June 24, 2010

Lately in Lawyerin'

Have you booked your room yet for the big state convention down in Corpus this weekend? I think a bunch of those shrimpers from Louisiana and Mi'Sippi have already made their way down the coast to more hydrous waters and taken up residence at the Omni. Both Omnis. That place wouldn't even accept my offer to pay 65% of their advertised nightly rate. And that was with Captain Kirk doing the talking and all the while striking his hilarious kung fu poses.

So I don't wanna hear about all the ecological disaster, decades of environmental destruction, devastated communities and lost ways of life, blablabla. Because this whole BP mess is now putting a kink in my weekend party plan.

Speaking of, I just heard about a piece o' lawyerin' that ties into all that. (The BP mess - not my weekend party plan....which, by the way, explicitly prohibits any lawyerin', and will hopefully not necessitate the solicitation of any lawyerin' from anybody else, either.) It seems that some in the petroleum industry - y'all might know it as the Awl Bidness - have had their oxen gored by the administration's moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling, and so have sued to have the moratorium lifted.

A federal district judge has now sided with them and granted a temporary injunction. In other words, the judge put a moratorium on the administration's moratorium. Kind of like when you're playing Strip Uno and two of your friends keep playing 'Reverse' cards back and forth against each other. Only with billions in petroleum revenue and the future of the Gulf of Mexico at stake rather than just the prospect of having to show your junk to people too wasted to remember the next day that you're a grow-er and not a show-er.

According to the court, the administration took a study limited to what went wrong at Deepwater Horizon, and used it to conclude that all deepwater drilling everywhere posed an imminent danger. (SIDEBAR: I smell some evidentiary mischaracterization here and maybe some confusion about the correct legal standard of review, but let's just go with it for purposes of this post). The court then scoffs at the Obama administration for wildly overreacting to a single isolated incident (in stark contrast to, say, the cautious and measured approach the Bush administration took in response to 9/11) and concludes the moratorium is "arbitrary and capricious."

This is a legally significant finding, because as anyone with a modicum of legal training knows, the Constitution don't allow no arbitrary and capricious laws up in here. Which is why we never have any. Honest we don't.

For those of you not familiar with the legal euphemism "arbitrary and capricious," it refers to when the government makes up a rule without really thinking it through first. Like if someone tried to blow up a plane with a shoebomb and the government reacted by deciding that we should, all of us, have to take off our shoes AND our belts at the airport EVERY time we fly ANYWHERE. Or that we should only carry liquids in quantities of 3 ounces or less because of the obvious safety threshold associated with that volume.

Then again, that kind of arbitrary and capricious thinking would only compromise civil liberties and not the Awl Bidness, so maybe courts would tolerate it. Priorities, you understand.

Posted by hbalczak at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2010

Balczak on Balzac

Sometimes I like to imagine how much better I'd be doing if only I were a sociopath. Allow me to explain.

Balzac (and here I'm referring to the 19th century French playwright; not that weird and annoying rhetorical device of referring to oneself in the third person like Bob Dole and many professional athletes do...because by the way that would mean I misspelled my own name - Balczak - Um, OK, now this is too long a parenthetical for the original idea of the sentence to be decipherable, so let me start over now that you know I really mean Honore' de Balzac and not myself).

Take Two.

Balzac once coined the phrase "the oily wheels of every fortune" - essentially alluding to the idea that where there's wealth, there's probably what Waylon Jennings in his role as the narrator on Dukes of Hazzard would refer to as "some shuckin' and jivin'" going on in the backstory of how so much wealth concentrated in one place.

Now if you're rich and feeling all defensive reading this, it's not my intent to accuse you of chicanery, flimflammery or even hijinks. The only point here is that in the abstract, there are very few ways to honestly come by wealth without employing at least a little bit of gamesmanship. And the more money that's involved, the higher the probability that some portion of that wealth is "unearned" in some sense.

