Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

2 Part Time Positions Available

Part Time positions available.

1. Office Helper. Part time. Involves basic clerical functions, general office tasks, and errands.

2. AP Clerk. One day per week. Bookkeeping or accounting experience required for this position.


For both positions: Must be dependable and have reliable transportation; Must have good computer skills; Must pass criminal background check and drug testing.

Please send resumes to anne@delawoffice.com or fax to 302-286-6337.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

sad boycott

It's a shame. Now I have to boycott Tom Cruise movies. I liked them too.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sex Offenders In Your Neighborhood?

For the past few years, the State of Delaware has maintained a webpage listing the names, addresses, and photos of registered sex offenders in Delaware. Now, a new website has combined this information with a mapping feature to allow users to find registered sex offenders by address. Check out mapsexoffenders.com to find out scary information about your own neighborhood. If you click on the little red arrows, a picture of the person pops up with their street address. The site currently has 38 states available, including Delaware and offers safety tips for people that may live near a registered sex offender.

Thanks to Michael O'Rourke for the link.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Celebrity Jury Duty

Most people dread jury duty. You have to take the day (or week or longer) off from work. You have to find a place to park downtown. You have to sit and listen to some expert witness talk about minute details of something that has never affected your life in any meaningful way. Then you have the pressure of deciding someone's fate.

Most adults will be called for jury duty at some point in their lives, even celebrities. Oprah Winfrey made the news when she sat on a Chicago jury this past summer. Now, Yahoo! News is reporting that Michael Jackson has been summoned for jury service in California. Although the King of Pop has spent plenty of time in courtrooms over the past year, it is unlikely that he will serve on a California jury because he is now a permanent resident of Bahrain. It seems likely to me that most attorneys would move to have him stricken as a juror anyway because his level of celebrity would probably distract from the court process.

So, the next time that you are dreading an upcoming jury service, remember that you may have a celebrity encounter in the courthouse (although the prospect is much less likely in Delaware than California, New York, or Chicago).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cutting the Medicaid budget by 10 Billion Dollars

Our federal lawmakers are reportedly wrangling over cutting the Medicaid budget by 10 Billion dollars over the next 10 years. Some legislators want the full Katrina bill to come from the Medicaid budget. Others, say that this is just an excuse to gut Medicaid now, when previous efforts to do this were unsuccessful.

Many folks are confused about "what Medicaid is". It is a needs based medical assistance program.

It will be interesting to track the flow of this money... from the medical needs of the poor... into the pockets of favored mega-contractors. Truly a reverse Robin Hood scenario.

The reality is that money for our government spending... since they are intent on spending... must come from somewhere. Deciding who pays for what is a major part of the political process. What a messy job our government makes of it. Perhaps it would be less messy if we wasted less? I found a pork cutter site that looks interesting.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Traditions

This has been a weekend of traditions for me... and a very nice one.

There's a number of downstate traditions dealing with food. One I have a particular fondness for is the oyster fry fundraiser. I like to always attend the one in Camden-Wyoming, in February (at Caesar Rodney High School). This weekend we added some variety by chowing down in Marydel at an oyster-fry/chicken-and-dumpling combo dinner (at the Immaculate Conception Church). Nice.

Today we walked for cancer research. It is a wonderful tradition. There were thousands of men, women, children, and pets attending at the Wilmington Riverfront. It was a beautiful walk for a great cause.

I hope that cancer research continues to progress until that one day when this tradition will no longer be necessary. Maybe then we can still walk that pleasant route, but just for exercise and pleasure.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Welcome Delaware Watch

I guess I was asleep at the wheel and didn't notice that my old friend Dana Garrett joined the blogiverse. The more the merrier I say! And with some variety of insights and opinions, I suspect that Delaware Watch will spring to the top quickly.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Isn't It Ironic?

I find it to be ironic that on Wednesday morning of last week I wrote the "Anonymity and Social Responsibility" blog entry without knowing that the Cahill v. John Doe case would hit the street on that very afternoon... dealing with that same topic. Just a coincidence though.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sad Smyrna Saga

The dispute underlying the Blog case, and the people underlying the dispute, make for yet another Delaware small town feud, as reported by Al Mascitti, of the Wilmington News Journal.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Supreme Court Blogger Case - What does it mean?

I have been studying Wednesday's Delaware Supreme Court Case in: John Doe #1 v. Patrick Cahill and Julia Cahill. I offer this entry as a lay-blogger's quick translation. If you are an attorney, or otherwise if you are looking for a strict legal evaluation of the case, don't read this. Instead, I refer you to directly to the opinion link in yesterday's post. It is a clearly written opinion.

For the rest of us... the Court's ruling makes it harder for people to use (or misuse) the court system to find out who wrote anonymous blog entries. It is still possible to get a court order to disclose the identity of the writer, but the plaintiff will have to show that he has a real case, not just a case.

We are still responsible for what we say, and we still may be sued for libel and slander, but our free speech rights are still there as well. Our right to make statements anonymously are protected unless we step over the line.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Delaware Supreme Court Protects Bloggers

In a great decision for bloggers, the Delaware Supreme Court decided to protect an anonymous blogger's identity, reports the Wilmington News Journal .

I'm scouring the web for a copy of this late breaking opinion *** see below ***. It is reported to require a fairly high burden of the plaintiff in a defamation suit before he has the right to demand the identity of an anonymous blogger.

This doesn't mean that people can go out and defame persons on the internet with immunity. But it does support the proposition that anonymous political free speech is still a right, and a right that will be protected.

So when does free speech cross the line and become defamatory?

Here's the answer provided by Duke Law & Technology Review:

Although defamation in the United States has changed substantially over the years, it is now fairly well-established. For today?s plaintiff to prevail in a defamation action, he must prove publication of the defamatory statement, identification of the plaintiff, falsity, defamatory content, injury and fault.12 If the plaintiff is a public official or public figure and the subject matter is a matter of public concern, or if the plaintiff is a private individual seeking punitive damages for a statement involving a matter of public concern, he must prove actual malice to establish the fault element.13 Otherwise, states are free to establish their own fault standards for recovery.

