OBEYING THE LAW 
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 05:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, I yelled at a police officer as he drove by intending to have him stop so I could discuss with him his traffic violation. I was riding a bicycle (shooting for 50 miles/week but rarely reaching it) a few blocks West of downtown and he had driven by me about 18 inches off my left elbow...after honking at me. He was, it appeared, reluctant to cross the double yellow line...by a foot or two...even though there was no oncoming traffic. And, frankly, I don't think he knew the law was ....pass non-motorized vehicles and bicycles at a reasonable distance of not less than 3 feet. He seemed surprised at my complaint.

But...and here, I think, is something important....when he got out of his car wondering whether I was going to be confrontational, I moved to the back of his car to get his number. Once I made that move, he knew that I wasn't afraid of him (being old and not doing anything wrong helps with this one) and that I would know who to complain about if there was a complaint to be made. There wasn't.

We were cordial. He thought I was wrong for not riding in the empty parking spaces to my right (there was a car blocking the way a hundred feet up and I would have had to swerve into the road to avoid it). I thought he was wrong because the law says 3 feet and he ignored it.

It is important to remember that cops are people too....they make mistakes...they need to be corrected. So, feel free to stop a cop....(they don't have misgivings about stopping you)).......just be cordial, make sure you can later identify who you spoke with, and, of course, don't be doing anything illegal. Also, be old.
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DECISION MAKING 
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 08:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
Charged with a crime? You'll have three bad choices.
-Take the plea deal offered by the prosecutor.
-Plead guilty and leave it to the judge to sentence you. (The judge wants you to take the prosecutor's deal so he/she doesn't have to make any decisions.)
-Go to trial....win=go home...lose=get sentenced by the judge (who now is mad that you wasted his/her time with a trial instead of owning up to your crime).

There is no good choice. There are three bad choices and you must pick the one you think will be least bad. Frequently (usually) people with three bad choices can't decide anything because they keep looking for that 4th GOOD choice. But, it doesn't exist so it is back to choice #1 and the cycle repeats.

And, just because you are able to pick the choice you think will be least bad (usually, the prosecutor's offer)...doesn't mean that you picked correctly. It could be that you guessed wrong about the consequences of the choices: you would have WON the trial....the judge wanted you to leave it to him/her because you remind him of his little sister and he always wanted to make it up to her for being mean when they were growing up.

Or, was she mean to him?

Good luck.



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THE INTERNET IS ON COMPUTERS NOW! 
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 03:36 PM
Posted by Administrator
(The title is, of course, attributable to TV personality Homer Simpson.)

Reviews are on computers, too. A renter at our other business, on the way outside to inspecting a motor scooter for pre-rental damage, said to me "You have a great reputation on TripAdvisor, so I don't need to worry." At first, I thought that he trusted us because of our reputation. Then, I realized that he was threatening to ruin it (by publishing a bad review) if we tried to charge him for scooter damage he didn't cause. Potato.... potaato.

My daughter doubted that her future landlord (a corporate behemoth) would give her the same discount on a three bedroom apartment as they would have on a four bedroom. One of their representatives said they would if one of the (4) prospective roommates crapped out and, one did. "But, I don't have it in writing." my daughter said. My wife and I made her call and ask for the decision maker. She got the discount. Was the housing complex afraid of bad internet reviews or were they just nice people? What's fair becomes more attainable if you have the ability to announce your grievance to an interested public in search engine results.

On the other hand, if you publish an unfair review...not representative of the facts... I'll sue you for libel.

One more thing:
-People DO believe college kids.
-Things are often binding/enforceable/actionable even if they're "NOT IN WRITING".
-What you heard someone say IS evidence.

Okay, that was 3 more things.

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PASTA AND THE LAW 
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 09:41 AM
Posted by Administrator
Next.
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THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT 
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 08:22 AM
Posted by Administrator
So much of lawyering is selling stuff and, despite what so many young salespeople think, "selling", "sales" and "salesperson" are not dirty words. If we didn't have people selling, there wouldn't be things to buy, deals to make, settlements to agree on and compromises reached. In the spirit of selling good and useful things and ideas to others, I will now discuss: THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT. (Thanks to Ralph at the Burroughs Corp. Sales School, Southfield, Michigan, +/- 1975 for---by my recollection--being the one who described the concept to me.)

"Nancy, Jack and I were talking, yesterday, about how much he liked your dress."

1) Nancy now knows that she is so important that Jack and I talk about her...in a positive way....when she is not around.
2) I didn't say that I liked her dress. So, she has no reason to think I'm kissing up to her. I said that Jack had said that he liked it and, that must be true because there is no reason that Jack would lie to me about liking the dress. So, it really was one heck of a dress.
3) Nancy is so important that I still remember that I had the dress conversation with Jack and that I made sure I told her about it.

So, Nancy comes away convinced that she is an important person with great taste in clothing. She likes me better for telling her the story. Of course, she likes Jack.

In my years of telling Ralph-from-Burroughs-Sales-School's THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT, nobody ---salesperson, lawyer or civilian----has ever indicated that they have heard of it, before. So, you, as a reader of this blog, are safe in using it with your friends and need not be concerned that you will be told "Oh, that's just THE THIRD PARTY COMPLEMENT." (On the other hand, if someone does know it, could you please confirm that they were with me in Southfield, Michigan in 1975 and ask them to give me a call. I am still confused about how to turn OBJECTIONS INTO QUESTIONS.... maybe they can help.)

Note: Nothing in the above example is intended to objectify women. My first thought was a guy named "Ben" with a really nice tie. But, the whole complementing-a-tie-thing is time worn. Every business day, in every courthouse---large or small---across all of America, all of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong....the following scenario...it is a requirement in the English speaking world... plays out at least once:

"Hey, man, how're you doing, I really like your tie."
"I like your tie, too."
"Then, let's trade."




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17 years, 364 days, 23 hours 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 07:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
17 years, 364 days, 23 hours is the time, after birth, when a person is one hour away from having the legal capacity to sign a contract, agree to settle a case, waive their rights. At the moment we each turned 18, our signature became worth something.

At our other business (renting scooters and bicycles), we won't rent to someone under 18 unless a parent is there to sign for them. A young man came in to rent a bicycle, yesterday, and I asked his age. "17", he said and I immediately felt very badly that I was going to tell him "We can't rent to you." His signature on our Release (reciting that renters agree not to sue us if they get injured riding our equipment) would be worthless. His parents would have the same right to complain about our renting to him at age 17 as they would if their 5 year old toddled in and we rented to her.

On the other hand, when I was 17, I bought a 1967 Austin Healy sports car. As I drove away from the seller's house in suburban Denver, the friend who had driven me to pick up the car began honking his horn to get me to look back and see the smoke pouring out of the Healy's exhaust. As soon as I got back to Denver, I called the seller and said "You've got to give me my money back...I'm only 17 and I'm not old enough to buy the car."

I can't remember if he laughed.....or just hung up on me.
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LEGAL TITLE 
Saturday, January 25, 2014, 10:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
Sometimes, people buy a house or a car or a cow and put it in someone else's name. There are legitimate reasons to do this:
-The real buyer can't get credit in their name.
-The real buyer is out of the country or otherwise unavailable to sign papers.
Okay, I can't think of any other legitimate reasons but, I'm sure there are some.

Illegitimate reasons to put your property in someone else's name include:
-So you don't have to tell the bankruptcy court about the property (except that, really, it's your property....regardless of whose name it's in and not disclosing in a sworn document is perjury).
-So your wife won't get 1/2 in a divorce (except that she probably knows exactly what you've got....no matter how hard you try to keep it from her...and, again, that whole perjury thing.)
-So your creditors can't take the property after they sue you and get a judgment (except that whole perjury thing rears it's ugly head when you are required to disclose what you've got, under oath).

Because, whether the property is in someone else's name for good reason or bad, if it is your property, it's your property. You are the "equitable owner" of whatever it is you really own. The person whose name the property is in holds the property "in trust" for you. If the legal owner (the one whose name is on the paperwork) sells the property or if one of their creditors seize it, it might be tough-luck-on-you. But, between the equitable owner and the legal title holder, the equitable owner always wins...

Or, at least, wins if they can prove the property is theirs. Your sister will probably agree the house is really your house---you just used her better credit to buy it. But, will your son-the-drug-dealer admit the car you asked him to buy for you is your car?
"My mother gave me $5,000 to buy the car for myself.", he'll testify.....if you are inclined to sue your own flesh and blood.

So, the equitable owner always wins......if they can prove their case.
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Do you have a second mortgage on your house?????? 
Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 07:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
And, does the amount you owe on your first mortgage eat up all of the equity in your house? And, would you rather not pay your second mortgage.....or, better yet, are you already not paying it?

Feel free to make an appointment to see me if you are wondering where I am going with this. Office hours: evenings and weekends are best for me.
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BFPs 
Friday, January 3, 2014, 01:17 AM
Posted by Administrator
New Years in South Texas meant seeing a TV commercial where television Judge Mathis endorses local attorney Brian Locar (whose chosen nickname is, I think "The Fist"), in the tackiest lawyer ad I've ever seen (and, I say that with all due respect to our local tacky lawyer ads). New Years also meant looking at Craigslist (for the other business) where I found someone in Plantation looking to sell the bicycle that was stolen from me the day after Christmas, 2012. The bike was at the dock at the end of Fern St. Someone cut the cable lock.

The general rule is that if you buy stolen property for fair market value (or near to it) and don't have reason to know the property is stolen then you are the owner, free from any claim of the person it was stolen from. This seems harsh and unfair but, I guess, it promotes commerce....you always get good title to personal property as long as you don't know that it's stolen; a reasonable person wouldn't know that it was stolen; and you paid fair market value. You are a BONA FIDE PURCHASER FOR VALUE (a BFP) and that's that.

Cars have titles and, if you don't bother to look at the title and get the title signed over to you, you aren't the owner of the car...no matter how much you paid. Leases are sometimes registered and if you buy something that has a recorded lease (and belongs to the lessor), you'll never own that. Things bought from a known thief; in an alley in the middle o the night; from the trunk of a car.....are so likely to have been stolen that you'll never be a BFP. Buy stolen jewelry at a pawn shop, though, it's yours.

I posted my own ad on Craigslist....trying to tell whoever is looking that it's my bike. So, if the seller isn't a BFP anyone who should have seen my ad can't be one either.

Really, I'll never get the bike back. And the police won't care that I've got information to supplement the original theft report.

The law and THE LAW isn't against me.... but neither is going to help me much.
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ANSWERING QUESTIONS...........by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 06:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
Though it is, perhaps, our civic duty to talk to law enforcement (when we have nothing to hide---having something to hide is covered by the 5th Amendment RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT), it is likely not our civic duty to keep talking. In polite society, if you ask me a question, likely...I'll answer it. But, if you keep asking the same question, I'll figure that you're being rude in continuing to ask.

The problem, frequently, in talking to the police is that they will (in spite of the strictures of polite society) keep asking the same question; asking for a re-telling of the same story; looking for a repeat of the same explanation. And, humans being human, the answer/story/explanation will change a little with each telling. It won't be a "change" in the story....but it can be made to look more than a little suspicious ("You know, that's not what you told us the first time we asked."). Suspicions that arise from telling things a little differently sometimes result in nice people being arrested and, at trial, those small differences are sometimes blown out of proportion and become tough to explain away.

So, if you are going to talk to the cops.....talk once. If you're asked back for a second interview say "no"; or bring a lawyer; or tell the inviter: "You know, everyone's story changes a little every time they're asked to tell it. So, I'm okay with your relying on what I've already said." And, if the inviter says things are unclear or they just need one more thing explained, say "No....but email me and I'll have a look at what you need." Then, see a lawyer.

Are the cops smarter than you?

Yes. (Okay, maybe not at calculus or astrophysics or brain surgery or actuarial science or whatever it is that you do..........but, at this: YES....you're not even in the same league.)
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We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 06:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
We'll be out of town for a few days for the holidays (in and around Weslaco, Texas.....just a few miles from the last hand operated ferry in the U.S.; the border wall with Mexico; and the Rio Grande River)....eating freshly killed goat. Apart from that, we'll be in town.


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WE OFFER IN-PERSON CONSULTATIONS SEVEN DAYS A WEEK 
Saturday, December 21, 2013, 01:41 PM
Posted by Administrator
For various reasons well-known to our clients, friends and acquaintances, we are able to offer appointments seven days a week (though not all seven days of every week).

We work for ourselves, set our own hours; and aren't married to "normal business hours" or "the work week". It can be hard to leave your job to see a lawyer who is available only 9-5 Monday to Friday. How about Saturday morning at 9:15?
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Tax Refunds, Bankruptcy, End O' The Year Issues 
Thursday, December 19, 2013, 08:50 PM
Posted by Administrator
Planning on having the IRS send you a refund? Deep enough into debt to be considering filing for Bankruptcy? Is is the end of the year, already?

Much as I believe that you should do yourself whatever it is you are able to do yourself (personally, I had my septic tank open, yesterday, and was cleaning out a clog), for some things, you probably should consult with a licensed professional. What goes on with a tax refund for bankruptcy filers is one of those things....especially as the end of the year approaches and the new year begins.

In Bankruptcy, Court Appointed Trustees are eager to snatch your refund and use the money to pay something back to your creditors. It is a noble idea and I've had clients who have happily handed over their refund check. On the other hand, by a ratio of about 100:1, the vast majority of my clients have not wanted to turn over their refund check....and they haven't. It does take some thought and planning to legitimately (without lying, cheating, or stealing) keep your refund. Here are some helpful hints...things to do on the way to see that lawyer:

-Don't give the refund money to family members or friends to "hold" for you;
-Also, don't pay back your family members or friends with the money;
-Don't use the money to buy a big TV or jewelry or a really cool assault weapon....or spend it on getting your car fixed up real nice;
-Feel free to spend the refund money on fixing a leaking roof or needed dental work or even a nice meal out......but don't get carried away.

Oh, by the way, the tax refund money really should go into a separate, new bank account without payroll money in it......and you should probably spend the tax refund money and keep your paycheck (in the separate account).............

but, really, it's a complicated subject so go see a lawyer before you get something wrong......and it costs you.
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TEST 
Monday, December 16, 2013, 03:20 PM
Posted by Administrator
This is a test of the mechanical end of the blog. My last two entries disappeared when I clicked on "POST". (I am aware that this may be on commentary on the quality of the entries.)
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GOT A LEGAL PROBLEM (in one of our practice areas*)? CALL US AND MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO COME IN. 
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 08:41 AM
Posted by Administrator
We do not charge for a first consultation in the office. We're located in downtown West Palm Beach....2 blocks East of the CityPlace Publix; 3 blocks South of Clematis St.; 2 blocks West of the Intracoastal; 5 or 6 blocks (I lose count) South of the Courthouse.

Sorry, but we (which means "me" or "I") can't answer legal questions over the phone or by way of email for people who are not present clients.

*We are limited to Criminal Defense (all types of cases except DUI+); Bankruptcy; and legal issues relating to small businesses.....(and family law only by referral by past or present clients.)

+There are lawyers who live and breathe DUI. We do not. We can tell you if you've got a shot at winning a DUI trial (I've tried a few dozen....but not recently) and stand next to you in court if you want to plead "guilty". But, if you want to go to trial and have the money to hire experts on blood-alcohol-level and Breathalyzer machines, go to a DUI lawyer).
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AGREEMENT 
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 11:06 AM
Posted by Administrator
There is agreement or, as lawyers would have it, "A meeting of the minds." every time we agree to settle a case, sign a deal to buy a house, fork over $1.75 for a Coke. Both sides agrees on a price and terms of sale ("Also, I need you to open the coke bottle for me.") and a deal is done.

Please accept for a moment that the instant you agree to a deal is usually a moment of insanity. Not murderous insanity but toss-your-normal-inhibitions-out-the-window-for-a-moment insanity. Since nobody really "needs" a brand new Audi Coupe for $83,000, no rational person would ever buy one...but people buy them every day, frequently committing to 5 or 6 years of monthly payments. And, the next day, almost all of them get "buyer's remorse" when they question their decision to buy in the cold-logical light of the next day. Buyer's remorse is that uncomfortable feeling we get when we think about that moment of insanity that caused us to buy the car we didn't need or settle the case for a lot less than we walked into mediation thinking we would walk away with. Buyer's remorse does not usually apply to the purchase of the Coke, unless it is an all-the-time thing and the buyer's waistline grows.

Lawyers looking to settle (even your own lawyer looking to get you to settle); salespeople; negotiators; mediators all look to promote the moment of insanity without which the sale won't happen or the case won't resolve and will have to go to trial. Some methods to achieve the MOMENT are:
1) Keep the process going for a long time (Ever notice that nobody at the car dealership is eager to let you leave? I once spent a day at a Lexus dealer waiting for lunch to come....and then waiting for the TV raffle). Mediation for lawsuits works the same way----6 hours in? You may be just getting started.
2) For sales, tell your customer that someone else is very interested and that if they don't buy now, the item will likely be gone. (When I last looked for office space in downtown WPB, every rental agent ---except my present landlord--- told me "We've given a lease for the space to someone else....whoever gets it signed and back to me first gets the space." Most of the locations that were attached to that story were still vacant 18 months later.)
3) Low blood sugar? Gotta get out of there? I really, really like the mediator and don't want to disappoint her. I don't want to look indecisive. I don't want to look cheap or look like I can't afford it. Going to court is scary.

On the other hand, if we didn't forget reason for a moment and take the other side's offer, all lawsuits would go to trial and we'd all be driving 2001 Hyundias.


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SHUT UP. 
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 11:02 PM
Posted by Administrator
Most people hate silence and will say something.....anything they can think of, to fill up the silence with noise. Witnesses, left with a few moments between questions (and, intentionally left with those few moments by a questioner who knows this stuff) will say all kinds of things that they never would say in response to a direct question. Silence makes people uncomfortable and their discomfort makes them want to talk and keeps them from auditing what they say.

"So", the car salesperson will say, "do you want to buy the car now?" The smart salesperson will shut up hoping the customer will get uncomfortable in the silence and, after a while spent fidgeting, say "yes". Whoever talks first loses. If the salesperson gets uncomfortable first and says, for example "I'll give you floor mats for free.", the silence will be over, the customer won't be uncomfortable anymore, the moment will be lost and the sale will be gone.

Try it. Ask a question and then shut up....for a long time....and see what the other person says....eventually and when the fidgeting stops. Even after they speak, wait a while and see what else they've got to say. Next time someone does it to you (and, someone will) just sit there...don't speak at all...not until the other person does and no matter how long it takes....see what happens next.

Remember: whoever talks first loses.
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FREE CONSULTATIONS  
Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 12:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
We do offer free consultations (in person....we can't do much over the telephone) for legal issues involving:

Bankruptcy
Criminal Defense
Legal Issues concerning small businesses.

All consultations are with me, Steve Duhl. All court appearances are by me. All legal work is done by me. Nothing is handed off to paralegals or younger lawyers.

We are located in beautiful, downtown West Palm Beach....about 4 blocks from the County Courthouse. (561-328-6196)
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BAD THINGS (& some of the good) ABOUT FILING A CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY 
Saturday, November 9, 2013, 12:32 PM
Posted by Administrator
A "Chapter 7" Bankruptcy is the kind where you generally don't pay anything to creditors. Most middle-class and lower middle-class people would qualify for this. Most people...the VAST MAJORITY...... who file DON'T have to turn over any property.

Bad things:
1) It is bad for your credit (IF YOU HAVE GOOD CREDIT...IF YOU'VE ALREADY GOT BAD CREDIT, BANKRUPTCY CAN BE VERY GOOD FOR YOUR CREDIT.
2) You can only file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy every 8 years (more or less)...so, if you get into financial trouble in the meantime (a car accident where you were at-fault and didn't have enough insurance, for example) you'd have to look into other options to solve the problem.
3) There are lots of papers to get together.
4) Unless you think you can do it yourself, you've got to hire a lawyer.
5) You must answer annoying questions.
6) It is a bad option for people who like to lie, cheat and steal.

That's pretty much it. The bad side of bankruptcy is overblown....usually by people and companies with something to sell.

Also, when you consider the bad, you've got to compare it to the good...things like:
-Get rid of most debt (you've got to pay your mortgage payment if you want to keep your house and your car payment if you want to keep your car).
-Stops lawsuits (not alimony/child support related), garnishments, collection calls, repossessions.
-Can get your driver license reinstated if it's suspended under the "Financial Responsibility Act" (not if you owe because of a DUI.)

The above is a totally incomplete list of the good and the bad (but, it's a College Football Saturday.....FSU (the kid's school, is beating up Wake Forest and the Gators.....the season is just making me want to cry.......9-0: Vanderbuilt! really?) and I've got to go.


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BANKRUPTCY "341 MEETINGS" 
Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 11:49 AM
Posted by Administrator
If you file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you'll need to go to a "341 Meeting" about one month after you file. The "Meeting" will be in an office/medical building on Flagler Drive....the 3rd building South of Good Samaritan Hospital/where-PalmBeachLakesBlvd.-dead ends at the Intracoastal. You will travel by elevator to the 8th Floor and then walk a few feet to the North of the elevator and through a door marked TRUSTEE'S MEETING ROOM. There will many, many chairs set up in rows.

To the left of the door there is a glass case with some pages stapled inside. Read the pages. On a small, folding table in front will be a sheet of paper with a few questions and boxes to check.

Usually, the court appointed Trustee will call your case more-or-less on time. Sometimes, you've got to wait a while as the cases before you drag on. When your case gets called, you will walk into another room. This one has it's chairs along the walls and three tables in the middle forming a "T". Unless you're first, have a seat in one of the chairs along the wall.

When your case is called, the Trustee will have you raise your right hand and swear you in. You'll hand over your DRIVER LICENSE and SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. Then, you'll be asked some questions:
-Did you read your Petition and Schedules before you signed?
-Did you include all of your creditors and all of your assets?
-Is everything true/do you intend to make changes?
-How did you get into financial trouble?
-Have you ever filed bankruptcy before? (I think the rule, now, is...at least 8 years between "discharges"....probably less time in between if your case was dismissed.)
-Did you read the TRUSTEE'S INFORMATION SHEET? (That's the pages in the glass case that I told you to read.)

The Trustee's job is:
A) To make a preliminary determination that you aren't lying, cheating, stealing, defrauding....and to advise the court/FBI if you likely are.
B) To see if you have assets that ought to be taken and liquidated with the proceeds distributed to your creditors. (You can keep a lot of things in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy but not everyone can keep everything they've got....telling you what exactly to expect on this issue is your lawyer's job.)

Creditors can come to the "Meeting" and ask questions but it's rare that they do.

Usually, when the Trustee says "This meeting is concluded.", your participation in your Bankruptcy is pretty much over. They'll still be time limits that have to run but, to paraphrase Churchill: the 341 Meeting isn't the end of the Bankruptcy, but, it is the beginning of the end.

Note: What Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time....with Britain pretty much in the middle of losing WW2 to Germany....actually said was: "THIS IS NOT THE END. THIS IS NOT THE BEGINNING OF THE END. BUT, IT IS, THE END OF THE BEGINNING." Britain had, finally, won a significant battle. He wanted them to celebrate the victory...but not too much.


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WHAT WE DO. 
Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 04:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
We (by which I mean "I") practice in the following areas:
1) Bankruptcy....chapter 7. This is the bankruptcy that does not require any repayment of debts. We offer a no-charge consultation to see if you qualify. Most low to middle income people do qualify.
2) Criminal Defense...including white collar crimes....but not DUI (which is a specialty unto itself).
3) Legal issues relating to small businesses....contract disputes, labor/wage issues, etc.

I have been practicing in Palm Beach County since I graduated from the University of Florida, School of Law in 1983...first with a medium size Palm Beach litigation firm, then with the Public Defender's Office, then in private practice. Previous to law school, I was involved in the new-car automobile business and I sold computer systems to small businesses, governments and schools (of course, this was in the 1970s and computers didn't start computing real well until the 1990s. In addition to practicing law, my wife and I opened a small business in 2011....it's a few block South of the County Courthouse.
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TITLE 
Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 02:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today...for the other business....I transferred title to a new motor vehicle to the subchapter "S" company in which my wife and I are the sole stockholders, Layse, Inc. (dba iScootPalmBeach). (Note that we are not "partners" in our other business....we own all of the stock in the corporation. The corporation, Layse, Inc., has registered "iscootpalmbeach" as the name it is going business under. It appears that doing business with a fictitious name that isn't registered with the Secretary Of State is a CRIME here in Florida. Likely, though, it is a crime that nobody has ever been arrested for.) The seller's title said "John Smith" OR "Jane Smith. Only John had signed the title to transfer it to the corporation. That was fine.

And, if Jane had been unhappy with John, the "OR" in the title would have let her sell..even if the vehicle were the car he drove. Had the title said "John Smith" and "Jane Smith", a transfer would have required both signatures. The DMV (Tax Collector) will only do "and" if you ask.

They'll also do the title as "Jane Smith and John Smith as tenants by the entirety" and....since they are married...John and Jane would each own 100% of the vehicle subject to the other's 100% ownership. So, a creditor of one of them couldn't seize the car.....because the other one owned it too. Most states don't recognize "tenancys by the entireties" but Florida does.

Deeds for land which recite "John Smith and Jane Smith, husband and wife" create that same-each-owns-100% entireties interest. A creditor of both John and Jane could (after obtaining a judgment) seize the property (unless it is "homestead" property) but a creditor of only one would be helpless.....until one of them died. Bank accounts can be titled this way, too. For a long-time married couple, their couch and TV are probably "entireties property" though couches and TVs do not have titles.

None of the above matters until there is a death, divorce, bankruptcy, judgment....then, suddenly, it matters a lot.
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TRUSTING SERVICE PROVIDERS.......by Steve Duhl 
Friday, August 2, 2013, 11:02 AM
Posted by Administrator
When you go off to buy, for example, paper towels, you know what you're going to pay and what you're going to get. Squeeze the roll (my wife taught me this one) to see how much is air and how much is...paper towels. Think what you paid last time. Look to see how much Bounty paper towels are. And you're done. (See Note C, below.)

But, when you hire a plumber, mechanic, doctor, lawyer....you are probably out of your element. Unless you know enough plumbing to do the job yourself, you are going to have to accept what the plumber tells you needs to be done and the reasonableness of his bill. Same with the others. Do you really know what it will take to do your divorce?

So, in selecting a service provider, you've got a few choices and a few related problems.
1-Go to someone you've gone to before. But, will he/she take the return business as a sign that you trust him/her and jack up the bill knowing that you won't question it.
2-Go to someone to whom you are referred. There is the great temptation to say "My friend John Smith gave me your name." and, now you've got the same problem as in #1. Also, (credit here goes to Joe Trivisone who, 35 years ago, taught me how to sell computers "Nobody will admit to making a $100,000 mistake) nobody will admit to be dumb enough to hire a crappy lawyer who ripped them off. So, they'll recommend the idiot to you so they don't look bad. Unless you KNOW YOURSELF from your OWN PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE that your friend got a great job at a fair price, be wary of referrals.
3-Go to someone whose name you saw on the side of a truck or on a scrap of paper you found on the sidewalk. You might land up with someone horrible but, on the other hand, if they know that you know nothing about them, they will do their best to impress you with their work ethic, honesty and fairness. (But, see #1, above, regarding going back a second time.)
4-Go to someone to whom you are referred but don't tell them that it is a referral. Keep them guessing ("I really don't remember where I got your name.") Be nice...but give the impression that you are somewhere between an uneducated consumer and an FBI Agent.

I think that which of the above is the best idea is a toss-up between #3 and #4. Maybe #3 has a slight edge.

I'm not saying that there aren't honest mechanics, lawyers, doctors, plumbers, carpenters...out there. There are lots of them and lucky people will stumble on to them 9 times out of 10.

It's just us people who aren't so lucky who've got to think this through.

NOTE 1: And if you want to really get a bad deal, go immediately to the man/woman who gives you a low price on the phone. Once they get you in, they'll jack up the price. After all, if they don't get you in, they don't get a chance at your business. So, they low-ball.

NOTE 2: (We generally charge what we say we're going to and so do lots of other lawyers, doctors, mechanics, plumbers, appliance repair people, dentists, web designers, water treatment companies, nail salons, podiatrists, optometrists and, of course, piano tuners.)

NOTE 3: But don't buy a car from your friend (unless he/she is your BEST friend ...not your "BFF", your best friend). Car dealerships (and all other sales enterprises) encourage you to sell to your friends and, since they trust you and will buy from you and only you, you aren't likely to give them as good a deal as someone walking in off the street (whose business you've got to fight for). When I sold Volkswagens in New York (VW of Bayside, 1979-1981.....note that I am a University of Florida Law School graduate, 1983, so I'm not that much of a carpetbagger)....the people who paid the most for cars were the sales manager's "friends". (See Note 4)

NOTE 4: I must mention that the people who paid the most for cars were probably not the sales manager's friends, they were probably his brother's "friends". His brother was......how you say?....."connected" and I think it went like this: "Hey Tony, you really need to go see my brother, Frank, about buying a car." There was a lot of money flowing around in those days and I do you a favor, you do me a favor, you do my brother a favor, my cousin does you a favor, my friend does you a favor, you did him a favor....then you go and do me another favor and buy a car from my brother. In some circles, a lot of money means a lot of "favors", too.
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I DON'T READ CONTRACTS......by Steve Duhl 
Monday, July 29, 2013, 10:28 AM
Posted by Administrator
I'm sure I've written about this in the past but, figuring that nobody ever goes back and reads the old stuff (though you should...it's better than the new stuff), I will take the chance of repeating myself. LAWYERS DON'T READ CONTRACTS.

Oh, they'll do it for clients if they get paid and then they'll give the client their opinion on the problems with signing. Usually, the party with the most power in the deal writes the contract and, depending on whether the other party has any power at all, may or may not agree to changes. In other words, if you're credit is crappy and you're lucky to get that landlord to lease you the apartment at all...you're likely stuck signing whatever lease he/she puts in front of you. Lawyers are notorious for crapping up business deals by advising their clients not to sign ...what they perceive to be... one sided contracts.

When I sold Volkswagens (in the late 70's...before you were born), I noticed that dentists read the sales contract. So did accountants, taxi drivers, hot dog vendors and engineers. Lawyers just signed. At the time, I thought it was because lawyers could get out of any contract terms they didn't like...so why bother reading. Later, I found out that lawyers didn't read because lawyers knew we weren't going to change the contract for them. You want the car? Sign the contract.

The world now is more complicated then it was in the late 70's (before you were born). There are contract for cell phones---that nobody reads; for internet purchases---that you click "I accept" without even bothering to look at the language; (yes, even for scooter rentals).

Recently, I've had a couple of clients who claim that they didn't sign the rental agreement for their credit card machine. There are two aspects to accepting credit cards at your business....1) the merchant gets charged a percentage of the sale for each transaction and a monthly fee and 2) you've got to own or rent the little machine that attaches to your phone line and prints the receipt. Some companies give great deals on the percentage but rip you off by renting you the equipment at an exorbitant rate.

So, here's what happens: The salesperson sells you on the great rate and sort of doesn't mention the rental cost of the little machine. He/she hands you a bunch of papers to sign and.....without looking....you sign where you're told. Turns out....you've signed a lease agreement; you're stuck it for years; and you're paying a fortune for equipment you could have bought outright for $200.

One of my clients.....I believe based on signature analysis.....was ripped off the old fashioned way....the salesperson forged her signature. Another took a look at the papers and agreed that he'd signed.

When we got our credit card equipment, we did it the warm and fuzzy way: A client was working for a credit card processor company where one of the owners went to the same summer camp me and my sister went to. While I am always skeptical about doing business with people whom you "should" trust, the client+summer-camp-relation seemed too good to ignore. We bought our equipment for a couple hundred bucks and have merely had to pay the exorbitant monthly and transaction fees. We don't have a monthly lease payment and I don't feel too ripped off.

Should you read all contracts before you sign them? YES.
Will you? Of course not and neither will I.

Good news! Successful "merchant services" salespeople make a LOT of money.

*Come back to the blog in a few days for my explanation of why doing business with people you "should" trust is a crappy idea.



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LETTERS FROM LAWYERS......by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 11:53 PM
Posted by Administrator
A lot of lawyering involves sending letters: threatening letters, letters full of advice, demand letters, acceptance letters, engagement letters. Many of these are unsolicited....in other words...the recipient did not ask for or want the letter. Collection letters are a good example. Nobody asks to be collected from.

Lawyer letters have to be distinguished from lawsuits. A phone call where the caller says "I got a letter from a lawyer." needs to be followed up with questions like:
-Did you get the letter in the mail or did someone deliver it?
-Is there anything about a court on the top of the letter? How about a case number?

Usually, the answer is, more or less "No, you idiot, it's a LETTER." But, sometimes the "letter" really is a lawsuit that the recipient didn't intend to take seriously. You can usually ignore a letter without peril but ignoring a lawsuit can be costly.

Lawyer letters you can probably ignore:
-Collection letters (especially letters from out-of-state lawyers)---if you're not going to/or can't pay, why be upset? Keep the letter so that you'll have an address to give, one day, to your bankruptcy attorney.
-Letters demanding something that you don't have----the name of your liability carrier when you don't have insurance, for example.
-Letters demanding that you stop doing something that you are sure that you have every right to do. "We represent your neighbor. You are hereby directed to stop parking your Snap On truck outside your house."

Responding shows fear. Showing fear means a follow-up threat is in order. Ignoring the letter shows that you have the guts not to feel threatened just because the letter was signed by a lawyer and it sends the message that following up on the letter could be a time-consuming, expensive and futile task....because you are no pushover.

Lawyer letters you shouldn't ignore:
-Letters that are really lawsuits, summonses, garnishments, writs, petitions.
-Letters that recite facts that aren't true, say you owe things you don't owe, or say you've done things that you haven't. Write back and say, more or less "The facts you recite in your letter of _________ aren't true." There is an argument that if a reasonable person would have denied it.......and you don't deny it.....then you've admitted and that implied admission can be used against you later, in a court case. (On the other hand, don't get excited about reciting your version of the facts....usually, it's enough to deny their version.)
-Letters advising you to do things that you really should do (or to not do things you shouldn't do): "We represent your neighbor, we're going to sue you if you keep on burning garbage on your front lawn." or "We're going to sue you if you keep download any more copyrighted songs."
-Letters about bad checks you've written; rent you haven't paid; things you (or your kid) have stolen.
-Letters from the Justice Department telling you that you are the target of a federal investigation.

Really, I think everyone knows the lawyer letters you shouldn't ignore. The problem is with people paying too much attention (with the attendant nervousness and anxiety and fear) to lawyer letters they should ignore.

Probably 90% of the unsolicited letters that lawyers send are a waste of paper. It's only the other 10% that are trouble.


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WHAT IS AN LLC?...............by Bob Smith 
Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 12:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
Once, I wondered what an LLC was, so I asked my accountant. She said "I have no idea, it's some kind of business entity that you lawyers like." A few days later, I saw an older lawyer I sort of knew sitting in the back of a courtroom waiting for his case to be called. Since older people know more, I thought I'd ask him. "Oh," he said "an LLC is a type of business entity that accountants like."

One day, having nothing to do, I googled "LLC" and the returns I got were talking about a nation-wide LLC law modeled on the one they'be got in Delaware (Delaware's laws loves businesses and rich people---you should register your mega-yacht there). There were LLC seminars and webinars and all kinds of stuff directed at people who are a lot more interested in business entities than I am.

Years ago, I remember driving somewhere in the middle of Florida, which, except for Orlando is the middle of nowhere...in the middle of the night. On the car radio there was a talk show hosted by someone named "Bruce". I remember two things about "Bruce": 1) He said he was a licensed airplane pilot, and 2) He was missing a leg or part of a leg. His radio show was about advice for businesses. This is, more or less, what he said:

It doesn't matter much whether your business is a corporation, a subchapter S or an LLC. What you really need is insurance so that if you get sued, the insurance company will be around to defend you and pay anything that it takes to get rid of the complainant.

True, you cannot be sued personally for stuff your employee for the corporation you happen to own....any more than a shareholder in General Motors can get sued when one of their cars loses it's brakes and plows into a wall. But, what you really need is insurance....not just the theoretical shield that a corporation (or LLC) might provide.

Really, the type of business entity you should adopt when starting your business is more of an accounting or financing question than a legal question.

Rightly or wrongly, if your company gets sued and you don't have insurance, you could end up with a bill for dozens of thousands of dollars for the lawyer you're going to have to hire to defend against the claim. Trials take hundreds of hours to prepare for and weeks in court to reach a result. Corporations can't represent themselves in court....they've got to have lawyers (in Florida, Small Claims court is an exception).

Two other things:
1) If you, as owner, negligently caused damage, you can be sued personally. For example, if the owner of United Van Lines is driving one of their trucks and negligently hits someone crossing the street, the company can be sued and so can he (though the company insurance will likely cover him).
2) I remembered something else about "Bruce", the radio talk who host: he claimed he didn't own a car "It's cheaper...once you add in insurance...to just rent monthly from Hertz.", he said. This was years ago, I think Hertz has since quit giving that bargain.



Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired Florida lawyer who now lives in Northern Wyoming, near the Canadian border.
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PRACTICAL CONSUMER ADVICE....by Bob Smith 
Saturday, April 27, 2013, 07:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
We always strive to avoid giving practical advice...preferring, instead, to pontificate and tell odd stories. Still, sometimes it hits you in the face.

When you buy a new product....cars, boats, planes, trains, computers, cheese graters....you automatically and by operation of law get a "warranty". The warranty gives you the right to go after the manufacturer and seller and get damages if the product isn't as good as any other similar products that might be out there and/or doesn't do the job the salesperson/advertising/packaging said the product would do. In other words, computers have to be able to compute and if you the salesman tells you that you can produce 4-D movies on it.....it had better have some serious graphics cards. (There is a 4th dimension....right?)

Of course, you don't really get these warranties because your sales agreement/invoice/purchase order says "THERE IS NO WARRANTY OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE" and then goes on to describe the 'LIMITED WARRANTY' that you do get....which isn't near the warranty you would have gotten...by operation of law, but for the disclaimer. So, computers don't have to compute and the bicycle you buy for your kid can be ten feet tall.

Really, I got on to this subject because I just bought a pressure washer to wash some color out of my deck. The men who redid the deck ignored what color we told them we wanted and stained the deck a dark brown that reminds us of .................

Anyway, when I unpacked the pressure washer, the first thing I saw was a NOTICE that said that if there was any problem/question/concern about the pressure washer I should ABSOLUTELY NOT return it to Home Depot...I should, instead, contact the manufacturer. I had seen similar notices before in computers and put-it-together-yourself furniture boxes and I hadn't thought much about it. But, when I saw the notice this time, I had an epiphany.

Now that I am involved in the other business, people tell me things that I don't hear about in the lawyer business. And, I'd heard from a couple of people about some fairly new companies who were selling their technologically based products to big box stores. They knew they'd make a lot more money selling to Costco and Home Depot and Walmart than they would selling to little, neighborhood retailers.

But, the deal with the big box stores I learned was this: If a customer returned a product to the store, the supplier/manufacturer/distributor had 30 days to pick the item up or it would be thrown in the dumpster. Also, the store would take a credit for the wholesale cost against what it owed. After Christmas, for example, there would be thousands of items returned....millions of dollars the supplier/manufacturer/distributor would never see...and lots of expensive circuit board laden product in the dumpster. After all, it isn't economically sensible to send a truck around to all of the big box stores across the 50 states to pick up the returns.

So, the NOTICE in the pressure cleaner box wasn't really advice about how to deal with warranty claims, it was a plea not to take the product back to the store. DEAL WITH US, it begged. WE'LL SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Luckily for the pressure cleaner company....it worked! Otherwise, it was going back to the store.

There is a lesson in all of this: Who cares about warranties, limited warranties, or warranty disclaimers? We all do in the case of expensive products and products bought from stores without liberal return policies (ever try returning a Ford to the Ford dealer?). But, for the first 30 days (or whatever the particular store's policy is) after purchase, if there's a problem.....dump the product on the return desk of wherever you bought it.

DON'T BUY WHAT IT SAYS ON THE NOTICE IN THE BOX.

Editor's Note: Smith reports that he wrote the above at the Tim Hortons in the Walmart on Strachan Rd. in Medicine Hat. Bob says, "My Tim Bits ....1/2 Apple Fritter and 1/2 Dutchie... too much sugar for my liver but at least they weren't imported from China."
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THINKING BACK (renamed, because I have no confidence in my spelling of the word "reminiscing") .....by Bob Smith 
Friday, April 5, 2013, 09:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
I was talking to my niece, Caitlin Boylan, this evening, about her brother, my nephew, having to write a family history. He had sent me an email asking me about his mother, when she was younger. I suggested he call me on the phone. So far, no call.

Here is a story I might tell him.

Once upon a time North of Boulder, Colorado, I was riding with his mother in my blueish-green Ford Econoline van. It was the first car I ever owned. I bought it with $1,500 bribed from my parents when I suggested to my mother that I might stay for a second year of college...if I had a car. The Econoline had two seats in front, a three-on-a-tree manual transmission (the shifter jutted out of the steering column) and a platform bed in back---a pretty good job of platform bed construction, likely the handiwork of the van's original owner.

It was the summer of '71 or '72 and my sister had decided to take some summer courses at the University of Colorado at the same time I had decided to spend the summer living 30 miles South, in Denver. I had driven North from Denver to pick her up for a day trip and we were driving towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park which begins on the edge of Estes. Since it was the 70's, we were smoking a joint.

A few miles North of Boulder I saw the blue lights of a Colorado Highway Patrol car in my side view mirror. I pulled over. In keeping with Standard-Operating-Procedure in the 70's for traffic stops while your car smelled of pot, I exited the van and walked back to the van's rear bumper to wait for the trooper.

So, here I was...a teenager (I was 17) with shoulder length hair who smelled of pot...waiting by the bumper of his pot-smoke-filled van for the Colorado State Police. I do not remember being nervous.

After a moment, the trooper...looking very tall and stern... walked over and said to me...in a serious tone: "You need to take the FOR SALE sign out of the van's rear window. You're not allowed to block your view to the rear with a FOR SALE sign." Now, though it requires that I dredge back into the far-long-ago-never-reaches of my memory, looking backward through the hazy-fog-of-time, it is my firm recollection that I responded as follows:

"Okay."

I got back in the van, hunched under the low roof and shuffled to the back and took the FOR SALE sign out of the window. Then, my sister and I continued our drive to Estes and the park.

These day, police go to police school to learn how to turn a traffic stop into an arrest. The driver is instructed to stay in the car so the cop has an excuse to come up to the driver's window and can look for contraband in the car....search within the driver's arm's reach for weapons....demand IDs from the passengers to run them for arrest warrants. Cops learn that a traffic stop is the opportunity to solve a larger crime and to arrest big criminals.

Back the 70's traffic stops were about something else...like giving traffic tickets. Or, for the trooper who stopped me North of Boulder, getting me to take the FOR SALE sign out of the van's window.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now makes his home a few hundred miles North of Boulder, in Northern Wyoming. He writes for the blog mostly from one of the 9 Tim Hortons Donut shops in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
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I AM NOT THE ARBITER OF GOOD TASTE.........by Jesus Rabinowtiz 
Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 01:31 PM
Posted by Administrator
So, there I was, innocently writing an email that had the word "lawyer" in it. Also, it had the word "attorney".

Suddenly, I looked up and, at the top of my computer screen, there was a line across the top that I had never seen before. Across the line it read: "SMITH AND JONES. We eat bad lawyers for breakfast. It's time to eat." (Editor's Note: The law firm name: SMITH AND JONES is made up ....and, not very imaginatively.)

I clicked on the line and was delivered by the miracle of the world-wide-web to the SMITH AND JONES website where the first picture was one of SMITH, a man who I have known for 25 years. The next picture was of SMITH, along with Jones (who I do not know) and behind each was a well-dressed, attractive woman. I would have supposed that the women were their secretaries and were not just models posing behind them to support the evident truth that "Behind every successful man is a good woman." But, I did not have to suppose this because behind SMITH was my daughter's-friend's-mother who is, in fact, SMITH'S secretary.