Put another way, you will never come by a dollar more honestly than by slaving over a vat of refried pinto beans for minimum wage at a Taco Bell. (It took me all of 9 days before I finally said "fuck honesty"). Conversely, further along the economic continuum, you might pull down an ample check in a cushy office gig even while devoting portions of your regular office hours to frivolous avocations like blogging (a purely hypothetical for-instance, by the way).

But if you really wanna make the big bucks, you have to totally free yourself of all guilt and compunction and just ask questions like "what sells?" and "how can I make the most amount of money for the least amount of effort?" Unfortunately, most of us have some glitch in our character that gets in the way of this. Usually it's something like ethics, pride, respect, or one of those other hang-ups our parents instilled in us at an unfairly young age before we were capable of putting up much resistance.

But not Tony Davis. He's reaching for the big brass ring. And so is his Turkish/Afrikaner lawyer buddy, "The Vast Cooter." Get a load of what scam these two have been running.

Now I know what you're thinking: "Harry, do you really need to mock a man's name in order to make your point?" My response: It ain't mockery if it's the truth. It just so happens that "Engin" is indeed a Turkish name meaning "Vast". My best guess is that "Derkunt" is Afrikaner, but I think we can all agree on the universal meaning of that name. So there.

Anyway, the point is, these two have made money hand-over-fist by selling an illusion of hope to desperate people willing to pay dearly for that illusion. In short, Tony D and Vast Cooter sell shit at premium shinola prices. My objection here isn't so much that they con prisoners looking for a way to dodge responsibility for their own actions. In that sense at least, these two are just karmic agents restoring some balance to the universe. (There's a jumping off point here to rant about people victimized by their own stupidity, but that's a whole 'nuther post, if not a theme for a whole 'nuther blog).

No, my real beef is that when I compare my prices to theirs, and consider the amount of effort that goes into my end product versus what apparently goes into theirs, well hell. I'm insanely jealous. I'll just leave it at that.

But at least today there is some consolation. As this story teaches us, there is great risk in the Balzacian pursuit of fortune. Sometimes people reach for the fortune and get caught while still oiled up between the wheels, as ol' Honore` might say. So it is gratifying to see that at least for Tony D and Vast Cooter, crime doesn't always pay.

It reminds me of a saying we have in our profession, "pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered." If you're going to pursue the grand fortune, it might be your demise. If, on the other hand, you're willing to settle for a mere comfortable living, hawking your wares at a reasonable price in a nice office with time to occasionally blog, well, you just might get away with it.

Posted by hbalczak at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2010

Gee, I wish George Carlin were around to see this

Read this article.

You didn't skip the sidebar with Justice Breyer's concurring opinion, did you? Damn it. Go back and reread it.

Wouldn't it be great if this were an article from the Washington Post, reporting on what REALLY happened in Supreme Court news? Well it could be. It all starts with nominating Harold O. Balczak to the United States Supreme Court. So write your congressman and call the White House to show your support. I shit you not, bitches. I'm up to the fuckin' job.

In the meanwhile, let's all do our part to introduce the phrase "five ways from Fuddrucker's" into the public consciousness.

Posted by hbalczak at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2010

In which I take legal action against Progressive Insurance

I'll be brief (and you can quite your snickering)... Progressive Insurance has done irreparable harm to my effort to have someone (ANYONE) name a child Pickles. Progressive, in a deliberate move to ruin my efforts and advertise that they cover family pets in the event of an accident, has begun advertising using a small dog named


This action will solidify in the minds of millions that pickles is 'a pet name' and not a name for human beings. Such action completely eliminates any chance* I ever had at finding some dipshitbrave soul who would be willing defy convention and name their child Pickles.

As a result, this will cause me excruciating mental anguish and I feel like I should be awarded, well, a lot of money. If you'd like to help with the suit (or as we're starting to call it at McBlogger HQ, the SUPER AWESOME PAYDAY FROM PROGRESSIVE) shoot me an email.

*Harry says the chance was very slim and I reminded him he was neither a statistician nor a mathematician. Fucking know-it-all lawyers.

