“This testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.”

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In California, the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to attorney conduct.  In particular, attorneys should not guarantee, warranty or predict an outcome.

The standards adopted by the State Bar of California pursuant to Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1-400 prohibits, in pertinent part:

“(1) A “communication” which contains guarantees, warranties, or predictions regarding the result of the representation.

(2) A “communication” which contains testimonials about or endorsements of a member unless such communication also contains an express disclaimer such as “this testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.”

Even if this was not part of the Rules of Professional Conduct, it would be a very bad idea to promise clients anything.  In my written fee agreements, which are based off the models on the State Bar’s website, and in its book The California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office,  I use this language:

” 13. DISCLAIMER OF GUARANTEE. Nothing in this Agreement and nothing in Attorney’s statements to Client will be construed as a promise or guarantee about the outcome of this matter. Attorney makes no such promises or guarantees. There can be no assurance that Client will recover any sum or sums in this matter. Attorney’s comments about the outcome of this matter are expressions of opinion only. Client acknowledges that Attorney has made no promise or guarantees about the outcome.”

The original can be found on Page 139 of the 2008 edition of the California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office, published by the State Bar of California.

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 2014
Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708
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Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

The New San Bernardino Courthouse: Address And Name

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I received a notice today from the court on one of my San Bernardino District cases.  It says:

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: AFTER May 12, 2014, THIS CASE WILL BE HEARD AT THE SAN BERNARDINO JUSTICE CENTER, 247 WEST 3RD STREET, SAN BERNARDINO, CA 92415-0210. The above-entitled case has been reassigned for all purposes to the new court location as of May 12, 2014.

What does that mean to you, the attorney, the in pro per, the paralegal, litigant or secretary? On your captions, instead of Central District or San Bernardino District, start writing “San Bernardino Justice Center” and instead of 303 W. Third Street, write 247 West 3rd Street on Judicial Council forms or local forms.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Legal word of the day: Prolix

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Sometimes, you need a five dollar word instead of a five cent word.  The word is “prolix.”  Prolixity, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition is the “unnecessary and superfluous statement of facts in pleading or in evidence.

As a case example, in 2005, I defeated (in U.S. District Court, plaintiff attempted to appeal to the Ninth Circuit but failed to follow procedure after I became the Assistant City Attorney in Redlands) what may or may not have been a Complaint in United States District Court from a sovereign citizen, what I called a constitutionalists in the past.  Here is a restatement of the Complaint, without the actual prolixity:

Plaintiff claims the City is a corporation or political division of the State of California.  Complaint, Pg. 2, Para. 4.  Plaintiff claims the individual defendants lacked “standing to be officers, agents or employees of the City”  Id. at Para. 24.

Plaintiff claims his property is outside the regulatory authority of the City of San Bernardino.  Complaint, Pg. 9, Para. 13.  However, plaintiff does not claim that it is outside the corporate limits of the City of San Bernardino.

Plaintiff claims that the individual defendants have failed to prove that they had jurisdiction over his property.  Complaint, Pg. 9, Para. 15.  Plaintiff objected to the City’s enforcement of its laws by giving the City an “Abundant Due Process Notice.”  Plaintiff claims that the defendants did not respond to plaintiff’s “Notice.”  Complaint, Pg. 17, Para. 28.

Plaintiff alleges that code enforcement is void under California law.  Complaint, Pgs. 10-11, Para.18.  Plaintiff also claims that the defendants have failed to swear an oath.  Plaintiff states that the defendants “lack . . . competent jurisdiction to regulate the subject private land.”  Complaint, Pg. 17, Para. 30.

Though plaintiff alleges no facts regarding what the City did (or did not do) that caused him to serve the “Abundant Due Process Notice,” plaintiff states that “on or about March 1, 2005, the City again threatened an Administrative Law action against the subject private land.”  Complaint, Pg. 17, Para.29.  Much later, plaintiff alleges that “on March 5, 2005, the City of San Bernardino again attempted to have him bring the use of his private land into compliance of the San Bernardino City Municipal Code.”  Complaint, Pg. 20, Para. 37.

Plaintiff alleges seven causes of action (there is no sixth cause of action), including six Fifth Amendment Due Process causes of action, and one combination First Amendment “Right to Seek Redress of Grievance” and Fifth Amendment Due Process cause of action.

