2001 a day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. Why January, and why a day of Thanksgiving?

Shortly after our new President was officially entered into office, he declared a day of prayer and thanksgiving to recognize the bicentennial of the first transfer of the power of the presidency from one political party to another. That day, almost 200 years earlier on March 4, 1801 was an important day in the history of the United States. It showed the citizens, and the world, that the new nation and its largely untried political system could survive a transfer of power to a party influenced by a different political philosophy than the one that had guided it through its first decade.

Our second Thanksgiving Proclamation this year called forth images of Eisenhower, Lincoln, and Washington – three presidents who had brought our nation through times of strife.

Thanksgiving is a little special because it is a time when our nation’s leader asks us to reflect upon the past, and hope for the future, through a proclamation. Another tradition, brought to us from the days of Lincoln is the pardoning of the turkey. The annual pardoning of the thanksgiving turkey took place in the Rose Garden this afternoon.

May we all have plenty to be thankful for.
- William Slawski
Delaware is the established leader in corporate law. It is the primary site for the incorporation of businesses for a variety of reasons , both financial and legal in nature. It is important to obtain professional advice as to the type of structure that a particular business should utilize, but it is almost always a safe bet to build that structure in Delaware.

Saturday, November 17, 2001

Leadership can be a difficult concept to define. Within a society, leaders emerge at a number of different levels, in different areas of a culture. We find leaders in state office buildings, in places of worship, in office buildings, factories, and warehouses, in communities and charitable organizations, and in our federal government.

Some leaders are chosen in formal settings, and others assume responsibility when the need arises. In a representative democracy, the theory is that leaders are chosen by the people, and represent the whims of those who voted on their behalf. In practice, the "whims of the people" often represent a number of contradicting viewpoints and opposing calls for action. Leadership is the ability of a leader to respect these differing views, and to try to gain a consensus of opinion on a subject, and to take appropriate action when necessary. When someone is in a position of authority, they are also in a position of responsibility. It’s a responsibility of leaders to guide by following.

How do we tell when a person is an effective leader? One way is to create some type of benchmark, and compare that person’s actions to the benchmark. An often convenient method of doing that is to compare the leader with previous leaders. Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal opinion pages compares George W. Bush to Harry Truman. Businessweek online remarks about Bush’s attempts to emulate Ronald Reagan. The many speeches and press conferences we’ve seen by President Bush on television have some using his name in the same sentence as FDR.

Are comparisons to previous leaders helpful in determining the effectiveness of a present leader? Might they be just as effective as public opinion polls where the actual questions asked in the polls aren’t disclosed to the public. Perhaps some leaders in the media will arise and give us some idea of what types of benchmarks we should be looking for. Until then, maybe the best we will get is that Dubya is a lot like Harry, or Ron, or FDR.
- William Slawski
Friday, the Delaware Supreme Court announced the disbarment of Thomas Capano. His deeds have been a black spot on the reputation of the Delaware Bar. The Wilmington News-Journal has an archive of stories on the controversial capital murder case involving former State Prosecutor Capano.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

The American Red Cross has returned the funds! The new CEO, Harold Decker, apologized and returned the hundreds of millions of dollars which had been temporarily misdirected from the Liberty Fund by his predecessor. Now the victims and families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks will receive what was donated to them. Thanks to those of our legislature and public who spoke out and helped the Red Cross to see the light!

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Going back a few years in Delaware's history, the following were Delaware's delegates to the Constitutional Convention: Richard Bassett, Gunning Bedford, Jr., Jacob Broom, John Dickinson, and George Read. The National Archives and Records Administration tells us a little about our delegates, and touches upon the parts these gentlemen played in the decisions made during the drafting of the U.S. Consititution.
- William Slawski
134 years ago, New York City firemen raised money to buy Columbia, South Carolina a firetruck (a hose carriage). Columbia had just experienced a fire that destroyed 36 blocks of the city. All this happened shortly after the Civil War, and considerable tensions existed between the north and the south.

"Today, the firemen of Northern New York strike hands with their comrades of Southern Columbia, and in so doing, we call upon our fellow citizens of the two great sections to emulate our example, and thus hasten a restoration ... of our once beautiful and still united national fabric," said Henry Wilson, president of the New York Firemen's Association in a speech to Columbians June 28, 1867.

