Always Check the Pocket Part: Doing Your Due Diligence In Law

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The first week of law school, if not the first day, my Legal Research and Writing instructor at Santa Clara University School of Law JoLi Schunk, taught me to always check the pocket part. Bound legal publications, such as the United States Code Annotated consist of a bound book with a pocket in the back. The pocket contains the pocket part. The pocket part is a soft bound packet, varying in thickness, that has updates from the bound version. “Always check the pocket part” means, for example, that if you found a statute that supports your case, make sure that it is today’s black letter law, and it was not repealed by later legislation seen in the pocket part.

Today, most physical law libraries are getting smaller, so much research is done using online sources that are constantly updated. “Always check the pocket part” means that you cannot rely on others in quoting the law. For example, do not rely on a secondary source, or a case squib to tell you about a case. Go directly to the case. Go to a primary source.

This truism was illustrated in the San Bernardino City Attorney’s race. Challenger David McKenna erroneously accused the accuser of accepting money related to an ongoing corruption scandal in San Bernardino County, when in fact, the money was used to oppose the City Attorney James Penman  in the 2007 City Attorney’s race. According to the news reports, David McKenna based this false accusation upon a newspaper report in the Press-Enterprise that was in error. The original campaign filing showed the correct information (that the money from the PAC was used to support City Attorney Penman’s opponent, Marianne Milligan ).

According to the online edition of the San Bernardino Sun posted today:

McKenna said he did his due diligence, discovered the error and called Penman to apologize and let him know that he would send another email saying the previous message was wrong.

Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_18604446#ixzz1U0Lw4bdH

“Always check the pocket part” means doing the due diligence before you quote an outdated statute in a pleading, or cite checking a citation before filing your opposition to a Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the case of the challenger to the City Attorney’s office, looking at an original document instead of quoting a secondary source like an out-of-town, out-of-county newspaper.

It’s also a matter of taking care of little details. An attorney I worked for repeated this proverb, a copy of which I found online:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes in the practice of law, there is not as much time as we would like. However, if you, as the self-represented, as an attorney, or anyone for whom words are important, do your due diligence and always check the pocket part, you’ll be much better off.

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) 708-6055

How to find County of San Bernardino Fair Political Practices Commission Form 700s on the Internet

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The Political Reform Act (not to be confused with the other PRA, the Public Records Act) is another cornerstone of open government in California.  The Statement of Economic Interests (SEI), also known as the Fair Political Practices Commission Form 700, requires certain public officials to disclose a variety of interests.  Some officials are required by state law to file the Form 700, and some are required by the agencies’ conflict of interest code.  I worked on two revisions of the City of Redlands’ conflict of interest code during my time as Assistant City Attorney in the City of Redlands City Attorney’s Office.

The County of San Bernardino provides a redacted version of the form online here.  The address appears to be redacted, though most people put their business office in the address.  If the only zip code appearing is 92415, which I believe is an exclusively County zip code, you can bet it is a business address.  You can inspect at the original filed statement if you want to see the full address.  You can also find the Form 700s of the Board of Supervisors here at the Fair Political Practices Commission website.

On the County site, you can search back to 2007 through 2011, but it defaults to the current calendar year.  By “County site” I mean an outside vendor, netfile.com, which allows County employees to file their SEI online.

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: 300 E. State St. Suite 517, Redlands CA 92373-5235

T: (909) 296-6708

E: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com