Posted by mcblogger at 10:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 31, 2010

Haulin' Oats

Well I have just about had it with lawyerin' for a while. I won't go into it, but a big reason for my burnout of late has to do with this convoluted case where my client, a hot dog vendor, was shut out of a fetish porn convention and wanted me to file a petition for a writ of mandamus on his behalf. This long, exhausting story begins with me trying to explain to the client how writs of mandamus have nothing to do with peddling hot dogs or fetish porn, but you know how clients are. They watch one episode of "The Deep End" and they think they know all about the legal profession and what it's like to be a physically attractive member of Generation Y.

Anyway, the point is I don't wanna write about this week, or any week for that matter, in lawyerin'. But since there does seem to be a constituency for blogging about entertainment, especially the guilty pleasure variety, I thought I'd take a crack at writing an entertainment post.

Hall & Oates' music definitely falls into the category of guilty pleasure entertainment, and it just so happens I went to see them on Saturday at the Long Center. The Long Center is where people go to watch operas and stuff, so we put on our Sund'y-go-to-meetin' duds for the occasion. As it turned out, though, our experience during the concert made it feel more like we were catching a show at Emo's...or maybe the bleachers at Wrigley Field.

You see, there was this gaggle of Idiots sitting directly behind us...maybe 6 or 8 of them. I first had the sense it was going to be a long night when one of them loudly observed, as the band took the stage, that John Oates looked like Bobabooey from the Howard Stern Show. Apparently $100 tickets at the Long Center get you seats in the Bobabooey section. Had I known, I would have gladly paid an extra $25 each for an upgrade so that my wife and I could better enjoy the show from the Members Who Make Armpit Farting Noises Only section.

At first, it was just dimwitted banter that registered like white noise static, but then both Hall and Oates kept rudely drowning out their conversations with a bunch of damn music. So the drunkest, most inarticulate Idiot fought back by loudly braying "She's Gone" - offkey and off-rhythm - during the song of the same name's chorus. Every time it came up. Never noticed before just how many repeating choruses there were in "She's Gone".

When he and his date got too drunk and/or embarrassed to stick around, the others chimed in with a spirited debate about who owed whom a tequila shot. I shit thee not. I'm not filling in what I imagine they were shouting at each other over "Sarah Smile," 12 other people besides myself heard it loud and clear. Come to think of it, I'm more sure they were discussing whose turn it was to buy tequila shots than I am about Hall & Oates even playing "Sarah Smile." And that pisses me off, because it's one of my H&O faves. It was at this point we kindly asked them for the first time to keep it down to a low roar.

At that point several of the Algonquin Shooters decided to continue their repartee outside, presumably near the bar, but they left behind the last two Idiots. Both were Really Annoying Women who, left to their own devices and with nothing else to do besides listen to some band, then had to recap the whole night's events in that Really Annoying Woman-to-Woman manner of conversation. You know, the kind where they recount the most mundane exchange as if it possessed the same level of drama as the climactic courtroom scene in A Few Good Men ["...and I'm like 'you owe me a tequila shot?'"..."and she's like 'Um, no i don't?'"..."and then I was all like 'Um, yah, you do?"..."and she's all 'Did you order the Code Red?' - I know! - and I'm like 'Whatever. You can't handle the truth?'..."].

It wouldn't have been a problem, but they were both using their Really Annoying Women outside voices. That's when the people next to us spoke up - but this time the Last of the Idiots were told, rather than asked, to in effect, Shut-The-Fuck-Up. It worked, but by then we were 2/3 of the way done with the show. I can, however, tell you the encore numbers really rocked.

Posted by hbalczak at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2010

Bob Perry finally gets what's coming to him

I'm marking this under This Week In Lawyerin' since we haven't had anything legal lately (which is exclusively the fault of our colleague, Harry Balczak, who is responsible for posts about legal issues especially if they involve fetish porn, hot dogs and improperly filed writs of mandamus) and this really does fit.

A jury has awarded the people who took on Bob Perry (because he built them a defective home) $7 million in actual damages and $40 million in punitive damages. Coby over at BAH has the full story. I'm just pleased to see a home builder finally taken to task for defective construction.