Addendum: The winning attorney, David L. Finger, Esquire, was kind enough to supply me with a copy of the Court's Decision. (beware, its 33 pages of pdf)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Anonymity and Social Responsibility

I began this entry with thoughts of advising the public of the laws against using license plate frames that cover any portion of the plate. I will eventually get around to some of that. But in doing some research for that topic, I discovered products on the market designed to obscure license plate numbers in ways that I was not previously aware.

I found sites that sell products specifically designed to distort the view of the number or hide the number from photography. (I refuse to place the links to the sites here because I do not want to promote illegal acts, or even to increase traffic to sites that promote illegal acts) There were claims on those sites that their products are legal, even a copy of a news broadcast with a study conducted by the Denver Police Department demonstrating the effectiveness of these products.

Much of the propaganda used to sell these products say that you should use these products to prevent getting a ticket. I suggest to you instead, that you should avoid breaking the traffic laws to avoid getting a ticket. Much to my chagrin, the increased population and mobile aspects to our society lend to these types of efforts to remain anonymous in the violation of our safety laws, and in so doing attempt to clothe oneself with the illusion that the laws don't apply.

Responsibility for our actions doesn't just attach when we are caught, it should come from our own morality and acceptance of the sacrifices that we each must make to live in an orderly world with other people.

As with anything however, that concept can be taken too far. Balance is the key.

I quickly then flipped through the Delaware Code to find what I recalled as being a pretty basic prohibition against covering up the data on the plate, and found much more.

Our code seems to be up to date on these issues and thoroughly prohibit using and selling all such obscuring materials, even if they are not apparent to the naked eye.


21 Del.C. 2126

...

(c) No number plate, or any portion thereof, shall be covered
with any tinted material, nor shall any other material be placed
on or around a number plate which would conceal and/or obscure
any information contained thereon, including the registration
expiration sticker. Plate frames that do not conceal and/or
obscure any information contained on the plate, including the
registration expiration sticker, are not prohibited by this
section.

(d) Whoever violates subsections (a), (b) or (c) of this
section shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $50.

(e) It shall be unlawful to sell, offer to sell, transfer,
possess or use any kind of device, product, plate cover, or
object, including any image altering device or spray, for the
purpose of hindering, inhibiting, impeding, impairing, or
preventing the photographing, recording or imaging of a license
plate in connection with the enforcement of this motor vehicle
code or any local or municipal traffic laws. Any person convicted
of a violation of this subsection shall, for the first offense, be
fined not less than $50 nor more than $1,000. For each subsequent
violation occurring within 3 years of the date of the original
violation, the person shall be fined not less than $200 nor more
than $2,000.

(f) It shall be unlawful to sell any license plate cover or frame
which would violate subsection (c) of this section if placed on a
Delaware license plate unless the seller posts a sign in close proximity
to the product which states clearly and conspicuously to the public that
it is illegal to place the license plate cover or frame on Delaware
license plates. Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall
be fined not less than $50 and not more than $100 and shall pay
restitution to the purchaser of the license plate cover or frame in the
amount of ten times the purchase price.


The Newark City Code differs from the State Code significantly on several points. But I will save that for another discussion.

I frequently hear folks say . . . " I see these things all over, so I assumed they were legal". Well, all I can tell you is there are a lot of people violating these laws. The police tell me that they are bringing them in, one at a time.

Check your plates to make sure you are in the clear.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Some nice news from South of Delaware -

The Baltimore Washington International Airport now has a new name - Thurgood Marshall's name.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation last session to rename BWI after the late Supreme Court Justice, who was born in Maryland and died in 1993.

Cheers!

Congratulations, JTH on the miracle of your recovery. Your hard work and our prayers have been answered.

Now, have a little good luck in Las Vegas.

Anna Nicole Smith's Probate Challenge Goes to the Supreme Court

In a probate case, it is unusual for the dispute to rise to the level of the U. S. Supreme Court. But in re the estate of J. Howard Marshall, it is happening, and in a big way. When so much money and publicity is involved, it seems that what is "normal", is no longer relevant.

ABC News(Quoting Rueters) shares the breaking story of Anna Nicole Smith and her battle with the son of the deceased.

It seems that Ms. Smith made a collateral attack in California federal courts seeking damages because of the way she was treated by the Marshall heir in the Texas probate matter. So technically it is not a probate issue before the US Supreme Court, but a question as to whether the federal courts would have jurisdiction to make such a collateral ruling.

I am still searching for copies of the pleadings and rulings to confirm my reading of the procedural history, as I gleaned it from the news articles.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google infringing copyrights?

USA Today is reporting that popular search engine Google is being sued for copyright infringement by a group of 8,000 authors. The authors claim that there works are held at public and private libraries and that Google is infringing upon their copyrights by reproducing works that are not in the public domain.

Google has become an almost indispensable part of the internet. From the information that is available about the lawsuit, it is a little hard to tell what Google is doing that is infringing the copyrights. I think that the problem stems from Google Scholar, a service that provides abstracts of research documents and helps users get copies of the original document.

From a practical standpoint, it's hard to decide who is right in this situation. On one hand, Google is using its resources to help these authors expand the reach of their works and help researchers find documents quickly and easily without having to wander through a library. On the other hand, authors have the right to control the distribution of their copyrighted works.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Assault Weapon Ban Fades Into the Sunset

Effective September 13, 2005, the 1994 ban on "assault weapons" (as defined in that Act) fades into further ineffectiveness.

What are your thoughts on this? Should it be revived? Should it be buried deep?