Columbia leaders made a pledge back then to not forget that gift. And forget it, they haven't, raising enough money to buy New York City a firetruck in return (and then some). White Knoll Middle School started the campaign, and when local firefighters were informed of the fundraiser by the school, their historians brought the civil war era gift from New York into the picture. With the support of the Columbia community, the middle school has raised $447,265.41 in 57 days, surpassing their goal by almost $100,000.00. The historical tie wasn't originally known about by the students and teachers who began this effort.
- William Slawski
The American Redcross has made a decision that all of the money collected into the Liberty Fund will go to people harmed by the September 11th terror attacks.
- William Slawski

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

You've been accused of a crime. You ask to see your attorney. You expect that you can explain to your lawyer what happened without a fear that the lawyer can be forced to testify against you. As a matter of fact, your attorney tells you that you shouldn't hold anything back, because failure to explain the facts can lead to a weakness in your defense.

Before you are interviewed by your attorney, you're told that the conversation that you are going to have will be monitored to make certain that you aren't passing on terrorist instructions. These others listening in aren't constrained by attorney-client privilege. You don't tell your attorney everything that you should for fear that your conversation will be used against you in court.

You lose your court case. You appeal. If you're lucky, the appellate court buys into your argument that you were denied effective assistance of counsel because you were placed in a situation where you couldn't talk with your attorney.

Lawyer-client privilege allows a defendant to talk freely with his or her attorney. This freedom is a necessary part of the criminal justice system. It permits the person accused to be honest with their legal counsel about the events that lead to their incarceration, and it keeps the attorney from acting as a witness against his or her client. Being unable to be open with the person representing you may be cause for an ineffective assistance of counsel determination. It may make convictions much more likely, even if there is no leaking of the conversation being monitored.

The U.S. Department of Justice instituted a new policy on October 30th, adding a monitoring system, in cases when the charge being considered is one of the ones under the anti-terrorism act. Criticism of this policy is coming from a lot of directions. Here are some articles that go into more detail:

Washington Post - An Affront to Democracy

New York Times (free registration required) - Experts Divided on New Antiterror Policy That Scuttles Lawyer-Client Confidentiality - DOJ Defends Lawyer-Client Surveillance

The idea behind this measure is that a person might pass information to an attorney to be passed along to others and allow those others to commit terrorist acts. It seems like this law is telling us that the Department of Justice doesn't trust the attorneys in these situations. While this type of monitoring will only take place in a small number of cases, maybe there are other solutions. The expectation is that this new policy will be challenged in federal court as soon as possible.
- William Slawski

Monday, November 12, 2001

When we talk (or write) about the law, we are discussing a set of rules by which people interact, and by which they are governed. It's not uncommon for people to use the phrase "natural law" in descriptions of the way that we perceive the world to work. But sometimes we just see the tops of things, and not the currents that run underneath. This is true with the legal system, and it is just as true when talking about natural law.

A prime example of this is the way that water moves through the oceans of our world. Believe it or not, a global current was first proposed to exist in the early 1990's that circulates water through a conveyer belt system. Some online articles about the conveyer system:

Climate rides on ocean conveyor belt

Ocean conveyer belt could spur stronger storms

Ocean circulation changes

Understanding what's below the surface can bring some new insights into how the world works. That's most probably true with the law, also.
- William Slawski

Friday, November 09, 2001

Owners of web sites in the United States had something to be concerned about in a case involving Yahoo auctions, Nazi memorabilia, and an order from a French Court. On Wednesday, a federal district court ruled that Yahoo is not required to abide by a French Court ruling barring Yahoo from allowing Nazi memorabilia to be displayed and sold on it's American based website. See U.S. judge says Yahoo not bound by French Nazi ban.

While we don't advocate the buying or selling of nazi memorabilia, having the U.S. Court enforce a $13,000.00 fine per day for an American web site which doesn't find a way to deny access to French citizens of objectionable material would have implications for all U.S. web sites. It would place our web sites at the mercy of more restrictive laws of any nation.

A quote from Yahoo's attorney, Mary Catherine Worth:

"Today the judge basically he said it was not consistent with the laws of the United States for another nation to regulate speech for a U.S. resident within the United States"
- William Slawski
The 250 Million Dollar Sting, and still rising. Many of us donated to what we thought was a fund for the victims of the September 11th attacks. What we are now learning is that the American Red Cross is trying to embezzle more than 250 Million Dollars from this trust fund, and divert the funds to other uses. Regardless as to whether the other uses might be philanthropic, it does not justify the theft. Would it not be a crime if someone broke into your house to steal your belongings just to donate them to the GoodWill? Surely we have always held the Red Cross in high regard and trust. And to a large extent, I am sure that the trust we had in the Red Cross had a lot to do with the generous donations to this particular fund. Unfortunately for those persons who will have future needs for assistance from the Red Cross, that trust has been severely tarnished. The Washington Post announced today that the Red Cross is rethinking its position. I sure hope so. I sure hope our future view of the Red Cross doesn't look like this: Ouch

Thursday, November 08, 2001

If you create your own artwork, music, or writing, and you're concerned about someone else copying those works, you should look into copyrights. A nice plain english guide to the basics of how to copyright protect something can be found at this article entitled Protecting Your Writing, Art and Music. Even more details can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress.

