Specialization

     You know you’re going to have a good time reading an appellate opinion when the very first sentence grabs you.
     Take this one from Wendler & Ezra, P.C. v. American International Group, Inc., a ruling from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: “Wendler & Ezra specializes in tort suits on behalf of truck drivers.”
     Yes, that’s right – trucker law.
     Immediately I understood that my view of the kinds of specialties lawyers could devote themselves to was way too narrow. It’s not only possible to restrict yourself to one kind of law – you can also restrict yourself to one kind of client.
     I’m picturing Wendler & Ezra’s office in the back booth of a truck stop diner right next to the showers.
     You can play country music all day, hang out with the boys, and still make a living.
     This is yet another way to cut down on all that lawyer unhappiness and malaise out there.
     I don’t think I have to elaborate on all the possibilities – but I’ll offer a few anyway to get your imagination started.
     How about specializing in chef litigation? You could design your contingency fee agreements to include years of catering. Clients could be required to bring snacks. Your family would never go hungry.
     Or you could restrict your practice to tort suits involving barbers. Imagine the possibilities for creative use of DNA testing.
     Or you could become an expert in representing pet owners. Central question to most cases: who’s a good boy?
     OK, I’m going to stop now because you’re probably wondering what that 7th Circuit case was about. It seems that the world of truck driver litigation may be nastier than most of us could have imagined.
     The law firm sued because it claimed that someone at an insurance company posted a quote on a website from a newspaper reporting that a firm partner had been arrested and taken to jail for “alleged domestic battery.”
     And, indeed, the lawyer was arrested for domestic battery. Truckers may not care.
     What the firm was suing over was that the Internet poster – who may have been with the insurance company – was posing on the Internet as a client who lost money (although it wasn’t the least bit clear how).
     Truckers who scour the Internet may now be reluctant to hire this firm.
     
     BEWARE THE EVIL EYES. “Bitch” is not a fighting word. At least it isn’t if you utter it while sitting in your car in a parking lot and there’s no one close by to fight you about it.
     You might think that’s a pretty obvious proposition, but you guessed it – we now have appellate precedent on the issue.
     The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled that some police officers probably shouldn’t have arrested a guy for saying “bitch” after a woman, who probably didn’t hear him, took the parking space the guy was waiting for at a Target store.
     Really. The case is York v. The City of Las Cruces and you’re now wondering just exactly what lawyers for the police could have argued on appeal. Here it is: “In particular, the officers argue that at the time of the incident no court had specifically held that the word ‘bitch’ was not a fighting word.”
     This might possibly be because no court had ever imagined it necessary to say so.
     But even that’s not the best part of the story. Why do you think the first police officer on the scene felt it necessary to leap into action upon hearing this derogatory term uttered by some guy in his car?
     Well, according to the ruling, it was because a man and his five-year-old child heard it too and the officer “read their eyes as urging him to take action.”
     Sounds like probable cause to me.
     Now if only all of us could call 911 with our eyes….

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