Congratulations to the Culls from everyone here at McBlogger!

Posted by mcblogger at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2010

Judge Keller to skate?!?

OMG...The special master (read into THAT what you will) assigned to looking to Keller's behavior issued his findings today.

“Although Judge Keller’s conduct on that day was not exemplary, she did not engage in conduct so egregious that she should be removed from office,” Berchelmann said in his findings of fact . “Indeed, although Judge Keller’s actions did not help the situation, the majority of problems involving the Richard execution was the responsibility of the TDS.”

TDS, after recovering from burns received as a result of being dropped in the grease, issued this statement :

The Special Master blames TDS for failing to have the right person (a lawyer, not a paralegal) ask the right official (the judge secretly assigned to the case, not a clerk of the court or the CCA’s General Counsel) the right question (to keep the “court” open, not the “clerk’s office” open). Justice should not depend on such semantics. Shifting the responsibility to ensure access to justice away from the Court and to TDS is akin to blaming a paramedic for a car crash victim’s injuries. It is clear that Mr. Richard would not have been executed but for the violation of the CCA’s own execution day protocol and the decision to refuse to allow Mr. Richard to file his pleading after five o’clock. TDS made a reasonable inquiry through reasonable channels to ask the Court to accept a filing on the day of an execution on an issue that had no merit until that same morning. Judge Keller knew exactly what was being asked of her. She responded with an unequivocal “no” and closed the courthouse doors.

The judicial conduct panel can now decide to let her off, reprimand or remove her from the bench. Let's hope they realize the stupidity of the reco made by the special master.

Posted by mcblogger at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2009

This Week In Lawyerin' : A brief vacation

Writing this week's installment of This Week In Lawyerin' is as serendipitous and effortless as it gets. This week's installment is quite literally "low hanging fruit." A banana to be precise. (Probably a couple of plums in there, too, but that's not really the focus of the story)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Albert Freed, a man who has sued because his Hanes underwear allegedly injured his schlong. You see folks, it seems that Mr. and Mrs. Freed went on a Hawaiian vacation. To commemorate this most auspicious occasion, Mrs. Freed bought Mr. Freed a new pair of undies. The trouble was, the fly on that sucker apparently opened right up and little Albert was, indeed, Freed. This led to much chafing, to the point that Mr. Freed was in debilitating pain. Or just enough pain, anyway, that he complained about it only after gallavanting in Hawaii for two long weeks. Then sued Hanes for making defective drawers.

There was plenty about the plaintiff's case that one might find flummoxing. By Day 2 of the trip, Albert Freed says he was hurting something awful but didn't say anything because he didn't want to ruin the wifey's vacation and because he was excited about the vacation himself. (Excited about something, the evidence would show!)

There are a few different options available to somebody in such a predicament, including [a] putting on different underwear; [b] self-inspection to assess the problem; [c] inspection by another party to assess the problem; [d] adjusting oneself from time to time; [e] going commando in a grass skirt - remember, this is Hawaii.

Mr. Freed chose none of these options. It seems he and Mrs. Freed are rather shy around one another so he couldn't very well enlist her help (could lead to nudity...that, and they were both afraid the other might have cooties). It also seems Mr. Freed has an official medical diagnosis of Dickey-Do. That is, his gut sticks out farther than his dickey do, so he couldn't even look down to ascertain his own protrusion. Another option would have been looking in the mirror, which Freed said he declined to do "just 'cuz." That's a polite, coy way of explaining that if you deliberately look at yourself naked, then it would make you a gay.

Well, long story short, the court wasn't buyin' what Mr. Freed was sellin' and poured him out - which is legalese for telling a plaintiff he might want some cheese with that whine.Download decision here.