The Copyright Office contains some interesting internet related material, including the Amicus Curiae brief they filed in the case against Napster. Their what's new page also links to three large pdf files on the subject of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The first file is the study conducted by the Copyright Office, the second is the public comments received on the subject, and the third is the public hearing involving the DMCA. The comments from the Library Associations are definitely worth reading, as are the many comments made from the participants at the public hearing.
- William Slawski

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Is it legal to link to a website outside of your own site? Isn't that what the internet is about, to a large degree? Of course, there are some web sites that are available to subscribers only, and passwords are required to enter those pages. Linking to a protected page like that would be akin to trespass. has a page on their site describing the linking agreement that one needs to fill out to get permission to link to the pages. While they do have a password protected ordering section, their linking agreement doesn't make any distinction between protected pages, and pages that are available to the whole world. Maybe we should fill out the paperwork described on their linking agreement page before we link to their site.
- William Slawski
Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Case in point, the entry immediately below this one(about trusts), which is the first blog entry to point to a page somewhere else on this site. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but while Larry was making the entry, I was submitting the Delaware Law Office news page to the Blogdex add-site page. The idea behind Blogdex is that weblogs have a tendency to pick up on news stories as fast, or faster than traditional news sources. The Blogdex site goes out to blogs and looks at the links they have added recently to see which are the most linked stories or pages for a particular day.

While at almost the same time that Larry was creating his entry, I was reading the following from the blogdex page:

"what sorts of sites should not be added?

sites that have static content, or focus only on internal documents will be of little use to the system. blogdex looks only at the difference in content of a website over time; if your website is static, then nothing will ever be added to our database. furthermore, we only consider outward links, or links that point to sites outside your own. if you only link to content inside your own website, then your website will not affect our statistics here. if you are unsure in any case, please submit it and we will help you make that decision."

Hopefully they will overlook our first interior link on the blog, and include us in their data. Interested in seeing the most popular places linked to by weblogs registered with Blogdex? Here's their top 25 recent links in the weblog community
- William Slawski
Privacy concerns and retirement/estate planning goals frequently point to the use of certain kinds of Trusts in Delaware. Trusts can be very useful tools to manage your assets and channel them to your intended beneficiaries when you die. In addition, Trusts can provide your heirs with privacy as to the inner workings and values of your finances, as opposed to the open public record of probate. There are many kinds of Trusts, and certainly one should use thorough planning and expert advice to choose the Trust that is appropriate for you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

An interesting article from former Delaware governor Pete du Pont on a social security reform plan. Of particular impact was a comparison of what benefit someone getting ready to retire now gets out of social security versus what someone just entering the workforce will receive. A baby-boomer-aged male will probably see a $71,000 profit from social security. A twenty-year-old male entering the workforce will pay "$312,000 more in taxes over his lifetime than he will receive in benefits."
- William Slawski
How frequently do we read of a home burglary or home invasion in which the perpetrators walk in through an unlocked door? Just like making sure that our doors are locked, it is effective against most interlopers for us to take simple and basic computer security precautions.

There are a number of simple tools and that we can use to secure our computer information, just as there are methods to secure our homes. Computer Privacy and Security efforts are more and more important as the interlopers become more sophisticated, but there are a few basics that will protect most of us against most of them. SecurityPointer provides a handy list of software and application tools. It's certainly going on my "favorites" list.

Monday, November 05, 2001

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Fact Sheets are extremely informative and cover many different aspects about protecting your privacy. While the site includes references to California law, many of the suggestions they make on various topics are often very good ones. Here are some of the subjects that they consider:

  • Wireless Communications: Cordless/Cellular Phones and Pagers

  • Telemarketing: Whatever Happened to a Quiet Evening at Home?

  • How Private Is My Medical Information?

  • How Private Is My Credit Report?