I certainly agree that in this county full of lawyer TV ads; bus bench ads; back of bus ads; billboards; top of taxi-cab ads; and radio ads (friends of mine here recently from New York---a bastion of bad taste---commented at their amazement at the amount of lawyer advertising that goes on here)...lawyers on a budget have to advertise somewhere. And, internet ads that appear on email sites keying off the contents of the users emails seem like a reasonable place to start. (Though an awfully intrusive place---especially for lawyers who ought to be promoting things like privacy and confidentiality).

But, in any event, do these lawyers have to "eat bad lawyers"? Can't they just be good lawyers themselves and "beat" bad lawyers?Couldn't they "try hard and get good results"; be "experienced and eager"; "aggressive and fair"; "well funded but hungry"; "young and energetic"; "well dressed and well mannered"; "professional and proficient"?

I'm not sticking up for bad lawyers but why would you interrupt my email writing to say that you want to eat them?


Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz continues to work on his second book, THE DAY BEGAN QUITE WELL, from his home East of Jacksonville. He learned from the episode above to avoid using the internet while visiting South Florida.

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ABD90J 
Friday, February 22, 2013, 07:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
ABD90J might have been the license tag number of the woman I almost met this evening while she was driving a gold Taurus (or Sebring), possibly drunk and certainly irate, through Riviera Beach. I was innocently driving the other businesses 2 stroke Kymco 50cc scooter North on Australian Ave on my way home. Another two wheeler driver, some guy on a cruiser-bike, had just blasted past, swerved clumsily around a car 100' ahead of me (cruisers are not good swervers), stopped for a red light in the left turn lane and then, when the light changed, blasted in front of the waiting cars---heading straight down the road.

I noticed that the car to my rear was following just a few feet behind my scooter. The Kymco tops out at around 47mph so I wasn't holding anybody up (which can happen on slower scooters). I turned around to glare at the tailgater (or at least, try to glare.... past my helmet, with glasses on, at night). As traffic slowed for another red light, the tailgater began to move to the right to pass me, then appeared to decide that moving to the other lane was too much trouble, and pulled along side of me---in my lane----giving me the impression that she wanted to squeeze me into the far left part of the lane, next to the curb...or, maybe, squeeze me right into the curb. The tailgater stopped with the driver's door 2 or 3 feet to my right.

"Get the fuck out of my way", the driver angrily said to me out of the open window of the car. She was a small, thirty-ish woman with bleached-brown/red hair. She had a 3/4 smoked cigarette clamped between her thin, lipsticked lips. Her face was shiny. She furrowed her forehead as she spoke.

The light changed. She drove ahead of me. I followed. I thought she was probably drunk. "Maybe I'll see a cop.", I thought to myself and, a moment later, I saw a Sheriff's car in the left lane, headed the opposite direction, getting read to turn left. I pulled up along side the Sheriff's car using the median to shield me from traffic.

"ABD90J", I said. I had been repeating the license number in my head so I wouldn't forget it. I figured he would write it down. He didn't. I repeated the number...I realized he wasn't going to write it down but I still thought I should try to remember it.

"A woman tried to run me off the road. I think she's drunk." I said. "I'll radio someone down the road", he said. But, he didn't move towards his radio. Then, he said "I'll see if I can turn around." It didn't seem that it would be that hard to make a u-turn in a police car from the left lane of a four lane road so I wondered why he doubted his ability.

He did make the turn and we drove for a while looking for ABD90J. But, ABD90J was gone. She had turned into a sidestreet, gotten so far ahead of us that she'd made the light on Blue Heron, or exploded in her own anger into a cloud of invisible stardust.....maybe all three.

The Deputy was behind me. I shrugged my shoulders and waved to him as I turned left onto Blue Heron and headed home.

What is the reason that people insist on driving around in cars and not bicycles or scooters or motorcycles----especially at night during rush hour? I can't remember.
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THE PRICE OF THINGS 
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 10:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
For years, I have believed that the decision whether or not to file bankruptcy...for people with good credit but lots of debt....revolved around the price of their good credit. The price of good credit (for those who've got it) is easy to figure: monthly interest on debt X 12 months. For example, if you owe $20,000 in credit card debt and the average interest rate is 18% then you are paying $3,600 per year...$300 per month to keep your credit cards from going in the hole. This amount is exclusive of the amount you've got to send each month to pay down the debt. And paying down debt has become more important in the past year or two as how much you owe (relative to your credit limit) has become a more important part of your credit rating.

So, is it worth $300++ per month to keep good credit. Or, would you be better off spending $4,000 every year on a trip to Hawaii. Pay the money, keep your credit but forgo the trip. The Hawaii trip (for those who like far off middle-of-the-Pacific islands) is the cost of keeping good credit. Alternatively, (assuming you can) file bankruptcy, wreck your credit, but surf the giants. (Editor's Note: The blog does not suggest...regardless of your credit...that the only giants to be surfed are in Hawaii. The blog notes, for example, Mavericks...which is somewhere off the coast of Northern California, South of S.F.).

There are costs to everything good in life. Credit, cars, trucks, jewelry...even honesty. But, until today...when I sold my silver 2007 Vespa LX150 motor scooter to a kid from Venezuela, I had never quantified the cost of honesty. Here's what happened.

After the kid tried to beat me down on the price ("I've only got $2,400."), then took a $100 bill out of his wallet when I refused to back off $2,500... and after the paperwork was done, the kid started with the usual song and dance of buyers facing sales tax at the Tax Collector's Office when they go Monday morning to register their new/used car, truck, boat, scooter. "Just sign the title and leave it blank.", he said. "Make the mileage lower then it actually is." (I never understood the idea with this one). "I'll write in the amount I paid." I told him the tax people will check. "They don't check with scooters.", he said.

I sell things from time to time and I never understand why buyers want to involve me in their conspiracy to defraud the tax people but they always do. I handed him the title. I'd written in $2,500 for the price...which is what it was.

But, a few minutes later, when I handed him the key, I gave him $40. Why I felt obliged to give him money to make up for his unhappiness at having to pay the actual sales tax due, I do not know. But, on the other hand, at least I discovered the price of honesty.

It's forty bucks.
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THINGS I WILL NOT DO.....by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Saturday, January 19, 2013, 08:57 AM
Posted by Administrator
Recently, a man came to see me about a divorce. I asked him why he wanted one. I didn't ask because I was interested in knowing about his personal life or because I thought that finding out the reason behind his failed marriage might provide entertaining fodder for the book I am writing, I asked so that I could perhaps get some insight into:
-How his wife thinks.
-Whether something was going on that could impact the divorce, for example, adultery-alimony; sleeping around-time sharing with the kids; taking expensive solo vacations-equitible distribution of property, etc.
-Whether something was going on that would affect the timing of the divorce, for example, we might be in more of a rush to get it done if he were chomping at the bit to run off with someone else.

Here was his answer: "I love my wife but her best friend is going to get deported."
So, he wanted to divorce his wife and marry his wife's best friend to keep her in the country.

While I am personally fine with letting everyone in the country---after all, the government let in my grandparents back around the turn of the century----I am sort of against perpetrating a fraud on the government. To marry the best friend, the man would have to get a divorce. To get divorced in Florida, your marriage has to be "irretrievably broken". It didn't seem to me that this mans' marriage was broken at all. So, the required in-court testimony that the marriage was irretrievably broken would be perjury (though, I admit I am a simple man and maybe it wouldn't be a lie at all---just a strange way of fun'in with the Court).

And (though I imagine the Feds have better things to do than to pursue a dumb lawyer for getting in the middle of this), if I helped the man get a divorce so that he could illicitly marry the best friend++...knowing his plan...wouldn't I be part of a conspiracy to commit immigration fraud? I think so.

After I told the man that I wasn't going to get involved, he asked me for a referral to another lawyer. I told him "no". My thought at the time was that I wasn't going to intentionally dump this trouble on some other ...perhaps, naive and unsuspecting...lawyer. My thought a second later was the whole being "part of the conspiracy thing" that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.


I don't want to be preachy but it's a dangerous legal world out there. When your kid gets asked by a classmate "Do you know anybody who sells pot?" and sends the person asking off to the pot dealer----they're part of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. When the marijuana is a pain pill, there could be a 20 year mandatory minimum in prison attached to the referral.

And, the asker could be working for the cops. Lots of people get arrested and are turned into informants and plants and secret agents so that their own criminal cases get a better result. The best and quickest way to make your police handlers happy and to get others arrested is to solicit crimes. Don't wait for crime to happen and rat out the perpetrator........ask your friends and people you know to become criminals.

Do I think the man who wanted a divorce worked for the cops? No.
Do I think the person who asks her friend at school where to buy pain pills does? Probably.

Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz writes (and, if the above is any example, rambles) for the blog from his home East of Jacksonville, Florida.

++ Marriage happens when two of age, mentally competent people...in possession of a marriage license....more or less simultaneously express their desire to be married to each other in front of someone with the legal authority (judge, minister, notary public) to declare them to be married....and to sign the marriage license. EXCEPT that a "marriage" entered into for the purpose of adjusting someone's immigration status doesn't count as a real marriage. (Also, on the subject of adjusting immigration status....with some exceptions, if the non-resident is in the US illegally, they will have to leave the country to pick up their papers and they may not be allowed back into the US for ten years.)
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YELLING, SCREAMING AND CARRYING ON......by Steve Duhl 
Monday, September 24, 2012, 07:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
Recently, a good friend of mine volunteered me to be his corporate lawyer. Like so many people, he was having a problem with a man who owned an apple orchard making claim that my friend owed him for 30 bales of hay the man said he bought because the ground was wet from recent rains. Were it not for the hay, my friend's catering tents would have collapsed when the tent poles gave way or when the tent stakes lost their hold or wedding guests would have been dancing in mud.........or something. The orchard owner said my friend owed him $240 for the hay. I got off the phone believing my friend should pay the $240. I believed that the man did buy hay and that it was not unreasonable to buy it and that my friend benefitted from the hay.

This exact dispute probably happens ten times a day when caterers rent land from apple growers to put up wedding tents and it rains a lot.

Anyway, the apple grower called me and we got along fine. Just because there is a dispute, doesn't mean you've got to act like an ass. So, I was very surprised when the man's lawyer called me 20 minutes later. (Note that when we spoke, he never even implied he had a lawyer. Had he, I would have followed the rule that says lawyers can't speak to represented parties about the matter in dispute.) This is how the conversation went.

Me: You know that this whole thing is about $240.
Apple lawyer: (YELLING) IT'S NOT ABOUT THAT AT ALL. YOUR CLIENT IS GOING AROUND TOWN TELLING LIES ABOUT MY CLIENT AND YOU'D BETTER TELL HIM TO STOP.

...there was more...the apple lawyer's yelling went on until he finally hung up on me. I didn't yell back because...what was I going to say? And how would I say it loud enough to drown him out? Also, he seemed a little worked up and it is tough to reason with worked up lawyers. The lawyer was...it seemed...taking the hay dispute more personally than his client was.

Before, during and after the apple lawyer's phone call, my advice to my friend was: Pay him the $240. "Don't give the money to the lawyer," I said "that will just show the orchard owner that if he calls his crazy, yelling lawyer he'll get what he wants." I always advise my clients not to encourage bad behavior.

I believe the apple lawyer yelled at me because that is what he thought lawyers did. All of this happened a couple of hours North of a big City. It is my belief and experience that big City lawyers are calm and courteous and don't take disputes personally....even when they involve hay. But, it is also my belief that upstate lawyers probably believe that bit City lawyers are mean and tough and screaming and intimidating. And, because they feel the big City lawyers are at the top of the heap of lawyerdom, they are likely to yell and scream and do their best imitation of what they perceive a big City lawyer would do. Even though the big City lawyer wouldn't.

I'm not saying that lawyers here don't yell and scream at each other. But, I don't think things start out that way. (Even if it involves hay.)
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CASES THAT WILL NEVER SETTLE 
Saturday, September 15, 2012, 10:25 AM
Posted by Administrator
Most lawsuits.....divorces, injury cases, contract claims......settle our of court and without a trial. Settlement is cheaper, quicker, and doesn't have the high-blood-pressure element of surprise when the judge or jury comes back with some decision that makes no sense at all (to you...it makes perfect sense to the party on the other side).

But, some lawsuits can't settle. Here is why:

A tall man with three gold teeth walks into a lawyers' office with papers he's just been served. His wife is suing him for divorce. She has the house, the Jaguar, and the family dog. He left the house with nothing but one set of clothes and an insulated coffee mug.

Along with the Petition and the Summons he's just been handed is a letter from his wife's lawyer. The letter says: "Your wife is willing to keep what she's got and settle the case right now if you don't ask for anything back."

The lawyer should tell the man to agree to the wife's deal: He makes a lot more money then she does; it is a long term marriage; there isn't much equity in the house; Jaguar's break down.... But, the lawyer has bills to pay and places to travel to, so, instead, he tells the man "Your wife isn't entitled to anything, you hire me and I'll take are of it."

When the parties go to court ordered mediation, the Wife repeats her offer. But, the husband's lawyer has got to produce something to justify his fee and to justify his teling his client to fight.

So, the case will never settle. Eventually, it will go to trial and some judge somewhere will be the one to tell the man the bad news. ...that he'll be paying her alimony for the rest of his life. The man's lawyer will say "That judge is an idiot. You were railroaded. We need to appeal to a higher court." Of course, appeals aren't free, either.



Note: A lot of lawyers---maybe even the vast majority--- would have told the man "Take her deal or you're an idiot."
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CAN I BUY YOUR HOUSE FOR A THOUSAND BUCKS?.....by Steve Duhl 
Friday, September 7, 2012, 02:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
A lot of people tell me that they don't own their house---the bank does. While this is poetic, it is not the truth. Whether or not you've got a mortgage, you own your house. The bank may be able to foreclose the mortgage and get the Clerk of Court to sell your house at public sale, but, in the meantime, it is your house.

You may not want your house. For example, if you own a condominium...and you don't live there....you don't really want to have to pay the Homeowner's Association their monthly maintenance. But, it remains your responsibility to pay for as long as you are the owner. And a bankruptcy won't get you out of this liability (at least for the maintainence that accrued after the bankruptcy was filed).

On the other hand, in the middle of not paying your mortgage, you can rent your house out and keep the rental money (at least until there is a Court order to the contrary). You could sell the house without paying off the mortgage...as long as the buyer knew about the mortgage and the buyer knew that he/she could only keep the house until the mortgagee foreclosed. I know someone who moved into his house in Boca after he bought out the Homeowner's Association's interest at the HOA's foreclosure sale (the owner didn't pay monthly maintence). There is still a mortgage on the house...and he isn't paying it. One day, the mortgagee might foreclosue and one day he'll probably have to move out. But living in a house in Boca...rent free...for three years on a $1,500 investment is not a shabby deal.

If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy....and you own a house...and you don't want to pay for it....be careful about what you claim in your Bankruptcy Petition. Make a mistake and the bankruptcy will get you debt-free...but you wil be living in your uncle's garage.

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DEBTOR'S PRISON...by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 08:25 PM
Posted by Administrator
You cannot go to jail merely for owing money to a creditor unless you live in...for instance...Saudi Arabia. Really, lots of countries do have debtor's prison. Here in the US, we don't. You can go to jail for not paying some things:
-Money you owe as part of probation on a criminal charge.
-Money you owe for child support or alimony.
But, you can't go to jail for owing Bank of America or Sears or CitiBank or your lawyer (though we're working to change that last one).

On the other hand, as a consequence of owing money, you can go to jail IF YOU TRY HARD ENOUGH. Here is what you need to do:
1) Owe money.
2) Get sued.
3) Lose the lawsuit and have a judgment entered.
4) Ignore the deadline to give financial information to the judgment creditor (or ignore that you have been served with papers to appear for a deposition to give testimony about your assets).
5) Ignore the Order requiring you to go to court and explain to the Judge why you didn't do what you were supposed to do. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO MISS THE DEADLINE...YOU WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE JUDGE ISSUES AN ORDER REQUIRING YOU TO EXPLAIN WHY YOU MISSED IT AND IGNORE THAT TOO.

At any time, you could do the paperwork (or sit for the deposition) and that would take care of things. But, if you wonder whether you can go to jail for ignoring court orders, here is the answer: YES. The local courts can tell the Sheriff to pick you up and keep you until you do what you were ordered to do. A Federal Judge has got the US Marshals.

HERE IS SOMETHING SURPRISING. You can probably get out of it by filing for bankruptcy. But...please don't let it go that far.



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'TIS THE SEASON.... NOT TO GIVE AWAY YOUR 2012 TAX REFUND......by Bob Smith 
Monday, July 2, 2012, 02:40 PM
Posted by Administrator
Tax refunds are great. I used last year's refund to buy a lever action .22 rifle and a GPS ...so that I could stand in the exact spot where Northern Wyoming and Canada meet and shoot at Canadian rabbits from the American side.

I missed.

But, do you really want a refund? Sure...if you've got plans to go to Hawaii. Not so much if you are going to file bankruptcy, because, if you file towards the end of the year....or before you get and spend your refund (in some legitimate way like fixing your roof or your teeth)...you may lose it to the Court-appointed Trustee. (Note that some portion of your refund may be exempt under bankruptcy law because it is in the nature of welfare for your kids.........so they can come with you to Hawaii.)

If you owe back child support, your State may take your refund. Of course, you should support your kids and you are a schmuck if you don't pay your child support. Still, even schmucks have rights....just not as many of them as nice people do.

Should you go to your personnel department, the person who writes your payroll, or whoever figures your deductions and tell them you have more kids then you thought you did???? Increase your exemptions to make sure any entitlement you had to a refund will disappear by year's end? Is it legal to fix it so the IRS doesn't hold on to your money until next February or March or November?

I have no idea.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes from his home in Northern Wyoming or from his favorite table at the Tim Horton's Donuts in Medicine Hat (2355 Trans Canada Way in Alberta....there are, of course, several Tim Horton locationsin Medicine Hat.)


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THE END OF THE HANDSHAKE.........by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 12:27 PM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday, I thought I had my step-daughter's junky Monte Carlo sold for $1,200. Three men...two very large and one medium size...had come. The medium size man...after they'd started the engine and poked around the car...came over to me and said "So,we have a deal." He extended his hand to me. I said "$1,200." He said "Yes.". We shook.

Later in the day, the three men came back. This time, they brought two young girls----kids----around 3 and 5 years old. I thought the medium size man with whom I had the handshake deal would pay me and, like he said he would do, have the car towed away.

Instead, he took out a big gas can. "Do you have a funnel?", he asked. I brought him a funnel. They ran the car. "Do you have any automatic transmission fluid?", he asked. I didn't.

I said: "I thought you were going to pay me and have the car towed away." He said "You didn't tell me the transmission didn't work." I said "I didn't tell you anything about the transmission. You said you were going to have it towed. The ad says that the car runs but does not drive." "Well," he said "how do you expect me to get it home."

I did not say: "I expect you to have it towed like you said you were going to back when we made the handshake deal at $1,200."
What was the point? After 57 years of making handshake deals that ALWAYS were honored (I assume I was making them in the cradle), the handshake deal was dead. Was the medium size man dishonest? Had he never heard that "A deal is a deal."?

Probably not......he and his friends were just wastes of time.
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THINGS I DO NOT OWN..........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 10:24 AM
Posted by Administrator
Though I believe (after some research) that I am the only Steven Duhl and, certainly, I am the only steveduhl website....still, I don't own my name. Well, I think I may own steveduhl.net. But, I know I don't own steveduhl.com. That name is owned by my original website designer who has, I believe, forgotten the secret code that would allow me to pay the company that REALLY owns my name. Dotster? Mobster? somethingSTER.

So, steveduhl.com will expire. After a while, it will go back up for sale. Then, I could buy it.

Or, YOU could buy it. ...if you buy it, I hope you will use it to peddle something socially useful----renewable engergy or a cover for the hole in the ozone layer-----or, twizzlers.

In the meantime, you can find me at steveduhl.net Or, better yet, just visit steveduh.com or stevedahl.com Yes, there is a steve duh and a stevedahl. And, they are probably smart enough to have made sure that they own their names. Actually, Dahl will probably buy mine.
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WE'VE STREAMLINED THE HOME PAGE....by Steve Duhl 
Friday, May 11, 2012, 10:05 PM
Posted by Administrator
As part of our effort to combat excessive wordiness, we've streamlined our home page. If anyone has suggestions on how we might decrease the wordiness further, please let us know.
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Oh..............Canada................by Steve Duhl 
Saturday, May 5, 2012, 03:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
The never-completed scooterpalmbeach.com website...which was intended to put iscootpalmbeach into the ecommence business...selling ebikes with payment through PayPal....got it's first order! This is the story of why we cancelled it.

PayPal notified us of the order but said the address couldn't be confirmed so they weren't necessarily going to pay us back if the credit card was bogus. I googled the address and saw that it belonged to a Maine customs company on the other side of the river from Canada. I emailed the customer...who turned out to be from New Brunswick... and told him that we weren't going to ship there. He offered to wire me the money.

I emailed the ebike supplier, ejoe. They said "We won't ship to Canada." The buyer asked me why they won't sell to Canada. I said "Maybe lawsuits." but, really I did not know. (Later, the company told me "We don't even have the bike.")

I offered up a used bike and the buyer's response, more or less, was this:

'I looked at Canadian electric bike import regulations and it seems that the bike will make it through customs,but, if it does't, will you give me my money back.'

Suddenly, I saw it!........Oh..so,that's why they don't sell to Canada.


Note: iScootPalmBeach's ecommerce website came down, today, at its attorney's insistence.
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RELEASES AND DIVERS WHO BREAK THEIR ANKLES....the conclusion.. 
Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 10:18 AM
Posted by Administrator
To briefly recap: client signs Release before getting on dive boat and the breaks her ankle exiting boat when she gets it caught in the slats of the boat's dive platform. And, in my mind, the dive boat's owner was negligent in having that type of platform because it was sized perfectly for diver's swim fins to get caught as they took their last step off the boat and plunged into the deep.

But, the trial court judge threw the case out because the client had signed that Release and the Release operated to absolve the dive boat operator of liability for her injuries...whether or not the injuries were his...his company's...or the boat's fault. I had thought...because of what my father (the boy's clothing buyer) had told me before I skated at Hall's pond...that Releases had no effect. "Of course you couldn't have someone sign away their right to sue obvious negligence...that would just encourage uncaring, bad behavior", I thought.

I did research.... Nothing. I called a lawyer I know who was doing a lot of admiralty (maritime) law to see if the fact that the accident took place in navigable waters...on the high seas...would make a different. "No.", he said. "You're screwed."

So, after we were thrown out by the trial court, I filed an appeal with the local Court of Appeals. I did not yet know exactly the grounds for the appeal...but there had to be somegrounds...right?


The Appeals Court...was making litigants go to mediation at the beginning of their appal to try to settle so that the Appeals Judges would have less work to do. The Defendants offered $10,000.

We took it.

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CREATING A MEMORY REFRESHER.....by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Friday, April 20, 2012, 02:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
Sometimes, it is a good idea to take notes...near to the time that the incident you are taking notes about happened....to refresh your recollection if, for instance, you sue and years later find yourself testifying. "Do you remember exactly what happened?", your lawyer will ask. "No.", you will say. "Do you have anything that will refresh your recollection?" "Yes, these notes I took right after it happened." The Court will let you look at your notes. The notes might read:

-2:22PM, Thursday, April 20, 2012. A's Jeep running poorly. Told B @ X repair shop that Advanced Auto's computer showed a bad distributor and reminded B that they had just replaced the distributor. Left car w/B @8:30AM. @1:32, B called and said it was fuel pump. Part cost $450 but w/labor would be under $500. B said couldn't cut part cost 'cause markup only 10-15% but wld "work w/me" on labor. Went to Advanced Auto. Told pump cost approx. $210. Went to mechanic OC, told his part cost was $193. OC & I agreed pump cld explain hard start but not rough idle. Really, OC had tested codes on 4/19 and said showed distributor....(I lied to B about who ran test so he wldn't think I was mechanic shopping. Had called B @ 1:46 and said I'd texted A who said she had no $ and would live w/Jeep as it is....also lie...had told B that we wld pick up car.) When I told B that A's friends had replaced pump, he said probably only pump and no "pump assembly". I confirmed with both Advanced and OC that pump price included everything usually installed w/pump replacement. Returned to office from OC @ 2:19.-

Get dates of phone calls from your phone. Write them down. Judges are impresed when someone knows the time that something happened. Remember exactly what was said? Write it down. Be upfront about white lies you told to spare feelings...or to avoid being unduly confrontational.

And make your notes as soon as you can because your memory will fade quickly

B's memory about his plan to make more money from A's car may fade ... Mine won't.

Note: Here's another example...

At 5:17, B called and left a message on my cellphone voicemail..."I found a cheaper pump.".......5:27PM 4-20

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HALLS POND.........continued from below 
Thursday, April 19, 2012, 01:51 PM
Posted by Administrator
THE SCUBA DIVER was a woman from slightly upstate New York who went out on a dive boat out of the Riviera Beach Marina. The boat was the usual thing....a large, open deck with racks for scuba gear; a small cabin ...where the head probably was; and a flybridge up above the deck from where the Captain ran things. Attached to the stern and accessible through a small door in the transom was a large "swim platform". The divers were instructeed to don their equipment on deck...including swim fins. Then, to walk through the transom door onto the platform and then walk off the end of the platform and take a big final step into the water.

The platform was made of strips of wood about 2" in width staggered in a grid so that the wood alternated with open space. The openings let water flood the platform as the boat's stern came down in the water and let water drain quickly when a swell pick the stern up in the air. A moment before my (future) client took her final step into the water, her swim fin caught in the space between two strips of wood and, as her body continued forward, her ankle snapped...a victim of that law of physics that says "A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force." For my client, the body in motion was.....her body....while the body at rest was...for the moment before her ankel snapped... her foot.

Before my client had stepped onto the boat (and, after a car trip across the state from Tampa), the boat operator asked her to sign a Release that said, more or less...."You can't sue us for damages if you are injured, even if the injury was the result of our negligence."

Of course, we did the obvious: we filed suit.

To be continued.



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HALLS POND..........by Steve Duhl 
Saturday, April 14, 2012, 11:13 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I was a kid growing up on a large island, slightly off the coast of New York, called "Long", we lived a few miles from a pond called Hall's Pond and...because this was before "global warming", the pond froze solid every winter. Or, was it frozen solid? Who knew?

Near the pond was a sign that said "SKATE AT YOUR OWN RISK" and, anticipating my future profession---I guess, I remember asking my father at a very young age (for both of us, looking back) "What does the sign mean?" And my father said, more or less, "They want you to think that if you fall through the ice and hurt yourself or die, that you can't sue the county but, really, you can." And so based upon my father's legal analysis (he was a buyer of boy's clothing for department stores), I concluded that Releases were of no effect.

So, I thought, if I signed a piece of paper relieving the go-kart guy from liability for injuries caused to me while I was careening his go-kart wildly across his go-kart track...I could sue him anyway if I were injured. And, if I walked past a sign marking the edge of a ski trail that said "SKI AT YOUR OWN RISK"...and I busted a leg because there was a stump the ski area operator should have discovered...I could dump a lawsuit on the ski area like it was nobody's business.


Later in life, I went to law school-----where Releases were not mentioned while I was paying attention (I did very well in law school, so that was most of the time). Later than that, I started lawyering...which is when you beign to actually learn stuff.


One day, I got a call from a woman who broke her ankle stepping off of a dive boat out of the Riviera Beach Marina.

To be coninued.......NOTE: As I was writing this, two men came in with copies of a tourist magazine iScootPalmBeach is advertising in . One of them told me that he was the marketing director for an Orlando "indoor skydiving" attraction (you "fly" in a plexiglass vacumne tube). He began telling me the states and countries that visitors to the vacume tube came from. I was asked him how he knew. He said "Everyone has to sign a release and we get their zip code when they do." I showed him this blog entry and said "I was writing this when you walked in."
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VENUE...........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, February 23, 2012, 11:40 AM
Posted by Administrator
The Professional Association (a version of a corporation) got a letter the other day from a collection agency. The collector claimed that we owed their client $900. Their client was ATT Advertising with which I have had a continuing dispute........I say they didn't give me what I was contractually entitled to. From what I can gather, ATT says (or, at least, implies) 'We're bigger than you, we can do what we want.' Really, they've agreed I owe nothing....but, corporate minds change (I guess).

This situation got me thinking about the contract. Not the attorney's fees provision that says that if we don't pay, they get their (presumably enormous) fees for collecting from us (the flip side if that, if they lose, we get our fees from them)... but, the VENUE provision of the contract that says, more or less: ALL LAWSUITS UNDER THIS CONTRACT WILL TAKE PLACE IN ALASKA. ..or whatever State they chose. After all, they wrote the contract and they didn't write it with an eye to making it easy for us to sue them. They want to make it easy for them to sue us.

Companies almost always limit lawsuits to a location of their choice. iScootPalmBeach (the scooter/electric bike company in which the writer has an interest)chooses Palm Beach County as venue for any lawsuits in it's contract. "Venue" is, simply, where the lawsuit is going to be. If a party to a contract filed a a lawsuit in S. Dakota and the contract says venue is Hawaii, the S. Dakota judge---when he or she is asked--will dismiss the case with instructions to the Plaintiff to pack a surfboard.

It is awfully, awfully inconvenient and expensive to have to sue or defend in some far off place. Still, we sign contracts every day agreeing to do exactly that.

I'm hoping ATTs' contract sets venue in Aspen, Colorado------something has to get me skiing again.
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BLACKMAIL..........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, February 9, 2012, 11:58 AM
Posted by Administrator
I hope you have seen the TV commercial for .xxx ...the commercial where the meek-looking man gets chased by a gang of thugs. The upshot of the ad is that if your business doesn't buy .xxx (along with .com and .net and .org and .co)...someone else will buy the domain and you will be the victim of blackmail. The Ford Motor Company does not want someone to open a site called ford.xxx The whole triple X thing means porn....not nice 4 door cars for happy families. So, the owner of ford.xxx could put porn on the site and then call Ford and say: "You need to pay me to close the site down." It was surprising to see a TV commercial that amounted to blackmail, but, there it was.

Really, though, it's not blackmail unless the blackmailer is threatening illegal/immoral/or unethical activity if you don't pay/obey/desist from doing something. There is nothing wrong with my saying, for example, I will say nice things about your business on my blog if you give me a discount on the product I am about to buy. Or, that I will write a truthful piece commenting about how you did me wrong if you don't fix it. Though, it would be blackmail to say: "I'll trash your company if you don't pay me money not to."

For example, I believe that in my other business I am being overcharged for a product. I have told the seller that if they reduce the price, I will write something nice about the product on that other company's blog.

Note: There will never be a steveduhl.xxx ...maybe, if I was younger.
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PUTTING A VALUE ON STUFF.........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 06:49 AM
Posted by Administrator
Filing bankruptcy requires the filer (debtor) to value their own property...reasonably and honestly. Divorce requries the same thing...so do loan applications and college financial aid applications. Here are some guidelines:
-Usually, the question is what you could sell it for...not what you bought it for. You are not a used furniture dealer---though you do have a front lawn ready for a yard sale. What would someone pay? Depressing that the couch you paid $2,000 for is likely worth $200 on your front lawn? Nobody says you have to sell it.
-For popular cars and trucks, look at what people are BIDDING on ebay. Not what sellers are asking but what is being bid in by prospective buyers towards the end of the auction. Your stuff is worth exactly what you can find someone to pay for it.
-Small businesses usually have two possible values: A higher value if the "goodwill" goes with it---that is, if you introduce the buyer of your pool business to your customers ("My cousin, Tony, from Staten Island is taking over the business because I'm moving to Tahiti---Tony was always better than me, you'll love him.") and a lower value if you are going to walk away and let your customers pools go green with algae. In a forced sale, you will walk away. Will there even be a business in a few days?
-Houses are worth what your neighbors sold for; stocks are worth what the market says they are...at the moment you sell; your dog is worth $1. Sentimental value doesn't count because it is your sentiment---not the sentiment of the prospective buyer.

Of course, it doesn't really matter what you have. You can't take it with you. And, nobody really cares what you've got...except the courts, the spouse who is divorcing you, your creditors...and the people next door.
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AFTER YOUR HANDS ARE RIPPED FROM THE STEERING WHEEL....by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 04:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
At the moment your hands are ripped from your car's steering wheel from the impact of the '96 Jeep Cherokee smashing into the passenger side door, you will probably not be thinking:

-People who drive '96 Jeep Cherokees probably don't have very good insurance so I should have bought...

-Collision insurance so my insurance would pay for the cost of repairing/replacing my car...

-Some uninsured motorist insurance (UM) so that my insurance would (in effect) pretend that they were the bum that hit me and pay me some money as if he actually did have good insurance...

-And, I regret that I bought my PIP (the thing where your own car insurance company pays your medical bills without regard to whose fault the accident is) with a deductible (even though my insurance agent made extra commission by selling me PIP with a deductible...and I want my agent to make LOTS of money) because ...unless I take an ambulance to the hospital...I might find it hard to find a doctor to treat me (unless I pay cash or have health insurance) until the deductible is used up.

But, in the split second after the impact, you probably WILL be thinking...

-I regret that I was hit by a '96 Jeep Cherokee.... because, in spite of my injuries, my life and future monetary prospects would have been more hopeful if I'd gotten hit by a Bentley or a Ferrari or even a nice, new Porsche.

..and in Palm Beach County (unlike the rest of the world) we've got plenty of those.

...as well of plenty of people who drive around with crappy insurance.

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WHY DO I HAVE TO TALK TO YOU?...by Steve Duhl 
Monday, January 9, 2012, 11:52 PM
Posted by Administrator
Clients complain that collection agents call and harass them. Their ex wife/husband calls and drives them crazy. "How can that be?", I ask, "Why would you speak to them?"

There seems to be a reluctance to hang up on rude people, a reluctance to not answer the phone when someone you have no interest in talking to calls. I don't know why. Politeness? Why be polite to someone who wants to annoy you? A cultural imperative to speak on the phone to whoever calls? I missed the day they taught us to do that.

And, why do I need to talk to lawyers who claim to know of their own personal knowledge that their clients version of what happened is 100% accurate whereas what my client is telling me is a bunch of total crap. Why do I need to talk to lawyers who want to argue that they are right. Why can't I just say "Goodbye" and hang up.

All phones have buttons that are intended to be used to cut off the connection. The red button on your cell phone. The white button in the cradle of a home phone that automatically shuts off the connection when you put the phone back in the cradle. I say...these disconnect buttons are there for a reason. Let's use them if we are on the phone with someone we aren't in the mood to deal with.

I undertand that there are people who believe we are obligated to talk to them on the phone whether or not we want to. That we are obligated to be pleasant and polite and accepting of what they say.

I say...speak on the phone with your friends...hang up on people you don't like (that's why the disconnect button is there). If someone you don't want to talk to calls, hang up..let them send you a letter. Then, throw the letter in the garbage.
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I AM NOT TOO OLD TO LEARN NEW THINGS....by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 08:38 PM
Posted by Administrator
If there is a judgment against you (not just a creditor threatening to sue or someone to whom you owe money), the judgment creditor (who has, I emphasize, already sued you and obtained a judgment) can get a Writ of Garnishment and seize your bank account, take your wages, or otherwise take money that you are owed. This is done behind your back. The judgment creditor doesn't have to tell you that they are going to take your bank account until they serve the Writ and the account is frozen. (If you knew beforehand, you'd take the money out...right?)

There are defenses to Garnishment....wages/head of household/$1,000 worth of car (if the Sheriff "executes" on your car...but you've got to assert the defenses. When you assert the defenses, a hearing gets scheduled. I went to a hearing on my client's "Claim Of Exemptions", this morning. I'd never been to a Claim of Exemptions hearing before.

Really, the creditor's lawyer was quite nice (uncommon among lawyers these days, myself included). Once my client testified that he provided more than 50% of his family's support...because he earned more than his wife; that most of the money in the seized account came from a recent bonus (which Florida law considers exempt wages); and that a lot of the money in the bank account came from his wife's paycheck...and there was no judgment against her....he conceded that the Writ of Garnishment should be dissolved (and the money in the account returned to my client).

Here is the lesson I took away: Like most of lawyering---hearings on Claims of Exemption in Garnishment cases---NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

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I AM HOT..............by Kymco People S250----2009 
Thursday, December 22, 2011, 10:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: The blog will interrupt it's explanation of how to save the US economy (below) for the following news flash:

This morning, the following email was recieved:

Steven Duhl, happy Thursday! I have seen your posting and decided to ask you something important. I am in a relationship and caught my partner cheating on me so I must get even! My cousin said cl (ed. note: Craig's List) would be the best place to find somebody who I can hook up with for one time only so thought what the heck. I would email someone I thought sounded gorgeous in the ad and came across yours! You seem real and enjoyable so would you be maybe interested in chatting online first to see if we're feeling each other? To prove to you that I am real, I uploaded all of my pix, cell #, and a special note for you under my private profile page. Can you text me today if you think I am hot? This way I can weed out bots and scammers as I'm tire of them! I bet you'll be pleased to see who I am! :)

The email was in response to a listing for sale in Craig's List of a 2009 Kymco motor scooter. The picture in the ad was a picture of the scooter. So, I guess "Geri Berryman" (no, NOT the the Geri Berryman you know) likes scooters...a LOT...and thought the scooter was named "Steven Duhl".

Editor's Note: As glib as the above entry is, there is a problem....the Craig's List ad doesn't mention Duhl's name. The ad does say the seller is at "iscootpalmbeach" and "Berryman" could have google that and made it to the iscootpalmbeach website. There is no mention of Duhl there, either. But, Berryman could have clicked on a link to this website or the blog...but are there any? Hmmm.
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LOOK, LET'S BE HONEST...........by Steve Duhl 
Monday, December 19, 2011, 08:41 PM
Posted by Administrator
The immediate result of my announcement that I was going to suspend the blog has been a spike in hits. Well, two can play this game.

To sTop people from visiting the blog once and for all and to ensure that Chicago Radio host Steve Dahl will be the top google/yahoo/etc. result when people are looking for me, I hereby threaten the following:

I WILL NOW WRITE SOLELY ON NON-LEGAL TOPICS. My first entry on the new legalbagel blog will be: HOW TOURISM COULD SAVE THE WORLD'S ECONOMY.

If that doesn't keep people from clicking here, future entries will include: WHY ALL OUR COPS SHOULD BE ALASKA STATE TROOPERS-THAT CANDIDATE DOESN'T SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT, HE SUPPORTS THEIR PENSIONS; WHY THE FUTURE IS IN CANADA AND AUSTRALIA and OTHER GREAT STUFF I'VE THOUGHT OF THAT I CAN'T REMEMBER NOW BECAUSE I'M GETTING OLD AND MY MEMORY IS GOING TO CRAP.

Be there.........or don't.


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THE BLOG SUSPENDS OPERATIONS 
Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 05:06 PM
Posted by Administrator
The blog will suspend operations as of December 14, 2011 as part of an experiment to determine how quickly Chicago radio host Steve Dahl will supplant me as the #1 result for people who google...me.
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NOBODY KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON WITH FORECLOSURES........by Steve Duhl 
Saturday, December 10, 2011, 12:06 PM
Posted by Administrator
I have seen some activity on foreclosures, thought that the mortgagee would finally push towards an end to the case----to throwing out my clients who had not paid a penny on their mortgage in a year-or two-or three----------only to find out that the mortgagee's motiviation was temporary. There was activity for a moment...then...nothing.

I did have some client's move out recently. Here is what happened.

They always wanted to move to be closer to the wife's work. They hadn't paid anything towards the mortgage in a long time. They filed bankruptcy and we thought that once the bankruptcy was over, the mortgagee (that's the bank or other entity that owns the mortgage) would move their foreclosure case forward. The bankruptcy stopped the case once it was filed---and the mortgagee never asked the bankruptcy court for permission to continue the case. Still, the bankruptcy was over---the "stay" on the foreclosure was lifted.

Still......nothing.

Then, they got an offer from the mortgagee to sell the house for far below what they had bought it for...maybe even for less than it was worth, now....and, in exchange for selling and moving out, the mortgaee would give them more than $10,000.

They got the money yesterday. I think they'd moved out a few months ago.
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YOU SOLD IT AND QUEENSBORO DELIVERED IT.......by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, December 8, 2011, 02:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
When seeing bankruptcy clients, I always like to be the 2nd or 3rd lawyer they've seen. Everyone.....except for solid referrals....wants a second opinion and wants to compare price.
To get a second opinion or to compare price, you've got to see at least 2 lawyers.


When they see lawyer #1, they think "He seems nice. I'll go back to this guy unless lawyer #2 is a lot more money". But, when they are at the office of lawyer #2, they think "He is a nice guy. Why spend the time to go back to #1."

This is why I'd like to be #2. For things more complicated than bankruptcy....like litigation (lawsuits), it doesn't matter as much. For complicated things, clients will go back to #1 if he makes more sense than #2. For uncomplicated legal matters----and bankruptcy is a good example of that----all lawyers ought to be giving the same advice.

In my previous life of 30 years ago, when I sold Volkswagens, Frank Simone, the sales manager would say to me after I'd spent a lot of time with a car-buyer prospect: "You sold it but Queensboro is going to deliver it." Queensboro VW was the dealer down the road. Frank knew my prospect just needed to compare us with another dealer before they bought...from the other dealer.

Last Sunday, a local bicycle dealer stopped by at the other business, iScootPalmBeach, and we got to talking. One of his problems was that people would stop by his shop and ride a bike and like it. Then, they would shop the internet for a lower price and have the bike shipped to their door.

They'd bring the unassembled bike to the dealer's shop and he would charge them $75 to put it together. So, he sold it...the internet delivered it.....and then he got stuck making his almost-customer happy with his decision to buy unassembled on the internet. True, he did make $75...so, he'll be out of business next year instead of next month.
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THE SEEDY UNDERBELLY OF REFERRALS.........by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, December 4, 2011, 11:00 AM
Posted by Administrator
As the recession progressed and business slowed, business people and professionals I knew began to suggest that I join a networking group. The manager (now gone) of a bank I frequented wanted me to meet her at 6:00AM to have breakfast with her group. My insurance agent talked to me about his group (though, now that I think about it, there was no offer to join). The idea was this: there would be one lawyer (maybe more, if each had a different specialty), a chiropractor, a banker, a plumbing company owner, a dentist, etc.... The group would meet, more or less, once a week and trade busines ideas. And, anytime a group member had the opportunity, they would refer friends or acquaintances to other group memebers.

So, unless your group was the best of the best at everything, group members would refer to the lawyer or the dentist or whoever based not on qualifications or excellence but merely because they were members of their networking group. Since one hand washes the other, the referrer could expect to get referrals back to them in return.

My insurance agent recommended me to a chiropractor (hand pain...from years of grabbing onto vibrating bicycle handlebars and typing--like I'm doing now). The chiropractor ruled out carpal tunnel and, as he did, he gave me news and information about all of the Jewish lawyers he knew. Now, I am Jewish and I like other Jewish lawyers as much as the next guy but I thought it was kind of a strange topic for gossip. He was probably an okay chiropractor but, I began to think...shouldn't my insurance agent have reffered me to a great chiropractor and not just someone who was in his group and who made referrals to him.

A large part of the lawyer business, for me, is to refer people to lawyers whith a different area of expertise than my own. I know I claim to know everything---but, secretly, I know I don't. Since I am not a part of a networking group, I have no obligation to refer to anyone in particular. I try to base referrals on who I think is best and who will take the case. Hopefully after 30 years in town, I've got some idea, for most problems that I don't handle, of who the go-to lawyer is.

Not that there is anything wrong in referring to someone merely because you have a busines relationship (or a friendship) with them....as long as you tell the person you are referring: "This man/woman isn't the best...but he/she's done me favors so that's why I'm sending you to them."

Except that nobody is going to tell you that.
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WHEN IS IT TIME TO STOP TALKING?.........by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Tuesday, November 22, 2011, 03:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am not the nicest guy in the word. Even my mother would agree with that. And, one of the things that quickly brings out my lack of niceness is being mis-quoted. I cannot do advanced math; solve crossword puzzles; explain gravity; define "simile" or "metaphor"..........but I do remember what I say. And, I don't much like it when someone----paying client or otherwise----misquotes me.

"You told me not to pay that bill." No, I didn't. I did tell you some things you shouldn't pay but if you think I told you not to pay THAT bill, you weren't listening. "You told me that you would pick me up at the Ft. Lauderdale airport if I bought your truck." No, what I said was that I WOULDN'T pick you up. ...I remember it well---you wanted me to drive 3 hours round trip and the word that came into my mind was "no". And, since the word "no" was in my mind, I said it: "NO".

