Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Working For -- and Against -- Someone's Foolish Client

We all cannot have designer clients.  Some clients are an absolute pleasure to work with, and some you sometimes wish to strangle, and would readily do so were it not violative of the lawyer-client relationship.  I just got finished meeting with a client (actually, a non-client -- more on that shortly) who has attributes of both.

There obviously will be circumspection on the details and particulars, and I shall refrain from commenting on the stupidity and disingenuity of some of the arguments made by the plaintiffs (plural).  But it goes something like this:

This person has been a good friend since we moved to Long Island 20+ years ago.  He is brilliant, has an analytical mind, has run successful business ventures and, though he is not an attorney, he has successfully taken on more than one large corporation or government agency by suing pro se in the courts.  He occasionally has retained my professional services for various matters as appropriate.  Unfortunately, he and his wife have fallen on some hard times, though not nearly as hard as many others in the community. 

This time around, he is the defendant.  He and his small business corporation are being sued for, well, it really doesn't matter what for.  He is now defending himself pro se, and has been asking me and another lawyer from our congregation for some informal legal advice, which I don't particularly mind giving, in light of all he has done for me over the years.

The problem is that while he can defend himself pro se in the courts, his corporation must appear in court by an attorney who is duly admitted and in good standing.  So I am now stuck with defending the corporation of which he is CEO, Chairman of the Board, top technical wonk and a significant shareholder (albeit not quite a majority shareholder).

I now need to walk a thin line.  I need to zealously represent the interests of the corporation, and confer with him in doing so.  I need to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, conflicts between the corporation's interests and my non-client's personal interests (when he first called me, it took a while for me to explain why I would not represent both him and his corporation).  And I really do not wish to see such a good friendship get strained, particularly in light of the fact that my wife is very friendly with his wife.

I expect to mail out the answering papers for the corporation in the next day or two.  My non-client is drafting his own, but needs some pointers here and there as to why some of the arguments and assertions I am making on behalf of the corporation are not applicable or appropriate to him personally, and vice versa.

The time I expect to spend on this one will, on a per-hour basis, bring me paltry compensation for the aggravation.  And, given his personal finances, it will be a while before I see the really significant billings (though historically, this individual has paid his bills to me, even if a year and a half late, and other professionals I know (lawyers, accountants, architects) have had similar experiences with him).

On the other hand, it is an interesting case.  There are some interesting legal questions which I would love to be resolved in published court decisions showing me as the winning attorney.  If things work out well, however, it will never come to that because the case will settle out of court.

But in order for that to happen, I will need to handle the case as though it will work its way all the way up the ranks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Si vis pacem, pari bellum

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Update: The Cost of Incarceration

As a follow-on to the 16 August 2013 posting, which notes that locking up an inmate at a Federal prison costs about $29 K annually, it has been brought to my attention that the average annual cost of keeping the same inmate at Riker's Island or some other New York City facility hits up the New York City taxpayers for $167,731.  And most of them are awaiting trial!  [Query:  What about the Rikers Island inmate who commits an assault, rape or murder while serving a sentence, and, while the sentence is still running, is charged for the crime?  How do they count him (or, sometimes, her)?  Is he/she among the "sentenced" or among the "awaiting trial?"].

And, inasmuch as New York City's budget is heavily subsidized, directly through state infusions and indirectly by lower realty taxes, as compared to fair market value, than the surrounding counties, the term "New York City taxpayers" includes those such as myself who live in the suburban counties.

One way to lower the costs to the taxpayers:  Put the worst of the inmates (read most costly to incarcerate) on some derelict barges.  Tow the barges out west of Staten Island by the Jersey oil refineries but still in New York City's territorial waters, and then throw a lit cigarette into the Arthur Kill.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Sandy Victims Victimizing the Public

We had some damage from fallen trees and wind and the like from Superstorm Sandy.  I say "Superstorm" because Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York's duly elected Chief Executive, declared that because Sandy had weakened to the level of a tropical storm before it made landfall, it was not an official hurricane and the insurance companies could not treat it as such.

Following the storm, Long Island and other storm-hit areas of the country were invaded by various itinerant insurance adjusters, building contractors (or, for that matter, demolition contractors), utility workers, and other opportunistic enterprisers who, to their credit, were, for the most part, actually ready, willing and able to bust their baytzim for long hours to earn a living, and who temporarily augmented the resident cadres of such laborers.

A group of men whose ability to wield their chainsaws was far greater than their ability to speak English hooked up with my backyard neighbor, who walked around the block to knock at my door to implore me to give the impromptu work crew access to my back yard so that they could completely and safely (relatively speaking) remove the tree that I had not until then realized had fallen into my yard.

No Problem!  And while they were here, would they be able to remove the heavy 40-foot tree that had fallen onto my wife's car?  With my neighbor aiding in bridging the gap between Inglés y Español, we agreed on the dinero and about 45 minutes later, my wife's care was relieved of the weight of one large Douglas Fir tree, and my wallet relieved of the burden of carrying around three hundred dollars.  They carted away the branches and logs in the deal, so I really couldn't complain.  The matters of removing the stump, replacing the shingles on the roof and the gutters, and removing some other trees which fell down without damaging anything more than other trees and bushes had yet to be attended to.