  • From Cradle to Grave: Government Records and Your Privacy

  • Coping with Identity Theft: What to Do When an Imposter Strikes

  • Privacy in Cyberspace: Rules of the Road for the Information Superhighway

  • Children in Cyberspace

  • Online Shopping Tips

- William Slawski

Friday, November 02, 2001

New Public Safety Laws. Stay informed! This link at the DSP website lists new legislation, and laws regarding public safety.
The Delaware State Trooper's Association. Who are they? Why are they calling to sell products? Are they legitimate? Yes, the Delaware State's Trooper's Association is a legitimate organization for the support of our State Troopers. When they call you, they are not calling as a police officer and they cannot force you to listen to them or purchase items, but they are legitimate and they represent a good and worthy cause. The DSTA sports a slogan, "In God We Trust, All Others We Run NCIC". See also a related organization, the Association of Retired Delaware State Police.
Want Ads. The Delaware State Police have a different kind of Want Ads for us to review. Check out Delaware's Most Wanted. Maybe you have seen one of these wanted persons.
The First State Police Station
Uniformed, but off duty State Police patrols of the Motiva plant suffered a brief interruption as the Office of the Attorney General advised the police to discontinue for fear of creating a perception of a conflict of interest. Police are investigating the major acid spill that occurred on July 17. The Governor, Ruth Ann Minner, reversed the decision to halt privately paid patrols in the interest of security. The State Police, and other police agencies within the State of Delaware, hire out off duty patrol officers and patrol vehicles for $45 per hour. The Delaware State Police have defended the safety and peace in Delaware since 1923.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Delaware Facts Contest #2. This is kind of a trick question, so beware. What is Delaware's Motto (slogan or brand)? Send your contest entries to by Nov. 15. See previous entries or contact LDS for contest rules.
Did you form the wrong kind of company? Don't give up all hope, maybe you can convert your entity into a Delaware LLC. One of the flexible and comprehensive features of Delaware Corporate Law is portrayed in 6 Del.C 18-214, the provision that allows many types of corporations, trusts, partnerships and other entities to convert into a Delaware LLC. Check the statute out at Lexis, and search for "convert limited liability company 18-214", then scroll down.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Who could vote against a Bill known as the Patriot Act?

Wisconsin's Senator Russ Feingold spoke out against the anti-terrorism bill on October 25, 2001, and vowed to vote against the bill. He did this for very sound reasons - he wants Congress to work not only to stop terrorism, but also to protect our civil liberties as much as possible. His Statement to Congress is long, but well worth reading. In addition to stating his personal, and emotional reactions to the attacks on September 11th, he writes about the protection of civil liberties, the over reaching scope of the anti-terrorist bill, and the history of limitations on civil liberties during wars and other troubled times in our nation's history. "Sneak and Peak" searches, new treatments of computer crimes, and lowered standards of due process through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Courts are some of the issues that Feingold raises.

Russ Feingold was the only dissenting vote for the terrorism act that passed through the Senate. After reading his statement, I respect his conviction in standing for his beliefs. We can only hope that some of his very well reasoned concerns are addressed in the near future. His vote wasn't for terrorism, but rather against a bill that could have the power to strip us of our civil liberties.

Who voted against the Patriot Act? It was a patriot that did.
- William Slawski

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

pictures of flags in Rodney Square
William Penn organized a nonprofit organization in 1764, called the Trustees of New Castle Commons. The Trustees act as an integral part of the management of the commons areas of the City of New Castle. In addition to caring for commons lands, they encourage historical preservation, have built a new library and firehall for the city, and amongst many other fuctions, support education for City residents by financial grants. This organization is the only one of its kind in Delaware, and may be unmatched throughout the rest of the United States. At one point in time, New Castle was the colonial capitol of the State of Delaware. If you would like to capture the spirit of America in the 1700's, the City of New Castle is a thriving example.
-William Slawski
Ever seen a historical marker at a location in Delaware? Curious as to where those came from, and how to find other locations which have similar markers? The Delaware Public Archives are the ones who place those signs in Delaware. The Historical Markers program is part of its mandate, as a state agency. Markers are placed at historically significant locations and sites across the state, in New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County.
- William Slawski
Delaware has a rich, living history. We walk cobblestone streets (mayhap they be refurbished), and meet in century old buildings. Some insight and handy links to life in Delaware can be found at Delaware Living . While some of the more traditional history resources can be found at the Historical Society of Delaware.

Monday, October 29, 2001

Interested in finding out more about Delaware's nonprofit organizations? DANA is the Delaware Association of Nonprofit Associations. It's also a useful site if you're interested in starting up or running a nonprofit organization in Delaware. For instance, here's the type of information you can see in the section they have on finding volunteers:

Frequently Asked Questions Volunteer Management Links
  • Volunteer recruitment that really works.

  • How do we develop creative volunteer roles?

  • Volunteer job description worksheet.

  • Community resources to recruit volunteers.

  • Recruiting volunteers from your current "Circle of Resources."

  • How do we build a stronger staff/volunteer partnership?

  • How do we find daytime volunteers?

  • Where should we place our volunteer ads?

  • Sample volunteer advertising ideas.

  • Sample Volunteer Procedure & Policy Manual

  • Directory of Volunteer Management Software.