When you find that you are being misquoted, you need to stop talking----hang up the phone, turn and walk away. At this point, several modern inventions can help you out:
-Send a letter.
-Send an email.
-or a FAX.
(Note: If you can't write or find it inconvenience, at least haul in a witness to listed to the remainder of the conversation and make notes about what was said.)
Keep a copy of what you send. That way, when you land up in court, you don't run the risk of being misquoted...and losing your case....

"He said he'd sell me the brown cow." Your response "Actually, I said I'd sell the black cow, then you misquoted me about the brown cow so I stopped talking to you to make sure you wouldn't misquote me, anymore. Then, I sent a letter reciting what our cow conversation actually was.......here's a copy of the letter. You didn't respond to my letter so I figured you accepted what actually had happened."

There is the whole idea that if someone sends you a letter reciting facts you believe to be untrue...and you don't respond and deny the facts...that the letter is admissible as evidence to show that you agreed to what was said. But, this is an uninteresting concept for another day.



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A GOOD LOOKING YOUNG WOMAN AND HER OLDER---BUT WELL-PRESERVED BOSS WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR.....by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, November 20, 2011, 12:34 PM
Posted by Administrator
Being on the ground floor of a downtown building (the unimaginatively named FERNDIX building on the corner of Fern and S. Dixie), means that sometimes people just wander in. Yesterday, it was someone being evicted from their house and the day before it was two women (described above) from Channel 34. They were selling advertising.

When I was a young sprout...still with mostly all my hair, I worked for a lawyer in Gainesville named Mark Kaufman. Mark, I understand, was disbarred years later for carrying a gun (in some inappropriate way or in some inappropriate place...this is Florida: and merely carrying a gun is smiled upon by the Republican majority). When I knew him, he was a sole practitioner with a diamond ring on every finger. The rings, he explained, were from divorce clients who didn't have money (yes, there is an ethical rule about taking client's property in exchange for services...something about not doing it).

But, how Mark made his real money was injury work. It was the early 80's and the Florida Bar had just been forced by the courts to recognize that even lawyers had free speech rights and could not be banned from TV advertising. Gainesville had one local TV station (the rest of the stations were out of Jacksonville). So, he was able to get small-market advertising rates...from a TV station directed just at the local market he wanted.

In exercising his free speech rights, Mark produced a commercial which showed him, in a three piece suit, riding a child's tricycle downt he sidewalk and crashing into some people. Tacky? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. ...Also, he was the only local lawyer advertising on TV. In those days, "tacky" trumped TV advterising. Now, making money trumps tacky advertising.


I only worked for Mark long enough to learn things like:
-Every child whose imjuries include a facial laceration was planning on becoming a model.

-Okay, that was it.

Will I buy advertising from the two women? No, but I enjoy a good sales presentation. ..And, I'll compliment them when they're finished.

Editor's Note by Bob Smith: Duhl warns all salespeople up front that (because of his sales background) he is the world's worst prospect.
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A FOOTBALL STADIUM FULL OF LAWYER....by Bob Smith 
Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 12:02 AM
Posted by Administrator
Before I moved up here to Northern Wyoming and began spending my evenings gazing at the moon as it rose over the ridge that marked the Canadian border, I practiced law in Palm Beach County. I wasn't alone, of course, there were several hundred other lawyers.

One of the big injury firms now has a TV ad that tells us that there are enough lawyers in the State of Florida to fill a football stadium...maybe 88,000 lawyers...or, maybe I don't remember the exact number recited in the ad. I'm not sure. But I do know this:

1/2 of the more-or-less 88,000 lawyer work here in Palm Beach County and that presents a number of problems. Here they are:

1) There are so many lawyers that nobody really has a reputation, anymore. In my day, not everyone knew everyone but enough people knew you so that if you were a liar or a cheat, word got around and your word became dirt.

2) There are so many lawyers that the judges don't know who everyone is. Judges here are elected which makes them politicians which means that they have to memorize the name of every voter in the county...because people love to be known and will always vote or a judge who says...after a year of not seeing you "Hi Bob, how've you been?" Nowadays, judges aren't always sure they've even SEEN the lawyers appearing before them. And, if they don't recognize them, they're not going to trust them.

3) There are so many lawyers that...inevitably and not as a result of meanness or bad manners...there are an awful lot who don't know what they're doing. Here is a secret...don't tell anyone....YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE THAT BRIGHT TO BE A LAWYER. You may have to memorize a lot but you don't have to have much more intelligence that my grandson, Eli. And, Eli is 4.

The net result of all of this? Here it is:
a) Lawyers can lie and act like idiots becuase word that they are lying idiots won't get around. So, lawyers on the other side ...unable to rely on reputation... have to do extra work to guard against the opposing lawyers (possible? probable?)bad behavior.
b) Judges make new rules to guard against lawyer lying and lawyers not knowing what they are doing. For example, Child Support Guideliens Worksheets---supposedly to make sure everyone is paying the child support they should...instead of just asking the lawyer "Is child support according to the guidelines?"...like judges did back when lawyers could be trusted. Judges second-guessing agreements because lawyers don't know what they're doing. More forms, checklists, hearings, questions...all add up to bigger legal expenses. Want a divorce? You probably can't afford the legal fees....

On the other hand..more lawyers=more competition so you can probably find a cheap lawyers pretty easily.

But, is a cheap lawyer what you want?

All of this is the result of building more and more law schools over the past decade or two and filling them full of kids brought up on courtroom TV shows.

The solution is obvious: build more law schools and make everyone a lawyer. You won't have to hire one...you'll be one.

Eli will be ready to begin law school in the fall.

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THE END OF MY TRIP TO THE NORTH COUNTY COURTHOUSE---by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, October 30, 2011, 10:14 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I left this entry a few days ago, two family members had come to court, stood in line and faced an Assistant State Attorney....which is not the way it is supposed to be. It is sort of like a cop arrests you and you come to court and you have to answer to the cop...which would beg the question: Why do we pay judges $150K a year?

But, on the other hand, the cops arrest a whole bunch of people, these people were charged only with minor crimes and it sure it quicker just to let the prosecutor decide what to do. I called the chief judge.

Last time I was upset about how the judicial system here was working...one of the judges had too many divorce cases...nobody called me back. This could be because I told the chief judge's assistant to tell him that if he didn't fix the problem, I would send my dog over to take a crap on his lawn (he is a distant---other side of the neighborhood---neighbor). The problem was somewhat-fixed and my dog was assigned to other (things). (Editor's note: Duhl does not use puns.)

This time, I got a call back and it is my firm belief that:
1) Defendants standing on the huge line in the hallway will be told that they are entitled to see the judge.
2) The prosecutor..who should be moved to the same floor-level spot as the Assistant Pubic Defenders...will at least be forced to put up a sign saying what she is.
3) The judge will probably stop by the courtroom to say "hello" and to announce that she is next door should anyone want to actually dispute the charges against them (the whole "Constitutional Rights" thing).

I don't suppose things will change much more than that. But, on the other hand, I may be the only one who cares.

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MY TRIP TO THE NORTH COUNTY COURTHOUSE..........by Steve Duhl 
Friday, October 28, 2011, 10:09 AM
Posted by Administrator
Because people I know seem to have issues with their driver licenses, I have made two trips to the fabulous North County Courthouse (conveniently located across the street from the Palm Beach Mall---the #1 mall in the county) in the past few weeks. I didn't go as their lawyer (solve your own problems, I say---a little to easy for you to just have me do it) but merely to stand around and make sure their situations didn't go to crap. Things did not go as expected.

After standing in a long line in the hallway with a bailiff saying at frequent intervals "If you are not a defendant, you can't stand in the line, you have to go right now to the front of the courthouse." (Note: the bailiff is a very nice guy and I doubt it was his idea to kick the public out of a public courthouse), defendants gave a clerk their name and their file was pulled and sent into the "courtroom". I have put "courtroom" in quotes because courtrooms should have things like...well..a judge. But, this one didn't.

In front of the courtroom where the judge (or the Traffic Magistrate on traffic ticket days) would sit was a woman dressed in a brownish suit. The first time I was there, a handwritten sign in front of her identified her as an Assistant State Attorney. The second time, even the handwritten sign was gone. There was no doubt in my mind (or my friends' minds) that the entire audience of defendants (and the room was packed) waiting for their case to be called believed this woman to be the judge.

Finally, each defendant's case was called and they stood in line in front of the person-they-believed-to-be-the-judge and...it seemed to me...the-person-they-believed-to-be-the-judge decided their fate.

To be continued.............
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The Blog Is Acting Up..........and other subjects......by Steve Duhl 
Monday, October 24, 2011, 12:32 PM
Posted by Administrator
The Blog is acting up. I have been having trouble editing previous entries and had to delete one because I couldn't get in to finish it. So, I am going to discuss several things in this entry in anticipation of the Blog blowing up and becoming inoperable: (I am now making my second attempt to edit this entry..the first attempt didn't work.)

1) At a meeting I was dragged to for something called more or less INTERNATIONAL STUDENT AMBASSARORS, I saw a sales technique I had never seen before: The host---on stage at the PB State College Theatre---showed a short movie designed to excite the kids in the audience into cajoling their parents to send them on a $6,000 or $7,000 two week trip to Australia so that they could live on a ranch (called a "station", there) and dance with the wallabees. At the end of the movie, the host walked in from stage right clapping...at the movie...and, so, the audience was guilted into clapping at the movie and, soon, everyone was clapping...at the movie.

I have been convinced for a long time that smiling is not only a reflection of happiness but that a forced smile (though it can't and doesn't employ all of the muscles of a real smile) can make the person forcing a smile happier. I know from experience that getting someone with their arms folded across their chest to open up (by handing them a pen, for instance), makes them more receptive (arms crossed is body language for shutting out what someone is telling you).

I am now convinced that not only is clapping an indicator of approval but that coercing someone to clap will make them more approving. I clap because I like it.......I like it because I clap.

2) Scammer update....... I complained to my Craig's list
scammer that I hadn't received my bogus money order (for the Ford F-150, the scammer claims to want to buy...for what I am asking, sight unseen). The scammer responded (by email):


"The check has been sent and it will be delivered to your address on Tuesday from now according to the courier, but to my greatest surprise the check issued out including the total money my client is owing instead of the actual coost of my purchase from you which is more than your amount for the item which is to be paid as i instructed him to do. This is a terrible mistake and i was just informed this so please once the check is delivered please take it to your Bank and have it deposit. You will then deduct the cost of my purchase plus an extra $50 to offset the cost of your run around expenses. The rest of the fund should be sent to my shipper via western union the same day you do receive the payment so that my mover can make the trip over for the pick at once. the money is to be splinted before on different name for you and my shipper which is now coming in whole to you. I will need your immediate response via email asuring me that i can trust you to handle this with care and have the remaining fund returned appropriately. I am hearing impaired and i will hope that your intentions remans noble throughout the duration of this transaction."

(Grammatical mistakes and spelling errors above are those of the scammer. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes otherwise in the Blog are mine.)

Please be assurred...my intentions are noble.
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ANSWER TO THE MEDIATION ENTRY BELOW THIS ONE....by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, October 20, 2011, 11:28 AM
Posted by Administrator
So, the person you are negotiating with just wants MORE. They have no limit. They will never be satisfied. Whatever you offer...you sense...will just cause them to demand MORE. Whether this is because some people are never satisfied; because they have smelled your weakness and willingness to give more; or because they don't know what it is they want..........I just don't know. Still, there is only one possible negotiating strategy:

Offer less.

That's right...drop your offer. If you were offering $100,000 to settle the case, drop your offer to $90,000. $10,000 offer to buy the car...drop it to $9,000. Here is why:

1) By dropping your offer, you show strength and this strength might overcome the weakness the other side smelled.
2) By dropping your offer, you have rejected their escalating demands.
and
3) Because there is nothing else you can do. If you are trying to settle/buy/resolve an issue and you walk away you have failed. You've got to respond with something....so, drop your offer and and dropping it until the other side responds reasonably and give the impression that they have stopped just asking for MORE. Then, let them work you back up to where you were to begin with.

This idea works. It has worked for me.

But, not all the time.
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HAVING SPENT THE AFTERNOON AT AN UNSUCCESSFUL MEDIATION....by Steve Duhl 
Monday, October 17, 2011, 04:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
Having spent the afternoon at an unsuccessful mediation, I thought it would be a good time to review two (2) situations frequently encountered during the course of negotiations:
I) The dumb-ass offer.
b) The character played by Edward G. Robinson in the Movie KEY LARGO, starring Humphrey Bogart (and Katherine Hepburn?).

But, since I have recently discussed the issue of the dumb ass offer to exhaustion, I will limit myself to the issues raised in the movie, KEY LARGO. I do not remember if I have ever seen KEY LARGO. I think Katherine Hepburn was in it but I'm not sure. Based on the portions of the movie, I do remember seeing, here is the plot:

Edward G. Robinson, a short, bug-eyed, 1940-50's character actor played a prohibition era bootlegger. Robinson's character used boats to smuggle booze from Cuba to South Florida. For some reason, he landed up at a hotel owned by Katherine Hepburn's(?) father on Key Largo. Bogart's character, a recently discharged American serviceman, was staying at the hotel---something to do with his being friends with Hepburn's now-dead-boyfriend??? Who knows. Anyway, Robinson's character takes over the hotel and holds the guests hostage. I do not know why he did this. Surrounded by police?

The scene in question takes place in an upstairs room in the hotel. Bogart, in front of Hepburn(?) and other guests, asks Robinson what he wants (from taking over the hotel). Robinson answers "I don't know what I want." Okay, the point of this entry is coming right now...

Bogart then says "I know what you want, Rocco, you want more." It is important to note that Robinsons' character in the movie is named "Rocco". Rocco then goes into a bug-eyetrance and says "Yeah, more. That's what I want: more."

So, there you are trying to settle a lawsuit, trying to buy off the woman whose car your son just hit with your truck so that she doesn't report it to insurance trying to get your soon-to-be-ex-wife to agree to what furniture she is going to take from the hosue.....and you realize...the person I am negotiating with doesn't really know what he/she wants....they just want MORE. What do you do?

To be continued...
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MY DIME....................by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Thursday, October 13, 2011, 10:56 AM
Posted by Administrator
A long time ago, on a road 40 miles West of here, on the other side of a small green bridge spanning the C40 canal, I ran into the rear of a Volkswagen microbus that had stopped for no reason in the middle of the road. First we were driving along....the VW in front and me behind in my car. Then, the VW stopped. There were no turns-offs, no intersections, no turtles in the road. The VW driver just decided that he didn't like where his VW was headed and so...he stopped.

...and I rear ended him.

He was from out-of-state and he called me a few days later and told me the damages were $1,000. I told him "I'm not paying you, you stopped for no reason, call my insurance company." He did. And, as a result of his call, my rates went up. I have been kicking myself ever since for not sending him the grand.

One day...long ago...I woke up and walked outside to my car and saw that my windshield was broken. I called my insurance agent and asked whether I should make a claim or fix it myself. He said "Windshields don't count as claims."

Years later, I had a small accident and my insurance rates skyrocketed. I called the company and asked why. The accident claim wasn't much of anything. The company said "You had a previous claim for a windshield." I have been kicking myself ever since for not getting the windshield fixed on my dime.

A few days ago, I got a call from a friend of mine. His 17 year old daughter had been in a small accident....drove too close to the side of the street and scraped someone's parked car. "Pay the other guy the money.", I told him.

My friend called two days later to complain that the owner of the other car wanted $450.00 and that it didn't look to him to be $450 damage. ...but that the car's owner had said "If you don't pay, I'll report it to your insurance company." "Pay the money", I told him.

Don't negotiate. Don't threaten to call his insurance company to try to blamethe accident on him. Just pay the money. If insurance gets involved everyone's rates go up.

Some things have to be on your own dime.
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SECOND MORTGAGE UPDATE...........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, October 6, 2011, 10:36 AM
Posted by Administrator
There are four things that a second mortgagee (the company/bank/person/trust) that owns a second mortgage on someone's house can do if they are not paid.

1) Wipe it out. Send the borrower (mortgagor/homeowner) a letter that says, more or less: "You don't owe us anything. We're filing a Satisfaction Of Mortgage, so you can even sell your house without paying us a penny."

2) Foreclose. If the first mortgage consumes all of the equity in a house, it isn't a real good economic decision for the second to foreclose. They will be selling a house with a first mortgage that needs to be paid. The only sure winner will be the lawyer who files the case.

3) Try to collect/sue on the Promissory Note and ignore the mortgage; send it to a collections company; sell the debt (like most unsecured bad debt---credit card debt/personal loans--- is eventually sold) for pennies on the dollar to a lawyer or collection company.

4) Wait.

I have now seen second mortgagees do each of the above. There is no sense out there. Some will lose their homes over nothing. Some will have their debt forgiven.
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LOWBALLING.............by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, September 25, 2011, 01:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
When negotiating the settlement of a case or the purchase or sale of whatever it is you have to sell or want to buy, it is important to understand the concept of the lowball. The idea behind the lowball is that you really don't know what (for example) the other lawyer is willing to take to settle the case. You don't know how much the guy selling the Snapper lawn tractor is willing to sell it for. But, on the other hand, you don't want to insult them.

Offering $50 for a $1,000 lawn tractor might get you thrown off the seller's property at the business end of a shotgun. Offering $1,000 to settle an injury case might result in the lawyer you are making the offer to refusing to speak to you ever again about settlement because you are obviously an idiot. On the other hand, maybe the other side just doesn't know what they have is worth and/or really needs some cash...right now. Failing to lowball could be an opportunity lost.

My belief is that if someone makes you a stupid offer, you should ignore it. If you tell them the offer is stupid, they will probably feel obliged to stick with it and defend it. If you ignore it, the stupid offer never has to be mentioned again. (Buyer: "I'll give you $50." Seller: "Looks like it'll be a nice day, today.")

Two days ago, I received an email from Craigslist ....where my 2001 F150 is sometimes listed for sale. The email said just this: "3500". That was a lot less than I am asking for the truck. I responded to the lowballer by asking: "Does emailing a seller a lowball offer really work? Doesn't it happen that you end up making a trip to see what's for sale only to find out that the seller never was going to take your offer?" I was just looking for advice on successful lowballing.

I never got a response.

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LIMITED WARRANTIES ARE GREAT!.............by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 09:43 AM
Posted by Administrator
It is fantastic that some car manufacturers offer a "100,000 Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty". It would be even better, though, if they didn't limit their warranty at all.

The "Limited Warranty" on that TV you are about to buy LIMITS the warranty that the law says you've otherwise got: that the product will work....forever...and that if it breaks, the manufacturer has to fix it and pay for all of your incidental losses. The manufacturer takes the expansiveness of that away and says that you are limited to ...for example... one year parts and labor and no consequential damages (Your warehouse didn't really need that forklift to be working EVERY day, did it? You are okay with shutting down for a month while parts come in from China. Right?)

What is your remedy when that $1,000 electric bicycle you just bought breaks while under the one year warranty? If the company is still in business...you probably will get it fixed...somewhere.
If the company has gone bust (bankrupt) or just doesn't care about your problem, you will have a $1,000 metal sculpture that resembles an electric bicycle.

When General Motors went bankrupt, it could have walked away from its (limited) warranty obligations. But, if it did, the brand would have died. Besdies, the government was paying.

When it comes to warranties, the only thing better than a Limited Warranty is when the warranty isn't limited. If the seller doesn't limit the warranty...in writing...then you've got an unlimited warranty. Of course, seller's aren't stupid enough to give you one of those.



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MY TRIP TO CARMAX.........by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Saturday, August 27, 2011, 11:30 AM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday, I went to the local CarMax to see if they wanted to buy my black 2007 four door. I thought it was worth $11,700. They offered $10,000. So, I didn't sell. I was hopeful...before we got started... because they bought my mother's Mazda for $10,000 about a year ago even though there was a FOR SALE sign under the passenger seat saying we only wanted $9,500. Also, CarMax has a reputation for paying too much for the used cars they buy. Anyway, this entry isn't about my trying to sell the car. What this entry is about is the conversation I had with the salesman while the car was being appraised.

"We don't negotiate.", he told me about CarMax. "Everyone pays the same price."

There are benefits to not negotiating:
-There is no pressure to negotiate.
......okay, I can only think of ONE benefit.

I told the salesman that I didn't mind negotiating. This is what he said "But, since we don't allow negotiating, everyone pays the same price. You don't have to worry that someone else got a better deal than the deal you got."

And, I thought to myself "But, that is an insane rationale." The idea...and this was no doubt taught to the salesman in CarMax Sales School...is that I should
*care more about nobody getting a better deal then I got than I care
* about CarMax making more profit on its cars than it ought to make.

The way they would have me think about it is, I guess, CARMAX is my friend AND I SHOULD BE HAPPY THEY HAVE A BIG MARKUP ON THIER CARS...other customers are my COMPETITIORS and it should upset me if one of them is able (by better negotiations skills) to save $100 that I wasn't able to save.

On my way out...and after they'd offered me $10,000 for my European car, I saw that they had a tiny blue Kia with 49,000 miles on it on sale for $12,900...

......no negotiating.
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1,360...........by Steve Duhl 
Friday, August 26, 2011, 03:07 PM
Posted by Administrator
According to the internet-accessible records maintained online by the Clerk of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit....in and for Palm Beach County, Florida, I have been associated with 1,360 cases. I know this because I just looked---it's Friday afternoon and I didn't much feel like doing real work.

Felonies, misdemeanors, a guardianship or two, a passel of injury cases, some foreclosures, a bunch of real estate litigation, a probate litigation or two. (My juvenile cases probably weren't conted because they are confidential---adoptions probably not either---Baker Act, Myers Act-I have no idea). I was thinking about this earlier today after the day's first phone call.

The call was an adjuster from an insurance company (not the company that you can afford, though you don't think you can; or the company with the brunette wearing dark red lipstick; or the company that claims to be a good neighbor....but that always seems to demand higher rates than your actual neighbor---if he or she were in the insurance business---would demand). I answered and said "Hi, how are you doing?"

My voice mail message to the adjuster, yesterday, was "This is my fourth phone call. If you don't get back to me by Monday, I will figure I've reached a dead end." But, that was yesterday.

The adjuster said "What is your tax ID?" Which told me the company was going to pay my client her (minimal)Uninsured Motorist limits-------she had injured her shoulder pretty badly in a car wreck...the at-fault driver had no liability insurance (welcome to Florida). My "dead end" message, yesterday, was meant to say---in a sort-of friendly, non-threatening way---"We are going to file a lawsuit next week".

The adjuster's job was, in a way, to decide whether I would file a lawsuit if her company didn't' pay or whether I would just walk away from the claim. If the adjuster had looked at the Clerk's webiste, my 1360 previous cases on file with the Clerk's office would have hinted at the answer.

Really, the adjuster probably just reviewed the file, decided the claim needed to be paid and gave me a phone call. Still, it's nice to know the 1,360 cases are there for the nexst adjuster to look at.
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YES, WE KNOW WE WRITE ABOUT CAR SALES TOO MUCH....by Jesus Rabinowitz  
Thursday, August 18, 2011, 10:46 AM
Posted by Administrator
The biggest decision we make on a regular basis is what car to buy/how much to spend. We buy from salespeople schooled in getting us to part with our money in a moment of temporary insanity. We buy flash and speed that we don't need. It is a monumental interplay of the American Dream & keeping up with the people next door & freedom & high class & sexiness ........along with high payments for all of this spread out over the next 4 or 5 or even 6 years. For all the psychology and law involved, buying a car is more like the Casey Anthony trial than it is like paying a buck for a candy bar.

So, since we already know that...here at the blog... we write about car sales too much, we feel obligated to update and conclude the entry of a few days ago which involved, among other things, Bruce and the VW that broke down 39 miles after he took delivery. You may recall that Bruce told the dealer they had to give him a new car. And, that for some reason, they agreed to do it.

Yesterday, Bruce took delivery of a 2012...the broken down VW was a 2011. He asked me whether I thought it was a conspiracy against all that is right in the world that the dealer insisted he pay another $600. I said "The car is a year newer, it is worth more than $600 more, pay the money." He already had (though, being a New Yorker, he felt obliged to bully the dealer into giving him floor mats).

"I got into the car", Bruce said "and I turned on the ignition and this yellow light was glowing. So, I looked at the owner's manual and it said the yellow light was to tell me the license plate light wasn't working. When I got out of the car, I saw that not only weren't there any bulbs to the license plate...the entire wiring harness was missing."

I told Brce that I still didn't think it was a conspiracy against him. When Bruce's wife frst asked me whether she should buy a VW (I sold them in the 70's), I texted her "You will get to know the dealer." I am figuring that the breakdown after 39 miles, the new car and the $600, and the missing wiring harness all happened just to prove me right.


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......BEFORE YOU WALK OUT THE DOOR....continued... 
Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 01:51 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: This is a continuance of the NEXT entry (which was previous in time to this entry and which is on the next page).
If this entry makes sense without reading the next entry first then it must be because...things on the blog make a WHOLE LOT of sense.
----------------------------------------------------------------

The movie WEDDING CRASHERS began with a couple in divorce mediation. The short blonde guy what's-his-name and Jennifer Aniston's former boyfriend (the big guy...you know who I mean) played joint-mediators. The divorcing couple sat around a table with their lawyers and yelled at each other until the wife opened a pill bottle and took out an anti-anxiety pill, the husband demanded water for her, and the case settled.

I am able to use the WEDDING CRASHERS mediation scenes to help clients understand mediation. "It isn't like they showed it on WEDDING CRASHERS", I tell them. Everyone doesn't sit around a table yelling at each other. Really, the mediator sends the parties to separate rooms and then he/she shuttles back and forth between them...bringing offers and counter-offers until (maybe) the case settles.

CHANGEUP/CHANGED UP/WHATEVER nears the end with a mediation scene. It isn't a realistic mediation scene but, still, the idea is there: a bunch of gray suited lawyers and blue suited businessmen are trying to settle something.....a corporate merger, maybe.

Here is what happens (reading this will NOT ruin the movie for you...it was a great movie...baby poop jokes, public urination, violence by children...everything you need for comedy fun):
a) The parties are in separate rooms.
b) The mediator brings in the other sides offer..."$5 Million", she says "and that they say it is their final offer...take it or leave it."
c) The lawyer-hero of the story says to his cohorts, more or less "The other side is still here. If it was really their final offer, they would have left."
d) The lawyer-hero says to the mediator "Tell them $6 Million". (Note. I have made up the numbers.)
e) The other lawyers and businessmen on his side say that the $6 Million offer will be rejected.
e) The lawyer-hero makes everyone on his side get up and walk out of mediation, and, as the assembled suits reach the office building door, the mediator comes running up and says:

"THEY TOOK YOUR OFFER. THE DEAL IS CLOSED."

I did not stay for the credits. I assume Neil Murphy's name was there.
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HE'LL STOP YOU BEFORE YOU REACH THE DOOR.........by Steve Duhl 
Monday, August 15, 2011, 10:44 AM
Posted by Administrator
50 years ago, a man named Neil Murphy sold cars for Braman. I saw him about 8 months ago for the first time in a dozen years and he looked, like always, as if he was 32. He was sitting at a table in a Greek restaurant with a woman who ...really was... around 29.

Once, I wanted to buy a car from Braman and I asked Neil how to do it. This is what he said:

"Make a lowball offer. The salesman will go to get the sales manager. When the salesmanager comes, shake his hand tell him it's nice to meet him. The salesmanager will sit down with you, and, after a few minutes, he'll reject your offer. When he rejects the offer, shake his hand, thank him for his time and tell him you were glad to meet him. Then, head for the door."
Neil said the sales manager would stop me just as I opened the door to walk out.

I did what he said. It worked.

I was reminded of this last night while watching movie #2 at the local Muvico. Movie #1 was THE HELP...a fairly good re-write of history that spoke poorly of upper middle class white people in 1960's Mississippi. Movie #2 was CHANGEUP or CHANGED UP...or something like that...starring the male lead from DEFINITELY MAYBE and the female lead from some movie that starred Chandler Bing from FRIENDS.

....continued above....

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16,736; 16,737;16,738; 5 
Friday, August 12, 2011, 09:08 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note The blog's hit counter has reset...again. The actual number of hits is, I believe somewhere around 10 billion.


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IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER....by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Thursday, August 11, 2011, 08:10 PM
Posted by Administrator
I have found that I often forget things that are important to remember...just when I need these things the most. So, I have decided to make a list:

1) Whoever talks first loses. Silence makes people feel uncomfortable. If you can just shut up and wait until the other side gets uncomfortable enough to feel like they have to say something....they might just say they'll give you what you want.
2) If you've got no cards to play...your only choices are to fold or to bluff. Two days ago, there was no reason I could think of WHY my friend Bruce's VW dealer should give him a new car. His broke down the day he bought it with only 39 miles on it but, still, a NEW car? In spite of not having a leg to stand on, Bruce demanded a new car. The dealer is now looking for one.
3) Sometimes, all of your three choices are bad choices. And, all you can do is pick the least bad choice. You can't choose the good choice because there IS NO good choice. When I had skin cancer on my nose, the plastic surgeon said I could have skin graft or they could fold down a flap of skin from above the hole they cut out and try to keep the blood supply intact or they could just leave it--it would heal up but it would look ugly. I took the flap. It went necrotic..the skin died and turned black... picking what seems to be the least bad choice doesn't make it a good choice.
4) Is a flower in the desert beautiful if nobody sees it? No. And, also, you shouldn't respond to people saying stupid things. Just ignore them. If nobody pays attention to stupidity does that mean it isn't stupid? I don't know....but, give it a try.
5) If you don't win arguments, don't argue. Ignore the argument and walk away. Lawyers argue because that is their job and judge's are there to decide who is right. Why do other people argue? Who decides which of them is right?
6) Without a judge, there is a way to decide who won an argument. Here it is: If their blood pressure went up and your's didn't---you win. If your blood pressure went up and their didn't---they win. If everyone's blood pressure goes up---everybody loses.
7) The expression "Don't hit below the belt." really means "Only hit below the belt if you have to." I'm not talkng about punching someone in the nuts. Here is what I'm talking about:
Your soon-to-be-ex calls you on the phone just to get you upset. You say: "Are you still having that same problem with your girlfriend that you had with me?" See #6, above, for further explanation.

Editor's Note: Mr. Rabinowitz is a former South Florida lawyer who sometimes writes for the blog when he isn't working on his still-unpublished 2nd book THE DAY BEGAN QUITE WELL.
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SORT OF OBSSESSED WITH THE WHOLE LACK OF POLICE THING...by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, August 7, 2011, 05:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am having trouble getting it out of my head that ...except for Paris.... there didn't seem to be a whole lot of policemen or police cars in any of the european countries we visited. They weren't on the highway and they weren't in town. (And, when you did see them, they weren't driving huge V8 powered Fords or Chryslers. They were driving small 4 door hatchbacks...30MPG and still room for two criminals in back.)

In Paris, there were cops. They traveled four to a car or stood around in groups next to foreign embassies. There were some at the Eifel tower but not at the Louve or Notre Dame Cathedral. Traveling in packs like they were, I imagined that if anyone did anything, the reaction would be for the four cops in the car to jump out and beat the perp to a bloody pulp before hauling him in.

In about 1,500 kilometers of driving, I did see a few people pulled over: by a motorcycle cop outside of Geneva; a car about to enter the A8 highway in Cannes; a black 5 series BMW in Antibes (waived over by "police assistants" who, I believe were looking for a black four door sedan...a black Peugeot also got waved over)....but in the U.S., in that amount of driving, I would have seen 50 or 100 cars sitting on the side of the road in front of flashing blue lights. Better drivers in Europe? No. High speed limits? Not on surface streets...highways are in the 75-85 range. Less money to pay cops? That's part of my theory.

About 3/4 of the way into our trip, as we left a small town about halfway between Grenoble and the Mediterranean coast, there was a flashing sign over the two lane road. More or less, it said (in French...which I do not speak): "THINK SAFETY WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER".

For the next three hours, the road ran by a fast moving river then headed up switchbacks until it was above the treeline with a 1000 drop to a rocky ravine and only an occaisional guardrail before it plunged back down in another servies of hairpin switchbacks. Up thousands of feet and then down, every kilometer of road needed a hundred shifts of Hertz's Peugeot's 5 speed transmission.

For the entirety of this part of the drive, while I was stuck behind a slow moving livestock truck full of sheep; as I was passed by speeding motorcyclists and drivers who were much more comfortable with mountain driving than I was; after I squeezed by a bus in the middle of a blind curve... I thought to myself "THINK SAFETY WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER".

The other part of my why-less-cops theory? The Europeans ...most of them... have all been hanging around their continent, together (except for a world war or two), for thousands of years and, maybe, more than us, they realize that they ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER.

We Americans, maybe, rely too much on the cops.


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BACK IN TOWN 
Sunday, August 7, 2011, 04:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
We are back in town and will open tomorrow, Monday, at 9:00AM....okay, really I am on French/Swiss/German time and it'll probably be more lake 10:00.




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FAST TRAINS....FEWER POLICE...by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, August 4, 2011, 06:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
We were trying to decide whether the best way to get to the Mediterranean Coast of France from Nyon, Switzerland, a town on Lake Geneva. I asked the hotel front desk person, a young woman from Italy, whether she recommended that we drive East-to-Italy and then South to the coast or South to Grenoble, France and then on windy, mountain roads. The Italian route, on the map looked flat and fast. She said "I've made the trip only on the train." The concept of driving that far seemed foreign to her.

Our friends (along with Aryanna, our daughter) made the trip from Paris to Cannes on a 200MPH train. They report is was a wonderful trip...wide seats, lots of room, French passengers who resented them for being loud Americans. We made our way South through the mountains.

I found it interesting that we saw virtually no police cars on the road from Paris to SouthWest Germany to Switzerland to Southern France. A motorcycle policeman had stopped a car outside of Geneva. A French police car passed us on the highway. Once we left Paris, that was it.

In the U.S., police are trained...in police school... to make traffic stops with the intention of finding bigger crimes and criminals riding in the car. A speeding stop turns into a search for drugs...a check of driver and passenger for outstanding warrants...an opportunity to arrest someone and send them to prison. Young kids with old cars are good targets...maybe the driver doesn't have a driver license...maybe someone is smoking marijuana.

And so, I began to think, if we spent $10Trillion dollars, more or less, on a high speed rail system...it wouldn't just create construction jobs and save gasoline and save money on building new roads and road repair....it would have at least two other benefits:
1) (Which has nothing to do with the subject of this entry): More people would travel and spend money on being tourists and that would be good for the economy, and,
2) (Actually related to this entry): We'd have fewer traffic stops and fewer people getting arrested and going to prison and we'd need fewer police. For instance, kids would take the train and not drive around smoking marijuana.

...and, while I support the police and all that they do...it would be nice to be able to drive to Boca without passing 5 Deputies, 3 FHP troopers and a cop who lives in Loxahatchee driving to work in his Aventura Police Department police car. (It would be nicer not to have to DRIVE there. ...okay, it would be nicest not to have to go to Boca at all.)

....and my friends who are policemen are about to retire, anyway.

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MY WIFE INVESTIGATES THE FRENCH HEALTH CARE SYSTEM....by Steve Duhl 
Monday, August 1, 2011, 04:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
When we were in Paris, five years ago, a young Frenchman tried to pick up my wife a few dozen yards from the entrance to the Louve. A few days ago, the obverse of the same situation occurred in virtually the same place. Here is what happened: after we spent a few hours looking at gigantic wall-to-ceiling paintings and re-visiting the bust of two angelic boys with whom I had taken a picture in our previous visit (I had aged...they, being made of marble, had not) and visiting the reconstruction of Napoleon's apartment, we exited through the triangular glass dome.

Within a few feet of our exiting and within a few yards of the spot that Frenchman put the moves on her, my wife was stung by a bee in the left arm. Within an hour, the arm was beginning to swell.

By the next day, as we neared Verdun on our way to Strasbourg and the German border, her arm was hot near the site of the sting. We thought infection. We got off the highway and began to look for a pharmacy? a doctor? Finally, we followed the signs to a hospital.

The hospital was old and needed paint. The receptionist sent us around the side to the Urgency entrance. The next receptionist spoke her best English (okay, not great, but much better than my French); looked at my Wife's passport; looked at a list of nationalities; did not find "American" or "USA" and had us take a seat.

A few minutes later, a nurse brought my Wife to the back. Half hour later, she came for me.

They gave her four steroid pills (it was inflammation, not infection) and an anti-itch pill and a prescription for more (after an hour of observation, the arm was still inflamed). I asked if we were free to go. "Yes", the nurse said. I asked where we should pay.
The nurse seemed confused. It became clear that we didn't have to pay. This was France. Health care was free...or paid for by their taxes...and they had no people at the hospital whose job it was to take money...or credit cards.

Maybe we'll get a bill in the mail.

I doubt it.

Note: We tried to find a pharmacy to get the prescription filled. It was Saturday. Supposedly, every pharmacy had a sign out front that directed people to the ONE that was actually open. But....no. No luck Sunday, either. Monday? We were in Switzerland and it was a national holiday....so, nothing was open there.

2nd Note: After the bee incident but before the hospital in Verdun, my wife was chased down and kissed on the cheek by a souvenier dealer with a shop in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. According to my wife, he said that he loved her as soon as she walked into the store. Then, he gave her free key chains. Then, more free key chains. "Are you sure you are leaving," he said "because I love you." My wife says:
"Paris IS where you go to find love."
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SUMMER VACATION............................ 
Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 09:13 AM
Posted by Administrator
We will be open for limited hours until Monday, August 8th at which time we will resume our normal, sporadic hours. If you need to contact me, email is great! steveduhl@hotmail.com or steveduhl@steveduhl.net

Our phones will continue to be answered. We will be making appointments. We will be accepting payments. ....just call first (624-6306) to make sure we'll be here when you are coming.

NOTE: Our new location, 325 S. Dixie Hwy. is:
-Two blocks East of Flagler Dr. and the Intracoastal.
-Two blocks West of the CityPlace Publix and Cheeburger! Cheeburger!
-Three blocks South of Clematis St.
-Four blocks South of the Courthouse (though, when it is a sauna outside, it seems further).
....at the corner of S. Dixie and Fern St. in beautiful DOWNTOWN West Palm Beach.

Pay the meter $.25 for 15 minutes, park at a City lot or garage (there is one about 50 yards) for 2 hours for a buck, or stop in and see if parking behind the building is ok (we have a policy of not impeding Nick, the landlord, from backing out his BMW when he is done landlording for the day).


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Part III---As I stood there in front of the Clerk at the Tax Collector...by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 04:21 PM
Posted by Administrator
.......as I stood there in front of the Clerk at the Tax Collector, I realized that I had a problem. She said "The only way you are going to be able to register this is if the original buyer registers it in Pennsylvania and then transfers it to you." I didn't even know the seller...I had only met "his brother". I was not optimistic.

I called the brother. He called his brother. His brother texted me the name and address of the original Pennsylvania owner and, amazingly, that guy went to Pennsylvania's motor vehicle people, paid sales tax on a trailer he didn't own, paid for the registration and title for the trailer, signed it and FEDEX's it back to me.

Still, and in spite of my previous good experience... when I saw the Taiwansese scooter-seller only had an Appication For Title, I said "I'll come back on Tusday and we'll go up to the tax office together and fix this." He didn't understand what the problem was and I couldn't explain it: my Mandarin still was not so good.

On Tuesday, at the dorms outside of the St. Lucie International Airport I found out that the seller was leaving for Taiwan the next day (fly to Atlanta then 23 hours to Narita/Tokyo Airport then 1 hour to some town on the South Coast of Taiwan). Had I not dragged him down to the tag office, I would be trying to recreate the solution to the Pennsylvania-trailer problem.......but, this time, 3/4 of the way around the world.

So, I have learned: do your motor vehicle/scooter/boat/trailer transactions right there at the Tax Collector's Office. In fact, hand over the money at the Clerk's window and only once you are sure title is good. Should you run a check to make sure there are no Execution liens? Yeah, you should---especially with a big money item.

Is there any way to guaranty you are getting what you pay for? Probably not. Sellers of used items try to sell "as is" and that means that what you are buying doesn't have to run or work or not fall apart...unless the seller knew something about it that you couldn't have discovered and lied about it. On the other hand, sellers do warrant that they own what they are selling. So, if they can't get you good title, you can sue.

But, if what you are buying is worth enough to make it worthwhile to sue then it was worth enough to spend some time and effort to make sure the seller was able to pass good title.
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PART II----------------I BOUGHT A MOTORSCOOTER FROM A TAIWANESE AERONAUTICS STUDENT 
Monday, July 25, 2011, 02:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
So, as I stood on the dormitory porch outside the gates of the St. Lucie International Airport, I met the several 17 year old Irish flight school students who shared the dorm room with the Taiwanese guy. This was the Irish kids' summer vacation. I asked one of them what his parents did for a living. "They own a pub.", he said.

When I came to pick up the scooter two days later, I found out that the Irish kids had passed their check flight and would now each get a Private Pilots License. The Taiwaneses guy had failed. He had passed the written but the check flight did him in. He would have to return, he said, to the US to try again. "There are no flight schools in Taiwan.", he said. Also, he told me, there were no airplanes for rent....well, maybe a few ultralights.

But, I digress from the scooter-buying story. I will get back on track........ A few months ago, I bought a motorcycle trailer that was sitting in the parking lot outside of a flooring distributor. When I paid and picked it up, the owner's brother handed me a piece of paper that had the fancy paper look of a Motor Vehicle Title. It wasn't.

The piece of paper was a Certificate Of Origin, which was produced by the manufacture and should have gone to the Motor Vehicle Dept. of whatever state the trailer was sold in---to the first purchaser. It didn't. Worse than that, the trailer dealer had endorsed it to the brother's friend....who lived in Pennsylvania.

When I walked into the Tax Collector's Office in downtown WPB to register the trailer, the clerk took the Certificate Of Origin with her when she went back to talk to management. After 20 or 30 minutes, she returned to her window carrying a thick book containing all of the vehicle registration laws for all of the states.
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I BOUGHT A SCOOTER LISTED ON CRAIG'S LIST FROM A TAIWANESE AERONAUTICS STUDENT....by Steve Duhl (in his capacity as VP of iScootPalmBeach) 
Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 10:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
My experience with Craigslist...in my halfhearted attempts to sell my 20' SeaCraft....has been middle aged men looking at things for sale the way women window shop at malls. Still, when I saw a used Kymco Agility 50 (the same scooter that iScootPalmBeach maintains in its vast fleet) for sale at the "St. Lucie County Airport", I had to go.

The St. Lucie County Airport is not 1/2 hour West of here (like Port St. Lucie is). It is far towards the Northern border of St. Lucie County down from a sign that says "Vero Beach 11 Miles". The airport is on a County Road a mile or two from the downtrodden outskirts of Ft. Pierce...which is downtrodden in every direction.

But, the airport is huge. There is a Customs office...which makes it an International Airpot: it is a port of entry for private pilots coming in from the Bahamas. And, there is a flight school with, at least, a dozen red/white/blue painted high wing Cessnas and low wing, single engine Pipers. The scooter-seller was a student at the school...from Taiwan. His English was much, much, much better...........than my Mandarin.

I looked at the Scooter and drove it and then asked whether the seller had the title. He said he did but, when he came back from his dorm room, all he had was a Florida "Application For Title". I tried to explain the problem to him. Aryanna (my daughter) read me the VIN # from teh "Appliation" and I checks it against the VIN on the frame rail...behind a pull-out plastic plug.

I was vigilant about the whole title issue because, a few months ago, I bought a double axle, enclosed cycle trailer and that purchase almost did not go so well. At the time that purchase almost did not go so well, I had been in the legal business for almost 30 years, the car business before that, and had just completed the Florida Automobile Dealer Applicant's Training Court. And, as I have written before, I passed the test at the end of the course.......one wrong. So, you would have thought that I would KNOW.


To be continued......in Part II of I JUST BOUGHT A SCOOTER FROMA TAIWANESE AERONAUTICS STUDENT.....

Don't Miss It!
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UNUSUAL JEWISH PEOPLE...........by Jesus Rabinowtiz 
Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 12:29 AM
Posted by Administrator
I am Jewish and I have some Jewish friends.