There are many different perspectives on this issue. One is expressed at www.awbansunset.com.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogging through the Law Practice

This is an article I recently submitted to the Nexus Law Journal, by their request. I thought I might as well post it here too:

Blogs (or as we say in the legal Blog community, 'Blawgs') are being integrated into the practice of law in much the same way that the internet has become an essential part of most businesses. This technology practice first crept into our arena slowly, with a handful of Blawg sites, and has since grown forcefully and steadily. The growth rate is being slowed only by those few senior bar members who are inflexibly tied to the old ways of doing things.

Blawgs assist in the private practice of law by helping us to disseminate some basic legal information. Not legal advice, but general legal information.

Blawgs help potential clients select a law firm. By providing insight into the firm, and basic legal information, the Blawg can go beyond the typical sterile website to help the public find an attorney best suited for their needs, their personality, and their approach. The speed and ease with which Blog publishing can occur, invites sidebar and personal notes more readily than traditional publishing. Periodic personal or humanistic Blog entries give the reader a sense of understanding of the person behind the Blog, and help the reader to understand and connect with the writer.

Blawgs help to educate the clients before the initial consultation. A significant percentage of the clientele that approach our firm have already conducted basic research into their legal subject matter. By providing basic legal information on the website and Blawg, it enables us to begin the initial consultation at a higher level, and be more productive with the time allotted for the first meeting.

Blawgs serve as a contact point between clients and the law firm during the representation and after the representation has concluded. General updates to law and local events keep clients coming back to the Blawg. And, through 'comments' functionality, ongoing interaction on a general level can be maintained with the clientele, the public, and the Blawg community.

The Blawg community serves as a sounding board on legal issues and information, and helps us to edit our written product. Blawgs help the attorney to keep in touch with recent developments in his area of practice. Bloggers read Blogs. They are quick to link to good Blogs and otherwise comment upon or critique Blog entries. And Blawgs provide a forum of communication between legal professionals in the field to discuss current issues and share research and opinions.

The low cost of Blog publishing provides the small and solo firms with an opportunity to be exposed to the public that competes with, or even exceeds, the web exposure of larger firms. It is a tremendous value in that regard. The Blog venue has clearly had a tremendous impact upon my practice and the establishment and maintenance of my firm's clientele. I shudder to think where I would be without it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stone Balloon Send Off

Club Phred will host a charity going away party for the Stone Balloon as part of its final schedule of events.

The Stone Balloon will soon give way to upscale condo's on Newark's Main Street.

What is this Picture?


Can you guess what this is?

Hint.... It's was installed in the Alaska Zoo yesterday.

Hint... I need one.

Click here for the story by Bill Roth, of the Anchorage Daily News (registration with the ADN required for repeat usage of the link... or, see the comments for the answer).

Monday, September 12, 2005

We're All Connected

Not only have I had trouble in accessing web sites that are hosted in the gulf states, our own web server and email server were just knocked out for a few hours because of the power outage in Los Angeles. Go figure.

Sometimes I wish I were disconnected.

Be My Little General

Long ago in Alabama, during sleep deprived military training, a phrase was burned into my little enlisted skull: "Be My Little General".

It helped us to remember a part of the military rank structure. Perhaps you will find it helpful as well.

Be = Brigadier General - One Star

My = Major General - Two Stars

Little = Lieutenant General - Three Stars

General = General - Four Stars

Ragin Cajun


Lt. General Russel Honore has risen as an icon of hope and honor during the disaster in our gulf states. He heads the military's Joint Task Force Katrina, and according to all accounts, he's getting the job done.

I like this quote from him, as per the Wilmington News Journal: "I'd rather be in the middle of the game, playing hard with little hope of winning, than to be an observer."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina, from the perspective of Court Administration

I am horror stricken, as most of us are, as to the disaster that Hurricane Katrina has caused in our gulf coast states. I hope that the relief efforts will escalate and move forward to lessen the burden on those displaced persons.

I am also interested in learning how this problem has impacted the court system in New Orleans. My first few attempts to access official court websites resulted in ... site not found error screens. I suppose that a significant number of websites that are hosted by servers in New Orleans are experiencing these same errors.

I did find an interesting blog article at Underneath Their Robes. With credit given to How Appealing.

The scene is being described as a legal ghost town. Word is that an unnofficial temporary site for the Clerk of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is at Chief Judge King's office in Houston.

One official web site that is working is the US District for the Eastern District of Lousiana, which states that the District Court is closed until further notice, and refers cases to neighboring districts for emergency filings.

Please let me know if you find any information regarding state and local court status in the effected areas.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thomas gets more comprehensive

Some great news from the Library of Congress.

Their web site is getting updated, and will be easier to use to find information more easily. Thomas refreshed, from Federal Computer Week informs us that the change will go into effect this month.

Previously, it was only possible to look at information from one legislative session at a time. Visitors to the site will now be able to look at more sessions in the same search, as well as gaining access to much more information. The user interface of the site is getting an upgrade too, and should be easier to use.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On-Line Defensive Driving Class Approved

The Delaware Insurance Commission has just approved an On-Line Defensive Driving course, and more are waiting in the wings.

The first to be approved, The On-Line Traffic School, Inc. involves a reasonable fee, an online course followed by an in-person final exam and verification of identification.

Then you can save 10% on your insurance! Well.... part of your insurance anyhow. What do you think about this? Do you feel that you can learn as much from an on-line course as you can from a live course? Will it encourage people to take this class that wouldn't have taken a class at all?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Celebrity Kitchen Outing

We recently experienced the Celebrity Kitchen in Wilmington. It was not just a dinner out. It was much more than that.

We really enjoyed the experience of learning cooking techniques, and gaining some insight behind the swinging kitchen doors. And we had foods in combinations that I never would have thought of on my own.

We were attending a session hosted by Chef Peter Gilmore, of Gilmore's. It was magnificent.