They also cover topics like grants, tradeshows, building a website, jobs, donors, and risk management. Their magazine, called "Good Cause" is filled with articles that can keep you informed of what's going on in Delaware's nonprofit sector, and a listing of volunteer opportunites in their Random Acts of Kindness section.
William Slawski
Many questions have been raised regarding airport security over the last few weeks. Should security be overseen by the federal government? Should security personnel at airports be federal employees? Efforts to increase coordination between the FBI and state law enforcement units regarding passenger lists have also been a topic of much discussion. Many of these questions and issues will probably be answered within the next week. President Bush has vowed to issue an executive order regarding security at airports if Congress doesn't make decisions on those issues soon.
William Slawski

Secret Court for Hackers?

A secret court for hackers? A government anti-terrorism group has recommended just that step. This cyber court would be based upon another court that exists now, and conducts its business in secret.

That other court is comprised of a rotating membership of federal court judges, and has been empowered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FISA court is in charge of issuing warrants during investigations, and the cyber court might hold a similar role with respect to crimes on the internet.

- William Slawski

Saturday, October 27, 2001

MBNA steals away Delaware's Anti-Terrorism Chief. , just one week after he was given the title. Corporate credit card giant, MBNA, has been drawing upon a string of Delaware's experienced safety and security personnel over the past few years, the most recent of which was the acquisition of Sean Mulhern. Mr. Mulhern, former chief of the Wilmington Fire Department and Director of the Delaware Emergency Mangagement Agency (DEMA ), was named as Anti-Terrorism Chief by Governor Minner on October 19th and resigned to take a new post with MBNA on October 26th. His new role will be as Vice-President for safety and security.

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Firefighter Alert
This week, the spirit of those who fight fires in Delaware is being celebrated. From the red line painted down the middle of King Street in front of the Daniel Herrmann Courthouse, all the way to the floor of the Senate in Washington, D.C., Delaware fire fighters are highly visible. And they should be. These are people who run into buildings that others are fleeing for their lives from. People trained in saving lives, and preserving property and livelihoods.

You can show your support for the firefighters of Wilmington this weekend by showing up for the "the largest parade in Wilmington in 50 years," and for open houses at all city firestations, as Wilmington's Fire Department Celebrates its 80th Anniversary. The parade starts Saturday morning at 10:00 am, and goes down King Street from 16th Street to 4th Street.

While Mayor James Baker's press release does mention that volunteer firefighters from across the State will be present, he doesn't say whether Milton will send representatives. But chances are very likely that they will. (Maybe they will bring their newest ladder truck.)Milton's Volunteer Firefighters' recently celebrated their 100th year as a firefighting company, and they were cited for their spirit, their determination, and their unity by the United States' Senate yesterday. Senator Joseph Biden made a point of conveying the Senate's congratulations to the Milton Volunteer Fire Department on their 100th anniversary.

From the transcript of the Senate proceeding:

"Lynn Rogers made another comment at the 100th anniversary celebration that I would like to cite. He said, ' The fire service of Delaware is a family. We no longer grow as one department; the fire service grows together; we depend on each other more every day, with the specialized emergencies that we all face.' ''

Maybe that holds true for all of us, and is a spirit that we all should share.
- William Slawski
Delaware Facts Contest. This first Delaware Facts Contest Question will be easy. As time goes by, we may get tougher ones. This question closes for entries at Midnight on Halloween, October 31, 2001, or as soon as we get a correct answer. Watch out for the time change.

1. What is the Delaware State Bug?

Send your answer to me at
Some entries at this site are submissions from third parties. This section of my website is intended to offer commentary and debate as well as information, news and web links. We welcome your input and suggested postings, but I reserve the right to accept, modify, or refuse article submissions for any reason or no reason at all.
Over the next few months, I will be hosting a Delaware Facts Contest on this website. I intend to post Delaware Facts questions and award Delaware memorabilia prizes. This contest is not open to my employees, relatives, relatives of my employees, etc.. I will be the final judge as to the entries, which will be evaluated for both historical accuracy and the time order in which these submissions are made. Responses are to be e-mailed to me. We are not responsible for technical difficulties which interfere with either the transmission or reception of contest entries. I reserve the right to ask for shipping charges for the prizes, should the prize winners be outside of the U.S.. Good Luck!
Delaware. Small State, small accessible government. 96 miles long, and from 9 to 35 miles wide, Delaware measures next to last in the state size competition. We like it that way. Our small size enables Delawareans, and Delaware Corporations, to have a more direct and accessible government. I will frequently pass a governor, U.S. Senator or Congressman on the streets of Wilmington as I traverse the court system. How many California or New York residents have that sort of a small town government feel? And while on Delaware soil, we are never more than 48 miles from our state capitol, and never more than 24 miles from a Court of Chancery. We are spoiled by this closeness, and we aren't looking for a change.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