A few days ago...last Friday evening, acutally, I was talking on the phone with my friend, Bruce. Bruce is Jewish. He was driving through Sullivan County in upstate New York and, more or less, this is what he said "I'm on my way to South Fallsburg but I'm going real slow. The Hasidim are walking in the road." We agreed that the Hasids were probably walking in the road because it was the Sabbath (sundown Friday until sundown Saturday)...they weren't allowed to drive on the Sabbath (driving is considered work) and they didn't think anyone else should be driving either.

My friend's friend turned out to be from the town next to the town I'm from. I was trying to find out whether the Carvel next to the skate pond still existed. She didn't know what I was talking about. "That's where the Jews are," she said. I realized that she was talking about the intersection of two main streets where....40 years ago...some distant,religious cousins of mine lived. Cousins who had paes (from not cutting the hair above their sideburns resulting in a long curl hanging in front of each ear) and who wore sacramental underwear (note: Mormons also wear sacramental underwear). My friend's friend is Columbian and she probably has no concept of we....the assimilated Jewish person.

And, so, at the risk of being ostracized by the Jewish community (which probably meant to ostracize me years ago), I propose that non-Jews...especially foreigners....who don't know a lot of Jewish people, refer to people they believe are Jewish as: UNUSUAL JEWISH PEOPLE.......to distinguish the overtly and obviously Jewish from those of us who look like the Christians (and most Muslims, Buddists and Hindus).

I'm not saying that we shouldn't all wear yarmucles and wind ourselves with Teffilin every morning (or, at least know how to spell those words) or walk down the middle of Military Trail every Friday at around 6:30PM, I'm just saying that most of us don't.

...and, this way, I won't feel obligated to say "You know, I'm Jewish." and I can just say, instead...between bites of a piece of bacon..., "Yeah, I've met some of those people and when my father was a kid, his family had a Christian come on Friday night and turn the lights off and he wasn't allowed to get his hair cut until he was 4."


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CROSS EXAMINATION...........by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Thursday, July 14, 2011, 09:04 PM
Posted by Administrator
As the oldest among us remember, a man named Irving Younger was America's greatest Continuing Legal Education lecturer. He is dead now but I still have a dozen or so of his cassette tapes. (It has been ten years since I owed a cassette player.) Here is what Irving said were the two rules of successful cross examination:
1) Don't get up.
-Nothing good will come of it; you will screw up your case; the witness you are about to cross examine hasn't hurt you; why ask anything on cross??????
2) Sit down.
-You were dumb enough to get up; the witness you set out to destroy has, instead, filled in gaps in his direct testimony; the more questions you ask, the more damage you will do....so, why are you standing there thinking of something to ask???? SIT DOWN.

Still, lawyers being the arrogant know-it-alls that they are, can't help themselves... When the judge says "Cross examination, Mr. Mason?" Mason has to say "Yes."

Now what?

The idea is that Mr. Mason (Perry Mason for those old enough to remember) is going to tell his (client's) version of the witnesses story and, along the way, stop every few moments and give the witness a chance to agree that he is telling the story correctly. So, (and this is the same thing you do in sales), you want to get the witness to get used to saying "Yes".

Q. "You have known your wife for several years, right?"
A. "Yes."
Q. "And you lived together for all that time, right?"
A. "Yes."
Q. "And the two of you had three kids together, right?"
A. "Yes."

...you want to get the witness to trust you by asking him/her questions that are easy to answer with a "Yes". This also lets the trier of fact (judge or jury) know that you are worth believing...the witness is agreeing that you are being accurate.

.........then the going gets tougher....to be continued...
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MY TRIP TO MIAMI............by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Wednesday, July 6, 2011, 08:16 PM
Posted by Administrator
I went, today, with a friend of mine to Immigration Court. I didn't go as her laywer...but as her driver. I am fairly good at finding Miami....even early in the morning.

She was there, with her family, to have an asylum hearing, After a lot of argument, the Immigration Judge was ready to hear evidence. I waited for my friend's lawyer to say "I call my client." or something like that. He didn't seem to know that was what he was supposed to do. Once she finally made it to the witness stand, he didn't know what to ask her. "I'm going to ask you some things about your application," he said...then he rambled on without a question.

I thought all lawyers (and all TV viewers) knew how to question witnesses. Now, having found out that some may not, I offer this guide. I apologize in advance for the complexity.

#1---Here is how to do DIRECT EXAMINATION (questioning witnesses that you call to support your case..with the kind of question where you aren't allowed to suggest the answer...e.g. "Then, he hit you in the face with the green baseball bat, right?" ...remember "Objection. Leading"? My example IS a leading question.)

Ask these questions instead of a leading question and you are good to go:

a) What is your name?
b) Where do you live?
c) On (insert date or time or some simultaneous event...like "During the fireworks..." or "sometime in late December") did something unusual happen?
d) What?
.......when the witness stops talking follow up with:
e) What happened next?
f) Then what happened?
......when you are done, say:
g) Thank you. No more questions.

The Judge will be thinking "This guy/woman sure knows how to do direct. He/she will be partner with a big firm, soon."

COMING SOON TO THE BLOG: Cross Examination.

See you then....aloha.
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THE END OF THE SERIES THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENTITLED "WE'RE MOVING" 
Saturday, July 2, 2011, 11:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
We have now moved. But.......not to 321 S. Dixie Hwy. We thought we had moved there but, yesterday, as we unpacked boxes and set up computers, the landlord walked in. He had the address wrong.....really, we have moved to 325 S. Dixie Hwy.

Ken Menard, who does my websites, will read this and...without my even mentioning it....change the address on my homepage. Then, he will change the iScoot Palm Beach address.

No big deal...we are still on the NW Corner of S. Dixie and Fern.

And we are open...at least we will be on Tuesday, July 5th....promptly at 10:00AM.

......and the blog will leave the whole issue of "moving" and, at around 9:30AM on the 5th, resume its usual rambling.
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YOU PROBABLY WILL HAVE TO PAY TO PARK 
Monday, June 27, 2011, 09:00 AM
Posted by Administrator
If all goes according to plan...and, so far, it has....we will be opening at 321 S. Dixie Hwy. in beautiful downtown West Palm Beach at around 10:00AM on Friday morning, July 1st. We have no on-site parking, at all. Sorry about that.

The City of West Palm Beach and several vendors whose parents, when they passed on, left them empty lots do provide parking. The City offers three options:

1-Park on the street and pay 25 cents for every...I am guessing here...ten minutes. Bring quarters.
2-Park in the garage one block North and across the Street---Evernia and S. Dixie----and pay $1 for the first two hours.
3-Park in the lot on the NW corner of Datura and S. Dixie and pay that same $1 for two hours.

The lot is about 2 blocks from the office. The garage is about 1 block. Metered parking is right outside the door on S. Dixie and on Fern.

Across the street, one of the parking vendors charges $5 per day.

Other options:

Park at the City Place garage, take a ticket, see a movie, validate your ticket at the Muvico ticket validator in their lobby and walk 5 blocks.

Park in the City Place lot across from Publix. It is $1 for the first hour and then $1 for each half hour after that. The first 1/2 hour might even be free....I don't remember. Walk two blocks East on Fern.


I believe I have exhausted the subject.

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CONTRACTS 
Monday, June 20, 2011, 08:04 AM
Posted by Administrator
In the 70s, I sold Volkswagens at Volkswagen of Bayside (near where Northern Blvd. goes over the Cross Island Parkway). I was 9 years old and a couple of years out of college. Here is one thing I noticed:

Dentists read the car-buying contract before they signed it. Accountants read it. Plumbers read it. Lawyers didn't read it...they just signed.

At the time, I thought that lawyers didn't read it because they were tricky little devils and knew they could get out of whatever it was they were signing. Years later, I found out that lawyers signed without reading because they knew that if they wanted to buy the car...they had to sign the contract. And that neither I nor Management nor even Sandford Schlit, the "dealer", himself, was going to change the contract or negotiate the terms just to get the lawyer to pay $10,500 for a Scirroco. (Are any Scirrocs still on the read?).

In law school, where classes are taught largely on the basis of the decisions of appeals courts in particular lawsuit cases, in one of my classes we discussed a case involving the second of my post-college employers: The Burroughs Corporation. Burroughs was sued because one of their customers did not so much like it that the million dollar computer they bought from Burroughs did not work-at all. The appellate court...following established law....decided that since Burrough's contract said "THERE IS NO WARRANTY OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE" the computer didn't have to compute. It was enough that Burroughs delivered a box full of wires and vacumn tubes and electro-mechanical switches and servos. The customer lost the case.

One of my clients, iScoot Palm Beach (Witt Palm Beach's premier renter of motor scooters), just signed a 30 page lease for a small space on the corner of S. Dixie and Fern. The lease wss written by a New York lawyer and probably relates best to Manhattan skyscrapers. For instance, it won't be able to have people wash the windows in violation of the labor laws and it will have to comply with a bunch of New York codes and regulations. But, I couldn't expect the landlord to re-write his lawyer-friend's lease just to rent out this little space. And he seems like a nice guy so I figure that everyone will just ignore 29 and 1/2 pages of the lease....and, in the end, iScoot will pay rent and the landlord will let them hang onto the key.

And Burroughs would rather have made the computer work...instead of going to court and relying on their contract language to cheat the customer. But, it was the 60's and they couldn't get it to work......back then, nobody knew how.

But...Shouldn't the computer customer---paying a million dollars (of 1960s money) for new "technology" have had a lawyer negotiate a performance guaranty into the contract for sale?

You'd think.
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MOVING 
Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 06:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
STEVEN R. DUHL, P.A. will be moving as of high noon on July 1, 2001.

Our new office location will be: 321 S. DIXIE HY., WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA. THIS IS THE NW CORNER OF FERN AND DIXIE IN BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN WEST PALM BEACH.

There is parking at several city lots within a block or two for $1 for 2 hours. There is metered parking outside the office.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

STREETS IN DOWN TOWN ARE ALPHABETICAL...BANYON, CLEMATIS, DATURA, EVERNIA, FERN, GARDENIA AND HIBISCUS. WEST FROM THE INTRACOASTAL, THE STREETS ARE FLAGLER (THIS RUNS ALONG THE INTRACOASTAL), NARCISSUS, OLIVE, DIXIE (THE STREET WE WILL BE ON), QUADRILLE, ROSEMARY (THE STREET THAT GOES THROUGH CITY PLACE). DIXIE IS ONE WAY GOING SOUTH WHEN IT PASSES THE NEW OFFICE.

We will be sharing some of our space with a completed unrelated business: iScoot Palm Beach. This is the world's premier scooter rental business. As a courtesy to iScoot and to demonstrate our commitment to fun and efficient transportation, anyone who travels to our office on a scooter will be permitted to park inside.

Stop by and see us when you are in downtown West Palm Beach because, as of July 1st, we will be in downtown West Palm Beach.






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MY BUSBOY IS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN 
Friday, June 10, 2011, 03:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
This happened 10 years ago. The names and locations have been changed. Except for that...here it is...

The rule is that lawyers are not allowed to sit idly by and let their client lie under oath or to the court.

One day, I was sitting in a small room in the Galleria Bldg. in downtown West Palm Beach along with my client ...who had been injured in an auto accident... , the defense lawyer (a high strung woman named Linda) and a court reporter who was busy taking down everything that everyone said. My client owned a small Greek restaurant in Delray Beach. It was mostly takeout and he had only one employee. I had been there and I had met the employee.

My client was claiming, among other things, that he didn't work for a while because of his injuries and that he had trouble, now, lifting.

This is, more or less, how the questioning went:

LINDA: Do you have any employees at your restaurnt?
CLIENT: No.
ME: Could you repeat the question, please.

Linda repeated the question. The answer was still "no".

I said that I needed to take a break and talk to my client. Linda, the other lawyer, was shocked.

LINDA: I'm not going to stop in the middle of the deposition so that you can have a conference.
ME: The rules say that I have to do this.

She did not seem to know what "rules" I was referring to.

Out in the hallway, I told my client that I couldn't just let him lie. "But", he said "my employee is here illegally from Argentina and they will deport him if they find out." I told him that I really didn't think that anyone at the deposition cared about the status of his employee or that the immigration people would come to his restaurant and cart the man back to Argentina.

He seemed to understand. We went back into the room. The court reporter sat down. The deposition started again.

LINDA: Do you have any employees?
CLIENT: No.

We went back out into the hallway. I told him that he needed to answer the question "yes" and say that he had an employee.

The third time was bound to be the charm....

LINDA: Do you have any employees at the restaurant?
CLIENT: Yes (beginning to cry) I have an employee. He is a good man. He is from Argentina and he is here illegally and they will deport him if they find out.

By the end of this, my client was crying his eyes out. He was shaking and rocking back and forth.

Linda now understood what we were doing in the hallway. But, she was by no means done questioning him about that illegal Argentinian man whose existence my client was trying so hard to hide.

LINDA: So, just the one employee?
CLIENT: YES.

...ok,then she was done.


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TWO WORDS: COMCAST 
Friday, June 10, 2011, 02:15 PM
Posted by Administrator
In my humble opinion, there is nothing good about ATT. When I moved to my present location, they found it almost impossible to install my phones. They couldn't keep the promises they made to me about internet advertising. Their Yellow Pages salesperson used to scare me so badly that I had to run into my office and lock the door whenever she came.

Today, I got a call from a lawyer I've known for 60 years asking about his client getting his driver license back. It was suspended for not paying a $30,000 judgment. I suggested bankruptcy. Then, the lawyer said:

"When I called your old number, the ATT recording told me to call other lawyers."

Of course, this begged the question: WHY NOT GET MY CURRENT PHONE NUMBER BY LOOKING FOR ME ON THE INTERNET?

Still, I called my previous number: 471-5709. I used to have calls to this number forwarded to 624-6306 but I stopped wanting to pay the $20 a month for that service after a couple of years with a new number. When I called, this is what the ATT recording told me:

"AT NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE, ATT CAN HELP YOU FIND A SIMILAR BUSINESS IN THE SAME AREA SINCE THIS NUMBER IS NO LONGER WORKING..."

I held on and found out that ATT thought I should call Fetterman and Associates in North Palm Beach or Shawn Koplow in Lake Worth or Alan Fischer in Boca.

I immediately contacted my friend, Brian McMahon, who shares space with Koplow and whose blog links to this blog. I texted him: ""I need you to kick the sh_t out of Koplow. Thanks!"

Brian texted me to tell me that Shawn didn't know anyting about it. I texted Brian to tell him that I had no doubt that he didn't know.


Still, even though he didn't know that he was compicit with ATT in all of this, I texted to Brian "Rough him up asap." "He's from Staten Island, he'll understand."


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THE LAWYER CLIENT PRIVILEDGE..........A REHASH 
Thursday, June 9, 2011, 11:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
Where to begin?

Steve____________ on the chairlift at Hunter Mountain Ski Area in slightly upstate N.Y.?

Steve was about to buy a restaurant with partners he'd gotten together at his job cooking lunch for investment bankers in Manhattan. As we rode up on the chairlift on cold winter day with snow from Hunter's fake-snow guns shooting into our faces, he said to me "...and they even showed me both sets of books." By "both sets" he meant that he'd seen the set of books the present owners, the restaurant's sellers, showed the IRS and did their taxes from AND the set that included the cash they took out of the business and put directly into their pockets...tax free.

Steve hadn't done anything wrong...yet. The two sets of books weren't his two sets of books BUT.. Why would he tell me about them? Because I am a a lawyer?

Here is the lawyer-client priviledge correctly (I hope) stated:

WHAT YOU TELL YOUR LAWYER ABOUT PAST STUFF YOU DID IS A SECRET THE LAWYER MUST TAKE TO HIS/HER GRAVE. WHAT YOU TELL YOUR LAWYER YOU ARE ABOUT TO DO IN THE FUTURE (for example, signing a false tax return or testifying in court to a fabricated story...OR applying for a bank loan based on false information) ISN'T PRIVILEDGED. THE LAWYER HAS TO DISCLOSE IT.

Past crimes=a secret.

Future crimes=not so much.

NOTE: The "Steve" referred to was never a client, the writer was never a NY lawyer (though he has been a NY skiier) and the incident happened 30 years ago.


NEXT UP ON THE LAWYER-CLIENT PRVILIEDGE: MY BUSBOY IS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN!
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LAW SCHOOL TESTS 
Monday, June 6, 2011, 11:04 AM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday, as she looked at a dinner menu, my daughter said to me "What has the least calories?" I thought this was a discussion topic and not a question related to what she was going to order. WHAT IS ITEM HAS THE LEAST CALORIES ON THE MENU? DISCUSS.

My daughter ended up ordering the most expensive thing (as she always does) without regard to carlories and I thought of law school exams. In class, there was only one exam. All of the students brought several "Blue Books" with them to the exam room. Blue Books consister of several sheets of lined paper stapled to a blue cover. The idea was that we would write out our answers...page after page after page...in the Blue Books...and then turn the Blue Books in. With the last Book turned in, the semester...and, eventually, law school...was over.

Here is what I remember to be a typical law school test question. This one would be for CONTRACTS.

MR. GREENE AND MR. BUTCHER ARE FARMERS. THEY ARE STANDING AT MR. GREENE'S FENCE. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE IS A SMALL HERD OF COWS. ALL OF THE COWS ARE BLACK EXCEPT THAT ONE COW IS BROWN WITH WHITE MARKINGS AND ONE IS WHITE WITH BROWN SPOTS. THE BROWN COW IS A TROPHY WINNER WORTH A LOT OF MONEY. THE WHITE COW IS JUST A COW. MR. BUTCHER OFFERS MR. GREENE $400 FOR THE "BROWN AND WHITE COW." MR. GREENE AGREES. THE NEXT DAY, MR. GREENE IS READY TO DELIVER MR. BUTCHER THE BROWN COW WITH THE WHITE MARKINGS. MR. BUTCHER SAYS "THAT'S NOT THE COW I BOUGHT."

DISCUSS


...and this would prompt the students to write pages and pages and pages....until severe hand cramps set in....about Mutual Mistake Of Fact and Specific Performance and Damamges and Meeting Of The Minds and Consideration.



...except that probably...and especially if this were their first law school test...some students no doubt saw the word "DISCUSS" and wrote the word "NO" in their Blue Books and stood up and left. Then, they moved on to fantastic careers in dentistry or finance or medcial equipment sales. The rest of us started writing...
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SUDDENLY, MORE THAN NOTHING IS HAPPENING........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 11:20 AM
Posted by Administrator
A week ago, as I sat innocently in court with my hands folded in my lap, waiting for my case to be called, I heard a local lawyer say, more or less "The Court is running out of money and there won't be any more foreclosures after July 1st." This didn't seem right and, in subsequent versions of the statement, it began to seem like:
-The Court here in Palm Beach had run out of money to hire retired judges to hear foreclosure cases, and,
-It didn't seem like without the retired judge anything much would happen.

I only have a couple of dozen foreclosures. When prospective clients ask how long they'll be able to stay in their house once a foreclosure is filed, I say: "I don't know. None of my foreclosure clients have been kicked out yet and some have been there for a couple of years. But, on the other hand, someone could get kicked out in a couple of months."

Now, suddenly, on foreclosure cases that had been sitting silent for months or years, I have began to receive Notices Of Hearings and Orders Setting Status Conferences and it looks like things might be begining to happen.

But, probably not. Probably all of the nonesense will stop in a few weeks and cases will go back to sitting and doing nothing.

Nobdy wants the market flooded with freshly foreclosed on homes for sale....least of all the mortgage holders.
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We're going to move...........by Steve Duhl 
Friday, May 27, 2011, 11:43 AM
Posted by Administrator
We are going to move to downtown West Palm Beach in the beginning of July.

We will be closed the last week in July and the first week in August so that we will be able to eat more easily at restaurants in France, Germany and Switzerland. We will remain available by phone and internet during this time.


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THE T-BONED BENTLEY.......by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 08:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
This past weekend, as I rode my bicycle through an industrial area of Riviera Beach, I was passed by a flat bed truck with a beautiful blue Bentley sitting on the bed. The only flaw in the Bentley that I could see was that the entire right side had been smashed in...the result of some kind of t-bone accident. Seeing this, I began to reminisce...

About 15 years ago, as I drove home from a hearing in my '86 Mercedes, I sort of rear ended a white Rolls Royce. The damage didn't look that bad to me: the Roll's trunk was smashed in but that was it. The police arrived. A West Palm Beach cop walked over to me from the direction of the Rolls and said "You totaled it." I said "But, it's only a smashed in trunk." He said, "They build them on an aluminum pan...insurance is going to total it." A call from my insurance company a few days later telling me that the damage to the Rolls exceeded the limits of my coverage confirmed that the cop was right.

Since then, I have made it a firm guiding principal of my life to change lanes if I find myself behind a Rolls or a Bentley or a Ferrari. In Florida, if you are the at fault driver in an accident and you don't have insurance to pay the injured parties' damages and you don't have the money to pay it out of your pocket....you can lose your driver license forever (bankruptcy may get you out of this).

This begs the question: Why do we let rich people drive around in half million dollar cars just waiting for us to hit them and be financially ruined? Shouldn't there be some kind of limit on what I've got to pay you when I hit your car? If you strap the Mona Lisa to your trunk and I rear end you, have I got to reimburse you for what you payed the Louvre for the painting?

But, on the other hand, outside of South Florida....where we've got a Maserati dealer in every town, it is tough to FIND a outrageously expensive car to get into an accident with. Here, you don't even have to look...you're probably following a Rolls Royce right now as you read this on your iPhone...QUICK LOOK UP AT THE ROAD!

I hope the guy who hit the Bently is a hedge fund manager or a drug dealer or a trust fund baby, otherwise, he may end up learning what life is like in the back seat of a taxi cab.


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I LOVE EBAY............................by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 03:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
I love ebay. I love looking at the pretty motorcycles and the used helicopters and airplanes and...because we are in the scooter business...the scooters. The cars are okay, too. Sometimes, I bid but I have never won.

My friend Bruce from New York said our friend Louis once bought a red BMW on an ebay auction but it was crap. So, I should not have been surprised when the white, Ford Taurus we saw on ebay ("drive great" the ad said) and went to look at near Lake Clark Shores would not do over 30 miles per hour.

It was being sold by a car dealer but, because it was a weekend or because he thought people would not speed through his neighborhood, he was selling it from his house. "Don't go fast through the neighborhood", he said, before the test ride "they know that I'm a car dealer and I'll get blamed."

He had said that he didn't know about the dampness that I found under the passenger floor mat (a/c drain clogged) and that in his 30 years of car selling, he'd never checked under the mat. He told us the rear door locks did not automatically lock.

Before the test ride, I mentioned that Ford transmissions have a reputation for ....well, for not transmitting power to the wheels. He did not blink. Later, when I told him the car wouldn't do more than 30 mph...that the transmission was slipping, I expected him to say "Let me drive it, it must be something you are doing." or " "I'm shocked to hear that, I need to get it checked out." But, he didn't.

He just shrugged his shoulders and took the keys back. I guess he was hoping the next test driver would have more respect for his neighbors and keep it under 30. I'll give the guy this: the car drove great at 25.
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"NOBODY WILL ADMIT MAKING A $100,000 MISTAKE" by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 10:35 PM
Posted by Administrator
Like all 56 year old lawyers, it is my goal to buy a motorcycle to replace my last, previous motorcycle which I traded for a truck...at my wife's insistence...when my now 15 year old daughter was born. This past Saturday, as I sat on my 50cc Kymco scooter, waiting for the Southern Blvd. bridge to close so that I could continue with my trip along A1A to Delray Beach, I asked the man next to me...who was sitting on his '06 Triumph Sprint 1050cc triple what he thought of the bike. "Never had a problem.", he told me. "But", he said "I am a mechanic."

From what I have read, newer Triumphs have a mixed record of reliability. So, the man's recitation of 'no problems' got me to thinking that he might be a little bit inaccurate. And, so, I thought of what the man training me to sell computers in 1976 or 1977, Joe Trivisone, told me:

"Joe", I said "I've got prospects who want me to tell them one of our installations to call before they buy a computer." Joe replied "Tell them to call any one of our customers." "But", I said, none of our customer's computers actually work." (Note: it was the '70's....there barely WERE computers in the 70's.)

"Yeah", Joe said "but none of them will admit making a $100,000 mistake."

Since then I've found out that it is rare that patients will trash their dentist or that people with hair will criticize their hair stylist. The idea is: I chose them...they must be good and, if they're not, I'm not going to admit that I'm an idiot for continuing to use them.

So, it is sometimes best not to go by recommendations or endorsements unless you are sure the recommender or endorser isn't worried that you'll think they're an idiot.

Either way, Triumphs are nice bikes.....maybe I'll take my chances and buy one and just hope that it won't leave me stranded halfway to the West coast.

Maybe I'll just stick to the Kymco.




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BUYER'S REMORSE..............by Steve Duhl 
Sunday, May 1, 2011, 09:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
Now that the recession is over and we are all swimming in money and about to go out and buy big ticket items, it is a good time to review "buyer's remorse".

Buyers remorse is that sick feeling we have the day after we have bought a big ticket item or make an important deal: car, boat, jewelry....settle your injury case. We want to return it or redo it but either:
1) The seller won't take it back (and you can't, usually, undo signed deals) or
2) We don't want to look stupid in front of the salesperson who we liked enough, yesterday, to buy the thing from, or,
3) We know we'll have the same problem with the thing we buy to replace the boat/car/ring we are having regrets about and we don't want to go through buyer's remorse again.

Here is the reason we get buyer's remorse:
It is illogical and irrational to spend a wheelbarrow full of money on something we don't really need or to agree to a deal we don't have to agree to. For example: We need a Toyota Corolla but we bought a Jaguar. So, before we hand over the money/sign the contract/make the deal, we have to suspend logic. It is the salesperson's job to get us to suspend logic and get us to reach a moment of insanity during which we will BUY.

Here are some things JM Lexus gets its cutomers to reach the moment of insanity:
A) Get customer to stay a long time in order to completely bond with salesperson. Want a test drive? Sit in their comfortable lounge for 45 minutes while the salesperson rustles up a key.
B) Get customer's blood sugar low (which means feed the customer sugar to first get it high...at JM, there is a soft ice cream bar right by the entrance).
C) Design a classy showroom decorations designed to convey that you are not about to buy just a car......you are about to join up into a high class lifestyle.
D) Also, Lexus is a good car.

The day after you buy, the thrill is gone. Blood sugar is normal. At your house, last week's laundry is still on the floor. ...and 60 payments to go on that Lexus....and you really should've taken the black one.

Logic kicks in. Your brain screams "WHAT WAS I THINKING". Your heart sinks into your stomach. You feel like you are about to puke.

There is some good news: buyer's remorse goes away in a few hours...quicker than a stomach flu.

If you buy something big and don't get buyer's remorse either your purchase was an incredibly logical decision or, more likely, you are insane and illogical all of the time.


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STICKER SHOCK....................by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 01:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
"Sticker shock" is a reference to the shocked reaction of someone shopping for a $26,000 car at the moment they look at the (Moroney) sticker in the window and see that the car's MSRP is $34,000. They do not buy the car and it is unlikely that the best salesperson on earth could get them to buy.+

+Note: The only exception to this is:
1) Hot salesperson who
2) Gets the customer to believe that not buying right then is a sign of cheapness and
3) That if they do buy, the salesperson will have respect/admiration/ and lust for them.

So, the customer goes home and agonizes over the price, sleeps on it, gets used to the price and comes back the next day. There is no more shock at the sticker price.......the shock all happened yesterday. The Customer is used to, by now, the idea of paying $34K for the car and can move on to the next objection to buying (wrong color, too big, too small, whatever). But, price is no longer the objection that keeps the customer from buying.

Sticker shock happens with buying houses, renting office space, and trying to settle lawsuits. Sometimes, you need a night to let the price sink in. Sometimes, with lawsuits especially, if we spend 14 hours trying to negotiate a deal and blood sugar gets real low and we just want to leave and go home....we can get over sticker shock and make the deal without that night's sleep.

But, we need, at least, that 14 hours.
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MY CONTINUING ATTEMPTS TO BECOME A WEALTHY ENTREPRENEUR....by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 08:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
So, we've started a corporation, Layse, Inc. We are publishing notice of our intent to use a fictitious name, iscootpalmbeach, so that we can register the name with the Florida Secretary of State. Using a fictitious name without registering it is, in a minor way, a crime...if customers don't know what entity they are doing business with, they won't know who to sue.

We bought domain names (.net and .com). We've ordered brochures (though the internet at Vistaprint...we also bought insurance over the internet). I wrote the rental contract (after stealing ideas from other rental contracts). We've taken pictures to use on the website. I got a phone number (from google voice 561-444-9993).

I am continuing to look for space in downtown WPB. So far, I have met with three real estate brokers: 1) A well dressed blonde woman; 2) A larger middle-aged Jewish man who carries a giant keychain; and 3) An older man who wears a white hat. I have spoken to people from the city (first call, then when nobody calls back...show up at City Hall).

Things we need besides the space:
-A merchant account for credit cards.
-An actual up and running website.


.......also, a couple of customers.

Note: First five customers get an invite to the yacht.

Additional note: ...once I sell the business and buy the yacht.
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THE LEGAL LETTER...............by Steve Duhl 
Friday, April 8, 2011, 08:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
My friend, Bruce, told me yesterday that he got a "legal letter" from his business' contractor, Bob's, son. I assumed the son is a lawyer. I told him that I did not know what a "legal letter" was. Bruce is from New York and it could have been that they have "legal letters" in New York but, I doubted it.

It turned out that the "legal letter" was just a letter that his other lawyer friend, Barbara, told Bruce that he had better respond to or else he would be admitting that what Bob's lawyer-son wrote was true. The "legal letter"...in theory...would come into evidence at whatever trial was eventually had on whatever lawsuit one or the other of them filed and the proponent of the letter could ask the witness identifying it (presumably, Bob) "Now, daddy, did you receive a response to this letter?"

The answer would be "No" and the lawyer/son could argue ...when it was the time in the trial for argument... that the non-answer to the "legal letter" amounted to an admission that everything the letter said was true. In the case of this "legal letter", the admitted/supposed "truth" would be that Bruce owed Bob a fistfull of money for construction work...that Bruce thought he had already overpaid for...based upon a handshake and the alleged statement from Bruce "I'll pay you the money even though I don't owe you a penny."

Credit card companies and collection agencies frequently base their lawsuits on the idea: WE SENT YOU A STATEMENT OF WHAT YOU OWED AND YOU DIDN'T WRITE US AND TELL US WE WERE WRONG. A cause of action like this is called "Account Stated". I send people letters sometimes saying, FOR EXAMPLE "if you don't send me all of the "lease" papers within the next ten days, I will be forced to conclude that you don't have any papers and that your claim agianst my client is specious and without foundation." Typically, I get a big envelope stuffed with papers in support of their claim a few days later.

I don't know whether you have to respond to a letter making questionable claims if you've already told the sender that their claim is crap. If you feel a need to respond, keep it short. The more you say, the more likely it will be that you wil give them ammunition to use against you in a lawsuit. Whatever you send out, keep a copy. And, to avoid having to respond to letter after letter after letter, write something like this:

"I deny what you are claiming. Take notice that in the future, I am going to throw all correspondence from you in the garbage."



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CALL (561) 444-9993 FOR ALL YOUR MOTOR-SCOOTERING NEEDS......by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 03:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
Because I am a patriotic, capitalistic, free thinking American who believes that we can't run our lives afraid of stink'in lawyers filing liability lawsuits every time someone skins their knee, I have accepted a position as vice president of Layse, Inc. Layse, Inc. is dedicated to the rental of motor scooters to anyone over the age of 18 who has a driver license and a credit card that isn't bumping up against it's limit.

In starting Layse, Inc., I have had to spend countless hours navigating through the hoops and barrels set up by politicians intent on hobbling entrepreneurship. Okay, setting up the corporation took less than 30 minutes and cost about 100 bucks and getting an EIN number from the IRS (which we will need to open a bank account) took 10 minutes and was free. Amazingly, the State Dept. of Revenue charges $5 for you to apply to pay them sales and "use" tax if you come into their office --y----but you can apply for free to pay them money if you do it on the internet.

We still need a merchant number for credit cards; we need to get brochures printed; James Tuttle at Easy Computing is working on our website as I write this; and google is letting me have a second phone number to my present phone with a separate message that says:

"You have reached Layse, Inc.'s iscootpalmbeach. We can't take your call right now...but.........".



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CAR DEALERS ON FRONT LINES OF ANTI-TERRORISM......by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 09:27 AM
Posted by Administrator
The ADVANCED DEALER TRAINING INSTITUTE's MOTOR VEHICLE DEALER APPLICANT TRAINING PROGRAM...which I took, yesterday,...was the best course I have taken since Psych. 101 at the University of Colorado 30 years ago. The school gave Psych. 101 in a local movie theatre because nothing on campus was big enough to hold the flood of students who wanted in.

Yesterday's course was held at the Clarion motel in Lake Worth. A motel which, years ago, turned it's bar into a Perkins Pancakes restaurant. Here is what I learned:

-You've got to check prospective car/motorcycle (yes, even scooter) buyers against the Homeland Security watchlist or else you face a big fine (though nobody on the watchlist has been identified by a car dealer in the 10 years they've been doing this).
-You've got to report cash transactions of more than $10K to the IRS and the Florida Dept. of Revenue to help keep track of the unreported cash of terrorists, drug dealers and hot dog vendors.
-You should not tell a prospective buyer that the used truck you are selling will pull his boat trailer. You should tell him to contact Ford and ask them.
-A recent survey revealed that the most distrusted profession in America is television preacher. #2 is lawyers. #4 is car salesmen.

So, in the 30 years since I've gone from selling cars to being a lawyer, I have moved up ...at least in one survey...from #4 to #2.
I believe this represents a solid performance.
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iSCOOT..................by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, March 24, 2011, 03:17 PM
Posted by Administrator
iSCOOT seems like it is edging out SCOOTOVER of Palm Beach as the eventual name for the scooter company. To avoid liability, the scooters are actually owned and operated by LAYSE, Inc., a Florida corporation. We are in the middle of making our sub-chapter S election and getting a sales tax number.

The question of which corporate entity is best is better answered by accountants than by lawyers. The benefits of a subchapter S include:
-The owners can pay themselves a reasonable salary...and pay FICA and Medicare tax on that then...
-Take the remainder of the profit out as a distribution and not pay FICA or Medicare tax on that (this saves 7.65% X 2=15.30% in taxes).

Distributions in regular (non-S) corporations are called profits-before they are distributed and dividends when the money is sent out to shareholders. Corporate profits are taxed and dividends are taxed, also (there is a line for dividends on the IRS' 1040 form). To avoid double taxation...and only if you are small company...you can elect to be a subchapter S (or you can take all of the extra money out as salary and pay that additional 15.30% for taxes).

My accountant asked me "Why not an LLC?" I asked her what the benefit was. She said "You can avoid personal liability."

"But", I said "you can do that with a corporation. I thought there was a tax benefit to an LLC." "No", she said, "I thought there was some kind of legal benefit."

I saw a lawyer I sort-of know sitting in court a few weeks ago what an LLC was. He said "It is some kind of corporation but the IRS doesn't recognize it."

The scooter business will not be an LLC.

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ANOTHER 341 STORY....by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 08:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
It is unusual that much happens at 341s (the "Meeting Of Creditors" in bankruptcy cases...run by the Trustee...that creditors rarely come to). For honest, financially depressed Debtors, it can be over in 90 seconds. For lying, cheating cheaters, the questioning can take longer.

I am not suggesting that today's ex-produce broker (mostly berries, he said..."blue berriest, black berries")...was anything less than honest. He testified (all of this is public record and he wasn't my client) that his business failed because of his business associates.

When the Trustee asked the man's lawyer if he could see a copy of the 21 count federal criminal indictment now pending against the man in Mississippi (apparently charging, among other things, embezzlement), I thought nothing of it. The Justice Department makes mistakes all of the time about who it has Grand Juries indict. When the man said that his Mississippi lawyers (to whom his brother-in-law paid $40,000) were going to get the case thrown out, I thought to myself "No doubt about it."

On the other hand, it sort of mystified me why someone with financially based criminal charges against them would file for bankruptcy. The Constitution says that you can't be forced to testify against yourself in a criminal case. So, why would you file a civil case...like a bankruptcy...and open yourself up to questioning? If you want to get a bankruptcy discharge...you've got to answer questions and maybe some of those questions will be a lot like the questions the US Attorney's Office might ask you if there wasn't that whole thing in the constitution about not having to incriminate yourself.

I figure I am just missing something.
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YESTERDAY AT THE 341.............by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, March 2, 2011, 10:57 AM
Posted by Administrator
For the usual Chapter 7 bankrtupcy, you don't need to see a judge. You do need to see one of the court appointed Trustees...whichever gets your case....at the medical building that the Bankruptcy Court rents space in on Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. It is the building two doors North of Good Samaritan Hospital and there is a great view of the Intracoastal and Palm Beach from a window to the left of the elevator landing on the 8th floor.

I was there, yesterday.

And, as I sat waiting for my client's case to be called in the meeting room which is attached to the waiting room, I watched the Trustee question some DEBTORS WITH MONEY.

"I see you have a Rolex. Did you bring it with you?", the Trustee said.

"Yes", the DEBTORS WITH MONEY answered as they handed the trustee a small blue, velvet bag. The Trustee's assistant later noted in her laptop that it was a Presidential Rolex.

"I'm going to need for you to sell out your brokerage account and get me a check and a copy of the closing statement.", the Trustee said.

"OK", said the DEBTORS WITH MONEY.

Sometimes, in these Chapter 7s, the Debtors have to give up some assets. It is almost-never that it is household furniture, or cars or houses but.......I guess sometimes it happens. It is the lawyer's job to anticipate what is going to happen at the "341 Meeting" and to tell the clients what to expect....sometimes even to plan (withint he limits of the law) to minimize what the Debtors will have to give up.


Yesterday, on this one, the Trustee was going to make some money and make a distribution to the Debtors' creditors.

My clients were the last 9:30AM. They had nothing. We were done in 2 minutes.




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TWO REASONS WHY IT IS A STUPID IDEA TO SETTLE YOUR DEBT...by Steve Duhl 
Friday, February 18, 2011, 12:52 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today, as I went through a bankruptcy client's bills, I found two FANTASTIC OFFERS. One, from Chase, came in a pretty dark blue envelope. On the outside of the envelope, it said "This is not a lottery ticket. But pull the tab anyway" there was an arrow pointing to a tab and a pull on the tab opened the envelope. Inside, was Chase's offer: pay 1/2 of the $7,655.52 that is owed and Chase will forget about the other 1/2.

At the bottom of this "CHASE SETTLEMENT PLAN" was a note "We are required by the IRS to provide information about certain amounts that are discharged as a result of cancellation of a debt on a form 1099C." The bottom line is that if you take their offer and send them $3,828., they will, they will 1099 you for the $3,828 they are "forgiving" and you will have to report that as income to the IRS and pay taxes.

I saw a similar...though less generous... offer from American Express. They wanted $5,368 to settle a debt of $7,668.

Debt settlement is a great idea if you:
1) Wait a long time and settle for around 23 cents on the dollar.
2) Have assets or income that would preclude bankruptcy.
3) Don't mind the tax consequences (debt "forgiven" by a bankruptcy is not taxable...though GET TAX ADVICE FROM YOUR ACCOUNTANT, DON'T RELY ON ME).

Bankruptcy is a better idea if you:
1) Qualify.
2) Would like to get your credit back quickly (no kidding, bankruptcy is probably better for your credit).
3) Owe more than two or three creditors.
4) Don't have $5,000 or $10,000 or more on hand to pay out to settle debt.


I am not saying that it is stupid for most people to take these debt settlement deals when better alternatives likely exist.

Ok, actually that is what I am saying.
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SECOND MORTGAGES.......THE TWILIGHT ZONE.........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 08:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
Second mortgages here in South Florida are often worthless because ...since home prices have dropped... all of the equity in a house is eaten up by the first mortgage. It would be pointless for the bank or investors holding a second mortgage to foreclose because the end result of a foreclosure is a sale of the property ...at auction.. by the Clerk of Court. And who would want to to bid?

The likelihood is that these second mortgages will be sold, one day, to debt collectors or lawyers in that end of the business for a few pennies on the dollar. The homeowner would one day get an offer that boiled down to: "You can't sell your house without taking care of the second mortgage which we now own...and which you haven't been paying. Give us $XXX in exchange for a Satisfaction of Mortgage and we'll call it even." $XXXX might be, for example, 20 cents on the dollar. On the other hand, no second mortgage holder is going to just walk away without trying to collect something.

So, of course, in the past two weeks I have had one client walk into my office with a foreclosure lawsuit filed by the bank that owns their second mortgage. They hadn't been paying the second in months...they also hadn't been paying their first mortgage. The principal balance on the first was far more than the value of the house. It made no sense that the second would foreclose..... but that is what was happening.

And, of course, as I should have expected, another client called me two days ago and reported that their second mortgage holder had sent them a 1099 tax form for the total amount due on the second mortgage. The 1099 meants that he had to recognize the forgiven debt as income on his 2010 taxes (unless he gets rid of the obligation by filing bankruptcy). The 1099 also meant that the second mortgagee was forgiving the second mortgage ....walking away.

I have been telling clients for a long time that that mortgagees don't know what they are going to do with the bad loans in their portfolios...that it will take a while for things to sort out.

Apparently, I was right.

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NELLIE AND THE NISSAN PATHFINDER.........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 06:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note by Bob Smith: Yes, Duhl used to sell cars. Now if he'd just shut up about it........


Duhl writes:

I got a call this morning from a former secretary of mine (who said I could use her name and tell her story). She had bought a Nissan Pathfinder from a Miami used car dealer over the weekend and was regretting the purchase. She liked the car but she was having buyer's remorse over the deal she made. I called the dealership for her (because she is my former secretary, not because I do car-dealer-law). This is what I was able to figure out.

She had bought the car for around $18,000. She put $1.5K down and the dealership said it would get her financing for the remainder at 4.9% interest. Presumably, the dealership told her this so that they could "make the deal" and send her home with the car...they would worry about the details later. The lore of the car dealer business is that if a customer doesn't leave the lot with a car......they'll never see them again.

One of the details the dealer would worry about later was that no bank was going to lend Nellie the rest of the money to buy the car and certainly not at 4.9% interest. Credit is tight. She has a good "Beacon Score" but she only has low-limit credit cards and has never financed a big purchase.

When I called the dealership, I was told that they probably would be able to get her a loan with only the $1.5K down....through a credit union and at 10% interest. So, the dealership would have to get Nellie back in to sign new loan papers at the 10%.

Or, alternatively, the dealership could just hold onto the loan, themselves. When the dealer had Nellie sign the loan papers, they intended to sell the loan to a bank for the full face value and "without recourse". "Without recourse" means that the bank or credit union that bought the loan from the dealer couldn't come back and demand that the dealer pay the money if Nellie didn't. The dealer could just be the lender...and make good on their deal with Nellie. Or, assuming the dealership itself were credit-worthy, they could sell the loan "with recourse"...and guaranty that the buyer would get paid...either by Nelly or by them.

But, in reality, what the dealership is going to do is call Nellie...probably tomorrow...right around 10:30 AM and tell her that she has to come in and sign more papers. The "more papers" will be a loan at the higher interest rate. Maybe they'll tell her to "bring your checkbook" because they will try to get her to put more money down....all to make the loan saleable "without recourse".

If Nellie refuses to sign the papers, they'll tell her she owes some exorbitant amount for the use of the car for the few days she has had it. Or, they'll point to some language in her contract that requires her to sign papers at a higher interest rate.

When we spoke in the afternoon, she was really, really anxious to just return the car and walk away from her $1,500. I told her to wait until tomorrow and, when the call came from the dealership, to call me. It is always bad to make big decisions when you are upset. And, maybe, she can somehow make the dealership's problem into a benefit for her.

Also, whatever car she buys to substitute for the Pathfinder...there will be problems for her with that deal too.

It isn't that car dealerships are bad, it is just that they are much better at the business of selling cars than we are at the business of buying them. Also, times are tough in the car business so they've got to make money wherever they can. The salesmen have mouths at home to feed...and they need your money to do it.