Pretty entertaining, huh? I really kinda feel like stopping here and not offering any legal commentary. Seems like it would just screw up the beauty of the story. Then again, I've got a word quota to meet. So here's your insightful expert legal analysis, rapid-fire style:
[1] This case is a real head-scratcher.
[2] Who was the expert witness, Inspector 12?
[3] Imagine showing up for jury duty and having to answer those kinds of questions in voir dire!
[4] Under common law principles of negligence, Hanes only owes a legal duty if the injury was reasonably foreskin- er, foreseeable.
[5] How awesome is it that the plaintiff is named Albert Freed and the case is about his johnson freeing itself ? Come on!
[6] If this case is appealed, there will be briefs about briefs (kinda phoned that one in, right?)
[7] The court's entire written opinion might be dismissed as mere dicta.
[8] How can the court rule on this case and not once cite the Penal Code ?!?

OK, that's enough on one case. Tune in next week. Or whenever there's more lawyerin' to write about.

Posted by hbalczak at 03:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2009

Mmmmm.......Nutty Bar

Some of you may have noticed that McBlogger's legal correspondent has been a bit hither and yon of late. Well here's your big fat mea culpa.

Not much of an excuse really, except that I'm distracted because it's football season. And Harry Balczak loves hims some football. Especially the NFL. I'm in two fantasy football leagues, with real live radio sports talk show hosts and everything. One time I even tried to join in on some kids' front yard game down the street. (Sheesh. Join an organization like Big Brothers and they call you a "role model" for working with kids. Cut out the middle man and suddenly you're a "creep.")

Anyway, my love of football recently led me to the State Fair of Texas, where I witnessed them 'Horns administer another whuppin' to our neighbors from the north at the Cotton Bowl's grand, historic Texas-OU Classic. The game was awesome, but you know what else was awesome? The food. My favorite was an ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate and chopped peanuts. Yes, the Nutty Bar.

Which brings me to today's legal report. It seems that crazy birther lawyer lady, Orly Taitz, was recently sanctioned in federal court for bringing one of her nutty birther lawsuits. So she's digging a deeper hole and challenging the ruling. When I first read it, I thought it was kind of funny. But now I'm just craving one of those Nutty Bars at the State Fair. Well, that and more football.

Posted by hbalczak at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2009

Oh, the OTHER Pepsi challenge!

As a real-live attorney, I really resent it when people start spouting off about what a screwed up legal system we have, based on whatever outrageous thirdhand horseshit they've heard or read in the Corporate Media. Trust me, whatever reported kangaroo court injustice it is that has your Hanes all hinky, you probably haven't heard the half of it unless your ass was actually planted in that jury box all week. In which case, the story would probably make a hell of a lot more sense.

That said, I do admit there are times when my job feels a tad bit like Professional Wrasslin'. And on occasion, the potential for gamesmanship in our civil court system does come to the forefront. Like when a low-level paper shuffler fucks up and it costs PepsiCo $1.26 BILLION SMACKAROOS!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
(oh my, look who just got a woody typing that out!)

If this case were on an episode of Arrested Development, the one-armed man would step forward right about now and say "And THAT, kids, is why you ALWAYS file a timely answer when you're sued." And you know what? The one-armed man would be right. Ignoring lawsuits when you're served with one is just not a good idea.

Now in Pepsi's case, I'd be shocked if the court left this decision completely undisturbed. The fact is most courts don't like deciding the merits of a case because someone didn't jump when Simon Said. But how would you like to be in PepsiCo's position right now? As a defendant, the burden of proof WAS on the other side....but now the burden is on Pepsi to prove they deserve a second chance just to defend themselves.

Now if this happened in Judge Balczak's court, I can't tell you exactly what I'd do. My own sense of jurisprudence says blown deadlines and bureaucratic bungles should not decide serious disputes. But geez, people, we have a system for a reason. And the reality is that despite being PERSONALLY DELIVERED a citation by a really official cop-looking guy that says words and phrases like "YOU HAVE BEEN SUED" and "IF YOU DO NOT RESPOND A JUDGMENT MAY BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU," some people out there just can't be bothered to play the game. In those instances, they deserve what they get.