When is an an engagement ring really yours? Regularly we in the legal community come across cases of shattered love that turns into litigation over the possession of the engagement ring. A recent commentary outlines some of the complications and recent holdings. But the bottom line is...nobody wins.
The Deer Park Tavern is open again. After extensive restorations, the landmark tavern on Main Steet in Newark is open for business. Gone is "the smell" that has permeated the establishment since its dirt floor days, and back are the second floor dining areas and deck. A recently returning patron commented..."its almost too nice to let the students back in". Now all that is left is to have the raven replica return.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rouke

Question: I am a Paralegal with an Attorney who specializes in Family Law. There are frequent requests for information regarding a spouse's whereabouts. One particular client stated her husband "disappeared" every Wednesday night. If the husband discovered a Private Detective was tailing him (yes, it does happen) it could bring complications to an already sensitive situation. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Yes, there are methods utilizing technology previously available only to the CIA, or James Bond. If the vehicle is co-owned, you can install a portable GPS (Global Positioning System) to the undercarriage of the vehicle. Every three seconds, the GPS unit will "bounce" signals from the vehicle, to the street, to a satellite, and back, recording the latitude, and longitude of the vehicle. Utilizing common mapping software, the data is downloaded to a PC, and a map is created. In addition, the time lapse of each way point is recorded to identify if the vehicle was parked at any particular position for a time period greater than three seconds. And the best part is, this unit can be leased, thereby saving investigative costs. I have also used the GPS unit to track delivery trucks, and identify both theft, and sleeping delivery drivers.

Question: I think our client is dead. How can I verify this?

Answer: Utilize the Internet. If your client died, and Social Security Death Benefits were applied for, check You can search by name, Social Security Number, and State. Social Security allows a death benefit ($350) for all who apply.

If your client was a Delaware Resident, or may have died in Delaware, contact the Division of Public Health. P.O. Box 637, Dover DE 19903, (302) 739-4721. Write a brief letter stating the Name, any identifiers you might have (address, DOB, nicknames, additional spellings, time frame of death) and fax, (302) 736-1862, or mail to the above address. Remember to include the $6.00 fee. The State has records dating back to 1956.

In addition, if the death was recent, check for a copy of the News Journal's obit.

Question: I sure could use some extra cash. Any ideas?

Answer: A part-time job might help. Like most paralegals, you must have had some experience in transcribing dictation during your career. As tedious as transcription can be, it sure pays well. Use your favorite search engine (I like to insert the word "transcribe", and pick a service. Tapes will be Fedexed to you, you complete the work, Fedex the work product back to the provider, and wait for payment.

How about found money? Try Any unclaimed monies, or property, are held here. You can search the site by name. Or contact the State of Delaware, Unclaimed Property Division, P.O. Box 8931, Wilmington DE 19899-8931, (302) 577-8205. The staff is extremely helpful, give it a try!

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association.

A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator, Michael specializes in Insurance Defense. He invites your questions to:

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
(302) 427-3600.

Or you may e-mail him at

Monday, October 22, 2001

The publishing home of a number of tabloids, where a worker contracted a fatal case of Anthrax is being tested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The American Media Inc.'s offices were granted superfund status by the EPA. This designation allows the federal government to pay for the decontamination costs of the building in Boca Raton, Florida.
Bioterrorism is forcing us to examine a number of issues in the laws today. We're examining patents, governmental purchases, and the powers of federal agencies dealing with drugs and illness in considerable detail. Some recent stories in the media cover the range of these issues:

High Cipro Prices Bring Drug Patent Issue Home

US Law Would Allow Generic Cipro in Crisis-Experts

U.S. requesting 300M smallpox vaccines

Ammo for the War on Germs

Two of the agencies that are at the heart of our well being have presences on the net were you can learn more about measures being taken to protect us from germ warfare:

The Center for Disease Control has a page on Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

The Food and Drug Administration covers some interesting information about bioterrorism, buying medicines online, and antibiotic resistance.
Perjury in the Courtroom, when will it end? It is an all too common occurrence for litigants to lie, while under oath, in Family Court trials. And when clear documentation is then presented to refute this lie, it is very uncommon for any consequence to befall the perjurer. Is it because everyone in the courtroom has a different job description, none of which includes prosecuting the crime of perjury? Is it because Family Court is such a pit of misery, that we just want to get this case behind us and go home?

A person is guilty of perjury in the first degree when the person swears falsely and when the false statement consists of testimony and is material to the action, proceeding or matter in which it is made. Perjury in the first degree is a class D felony.