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A CHOICE OF TWO YESES..........by Steve Duhl 
Monday, January 24, 2011, 08:04 PM
Posted by Administrator
It has been a while since I tortured blog reader with ramblings about my days in sales and the hugely important stuff I learned:
-WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES.
-THE THIRD PARTY COMPLIMENT.
-MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO BE LIKE YOU AND THEY WILL BUY FROM YOU.

So, this entry A CHOICE OF TWO YESES is overdue.

Today, I emailed a client telling him that "Yes, I think you should try to make an appointment to discuss settlement with that guy who is threatening to sue you." I wrote "Tell him that you want to meet him at Panera next Wednesday." and "Would 4:30 be good or would 5:00 be better?"

We all like multiple choice questions. One of the choices is the correct answer and we are confident that we will know the answer once we see it. Nobody ever liked fill-in-the-blank....you just need to know a little too much to succeed at fill-in-the-blank questions.

So, if I want you to do something, I want to ask you to do it with a user-friendly....multiple choice question. Also, since it is easy to say "no"....especially for lazy people and for people who want to avoid your agenda...you don't want to include "no" as one of your multiple choices. And every "yes/no" question includes the "no" as one of the choices. So, "yes/no questions are not allowed.

"Would you like to buy the blue Ferrari now or the Red one?" "Do you want to buy the Samsung refigerator now or the Whirlpool with the freezer drawer on the bottom?" "Would you rather meet me at 5:00 or at 6:00?"

And, to that gorgeous dark haired woman standing at the bar slugging Tequila shots and looking for trouble: "Are you just buying me a shot or are you buying me a Corona chaser, also?"

Don't scoff. Try it. This crap actually works.



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I WAS NOT MURDERED OR KIDNAPPED BY MEXICAN NARCO TRAFFICKERS.....by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 12:31 AM
Posted by Administrator
For the first time in almost two years, I paid my $2 to park at the foot of the International Bridge, put my twenty-five cents into the sidewalk turnstile and walked into Mexico. The Mexican army's sandbagged machine gun emplacement... which had been at the foot of the bridge on the Mexican side... was gone. The armoured personnel carrier was still there and was surrounded by Mexican soldiers with automatic rifles slung over their shoulders. They were sharing a bag of what looked to be Cheetohs.

Tourists were there, mostly pale-white retirees from Indiana and Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest. Some walked through the streets carrying cups of beer. Six Americans were sitting in my Mexican dentist's waiting room (Dr. Leoncio Olivares...Benito Juarez 117-B). But the tourists thronged only as far as the Canada store...about 4 blocks South of the bridge. Last time I was here, the sidewalks were full-up for another 3 or 4 blocks South.

The economy (at least in this part of Mexico) is not so good. "Shoe shine mister?" "Shoe shine amigo?" I could not walk for more than a few seconds without being offered a shoeshine. I was accosted by at least 2 dozen shoe shiners and shoe-shine-salesmen of every age and (Mexican) description. I had never before...in my dozens of trips to this same town...been offered a shoeshine more than once. The locals are hustling and they are hustling because...financially...they are hurting.

I bought a cheese after being assured that the cheese I was buying wasn't for sale in the U.S. "No vende in Estados Unidos." "Necessita, el queso vende solo in Mexico." (My Spanish has not improved.) And I bought two big bottles of vanilla extract.

Then, without having had my shoes shined, I put another quarter in the turnstile and walked back across the bridge.

And, what awas especially good for both me and my life insurance company: at no time was I murdered by Mexican narco traffickers.

Heck, I wasn't even kidnapped.
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THE 4 BEST POSSIBLE NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS .......by Bob Smith 
Thursday, December 30, 2010, 04:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now lives in Northern Wyoming, next to the Canadian Border. Bob will be spending New Year's Eve in Medicine Hat at the Tim Horton's donuts. Bob says "Would you believe that the Canadian New Years happens at the same time as the real one?"

Bob writes:

As an old man, I offer these ideas for New Year's resolutions. Try them. You'll be happy you did!


1) Don't agonize over your troubles. It's bad for your health. Some study I read somewhere found that people from the mountains of Georgia (the Georgia in Europe that was formerly part of the USSR, not the one with Atlanta in it) lived the longest because they didn't spend much time grieving about bad things in the past...they moved on. The past is, really, unfixable.

2) Remember that while it is bad to drink too much, a little is probably good. If you don't drink at all...GOOD NEWS!...it is never too late to start (though if you are under 18, it might be too early.) A few years ago, I made a New Year's resolution to start drinking hard liquor again. I am proud to say that I have been able to stick with it.

3) Spend some money. We are capitalists here and capitalism doesn't work if we all keep our money in our pockets. Can't think of anything to buy? Let me know. I'll send you a list along with my address.

4) Quit trusting politicians. They are all bad (except for people like Michael Bloomberg in New York who is a billionaire so at least you know he's not doing it to get rich off of corruption.) You trust Sarah Palin. Admit it. You do. You can't concieve of a middle-aged woman as good looking as her being as bad as all those other know-nothing-Bible-thumping-freedom-limiting-tax & spend-idiots. I am sorry to tell you that you are wrong. She is as bad. Probably worse. Still, next snowmobile race I go to, I'm rooting for her husband, Todd. Hey, I can kinda see Sarah's back yard from my porch so it's almost like we're neighbors.





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I WAS PROFILED AS A POSSIBLE TERRORIST--- (OR WAS IT MY DAUGHTER ARYANNA'S DOG SPARKY?)...by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 10:04 PM
Posted by Administrator
Yesterday, my daughter Aryanna's Shetland Sheepdog, Sparky, ran away when I opened the gate to get my truck into the back yard. After I hitched up my boat trailer to the truck, I found Sparky on the next block and, figuring that he needed an activity, instead of dropping him off at the house, I took him with me on the boat.

Sparky and I passed by a mantee near the boat drop off then we motored over to the Palm Beach Inlet. Sparky was not so happy with the boat bouncing through the Inlet so we came back in and headed North. We were about 300 feet off of Peanut Island and directly across from the Riviera Beach Tiki Hut when a Southbound Coast Guard boat turned on its blue strobe lights. The Coast Guard boat was an orange rigid-hull-inflatable with an aluminum cabin large enough for six or eight Coast Guardspeople. It had three 300hp Suzuki outboards hanging off the transom and a .50 caliber machine gun a few feet aft of the bow.

I turned towards the Coast Guard boat and shut down my engine. I called out to a blue uniformed young man with a semi-automatic pistol strapped to his thigh "You're going to do all the work, right?" Because I figured that with their three engines it would be easier for them to manuever alongside me than it would be for me with my single engine to manuever alongside him. The man replied "No." But, my engine was off, so, the reality was it was going to be up to them.

I threw him my bow line and he tied me off to a cleat on the starboard side of his boat, near the bow. There was a very attractive blue uniformed blonde woman with a clipboard on her lap sitting behind the man. Behind them, on the port side of their boat, was a very attractive brunette who didn't say anything and, so, was either: a) being standoffish, or, b) guarding that side of their boat from possible attack from Peanut Island.

They asked me for my registration and ID. I was told that it wasn't a safety check but that we were stopped as part of their anti-terrorism patrol around the Port of Palm Beach. The man said that it was a random stop...by which he meant that he didn't want me to think that Sparky and I fit into some kind of boater-terrorist profile.

Now, I am not a great constitutional scholar but I sort of remember the reasons the cops are allowed to stop you (since there is that whole thing about our being "free from unreasonable seraches and seizures" in the Bill of Rights)....and, for purposes of this discussion, "cops" includes the Coast Guard.

1) If the cops have a reasonable suspicion that you are engaged in criminal activity...or that you have violated a staute or ordinance. An example of this would be allowing your boat to produce a wake in a no-wake zone. Sparky and I were wake-free.
2) In a border area for the purpose of policing the border and keeping out contraband and illegals. A border area stop doesn't require reasonable suspicion and we could have been stopped for no reason at all. And the Intracoastal Waterway connects with the ocean with connects with the rest of the word, so, we certainly were in a border area. But, I asked the Coast Guard man whether their stopping us was related to our being in a border area. He said "no".

I really don't think that the Coast Guard is allowed to stop boaters to make random checks having nothing to do with boating safety and nothing to do with policing the border. The Riviera Beach Police couldn't have made a legal RANDOM stop of my truck while I was driving on the flyover above the Port just because they thought that would be a good way to stop terrorism (though if my truck has a broken taillight lens...or if the cop stopping me says it is broken...then the stop is ok).

But, it doesn't matter if the stop is legal or not unless you get arrested as a result (and neither Sparky nor I was arrested) or unless you do something about it. So, I could call the American Civil Liberties Union and ask them to sue the Coast Guard and to get a Court order requiring that they stop their shennanigans. But, on the other hand, if my boat sinks I'm going to call the Coast Guard and Coast Guard boats are kind of cool looking. And they were nice to Sparky and me. Also, did I mention that the Coast Guard women were kinda hot?

The man handed my ID to the blonde woman and she wrote my information down on her clipboard. She asked me for my phone number and I thought "That's a violation of my privacy." Then, I thought, "My business number is on my website...I try to get people to take down the number." So, I gave her 624-6306.

At about the time I was giving the blonde my phone number, I heard a woman's voice come over a radio speaker in the cabin of their boat. "There are two boats in the inlet and they're about to get into a fight.", she said. Everyone waited for me to get my engine started before the Coast Guardsman at the helm turned on their siren and theytook off towards the Inlet.

I know I should be more upset about the illegal stop than I am and I apologize for my lack of upset-ness. After all, if we lawyers don't cause a ruckus when the government trample our rights, who is going to? But, to be honest, I like the Coast Guard. And if the brunette had been the one asking for my phone number, I would have give her my cell.

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I WAS APPROVED BY A LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE....by Jesus Rabinowtiz 
Friday, December 17, 2010, 09:47 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz is a (temporarily) un(der)employed Florida lawyer who is busy finishing up his second book...working title: THE DAY BEGAN QUITE WELL.

Yesterday evening, there were only re-runs on prime time TV, so, I decided to conduct an investigation into what happened if I asked for a referral from a lawyer referral service. I fired up the lap top, put "bankruptcy attorney palm beach gardens" into google and, .000023 seconds later, I had pages and pages of informaiton. Like all good consumers, all I cared about was the first page.

The first results page was chock full of paid-for returns. I could not tell who was being paid: google adwords, att, some other vendor? Most of the returns were for actual, flesh and blood lawyers. But, after scouting around, I found a return from "Attorneys.com". I clicked.

I was directed over to what appeared to me to be the attorneys.com website. I was asked to answer a few questions by checking boxes. How much did I owe? There were four or five choices. What was my big problem? The choices included garnishments and lawsuits and lots of other bad stuff.

On the next page, I was asked my zip code and contact information. After I filled it all out, I was assured by the website that they would assign me the most appropriate bankruptcy lawyer they had in their databank.

Today, I received an email from attorneys.com, it read "Your request has been approved." I really don't think they disapprove anybody's request for a referal to a lawyer who particpates in their marketing campaign but, still, I guess this was GOOD NEWS! And, I believe it was beautifully worded. People filing for bankruptcy were probably happy to hear...in the past...that their credit application was "approved" and that they would be getting a new credit card so, why not make them happy by telling them that their request for a bankruptcy lawyer had been "approved".

The email told me that I was going to be referred to a lawyer named Ed Port because...based upon attorneys.com analysis, Ed would best fit my needs. Really, based on what attorneys.com knew about me...based on the few questions I answered...any lawyer who had filed bankruptcies for a while would be fine and I should probably make my decision based on price.

But.....and I want to be clear about this...while I don't know Ed Port, I do know who he is. And I have never neard a bad word about him. And nothing I have written above is intended to disparage Ed in any way.

In fact, if I was going to file for bankruptcy and and I didn't know Duhl, I might hire Ed Port. AFter all, I have been approved.

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UPDATES............by Steve Duhl 
Friday, December 17, 2010, 09:37 AM
Posted by Administrator
I am going to open a second office at Donia Robert's office on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in Belle Glade. This is a few blocks East of Tom Montgomery's office and a couple blocks South of Mamie Washington's office. Also, it is across the stret from the Elk's Club and kind of diagonally across from the U-Save. I will be there twice a week beginning the second week of January.

This will give me two (2) offices. The main office in Palm Beach Gardens (near the corner of Military and Northlake) and the Belle Glade office. CONTRARY TO WHAT ATT AND YP.COM would have you believe:
1) I do not have an office in West Palm Beach...and 9091 N. Military Trail is not in West Palm Beach. It is my office address in Palm Beach Gardens.
2) I do not have an office in Wellington.

Also, my phone number is 561-624-6306. It is not the number that ATT of YP.com published in certain internet advertising.

Hopefully, the address problem with be corrected today. And, hopefully, I will disappear, today, from all paid-for internet advertising.

But, I can always be found........for free...here (and, also, in Gardens and Belle Glade).
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PEACE........by Bob Smith 
Thursday, December 16, 2010, 04:00 PM
Posted by Administrator
It appears that Att and YP.com and Duhl have reached a peace.

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HEARSAY.................by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, December 15, 2010, 09:56 AM
Posted by Administrator
I was quite surprised, yesterday. Here is what happened:

At a Domestic Violence---throw my client out of the house---hearing, the other lawyer asked her client:

"Who did your husband call at your place of employment?"

Since this question was likely going to be answered based on what her fellow workers told her, the question asked for hearsay. That it, the question was designed to find out what she supposedly heard other people say...and the people were not in court to testify and be subject to cross examation by me. So, I objected:

"Objection, calls for hearsay.", I said.

And the Judge said "You think that 'hearsay' is an objection?"

And I said "It is up to you whether it is."

And, so, I guess I found out that in Domestic Violence hearings, hearsay is okay as long as it doesn't provide a substantial part of the foundation for the court's determination.

Does this change anything at all? Does it matter that I didn't know that the dumb-ass legislature had changed a rule that has served us well in keeping evidence reliable and believable...a rule that has been around since the English were in the dark ages (most of our law comes from England?

No, for two reasons:

1) It is muscle memory to object. When you are about to hear hearsay, you object. You don't think about possible exeptions. That is the Judge's job..or the job of the lawyer on the other side who is grying to get the hearsay in. Calls for hearsay? You jump.
2) Objecting to hearsay...even if your objection is overruled, reminds the Judge that he or she is about to hear a bunch of crap. ...what the witness says that someone told them. How easy is it to make that up?
3) When it is your turn to present evidence, you are going to ask for hearsay if you need it to prove your case. So, why trouble yourself too much about the actual rule?



OK, that's three reasons.

When it was my turn to put on evidence, I asked my client what his friend's friend said she saw the wife do a few weeks before.

The other lawyer said "Objection, hearsay."

And the Judge said..... You already know what the Judge said.
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LAWYER OVER-ADVERTISING................by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Thursday, December 9, 2010, 09:20 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Jesus Rabinowitz is a (at the moment) unemployed lawyer who lives in Jacksonville. Jesus is half-way through completing his second book and, he asks: Does anyone have a publisher for a best friend?

Editor's Note by Bob Smith posted on December 16 @ 4:02PM: It appears that Duhl and ATT, YP.com, etc. have reached a peace. The following, therefore is intended for philosophical reflection only.


I sometimes joke with people (usually advertising salespeople) that I should have quit being a lawyer ten years ago and taken a job selling lawyers advertising. When I graduated from law school, the Florida Bar was just beginning to recognize that lawyers had free speech rights and lawyer advertising...tacky or not...could not be prohibited.

In the twenty years since, lawyers have gone from small, tasteful ads in the Yellow Pages to providing most of the revenue for the Yellow Pages and from occasional commercials on TV to half of the commercials on TV. Lawyers now appear on 40% of the billboards in the County, on most taxi-cab-top signs that are not touting Mr. T's Lounge or Cheetahs and on the backs of most of the PalmTran Buses. There probably is an irony in seeing lawyers faces stained by diesel bus exhaust...but the irony is lost on me.

Today's advertising frontier is the Internet. (Okay, it was yesterday's advertising frontier but I am just getting up to speed.) A website isn't enough, lawyers and law firms need to pay to have their website come up on the first results page. They need to pay to come up when an internet user types "West Palm Criminal Defense Lawyer" or "DUI lawyer" or "Bankruptcy Attorney Palm Beach Gardens" into Google or Bing.

Because the legalbagel blog always has new content and search engines like new content, Steve Duhl shows up on the first results page when users type in "Steve Duhl" or "steveduhl" or "Steven Duhl" and I show up when users type in "Jesus Rabinowitz". But, it is a struggle to stay on that first page and it is harder for people with common names. There aren't a lot of Steve Duhls or Jesus Rabinowitzs out there.

A month ago, Duhl (thought he) made a deal with ATT for hits on Google and Bing. 170 hits a month, he thought. And the kind of hits you get when people input the kind of lawyer and the location...not hits for "Steve Duhl". So, far, it isn't going well. Too many lawyers made the same deal, I think,....and there are just so many hits to go around.

What will ATT do to fix the problem? Can they do anything?

I, Jesus Rabinowitz, will keep you posted.
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Editor's Note: JESUS RABINOWITZ  
Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 09:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
Blog contributor Jesus Rabinowitz can be contacted at jesusrabinowitz@hotmail.com or become Rabinowitz's friend on FACEBOOK.
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3 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CAR ACCIDENTS IN FLORIDA....by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 02:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
1) Buy Uninsured Motorist insurance when you buy your car insurance. If you don't have it, call your agent and upgrade. If you are injured in an accident and the other driver---the one who caused the accident---doesn't have liability insurance, you won't recover any money unless you have UM (or, you get hit by a rich guy).

2) In Florida, you don't have to have liability insurance. But, if you get into an at fault accident and you don't, you will probably have your driver license suspended. Bankruptcy, if you qualify, will solve this problem.

3) Insurance agents make more commission if they sell you PIP with a deductible. (PIP is what pays $10K---or less--of your medical bills and lost wages if you are injured, regardless of who is at fault in the accident.) But, if you have a deductible on your PIP, you may have trouble getting a doctor to treat you without cash up front.

If you have questions, give us a call. (Or, call those guys whose pictures are on the back of the Palmtran buses.)


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MORE RULES COST YOU MORE MONEY...........by Steve Duhl 
Monday, December 6, 2010, 08:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
In the beginning, 25 years ago, when I had a lot more hair, getting divorced was expensive. This was before the days of
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES WORKSHEETS and NOTICES OF SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER and NOTICES OF RELATED CASES and CERTIFICATES OF COMPLETION OF PARENTING CLASSES. It was even before CIVIL COVER SHEETS.

This was before the days of judges mistrusting lawyers and reviewing and changing what the parties agreed to. This was before judges quit trusting lawyers who said "Judge, the child suppport is according to the guidelines." and, so, it was before judges started doing the child support math themselves. This was before twenty page PARENTING PLANS. It was before MANDATORY DISCLSOURE. It was before the day that committees of over-eager lawyers came up with new complicated rules for the rest of us to follow and new and complicated forms that ran up the cost of what was already expensive enough.

It was before the legislature decided that we all should split time up with the kids 50/50. It was back when we knew that a lot of parents who said that they wanted the kids half the time were really just trying to get out from having to pay child support.

I had a mediator, talking to my client and the other side a few days ago say: "...and if you don't work everything out, the judge will probably send you back to mediation." Which implied, I guess, that the time that I am talking about was back when judges were still trying cases.

All of this was back in the day when there were fewer lawyers which meant, on the one hand, that there was less competition. And the increased competition that exists now should make prices lower. But it was also back in the day when lawyers had too many cases and they didn't have to run up their bill on just a few cases to make the payment on their yacht.

I am not complaining that getting divorced is more complicated and costly than it was 25 years ago. But I would figure that there are a lot of other people complaining about it....so that I don't have to.


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HEY! THIS MEANS YOU! 
Sunday, December 5, 2010, 12:58 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: The blog's writers are suffering from collective bain freeze (except for Rabinowitz who is hard at work on his second book..). Will there be a new entry tomorrow? Maybe.

In the meantime,there are 15 pages of entries behind this one.
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ADCORP 
Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 05:25 PM
Posted by Administrator
Adcorp did replace my signage at the el Bodegon,as they had promised to do. Was it because Adcorp was afraid of the power of the blog.......or just because they wanted to do the right thing. You be the judge.
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THE COST OF A TICKET............................by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Monday, November 29, 2010, 07:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
I do no represent people who have recieved traffic tickets (unless they are for criminal offenses, for example: reckless driving & DUI). There are lawyers who do civil traffic violations full time. When I land up having to go to court for a ticket received by a relative, I walk into the courtroom and make a beeline for one of the traffic ticket lawyers. They are usually sitting at a table in the front, left of the courtroom in front of a tall stack of thin files.

"I'm stuck doing this for my ________.", I say. Every lawyer I have approached in traffic court for free advice about my _________'s tickets has been very helpful....they look at the ticket, think, then tell me what to do. _________ has a clean driving record. (Actually, it has been a long time since __________ has been ticketed so, even without me ___________ would have clean record.)

BUT.........

I just got off the phone with a major insurance company. I will not say which one but I will give this hint: it is is not company that does not have a gecko as a spokesanimal. I saved over $100 a month on my insurance premium by switching to this company but I would have saved $127 more (over six months) except: SOME PERSON IN MY FAMILY (not _____________) GOT A TICKET FOR NOT HAVING THEIR SEATBELT ON AND, INSTEAD OF FIGHTING IT...or appearing in court and begging the traffic magistrate not to give them the conviction or going to traffic school..THEY PAID IT, TOOK THE POINTS, GOT THE CONVICTION...

............. AND RAISED MY INSURANCE RATES.

The surcharge stays on until THAT PERSON has a clean driving record for five years. Let's do the math: $127 every six months is $254 per year. Over five years, that $254 a year adds up to $1,270.00.

Those traffic ticket lawyers charge around $100.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jesus Rabinowitz is a former South Florida lawyer who is "presently unemployed" and living in North Florida where he is muddling his way through his second book: (working title) THE DAY STARTED OFF QUITE WELL.


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ONE THING THANKSGIVING MEANS TO ME..........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, November 25, 2010, 12:42 PM
Posted by Administrator
This entry will not be about having to visit my Uncle's in Fairlawn, New Jersey, in the 60's and being attacked by women relatives wearing bright red lipstick. And I apologize for that.

This entry will be a boring recitation of the problem filing for bankruptcy so near to the tax-refund-time-of-year. Again, sorry...but if you are bored, there are three football games on TV, today and Taylor Swift has a one hour special beginning at 8:00. Also, the whole friends and family thing.

So, here goes the actual reason for this entry:
1) If you are thinking of filing bankruptcy and you anticipate getting a tax refund, it is a good time to get some advice about the effect of that tax refund has on when to file bankruptcy.
2) If you file bankruptcy near to the end of the year (like now) or if you file before you get your tax refund, the court appointed Trustee may demand that you hand the IRS's check over to him or her (the Trustee would get a fee and your creditors would get a few cents on the dollar as a dividend from your "estate").
3) Some refunds are exempt (the Trustee can't touch them)...the "Earned Income Tax Credit" is usually exempt.
4) You could file early, get your refund and spend the money on things like PAYING YOUR BANKRUPTCY LAWYER; getting your teeth fixed; fixing your roof. Sorry...you can't hide the refund money....
5) BUT, you may have enough in "exemptions" so that you can keep the tax refund money without having to do some (perfectly legal) things to shelter it...
6) AND, you may be able to get a refund...even a big refund...and (legally and within the rules) keep it.

NOTE: You will probably not be able to figure this out based on what you read on the Internet. It amazes me the stuff about bankruptcy that clients have told me they have read on the Interet. I am absolutely positive that you can diagnose any disease; learn how to fix any problem with your car; and get accurate information on any person on earth on the Internet BUT FOR SOME REASON, THE LEGAL STUFF IS A BUNCH OF CRAP.

So, I'm sorry,but you'll have to see a lawyer. Even a paralegal won't do. It won't be that bad...but I'd be lying if I said it would be fun.


So, one thing Thanksgiving means to me?? Bankruptcy planning.

I will now rejoin Patriots vs. Lions in the middle of the 1st Quarter and I willl leave you for now with these important holidays word, especially important THIS ("rebuilding")year: GO GATORS!


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BECOMING A JUDGE..............by Bob Smith 
Monday, November 22, 2010, 10:24 PM
Posted by Administrator
Here in the State of Florida, there are two ways to become a judge. I, and all of my friends, have avoided them both.

1) Get appointed. To be appointed a judge (County or Circuit trial level...appellate judge's are different---by which I do not mean that they are strange or abnormal)...here is what you need to do: (Note that there first has to be an opening because a judge quit before election time, got kicked off the bench, or a new judge-position was created.)
A) Complete and file an enormous application detailing your education, employment and experience. I think you've even got to list all of the cases you've tried...but I could be wrong.
B) Go to an interview before a committee of people who are appointed by the govenor (THE JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSION). These people will grill you with questions about why you want to be a judge; why you would be a good judge; what about the time you stole that donut?....then...
C) The committee will ignore the applications, figure out who has connections and then send a few names of those with friends and connections to the govenor.
D) The govenor will appoint one of the people whose name was sent up based upon who they know, what-race-of-judge-we-need-next, and who they know.
E) The person the govenor appoints will be sworn in as judge.
By pure coincidence, the new judge may not be an idiot.

2. Get elected. The election is non-partisan so it doesn't matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat. ...here is what you need to do:
A) Register your candidacy with the Supervisor of Elections; appoint a treasurer; open a bank account.
B) Put every penny you can get your hands on into the accoutnt. You will have to disclose the account balance and the idea is to have so much money that you look like a sure thing and all of your prospective opponents are scared away.
C) Pay something like 5% of one year's salary to get your name on the ballot.
D) Huck an endorsement from every lawyer, business, professional you can find. Send out a letter touting your candidacy and listing all of your endorsers.
E) Buy hundreds of plastic signs and wire stick-in-the-ground sign holders and have your friends drive around the county sticking them in the ground everywhere that they are not scared off by someone toting a shotgun.
F) Interview with the Palm Beach Post and get their endorsement.
G) Kiss babies, debte the candidates you failed to scare off (but, in keeping with the idea of judicial decorum, you can't actually say anything meaninful).
H) Spend everything you have left in your account at last-minute-television-commercials.
Amazingly, an awful lot of judges that get themselves elected are not idiots.

Be aware, though, as you navigate the legal system with the lawyer you hired based on little more than blind faith.......a lot of judges ARE stupid. So, as your case moves along the system, remember: prayer is good...God is probably not following your case too closely but, who know?; compulsive behavior is strange.. but maybe you don't want to step on those cracks in the sidewalk until you are done; many countries don't have extradition treaties with the US; you really love your wife/husband...don't you?...how did the two of you land up here, anyway?

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who will be in town for the next few days and then will be flying back to Jackson, Wyoming, picking up his new Silverado at the airport and driving the 4 hours back to his cabin on the Canadian border. Bob says "I can now say "It's time to shear the sheep, again." in five languages." "Canadian is a separate language, eh...right?"
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POSSIBLY PROBABLY.............by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 10:58 AM
Posted by Administrator
As I sat this morning wondering whether my client...who had three cases: a drug sale, a burglary and a "lewd" battery ..would take the plea deal (with the deal he would be out by summer without it he'd be out in somewhere between 3 months and 15 years), I began wondering...

When I said "You will probably win the (battery) case but if you don't it will ruin your life." By "ruin your life" I was talking about being labled a sex offender, having to register as a sex offender and risking more prison time for a 3rd degree felony if he didn't register.

I was saying that he would "probably" win but I began to think he was hearing that he would "certainly" win. But "probably" doesn't mean "certainly".

In a civil case, the trier of fact (judge or jury) is supposed to find in favor of whichever side of the case has the majority of the believable evidence pointing in their favor. A "prepondence of the evidence" means more evidence than the other side. "Prepondenance" is the civil standard (just as "reasonable doubt" is the criminal standard for determining guilty or not). "Preponderence" means pretty much the same thing as "probably". So, in a civil case, if the Plaintiff probably should win...he will win. This stinks for a Defendant whose evidence falls just a fraction short of 50%. Say that if you quantified the evidence it was 49.9% vs. 50.1%....well, someone has to win.

Need to get expert testimony in as evidence to win your trial? The standard is "a reasonable degree of medical (or enginerering, or aeronautic or whatever) certainly".

"Doctor can you say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the accident caused Mr. Smith's injury?" "Yes, it's possible." "By "possible", do yo mean "probable"? Because if the doctor knows that "possible" means less than 50/50, his testimony isn't coming in. Anything is possible and "possible" isn't evidence. Probable..even a little more likely than not, comes in.
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DEBT CONSOLDIDATION??????? REALLY? .......by Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 09:30 AM
Posted by Administrator
I was speaking with the manager of my local bank, yesterday. She told me that many of her customers were getting involved with "debt consolidation" companies. I was surprised. Here is why:

1) "Debt consolidation" companies are unregulated. If they take your money or don't solve all of your debt problems ...what are you going to do? Report them to the Better Business Bureau? That probably won't help.

2) If your credit isn't already wrecked by the time you engage one of these companies, it will be within a few weeks after.

3) If your "Debt Consolidation" company does make a deal with some of your creditors....what do you do when the one (or two or three) they weren't able to make a deal with sues you?

4) Do you really have the money they want for monthly payments? Wouldn't the "monthly payment" money be better spent on your kids? a vacation?

Bankruptcy.....if you qualify.........is great stuff. "Debt Consolidation" companies are...for the most part...just trying to get rich off of your suffering. "Not For Profit" just means that the people who run the company take the profit as salary...it doesn't mean someone isn't making a whole bunch of money. ....off of you.


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BANCARROTA-Quizas Sea Una Buena Solucíon Para Usted.......Por Steve Duhl 
Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 09:34 AM
Posted by Administrator
Por suerte, la ley en los Estados Unidos le permite a personas que tienen problemas pagando sus deudas aplicar para bancarrota. Muchas personas famosas han aplicado para bancarrota, al igual que muchas corporaciones grandes (General Motors, las Líneas Aéreas Delta).

La idea es que después de aplicar, usted tenga un nuevo comienzo donde pueda utilizar su dinero para comprar cosas que usted necesita y desea y no tenga que pagar duedeas viejas. La economía norteamericana esta basada en la idea de que darles a las personas un "comienzo fresco" es algo bueno y que beneficiará el país en general. En muchoas otros países, la bancarrota no está disponible y las personas son forzadas a vivir con grandes duedas que no pueden pagar. Esto puede ser perjudicial para la economía de esos países. Japón, quien recientemente salió de una recesión de 10 largos años y nuevamente entró en otra recesión, es un ejemplo de esto.

*****************************************************************

El algunos países, (países del medio-oriente como Arabia Saudita y Kuwait son ejemplos), las personas que no pagan sus deudas pueden ir a la cárcel. Aquí, en los Estados Unidos, usted no puede ir a la cárcel simplemente porque debe dinero (excepto en los casos de manutención de los hijos). También, aplicar por la bancarrota no afectará su residencia ni su oportunidad de llegar a ser un ciudando.

La gran mayoría de personas que aplican para la bancarrota mantienen todo lo que tienen incluyendo sus carros, los muebles, cuentas de jublicación...incluso algún dinero en el banco. La bancarrota lo puede ayundar a mantener su casa si usted se ha atrasado en sus pagos y la bancarrota le puede ayundar a hacer las cosas más fáciles si usted no esta interesado en mantener su casa.

........para continuar...........
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QUICK DO SOME THINKING WHEN THE COPS COME KNOCKING...by Jesus Rabinowitz 
Monday, October 25, 2010, 10:40 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note (by Bob Smith): New blog contributor, Jesus Rabinowitz, is a former North Florida Assistant Public Defender. He currently lives outside of St. Augustine, he is unemployed, and, he is working on his second book which is tentatively titled THE DAY BEGAN WELL ENOUGH.

There is one thing that I expect all doctors to be able to do: deal with heart attacks. I am confident that I will never find myself thrashing on the floor of, for instance, an airliner over the Atlantic only to hear a doctor say "I can't help him, I'm a dermatologist."

By the same token, I believe that all lawyers: real estate lawyers, securities lawyers, immigration lawyers...should know the answer to the question: The cops are at my door, should I talk to them? You may have devoted the last 30 years to preparing shopping center leases. But, it is a weekend, your niece is on the phone. You are the only lawyer she knows.
ANSWER THE QUESTION...SHOULD SHE TALK TO THE COPS OR KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT? You have an obligation to the entire profession(and to your niece) to know the answer.

If you, as a lawyer, can't help your niece then you've got no complaint when you find yourself laying on the street in front of a doctor's office dying of a heart attack and the doctor comes outside and says "Sorry, man, I've got my MD but all I do now is talk therapy for drug addicts."

If you know the answer to today's question, stop here, move on with your life, you don't need me right now. If you don't...here is how to figure it out.

Ask your niece:
Do you know why they are there honey? Have you witnessed any crimes? Have you committed any crimes recently? "Yes?"...Sweetheart, what exactly was your involvement?

If you are just a witness and you don't talk to the cops, they will think you were involved. TALK TO THE COPS.

If your involvement in the crime was minimal ("I just gave them a ride over to the park, I didn't know they had guns.") you've got a decision to make:
A) If they've already arrested other people, the cops already know you were there. If you don't talk to the cops first, the shooters will probably talk and say that YOU had a gun. Usually, when you are involved in a crime with a bunch of other people, WHOEVER TALKS TO THE COPS FIRST WINS.
B)Remember, the opposite of the adage "the guilty flee" is "the not-guilty stick around to talk to the cops." The cops are more likely to believe you didn't know the other guys had a gun if you talk to them from the get-go.
C)Of course, by talking to them, you are going to put yourself at the scene of the crime.
D)Quite the conundrum.

If you committed a crime and you are sure the cops can prove it regarding of whether or not you talk to them...you should consider:
They will like you if you cooperate...they can prove up what you did anyway so you aren't hurting yourself...and maybe you can minimize what you did. I represented a girl one time who vandalized an abandoned house. When she was arrested, the cop thought she was responsible for all of the vandalism at the house. After she hired me, we got the cop to take a statement from her and convinced the cop that she had written on the wall but the broken windows, stolen sink and holes in the ceiling had nothing to do with her.

And, what if it is a big crime and your role was minimal: Let's say that a murderer drove your car over to do the murder. The cops are knocking at your door. You know someone is dead. Was your car stolen by the murderer? Did you lend it to the murderer knowing what they were going to do? Did you lend it not knowing?

If you don't talk to the cops, they will assume that you were part of a murder conspiracy. The fact that your car is associated with a murder already has you in a jam. It's damage control time. TALK...if you didn't know anything... but be careful what you say.

Remember, the cops are legally allowed to lie to you about what they know: for exmample "THE OTHER PEOPLE WE ARRESTED SAID IT WAS ALL YOUR IDEA." They are allowed to tell you they have evidence against you that they don't have "YOUR FINGERPRINTS ARE ALL OVER THE GUN" (note: fingerprints are NEVER "all over" a gun). And, they can keep you for hours and hours and mentally beat you up until you confess to something you didn't do. (Yes, people confess all the times to things they didn't do.) "JUST TELL US HOW YOU KILLED HER AND WE'LL LET YOU GO HOME."

It's always good to have a lawyer with you when you talk to the cops. He/she may just sit there but:
i) They are a witness to the goings-on; they can remind you that you can leave when you want; and they can hint that it is time to leave "OFFICER, UNLESS MY CLIENT IS UNDER ARREST RIGHT NOW, WE'RE LEAVING."
ii) The cops will double team you...it's best you double team them.

So, when the cops are knocking on your door, what do you do? You call your uncle the real estate lawyer. (He'll have read this entry so he'll be good to go.)

Of course:
a) If the crime was yours alone; if you think the cops are just there to fish for evidence; if your co-criminals have already talked; if the crime was worse than what the cops already know...KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
b) If you think you are going to help yourself by talking to the cops because you are smarter than they are, you are wrong. They are smarter than you are. Prisons are full of smart people. Dumb people who keep their mouths shuts are home watching TV.

Either way, crime is bad (except for a few victimless crimes). Think about the long term consequences of what you do before you do it. Go play a video game...there won't be any victims and...win or lose...you won't have to do time when the game is over. Prison sucks.
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BANKRUPTCY-----SOON TO COME IN EL HISPANO....by Steve Duhl 
Friday, October 22, 2010, 08:28 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have an ad on the third page of El Hispano, a local newspaper. In exchange for my loyalty, El Hispano is going to let me publish what will appear to be a news-type piece...but, really, it just be a big advertisement. Dayana Rooks, who sells me the space and whose husband, Ron, flys Airbuses and with whom I used to take Taw Kwon Do, is translating it. Once she does, I will publish it here, in Spanish. Here it is in english:

BANKRUPTCY---It May Be A Good Solution For You....by Steve Duhl

Luckily, the law in the United States allows people who are having trouble paying their debts to file for bankruptcy. Many famous people have filed for bankruptcy and many big corporations have also (General Motors, Delta Airlines).

The idea is that after filing you will have a fresh start and you will be able to use your money to buy things you need and want and not to have to pay old debts. The American economy is based on the idea that giving people a fresh start is a good thing and that it will benefit the country as a whole. In many other countries, bankruptcy is not available and people are forced to live burdened by large debts they cannot afford to pay. This can be very bad for those country's economies. Japan, which recently came outof a 10 year long recession and then dipped back into another recession is an example of this.

In some countries, (Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are examples), people who don't pay their debts can go to jail. Here in the United States, you can't go to jail just because you owe money (except for chid support or alimony). Also, filing bankruptcy won't afect your residency here or your opportunity to become a citizen.

The vast majority of peple who file for bankruptcy keep everything they have including their cars, furniture, retirement accounts...even some money in the bank. Bankruptcy may help you keep your house if you have fallen behind in your payments and bankruptcy may help make things easier for you if you aren't interested in keeping your house.

There are several kinds of bankruptcies. Whether you can file for bankruptcy and which bankruptcy "Chapter" would benefit you most depends on your individual circumstances. If you are considering bankruptcy...or, if you just want to know more..it would be worthwhile to spend half an hour consulting with a lawyer who has experience in the field. There is a lot of wrong information about bankruptcy on the internet and only a small percentage of lawyers have spent a substantial portion of their careers practicing in this particular area.

Bankruptcy may help you have more money available to spnd on your children and yourself. Filing bankruptcy will hurt your credit rating, but not being able to easily borrow money for a few years is usually a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to sleep at night knowing that collection agents won't be calling and that the money you had been sending off to pay credit cards can now go to pay for dinner and movie.


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BANK OF AMERICA PAUSES IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO PUT AMERICANS OUT OF THEIR HOMES BY FORECLOSING...LAWYERS CHARGING CLIENTS BY THE MONTH GET READY TO PAY OFF THEIR YACHTS....by Bob Smith 
Saturday, October 9, 2010, 07:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
I just read that Bank of America and PNC Bank are taking a moratorium from filing new foreclosure cases and instructing their lawyers to sit on their hands in pending cases. My understanding is that these banks are doing this because more and more evidence is coming to light that:
-Paperwork transferring ownership of the mortgages was signed off on...not by employees of the mortgage owners but by employees of companies who were in the prepare-papers-and-sign business.
An Assignment of Mortgage signed by "Mary Smith" which recited that "Mary Smith" was a Vice President of the bank was probably prepared by s small company with offices in South Georgia and, really, "Mary Smith" worked for it...and not for the bank.
-Nobody really knows who owns a substantial portion of the mortgages out there. Foreclosure suits freuently name, for example, "XYZ Bank as Trustee for the Certificate Holders of Series 123 mortgage backed securities...". A few months later, the Plaitniff's lawyers will ask the court to allow the Plaintiff's name to be changed to, for example "ACME Bank, as Trustee........". Then, a few months later, the lawyers will be back trying to "correct" the Plaintiff's name again.

As I sit here waiting for the AMAZING RACE to start, CBS News just reported that 40 states are jointy investigating issues with mortgage paperwork.

When mass foreclosures began...about 3 or 4 years ago....some lawyers decided that instead of charging for the work they did, they would charge a flat fee for every month they kept the client in their house after a foreclosure case were filed. Instead of paying a $2,000 or $4,000 monthly mortgage, you would pay the lawyer $500 per month.

Other lawyers (like me) thought this fee arrangement was tacky and that it seemed destined to encourage violation of an ethical rule that says that a lawyer defending a case should not delay the case.."solely for the purpose of delay". You are suppose to actually have a legitimate defense and not just keep a Plaintiff from getting a judgment by messing with the rules and jerking the Plaintiff around.

As it turned out, just about every mortgage foreclosure case out there does have a legitimate defense. Now..with the B of A and PNC announcement...and others soon to follow...homeowners will maybe be able to stay in their homes for years and years and years without paying. For homeowners, five hundred bucks a month may sound like a lot to pay a lawyer to do nothing but I don't think any lawyers are going to complain.

There are a lot of benefits to delaying mortgage foreclosures indefinitely:
-Fewer homes on the market means prices will stablise...home prices might even increase.
-Worthwhile modifications may be easier to come by. (Now, most lenders won't do meaningful modifications and most homeowners who do modify their loans land up defaulting.)
-Homeowners who can't pay their mortgages can, at least, keep the a/c on and the vandals out. Abandoned houses go to crap quickly.

I have changed my opiniong of the $500 a month lawyers, I no longer have any problem with them. They will make truckloads of money and join the super-rich. And, if I critize them, nobody will ask me out for drinks on their yacht.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now lives in Northern Wyoming where there is no foreclosure crisis and where the largest body of water is about twice the size of the swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton.
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JUST BECAUSE I THREW YOU OUT OF MY OFFICE DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T BE BEST FRIENDS........by Bob Smith 
Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 09:16 PM
Posted by Administrator
A few days before I retired, I was sitting in my office at 4:30PM, about to go over and pick up my car at the tire store. A call came in. "Mr. Bob," the caller said in a island accent (but not the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Aruba, Anguilla, or the Virgin Islands) "I come over and see you. Where you located?" While, normally, I was a big fan of the scheduled appointment and I liked to limit my drop-ins to clients possessing great entertainment skills (I am partial to stand-up comedy and juggling) or exquisite beauty, I wasn't up to much so I gave the caller directions to the office.

I asked who had referrred him to me. The answer was garbled.

The caller...already in the car and on the way... gave the phone to his passenger else and I repeated the directions. They called about five minutes later and I repeated the directions. I told them they were still about ten minutes away and they called about 60 seconds later for directions. They called again "We are here at your office building." I said "But, my office is not in an office building."

Eventually two men showed up at my door. The first pointed to the man behind him as the client. The client was a short, thin man dressed in light blue scrubs. They both sat down at my desk and I asked what it was about.

"I rented from a guy and they foreclosed on his house and then the new owner came in and put holes in the walls and took out all the appliances and I signed a lease with him but he said he was going to come back with new appliances but he hasn't come back and I need your help." I asked to see the paper he had in his hand. The paper was a Writ Of Possession stamped "SERVED" and dated three days ago.

Once a landlord has won his eviction case, once a buyer at a court-ordered foreclosure sale has taken title, they are entitled to a Writ Of Possession. The Sheriff serves the Writ and posts it on the door of the residence or business and the tenants/former owners/squatters/whoever have to be out the next day or the Sheriff will come with people and put their stuff out onto the street. A Writ Of Possession is the end of the line. When you are served with one, it is over...you are done..you don't live there anymore. But there is the idea of justice and fairness and due process and feeling bad for the down-and-out.......

So, I asked the client when he had last paid rent "June", he said. It was September. And I asked the client whether he had paid the new owner rent when he signed the lease he said he signed "No", he said. And I asked the client whether he had any money to pay me. He started mumbling.

So, I said to the client, "I think you are just a freeloader, get out of my office." His friend stood up and began moving but the client sat there. I said "You need to get up and get out of my office now." I said it again. The third time was the charm...they left.

This was the first time I had thrown anybody out of my office in years. I am sure a better or smarter man/woman would have helped this guy try to continue to live where he was living for free (with new appliances) and do the legal work for him for free as well.

It just wasn't going to be me. ........ or anybody I knew who had an ounce of common sense...or anybody who didn't have a perverted sense of what we, as lawyers, were supposed to do to help people who can't afford legal fees.

But, I am not bitter about my time being wasted and my blood pressure being raised... and I would like...right now... to invite all of the people I have thrown out of my office up to see me in Northern Wyoming:
-The old man who wanted me to help him divorce his wife and then force her to be his household help.
-The young man who thought the voices on the TV were talking directly to him and who later got arrested by the Secret Service for threatening to kill Clinton.
-The crazy man who felt compelled to line up his dolls on my desk.
-Freeloaderguy.