If you don't mind participating, you may want to check it out.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sweat Equity LLC Contributions

Small business owners should be sure to maintain the advice of relevant professionals in the field of accounting, taxes, and law.

One frequent problem that I see is that Sweat Equity LLC Investors don't take into account the potential tax treatment of their contribution. What difference can it make? Well, for one thing it can trigger self-employment tax. This can be big.

Be sure to plan your LLC contributions with a tax professional.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Widener in the News

While browsing potential law schools to apply to, I came across this article about Widener Law School. Widener has been nationally recognized by being honored with the American Bar Association School Award. This award was given due to Widener's superior ABA Law Student Division recruitment and participation efforts. Nearly, 60% of Widener Law School students are members of the ABA Law Student Division. Certainly this news sparked my interest in Widener where I hope to gain admission this upcoming fall.

-Posted by: Craig J. Springer, Paralegal

Friday, August 12, 2005

Copyright Battle Over Movie Clones

When I first saw the previews for this summer's big action/sci-fi movie, The Island, I thought that it looked like a retread of of the 1970's sci-fi classic, Logan's Run. But, apparently it is closer in many respects to the almost forgotten 1979 movie, The Clonus Horror. So close actually, that the producers of Clonus are suing the makers of The Island for copyright infringement.

I haven't seen either of the two movies in question (although the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of Clonus sounds pretty familiar) but the producers of Clonus claim at 90 instances where the films are identical.

This should make for an interesting copyright infringement case if it ever makes its way to a courtroom.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Racial Incarceration Statistics, and the Race to Action

A recent article in the Wilmington News Journal by astute, Al Mascitti, discusses a study regarding differential incarceration rates in Delaware (PDF) amongst the races. I have read the study, and found it to be interesting and worthy of follow-up.

What is in the report on the study which seems to have been overlooked, is that we don't yet know the cause of the problem. The report recommends, and rightly so, that we should follow up with a study to see how the Truth In Sentencing Guidelines are being applied to defendants, and to see how defendants' previous criminal records fit into the picture.

Most of the commentary in the report itself, and that quoted by Mr. Mascitti from other speakers, would seem to have us draw unsubstantiated conclusions and run off and take some other action (although perhaps I misunderstand the suggestion).

I agree that the data suggests a problem and that we should work energetically to evaluate it further. It would be irresponsible and ineffective however, to take some other sort of direct action when we don't yet even know specifically what the problem is that we are attempting to fix.

UPDATE - In this Sunday's News Journal the author of the report, Thomas P. Eichler, speaks out on the topic. I think his comments are reasonable and on point, even if not empirically supported. What are your thoughts?

Elvis and the Law

As a big Elvis Presley fan, it's hard to pass up on posting a story about an Elvis memorabilia law suit. According to a Yahoo News story, a New York man is being sued for submitting an eBay bid on a car formerly owned by the King and then refusing to pay, claiming that his daughter submitted the bid by accident.

The suit, which was filed in a Philadelphia District Court, is asking for the price of the bid ($245,000) plus damages of $150,000. However, the seller has agreed to settle at a smaller figure if the buyer issues an apology.

While most people know that Elvis was a Cadillac fan, this dispute revolves around a 1969 Mercedes. When I visted Graceland earlier this year, one of the more surprising exhibits was Elvis' car collection. Dozens of cars that he owned, including a few Cadillacs, were on display in a room the size of an airplane hanger. Also on display were go carts, dune buggys, and golf carts that Elvis and his buddies would race around the fields behind Graceland. My favorite of the lot was a purple convertible Cadillac that seemed about fifty feet long. I couldn't even imagine trying to parallel park that monster.

Hopefully, this case will stay in the news so that we can follow its progess.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Finally! We can see again!

Due to a bizarre modem issue, we have not been able to see our own site for a month or so. Well the problem is fixed and we are charging ahead again.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Delaware Wanted Persons Online

The state of Delaware has placed its database of people wanted by the Courts of Delaware online. The agency overseeing this information is the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System.

The Wanted Person Review contains over 50,000 warrants and writs of capias for people who have failed to appear for court, or who have had informations or indictments issued against them by one of Delaware's Courts, and is updated every 24 hours.

The offenses can range from speeding tickets to serious felony offenses. Will placing these names in public in this manner help the Courts and the State, by having the public able to search this information and contact authorities? It might. The Wilmington News Journal has more on the subject here: Del. posts 'wanted' ads on Internet

More than half of the warrants listed are for motor vehicle offenses, and another 4,200 are for people who are behind on child support payments. A writ of capias, or just "capias" as it is refered to within the Justice community, is an instruction to the Sheriff to bring someone before the court, and is issued when someone fails to appear in court for an event like an arraignment, or a trial, or sentencing, or may be automatically generated by one of the Justice of the Peace Courts when someone fails to pay Court costs or fines for something they have been found guilty of in that court.

Information about juveniles is not included in the database.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Perjury in the Courtroom, Blog Posting Revisited

A while back, I wrote a Blog entry about Perjury and its effect upon the judicial process.

I received an inquiry from a colleague regarding the topic. Here is the inquiry and my response:

Larry:

I read with great interest your article on perjury. I have a clear case in Family Court documented by a court transcript, deposition, and another court transcript. Is there anything my client can do? Civilly or criminally? Any comments would be appreciated.

Ron Poliquin, Esquire


Good Morning Ron,

I have re-read my article. It is sometimes interesting to read things that we have written in the past. I guess I was pretty peeved that day. But it is a serious problem and I stand by my pledge.

The primary technical difficulty as I see it is the proof issue.... proving that a person knew it was a lie when the person made the testimony.

The next hurdle is to make sure that the prosecution of this crime does not take the form of, or appear to take the form of, a continuation of the underlying litigation... either as a sour grapes response to losing or as a retribution against the other party after a win.