The law sets forth this crime, and yet it is largely ignored. And in ignoring this crime, we participate in the degrading of the integrity of the system of laws, and the confidence of the populace in our courts. I for one, hereby pledge, to personally file a criminal complaint the next time I am a witness to this variety of felony. Will anyone join me?

Thursday, October 18, 2001

The United States Department of Justice has made changes to the policies that they follow for Freedom of Information Act Requests. A memo from Attorney General John Ashcroft has been sent out to the executive branch agencies, making changes to a policy that had been in effect since Octobler of 1993. It's not unusual for a new Attorney General to make changes to the way that the executive branch responds to requests for information. It appears to be a bit of a tradition - something that happens normally in a new administration. This one seems to replace a "foreseeable harm" standard with a "sound legal basis" standard, but doesn't create any new substantive or procedural rights.
Vice Chancellor Jack B. Jacobs was selected as this year's recipient of the Chief Justice's Annual Award for Outstanding Judicial Service. Delaware's Chancery Court is well known for the opinions that come from its judicial officers, and Vice Chancellor Jacobs has been recognized nationwide for adding to the excellent reputation that the Court has earned.
An entry yesterday mentioned virtual shareholder's meetings for Delaware corporations. It appears that Washington might be considering some of the advantages of having a dedicated highspeed intranet to use in case of emergencies. An article on virtual leadership describes how President Bush met a few days ago with Cisco CEO John Chambers to discuss how broadband can be used to help the economy, and to consider the possibility of convening congress by teleconference during times of emergency, if necessary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

A Delaware law that entered into Delaware's General Corporate Law last year is finally starting to get some attention on a national level. It appears that Oracle is considering holding their next shareholder's meeting electronically, for reasons dealing with security and costs. Other tech companies are also considering using virtual shareholders meetings as a means of saving on the costs of travel and security. Will something be lost in the move from a face-to-face confrontation with a CEO or other shareholders? Perhaps only time, and litigation, will tell. With more people concerned about security these days, the use of this statute may be seen by many as an improvement to the previous requirement for live and in-person meetings.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Federal District Court upheld the ownership of a gun as a Constitutional Right. There had been some argument in federal courts that this right was restricted to ownership of a gun when part of a state militia. The District Court which oversees Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi decided differently yesterday.
One of the purposes of the federal government is to allow states to govern themselves in harmony with states that surround them. Or, to at least provide a forum where issues that affect more than one state can be addressed. But sometimes cooperation is more appropriately addressed by the use of an agency created through mutual efforts by more than one state. One example might be the attempt to reduce water pollution in the Great Lakes region. Eight states and Canada are involved in the Great Lakes information Network for just that very purpose. Cooperative efforts between states can often be achieved without having to resort to the U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate. Here are a number of other multi-state organizations:

Appalachian Regional Commission

Delaware River Basin Commission

Great Lakes Commission (multi-state and multi-national)

Multistate Tax Commission (45 member states, but not Delaware)

Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments

Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor

A much bigger list is present on the pages of the Council of States Governments. They have compiled a list of 193 interstate compacts believed to been in effect in 2001.

One of the multi-state agencies that Delaware is involved in is the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which oversees the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May Ferry, and small airports in both States. One of the difficulties of an agency like this one is that there are often questions of how they should be policed. The Authority's Board will be considering proposals from Ruth Ann Minner, Delaware's Governor, later this week on subjects such as employee whistleblower protection and greater monitoring of the board's spending.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The U.S. Department of State is the office responsible for issuing passports in the United States. They have a number of dated, but still helpful publications describing other nations' customs, currency, health issues, drug laws, politics, and other things you might consider before you travel abroad.

The Canada Passport Office has an interesting article online about the history of passports. It offers some insightful information about the relationship between Canada and the United States, as it describes the history of the regulation of movement between the countries.

In addition to being a source of information about international history, individual passport applications can be used as a method of finding out more about your family's personal history. The National Archives and Records Administration describes how passport applications can be a tremendous source of genealogical information, and the types of information that they can disclose.
The arctic bridge between continents can be a bridge between people and a unifying step forward in U.S. – Russian relations. Progress is being made towards a collaborative sea park in the Bering Strait, thanks to a new Russian Governor.
The airline industry is trying to bounce back, and airlines are offering very low rates for travel. Before you pack, and head out to the airport, be sure to check with U.S. Customs to acquaint yourself with current regulations and travel tips. Some other information and updates on air travel can be found on the pages of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Monday, October 15, 2001

The Delaware Secretary of State – Division of Corporations Executive Strategic Planning Conference was held on October 10, 11, and 12. It was an informative conference which continues to foster a cooperative and productive partnership between the State of Delaware and the private Registered Agent firms. This process is key in furthering Delaware as the premier environment for corporations.