All of you, come on up to Wyoming. Winter's coming and all I'll have to do is chop firewood so I could use the company.

(Of course, at the first hint of Spring, all of you are back out on the street or I'm calling the law.)

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes for the blog from his cabin in Northern Wyoming.
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LAST NIGHT AT THE WALGREENS OVER ON SHERIDAN STREET IN CODY..............by Bob Smith 
Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 08:15 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes for the blog from his cabin in Northern Wyoming.

Last night, I found myself in Cody, needing to get a prescription filled. So, I headed over to the Walgreens. Though they don't have a Walgreens on every street corner here like they do in South Florida, they do have one or two. I stood in the pharmacy line.

There was a young man in front of me. He was thin. He was wearing sneakers (I think they call them "running shoes" now) and blue jeans and a black shirt along with a black baseball cap. His hips were pushed up against the counter and he leaned over at the pharmacist as she worked on the computer trying to get his insurance card to work.

He fidgeted uncontrollably...scratching the back of his right calf with his left foot, then scratching the opposite way, then poking one foot at the floor, then the other foot, and moving his shoulder right and left and back again. He spoke in a loud voice "I got my last prescription here and the card worked then." He paused, "Well, no...actually, I got my last prescription at Wynn Dixie and the insurance card worked there." "I can't understand why it isn't working." Then, "Oh, can I keep the savings card you gave me?" "Great, it is like I help you and then you help me."

His phone rang. "Hey bro.", he said in his loud voice. "No, I'm over here at Walgreens picking up my Zanax prescription. I gotta go, I've got another call coming in. I'll call you when I get close to your house."

Finally, he was convinced that his insurance card wasn't going to work like it had at Winn Dixie and he paid cash for the Zanax. Before he left, he said to the pharmacist "Do you have oxycotin here?" She said "No." (By which she meant...she told me later... "Not for you.")

I don't have any objection to Walgreens selling prescription drugs to someone who obviously had a drug problem and who was likely on his way to sell drugs to his "Bro". ("I'll call you when I get close to your house."??) But, on the other hand, the guy probably doctor shopped to get the prescription and he was about to traffic in narcotics (which has got something like a 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence attached to it). So, you would think he would...at least...keep a low profile during his visit to Walgreens and not act stupid in front of the pharmacist and me.

And, I am thinking that this may somehow relate to an article I read in the New Yorker magazine over the weekend. Here is my synopsis:

South African psychiatrist lies about his qualifications and get appointed the head of the Psychological Medicine Department at a New Zealand medical school. Previous to moving to New Zealand...and, later, while he is there...he lies about all kinds of things ("My paper is late because my wife is dying of cancer."); conducts web searches on how to poison someone and not get caught; tells a room full of people that his wife is in a coma months before........he shoots her full of insulin and actually does put her in a coma.

Eventually...after making comments that amounted to the police in New Zealand being particularly stupid....he gets arrested and then convicted of his wife's murder.

When the New Yorker's writer contacts the sociopathic psychiatrist in prison and asks for an interview, the response is, more or less "You normal people don't understand the pain we sociopaths are in."

Anyway, I digress........the point of the article was that sociopaths tend to think the rest of us...including the cops..are stupid. They believe, for example, that nobody will notice the lies, that they will be able to explain away their internet searches about ways to kill people after they actually kill someone, that no matter what they do-the rest of us are too stupid to figure it out.

And I think this explains the guy at Walgreens. I am not saying that he is a killer-sociopath. But, on the other hand, if he doesn't realize that being out in public buying drugs while acting like a druggie will sooner or later get him arrested......then he is like a lot of people I know who are sitting in jail who didn't think so either.

And, I am not saying that they should be sitting in jail (or washing Sheriff's cars out behind the Drug Farm...remember, Sigmund Freud was a cocaine addict and he still managed to find a good job). But, for some reason I don't fully undersand, they don't let me write the laws.

Yet.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith's views on drugs were formed by an interview he heard years ago on National Public Radio. The interviewee, a law-and-order conservative type said, more or less: "Let's legalize drugs...but when someone dies of a drug overdose, we'll take the body and leave it in the street for a few weeks. Then we'll see who is still interested in doing drugs." Bob believes that if we took all of the police who were doing anti-drug work and set them to making sure that bombs were not on airplanes and guns weren't going to Mexico and kid street gangs were not terrorizing our neighborhoods, the world might be a better place.

........oh, by the way, let's lower taxes and make government smaller....................Bob Smith

.......a lot smaller..

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BONGO BOARDS, JERKS AND CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS...A SHORT STORY..........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, September 16, 2010, 02:19 PM
Posted by Administrator
One day many years ago, I wrote a letter to my client and FAXed it over to him. But, in FAXing it over to him I sort of used the FAX number for the other lawyer. So, I FAXed the letter I meant to go to my client to the lawyer on the other side of the case.

The second sentence of the letter said "I don't want to jerk Craig ___________ around." Craig ____________ was the other lawyer.

A few minutes after the FAX went out, a call came in. It was Craig ______________. I got on the phone. Craig said "What do you mean calling me a jerk in the letter you wrote to your client?"

I said, "Number one, I didn't call you a jerk...I told my client that we shouldn't jerk you around. Number two, what are you doing reading my confidential letter to my client?" The letter didn't become un-confidential just because I had used the wrong FAX number. ...and you would figure a lawyer...if nobody else...would know that...

Lawyers communications with their clients are confidential. The jail isn't supposed to record what you say to your criminal-defendant-client. When the lawyer on the other side questions your client at a deposition and asks a question that might seem directed to finding out what you and he talked about, he/she will say (usually) "But don't tell me what you and your lawyer talked about." It is the courteous thing to do.

Your lawyer can't be called into court to testify about what you told him/her. In the Federal system, if you've...for instance...got tax evasion problems, your lawyer will hire an accountant for you so the accountant is part of the legal team and the lawyer-client priviledge attaches to what you say and do with the accountant. (There is a Florida accountant-client priviledge but there is no Federal priviledge.)

Still, before spilling your guts to your lawyer, you may want to update your complete knowledge of the lawyer-client priviledge. (I've written about the priviledge in earlier blog entries and I have covered some of the pitfalls).

What made me think of this? I just got done writing an email to another lawyer and...at the top...I wrote: "THIS IS A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION FROM A LAW FIRM. IF YOU ARE NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, DELETE IT...DON'T READ IT. THIS MEANS YOU!!"
Since I have been using email a lot, lately, I am concerned that I might address one incorrectly (it has been a long time since the last time I mis-addressed something, so I am probably overdue). I try to be general in what I say in my emails so that if one does get misaddressed, the (unintended) reader won't really know what I am talking about.

Anyway, it has been a long time since Craig _________ told me not to call him a jerk. And, he wasn't a jerk. But, I'm not sure he was the world's most thorough reader.

Criag ___________ is the reason that I have incorporated the "THIS MEANS YOU!!" in my warning.

******************************************************************

Editor's Note (by Bob Smith): "THIS MEANS YOU!!" is a rip off of the warning "HEY! THAT MEANS YOU!" which precedes "Turn this board over and read the label before using...like right now! which appears on the top surface of Duhl's Bongo Board. The full Bongo Board warning reads as follows:

"Ice is slippery. Life is risky. Bones break. In life, as with this product, accept only the level of risk that you can competently handle. To minimize the chance of injury, wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear at all times when using this device and give yourself plenty of space to maneuver. Also, read the provided instruction sheet prior to using. Lastly, remember that the best protection from injury is a little common sense."

In addition to using common sense, it is helpful to read things thoroughly and to carefully consider what FAX number and Email address you really want your stuff to go to.

Or, at least, wear a helmet.
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A SHORT WOMAN WITH DARK HAIR WAS BEHIND ME IN THE MORTGAGE-FORECLOSURE-HEARING-SIGN-UP-LINE.......by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 10:16 AM
Posted by Administrator
Early this morning, a short woman with brown hair was standing behind me in the sign-up line for people who throught they had hearings on mortgage foreclosure cases. She told me that she worked for one-of-those-big-prestigious firms. Before the economy went to crap, she did commercial real estate...the paperwork that went with purchases and sales. Now, she gets involved in complicated foreclosures as kind of a more intelligent side kick to the mortgage foreclosure firm's associate.

As I pumped her for information, her brown eyes darted back and forth. I apologized for making her uncomfortable and I told her that what I was asking had nothing to do with the hearing I was in court for this morning. I didn't want her to think that I was trying to get her to rat out her people.......the banks and mortgage certificate holders that got us into this mess.

So, here is what I found out as a result of my attempts to get her to rat out the banks and mortgage certificate holders that got us into this mess.

1) By way of example "U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee, successor by merger to LaSalle Bank NA as trustee for Washington Mutual Mortage Pass-Through Certificates WMALT Series 2006 AR5-Trust" is (according to this woman) really just a happy bunch of guys sitting around having a beer and telling stories. It is not...as I had foolishly thought...a bunch of rich people and banks getting richer on the backs of middle class homeowners.

2) I had thought that part of the problem getting a short sale or a modification approved was that there was nobody able to make a decision for these trusts. I was wrong. If you are a lawyer for a pretigious firm like the brown-haired woman, you can call the "servicer" and the "servicer" will call the trust investor for an answer. She said that she always gets an answer.

3) On the other hand, she told me that these trusts had many, many investors so it was unclear to me what "investor" she was getting an answer from. So, I will stupidly continue to believe that a huge problem with the "trusts" is that they were set up to make money....and that the ways to divvy up the money are set up in the trust agreement. On the other hand, they weren't set up to lose money or make deals to cut their losses (short sales and modification). So, if there are a lot of investors.......nobody is really going to agree to anything.

Before I talked to this woman, I had believed that once a mortgagee (the homeowner) defaulted, AIG...with money from the U.S. government.....paid off the mortgagors (the certificate holders) for whatever was still owed ont he mortgage. Sort of like when you total your car, Progressive or GEICO or ALLSTATE pays for the loss. Then, Progressive or GEICO or ALLSTATE take your car to their yard and sell the salvage for several thousand dollars to pay itself back for some of the money the insuror paid out. (I once sold a wrecked LEXUS for about $4,500.)

But, AIG didn't take the mortgage over to try to pay itself back for some of the losses. The losses were just government money so...who cared? So, the idea was that the certificate holders would still have the mortgage to sell or foreclose on and get even more money.

The woman said "no". "Mortgage insurance doesn't pay for the entire loss." By "mortgage insurance", I found out, she meant the payments to the certificate holders to AIG (so, I was right about this part). The certificate holders then got to foreclose the mortgage or sell it to make up the difference between what they had been paid and the amount of their investment. ...or to make even more money.

Whether I am right that there is windfall going to these certificate holders or the woman is right that they are just getting even......I am glad that, at least, they won't be out of pocket. It is bad enough that middle class people are losing what they've got. It would really stink if rich mortgage investors and bankers had to suffer, too.


Editor's Note (by Bob Smith): Duhl is ...and has been for years... a registered Republican. On this subject, he says "Yeah, but in the past 15 years, I haven't been able to find one I'd vote for." Duhl intends to run for Congress, himself, in 2012. He says "But, wouldn't I be the first Jewish congressman?"

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HEY YOU..........STAY IN THE CAR........by Bob Smith 
Sunday, August 29, 2010, 11:17 AM
Posted by Administrator
I remember when I was a young man attending College in Colorado, driving my Ford Econoline Van North to Estes Park (the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park), I was stopped by the Colorado Highway Patrol. My sister was visiting me in Boulder and, at the moment flashing blue lights appeared in my rear view mirror, she was sitting the passenger seat of the Econoline smoking marijuana. I am not saying that she should have been smoking marijuana but I did prefer that she and I not get arrested.

I pulled over to the side of the road near the Drive-In movie theatre that sat on the dusty prarie a few miles outside of town. I got out of the van and stood by the rear bumper, waiting for the Trooper. This is what he said:

"You can't have a FOR SALE sign in the back window of the van...it limits your ability to see out of the rear." I said "Okay, I'll take it off."

It was in the early 1970's. I had hair down to my shoulders. Colorado was a conversvative state and I had just been stopped by the State Police. Still, this was the extent of our encounter.

I took the FOR SALE sign down and continued the drive.

These days, when the police stop you they want you to stay in the car. My family has three different theories of why this is:

1) It is safer for the police officer because this gives the officer time to run your license plate to see if it comes back stolen. There is more time to call for back up. There is more time to think about what to do. (Do I need to get my gun ready?)
2) No idea.
3) Because... if the driver remains in the car, the police officer gets to come up to the car; smell for odd-marijuana-smelling odors; look around to see what illegal things might be plainly visible; root around any area the driver could reach to "ensure that there are no weapons". In other words, keeping the driver in the car give the police officer more opportunity to come up wiht something illegal that would get the driver arrested.

Guess which idea is mine...my wife's...our 15 year old daughter's....

I am not saying that if the police officer has a good reason to tell you to stay in the car he/she shouldn't get on the PA system and tell you to stay put. For example-two or more scary looking people in the car...better to have them sit.

But, on the other hand, back-before-the-liberals got into power, even people who were stopped for traffic infractions had a right to get out of their car and stand by their bumper and limit the encounter with the police to getting a ticket...or not. The Colorado trooper who stopped me in the 70's...a man who I am willing to bet was a card-carrying-Christian-conservative-who-believed-even-Nixon-was-a-commie believed that it was his job to get me to take the FOR SALE sign out of the window and not to otherwise interfere with my trip.

Note: My sister stopped smoking marijuana in the 80's and has gone on to get several college degrees have a successful career...she appears..so far..not have not graduated to heroin addiction and she shows no more signs of brain damage than would be expected of anybody whose fate was to grow up as my sister.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now lives in Northern Wyoming...next to the Canadian Border. As he wrote the above, Bob was sitting on his back deck waiting for the year's first snow and throwing rocks at the deer rooting around in his garden.
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WHY I STILL DON'T ADVERTISE WITH ATT........by Steve Duhl 
Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 01:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
For a couple of years, I have not advertised with ATT or the Yellow Pages. I had always found their prices too high and their salesman to be bullies.

Two men from ATT Advertising came to see me about three weeks ago to try to sell me internet advertising. I asked them to come back and give me prices.

A few days later, they came back with prices:
-$675 per month...more or less...for "pay per click". Google can charge $12 for every time some clicks on a featured website. ATT...a bulk buyer of google clicks...says they could do it for $2 a click.
-$1,000 per month...more or less...to be one of the featured 5 or 6 lawyers in a category in yellowpages.com (google "yellow pages" and then put in, for example, "criminal lawyer" and "palm beach gardens or boca raton".

I was undecided. As they left, I told them that the real advertising decision maker was my secretary.

The next day, the larger man called. I told him "no".

Two days later, they both showed up again and planted themselves in my office. They stayed planted through a conference call I had scheduled with a state agency. They stayed through phone calls. They stayed.

The younger man, who was the boss, had always made it clear that he did not think that he was "selling me". I had always told him that, as a former salesman (cars, motorcycles & computers), I didn't see anything bad about the word "sales" and that I hoped he was trying to sell me...(if not, then what WAS he doing?). At our final meeting, he said "I'm not like a used car salesman." I reminded him that I had been a used car salesman; didn't particularly rip people off; and had learned a lot from the experience.

The young man was indefatigable...a word I have never used before (incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue... THE RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, THE UNABRIDGED EDITION, 1966, 1967). He never stopped selling and never stopped denying that he was selling. "Would you do it if it were free?" "You told me last time you would spend $10?" "Don't you think you would get more business?" "Do you really not think that the advertising would pay for itself?" He tried to express disbelief that I wouldn't go along with what he was suggesting (...wouldn't buy what he was SELLING).

Finally, I asked the older man to walk with me. We went outside and I told him "I told you that the decision maker on advertising was my secretary. You violated the first rule of sales----speak to the decision maker."

At this moment, the younger man ran out of the office. He was very agitated. "They sent my son home with the walkers.", he said. It was the first day of school. His son was supposed to be driven home. Now, he said, they couldn't find his son.

The older man went back into my office to get their papers. As the older man he walked out, the younger man said to me "I was going to give you a free ad in the Wellington directory."

Then, they left. I phoned the next day to see if everything was okay with the son.

I don't think I'm getting the free ad.

RULES OF SALESMANSHIP (thanks to Joe Trivisone frmrly Burroughs Corporation Territory Manager and Frank Simone frmrly Sales Manager, Volkswagen of Bayside):
1) Deal only with a decision maker.
2) Make your customer want to be like you...live your life.
3) Ask for the order.
4) Whoever talks first loses.


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A GOOD FAITH BASIS..........by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, August 19, 2010, 01:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
An important issue relating to lawyer's conduct in the courtroom that doesn't come up much is the "good faith basis" that lawyers need to have before they ask a witness certain questions. The idea is that lawyers are generally believed by judges and juries (really, we are) and that if a lawyer asked a witness:

"How many times have you been convicted of a felony, Mr Jones."

The judge or jury (whichever the trier of fact happens to be) is likely to assume.....no matter what Mr. Jones says......that he is a convicted felon. So, if a lawyer is going to ask:

-About criminal convictions.
-About criminality.
-About drug use. ("You are a heroin addict, right Mr. Jones?)
-About immorality. ("You lie every day, don't you, Mr. Jones? ...and you have 3 wives, right?
-About the witness having done something extremely stupid...

...the lawyer is supposed to have a good faith basis for asking the question. That is, the lawyer is supposed to have a good reason for believing that the truthful answer to the question is "yes".

Lawyers learn this in one of two ways:
-Paying attention in evidence class.
-Asking a witness an objectionable question (this morning, a lawyer asked my client "Do you use drugs?")...without that "good faith basis" and then getting yelled at by the judge.

A good faith basis for asking someone about a criminal conviction probably can only come from having court records indicating a conviction. For drug use, the good faith basis might come from having observed the witness to always seem high. A few months ago, I asked a witness "Is that because you shot yourself in the head?"

At the time I asked the "shot yourself in the head questions", the witness had already testified about mental problems that arose fairly recently and someone had told me that he had shot himself in the head. The judge wouldn't make the witness answer the question...(and the judge was wrong). (On the other hand, the judge knew by my question that he probably had shot himself in the head....so, there wouldn't have been much point in him/her requiring the witness to answer.)

Lawyers who without a "good faith basis", ask questions that....by virtue of the question itself...impugn the integrity of the witness are subject to being sanctioned by the court. And, of if the question is asked in front of a jury...let's say by the prosecutor, the jury ought to be told:

"Ladies and gentlement, the prosecutor, Mr. Smith's, question was improper...he did not have a basis for asking the defendant whether he sold drugs to school children and you must ignore the question." And the jury will think either :
1-The prosecutor, Mr. Smith, is a no-good cheat to have questioned the integrity of that nice criminal defendant and the prosecutor is not worth believing...the jury will then go on to find the defendant not guilty, or,
2-The judge is just telling us that good-faith-basis-thing because of some technical legal rule that we-the-jury don't care about... the defendant did sell drugs to school children (though whether or not he did has nothing to do with the charges in the case we are deciding) and we're gonna go ahead and convict the bastard because anybody who the prosecutor suggests might have sold drugs to school children ought to be in prison whether or not that has anything to do with what he is charged with now.

OK, probably #2.
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CHEAP DIVORCES............by Bob Smith 
Friday, August 13, 2010, 09:36 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I was still a practicing lawyer, middle income people could get divorced for not much more than the cost of a root canal or two. Judges trusted that lawyers would do their best for their clients and, when a Judge was presented with an agreement signed by both parties, the Judge would sign off and the parties could go their separate ways after a hearing that usually took around 90 seconds.

The lawyer would ask.........
What is your name?
Is this agreement I am showing the Judge an agreement signed by both you and your husband?
Did anyone force either of you to sign it?
Does it settle all the issues between the two of you?
How long have you been a resident of the State of Florida?
Is this your driver license I am showing the Judge?
Is your marriage irretrievably broken?

Then, the lawyer would say (at least for the past 15 or 20 years during which we have had, here in Florida, legislated guidelines for child support): "Judge, the child support IS according to the guidelines." And, I always thought the lawyers who said this were telling the truth. I was when I said it.

The Judge would sign the Final Judgment incorporating the agreement, make a brief speech to which ever of the parties to the divorce had come to court (the speech was intended to make the Judge appear likeable and someone to vote for in the next judicial election), and the Judge would then wish everyone well........then move on to the next case.

Now, things are different:
You need a Statement of Social Secuirty Number; Financial Affidavits which have to jibe; with the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet; along with a Parenting Plan. You've also got your signed agreement, proposed Final Judgment, testimony at final hearing sheet, and case disposition form.

...and all of this (in a world where we apparently no longer trust lawyers to do right by their clients) is a wonderful thing. ..except that it all costs money ...and the dishonest among us will jimmy the numbers, anyway .....and divorces were pretty expensive to begin with...

If the numbers don't jibe then you've got to have a big hearing. If you want to pay more child support than the "guidelines" call for you've got to have a hearing. If you don't have all the papers, you've got to come back. If the numbers on the Financial Affidavit change during the course of the case (you have a new expense for health insurance because...guess what...you are getting divorced) you've got to redo the Affidavit..you can't just tell the judge that the numbers changed and you and the other lawyer agree on the numbers that result.

I am not saying that we ought to do (what I understand) Muslim men can do to to get a divorce: say "I divorce thee." "I divorce thee." "I divorce thee."

Okay, maybe I am saying that.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now resides up North, just next to the border with Canada.
Bob says: "I'm retired now but good luck to all of you young lawyers who have to put up with this crap. You old guys ought to give it up and come here and see me in Wyoming...it's gonna be moose season soon."



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CAREER ADVICE...................from Bob Smith 
Thursday, July 22, 2010, 07:35 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I was a middle aged lawyer in beautiful, downtown South Florida, there was one lawyer with a TV ad: David Singer. As I recall it, David would sit behind a desk with a lamp on it and tell the TV audience that there was always a light on in his office. The idea was that he was always working, always thinking, always hucking for new personal injury business.

David had an accent...or spoke in an unusual way due to the after-effects of Bells Palsy having paralyzed some portion of his facial muscles....I was never sure which. But, on the other hand, he sounded nice and sincere and he was, after all, always working.

A long time ago, in a land far away called Gainesville, I worked for a while for a lawyer who (I have heard) was disbarred a few years back for carrying a gun (or something to do with a gun). Television advertising had just been approved by the Florida Bar (the Bar figured out that the whole "free speech" thing even applied to lawyers) and this lawyer in Gainesville had a TV ad that featured him (wearing a dark pin-striped suit) riding a child-sized tricycle down the sidewalk and running into stuff. It was the first lawyer TV ad I had ever seen.

Around the office, the guy wore diamond rings on most of his fingers, so, I guess he had some success with the ad. It was with this lawyer that I learned (though I later forgot) that all young girls who had the misfortune of being bitten in the face by a dog had been on track to being models. (Amazing coincidence...or just what you told the insurance company in your demand letter? Who knows?)

Anyway, this blog entry is about career advice not diamond rings or signs of suspected Bell's Palsy. And, anybody who watches TV, looks at signs on top of taxicabs (no, not the signs for the strip clubs)...anyone who has had the chance to suck up some diesel fumes while they read the sign set between a bus' taillights...or looked at a bus bench, or a billboard, or a the signs on the walls of bowling alleys...knows that the biggest advertisers on earth after Coke and Pepsi are lawyers. So, here is the career advice:

Instead of going to dental school (as I have previously suggested), make a career out of selling advertising to lawyers. Lawyers, apparently, will advertise anywhere and the sky is the limit when it comes to their advertising budget.

(Call me...........I've got prospects.).........by Bob Smith

Editor's Note: Bob Smith writes for the blog from Northern Wyoming. Bob Reports: "For anybody who says there is nothing to do here in Northern Wyoming, just drive the 12 hours to the Tim Horton Donuts in Medicine Hat, Ontario (2355 Trans Canada Way SE). ....you'll see what good times are...."
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THE ONLY WAY YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL, TODAY, IS IF YOU JUMP OVER THE BENCH AND ATTACK THE JUDGE........by Bob Smith 
Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 09:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
For years, this is what I would tell criminal defendants who were out on bond and charged with un-horrible crimes. "Are you sure I am not going to jail, today?" I would be asked. "Yes, I am sure", I would say. "But are you really sure?", This is what I would say: "The only way you are going to jail today is if you make a run for the guy in the robe, dodge the bailiff, jump the bench and choke out the judge."

Some of my clients did bad enough stuff that eventually they landed up in jail. But, since nobody attacked the Judge, nobody went on a day I promised they would not go.

A teaser on Bing, today, was more or less this: "People in jail for owing $250." And, though I have written about the subject of debtor's prison before, I thought I would take another shot.

Here is how to go to jail for owing money:
1) Live in Saudi Arabia, Quatar, the UAE, Dubai and who-knows-where-else and owe money and you may go to jail.
2) Live here in Florida (and, I am betting, the rest of the U.S.) and follow these easy steps:

a) Wait to get sued.
b) Do nothing.
c) Wait until a judgment is entered against you.
d) Wait for a Subpoena for deposition or a court order directing you to answer questions under oath about your assets.
e) Ignore the subpoena...don't answer the questions.
f) Wait for a notice to go to court to explain to the judge why you ignore subpoenas and court orders.
g) Don't go to court.
h) Wait for the court to issue an Order directing you to show cause why you should not be held in contempt for not appearing for deposition or obeying the court Order.
i) Ignore the Order To Show Cause.

If you follow the steps outlined above, eventually, the Court will find you in Contempt and will issue a Writ of Bodily attachment and the Sheriff will one day haul you off to jail. You may sit in jail until your deposition gets taken or you answer those questions about your assets. Or, you can post a bond in an amount equal to the amount of the judgment against you and they'll let you go.

It is not easy to go to jail for owing money here in Florida but, if you try hard enough, you can do it.

If you change your mind about trying to go to jail, think about filing bankruptcy. Assuming you can file, the state court judge and the lawyer who got the judgment won't be able to touch you.
Just for fun......wait until you know there is a Writ of Bodily Attachment and a Deputy is looking for you....then, go see a lawyer. Life is more fun if you get your adrenaline pumping.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes from the blog from his cabin in Northern Wyoming just a few miles from the border. Bob says "Who knew they had summer even in Canada."

Editor's Second Note: Child Support and Alimony being in the nature of mandatory court orders are different. You don't have to try quite so hard to get into jail.
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I SEEM TO BE SITTING A LOT IN SMALL ROOMS TALKING TO MY CLIENTS ABOUT TV SHOWS....by Steve Duhl 
Monday, July 12, 2010, 08:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
Hereabouts, in beautiful Palm Beach County, Florida, if you want a divorce you've got to try to settle your case...and fail.. , before a judge will let you go to trial. It would be flippant of me to say that judges have golf to play or lego forts to build or whatever it is judges do in their spare time and that they don't much want to hear your case...unless they absolutely have to. And I am not a flippant man.

One of the things you've got to do is you've got to go to mediation before you can have your trial. Here is how it works:

1) Everyone sits in a room at a long table.
2) The mediator sits at the head of the table.
4) The husband and his lawyer sit on one side...his lawyer next to the mediator.
5) The wife and her lawyer sit across from them.
6) The mediator gives a little speech about how everything said in mediation is confidential; how he/she is not a judge and can't decide the case or offer legal advice even though he/she has tons of experience in exactly this kind of case; how each of the parties have wonderful lawyers.
7) The lawyers, in turn, give a little speech about the issues.
8) After messing around for a while, face to face a la THE WEDDING CRASHERS or (for the oldest among us) LA Law, one party stays in the room and the other party retires to another room.
9) The mediator shuttles back and forth between the two rooms, communicating offers, telling stories, killing time.
9a) While the mediator is with the other side...and this could be forty minutes at a stretch...my client and I have got to entertain each other. A moment of strategy. A brief talk about the law. And then? I can do TV shows, movies and things-I-did-as-a-kid-that-didn't-land-me-in-jail. What have you got?
10) The parties settle...or not.
11) If the parties don't settle, (at least) one of the lawyers says to his/her client "Remember, you can always settle---all you have to do is give them everything they want."
12) The mediator gets paid.
13) Everyone leaves.

I have written previously about other mediation related topics:
A) The longer you spend trying to settle the case, the lower your blood sugar gets, the more you bond with the mediator and don't want them to leave without getting the case settled. So, the longer you stay, the greater the chance you will settle.
B) If you absolutely don't want to go to trial then you absolutely must settle. If the other side knows this absolute then you will have to give in to what they want.
C) Every big decision involves a moment of insanity. The next day...when logic sets in...you will regret what you agreed to. This is normal. Reality is that you were right to take the deal...and wrong to think too much about it afterward.
D) When in doubt: mumble.
E) Don't commit until it is time to commit.
F) Don't respond to stupid offers---pretend that stupid offers never were made...ignore them and move on.
G) Remember, the other side can always settle the case anytime they want. All they have to do is........whatever YOU say.




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IF THIS STUFF WAS INTERESTING, THEY'D MAKE YOU PAY TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL....by Steve Duhl 
Monday, June 28, 2010, 01:16 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last week, I received in the mail a "COMBINED TAX STATEMENT FOR YEAR 2009" for a client of mine who died a couple of years ago at the age of 93. It came from my good friends at the Bank of America. Here, stripped of verbiage that I didn't understand, is what it said:

ESTATE UNCOLLECTED DEBT DEBT CANCELLED 1,880.02

What happened was that George died without paying an $1,800 credit card bill. He had no estate opened with the court because he died with nothing. And, after a while, the credit card company realized they weren't going to get paid; believed they had tried hard enough to collect; wrote the bad debt off as an expense on their books; and told the IRS that George had an addition $1,880.02 income in '09. The "income" was from having his credit card debt "forgiven" Had George died with money or if the same thing happened to someone who was living, they could have to pay the IRS income tax on the $1,880.02.

WHY SHOULD ANYONE CARE?

If you have your debt forgiven in a bankruptcy, you WON'T (WILL NOT) get "1099'd"** for "forgiven" debt...there are, generally, no tax consequences attached to debt discharged in a bankruptcy. On the other hand, if you make a deal with a creditor to reduce your balance; if you do a short sale on a house you don't live in; if you don't pay your debts.......you likely will get yourself one of these COMBINED TAX STATEMENT FOR YEAR ___whatever year it happens in__________. ...and you likely will have to pay.

This is not tax advice. I don't know enough about taxes to give advice. I am just reporting on the Statement George got...and why he got it.

I will now rejoin the living.


**pronounced: ten ninety-nined...an action verb...the act of telling the IRS (with a copy to you) that you have more income that you need to pay taxes on than you thought you did. example: "After I settled out my credit card debt with Bank of American, they ten ninety nined me." or "Oh, you got ten ninety nined, also? Me too."
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GET YOUR DRIVER LICENSE UNSUSPENDED, FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, BANKRUPTCY AND OTHER BORING TOPICS....by Steve Duhl 
Thursday, June 24, 2010, 09:30 AM
Posted by Administrator
For some reason, some people who visit the blog expect to find stuff about legal issues. Though I can't explain why there would be this expectation, I do not want to disappoint. And, when discussing things legal, there is no way to avoid boring discussion about topics that won't interest very many.

On the other hand, if your driver license is suspended for (what we here in the Sunshine State---Florida----call) FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (the "FR Suspension") or if you have filed bankruptcy within the past 8 years, READ ON. But, realize there is no way of making this subject amusing or entertaining. (And, if you don't live here in Florida, a lot of this probably doesn't apply to YOUR backwater state.)

We in Florida don't have to have liability insurance on our cars....until we get into an an fault accident. After that first accident, we need at least $10K in liability insurance. $10K in liability insurance is about enough, these days, to pay someone back for injuries to their dog. So, in any decent car accident, there is going to be more than $10K in property damage and personal injury damamges.

If you get into an at fault accident and you don't have insurance and you get a ticket and you plead guilty or are found guilty of the infraction that led to the accident, your driver license will be suspended until you:
1) Pay the person you hit (and pay back their insurance company for money it paid out) for their damages.
2) Make a deal to pay them for the damamges over time.
3) FILE BANKRUPTCY.
...if you file Bankruptcy, the DMV isn't allowed to hold the fact that you can't pay their damamges against you. And, the DMV...once you give them proof of liability insurance and do some other things...will reinstate your suspended license.

Bored yet?

What if you have some liability insurance but not enough to cover all of the damamges? Then your license won't be suspended until the other party...or their insuror...sues you and gets a judgment. Then your license will be suspended until you pay (except for the whole BANKRUPTCY thing...see above).

Is there any more information about this that I can possibly torture you with? YES!

OK, say you have filed bankruptcy already..in the past 8 years...and you get an FR suspension....what do you do?
A) You could maybe file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
B) You could maybe follow options 1 or 2 in the preceding paragraph

BUT HERE IS A GREATER IDEA:

Once you file your bankruptcy, get real good auto insurance so that if you get into that at fault accident, your license won't be suspended to begin with.

Thank you for your attention.

.........Steve Duhl
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Today's New York Times says: PEDDLING RELIEF, FIRMS PUT DEBTORS IN A DEEPER HOLE........by Bob Smith 
Saturday, June 19, 2010, 04:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
It is a wonder of modern technology combined with old time driving on crappy dirt roads that results in my New York Times getting to me...here in Northern Wyoming....on the same day it gets to the civilized world. ...at least in the Spring and Summer. Today's right side headline (which my 6th grade teacher told me that in a newspaper having 5 or six columns of headlines was the most important) is the same as the title to this entry.
Here is some of the rest of the Times article:

-"State attorney generals from New York to California and consumer watchdogs like the Better Business Burueau say the (debt settlement industry)'s proceeds come at the direct expense of Americans who are being fleeced........"

-"The industry's own figures show that clients typically fail to secure relief. In a survey of its members, the Association of Settlement Compa ies found that three years after enrolling, only 34 percent of customers had either completed programs or were still savings for settlements."

An example the Times gives in some nice old woman who give $4,000 to her debt company, then gets sued by a creditor she thought they were taking care of, then finds out that only around $1,500 of her money is left...the rest having gone to pay the company's fee. She, according to the Times THEN filed for bankruptcy.

The above is from the Times...and is reprinted without its permission and is intended (lest the Times want to sue me for stealing their stuff) as a reminder to everyone to subscribe to the Times. It needs the readership and it is the best newspaper on earth. And not the liberal rag some make it out to be. (Heck, if it were a liberal rag, my neighbor down at the fork in the road wouldn't let the newspaper delivery man get past the barrel of his shotgun.)
===============================================================
Bob continues:

I'm sure there are some great debt settlement companies out there. Or, at least some that aren't ripoffs. I don't know which ones they are. And, unless I find someone who doesn't qualify for bankruptcy, I don't much care.

......wait, I forgot, I'm retired........I don't much care either way..

================================================================

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes for the blog on those days when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
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BANKCAROTTA-QUE A TRAER..... 
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 04:18 PM
Posted by Administrator
-Todas sus facturas de los ultimos 90 dias.
-Su declaracion de impuesto del ano pasado.
-3 meses de estados de cuenta bancarios.
-Todos los registros de sus ingresos para...si se puede...los ultimos 6 meses.

Si usted no tiene todo esto, vienende todas formas y vamos a averiguar el siguiento paso.

Gracias........
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WHEN YOU SHOULD PAY THE MORTGAGE FOR A HOUSE YOU AREN'T GOING TO KEEP ....by Sherry Rabinowitz 
Saturday, June 5, 2010, 01:29 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Sherry Rabinowitz, a former South Florida lawyer who moved back North on the recommendation of her dermatologist ("Sherry, if you stay in Florida your skin will turn to leather and you will die of skin cancer before you turn 35.") writes:

We all love our houses. There is a beautiful emotional attachment to the place where we raise our children, sleep every night, eat our meals and watch our grass grow. But, nobody I know owns their house outright and an awful lot of people I know paid too much for thier homes (compared to the current value) or borrowed against the equity when times were better.

So, an awful lot of people I know are...in the long run...going to lose their homes. There is a good and a bad to this. The bad is the obvious: having to uproot and move, change schools, maybe have to fit into a smaller place. The good is that there won't be a house to sell (difficult to impossible these days) if a sudden job opportunity arises in, for example, Seattle or, in my case, Port Jefferson Station, New York.

I stayed on for a long time in South Florida, paying my mortgage, even though the value of my house had plummeted and even though I had stopped paying my second mortgage. I would like to share my thinking on why I did this. That is, why I paid my first mortgage payment even though I knew that, in the long run, I wasn't going to be able to keep my house.

I knew that if I stopped paying my mortgage, the mortgagee (the bank that owned the mortgage) would foreclose. But, I knew that I could defend the foreclosure and stay in the house without paying for six months? a year? two years? I knew people who had defended a foreclosure case against them and there house for longer than two years and during this time they didn't pay anything on their mortgage.

But, my mortgage payment (for the 1st mortgage) was $1,125 per month. I compared the $1,125 for what I would pay for rent in any decent house or apartment in the area I wanted to live. It surprised me, but even though there were empty houses on my block and dozens of empty houses within a few miles of where I lived, I couldn't find a rental for less than $1,000 per month.

I knew that as long as I paid the $1,125 my first mortgage wouldn't foreclose. The value of my house had dropped so much that I knew I would never be able to sell my house for enough money to pay off the mortgages. So, I decided that I would view the payment on the first mortgage as kind of a "rental" payment; that I would accept that I would never be able to sell the house; and I decided to continue to pay the first mortgage.

It certainly wasn't worth the cost and trouble of moving just to save that $125 per month....even if I factored in the cost of repairs to my house while I lived there (the landlord would be responsible for these costs with a rental) it still was worth some extra money to be able to stay.

I couldn't afford to pay the second mortgage (and, as I am going to explain, there really wasn't any reason to pay it), so I had to consider what the second mortgagee was going to do. I owed so much on the first mortgage that if the second mortgage foreclosed, that lender wouldn't get any money (the money from the foreclosure sale...even if it was the second mortage foreclosing would go first to pay the first mortage because it was the "senior lien"...and there would be nothing left for the second).

The second mortgagee would know that it would receive nothing in a foreclosure, so, it would be irrational for it to hire lawyers to foreclose. It was POSSIBLE that the second mortgagee would foreclose but, in view ofthe fact that it would cost it money for lawyer's fees and costs and that it would get nothing in return (unless its foreclosure scared me into paying), it seemed extremely UNLIKELY that the second mortgage would be a problem.

The second mortgagee could ignore that it had a mortgage and sue me on "the Note" (a "mortgage" is the document that when recorded with the Clerk of Court creates a security interest in your house to secure payment of a "Promissory Note"). I wasn't worried about their suing me on the Note. I had a lot of other unsecured debt (credit cards and hospital bills), so there was a long line of other creditors who also wanted to sue me.

I figured that I would go bankrupt and get rid of the credit card debt and the hospital bills and the obligation to pay that second mortgage Note. I would move out of the house when I was ready to move without fear (since I was paying the first mortgage) that the first mortgagee would file a foreclosure and force me out sooner than I wanted to go.

If my first mortgage payment had been much more than $1,125, I would have made a different decision: I would have stopped paying the first mortgage and defended their mortgage foreclosure once they filed the case. I might have tried to get a mortgage modification...but from what I have seen, modifications that make a substantial difference are few and far between.

Had I stopped paying the first mortgage and been served with foreclosure papers, I would have a clear conscience defending the foreclosure and staying in the house as long as I could. While it would be wrong to defend a lawsuit just for the purpose of delay, so many mortgage foreclosure lawsuits I have seen make questionable claims; are legally sloppy; and ignore the basic requirements of good lawyering.

I do not mean to criticize the lawyers who prosecute these claims. They are probably overwhelmed by the number of foreclosures they must deal with. But I do believe that it is the obligation of any lawyer defending a foreclosure complaint to make sure that the foreclosing mortgagee does things the right way. And, if it takes some time....6 months? 12 months? 2 years? for them to get it right? Then it is incumbent on the homeowner to stay in the house and keep the air conditioner on so mold doesn't grow and keep vandals out and take care of the house so that when the foreclosing creditor gets the house back it is a decent house and not a house left in shambles.

Editor's Note: Ms. Rabinowitz reports that she will now be heading off the the beach to work on her tan. She stopped making her first mortgage payments as soon as she moved and she is now trying to figure out the bankruptcy law as it pertains to New York so she can go ahead and file.

Editor's Note: Your situation may be totally different from Ms. Rabinowitz's. You may have lots of assets creditors could seize. You may have a high income subject to garnishment. You may not qualify to file any kind of bankruptcy at all. Go see a lawyer....bring him/her a cup of coffee and a bagel (toasted, poppy seed, cream cheese).
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THE COST OF GOOD CREDIT .........by Bob Smith 
Saturday, June 5, 2010, 12:54 AM
Posted by Administrator
This morning, I hiked up North a few miles from my cabin to the exact spot where Wyoming meets up with the Southern edge of Alberta, Canada. Marking this part of the border is a small stream and, a few hunred yards upstream, a family of beavers was building a dam. As I watched their damming, I thought to myself "Just what IS the cost of good credit?"

This is what I came up with........

AMOUNT OWED ON CREDIT CARDS AND PERSONAL LOANS AND THINGS LIKE THAT MULTIPLIED TIMES THE WEIGHTED AVERAGE OF THE INTEREST RATES YOU ARE PAYING = THE COST OF GOOD CREDIT.

Paying ...on time, every time...keeps your credit good. Paying late or not at all craps up your credit. Certainly, if you can make your payments with reasonable ease, you should.

But, if you can't........... Well, here is an example:

You owe $20,000 in credit cards and, on average, you pay 15% interest. The yearly cost of good credit is $20,000 X 15%=$3,000. That is about $250 per month. $250 per month could buy you a few nice meals at a good restaurant; a $500 airplane ride to San Francisco (6 times a year); $250 worth of clothes and toys for the kids every month; two gigantic TVs.

Good credit is a great thing to have (okay, I'm getting carried away...good credit is a good thing to have----your own jet plane; a beach house in Hawaii; a starring role in a hit TV show---these are things that would be GREAT to have).

Frequently, the only bad thing about filing bankruptcy is that it is bad for your credit for a few years (not 10 years----a bankruptcy can be reported for 10 years but, typically, if you have decent income you will get credit in a few years or sooner).

I am not saying that you should file bankruptcy (heck, I don't even know who you are) or that you even could file bankruptcy. (Maybe you should just not pay and try to make a deal with your creditors a few months..or years from now. I don't know.) Really, THIS IS THE INTERNET...DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU READ HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE INTERNET.

On the other hand, if you are having trouble making payments...your kids come first...or your wife...or your mother. Credit card companies come last. They will survive without you.

So, if you can't sleep at night, see a lawyer.

Or see 5 lawyers and take a weighted average of what they all say. (Note: I am kidding about this. Note: I am serious about a starring role in a hit TV show being a great thing to have---call me if you can help.)

I'm hiking back now to watch the beavers.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who writes for the blog from his cabin in Northern Wyoming. Bob can be reached at bobsmithlegalbagel@hotmail.com.

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BANKRUPTCY---IT IS EASY TO STAY OUT OF JAIL...........By Steve Duhl 
Friday, May 28, 2010, 01:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
Here are some ideas that I think are helpful for people considering filing for bankruptcy. You won't land up in jail unless you try to defraud the court by lying on your Petition or when you are testifying.

1) If you have more equity in your car than you are allowed to keep, NO, you can't just give the car to your mother. In fact, any transfer you make when you are insolvent where you don't receive fair market value in exchange is a voidable transfer. If you give your car to your mother, the court appointed Trustee can take the car back.

This doesn't mean that you can't legitimately convert some or all of the equity in your car to money and use the money to fix your teeth or your roof. It does mean that everyone involved in your case will know that is what you did and that you'd better do it correctly and above board.

2) You can't give money for your friend to hold for you (because it will still be your money). You can't transfer your house to your sister. You can't use cash to pay down your mortgage.

Okay, you can do all of these things and as long as you disclose in your bankrtupcy petition that you did whatever it is that you did, you probably won't have committed a crime. But, you also probably won't accomplish what you set out to do.

So, maybe you should talk to a lawyer before you do much of anything. Because...you can get your butt into trouble.