If these two hurdles can be overcome, I believe that the appropriate course of action is to present it to the Attorney General's office for prosecution. If the defendant is convicted of perjury, I might consider going back into the civil litigation with that ammunition for a correction or modification of the underlying civil decision.... if appropriate.

Keep in mind that it is an ethical violation to utilize the threat of criminal prosecution as leverage in a civil matter. So the hand-it-off to the prosecutor's office (with evidence) but without discussing this with the offender, seems to me to be the appropriate and prudent method.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Home Buyer Tip

If you are purchasing land with your fiance, retitle the deed after the marriage.

This is a fairly inexpensive way to avoid a major hassle in probate. Be sure and do this with a licensed attorney however, or you will be compounding the hassle.

So many times I have heard people say, "you don't need a lawyer for this, just fill out a form and file it." I am here to tell you, there is no surer way to make xtra money for the attorneys than prepare your own legal documents. It is being penny wise and dollar foolish.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Former Teammates Settle Before Heading to Court

As a long-suffering Redskins fan, I felt compelled to post this story
from the Washington Post.

When superstar running back Clinton Portis came to the Redskins from the Denver Broncos in 2004, he wanted to keep his old number. Unfortunately, jersey number 26 was already taken by Washington player Ifeanyi Ohalete. When Ohalete refused to give up his number to his new teammate, Portis suggested that they set up a charity boxing match wherein the winner gets number 26. After Ohalete turned down the boxing match, a simple contract was drawn up, selling the number to Portis for $40,000 to be paid out over the course of the upcoming season. Portis made the first payment, but when Ohalete was cut from the team, Portis stopped making payments because he figured that without Ohalete on the team, the number would have been his eventually anyway.

Well, Ohalete didn't see it that way. He filed a breach of contract suit in Maryland for the balance of the contract price. Finally the case was settled just hours before the scheduled trial for $18,000 ($2,000 less than the balance due under the contract).

It's great that they were able to settle the case. Now, if only the 'Skins could make the playoffs...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Alderman Confirmed and Sworn

Newark Aldermans Court was the first (ever) Aldermans Court in Delaware to have its judges nominated by the Governor (The Honorable Ruth Ann Minner) and confirmed by the Delaware Senate (no filibuster needed).

This past Monday night at the Newark City Council meeting, Alderman Anthony Forcina and Deputy Alderman Larry D. Sullivan were sworn in by Mayor Vance Funk under their new commissions as State approved judicial officers.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wendy's Finger Has Been Traced

According to the Associated Press on Yahoo! News, after several weeks of investigation, the finger that was reported to be in the Wendy's chili has finally been traced to a man who was in an industrial accident and gave it to the husband of Ayala who allegedly planted it in a scam to get money. Investigators found at least 13 cases in which Ayala has filed claims her or her children's name. Surrounding Wendy's in the California area, at the time of the incident reported 60 to 70 percent loss in business and is currently still at 20 percent loss.


By Craig J. Springer

Monday, May 16, 2005

Update on Expungement

In response to my entry of 4/11/05 about expungement, we received an email from John Sandy, Esquire of Stumpf Vickers & Sandy, P.A. in Georgetown, Delaware. He notes that when there is a previous conviction, it is still sometimes possible to get a new criminal charge expunged. He says in part:

4373 (a) states that the existence of the previous conviction is "prima facie" evidence that dissemination of information relating to the arrest to be expunged does not constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner. Prima facie evidence is conclusive on the issue unless rebutted.

In my own practice, on several occasions, when the previous conviction was remote in time and/or considerably different in degree or nature, I have been able to convince the DOJ not to oppose the motion or the court of the "manifest injustice" over the State's objection. Within the past year I had a young lady turned down for a job with the Dept. of Corrections (I didn't think that they turned anyone down) on the basis of an arrest for Assault 3rd on her boyfriend. That charge was subsequently dismissed but because she had had an Under Age Consumption on her record 3 years earlier the DOJ opposed the motion. When I produced the letter from DOC stating that it was the assault arrest that kept her from being hired and pointed out that this was not a plea bargain where she pled to the alcohol charge in return for a dismissal of the assault, the DOJ withdrew its objection (but noted the previous conviction in its response to the court). The court granted the motion knowing that she had previously been convicted.



Another point that was not addressed in my previous entry, but that Mr. Sandy brought to my attention is that when a person is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Delaware, it is noted on that person's record and can be viewed by anyone with access to the criminal record. However, these records can also be expunged. Mr. Sandy writes:


I have twice been successful in having the "Mental Patient" notation removed (sealed) from the SBI record. In both cases SBI itself vehemently opposed and the DOJ took up their position. The cases, about 5 years apart, were nearly identical. Both involved young women applying for jobs that required a background check. As I recollect, they were both applying for teaching positions. At the time of their petitions both were in their mid twenties. In each case, when they were 15 or 16, they threatened (but did not attempt) suicide over breakups with boyfriends. In both cases, alarmed parents enlisted the aid of the State Police and 72 hour commitments were procured. Both girls were released before the 72 hours elapsed and neither ever had any other problem. Clearly, a background check would have been severely detrimental to their teaching careers. A reading of the statue clearly stated that "adult" commitments were to be reported. Despite the fact that the records should never have been made available to SBI the State opposed sealing the record. In both cases the court (Graves in one and Bradley in the other) granted the motion. I am surprised that some of the mental health advocates have not taken up the issue of the inclusion of this information in the SBI records.

Thank you Mr. Sandy for your insights.

Delaware Money School

Check out the Delaware Money School! It's an organization that offers free seminars on a variety of subjects, from personal finances to planning your own business. A valuable local resource, for sure.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

School Trip Day - Not like it used to be.

Thursday, I spent 12 hours as a chaperone to eight 8th graders in Washington DC. We saw the Arlington National Cemetery, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol, and several of the Smithsonian museums.

What a day. I really respect those teachers. They have a tough job.

