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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Let Us Assume

Random thoughts on assorted topics:

Assumption of risk?

Sometimes it's hard to feel sorry for an injured plaintiff.

This is from a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles against James Harden, who plays professional basketball for the Houston Rockets.

"Plaintiff was standing in the parking lot and, upon recognizing defendant Harden, stated: 'Kobe owns your ass.' Immediately thereafter, defendant Harden punched plaintiff in the face."

Nobody likes a critic.

Consider the legal ethics issue: Is it your responsibility as an attorney to tell your client he's an idiot or do you just file the lawsuit and do your best not to laugh while he's around?

Tough call.

Assumption of irresponsibility?

Some things should send up a red flag.

LegalZoom.com, which sells legal forms to non-lawyer consumers, last week sued "one of the largest consumer bankruptcy firms in the United States, Macey Bankruptcy Law, P.C." for not paying almost $1 million in past due invoices.

Macey, said the complaint, "threatened that, if LegalZoom refused to compromise the debt, they would file bankruptcy."

And they probably know how.

At what point do you stop selling stuff to a bankruptcy expert that doesn't pay its bills?

Maybe before it runs up a $1 million bill?

In case you're wondering, the bills were for generating marketing leads from people visiting the LegalZoom site to research bankruptcy. Those people probably can't afford to pay Macey.

I think I've discovered the opposite of a Ponzi scheme.

Caged heat.

Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but it seems to me that if you're a defendant in a criminal case, some people are going to think badly of you just because you're in that spot in the courtroom.

It doesn't matter how you look in that defendant's chair. It's not a good sign that you're there.

So when I saw the story last week in The New York Times about the pros and cons of sticking defendants in cages in court, I wondered what the big deal was.

If you're an accused rapist or mass murderer, how much worse are you going to look in a box? You might even be glad that people in the audience can't get at you.

But, for our amusement, let's assume that caging defendants is unfair. How do we fix this problem without endangering courtroom security and putting cage manufacturers out of work?

I offer a few simple suggestions.

Put the prosecutor in a cage too. Fair is fair.

Turn the cages into dunking booths and give the judge a shot every time he or she makes a ruling.

Fill the cage with half a dozen people from the jury pool so that no one knows which person in there is the real defendant.

Or do away with the cages and put the defendant in a comfy recliner with a beer and snacks so they couldn't possibly look unfairly guilty.

The cage makers can make chairs instead.

Quick quiz.

Who was quoted as saying the following?

"Well, there's always crime, but you can't make a living off of somebody hitting an old woman on the head with a bar and taking her pocketbook."

You don't need a name. Just guess what sort of person said this and the context for the quote.

Yes, you guessed it. It's a lawyer quoted on the ABA Journal's website.

No matter how lousy business gets, some lawyers are too proud to hit old women on the head. Those ethics classes are having an effect.

If you're struggling, you may want to look at this article. The advice is that you need to find sophisticated, moneyed criminals for your practice, and that if you get someone off, you can send him to law school so he can join your firm.

It's a recruiting tool.

More Long Beach.

I visited my favorite spot for surrealism last week, the new Long Beach courthouse, and wasn't disappointed.

I was standing in line waiting to get a civil case file in the office labeled "family law/probate" when I spotted a guy who was closely examining the handwritten signs inside the office and looking a little more lost than everyone else.

So I asked him what he was looking for. He said he needed to pay a traffic ticket.

Yes, he wanted to pay a traffic ticket while waiting in the line for civil files in the office labeled "family law/probate." He must have figured any line anywhere would do.

There must have been someone in that line waiting to see a movie.

By the way, the high-def TV monitor in that office no longer shows commercials for luxury items. Instead, we get a lovely slide show - of pictures of the Long Beach courthouse.

In case you've forgotten where you are.

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