Never Underestimate The Opposition Attorney

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a teenager, I attended a program in Washington D.C. in the law.  Though I had wanted to be an attorney for about seven years at that point, I had actually applied to be in a program regarding national politics, but that was full, so I went to the legal program instead.

The program was very interesting.  We visited a juvenile correction facility, we went to the local District of Columbia courts, we visited the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, and though I cannot remember exactly because I’ve been a number of times, the Supreme Court and Congress. However, I recall in particular one visit to a public defender in the local courts.  On each visit, someone gave a presentation and the students were able to interact with the presenter.

The attorney with the public defender’s office made a great impression on me. This attorney had the passion and zeal of a true believer.  He said that people asked how he could sleep at night defending criminals.   He said “like a baby.”   He made one student, whose uncle was murdered, cry. He spit venom on many occasions, most memorably against non-public defender appointed attorneys whom he labeled as “soup-on-their-tie lawyers.”

Soup-on-their-tie lawyers.  Meaning, a slovenly attorney, from a ninth-tier law school, who barely passed the bar exam, of questionable ethics and practices, who was never prepared, always took the short cut.  The image of that lawyer is burnt into my brain.  At one of my previous employers, this kind of attorney was referred to as a “generic discipline-able attorney.”

As I grow older, however, let me caution newer attorneys not to underestimate the opposition attorney.  As a society, we have a tendency to overemphasize conventional wisdom.  The person wearing glasses is intelligent. Or on the other side of the coin, someone who looks like they slept in their suit (or spilled soup on their tie) is incompetent.

As a lawyer, you should not underestimate the opposition attorney, even if they have made a few mistakes along the way.  Even the worst attorney in the world sometimes stumbles into a great case.  Remember what my Theory of Knowledge teacher taught me: even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of confidence because of who is opposing you.  You still need to do your homework and do your job.  Particularly if you are a civil defense lawyer. You usually do not get to pick your cases.  The plaintiff’s lawyer usually does get to pick their cases.  Sometimes the case is better than you initially think.  Thinking a good case will go away because of the opposition attorney is an easily avoidable mistake.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Why are legal pads canary yellow?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There are a few short answers.  They don’t have to be canary yellow, they don’t have to be legal size, they do have to 1.25 inch side margin, and no one knows for sure.  The best researched article on the subject is Old Yeller, The Illustrious History of the Yellow Legal Pad, Suzanne Snider, Legal Affairs, May/June 2005.  This has the best answers to the question.

I am transitioning away from canary legal pads because they don’t scan right.  The yellow comes out blurred for some reason, and if I ever have to convert my scanned notes into printed notes, it doesn’t make sense to use that much yellow ink.

Jay Foonberg, in his seminal How to Start & Build A Law Practice, 5th Edition, relates “Carry a yellow legal pad with you whenever you go to a public place.  When you have a yellow pad with you, you are loudly, but nonintrusively, proclaiming to every one who can see the pad that you are a lawyer.  Everyone knows that lawyers use yellow pads and very few people who are not lawyers use yellow pads.” Id. at pg. 142.

Anecdotally, and with all due respect to the amazing Jay Foonberg, I have not found that to be the case.  The only time that people ask me if I am a lawyer is when I am in the courthouse hall and they have a question.  Though I sometimes have a yellow legal pad, I am being asked because I am wearing a suit and tie and I am standing in front of a closed courtroom looking at the day’s calendar.  Those contacts are not new business, but people needing assistance with the calendar.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Too many people go to law school with goals that are not necessarily, in my humble opinion, conducive to being happy, productive member of the legal community.  Before considering spending money to become an attorney, no matter the path, young people in the United States should ask themselves, “Why do I want to be a lawyer?”  Law can be a difficult profession, not at all like what you might see in television and the movies.  One thing that prospective attorneys do not often realize is the profession requires that you put your own needs firmly below that of the client.  Because the law often draws the ego-driven, this can cause much unhappiness, particularly in younger lawyers.

I have been thinking of how to express my feelings on this topic.  I have given advice, both solicited and unsolicited to people before they go to law school, and even some in law school.  I think one paragraph in an article that arrived today in the California Lawyer put it as succinctly as possible.  These are the words of Dan Grunfeld, a partner at Kaye Scholer LLP.  I have never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Grunfeld, nor have I ever had any cases with his current firm.  However, his essay “A Lost Generation” which appears at page 16 of the March 2013 California Lawyer.  Mr. Grunfeld writes (in the paragraph I mentioned earlier:

For their part, would-be lawyers should think twice before even applying to law schools. The legal profession can be noble and rewarding. Yet it is also demanding, and not immune to the same economic forces that have thrown so many other industries into turmoil. Law school hopefuls should apply because they want to become lawyers, not because they can’t figure out what else to do – and especially not because they see it as an easy path to a lucrative career.

Do not go to law school if your sole goal is to make money.  There are a lot of better paths to make money.  Also, you have to have a commitment to being a lawyer-to helping people (in the broadest sense of the world) with their problems and in turn by helping society resolve issues and make things happen within the bounds of the legal framework that makes the United States such a great country.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Judicial Council Considering Allowing Courts To Suspend Case Management By Local Rules

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The Judicial Council is considering, and asking for comment on the following change to the California Rules of Court Rule 3.720 to add subdivision (b):

(b) Emergency suspension of rules 26

A court by local rule may exempt specified types or categories of general civil cases filed 28 before January 1, 2016, from the case management rules in this chapter, provided that the 29 court has in place alternative procedures for case processing and trial setting for such 30 actions, including, without limitation, compliance with Code of Civil Procedure sections 31 1141.10 et seq. and 1775 et seq. In any case in which a court sets an initial case 32 management conference, the rules in this chapter apply.