What was disappointing to me was that we didn't get to go inside the Capitol Building. Guards with automatic weapons were prevalent around the structure. We couldn't even stand still to try to organize the several hundred school children who had been given the wrong directions by Capitol staff. We lumbered from one spot to the next, stopped to regroup for a few seconds before security forces would swoop down on us again to tell us we couldn't stand still. This happened 4 or 5 times until we used up all of the time we had allotted to tour the Capitol, and then we left.

Very few people appreciate security as much as do I. But there is something very disheartening about showing these kids where our government is, and being treated that way. By the end of it, I was fully prepared to be arrested and interrogated. I would have been fine with that.

The rest of the trip was wonderful. Nice weather. Reasonably good kids. Security at the Smithsonian was both workable and effective. The dinosaurs seemed smaller than I remembered though.

It just wasn't like I remembered it from my school trips. I guess nothing is.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Finger Frenzy

According to CNN.com, a man in Wilmington, North Carolina found a finger in his frozen custard. This time, officials have confirmed that this incident was no hoax. Officials from the agricultural department said that the owner of the ice cream shop confirmed that one employee lost a finger in a food processing machine.

Story by Craig Springer

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

How Safe Is Your Childrens' School Bus Driver?

I was surprised to find that we shouldn't have much faith in our Delaware public school system's ability to screen school bus drivers.

Some of these drivers work for the school district, and some work for private bus companies which are contracted by the school District.

In either case, Delaware Law requires a record check.

Are these checks being done? The answer may surprise you. And if they are being done, what is happening when they find a record? What sort of record should disqualify a person from being a school bus driver?

How about convictions for :

Failure to Stop at a Red Light
Possession of Marijuana
Offensive Touching
Attempted Criminal Mischief
Reckless Driving
Patronizing a Prostitute
Resisting Arrest
Inattentive Driving
Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Would you want such a driver driving your children around? Our bus driver had all of those convictions.


A couple of years ago, the State of Georgia discovered their part of this problem. When will Delaware fix ours?

~

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Law and Finger food?

On Wednesday March 24, 2005, an individual in San Jose, California decided to have a cup of Wendy's chili. Allegedly, when she was almost done consuming the chili she all of sudden started to panic and vomit. When the Wendy's employees started to clean up the vomit they noticed an awkward substance in remains. After they examined the substance for a longer period of time they noticed that it was a human finger that was in the chili and the individual regurgitated the finger when she got sick.

As a pre-law student my analysis is that, the injured person could sue on two grounds, product liability and/or negligence. Under product liability, this person could easily file suit for strict liability because all restaurants and places like Wendy's have standards to uphold by OSHA and other federal laws. Also, this person could sue for negligence due to a breach of duty (duty of care) because the restaurant has a duty of care to reassure that there are no foreign substances in the food they sell.

In this case it may be alleged that Wendy's breached that duty of care. But the big question is what will this person sue for? My guess is that they might try to plea for negligent infliction of emotional distress damages and will also try to be compensated for the physical body trauma that this person went through. Eating a finger and then regurgitating it would certainly cause physical trauma and also, emotional distress; because just the thought of eating a human body part can be quite disturbing.

But not only has Wendy's public relations taken a drastic hit, this story will certainly make some people think twice when they order any kind of fast food. But after a couple of weeks of investigation both San Jose Police and the Las Vegas Police fraud unit have not traced where the finger could have come from. Interestingly enough, this 39 year old woman has quite an extensive legal history and according to the News Journal (April 14, 2005) she has publicly announced that she will not bring suit against Wendy's.

Article by Craig Springer

NORAD - Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center

Cheyenne Mountain commands the view over Fort Carson, Colorado. I was stationed at Fort Carson during my stint in the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division. NORAD is inside of Cheyenne Mountain, and inside every cold war child. There are some neat photos of the facility that seem to humanize it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Identity Theft Targets the Newly Married

There are reports coming out of the Delaware Clerk of Peace office that newlyweds are being targeted in an ID theft scam.

Be careful when receiving official looking documentation from organizations that you may not have heard of. If you think that there may be something fishy about a form that you receive asking for private information, don't hesitate to check further into it before you fill out that form.

I suspect that we will see more like this in the future.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Cops on Doughnut Shops

I'm all for camping out, but I'm not sure that my first choice of a place to do so would be on the roof of a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop.

Then again, it might be if it were for a good reason. Like helping to support the Special Olympics.

Three Delaware police officers are spending 54 hours atop a donut shop near the Governors Square Shopping Center off U.S. 40. With tent and sleeping bags set up, it's an interesting place to rough it out. They will be there today, and tomorrow until noon, and hope to raise money for the Special Olympics. If you find yourself in the area, you might want to consider stopping by, and cheering them on.

Here's a link to more about Special Olympics Delaware if you missed this event, but are interested in seeing what they are up to next, and how you can help out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Schiavo Experience

Last week when I posted an entry indicating that we had received an increase in requests for Living Wills ( aka Advanced HealthCare Directives), I referenced the Schiavo case and how I felt that it had influenced many of these new inquiries.

I hadn't followed with particularity the Schiavo case(s). Today, I looked at Abstract Appeal and its Schiavo Information Page. I was stunned by the complexity and length of the history of the case, and feel even more sorry for the people involved.

Monday, April 11, 2005

What is Expungement?

Basically, expungement is the sealing of a person's criminal record. The expungement process does not erase the criminal record, but simply seals the record from public view. All copies of the record are shredded and erased from databases except for a sealed copy kept at the office of the Supervisor of the State Bureau of Identification. 11 Del. C. §4373. The sealed records can then only be viewed by a court or by "law-enforcement officers acting in the lawful performance of their duties...or for the purpose of an employment application as an employee of a law-enforcement agency." 11 Del. C. §4374.

Why is this important? Because a criminal record can hurt an innocent person's opportunities to gain employment, education, and credit. By expunging a criminal record, potential employers, schools and lenders aren't able to learn of an innocent person's past arrests.