The insurance adjusters arrived at my house.  I use the plural because the damage to the car was covered by our automobile policy with one insurance carrier, and the trees and house were covered by our homeowner's policy with another carrier.  My wife had intended to keep her car until it hit 100,000 miles, but, with the big dents (and, as it turned out, frame damage), she added the insurance proceeds to the trade-in at 78,000 miles and got herself a new car.

As for the homeowner's policy, I showed the adjuster what happened.  He asked if there was any food spoilage from the power outage.  I told him that as the storm was approaching Florida, I took the precautions of adding lots of ice packs, and we did not open the freezer during our almost 2 days without power, so none of the food in our freezer went bad.

The adjuster told us that we probably could get away with declaring $200 - $300 of food spoilage.  I told him that we were declaring zero, because that is what our food spoilage was.

Understand that I am no great fan of the insurance companies, but for $300 I have no intention of letting my good name go bad.  I am now litigating a case worth far, far more than the $300 phantom food spoil, and have been engaged to write a legal memo for another attorney in another matter which will probably get me about $500, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions at stake in that litigation (and there may be some criminal prosecutions coming out of that one as well).  How did I get those cases?  The first one is from a long-time client who trusts me.  The second was on account of a recommendation from another attorney with whom I have not spoken in almost 10 years (I'll have to give him a call and thank him once I collect my fee, which should be in the next week or two).

It all comes down to my good name and reputation!

Superstorm Sandy did highlight some very positive qualities in lots of people.  People who were willing to work, people who were out there helping those in need, people who were more concerned for their good names and reputations than in making a few dirty dollars.

Unfortunately, not everyone gave due deference to the public weal.  Caterina Curatolo, who owned two houses in Queens which she did not see fit to properly keep up, and which were relatively unaffected by Superstorm Sandy, allegedly posed as a homeless storm victim and sponged hotel housing and debit cards, living the good life.   Turns out that Queens Beep Helen Marshall had named Caterina as a distinguished Queens resident back in 2004.

My record for predicting criminal sentences will not get me a job in London's High Street betting parlors any time soon, and my contact in the New York Attorney General's office is, as usual, limiting her remarks to those set forth in the official press releases.  Whether Caterina does or does not get any jail time will be left to the bookies in Queens, London, and everywhere in between.  I do believe, however, that I can safely predict that Caterina will be liquidating one or both of the homes she owns in order to pay her legal expenses.

But then, there is the broader issue of the government throwing out so many dollars with so few strings attached, and then wondering why so many people are defrauding it.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Accounting for Costs at the Big House

Well, folks, government transparency at work here!

From today's Federal Register:  According to the Bureau of Prisons, in Fiscal 2012 the average annual cost to incarcerate a prisoner in a federal prison  was $29,027.46, and to confine an inmate in a Community Corrections Center was $27,003.

It's a great bargain for society in cases such as this, this, this and this.

Now, if they can only streamline the execution process for capital convicts, it would jettison much of the high end of the cost curve (and the low end of the worthiness to society curve) so that figures in future years can be reduced.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Pleasurable Evening while away on Business

I'm away on some business.  Got here yesterday, and am looking to return home tomorrow if I can get done and out of here early enough.  My wife's cousin Patty lives near here, so we did dinner together, along with her son Corey and his girlfriend Naomi.  It was nice.  The only drawback was that Patty's car has an Obama bumper sticker on it, reflecting the political views of its driver.

I decided to not discuss politics unless they brought it up.  I didn't have to wait long.  Patty (who is now between jobs) asked me if I believed that the Obamacare would really help improve the health insurance crisis now upon us.  I told her that not only would it make the situation worse, but it has already begun to do just that.  Patty's COBRA coverage runs out in less than a year, so she is concerned.  And she really didn't have any good reason to gainsay my assessment of the situation.

Patty's son Corey was asking me what I thought about Snowden.  I told him that I was with Snowden, until he not only came out and identified himself, but started playing games with the USA and Russia and Venezuela and Hong Kong, et cetera.  Just because his purported cause is just does not mean that he is necessarily a good guy.  This was good for about 15 minutes.  All in all, Corey is not doing too poorly, considering that he has lived virtually his entire life (except for a yearlong stint as an exchange student 2 years ago) under the same roof as his mom.  Not that his dad, whom he visits 3 or 4 times a month and who lives about 2 miles away, is much better as far as grasp of reality goes.

Naomi was the one with the most sense.  She actually understands that there was cyclical climate change way before there were humans around to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses.  And while she is by no means a potential Republican voter, at least her brain isn't totally warped with the libtard garbage.

I must give Naomi credit for making the evening a pleasurable one.  It was she who steered the conversation away from politics and in to areas such as the arts and family history.  Not that she is going to change Corey into a clear thinker, but she can have a positive influence upon him -- if she stays with him.  I don't know if anything is going to come of that relationship, but it does have some interesting possibilities.  Even Patty is hoping for something to happen.

In any event, we did have a good evening out.  The only one missing was my wife.  I'm going to sign off from this blog and call her now.  I miss her!

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