Advisory Committee Comment
Subdivision (b) of this rule is an emergency measure in response to the limited fiscal resources available 37 to the courts as a result of the current fiscal crisis and is not intended as a permanent change in the case 38 management rules.

This first came to my attention at the San Bernardino County Bar Association Board of Directors’ Meeting on Monday, January 14, 2013.  The Judicial Council is asking for review and comment by January 25, 2013, and proposes to implement the proposed rule on February 26, 2013.

The request is in response to the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Sacramento Superior Court because of their responses to the funding problems the courts are having because of the State of California’s budget.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
                   Redlands, CA 92374
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Gourmet Food Trucks in Riverside County and the City of Riverside

My post on Gourmet Food Trucks in San Bernardino County and the City of San Bernardino continues to be popular, so I thought I would add a follow-up about Riverside County and the City of Riverside.  The County’s Code, according to this Riverside Press-Enterprise story, prohibits food from being prepared on a truck, except for things like hot dogs (such as those outside the Riverside County Courthouses).  In effect, it allows “catering trucks” instead of gourmet food trucks.  The Council adopted Ordinance 7112 (an uncodified, unsigned version here) in January 2011 adding Chapter 5.36 of the Riverside Municipal Code.

There is an exception for special events.  Riverside Municipal Code section 5.36.090.

Cities often get pressure from bricks and mortar restaurants to prohibit gourmet food trucks, because they argue that gourmet food trucks are unfairly competing, because they do not have to pay expensive rent.  However, any argument that they do not have to pay a business license tax or registration tax is not correct.  Each truck must pay the proportional share in each jurisdiction it is doing business.  They have to collect and pay sales tax, too.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374

T: (909) 708-6055

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

California Public Records Act, How and Where to Make a Request in San Bernardino County and Riverside County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The California Public Records Act is an invaluable tool for individuals, traditional and new media,  public interest groups, non-profits, business entities, and even lawyers and political groups to find out what local government is doing.  This first post has to do with a very brief overview of the Act, and how to make a Public Records Act request.  Private Attorneys especially do not use the Act efficiently, much to the delight of City Attorneys and much to the detriment of their clients.

I have handled Public Records Act Requests on behalf of local agencies, and I have made Public Records Act Requests to local agencies, so I have a good perspective about how the Act is handled on both sides of the counter.  Having an attorney knowledgeable about the California Public Records Act is important if a client is involved in a case against a City, County, or other local government agency.

The Public Records Act is found in the California Government Code.  A Requester can find the California Government Code here.  The version found here is unannotated.  If a Requester wants to see an annotated code, it can be found at most public libraries and law libraries.  The annotated version gives case law and secondary source references.  The Act is codified at Government Code, Title 1 “General”, Division 7 “Miscellaneous,” Chapter 3.5 “Inspection of Public Records”, Article 1, “General Provisions” and Article 2 “Other Exemptions From Disclosure.”   If a Requester is searching manually, the Act is found in Government Code section 6250 et seq.  ["Et seq." is legal jargon from the Latin "et sequentia" meaning "and following."  It is shorthand to tell a court, or others, the general location of an some amount of primary or secondary law.]

The California Legislature, in enacting the Act, found and declared  “that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in” California.  Government Code section 6250.

While, there are generally two rights, to inspect and/or copy public records, this post will focus on how to make the request.

How and When to make a request to a local government agency in San Bernardino County and Riverside County:

The Act requires that records not subject to an exemption are to be made available “upon a request”  Government Code section 6253(b).  The Court of Appeal for the Second District of California found that the “California Public Records Act plainly does not require a written request.”  Los Angeles Times v. Alameda Corridor Transp. Authority (2001) 88 Cal.App. 4th 1381, 1392.

What does this mean, practically?  A Requester can ask the local government agency in person, or over the phone, to inspect or copy records.  However, the practical thing to do is to put it in writing so that there is a record of the request.  Local governments are collections of individuals, and if the individual employed by the government does not understand the request, or does not write the request down correctly, a Requester may not get to inspect the records in a timely fashion.  A Requester’s best practice is to put the Public Record Act request in writing and date it.  A Requester does not have to use a form provided by the local government agency, but sometimes it is easier to use their form.

Where and to whom should the Request be made?  Though the Act does not specify, local government agencies in Riverside and San Bernardino County usually have Departments that are responsible for responding to routine requests, such as for copies of ordinances or minutes.   In an incorporated city or town, the Requester can usually request the documents from the City Clerk, and it should be routed within the City to the right department if it is not the City Clerk .  In cities with in-house City Attorney’s Offices, such as the City of San Bernardino and the City of Riverside, a Requester can request the documents from the City Attorney.  Likewise, it will be routed to the correct department.

However, the best practice is to request from the specific department that has the records.  If the Requester is ling with a specific department, such as Planning or Code Enforcement, the Requester can make the request directly to the department who is likely to handle the request.  If the Requester is asking for records from different departments, the Requester might want to make the request to the City Manager or City Administrator.  A Requester should feel free to ask someone in the particular city, town or county.  Most local government entities understand their responsibilities under the Act, and want to help the public.  Some do not.

A later discussion with examine how to make a reasonably described record request.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374

T: (909) 708-6055

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com

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