Who is eligible for expungement? 11 Del. C. §4372 sets out three specific circumstances where expungement of a Delaware criminal record can be expunged. The first is when a person is acquitted (found not guilty) of a crime. The second is when a nolle prosequi (the state decides to drop the charges) is entered. The third is a dismissal by the Court. If any of these three circumstances occurs, the person charged is eligible to petition the Superior Court for an expungement. The petition and the proposed order ask the Court to expunge the record. It is up to the Superior Court to review the petition and decide if the expungement shall be granted or not.

If a person has an old conviction, can a new acquittal be expunged? No, if there are any convictions on a person's record, then the record cannot be expunged. A record is expunged so that an innocent person will not be hindered by an arrest record. If someone is found or pleads guilty, the damage is already done.

When should an expungement petition be filed? As soon as possible. A petition for expungement of criminal records should be filed right after the person becomes eligible either by acquittal, nolle prosequi, or dismissal. This way, the potential creditors or employers who would be able to see the record is kept to a minimum.

Even after an expungement is granted, it is still a good idea to have a criminal record search done a few months later to make sure the expungement process was completed. If the expungement has been successful, no record will be found.

Generally, while the drafting of a petition for expungement can be complicated, expungement is a relatively simple and inexpensive process. The problem is that many people and their lawyers are so happy to be done with a criminal case that they forget all about expunging the record. A criminal record is something that most people don't think about until it comes back to haunt them. An expungement is a relatively easy way to alleviate those headaches down the line.

NOTE: This post refers to expungement for criminal records of adults. A post on expungements for juvenile records will be coming soon.

Here are a few expungement related articles on celebrities:
First daughter, Jenna Bush
Basketball star, Allen Iverson
Pop singer and talent judge, Paula Abdul


UPDATE 5/16/05

In response to my entry of 4/11/05 about expungement, we received an email from John Sandy, Esquire of Stumpf Vickers & Sandy, P.A. in Georgetown, Delaware. He notes that when there is a previous conviction, it is still sometimes possible to get a new criminal charge expunged. He says in part:

4373 (a) states that the existence of the previous conviction is "prima facie" evidence that dissemination of information relating to the arrest to be expunged does not constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner. Prima facie evidence is conclusive on the issue unless rebutted.

In my own practice, on several occasions, when the previous conviction was remote in time and/or considerably different in degree or nature, I have been able to convince the DOJ not to oppose the motion or the court of the "manifest injustice" over the State's objection. Within the past year I had a young lady turned down for a job with the Dept. of Corrections (I didn't think that they turned anyone down) on the basis of an arrest for Assault 3rd on her boyfriend. That charge was subsequently dismissed but because she had had an Under Age Consumption on her record 3 years earlier the DOJ opposed the motion. When I produced the letter from DOC stating that it was the assault arrest that kept her from being hired and pointed out that this was not a plea bargain where she pled to the alcohol charge in return for a dismissal of the assault, the DOJ withdrew its objection (but noted the previous conviction in its response to the court). The court granted the motion knowing that she had previously been convicted.



Another point that was not addressed in my previous entry, but that Mr. Sandy brought to my attention is that when a person is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Delaware, it is noted on that person's record and can be viewed by anyone with access to the criminal record. However, these records can also be expunged. Mr. Sandy writes:


I have twice been successful in having the "Mental Patient" notation removed (sealed) from the SBI record. In both cases SBI itself vehemently opposed and the DOJ took up their position. The cases, about 5 years apart, were nearly identical. Both involved young women applying for jobs that required a background check. As I recollect, they were both applying for teaching positions. At the time of their petitions both were in their mid twenties. In each case, when they were 15 or 16, they threatened (but did not attempt) suicide over breakups with boyfriends. In both cases, alarmed parents enlisted the aid of the State Police and 72 hour commitments were procured. Both girls were released before the 72 hours elapsed and neither ever had any other problem. Clearly, a background check would have been severely detrimental to their teaching careers. A reading of the statue clearly stated that "adult" commitments were to be reported. Despite the fact that the records should never have been made available to SBI the State opposed sealing the record. In both cases the court (Graves in one and Bradley in the other) granted the motion. I am surprised that some of the mental health advocates have not taken up the issue of the inclusion of this information in the SBI records.

Thank you Mr. Sandy for your insights.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Child Support, Spousal Support, and Parent Support

An interesting but uncommonly used Delaware Law provides that we as parents may be required to support our children, even after they turn 18. In fact, the tables may at some point turn and have the children required to support their parents.

Title 13 of the Delaware Code, at Section 503, establishes a legal duty to support our spouses, parents and children, if they are a poor person and unable to support themselves.

The duty to support that person does not mean, however that we are necessarily responsible for their debts. A duty to support would mean that we would have a legal responsibility to contribute a certain amount of money to that person for their living expenses. This is different from saying that we have to pay off their credit cards or other debts.

It is important that each case be discussed and evaluated on its own merits with a Delaware lawyer who is proficient with this topic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Image of Lawyers

A well written law student from Delaware temporarily enjoying Carlisle Pennsylvania, Mark Cutrona, has written a nice piece about the decayed public image of lawyers, and suggests steps to help us improve that image.

I agree with Mark's suggested steps, and add just one more:

I believe that the root of the public's misperception of the profession is in its misunderstanding of it. As in many things, one dark side of human nature is to shun or disparage things that are different and insular and particularly those things that are not understood. And so I believe for the image of lawyers to be improved, it is necessary to educate the public as to what we do and how their hard earned dollars are spent.

We can go a long way towards this by dispelling myths, such as: "all the lawyers do is fill out a form, and for this they get way too much money". Almost without exception, my estate planning clients exclaim that the process involves many more legal issues than they had previously imagined. Writing a Last Will and Testament for someone is vastly more complex than filling their name into a blank on a form. But until the public understands this, they will never understand why it costs more than $20 for a Will.