Or, on the other hand, talk to your friends, your next-door-neighbor, the know it all from your church, or the "paralegal" whose got a desk next to your friend's real estate agent. And, when you have acted on their advice, take your kid to your car mechanic and have him perform an appendectomy.

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SOME RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION ........by Bob Smith 
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 02:58 PM
Posted by Administrator
As I sat on my back porch this morning shooting BBs at an ant hill that popped up the moment the snow melted, I thought to myself: "Those bunch of ants sure seem to have a lot more on the ball then any similar size group of lawyers I've ever seen." So, I thought "Why am I shooting at 'em."

I stopped shooting, came inside, and began to write this....SOME RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION.

I remember a lawyer I had a case with a few years back. He was younger than me. A lot younger.

Anyway, we had to file this long form called a "Pretrial Stipulation" at least 10 days before "Calendar Call" (whatever that is). We were running late. I knew from my previous vast experience on account of being older than dirt that being late wouldn't matter as long as we got it done. I tried to bet the other lawyer 50 bucks that at least 3/4 of the lawyers who showed up at Calendar Call wouldn't have their's done. He wouldn't bet.

At Calendar Call it turned out that we were the only ones who had their Stipulation done. The other lawyer was unimpressed when I pointed this out to him. "But the rule says you have to do it", he said. "But, there are rules." "But, everyone should follow the rules."

Even the word "rules" gives me a headache. So, when I offer up SOME RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION, I don't really mean "rules"...I mean stuff, things, anecdotes, funny stories, cartoon characters. I don't really mean that there are rules.

a) Negotiations are a give and take. Don't give if you aren't given the opportunity to take.
b) Don't bargain against yourself. If you make an offer and get a counteroffer that is unreasonably low then it doesn't amount to a counteroffer at all. Refuse to make another offer until the other side shows they are taking your offer seriously.
c) Whoever talks first loses. In face to face negotiations, when you ask for a deal or make an offer: SHUT UP. Silence puts pressure on the other side. Silence makes people uncomfortable but YOU DON'T CARE. If you talk before the other side accepts or rejects your offer, you take the pressure off. ...and, right before you opened your yap....they were about to say "yes".
d) Don't be led by the nose. You be in control of the pace and mechanics of the negotiation. For example, if you are at a mediation, tell the mediator you don't want to sit across from the other side...you want to be in another room. Don't be afraid to get up and head for the door. People will refuse to move away from silly positions if they are being watched. They will feel much more flexible if you aren't watching.
e) Make the other side like you (this is not easy for me but it might work great for you). If they like you, they will want to give you what you want,.
f) Every major agreement/sale/deal involves a moment of insanity. The insanity is why you will have buyer's remorse the next day. Think about it.
g) The most successfull negotiations take all day...maybe two. People are most likely to agree when their blood sugar is lowest; when they really want to leave and go home; when they have been negotiating so long that they have lost the will to live.
h) Don't be afraid to leave. You don't really care if you piss off the mediator? Do you? And the other side....they got you into this mess to begin with. There is nothing wrong in not agreeing.
i) Remember the GREAT AXIOM OF SETTLEMENT. YOU CAN ALWAYS SETTLE IF YOU GIVE THE OTHER SIDE WHAT THEY WANT.

But, you don't want to give them what they want (except to the extent necessary to move on with your life). You want them to do everything they can to wrap things up. And, all they have to do is agree with you. And, you can bring them to that moment of insanity when they will make the deal.

And the next day........for them: buyer's remorse.

OK....probably buyer's remorse for you, too.
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I HAVE HAD MY SHARE OF BAR COMPLAINTS by Bob Smith 
Monday, April 19, 2010, 11:31 AM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Retired lawyer Bob Smith writes from his cabin in Northern Wyoming. The opinions expressed below are solely his. Any relationship between the characters described below and real people are solely the result of the reader's imagination.


I think that the Florida Bar...at least that part of the Florida Bar that diciplines lawyers who have done wrong... requires that we keep complaints made to them about Florida lawyers a secret. Or, maybe it is a secret if the complaint is dismissed but not a secret if the lawyer is diciplined. Or, maybe the other way around. Who knows? I try to follow the rules but I'll just take a chance on this one.

I) MY FAVORITE BAR COMPLAINT....

Years ago, a criminal defendant complained about me. He said that I was ignoring his case and I was not returning his phone calls....
I wrote back to the Bar giving my explanation:
1) I was not the man's lawyer.
2) He had just gone to trial with the man who actually was his lawyer...and the jury had returned a verdict of not guilty.
The Bar dismissed his Complaint.

II) COMPLAINTS I HAVE MADE AGAINST OTHER LAWYERS...

Really, the only time I formally complained about another lawyer was because I followed the rule that a lawyer on the Bar's Ethics Hotline told me about: Lawyers are not ethically required to report another lawyer unless they have reason to believe that the other lawyer's conduct could be harmful to clients or to the administration of justice in the future.

I have had a lot of lawyers do crappy and unethical things to me and my clients:
-Contact my client directly about the case instead of going through me (there is an ethical rule about that);
-Make untrue statements in court (there is a rule about that);
-Not give me copies of things that they are sending to the Judge (there is a rule about that);
-Be "unavailable" for hearings and depositions for some made-up reason (there is a rule about that)...
But, this kind of thing typically doesn't rise above the level of annoyance. (And, yes, I imagine I've been guilty of some stuff, too.)

But, here is what the lawyer I complained about did:

He notarized a Power of Attorney, naming his friend as the attorney-in-fact for an elderly woman.... and giving his friend the power to do whatever he chose with the woman's bank accounts and all of her other assets. The lawyer notarized the document without ever meeting the woman. He told a police detective (who was investigating several things the lawyer's friend did with the woman's accounts)that his friend had shown him the woman's driver license. ....and that he talked to the woman on the phone (Though he had never met her and wouldn't really know if it was her on the phone.)

Oh, also, the lawyer had two people sign as witnesses to the woman's signature....even though they hadn't witnessed her sign anything.

I thought that this was dangerous behavior and that the lawyer was likely to do the same thing in the future. Notaries, I thought (even lawyers who were acting as notaries), were only allowed to notarize the signatures of people who were standing in front of them; who they witnessed signing the document they were about to notarize; and who properly identified themselves. The Bar, however, thought that what this lawyer did---notarize the signature of a woman he had never met because he friend asked him to----- was just fine.

III) A REAL EXCELLENT RULE REGARDING BAR COMPLAINTS

Lawyers can't tell people that if their lawyer---for example--- won't return their phone calls----- that they should leave a message with the lawyer: "If you won't call me back...and I have been calling for a long time....I will call the Florida Bar and ask them about the problem."

If a lawyer were to tell someone to do that, it would be an ethical violation.

I guess I could tell someone....after their lawyer has done them wrong...that NOW they should complain to the Bar. But, really, I'm not so sure about this either.... Now that I think about it, I will make this statement:

I am fairly confident that (were I not retired and living in Northern Wyoming), I would get sanctioned for so much as mentioning the words "Florida Bar" in front of a client who was having a significant problem with their lawyer's behavior.

Free speech? Not here.

IV) GOOD THINGS ABOUT BAR COMPLAINTS

Lawyers here in Florida are frequently disbarred for stealing client's money; suspended for ignoring cases or taking things on that they were not competent to handle; reprimanded for making mis-statements in Court. They are disbarred for felony convictions; suspended for not keeping good trust account records; reprimanded for taking money and not doing anything on the case or for doing a whole lot on a case but charging an exorbitant fee; suspended and investigated for drug use if they make a habit of not showing up in court.

V) OKAY, ONE MORE COMPLAINT AGAINST A LAWYER

When I was a very young man, a woman came to me. Her lawyer, she said, had thousands of dollars of her money in his trust account and he wouldn't give the money to her. I don't recall whether the money came from a personal injury case or a real estate transaction or what. The usual reason for a lawyer not giving you your money that he/she has deposited in his/her trust account is that they stole the money/or spent it/or "borrowed it" and just haven't been able to pay it back yet.

I called the Bar.

The Bar sent an investigator who tracked the lawyer down in an elevator. The investigator gave the lawyer a summons for all of his trust accout records. Later that day, I got a call.

The call was from another lawyer who was that lawyer's lawyer. He said he had a check for my client. I told him to meet me in my office with the check. We sat down across from each other. He took a check out of his briefcase and he said "I will give you this check if you call the Bar and tell them it was just a misunderstanding."

I called the Bar and told the investigator that the whole thing was just a big mistake. He handed me the check.

The lawyer's lawyer then left my office. As soon as he was out the door, I called the Bar and talked to the investigator and told him that the whole thing was not a big mistake and that the only reason I had called before is before the lawyer's lawyer told me that was the only way he was going to give me my client's money.

The Bar's investigator said "Yeah, I know. This kind of thing happens all the time."



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ANOTHER HELPFUL HINT FROM RETIRED LAWYER, BOB SMITH: DO NOT SMUGGLE MARIJUANA TO MURDER DEFENDANTS IN THE COUNTY JAIL 
Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 09:08 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: All of the opinions expressed below are solely those of the author, Bob Smith. Any imagined relation between the characters described and actual people is imagined (didn't I say that, already?).


While it is true that many murder defendants like to smoke marijuana, the Sheriff's Office frowns upon people who smuggle drugs into the county jail. I have no opinion on this policy but I have never had a problem following it. On the other hand, I have known a couple of people who have.

One Saturday morning, I wandered into the courtroom on the first floor of the Palm Beach County Jail and, looking at that morning's female defendants...arrested the day before for one thing or another...I recognized Ricky Romano's girlfriend (note: Ricky was never my client). Ricky had been arrested for stabbing a young girl to death in her apartment. His girlfriend decided that Ricky needed some marijuana to smoke in jail.

I walked up front when they called her name and...standing there in my I'm-just-here-to-see-my-clients-locked-up-upstairs-weekend-shorts, I volunteered to the duty Judge that I knew her and that she seemed like a nice girl and I pointed out that...having failed once at smuggling...she was unlikely to do it again. The Judge gave her a low bond and she got out later that day.

But, today's story is really about a former secretary-working-as-my-investigator, Gisela (real name) and Kirby Bilwer (a name made up mostly by rearranging the letters of his actual name---I can't use a fake name because there are so many lawyers, now, that whatever name I use, some lawyer really does have the name and I'll get sued).

My client, Roberto Martinez (made up name), had been convicted of first degree murder for shooting and killing a security guard. We were up to the sentencing phase...the jury would decide whether Roberto got life in prison or died in the electric chair. Gisela was getting paid by the county to be my investigator (and...as you might expect...you can get more information sometimes with a good looking, young Cuban woman than you can using a middle aged white former cop...unfortunately, none of the information we got particularly helped Roberto). Kirby was doing most if not all of the work on the sentencing hearing. He and Gisela were about to go to the county jail to see Roberto and here is what happened:

Roberto's brother delivered a large manila envelope to my office. I can remember seeing him drop it off with the receptionist as I left the office on some other business. The envelope was open and in it were two things:
1) Reports and legal papers that we had given to Roberto previously and that he had asked us to let his family see.
2) A pack of Newport cigarettes.


Gisela took the package and headed off to the jail where she met up with Kirby. They went up to Roberto's floor and the jailers brought out Roberto. They gave Roberto the envelope and, after they conferred for a while, Roberto left to go back to his cell. He was stopped by the jailers who took the envelope, examined the Newports, and saw that they were stuff with marijuana. Deputies with the Sherriff's Internal Affairs unit were waiting for Gisela and Kurb and they took them each to an interview room to, I guess you would say: ask them a few questions.

Kirby didn't know anything about the envelope and that, coupled with his being around town for about 15 years and his having managed to visit clients in the jail hundreds of times without smuggling marijuana to any of them got him off the hook. Gisela took a little longer.

It turned out that the reason the jailers had taken envelope and the cigarettes from Roberto is that they had noticed that he had marijuana in his possesion in the past and they wondered where he got it from. Eventually, they realized that he hadn't gotten it from Gisela...or, if he did, she didn't know about it.

So, they let Gisela go, too...but they banned her forever from coming to the jail. The conclusion to this entry is probably obvious to everyone, but, let me take you through it anyway:
1) At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the Clerk read the Jury's verdict: "Life in prison", the Clerk said.
2) At that moment, the jury foreperson, a thin, middle-aged African American woman literally jumped up......"No", she said, "we all voted for death."
3) One of Gisela's friends (did I mention that she was very good looking?) was..at the time...a Lieutenant in the Road Patrol division of the Sheriff's Office. We all decided that we should have lunch and that the Lieutenant should bring with him a Captain from the Jail. At lunch, Gisela wasa very apologetic about having smuggled marijuana into the jail. Of course, all was forgiven (did I mention that she was very good looking) and she was officially unbanned from the jail (did I mention that this was about 20 years ago when the world worked in a way that made sense and where rules that needed bending could be bent).
4) Roberto's Judge...who I will call Jim Carlisle (because that is his name and I like and respect him)...made a mistake. You see, according to Florida law, he had to write an order sentencing Roberto to death at the same time he sentenced him to death. And, not surprisingly when you think about it, he was supposed to write the order without one of the prosecutors on the case in his office at the time he wrote it. I have to rely here on my recollection which, at times, isn't so good......and this is my recollection:
-Somehow it came to light that a prosecutor was with him in the room while he wrote the order, and,
-He wrote it either too early or too late...
So, Kirby was able to get the death sentence overturned on appeal.

A cynical man might believe that Judge Carlisle was too good a Catholic to sentence someone to death without being sure that he had made enough mistakes in the sentencing to ensure that the sentence, on appeal, would be commuted to life.........

But, on the other hand, a cynical man might believe that if Gisela hadn't looked like Gisela she might really have been banned forever from the County Jail.......maybe even arrested for smuggling........

BUT, I AM NOT A CYNICAL MAN.

Editor's Note: Bob Smith writes for the blog from his cabin in Northern Wyoming. To aspiring lawyers, law students and others interested in the profession, Bob says: "Dental school...think about it."
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THE SILLY OX..........by Bob Smith 
Wednesday, April 7, 2010, 01:31 PM
Posted by Administrator
A client, years ago...when I was still doing the whole lawyer thing...told me that her daughter was reading a book titled THE STUPID OX. The girl said to her mother...more or less... "They shouldn't call the ox the "s" word, they should call the ox silly."

It is common in divorces for the other spouse (not you...your husband or your wife) to ...intentionally or not...get little kids involved in the case.
-"Tell mommy you would rather be with me."
-"Daddy drinks like a fish."
-"Mommy is sleeping with the mailman."

There is the great temptation to say to the kid: "Your mother/father is an idiot for involving you in our divorce case. And what she is telling you about me isn't true. She is a liar.""

But, there are two problems with this:
1) It is not helpful to the kid's psyche to dump on them. It is your mess, not their's.
2) If things get rough and some kind of mental health professional is hired to evaluate the kid, he or she will come to court and tell the Judge what you said to "fix" things after your spouse upset the kid. And "Your daddy is a liar." is maybe not the best thing you could have said.

But, on the other hand, we all are silly, sometimes. Parents are silly. Judges are silly. Kids know about silliness. And you don't need to explain the real facts to the kid because:
-It isn't their business.
-They know more about what is going on than you do, anyway.

If the mental health professional comes to court and testifies that your child told him/her that you said "Even adults can be silly sometimes....daddy was just being silly." to try to fix the situation the evil spouse created, the Judge will just smile and nod and think to him/herself that calling the other parent silly was probably a good way to dance around the issue.

After all, even Oxes are sometimes silly.
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A GIGANTIC AXIOM: WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES.............by Bob Smith 
Monday, April 5, 2010, 08:34 AM
Posted by Administrator
I have been agonizing over the past several days about how to make this topic interesting and......I have failed to come up with one single idea. Still, boring as it might be, it is important to know THE NUMBER ONE, MOST IMPORTANT SELLING/BUYING/NEGOTIATING SKILL IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD and that is.......for people who have read this but have not troubled themselves to read the title: WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES. Whoever talks first loses is "...a self evident truth..."---I looked "Axiom" up in the dictionary just now.

Here is the idea:
-You (or someone you love) is going to buy a car (a boat, a house, settle a debt, get your neighbor to clear the fence line, ...whatever);
-The salesperson will say to you...as you sit at a round table in a room designed to make you feel like you should not leave until you have bought;
-"Okay, so you'll buy it right now for $35,000?" (Because, shockingly, that is what cars cost these days.);
-And, then, the saleperson will shut up;
-Silence will fill the little room;
-You will begin to feel a gnawing urge to say something to break the silence because silence is not comfortable;
-You will feel that there is no escape from the room and no escape from the uncomfortable silence unless and until you say something;
-And, you don't want to disappoint the salesperson, you don't want to ruin his/her day, you want them to be happy and have money to take the kids to the movies;
-So, you won't want to say "no".
-So, you will say "yes", buy the car and...next month...begin with the first of the 60 payments that you will need to make to pay off your $35,000 car loan.

If the salesperson had broken the silence and said anything:
-"I'll throw in floormats."
-"You have fine looking children."
-"My friend, John, went to the same high schol as you."
That would have taken the pressure off you to say "yes" and buy the car. You could have begun a conversation about floormats or children or high school and eased you way out the door. But, the salesperson, having been to sales school, kept his mouth shut in order to pressure that "yes" out of you.

The WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES idea works both ways though. You could say: "I'll buy the car now for $30,000." and then shut up and the pressure would be on the salesperson to speak and he/she will want to make you happy and maybe you'll get the deal you want.

In any kind of face to face negotiations about anything:
-When talking to a prosecutor about prison time in a criminal case.
-Figuring out child support.
-Settling out debt.
-Getting the bank to refund charges.
.........the rule always applies: WHOEVER TALKS FIRST LOSES.

Try it. And, if a salesperson/negotiator/debt collector tries it on you, say "Oh, yeah, whoever-talks-first-loses...I know that one." Then, hang up the phone/run out of the room/tell them that your kids go to the same school/ask how the weather is where they live in India/say "I love your shoes"....or just sit there and don't say anything...for as long as it takes (to keep busy while I sit quietly,I like to bend paperclips and then twirl them between my thumb and forefinger).

Editor's Note: The entire editorial staff apologizes to all readers who fell asleep due to boredom while reading this entry.
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THE LAWYER CLIENT PRIVILEDGE .........BY BOB SMITH 
Monday, March 29, 2010, 09:01 AM
Posted by Administrator
On Sunday, after I arrived back from my ski trip, I hauled the accumulated stack of New York Times in from the front gate and dumped them on the floor by the fireplace. (Note: Yes, you can get the Times delivered to your house...even here in Northern Wyoming---though it doesn't exactly get here every day...or at 6:00AM-------...and, no, I don't read the stuff about New York...but that is usually only a few pages.) On the front of the Saturday's Business Day section, there was a color drawing of two houses supported by two cranes and the story was going to be about the governments new plan to help people keep their houses. I am going to decipher this story (somehow, because it sure looks to me like the same old crap where useful, substantial mortgage modificaitons are few and far between) and, after I decipher it, I am going to report back.

In the meantime................the lawyer/client priviledge.

Everyone thinks that you can walk into a lawyers office, tell them you killed a man, and that the lawyer won't call the cops and have you arrested. And, everyone is right.

Everyone thinks that they can walk into the lawyers office, have the lawyer help them fill out some kind of legal form where they've got to report their last years' income, tell the lawyer that they lied on their last year's taxes and want to use the number they used on their taxes on the form they are filling out, and have the lawyer nod his/her head and say "sure". These people are wrong.

Anything you did in the past is a secret and the lawyer can't tell anyone...even after you die (the after-you-die-thing I don't think is totally settled........the can't-tell-while-you-are-living thing is).
-Lied on your taxes.........priviledged.
-Killed your mother's lover......priviliedged.
-Dumped motor oil into a pool of baby seals....priviledged.

The lawyer might think you are scum for doing these things but he/she can lose his/her ticket to practice law if they tell and nothing you said to the lawyer (alone in his/her office) can come into evidence against you at trial. Period. Though, otherwise (and, ignoring for the moment the husband-wife, preist-penitent, doctor-patient, psychotherapist-client, accountant-client priviledge...if they apply), like they say on TV "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

On the other hand, if you are about to commit a crime:
-Sign a legal paper the lawyer knows is fraudulent;
-Put on perjured testimony at trial;
-Tell the lawyer you are going to go kill the witnesses against you...........
these things are not priviledged and the lawyer probably has a duty to call the cops or tell the court.

I once called the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline (a free service to Florida lawyers who want answers to ethical questions) to ask whether I had to turn in a bankruptcy client who let it slip...after we filed his case...that he had $35,000 in the bank that he didn't sort of happen to tell me about. The Ethics Hotline lawyer told me that I only had to turn him in if I was absolutely sure he was lying. So, if I thought he might be kidding around, or bragging...I didn't have to turn him in.

He had the good sense to fire me and hire another lawyer. The other lawyer assured me that they had disclosed the extra money (and, probably blamed "the mistake" on me) and the Ethics Hotline said that was good enough.

This does not mean that lawyers are scouting around for things to get people in trouble about:
-When a local lawyer told me "I have my wife on my payroll...even though she doesn't work for me...so that I can lease her Mercedes through the business." I thought to myself "Why would you tell me this?" But, I'm not the cops and he wasn't a client about to try to involve me in a conspiracy to commit tax fraud.
-When a local lawyer told me "Last year was a good year...and that's not including the cash." I thought to myself "Are all lawyers stupid braggers?" But, of course, the vast majority are not.

Criminal clients are treated differently than clients in civil cases. In the old days, you could put a criminal client you knew was lying on the witness stand and let them testify to their lie but you couldn't actively question them. So...
Q-So, tell me, Mr. Jones, what happened?
...and that is all you were supposed to ask.

vs.

Q-So, Mr. Jones, you went to the Steak and Shake and what did you see?
Q-And, after you saw that, what happened next?
Q.And, after that happened, what did you do with the gun?

I heard there is a new rule about clients-you-know-are-lying testifying. I figure it is worse than the old rule and that now you probably can't let your client testify at all..or you've got to call your own client a liar. I don't really know what the new rule says and I have promised myself never to read it.

My first Jury trial ever was a DUI. Here are the "facts"....
-It was dusk and an inky haze had fallen over Lantana Rd. Across the street from a convenience store set in the middle of a small strip shopping center on the South side of the road, a police officer sat in his patrol car facing South.
-A small Japanese car drove down Lantana Rd. from the West and the police officer noticed it and watched it. The car turned into the shopping center and parked outside of the convenience store. The three young, scruffy men in the car got out and went into the store.
-The police officer drove across the street and then waited outside the store for the scruffy men to finish their business and leave. As they walked out, he grabbed hold of my future client.... who I will call Harry.
-He believed that he had seen Harry get out of the driver's seat of the car and that Harry had been driving erratically down Lantana Road. He thought Harry's breath smelled of alcohol and that he might be "impaired". So, he thought that he ought to administer the roadside sobriety tests to Harry (follow instructions, finger to nose, etc).
-Harry "failed" the tests, was hauled in for a breathalyzer test, scored high on that and was arrested for DUI.

I was with the Public Defender's Office at the time, I got appointed to Harry and his DUI and off we went. Before trial, Harry told me that while he couldn't locate one of the guys, Paul, who was in the car with him...he was going to bring the other guy, John, with him to court to testify that Paul was driving the car...not Harry.

Almost half a century later, I can remember sitting on a wooden bench outside the courtroom door during a break in Harry's trial and talking with John about his upcoming testimony. This is what he said: "Harry was really driving the car but I am going to say that Pual was"."

I told John that he was..I was sure..a great guy. But, that I wasn't allowed to put on witnesses who I knew were going to lie so, thanks for coming.. and, now, feel free to leave. John left.

Since Harry had never told me that he was lying, I had no problem putting him on the witness stand. He testified that Paul was the driver...that the cop had made a mistake.

The jury found Harry not guilty. ...It had been, after all, a gloomy Lantana night.....and Harry did come across as a very nice guy....so, who really knew who was driving the car?

I certainly didn't.
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IS THAT BECAUSE YOU SHOT YOURSELF IN THE HEAD? By Bob Smith======= The Rules Of Evidence And When They Don't Particularly Apply 
Friday, March 19, 2010, 11:25 AM
Posted by Administrator
Driving down from the Tim Horton's Donuts in Medicine Hat, I had some time to think about the time I spent in court before I retired and moved up here to Wyoming And I'm not just talking about what I was thinking for the first few miles after I handed the Custom's Agent at the border crossing a chocolate frosted. That's wasn't bribery---was it? I wasn't smuggling anything bigger than the half-eaten plum sitting in a bag in my back seat.

For example....

I am fairly familiar with the rules of evidence. I have tried enough cases for me to rely on muscle memory to jump me out of my seat and yell out the appropriate objection when the other side of the case tries to get something into evidence that I don't think the rules ought to allow in. You've watched TV so you know them too:

-Hearsay.
-Calls For A Hearsay Answer.
-Irrelevant.
-No Predicate/Improper Predicate.
-Improperly Calls For An Opinion.
-Calls For A Narrative.


These are most of them...except there is always:

-Prejudicial.

But, the other side's evidence is aupposed to be prejudicial to your side so, how about:

-Unfairly Prejducial.

Maybe, give it a try. Maybe the Judge will only let the jury in your muder case see a few grotesque murder victim pictures instead of the 3 dozen bloody, gory, mutilation photos the prosecutor would like to use to make the jury want to hang someone for the crime (and, why not your client because he is already in the courtroom). Alright, the Judge will probably let them all in. But, you tried (and preserved the issue for appeal).

But, I digress....

QUICK....I am going to give you a scenario then I want you to QUICK....tell me the appropriate legal objection (you are required...by most judges to state the correct basis of your objection along with the words "We object"....if you say "Objection, heresay" and really the proper objection is "irrevent" then the judge is supposed to overrule your objection...though it would have been sustained if you said the right words.)

SCENARIO #1:

In a divorce case where one of the issues was custody/visitation of a young girl, the Husband...representing himself...testifies that he has had all kinds of mental problems for the past few years. As a result, he says, he has been unable to hold down a job and has had psychotropic mediations prescribed for his many mental problems.

When he is done testifying, on cross examination, he is asked:
"IS THAT BECAUSE YOU SHOT YOURSELF IN THE HEAD?"

The Judge does not allow the question to be asked. QUICK...state the reason.

SCENARIO #2:

In a divorce case, where everyone agrees that the Wife had the Husband removed from the home for an alleged domestic battery and ...once she got rid of him...she then removed all of the parties' valuable possessions (most of which were acquired during or shortly after the death of the man's first wife), including a Hummer bodied golf cart. The Wife now demands her share of everything that is left. It was a very short term marriage. The woman had married her deceased best friend's husband.

A witness testifies to the Wife running off with everythind and demanding more. The witness is asked:
"SO, IS SHE A GOLD DIGGER?"

The Judge does not allow the question to be answered, QUICK....state the reason.

TO BE CONTINUED:

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BOB SMITH WRITES ABOUT REASONS NOT TO GET A DIVORCE, UNINTENDED TRIPS TO CANADA, BAT MITZVAHS IN VERMONT 
Monday, March 8, 2010, 04:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
By Bob Smith.......as told by Aryanna Duhl:

There flights from West Palm Beach to Burlington, Vermont though JFK Airport in New York. There are flights to New Hampshire on SouthWest Airlines. There are flights to Boston. For some reason, my father decided to ignore all of these flights and, instead, fly us to Hartford, Connecticut from where we would drive North to my aunt Joanne's house which is in the exact geographic middle of the State of Vermont.

We drove through a cold, dark November night through Connecticut then through part of Massachusetts, then into Southern Vermont. A few minutes after entering Vermont, my father announced: "Let's go to McDonalds." But, it did not appear that there were McDonald's in Vermont. Well, at least you wouldnt' know it if there were because the law there doesn't allow golden arches. Without golden arches, McDonald's just fade into the gloomy, foggy Vermont landscape.

The good news was that the Interstate followed the Connecticut River and on the other side of the Connecticut River was New Hampshire. And, in New Hampshire, the state didn't care what you did. Golden arches? Build them higher than the sky if you want...knock down low flying airplanes with your arches...New Hampshire doesn't care.

So, we drove across the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire immediately after seeing the first set of arches. Then, we headed back across the river and North.

Did I mention that Vermont doesn't allow cellphone towers on top of mountains? A state full of mountains that would be great for placing cellphone towers on top of doesn't allow them. So, there we were heading North and, after a while, my father began to realize that nothing looked familiar. So, he tried calling my uncle, Jim, on his cellphone: nothing. He tried again: nothing.

So, he turned off at an exit and went a few miles to the general store. When he got back in the car, this is what he said: "The people in the store laughed when I told them where we were going and they said that we were just a few miles South of the Candadian border."

My mother, still displeased with my father for having yelled at me a few minutes before for knocking the CD player on the floor and not, herself, being a big fan of Vermont, being lost in Vermont or the country of Canada said: "I want a divorce."

Since the State of Vermont is approximately the size of Pahokee, my father was able to find his way back from the Canadian Border and to my aunt's house in about 45 minutes. It turned out that he had gotten lost because the McDonald's was where it was because of the huge Interstate intersection it sat next to. At the interchange, we were supposed to go West...not North...but my father had forgotten about interchanging because he was concentrating on eating his quarter pounder.

My mother softened her position later that night. She would forgo the divorce if nobody blamed her for not showing up at my cousin's Bat Mitzvah service. She was willing to come to the reception afterward...and to eat and to drink. She just believed that the side trip to the border should get her out of having to spend 2 and 1/2 hours in a Montpelier Synagogue listening to a lot of praying in Hebrew.

This is what I learned from the trip:

1) Laws that don't allow golden arches are facist restrictions on free speech.
2) Laws that don't allow cellphone towers on the top of perfectly good mountains are facist restrictions on free speech.
3) Sometimes, instead of getting a divorce, you should just not go to the Bat Mitzvah.

---------------------------------------------------------
In an upcoming entry, I will describe Aryanna's impression of the Torah portion she read during her cousin's Bat Mitzvah in Montpelier. This will include: ancient Jewish rules on rape and sacrificing small birds.------Bob Smith
---------------------------------------------------------
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now resides in Northern Wyoming, just South of the Canadian Border. Bob is an avid ice-fisherman and moose hunter who makes frequent trips over the border to shop in Medicine Hat.



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MY FAVORITE WARRANTY 
Monday, March 8, 2010, 11:34 AM
Posted by Administrator
Bob Smith, retired lawyer and (recently failed) moose hunter, writes from his cabin in Northern Wyoming:

I spend a lot of my free time now looking at EBay for great things I could buy if I had the money. Moto Guzzi LeMans motorcycles, BMW X5 SUVs, Sunfish Center Console fishing boats with 150 HP 4 stroke Yamahas on the transom. All this stuff is used and all the ads read "SOLD AS IS". Because, if a seller of used stuff does't make it clear to the buyer that the merchandise is sold "AS IS" then the seller....whether or not the seller knows it...is warranting that whatever he/she is selling works well and is without any faults. There is a warranty attached to everything that gets sold (except real estate...houses and lots) and if the seller doesn't "disclaim" the warranty ("AS IS, WHERE IS"), the buyer can (in theory) recover money from the seller.

So, if you buy a snowmobile on EBay and the ad says it is sold "AS IS" then it doesn't matter that after it arrives on the truck from Sasketchuan, you find out that both skis are bent and the starter motor is a rusted hunk of scrap metal. On the other hand, even if the ad didn't say the snowmobile was sold "AS IS", are you really going to sue? Lawsuits cost money and lawyers don't take broken-used-snowmobile-warranty cases for a piece of the action. (If you are badly injured in an auto accident then 33%.....40% if a lawsuit gets filed...of the recovery is the going rate for attorney's fees. Those law firm ads on TV boasting that at THEIR law firm if you don't get money you don't have to pay the lawyers are based on the assumption that there are still a few prospective clients don't know that EVERY lawyer offers the no-recovery/no fee deal......not just the law firms hellbent on spending the most money for TV advertising.)

So, if your Ducati arrives in the back of a trailer two weeks after it left the garage of the EBay seller needing $3,000 worth of work on its desmodronic valves, you are on your own. No lawyer is going to sue the seller for 40% of $3,000 (and no fee at all if you lose or can't collect) even if the Ducati wasn't explicitly sold "AS IS".

In law school there is usually one exam and your entire grade is based on that one exam. The exams consist, usually, of several fact scenarios and you are supposed to write...for each scenario... as much of an answer as you possibly can before time runs out. Here is an example of what I imagine a test scenario in an exam for a course entitled SALES might be (Note: You will have one hour to write your answer):

It is Colorado...outside of Denver. The year is 1972. A man we will call Steve Duhl (because that is his name) has purchased a 1967 Austin Healy MKIII 3000 for $2,500. His friend gives him a ride to pick it up. As they drive away..with Duhl in the lead...the friend (driving a mid-60's Sunbeam Alpine) begins honking his horn. Duhl looks back and sees plumes of smoke coming out of the Healey's exhaust.

Duhl does not find out until years later that to fix the smoking exhaust problem, all he needed was a 2 cent sheet metal screw, one wrench and a free 10 minutes. His attempted fix in 1972 involved pulling the engine from the car and sending it off to a machine shop to have the piston rings replaced.

There was no written agreement between Duhl and the seller and the seller's newspaper ad mentioned nothing more than the year, make and price of the car.

Oh, by the way, at the time of the purchase, Duhl is 17.

Discuss+

+Note: "Discuss" in the context of law school exams means start writing...and don't stop until time runs out or until you lose your will to live.

To Be Continued.............................

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JUDGES WHO HATED ME........HINDU MARRIAGE, PROFFERS, PRESERVATION OF THE RECORD FOR APPEAL 
Saturday, February 27, 2010, 09:30 AM
Posted by Administrator
By Bob Smith:

Frequent readers will have read my entry about Judge Tessel, one of the Judges who hated me. Thinking about Judge Tessel made me remember a small woman from India who I saw about 20 years ago. I don't remember her name....and, as it turns out, her old name isn't her name now.......so, I will call her "Idel".

Idel had been a bank teller in India. According to her...and I've got no reason to doubt it...bank tellering was a premier job for a woman, there. She had graduated college and applied and waited and, finally, the job was hers.

One day a man came to India from Florida and to the town outside Bombay (now Mumbai) where Idel lived. His parents were from there and he had come to find a wife. Through intermediaries, a marriage was arranged between the man...who I will call Veejay...and Idel. They married in India, she quit her bank teller job and they returned to Florida where Veejay was part owner of a convenience store.

But, as it turned out, the marriage didn't last long. Veejay was having an affair with his aunt and he wanted to run off with her and to be done with Idel. So, Veejay filed to divorce Idel and Idel hired me.

The divorce was a big problem for Idel for many reasons:
-She hadn't been married long enough to be qualified to become a permanent U.S. resident, so, she was going to land up back in India.
-Divorced women were vilified in India; seen as damaged goods; had no chance of re-marriage.
-She would never get her bank teller job back: there weren't many jobs for women to begin with; she had quit that one; and...after the divorce...she would be perceived as tainted.
-So, she would likely live in poverty in India until she died at a young age of depression and disease.

But, there was another problem: Hindus believe that they are married for seven lifetimes. So, really, she couldn't get a divorce that would count in Hindu because she had been married to Veejay six times previous or one previous with six to go...or some variation of this. Hindus, she told me, did not believe in divorce.

So, one the one hand, since she'd only been married for a few months before Veejay filed for divorce, Idel was entitled to nothing. And, on the other hand, since Veejay had, in those few months, ruined her entire life, cancelled her future and condemned her to hell on earth, she was entitled to everything. And, on top of that, he had been sleeping with his AUNT.

And, just to tie things together, Judge Tessel had the case.

There was a temporary hearing and the Judge gave her some temporary alimony but he said that he would give her no more. About the other issues: "Short term marriage..too bad, so sad", he said, in these words more or less.

It seemed to me that the first thing we needed was a Hindu Priest...a Brahmin, since in the Hindu caste system, the Brahmins were the priests. This was back in the day when Palm Beach County had industry....and one of the industries we had was Pratt and Whitney. And, as I asked around for a Brahmin Priest, it came as no surprise that one of the engineers at Pratt and Whitney was, in fact...on the side and in his spare time when he wasn't busy designing rocket engines... a Brahmin Priest.

Here was my strategy...I figured that I should:
1) Ignore that Judge Tessel said he wasn't going to give Idel any more alimony, (alimony...a monthly payment...was all she could get, Veejay didn't have any assets), and,
2) Have a Priest ready to testify that Idel would never be able to marry again and that Veejay had ruined her life.

We went to trial. Veejay's lawyer objected that the Priest's anticipated testimony wasn't relevent. The Judge sustained the objection and, probably, this was the right thing to do. Religious Jews can't remarry without a religious divorce, a "Get" (which the Rabbis who give Gets won't give to a woman if her ..ex... husband objects); Catholics can't remarry in the church because the church doesn't recognize divorce...and evidence about these Jewish and Catholic customs never comes in. If you don't like something about your religion...ignore it or convert to a religion you like better. (And then there is the whole separation of church and state thing.....but, I digress.)

After Judge Tessel sustained the other lawyer's objection that the Brahmin Priest's testimony was irrelevent, I told the Judge that I wanted to proffer the testimony. I had two choices:
1) Say...myself... what the Brahmin Priest would have said...and get the lawyer on the other side to agree that...more or less...what I said is what he would have said. The Court Reporter would take what we said down on her little stenograph machine and...in the event of an appeal...all of this would be in the "Record".
2) Have the Priest come in and sit in the witness stand and ask questions and get answers...just as if he were any other witness.

Here is the idea behind a "proffer"......you are going to get evidence on the record but the trier of fact isn't going to pay any attention to it because there has been a determination that, for one reason or another, it is not admissible evidence. (It could be irrelevent, hearsay, based on facts not in evidence, offered without a predicate, unfairly prejudicial, imporoper opinion, incompetent, etc.)

But, if you don't like the result of your trial, you can appeal and ask the appellate court to consider that the trier of fact should have been able to hear and consider the evidence you proffered. If you don't make the proffer, then the appellate court won't be able to consider what the proffer would have been or whether allowing it into evidence would have changed the result of your trial.

In a divorce case (except in Texas where juries hear divorces), the trier of fact is the Judge. If a jury is hearing a case (a civil suit, a criminal trial) and one of the lawyers wants to make a proffer, the Jury is sent off to a room in the back and the Judge sits and pretends to listen. But, if the Judge is the trier of fact, the Judge has two choices:
1) He/she could leave the room and let you make your proffer to the court reporter.
2) He/she could stay in the room.....confident that being a professional judge...he/she will simply ignore what you have the proffer.

Judge Tessel stayed.........and (as Judges always do when a proffer is made in front of them and they are the trier of fact), he did listen.

So, the Priest came in and sat on the witness stand and Judge Tessel was there listening and the testified as I expected him to. And, in the end, based upon what the Brahmin Priest said...that the Judge said he would ignore...he gave Idel a little more alimony. And, we all went home.

Except that the story did not end there for Idel because the Priest.....after testifying that Idel could not be married again because of the Hindu/7 lifetimes thing....decided that Idel's marriage to Veejay didn't count. And, coincidentally, the Priest knew an Indian engineer in Atlanta who was looking for a wife. So...the two of them got married...first marriage for each (I guess)...but, somewhere in the line up of the total of the 7 marriage to each other that they would experience in the course of their respective Hindu eternities.

Since Idel didn't know anyone in town except the Priest (and, I guess, Veejay and his aunt)..........my whole law firm got invited to the wedding. While, I was told, the usual Hindu wedding extended over a few days, Idel's marriage to the engineer lasted only a few hours.

Good food...but, something that I as an unwordly/uneducated/xenophobic American found strange: Idel's new husband got to choose a new first name for her. ....She got not just a new last name but a new first name, too.

A few years later, Idel called me. She was bored...stuck in Atlanta with the engineer. During my years as a lawyer in South Florida (and before I moved to Northern Wyoming, next to the Canadian Border), I met a lot of people who were very happy with their arranged marriages. But, for ?___________? (I don't remember "Idel's" new first name), arranged marriage didn't work out so well....either time that she tried it.
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OTHER JUDGES WHO HATED ME............BY BOB SMITH...JUDGES, INCEST, SPEED TRAPS 
Thursday, February 25, 2010, 07:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
Another day here in my cabin in Northern Wyoming. This morning, I walked over to Canada and gave a moose a hug. And, as I hugged the moose, I thought to myself "I'm going to put off my piece about Hindu marriage until next week so that I can say a few things about the other judge who hated me."

Just to be clear, there have been, over the years, judges who didn't hate me. One, Mike Miller, would stop court every time I walked into his courtroom and announce "Mr. Smith, I can't see anything because of the glare coming off your head." or "Mr. Smith, have you lost even more hair since the last time I saw you?" If this wasn't an expression of love, I don't know what is. And, after messing with me, Miller couldn't very well hurt my clients. And, he didn't. But, I digress.

Before Judge Miller, there was another judge who I dealt with a lot named Don Adams. Don did not think much of insurance companies and, as I believe I have written before, he didn't believe much in giving people points on their driver licenses just because they got a ticket.

-----------------------------------------------------

Back in the day, there was a town called South Bay. Drivers coming from the West Coast of Florida had to drive through it on their way to Miami and the South Bay Police gave pretty much every one of them a ticket. No doubt South Bay made a lot of money from the tickets but, on the other hand, these drivers wouldn't slow down. The ticketed drivers would plead "not guilty" and get a court date and drive 80 miles to the Belle Glade courthouse figuring that the judge there would certainly agree that South Bay was a speed trap and that they had been unfairly ticketed.

Here is what Judge Adams would tell them "I always speed through South Bay and I never get a ticket." And, just so that you know that it wasn't only Adams that didn't get tickets: I sped in South Bay in those days every time I was there. I believed I was part of the Judge's test. ...And I never got a ticket either.

One day a Miami man came to court with a lot of South Bay tickets and a bad driving record and in danger of having his license suspended. At around the same time, a girl named Betty...she was a small African-American girl of around 12 or 13 began who began hanging around the county building. I don't remember why she was hanging around...school project? Someone she knew someone who worked there? I don't remember.

Anyway, Betty had a medical problem and needed a samll medical device that cost around $500...that her parents did not have. Someone brought this to Judge Adams attention at around the same time that the problematic Miami man stepped up to the courtroom microphone. And, here was the deal the Judge gave him: Pay for Betty's medical device and we'll drop the tickets. The man took the deal. Betty continued to hang around the courthouse.

One day, Betty told me that her father had been forcing her to have sex with him. I asked her if she wanted me to call the police. She did. She lived in South Bay.

-----------------------------------------------------
And, while I thought the South Bay Police did a great job of giving out traffic tickets, I, nevertheless thought I should call the detectives in the Sheriff's Office about this one. (Not that South Bay PD wasn't equipped to make arrests...they did have a 55 gallon oil drum filled with cement with handcuffs chained to the top ready to help them hold onto their prisoners.)

Betty's father was arrested and he hired a lawyer named Brice Bream to defend him. One day, shortly after the arrest, Brice Bream..who I vaguely knew... called me on the phone...and, sounding very irate/condescending said...in sort of an annoying/lecturing voice, in more or less these words: "There must have been some other way of handling this instead of calling the police."

This surprised me because...though while at the time I was doing mostly criminal defense work...I still believed that sometimes you've got to call the cops. How did Brice Bream think I should have handled it? Asked the father not to have sex with his daughter and suggest counseling? Okay...but it wouldn't have worked. Tell the mother and have her fix it? The mother denied that anything was happening...mothers frequently choose the husband over the kid...they need the paycheck more than the daughter. (I am not suggesting that kids do not accuse. Of course, note that Brice Bream wasn't saying that his guy was innocent...just that I shouldn't have called the cops.)

I was a little surprised when, years later, Brice Bream became a judge. It seemed to me that Judges ought to think calling the cops is sometimes a good idea....for BAD crimes, at least..and incest with your daughter is a BAD crime. So, I thought, if you believe I shouldn't have called the cops, I've got to believe that you shouldn't be a judge.

In the years before I retired and moved North, I never appeared much before Judge Bream but the few times I did, he visibly stiffened when I walked into the courtroom. He was always civil to me but there was always tension in his voice and he never could seem to make eye contact with me. And the strangest things was that when he looked over at me, standing in front of the courtroom ready to speak, he would press his head...hard... back into the headrest of his Judge's chair. Within the confines of the chair, he was trying to get as far away from me as possible.