As part of the closing statements, on October 12th, Secretary of State Dr. Harriet Smith Windsor related her experience at a national gathering of Secretaries of State in which it was quite evident that Delaware’s Division of Corporations was the envy of the other states. “They’re all wannabes,” Secretary Windsor quipped. The Strategic Planning Conference was successful in making plans to keep Delaware in the forefront of incorporating jurisdictions, for the foreseeable future.

Friday, October 12, 2001

New Anti Terrorism Bill

A new anti-terrorism bill was passed by the House of Representatives today. Delaware Republican Mike Castle attempted to amend the bill to change one of its controversial aspects, which limits internet gambling, but while he was able to rouse some non-partisan support, his amendment was voted down 25 - 37. Castle explained his amendment by saying: "My concern is we're imposing an obligation on financial companies to check virtually all of their statements, especially customers who deal with websites."

Apple and HP have modified their stances regarding a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) proposal which would include patents within the standards used to build the web. While both were involved in the writing of the new policies, the companies have now submitted statements to the W3C asking to retain royalty free standards, after an avalanche of comments from the public regarding the proposals.

Thursday, October 11, 2001


Concerned about getting the news straight from the horse's mouth? The Defenselink News Today page can keep you on top of press releases from the Department of Defense.

A new copyright bill is headed towards the District of Columbia. There's confusion as to the required “certified security technologies” aspects of the law, and if they will burden the use of programming languages that aren't created by large corporations such as perl, python, etc.

Daniel L. Herrmann Courthouse

The Daniel L. Herrmann Courthouse has less than a year left to act as an integral part of the Delaware judicial system. Superior Court, Chancery Court, and the Court of Common Pleas are all moving from the Herrmann Courthouse into a new building along with Family Court, in the Summer of 2002. A good number of pictures of the putting together their new home - the New Castle County Courthouse are online.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

From the "unsafe at any speed" department comes an expose from the archives of Mother Jones. The story of a coverup regarding a Ford Motor Company car saw light in 1977. In Pinto Madness, secret documents are described which show that Ford was aware of a risk that would result in hundreds of people burning to death. A friend had one of these cars, until it spontaneously combusted in a parking lot in Newark, Delaware a few years back. Makes you think about some of the recalls we've been seeing with tires lately.

A different look at preserving archives of past artistic and literary works can be found in an essay called Copy Protection Robs The Future.

If you've never read the Clue Train Manifesto, and you're running your own business, but not reaching out to customers on the internet, you might want to spend some time perusing the 95 Theses of the manifesto. At least one of them will give you an idea or two about how you might want to conduct business differently.

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

One of the most important political commentators of the twentieth century passed away yesterday, October 8th. The man who coined the term “McCarthyism” also caused two presidents to cancel their subscriptions to the Washington Post. He won three Pulitzer Prizes and shared a fourth one. His work was displayed in the collection of the National Gallery of Art. Bill Clinton honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, even though he once drew a picture of Clinton walking along a tightrope with the budget balanced on one finger and an attractive young woman on the other. Herbert L. Block, better known as Herblock will be missed.

There’s been a lot of press on the proposed PATRIOT Act lately, and a lot of concern about what it might mean to legal immigrants. One perspective on the bill, from Findlaw’s Legal Writ pages examines the subject in more detail in an article from Anita Ramasastry, about How The Patriot Act Will Disrupt Many Lawful Immigrants’ Lives.

What kind of Robot are you? Take this test from and find out.

Delaware’s Attorney General’s election looms on the horizon. Incumbent Jane Brady may be facing a plenty stiff challenge in Carl Schnee who is a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware. While there has not been an official announcement, all indications are that he will challenge Brady for the post.

Monday, October 08, 2001

Do you have a hard time saying, or even thinking about, dimpled chads? Concerned about the possibility of someday voting online? The University of Georgia is working on a Next Generation Voting System research project.

Delaware Federal Bankruptcy cases are being returned to the Bankruptcy Court. Delaware is a popular forum for the filing of bankruptcy cases. Recently, it's been too popular, and the Bankruptcy Court Judges have been given a helping hand from District Court Judges to meet their heavy caseload. The solution may be in more Bankruptcy Court Judges...

A three dimensional map of lower Manhattan from CNN.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has proposed a new policy related to patents, and their inclusion in web standards. This may have some serious implications for applications developers, and has some people talking about a fragmentation of the web.

Speaking of standards, an excerpt from a book on the development of standard time does a great deal towards examining the importance of a standard.

Speaking of patents, an article on business methods and patents called The Patentability of Internet Business Methods: A Systematic Approach to Evaluating Obviousness does a great deal to clarify some of the issues related to the patenting of such things as "one click shopping" or other business methods being quickly filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.