The first cause of action alleges that plaintiff has a right to “peaceful ownership, enjoyment and use of the subject private land.”  Complaint, Pg. 19, Para. 35.  The individual defendants have a duty to place “into the record such contractual information or documentation which they allege brought the private land and chattels under such City of San Bernardino Administrative Law.”  Id., Pg. 19, Para. 36.  The individual defendants conspired to “perpetrate their custom, policy and practice of dealing with [Plaintiff] under the mere ‘color of state law’” in violation of 42 U.S.C. sections 1983 and 1985.  Id., Pg. 20, Para. 39.

The second cause of action states that plaintiff had a “primary right” to rely on a repealed Penal Code section.  Complaint, Pg. 21, Para. 42.  Plaintiff states that defendants had a duty to know that there was no authority to obtain demolition orders, but maliciously commenced several legal actions against private land.  Id. at Para. 43.  The individual defendants conspired in the same manner as in the previous cause of action.  Id. at Para. 45.

The third cause of action states that plaintiff had a right to challenge jurisdiction which would require the government to prove jurisdiction before any further action could be taken.  Plaintiff claims he made the challenge and no “proof of jurisdiction [was] placed into the record.”  Complaint, Pg. 22, Para. 48.  The defendants “again met and gathered together and conspired to ignore the plaintiff’s written challenges to their competent regulatory jurisdiction and again attempted their regulatory actions.”  Id. at Para. 49.

Plaintiff alleges in the fourth cause of action that he had a right to be free of government action.  Complaint, Pgs. 23-24, Para. 53.  Defendants had a duty to refrain from “private Administrative Law actions against the subject private land.”  Id., Pg. 24. Para. 55.  Defendants then conspired in the same way alleged in the first cause of action.

In the fifth cause of action, plaintiff alleges that on March 1, 2005, plaintiff served his “Abundant Due Process – Notice” to the defendants that his land was not subject to the City’s regulatory control because it was sovereign allodial title.  The defendants never made a response, thus defaulting on the jurisdictional challenge.  Complaint, Pg. 25, Para. 60.

Plaintiff alleges in the next cause of action, denominated the seventh cause of action, that he had a right to justifiably rely on the presentation on the City’s seal that the City was founded in 1810.  Complaint, Pgs. 25-6, Para.62.  The City had a duty to know the actual founding date and change the claimed founding date to 1905.  Id., Pg. 26, Para. 64.  Plaintiff again claims that the individual defendants conspired.  Id. at Para. 65.

The eighth cause of action states that none of the “named defendants” have sworn nor subscribed to the oath of office, and that the oath of office is a requirement to occupy any official office.  Complaint, Pg. 27, Para. 68.  Plaintiff had a due process right “to expect that all officers, agents and employees of the City” swore to an oath before they had any official standing to take action against private land.”  Id. at Para. 69.  The individual defendants had a duty to swear to the oath before they took actions.  Id. at Para. 70.  The individual defendants then conspired in the same way alleged in the first cause of action.  Id. at Para. 72.

Plaintiff claims that the defendants were “private persons merely claiming to be governmental officers, agents or employees.”  Complaint, Pg. 30, Para. 80.

I believe I attacked the complaint using either this case, or a similar case, which taught me the word prolixity in context of F.R.C.P. Rule 8:

A heightened pleading standard is not an invitation to disregard’s Rule 8‘s requirement of simplicity, directness, and clarity. The “particularity” requirement of a heightened pleading standard, requiring “nonconclusory allegations containing evidence of unlawful intent,” as opposed to “bare allegations of improper purpose,” has among its purposes the avoidance of unnecessary discovery. Branch, 937 F.2d at 1386. If the pleading contains prolix evidentiary averments, largely irrelevant or of slight relevance, rather than clear and concise averments stating which defendants are liable to plaintiffs for which wrongs, based on the evidence, then this purpose is defeated. Only by months or years of discovery and motions can each defendant find out what he is being sued for. The expense and burden of such litigation promotes settlements based on the anticipated litigation expense rather than protecting immunity from suit. Judgment and discretion must be applied by district judges to determine when a pleading subject to a heightened pleading standard has violated Rule 8, but there is nothing unusual about a standard requiring judges to exercise judgment and discretion. We have affirmed dismissal with prejudice for failure to obey a court order to file a short and plain statement of the claim as required by Rule 8, even where the heightened standard of pleading under Rule 9 applied. Schmidt v. Herrmann, 614 F.2d at 1223-24. In Schmidt, as in the case at bar, the very prolixity of the complaint made it difficult to determine just what circumstances were supposed to have given rise to the various causes of action.  McHenry v. Renne (9th Cir. 1996) 84 F.3d 1172, 1178.

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

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.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708