I don't think that he has forgotten what he said to me.......or, that in response, I pretty much told him that he was an idiot and an ass. But, I figure that 20 years later, he probably now agrees with me.


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BOB SMITH RETURNS ........WILLS, JUDGES, MAFIA-SOUNDING-PEOPLE, ATTORNEY'S FEES 
Saturday, February 20, 2010, 08:55 AM
Posted by Administrator
I believe that the Bar has some rules about criticizing the judiciary. So, let me be clear from the start: all judges I have ever met have been fair, honest, God-fearing men and women whose mistakes....if there are any, ever...are few and far between. It would have to be a very cold day in my Northern Wyoming cabin....right next to the Canadian border...before I would say anything bad about a judge. But, still, I am going to change the name of the judge I am going to write about. (Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that people aren't out to get you.)

Judge Jim Tessel hated me. He never told me that he hated me but every time I walked into his courtroom he visibly stiffened. Though he hated me, he didn't necessarily rule against my client. I remember one case, about 10 years back, (and I don't really remember what kind of case it was) where, after we had a half day hearing, he gave me everything I asked for. He even took the trouble to write his own 3 page order. In the order, he detailed who had said what.

I remember that another lawyer, Kim Todd, had come with me. She had referred the case to me and she had some limited role at the hearing. But, Tessel's Order didn't mention me. Everything I said and did he attributed, by name, to Kim. I pointed this out to Kim and she said "But, he hates me, too."

--------------------------------------------

It didn't seem that he liked anyone except for...maybe...older lawyers who had helped him get elected in the past? (Note: This doesn't mean that he ruled in their favor...just that he didn't stiffen up when they walked in the courtroom.) The local Bar Association...every year...would ask the local lawyers to rate all of the Judges by grading things like their demeanor in the courtroom, fairness, knowledge of the law. Tessel always came in last, so, I guess, feelings were mutual.

Since, in Florida...except when a seat is left vacant mid-term and the vacancy is filled by the govenor...we elect our judges, it seemed strange that nobody ever ran against Tessel. One day, years ago, a lawyer told me this story...in more or less these words:

"Once, a lawyer filed to run against Judge Tessel. One night, two men came to his house and they said to him "You don't want to run against our friend, Jim."

According to the lawyer telling me the story, the rival dropped out of the race. But, just so that nobody thinks that I am accusing the Judge or his supporters of trying to strongarm the man out of the race, I would like to mention the following:

-Back in the mid-70's, I was out on a date in Seaford, NY and, after we had dinner, my purple Renault R-17 Gordini wouldn't start (probably because fate decided that it wasn't bad enough that I was trying to impress a girl with a purple French car so it needed, also, to not start). I had the car towed to my mother's house. The driveway at her house angled up for about 10 feet and there was a high spot where it angled back to level. When I looked at the car after it arrived on the back of the tow truck, I saw that there had been damage to the CV joint boots that looked like it had been caused by the front wheels....locked in gear...hitting that high spot in the driveway leveled off. I called the tow company and asked them to pay for the repairs...they said "no".

A few days later, I drove over to the tow company with my friend Bruce who is a foot taller than me. I told him to come in with me but not to say anything. This time when I asked them to pay for the repairs to the car, they said "yes".

-Years later, Bruce+...by then a (highly successful, premier) caterer (to the stars) in slightly upstate New York...was having trouble collecting money. This is what I told him: "Have you got a friend with a deep voice? Have the friend call the person who won't pay and say "I would really appreciate it if you would pay my friend Bruce by Friday." "Be careful", I said, "no threats...just that they would appreciate it if you got paid".
I do not know whether or not Bruce did this.

It is certainly not your fault if you have friends with low voices or friends who are big. It is not your fault if someone is intimidated as long as your friend says or does nothing meant to intimidate. I have a low voice (in addition to my regular voice)...sometimes, when I leave a phone message to someone who isn't being responsive...I use it. Sometimes, I think, it works.

---------------------------------------
Bob continues: Okay, back to Judge Tessel....

One day, I had a hearing in front of Judge Tessel on a probate casea. It was a long time ago and I don't remember much about it except that I was asking the Judge to order a brokerage company in New York to do something I had no business asking him to order them to do. This was the idea of a lawyer from Vermont who was the best friend of my then-partner's cousin. I didn't think that my request passed the laugh test...but, they were smarter than me and they were paying.

Judge Tessel said "no" to what I wanted and then, out of the blue, this what he said to me: "Bob, you aren't ever going to make any money in the legal business unless you take these Wills over to the law library and spend a few hours analyzing each one."

Now, most Wills are just boilerplate. And "boilerplate" is the term lawyers use to describe:
-A document with a lot of legal sounding verbiage most of which doesn't amount to much...
-That they copied from another lawyer's form and which..
-That lawyer copied from another lawyer....
-Who went to Harvard or Yale and was good for nothing else except for writing things that sounded lawyer-like.

In other words, my 2 and 1/2 year old nephew, Barney, could read a Will and know what it means: Cousin Molly gets 30% and Uncle Bob gets the rest unless he dies before Molly and then his share goes to Molly's kids, Simon and Betty...with this followed by a bunch of that boilerplate stuff. Spending a few hours analyzing a Will would mean a higher bill for the client but, except in the rarest case, absolutely no benefit for anybody except for the lawyer getting paid the higher bill.

I remember a deposition a few years ago. I had just taken on a new divorce client from another lawyer and I was deposing her husband. I asked the husband how much he had paid his divorce lawyer so far, and the answer was "$15,000". On the one hand, this surprised me because the case wasn't complicated; there hadn't been any court hearings; and all his lawyer had done was demand, receive and look at a bunch of financial papers and then reach a temporary agreement on a few of the issues. On the other hand, the lawyer worked for a law firm of middl'in size and associates at law firms either bill a bunch of hours or lose their jobs. So, was the $15,000 unnecessary work just to bill hours? I am not going to be the judge of that.

Prospective clients would frequently ask me...before they hired me...what my hourly rate was. I would tell them "$300 per hour..but" I would say "..you asked the wrong question." The right question is: How many hours do you think it will take? It is less expensive to be fairly billed at $350 per hour than it is to be overbilled for value-less, made-up work at $275.

And, while I guess I felt grateful that Judge Tessel was concerned about my making money...I never could bring myself to cloister myself in the law library and analyze Wills.

NEXT UP...........HINDU MARRIAGE.........

+Note the "Bruce" referred to in this story is no relation to Bruce the dog.... who bit Steve Duhl's pantleg in his entry NEW YEAR'S UPDATE. Bob apologizes for any confusion.
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LONG GONE.................CON MEN, COLLECTION CASES, BARS OF GOLD 
Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 04:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
I can't write my best stories because they involve clients and I don't ever want a client to think that one day they may look here and find that I wrote something about them. But, some clients are long gone....and, so are some lawyers. A few days ago, I phoned my old acquaintance, Bob Smith, to see if he had any stories for the blog. Bob had just returned from the Sobeys market, across the border in Medicine Hat, Alberta. This is the story he told me:

About 5 years ago, an older gentleman came to see me and this is, more or less, what he said:

"I met a man from Belize named Steve Renault (pronounced re no...like the French car... with the accident on the "no"). He told me that in Belize inlets from the ocean formed lagoons and there were many lagoons. He said that he lived near one of these lagoons and in that lagoon there lay a sunken Spanish ship.
Renault said that aboard the sunken ship there were bars of gold worth millions and that he had the rights to take the gold from the ship. But that there was a problem: he didn't have money to salvage the gold."

My client offered to help Mr. Renault...in exchange for some of the those millions. He didn't have much money in cash but he had a couple of credit cards and those credit cards had no limit. So, he lent Renault the cards and Renault ran up bills for plane fare and meals and hotels and everything else he could think of. Renault ran up a bill on one card for about $50,000 and a bill on the second card for about $110,000.

It was unclear to me how meals and hotels (and jewelry and clothing purchases) were related to the raising of the Spanish ship and the recovery of the gold, but my client continued to believe. He believed until the lawsuit came from the credit card company...he hadn't been able to make payment...and then he kept believing.

Renault promised him that the gold was on its way to being turned into cash. Renault said that big money was on its way. So, he continued to believe.

I told him that Renault had to be lying; that nothing he was telling me that Renault had told him made sense; that Renault was probably a made-up name. One day...a few months into the lawsuit...he asked me whether he could bring Renault to meet me at my office. I said "yes" and, a week or so later, I met Renault.

Renault turned out to be a medium size man of medium height with a full head of curly dark hair. His skin was light brown. He looked, I guessed..Belizian. He sat down at my desk across from me. My client sat next to him. Renault told me the story of the gold in the sunken ships in Belize and he told me that the money from the gold was coming...soon... any day...maybe as early as next week.

My client looked at me, then at Renault, then back at me...he looked like he was hoping that I would believe Renault...that I would stop thinking that Renault was conning him. Because if I believe Renault, then it was likely that Renault was telling the truth and that the money really was coming ...his debts would be paid off...and he would have big money to retire on....just like he planned when he lent Renault the credit cards.

In the weeks after I met Renault, my client would call me frequently to say that Renault was going to meet him and bring a large sum of money---wire him money---the check would be there the next Monday...then, the Monday after.

And the lawsuit marched on... Or, perhaps, "march" is the wrong word since "march" implies there was forward movement and, there wasn't.

I asked the court...in the beginning...to dismiss the suit because the credit card company had sued for two of its subsidiaries in one lawsuit. (With few execeptions) two companies can't sue one person in the same suit...so it got dismissed...and then re-filed.

We demanded all of the records of all of the transactions from both credit cards. And I received...after a while...boxes of records. I put the boxes in a corner and never looked at them.

We made offers to settle........and were ignored. We demanded more documents...which eventually arrived. We made complained abuot everything there was to complain about.

After a few years, my client had spent most the money he would have used to settle (had the lawsuit...actually..... marched)...he moved out of Florida to the SouthWest or the NorthWest or to Canada (I'm not saying).

Once he ran out of money, I imagine he filed bankruptcy.

But, there is a silver lining: There is no doubt that Steve Renault is still around.

And, somehow, in a strange way, the world needs people like Renault.
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WHEN YOU GOT NOTHING, YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE--- BANKRUPTCY ALTERNATIVES 
Thursday, February 4, 2010, 02:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
It is time to write another entry about legal stuff. Today's subject will be "When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose" a quote which I will attribute to Bob Dylan and his song ROLLING STONE or HOW DOES IT FEEL?...I'm not sure of the title.
As always, this relates only to Florida because who knows what insanity goes on in those other states.

Here is the idea:
-You (including your spouse...if you've got one) earn more than the "median income" for Florida (give your size family) and, so, you have (at least initially) failed the "Means Test" and you can't file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. (And Chapter 7s are good.)
-After inputting your taxes and includable expenses your income is still above what the statute requires before a Chapter 7 Petition can be filed without a notice going out that there is "THE PRESUMPTION OF ABUSE ARISES". The Notice lets your creditors and the U.S. Trustee's Office and the Trustee appointed in your bankruptcy case know that you may be Playing The System/Wasting Everyone's Time/Filing A Petition You Shouldn't Be Filing. "THE PRESUMPTION OF ABUSE" is a gigantic red flag.


NOTE: The vast majority of people I see for Bankruptcy "Pass" the "Means Test" and so none if this is an issue. DON'T ASSUME YOU ARE GOING TO "FAIL".

-So, (if THE PRESUMPTION OF ABUSE thing applies) you can only file a Chapter 7 Petition if you:
A) File it yourself.
B) Find a lawyer smart enough to file the Petition knowing that he/she can show that your Petition isn't abusive.
C) Find a lawyer dumb enough (or so desparate to make some money) that he she will file the Petition and worry about the consequences later.

-But, probably you shouldn't file a Chapter 7 Petition. ......but, there are alternatives:

ALTERNATIVE NUMBER 1-You could file a Chapter 13 Petition, and....
-Make payments to your creditors ...in some amount... for 60 months and pay the Trustee's 10% on all of your payments and suffer through the Time-Consuming-Privacy-Invasive-Annoyance of a Chapter 13.........or, you could.....

ALTERNATIVE NUMBER 2-Find an alternative to Bankruptcy, and, here is one....it has several important steps and you should probably consult with a lawyer with some experience in the area (or an uncle or cousin or close friend who knows as much or, at least, thinks that they do):

The steps:
a) Determine whether you have assets that a judgment creditor (a creditor who has sued and obtained a money judgment against you) can collect on.
b) Resolve that you will not tease creditors who call by telling them a payment is coming but that you will either not answer the calls or you will:
c) Tell creditors that you don't care that you owe them money (show fear and they will keep bothering you), but
d) If the caller is from India you will ask how the weather is there and then ask a follow-up question about the regional geo-politics or the Caste System (do not ask the caller if all bill collectors in India are Untouchables). ...Because you don't want to be rude to people from other countries and....really.... how often do people from India take the trouble to call you?
d) Take Yoga or otherwise learn to relax (but...excessive drinking and drug use is not an appropriate response to the anxiety of being in debt).
e) Repeat the following three times a day:

MAKING SURE MY KIDS HAVE FOOD TO EAT AND A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS+ AND SPENDING MONEY FOR THE MOVIES IS A MORAL ISSUE.......PAYING MY CREDIT CARDS IS NOT A MORAL ISSUE.

+Note: Making sure your kids have a roof over their heads does not...in 2010...mean that you should be making a mortgage payment you can't afford (that whole SEE A LAWYER thing works for this question, too).

Note: The credit card companies will not go broke even if you don't pay. 2nd Note: The credit card companies charge lots of interest to insure against the reality that a large percentage of their card holders won't pay...you have been paying all along for their insurance..........now it's time...to, in effect, make a claim.

-After you have been in default a long time, you probably can settle out most or all of the debt NO, YOU DO NOT NEED A CREDIT CONSOLIDATION COMPANY FOR THIS (give the money you would have spent on a CREDIT CONSOLIDATION COMPANY to charity...or your kids...and do it yourself). So,
g) Start trying to save, but,
h) Don't save money in a bank you owe money to.
i) And, I am not a big fan or credit unions.

Yes, there are all kinds of other issues:
-What do I do when the first lawsuit comes? (see a lawyer).
-Can they garnish my wages? (if you are head of household, you have a defense....they can't garnish until you get sued, anyway....and when you get sued you are going to see a lawyer).
-What if I am not comforable about trying to make a deal with my creditors? (see a lawyer).

Here is a great thing about lawyers (but not CREDIT CONSOLIDATION COMPANIES)............if we mess with you, we can get in trouble with the Bar......if we get in trouble with the Bar, we might have to find a real job.......

Like working for a DEBT CONSOLIDATION COMPANY.

....where we can mess you up without getting into trouble.

Note: There probably are some okay companies out there... good luck finding one.)



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THE LAST HAND OPERATED FERRY IN THE UNITED STATES 
Saturday, January 2, 2010, 07:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
The piece that one of my sister-in-laws copied from the Internet said to take Military Road. So, I drove South of our hotel and past the Police Station which is about a twenty five minute walk from the local International Bridge and turned right. I drove past fields of cabbage that looked ready to be picked and fields of brown dirt and some fields of dry cornstalks waiting to be plowed under. To my left, at the edge of the fields were stands of Cottonwood Trees ("Cottonwood" is the name I have given to all short, scraggly trees that line the fields in South Texas).

Beyond the Cottonwoods was part of the new border wall that stands probably 20 feet high near the banks of the Rio Grande River. The wall ensures that illegal Mexican immigrants will be physically fit...now having to both swim the river and then scale the fence.

The Military Road idea didn't work as the road headed left towards another International Bridge about 20 miles West of where I began. I found myself driving past a huge sign that warned that possession of firearms in Mexico is a crime and towards what appeared to be a line of cars stopped for a search on our side of the border. In the old days, you could drive unmolested...by us or them... into Mexico but now I believe we are interested in people bringing cash and guns across the border into Mexico and the Mexicans are interested in stopping guns (and I hope not in getting bribes).

I turned into a strip shopping center a few feet past the gun warning sign and made a U-Turn past a groups of Mexican men, I headed back North and, finally, found Military Road again. In a few minutes, I saw a sign for Los Ebanos Road and, since the last hand operated ferry in the United States is in Los Ebanos, I headed for the road....the road took me back where I started so I drove further West.

At the moment in time that I believed I was in the area of the ferry, I turned South and drove through a residential neighborhood. An old man in a motorized chair (think HumAround) whizzed across the road in front of me. I drove for another few minutes, past a school and then past scrub, fields and a few horses. I found another section of Los Ebanos Road. I turned left...away from a new development and towards the SouthEast.

I drove for a few minutes and, suddenly, the road went over a small bridge and then immediately turned to dirt. It seemed to me that a dirt road called Los Ebanos Road would probably lead to the Los Ebanos ferry. On the other hand, there were no signs and the road was empty.

And, there was a dead white cat smashed as flat as a pancake...centered almost exactly in the middle of the road just a few feet past where the pavement ended. This was not a cat that had been hit by a car. This was a cat that had been run over by a tractor...or a steamroller. This was the flattest dead cat I had ever seen.

I turned back. After a few minutes of re-tracing my route, I saw a car slowly pull away from a house at the beginning of the residential area and next to the pulling-away-car was a man and a boy. "Do you know where the ferry is?" I asked as I pulled up. The man did not speak English. The boy did not know what a ferry was. "Chalan" his father said to him. The old man in the motorized chair was whizzing back across the street and the man called him over.

"Go to the Interstate" the man in the motorized chair told me. "Then go West about 36 miles." He told me to be careful going through La Jola because it was a small town speed trap.

I drove West on the Interstate. It turned into a State Road a few miles East of La Jola and, sure enough, a La Jola cop was trying to pull over a car which was stopped at a traffic light and was having trouble because, it appeared ...and I speculate..., the driver of the car could not imagine why the cop might be interested in pulling him over.

Where rural La Jola meets the city limits of Sullivan there are signs to the right of the road that say "International Ferry" and "Historical Marker". I turned left. A green and white Border Patrol SUV immediately fell in behind me and I drove past two miles of slightly hilly nothing to the outskirts of what must have been Los Ebanos.

I reached an intersection. There was no sign for the Ferry. The Border Patrol SUV was gone. I headed towards the Historical Marker...past several streets of cottage size houses that might have been more at home in Mexico than they were here in South Texas. A crumbling gray brick house joined up with a white brick structure of about equal size; small, elderly, window unit air conditioners jutted at odd angles from a wall or two of every house in sight; carports sagged; fences were rusting. In a large garage a few people were decorating for what was going to be a wedding or quincinera or a too-late New Year's party...music was blaring. In the backyard of a neatly kept stucco house two women and a man sat around a patio table in the late afternoon gray-sky, South Texas gloom.

And then around the corner from the party, past a dirt parking lot, 50 feet down from an empty Homeland Security Trailer and a rickety ticket shack, there was a tiny barge that was the ferry sitting on our side of the Rio Grande. A sign said the ferry closed at 3:30PM. It was 4:05. Across the river, Mexico was about 20 feet away.


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MARRIAGE 
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 07:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
I've got two marriage stories that I believe it is safe (from the perspective of not disclosing client's secrets) to tell. Here goes:

ANNULMENT

Someone just emailed me about getting and annulment and it brought this story to mind. An annulment is the court's determination that the supposed husband and wife never were married to each other. To be married, here are the requirements:
1) Get a license from whatever jurisdiction you intend to get married in. Usually, you get the license from the county clerk. You don't have to be a resident there. You just need to apply and pay money.
2) Get a person who is qualified under the law of where you are to marry you: a priest, rabbi, notary, judge, clerk of court, ship captain (though I don't know where you'd get the license from).
3) Get together with your prospective spouse and the person qualified to marry you and then both of you express your present intention to marry each other ("I do" will do).
..........and you're married.

The issue of the fact of the marriage usually revolves around whether when you said "I do" you meant that you right then, at that moment, with (more or less) full mental capacity did...intend to marry...the other person...who, at the same exact moment in time intended to marry you. If you were mentally incapacitated......on drugs.......drunker than crap....you might not have meant "I do" and all you need is to get a court with jurisdiction over you and your spouse or your marriage to declare that you didn't have a present intention to marry and ...your marriage is annulled. ...and you never were married....at least not to that particular him/her.

So, the story:

Years ago, I had a client who told me that the only reason she married her husband was that he threatened to kill her children (from a previous marriage) if she didn't. Years after the "marriage" we sued for annulment. The judge bought her story. She had been unduly influenced...had been deprived of her free will by the threat......never meant the "I do". The court annulled the marriage...making a determination that she had never been married to this guy.

And, my other story: UN-NOT DIVORCED

A few years ago, some people came to see me and here was their story. She was a naturalized American citizen from, I think, Germany and he was a German citizen and they had married and she had applied for him to become a naturalized American and the Immigration people said "no". Their idea was that she was already married...to someone else..so her marriage to the German wasn't valid.

His immigration lawyer sent them to see me. It seemed that Immigration would have to accept that they were really married to each other if a state court judge determined that they were married (the opposite of an annulment.......and I'd never seen a judge declare people married, only divorced or annulled...still, I couldn't think of a reason it couldn't be done).

Immigration's idea was that she was still married to her first husband because, years before, while she was a resident of New York, she got a divorce in the Dominican Republic. New York was and is a tough state in which to get a divorce. My understanding is that you've got to prove adultery or desertion or abuse or you've got to be separated for a year......and the separation has got to be a "legal separation".....a separation that is recognized by the court. My understanding is that in the old days, when this woman got her divorce, you needed both the adultery/desertion/etc. AND the year's separation. On the other hand, Mexico and the Dominican Republic would be happy to give you a divorce..just come with money.

But, the problem was that these other countries didn't really have jurisdiction over the marriage.........you didn't live there.......and they didn't have any right to exercise jurisdiction over your spouse......he didn't live there. And the "due process" rights we take for granted (notice and the opportunity to be heard) didn't apply in these foreign countries. The idea is that if your wife wants to divorce you in the Dominican Republic you should get notice of the hearing and the hearing should give you the right to be heard and present your case AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE THE HEARING THERE ANYWAY because you've got nothing to do with the Dominican Replubic, you've never been there, you've never lived there with your wife and what gives some judge there the right to adjudicate your case.

And the New York courts made it absolutely clear in the 70's that these foreign divorces weren't going to be valid in New York...that New York residents remained married until divorced by a New York court...at least until it became clear that a lot of these divorced New York couples had moved on and married other people and had kids. So, faced with the choice of determining that kids who thought their parents were married would be declared bastards and that innocent couples would be deemed bigamists and adulterers, the New York court ignored New York law and their own rulings and said these foreign divorces were, actually okay.

Here is what I did besides doing all this research on New York law:
I filed an action in family court for a declaratory judgment that the ex-German was, in fact married to the German. I sent a copy of our Petition to the ex-German's ex-husband in Switzerland (he had remarried and agreed that they were divorced and was happy to cooperate) and I asked him to prepare some papers submitting to the jurisdiction of the Florida court and agreeing that the Florida judge ought to decide that he was divorced from his ex-wife.

With my papers in hand, I walked into the family division courtroom of Judge Catherine Brunson and waited in the back. Don't tell anyone this but if you want to do something unusual, it pays to be last. Let everyone else go ahead of you. You don't need an audience. You don't need lawyer's raised eyebrows giving the Judge the impression that he/she is about to sign something they shouldn't sign. You don't need to chat about it later with the other lawyers who were looking on. Do your job, keep your head down and leave when you are done.

Here (and, as always with my stuff, I believe), it was all on the up and up but, still the rule applies, because it is the rule.

So, I sat there as lawyers got their clients divorced and lawyers argued procedural things in other clients divorces and, when everyone was gone, I got up and said, more or less "Judge, I need you to declare these people to be married." And I told her about the New York law and the ex-husband in Switzerland and showed her his papers and.......because there was no reason not to.........the Judge signed the papers declaring the Dominical Republic divorce valid and the marriage valid.

And, since the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of these United States says that the ruling of courts of every state be recognized in every other state, the ex-German and the German were, in fact, now married in the eyes of every court in the land. And even Immigration couldn't ignore that.
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NOTE TO SELF RE SCHUMACHER INFINITY 
Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 11:44 AM
Posted by Administrator
Note to self re: Schumacher Infinity...

9-2 @ 11:42AM, t/t Mike Heniz, GM of Infinity of WPB who agreed that in exchange for my troubles, they would pay for my 2 major services (really, there is only 1 major service, according to the service dept.)........11:47AM

I believe that this is a reasonable resolution of my problem and I will continue to recommend Schumacher.

I put this here for 3 reasons:
1) My kid has complained that in the beginning of the blog, I would only write about legal stuff and now I write about anything that comes into my head. The above is an example of making a writing substantially contemporaneously with the occurrence of an event...for evidentiary purposes........ to create a business record and to create something that can be used to refresh failed recollection.
2) For evidentiary reasons.........judges and juries will generally believe things that are written down along with a time and a date.........and this is an example of how someone might write something up (though I would be shocked if Infinity didn't follow through on the deal...this is just an example).
3) To remind me that...in three years...my major sevice is on the Sales Dept.
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WHY IS IT A BAD IDEA TO JUMP OUT OF THE SERVICE WINDOW OF YOUR ICE CREAM TRUCK JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE THROWS A FIRECRACKER AT YOU? 
Wednesday, August 12, 2009, 09:41 AM
Posted by Administrator
This is a question that doesn't get asked as often as it should.

And I have avoided talking about it for 33 years (more or less) because of evil insurance companies.

But, now, it is time.

It was a hot Easter week in Hempstead, New York in 1975. Temperatures were in the 90's...and this was before "Global Warming" and, back when the earth was cold. Kids were off from school, they wanted ice cream to help beat the heat and I was driving my Eskimo Pie truck. It was in the middle of Easter week that a teenage kid named Dante decided it would be a good idea to throw a firecracker at me after he stopped my truck. I had thought that he just wanted to buy ice cream.

When the firecracker exploded it was not near as loud as the cherry bomb that had exploded in the toilet when I was using the bathroom at Valley Stream North High many years before. The cherry bomb had my ears ringing for the next two weeks.

Still, the firecracker was loud and the explosion was surprising since I thought I would just be handing over a cone or a pop and making a cool 70 cents. And, when the firecracker went off, I tensed up and then.....

Then, I jumped out of the big window of the Eskimo Pie truck (the window usually used to exchange the ice cream and the money) and started chasing Dante down the street. I caught him after a block or two and then, the question was..........what to do?

I was an adult (albiet a 21 year old adult) and he was a kid and it was bad form for adults to beat up kids. It was also bad form for ice cream men to beat up kids. Luckily, as soon as I had my hands on him, Dante started apologizing and telling me that he had no idea that the firecracker was going to be that loud (and, certainly, no idea that I would jump out of the truck and chase him down).

The aftermath of this was that the jump out of the truck made my neck spasm and I spent the rest of the hot Easter week taking a cut of what my friend Mitch Blank made driving the truck....I was stuck in bed.

If I ever get into a car accident and mess up my neck, my recovery will be reduced by the fact that I had or have a pre-existing neck condition...never mind that it was 33 years ago...my neck is just worth less than your neck. Medical insurance companies will rate me and charge me a higher premium...though I haven't had a symptom in many decades (never needed to see a doctor...participate in sports...can stand on my head). If you are injured there is a great motivation to just keep it quiet (but, of course, not to lie). The people who would want to know just aren't your friends....they just want to know so that they can use it against you later.
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THE THIRD PARTY COMPLIMENT 
Sunday, June 21, 2009, 06:01 PM
Posted by Administrator
I believe I have previously written about the third party compliment...but...it bears repeating. The concept of the third party compliment is courtesy of Ralph...my instructor for my first trip to Burroughs sales school...Southfield, Michigan...maybe...1976...maybe 1977.

Here is the idea:

"Sally told me that she thinks you smart."

If I told you that I thought you were smart...you would likely think that I was just saying that to get something from you or to ingratiate myself to you. But, I'm just telling you what Sally told me. And, since you weren't around, Sally wasn't telling me because she wanted to get on your good side..Sally never thought for one second that I was going to tell you what she said...so, Sally could only have been telling me that you were smart for one reason: because she thought you were smart. ...

And not only did Sally think you were smart but she thinks so much of you that she wanted to tell me that she thought you were smart. You weren't even there at the time so...even when you weren't around it was on Sally's mind that you were smart.

And I think so much of you that I talked about it with Sally and remembered what she told me and took the trouble to tell you.

So, not only are you smart...and you can be sure that nobody is just making that up...but you are such a great person that me and Sally say good things about you when you aren't around and I make it a point to remember the discussion about you and to tell you what Sally said when you and I run into each other. You just are great!

You are going to like Sally even more than you did before....
You are going to even sort of start to like me.

"I like your tie." is a crap compliment.... But, hearing me tell you "John told me he likes your ties." is like having Christmas in July.

Having written this I must issue this disclaimer:
I have never (to the best of my recollection) ever made up a third party compliment and I never will in the future make up a third party compliment. If I say someone said something about you..they did...go ask them.

On the other hand, if someone does start talking about you...and says something nice...I am going to tell you the next time we run into each other.

Oh, and in the unlikely event the shoe is on the other foot...please do the same for me.
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JUST AN OLD ICE CREAM MAN 
Thursday, June 18, 2009, 03:27 PM
Posted by Administrator
A client told me today that the other party in the case had told her "Your lawyer is just an old car salesman." On behalf of car salesmen everywhere, I have to take exception to this. I only sold cars for about a year and a half. I really got my start in sales as an Ice Cream Man.

So, from here on out, I would like to be known as: JUST AN OLD ICE CREAM MAN.

And, while I learned a lot selling cars (especially things about dealing with people and sizing them up quickly...you never knew who the next customer would be at Volkswagen of Bayside), I got one of my first lessons in law at the wheel of the ice cream truck.

Before signing on as an Eskimo Pie man back in or around 1974...and paying for the inventory of ice cream and the rental on the truck...and choosing my ice cream route (Hempstead, New York on an island called "Long" which is slightly off the coast of New York near Manhattan Island)...I first had to spend an afternoon with an established Eskimo Pie man.

As an established Eskimo Pie man, the fellow I went out with sold hot dogs and soda as well as Eskimo Pie ice cream. I would be limited to ice cream and soda. This is what he told me: "Don't ever give the customer the ice cream until they have given you the money."

I thought this was kind of rude.

On my first day on the job, I was parked near Hempstead High School. My first sale was about to happen. A teenage girl walked up and asked for a Dr. Pepper. I handed her a can. She walked away without paying. I yelled at her and told her to pay. She didn't.

So, I drove after her in the ice cream turck, across a road construction site, down an alley. I cornered her and told her to pay me. She said she didn't have any money. I said "Then, give me back the soda." She said "I already opened it." I told her I didn't care. She gave the soda back.

Not being someone who learns lessons quickly, I continued to hand people the soda or ice cream...expecting that they would pay me once they had the item in their hand. And, for the four or five months I worked at ice cream sales, everybody did. Except for the first customer and the Dr. Pepper, everybody paid.

A large part of what lawyers do....especially lawyers who do transactions (buying and selling, for example, real estate and businesses)...is to make sure that the girl doesn't get the Dr. Pepper until the ice cream man gets his 75 cents. Litigation lawyers do it too.

For example, I sent the other lawyer a check for the remainder of his client's security deposit (after a deduction for damages and my fees) and I sent him my clients' written Release of his clients...and he had to hold the check and in his Trust Account and keep the Release in his file.

He sent me the garage door openers and his clients' written Release of my clients. When I get them, I let him know that he can go ahead and give his client the Release and the money.

He is the escrow agent. ...the middle man...the facilitator...the reminder that for as much people claim they don't trust lawyers, really, they do trust lawyers... because lawyers, generally, are trustworthy and because we make a lot of deals happen that wouldn't happen without us. So, go beat up your veteranarian or your dentist and leave us alone.

And, escrow agents are necessary when two sides to a transaction don't completely trust each other. People on opposite sides of law suits frequently don't trust each other.

In an injury case, I have to hold onto my client's settlement money until I send the other side my client's Release of their client (or, if I am dealing with an insurance company, their insured).

For a real estate transaction attorney, this means he or she holds the purchase money and the deeds and, when he or she has both, the deeds go to the buyer and the money goes to the seller. This way, the seller doesn't have to worry about giving the deeds to the buyer and not getting paid and the buyer doesn't have to worry about paying and not getting a deed.

If I give my client the settlement money without send out the Release...if the real estate lawyer gives out the purchase money without recording a deed to the buyer........and putting aside the fact that to do these things could, in some circumstances, be a crime..........at least the lawyer will get reported to the Florida Bar and (should) have his or her ticket pulled.

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CAN YOU GO TO JAIL FOR OWING MONEY? 
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 06:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
Let me get the easy part out of the way first: YOU CAN'T GO TO JAIL JUST FOR NOT PAYING A CREDIT CARD OR YOUR MORTGAGE OR A HOSPITAL BILL OR YOUR ELECTRIC BILL. You can't even go to jail for not paying your lawyer (but, I believe we are working on this).

Still, if you try hard enough, you can go to jail as a result of owing money. There are several ways to do this:
1) Not paying alimony or child support is contempt of court. The Judgment says you "shall" pay it and, if you don't do what the court says you shall do, it is possible to get taken off to jail for contempt. The courts here in Palm Beach County try hard to just accept non-payment and not send anyone to jail. I understand in Broward they are less sympathetic.

Once you get arrested, you will be brought to court the next morning and the judge will (re-) set your "purge amount"...pay the purge amount and you are out. The purge amount should be set at no more than you can afford and does not usually bear much relation to what you owe. So, if you convince the judge you can only come up with $50.00, for $50.00 you're out even though you owe $10,000.

The federal government/FBI/justice department will send you to jail for not paying your child support if you owe staggering amount, grab their attention and still don't pay. For big money, not paying child support is a federal crime. I have not heard any local stories but, sometimes, there is something about this in the newspaper, and...

2) If you don't pay fines in criminal cases, you can land up in jail.

3) HERE IS THE BIG ONE FOR PEOPLE IN DEBT: A creditor gets a judgment against you and then wants to take your deposition or have you answer questions "in aid of execution". "Execution" is when the Sheriff is sent off to take your property ("execution" ijn this context has nothing to do with executing people) and "in aid of" means the creditor (now judgment holder) wants you to tell them what you've got.

A subpoena, properly served, is a court order for you to come to a deposition or a hearing. If you don't show up----that's contempt. If you don't answer interrogatories (written questions) or if you don't show up in response to a subpoena (or you don't answer questions after showing up), the judgment holder will file a motion (request) for the court to make you show why you should not be held in contempt and the court will have a hearing on the motion. You will get notice (notice and the right to be heard are part of the right to "due process" that is in the Constitution).

If you come for the motion hearing, the judge will tell you to sit for the deposition and give the answers to the interrogatories and all will be forgotten and that you will go to jail if you don't. But, if you don't show for the hearing, the judge will likely find you in contempt of court and issue an order for you to be held in jail until your purge yourself of the contempt. The purge is usually set in the alternative: a) pay the amount you owe the judgment holder, or, b) sit for the deposition. If you don't pay, you will be brought to court the next day and, hopefully, the judge will make the judgment holder take your depostion right then. Otherwise, you'll sit in jail until..............

I have run into only a couple of people in my 25 years who have managed to be ordered off to jail for not sitting for depostions or answering interrogatories as a result of a lawsuit by a creditor. The low number demonstrates that while it is tough to get sent to jail as a result of owing money...........if you try hard enough, it can be done.

THE ABOVE RELATES ONLY TO FLORIDA. WHO KNOWS WHAT GOES ON IN MISSISSIPPI, TENNESSEE, ALASKA, OR HAWAII?
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HOW TO GET AN "A" 
Saturday, March 28, 2009, 11:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
My daughter, Aryanna Duhl, who is in the 8th grade, was complaining, this evening, that the kids who spit back what the teacher told them got an "A" but that the kids who questioned what the teacher said and who expressed their own opinion got a "B". I told her that I thought she was right but that I had not figured this out until the second year of law school. She beat me by about a dozen years.

So, here is how to get an "A". There are two parts....I) Spitting back what the teacher says and, II) Studying (this is unrelated to spitting back what the teacher said but I might as well get it off my chest here). Note that neither I nor II relates in any way to math. I never figured out how to do better than a "C" in math.

I) This worked in law school at the University of Florida and I assume it would work in any class dealing primarily with words as opposed to numbers:
A. Do not read the assigned book unless the teacher wrote it. It will only confuse things. The teacher is most interested in their own opinion and not the opinion of the book's author. So, don't read the book...it will only fill your brain with extraneous ("B") thoughts.
B. Take notes. Write down everything the teacher says.
C. Review the notes. I read all of my notes once three weeks before an exam; twice two weeks before; three times one week before; and one more time the day of the exam.


Here is what will happen if I am right: You will see in the exam questions relating exactly what the teacher said in class. For example, if the Contracts teacher discussed as an example in class, something like...a man is interested in buying a horse; he stands with the farmer in the field on the border of the US and Canada and points to a white horse but the farmer thinks he is pointing to the black horse; he pays $1,000 Canadian to the farmer in cash but the farmer puts the money in his drawer without looking thinking all the time that he was paid $1,000 US; the farmer delivers the black horse; the man keeps the black horse for two weeks before calling the farmer to complain...you will find almost exactly the same example on the test. Discuss the issues in the same words the teacher used (they will be in your notes) and you'll get your "A".

II) Unrelated to Aryanna's observation but I might as well get it off my chest.............HOW TO STUDY FOR MULTIPLE CHOICE OR FILL IN THE BLANKS. Again, I did not figure this out until half way through law school (some law school tests were partly multiple choice and the Bar Exam is multiple choice). Here goes:
A. Do not use test questions or examples of tests to test yourself on your knowledge of the subject. Do not have someone ask you questions so that you can see if you know the answer. Instead, read the question and the correct answer together.

Why? Because if you test yourself you will find yourself sitting there, in the middle of the exam, wondering whether the answer you remember as being the correct answer is correct or whether it was one of the wrong guesses you made while studying. My idea is that you only associate the correct answer with the question.

B. Test yourself. A few questions here and there to make sure this idea is working. But, only a few....and then back to question followed by correct answer.

Law school became much easier once I figured this out.
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NEGOTIATING CREDIT CARD DEBT 
Sunday, February 15, 2009, 09:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
Negotiating credit card debt is a great idea EXCEPT:

1) You probably can't negotiate until you haven't paid for a few months and your credit rating has dropped like a rock.

2) Even if you could negotiate before you stopped paying, your credit rating is going way, way down.

3) If the money you are going to use to pay is your money, great...as long as you don't need to:
a) save it for an emergency
b) spend it on the kids
c) take a vacation before you go insane.

4) But, if you have to take the money from parents or relatives or borrow the money (from a student loan, for example) then....well you know where I am going.

5) If you are going to negotiate debt, try doing it yourself. I have seen ads suggesting that you can negotiate debt down to 40% of the outstanding balance...and I have spoken with people who have negotiated their debt down to 27%.

6) Of course if you can't negotiate down and pay all of your debt...if one or two creditors won't agree...then a lawsuit or two is coming your way and you won't have accomplished much at all.

Explore your alternatives with a lawyer or a financial adviser experienced in this type of thing (though it is probably a violation of the Bar rules for me to mention that it is possible that anyone but a lawyer could figure this out...on the other hand, we are regulated and we do get into trouble if we give crappy advice, don't do what we said we were going to do, steal your money..things like that.

Try figuring out who to complain to if you have trouble with your (supposedly not-for-profit) debt resolution/counseling service. (Note that there is one local agency Consumer Credit Counseling which is a United Way agency. They seem to be honest and trustworthy. In fact, that have such a decent reputation that there may be companies out there using similar names in an effort to mislead people. Or, maybe not....I just find the names of some companies in the debt business confusing.)
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THE RED HERRING 
Sunday, February 8, 2009, 10:26 PM
Posted by Administrator
One of my favorite expressions is "That's a red herring." Unfortunately, I have found that nobody knows what I am talking about. So...

This is my understanding of the red herring.

You are in England and you are going fox hunting. You are nobility or, at least, moneyed. To fox hunt, you need to be on a horse and you need dogs. The dogs will smell the scent of the fox and go off chasing. You will follow on your horse with your fellow fox hunters. The dogs will chase the fox and, eventually, corner it and you will ride up and shoot the fox dead.

Anyway, back to the red herring.

A fox lover will take a herring (which is a fish) and let it get rotten and smelly. Then, before the dogs take off chasing the fox, he/she will get out the herring and walk across the trail he/she supposes the fox will take and then keep walking off into the countryside dragging the rotten fish.

When the dogs take off after the fox, they will be confused by the herring's scent and will make a right turn and head off to follow the fish. You will follow on your horse. The fox will escape.

Now, when someone changes the subject in the middle of an argument to another subject that they are better able to argue or when the other lawyer starts trying to confuse the judge with things that have nothing to do with anything to try to get the heat off of his/her client or when your kid lies and when you catch on says "My throat really, really hurts Mommy"..you can say "That's just a red herring."

Then you can start hoping that someone else in the room knows what you are talking about because, once you say it, it's stick, stack, no take back.

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THREE BAD CHOICES 
Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 10:16 AM
Posted by Administrator
Clients are always looking for the good choice: The million dollar offer (on a case worth 20% of that); Don't pay bills but keep your credit rating; Write a threatening letter and she will send back the engagement ring along with a check for the $10,000 that you lent her to send to her brother in Brazil; He/She will agree to pay the $5,000 a month in alimony...no trial, no risk, just ask and you get it. But, usually...almost always....in this business there are no good choices and you've just got to pick the choice that is least bad: Run the risk of going to trial and getting nothing for the chance for the big money...or, take the offer; Sue your ex-fiance and go through the emotion of seeing and dealing with him/her again...or write off the ring and the loan; Forget about the alimony and move on with your life or go to trial and accept that the judge is going to hear that you were a coke addict for half of your marriage.

But, typically, clients can't decide because they are looking and looking and looking for the good choice. There must be a good choice. Right? You tell them the three choices, A,B & C and they keep looking for D. I truly and deeply wish there was a D. I would sleep better at night. I would not be laying awake...as I often do...looking for D. (I do note that sometimes there is a D and the client or I come up with it but, back to reality...) Usually there is not D.)

So, here is the story I tell to try and get clients to understand that there is no D and to pick A,B or C so that we can move on and make progress and resolve things:

About 8 years ago, I had to get a surgery on my nose for skin cancer (not melanoma and not basal cell, the other kind) and, after the surgery there was a deep ditch on the right side. Anticipating the deep ditch, the skin cancer surgeon was scheduled for the morning and, in the afternoon, it was off to the plastic surgeon.

Around 1:30PM, I sat in a barber type chair in the plastic surgeon's office and he said:
"You have three choices: I could take some skin from in back of your ear and graft it onto your nose; We could just leave the whole thing alone and it will heal...but there would be a deep depression where the cancer was; Or I could cut a piece of skin from above the surgery site leaving the bottom part of the skin attached and rotate it down to cover the hole."

The good thing about the last option, he said, was that it would leave some capillaries attached to the flapped skin and might heal faster and better on account of the uninterrupted blood flow.

I said "I know this one, I have three bad choices and I have to pick the one that is least bad." I picked the flap.

By the way, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped.


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FORECLOSURES, DEFICIENCY JUDGMENTS, PMI 
Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 09:50 AM
Posted by Administrator
If you had to buy PMI on your mortgage (typically, because you put less than 20% down on the home purchase), you have the following additional problems as housing prices drop and trouble with paying the mortgage(s) increase:

I) The mortgage company is going to be made whole (or near to whole) by the PMI carrier when, after foreclosure, the house is sold for less than what is owed. If, at the time you financed, you were forced to buy PMI, you have been paying the insurance premium for this and now your mortgage company isn't going to want to negotiate with you because, in the long run, the PMI will pay for any loss (when the house sells at the foreclosure sale for less than you owe). So, PMI=no deals on modifications or short sales.

II) Though historically in Palm Beach County (and history is always subject to change), there have been few mortgage companies that get judgments against homeowners for a deficiency in what is owed after a foreclosure and sale, PMI companies obligated to pay mortagees the difference are going to sue homeowners for what they are out-of-pocket.

Bankruptcy (if you qualify) will solve the problem but remember to get the name and address of the PMI carrier and list it in the Bankruptcy Petition.
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