The catch 22 is that to fully educate the public as to the complexities of the paths we attorneys walk with them, we almost have to make lawyers of them all.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Living Wills, in light of Schiavo

We have experienced a surge of client inquiries about Living Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, and such related documentation in the last several weeks.

Many of these inquirers make reference to the Schiavo case, and say that they are making these plans because they don't want their family to go through what Terri Schiavo's family has been going through.

If there is any good to come from the disaster of the situation in Florida, perhaps it is that it has encouraged others to avoid it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

An Ounce of Planning is Worth a Pound of Probate

Every day I see unfortunate circumstances that have developed because somebody was cutting corners. Many people don't understand the legal process and therefore think that they don't need it. But sooner or later it catches up to them, or their estate, in triplicate.

Here are some areas where I see these sorts of problems most frequently:

1. Person dies owning land, and the family continues on without probating the estate.

2. Person doesn't make a will.

3. Person doesn't make a Durable Power of Attorney.

4. Person makes a homemade will or uses a standardized will form.

5. Person adds another person to a deed for property, without an attorney.

Not every time one of these circumstances occur, is there necessarily catastrophic results. But most of the time I see these circumstances, the problems that result cost many thousands of dollars to repair. All to save a couple of hundred dollars to do it right in the first place. And the cost in dollars is only part of the result in cutting legal corners. The time and aggravation costs to the family are much greater when everything has to be repaired, rather than prepared.

Monday, February 28, 2005

What is the Bar Association?

A common misconception that I hear from clients is reference to The Delaware State Bar Association as being an official branch of the government. It is not. The DSBA is a private organization with voluntary membership. The DSBA has nothing to do with the licensing of attorneys, approval of them, or discipline.

What the DSBA does do is to assist attorneys in keeping current with changes in the law, provide a venue for exchanges of information, and provide a structured contact system for interaction with government agencies. All of these are very important functions, but they are done on a private and (mostly) voluntary basis. DSBA also runs a lawyer referral service for folks who cannot locate an attorney for their case.


The Delaware Supreme Court wields the authority to license Delaware Attorneys. To accomplish this, they have administrative procedures, rules, and offices. They oversee: the Board of Bar Examiners; the Board of Continuing Legal Education (which mandates periodic classes); The Office of Disciplinary Counsel; and the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection .

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shootin Straight in Texas

In a refreshingly frank, if not a little facetious Court Opinion, Judge Kent Cuts through the fluff and holds the attorneys to the standards we were trained to uphold. As referenced at jumbojoke, this is a real case. I wish we had a few more real cases like this.

Here is a sample from the Opinion:

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact -- complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words -- to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Delaware's Coastal Zone Law and Interstate Commerce

A recent ruling under the Delaware Coastal Zone Act to refuse to grant permission to build a liquified natural gas delivery point on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River may hinge upon revisiting the Interstate Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.

Or it could reveal a desire by the federal government to grab control over the ability to make determinations on where liquified natural gas distribution points are located. Such a ruling could be a taking, by the federal government, of control over this controversial topic. And a slippage of state power to the federal government.

The Wilmington News Journal reports on the subject in their article, BP ruling may set stage for battle. This quote from the article is interesting:
"I'm not happy about the decision. I'm resentful of Delaware imposing its very narrow Coastal Zone Act and impacting what is very clearly a New Jersey issue," Burzichelli, a Democrat, said. "Based on a William Penn Border of 250 years ago, we're stymied from introducing new technology in the region to answer energy issues."
The border between the States is on the New Jersey shoreline rather than in the deepest part of the channel between New Jersey and Delaware, and the strict development requirements of the Delaware law does permit Delaware a great amount of power over what gets developed on New Jersey's coastline.

I can't say that I'm upset with the result as it stands now, though.

The Delaware Law Office Team Grows

Back Row: Anne, Larry.  Front Row: Kevin, Craig

The DeLawOffice team grows with the addition of Anne. Bill is the brains in the backfield, out of this shot. But we will catch him with a camera soon, I hope.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Delaware's Super Bowl: Environmentalists 1, British Petroleum 0

Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) have halted plans for British Petroleum to build a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.
In the ruling, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary John A. Hughes said the 2,000-foot pier would violate a 34-year-old state Coastal Zone Act ban on "offshore bulk product transfer" facilities along the Delaware River.

The decision does seem to fit in squarely with the provisions of the Coastal Zone Act that Delaware heralds as one of its finest pieces of environmental protection for the State. An appeal of the decision is expected, and a result against DNREC and the State may be the beginnings of Federal control over the placement of facilities for the delivery of liquified natural gas.

While doing some research on the subject, I came across this site from attorney Tim Reilly: LNG Danger To Our Communities. Some interesting statements and images there.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Heavyweight Contender Takes His Case to Delaware

While it may not be as exciting as Rocky's run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, a different kind of boxing match is happenning in Delaware's District Court. Heavyweight contender Vaughn Bean is taking on his former promoter, Wilmington resident Butch Lewis and his company Butch Lewis Productions.

Bean is alleging that Lewis took advantage of him and robbed him of money and chances to fight in higher level bouts. Bean has twice fought for the heavyweight title, losing to both Michael Moorer and Evander Holyfield. Despite the large purses available in a championship bout, Bean ended up broke.

Lewis and BLP Vice President Michael Spinks (a former client of Lewis' and a former heavyweight champ) claim that Bean never trained hard enough for his fights and breached their contract when he fought (and lost to) Vitali Klitschko in 2002.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Chancery Court Inspires Small Town Growth

Delaware's Chancery Court needed a new courthouse in Sussex Courty. What they built is a showcase; a dream of what a court could be.

Seems that the building of the new judicial building has got some others thinking of how they might bring the town a bright future. See: Georgetown boasts a building boom