And what they get can feel quite proctological if there's an aggressive collection attorney working the file. Ever been ordered by a court to sit down and tell an adverse lawyer all the details about your finances? Ever had a bass boat taken away from you or a rental property sold from underneath you? Ever had a court order you to turn over stocks or equipment owned by your corporation? You might be thinking you're a turnip they can't bleed but guess what: judgments stay in effect for ten years and can be renewed for even longer. And then, of course, there's what it does to your credit. So you're pretty much betting against your own prospects of ever doing better by taking that attitude.

But back to Judge Balczak's court in Lucky SOB vs. PepsiCo. We could really have fun with this, couldn't we? I've always hated Pepsi. I hate its taste, I have always hated its brand/marketing strategy, I have hated its commercials, and I REALLY REALLY REALLY hate Pepsi when it's products are used to soil a perfectly good bourbon on the rocks that I paid top dollar for by some "bartender" who presumes to mix it with Sierra Mist thinking I won't know it isn't Ginger Ale. Yeah. Fuck it. Default Judgment is hereby affirmed in the full amount awarded, and this Court orders that asshole at the Long Center to pay punitive damages of $1M and enjoins said asshole from ever serving drinks there at intermission again!!! Next case.....

Posted by hbalczak at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2009

This Week In Lawyerin' : Defense strategy

Harry, after a little light prodding (a prod wired with only 20k volts), posted this piece recently about a man framed by his cat for downloading kiddie porn. He presented some ideas for a defense that were, in my humble not-so-legal opinion (I'm not a lawyer, but...), quite good. For illustrative purposes, we'd like to offer this.

cat-at-keyboard copy.jpg

Posted by mcblogger at 04:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2009

NEW FEATURE : This Week In Lawyerin'

I was told there would be no bullshit in this profession, but I now suspect that may have been a lie.

Like this morning. There I was, deep in summer staycation slumber, when the phone rings. I was so startled I even answered it!

It was McBlogger, and boy was he pissed. I was still groggy so I'm not sure what all the ranting was about, but I remember something about not pulling my weight, blablabla, plenty of other profane, leftward, Maker's-swilling bloggers with law licenses who would kill for my position, yaddayadda. Post something "rightgoddamnnow" is I believe how he put it before abruptly hanging up.

Well, from that little bout of morning unpleasantness, a new feature is born: This Week In Lawyerin'. Every...week?...uh, or so...I'll post a report on law stuff. You know, cases in the news, ancient legal doctrines with dirty-sounding Latin names, no big whoop.

This week's topic for This Week In Lawyerin' comes from Florida. Or as I've referred to it since November 2000, Flori-Duh. It seems there's this guy. And he has a cat. We all know how cats are the minions of Satan and do his bidding as demonic agents here on earth, right? Well this cat must be an arch-demon, because he framed his owner for a quite heinous crime.

Yeah, this guy was just minding his own business, downloading some Bjork for the iPod, when he has to leave the room for a second. and when he comes back, there were "strange things" on the computer. No, not Bjork - REALLY strange things. Criminally strange things. And the cat's apparently just sitting there with one paw still on the computer, sporting a creepy grin and one raging, furry kittyboner (I will resist the temptation here to pursue a more metaphysical tangent on the subject of reincarnation and Michael Jackson).

What's really disturbing about this story is that the cops don't believe this poor man! They're too focused on the kiddie porn to recognize the real issue is kitty porn. If I were this man's lawyer, the first thing I'd do in voir dire is coax out every last story from the panel about the evil, rotten things they have witnessed cats do. Poison the jury panel right out of the box so that everyone is ready to lynch a cat if they weren't already. Get that jury to thinking about all the times cats have suffocated their babies, or stolen their identity and maxed out their credit cards, or seduced their spouses (remember, this IS Florida we're talking about).

After that, I'd object a bunch. I'd tell the jury in opening statement that this is about a game of cat and mouse...but NOT the kind of mouse they might think. I'd also argue motive, because clearly anyone who would side with the prosecution here must be in a love triangle with the cat and in on the setup. But I'd save my big gun for the very last sentence of closing argument, when I'd stare the jury in the eyes and exclaim, "IF HIS CAT'S A PERV, HE MUST NOT SERVE!!"

Posted by hbalczak at 02:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack