Living To Make A Difference

I was over 40 the first time something I wrote was published. The first thing I did was send an email to my high-school English teacher, Kathi Condell.

Ms. Condell — that's how I continue to think of her, even after she married again and demanded that I call her Kathi — taught several of my literature and writing classes. That was 30 years ago now. Her lessons remain. I remember them when I think about what I read and when I consider how and what to write.

Kathi Condell had a gift for connecting with teens. She was supportive without being indulgent, and age-appropriate without being condescending. She had high expectations, and conveyed a quiet confidence that those expectations were reasonable and achievable.

More than that, she taught literature and writing not as means, but as ends. Everyone knew you had to write well and get good grades to get into a good college, and get a good job, and so forth. Everyone understood the grind, particularly at a school like mine. But Kathi Condell believed we should be well-read because we loved reading, that we should reflect on what we read because it was meaningful and pleasurable, and that we should treat writing as a form of artistic expression, not merely a tool. She helped teach me that writing could be useful and expressive at the same time.

I wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age. She was always respectful of that goal, but always encouraged me to think about writing as an art whatever I did as a job. As I graduated college, and law school, and moved from job to job, she congratulated me but always asked me "but what are you doing to write?" For many years I wasn't doing much. That's why it felt so good to tell her that I was making an effort to write for writing's sake. I wanted her to know that she'd been right, and that I remembered.

Kathi Condell Herroon passed away Monday. I love to write, and that's because of two people — Kathi Condell, and my father. Thank you.

What if we could all live so that thirty years down the road, people we've touched want to share news with us about what we've helped them achieve?

Judge Lisa Gorcyca Doesn't Hate Kids. Judge Lisa Gorcyca Hates Failure To Submit.

Judge Lisa Gorcyca, a judge in Oakland County, Michigan, is getting quite a lot of press this week for sending three kids to juvenile detention.

Judge Gorcyca doesn't preside in criminal court. She doesn't rule on delinquency petitions in juvenile court. She's a judge in the Family Division. And she sent three kids to juvenile detention — and specifically ordered them separated — because they didn't obey her orders to cultivate a warm relationship with their estranged father.

[Read more…]

Incessant Sewer-Dweller LegalMatch Has A Cunning Plan To Get My Business

Late yesterday I saw a new email in my inbox. The subject line caught my eye:

Son under indictment

A new case? One never knows. I opened it.

I found not a new client, but an old friend: one Steve Kramer of LegalMatch, a "service" that purports to help match clients to lawyers. I've written before about emails from Steve Kramer and LegalMatch in unflattering terms. For reasons I cannot recall I previously did not name them; I referred to them with thematic accuracy as Feculent Q. Pus-Crust of the Society for Cornholing Unsuspecting Children. I'm naming them now.

Feculent — pardon me, Steve — has continued to spam me even after threatening me with litigation for criticizing him and even after I reminded him that he was spamming someone he had previously threatened.

Here are some of the email subject lines Steve Kramer has sent over the last two years:

Son under indictment (3/11/15)

My son has been charged with statutory rape (11/25/14)

intent to distribute (11/13/12)

felony arrest (1/4/12)

No, Steve Kramer's son is not — so far as I know — a one-man crime wave. Rather, Steve Kramer and LegalMatch use deceitful clickbait email subjects to get lawyers to look at their spam. As his latest says:

Ken

Let me know whether the following snap shot of some of our recent financially capable LA area criminal defense clients looks like a fit.

Cordially,

Steve Kramer
For Legal Match
310-990-3026

It's nice that Steve Kramer is so forgiving that he's still first-naming me after I've sassed him and written mean posts about him.

Emails from Steve-O and Legal Match contain a sort of list of client inquiries that consumers have apparently left on LegalMatch.

EX FELON WITH POSSESSION OF FIREARM
BELL, CA 02/16/2015 C154733487378

FREE MY SON
AUGUST F. HAW, CA 02/16/2015 ✔ C154721465270

VIOLATION OF PROVATION
SAN FERNANDO, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154646769498

LEAVING THE SCENE OF A ACCIDENT
LYNWOOD, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154643116086

2SUSPECTS TRAFFICKING 48LBS OF DRUGS
LOS ANGELES, CA 02/14/2015 ✔ C154536359337

Steve and LegalMatch represent in their solicitation that somehow they have determined that these people are "financially capable" — meaning, I guess, that they can afford to hire a lawyer. In any litigation I look forward to discovering what methodology they used to evaluate the assets of the "violation of provation" guy. They also represent that these are "criminal defense clients." Yet the emailed lists includes entries like this:

FREON EXPOSURE WORKING AT GENERAL DYNAMICS 80'S.
WALNUT, CA 02/09/2015 C154071310246

Perhaps this person has been criminally charged with exposing himself or herself to freon at General Dynamics in the 1980s. I presume they will explore a statute of limitations defense.

LegalMatch views its system — where people describe their cases, to be reviewed by potential lawyers — as a service to the lawyer-seeking community. Whether it is also a boon to the law enforcement community remains to be seen. It encourages customers to leave entries like this one in the most recent solicitation email:

ACCUSED OF MURDER OCCURRED IN SELF-DEFENSE ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, CA 02/10/2015 ✔ C154102776952

Who read that? Well, apparently, any LegalMatch lawyer with access to that client database, and any prospective LegalMatch lawyer to whom Steve Kramer sent the email. All of those people now know that there is a person accused of murder in or near Rolling Hills Estates, California, in February of 2015, who says they did kill the person but did so in self-defense. Did they get legal advice before making that disclosure? Did they think that the disclosure would be kept confidential? Did they know it would be sent out in spam emails? Would a court treat such an entry as privileged, despite how recklessly it is being bandied about? Is LegalMatch certain that it didn't sent this information to anyone with connections to the victim, or the victim's family's lawyers, or the prosecutors, or the investigating officers, or the media? Do you think that — assuming this is a real case — the media would be interested in hearing that the accused was admitting to having killed the victim but was asserting self-defense?

Of course, if that entry is entirely fabricated, I suppose it's not so much an amoral and reckless disclosure by LegalMatch as it is false advertising.

I've written to Steve Kramer, LegalMatch's press office, and their general counsel asking some questions.1 Among them is this question — does LegalMatch think that it is not bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, which (as LegalMatch's blog will tell you) prohibits misleading subject lines and requires clear opt-out-of-this-spam systems?

LegalMatch is not the only turd in the beclouded punchbowl of the legal marketing community. But, despite vigorous competition, it is one of the oldest, most noisome, and most persistent turds. Steve Kramer has been pestering the unwilling about LegalMatch for years, and LegalMatch has been using sleazy tactics (and promising to improve them) for a decade.

Yet LegalMatch continues to thrive. That means some lawyers out there are paying them. Those lawyers are equally responsible for perpetuating these practices. And the clients — oh, the clients. Citizens, know this: if you hire someone through LegalMatch, you're hiring someone desperate or stupid or cynical enough to accept this bad behavior.

Back in 2012 I told Steve Kramer "Remove me from your spam list forthwith." Perhaps this post will help get results.

Why Is a British-Recognized Esquire Asking Questions in an American Court?

I think I've mentioned that I don't acknowledge the legitimacy of the US government for Spooner-like reasons, and I consider most LEOs thugs.

…and yet, after watching this, I find that there's a part of me – a very small part – that really just wants to curb-stomp Natural Law protesters.

Get off my lawn side, you damned hippie kids!

Tales From Another Shutdown

In Fall 1995 I was a brand-new federal prosecutor, handling the simplest cases available at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles — no-weapon bank robberies, relatively minor drug mules, and aliens returning after deportation.

Congress and the President clashed, and when the shutdown hit in November, federal agencies suspended "non-essential" activities, a classification that was not entirely rational. Oddly, rookie federal prosecutors were deemed "essential," though only in the sense of being required to come to work, not in the sense of enjoying any guarantee of being paid for our work. The agencies we worked with – particularly the INS, as it was called then — were much harder hit. Many of the agents we were supposed to rely upon as witnesses or as case agents (that is, the lead agent in a matter who would coordinate government and civilian witnesses coming to trial) were furloughed.

I had a trial — a 1326, if memory serves — scheduled in December, with a status conference in November. The public defender representing the defendant wanted a continuance, and — since my government witnesses and case agent were furloughed — so did I. I arrived at the hearing unconcerned. How could the judge not see that it was impossible for the lawyer for the government to put a case together with government witnesses furloughed, and how could a judge fail to grant a continuance when the defense wanted one as well?

The late judge Edward Rafeedie barked at me for several minutes, telling me that (1) I was "making up" the government shutdown and furlough, (2) my explanation of why I could not muster a case with the requisite government agents was "double-talk," and (3) I only wanted a continuance because I was just "lazy." No continuance.

Hence the government shutdown of 1995 taught me valuable lessons about how I should regard all three branches of government.

Today In Stunt Marketing: FATTY FATTY FAT FAT

Back in April I noted that a prominent court reporting firm had started marketing by spamming me with somewhat unsettling short stories. Today I see a private investigation firm is taking the same approach.

I just received an email from this firm — familiar to me, and probably to many in Southern California — with a very brief subject line:

FATTY

Well, I thought. Fair enough, but I don't see why someone needed to hire a private dick to figure that out.

But the email was not a j'accuse — the subject line was intended as an attention-grabber, referring to the street name of a character in the possibly-true story that followed about how this firm uncovered an insurance cheat, ending with a pitch for their services.

Did the subject line grab my attention? Yes it did.

Will I ever use this private investigation firm? No. I forwarded the email to my office. The reactions were universal: "creepy" "pathetic" "unprofessional" "ugh".

No sale.

Popehat Poll: How Irrritating Is It For A Lawyer Not To Have A Listed Email Address?

I was thinking of writing an email seeking comment from a lawyer who threatened someone. But despite being a lawyer who threatens people with lawsuits (by phone), this lawyer doesn't seem to have a web site, and doesn't seem to have an email listed anywhere publicly. It's not on her State Bar profile, not on any of the various referral or rating sites, not anywhere easily accessible.2

This irritates me. I recognize that I am well behind the curve on technology. I recognize that my firm's web site was just a static under-construction placeholder with contact information for years. But when a lawyer makes it difficult for me to find their email address, I am immediately suspicious and annoyed.

So. How obnoxiously snobbish is that?

A Brief Prenda Interlude: In Which I Am Accused Of Causing Embarrassment

All of Popehat's Prenda coverage is collected here.

It's been three months since I wrote a substantive Prenda Law post. Frankly, covering the well-deserved downfall and destruction of Prenda and its various agents can get tedious. I'll be posting a cross-country update sometime in the next few weeks.

For now, consider one small incident.

I previously described an AF Holdings case in Georgia, where Attorney Jacques Nazaire, representing AF Holdings, indulged in some ridiculous rhetoric in opposing sanctions. For example:

10. The defendant should realize that California has different laws than Georgia, a different Governor than Georgia; a different legislative body than Georgia, different business needs than Georgia and different views than Georgia and as such all of its decisions cannot serve as a mandate for Georgia.

11. For example the California Courts have legalized gay marriage. Perry v. Schwarzenegger 704 F.Supp.2d 921 (N.D. Cal., 2010);Certified question, 628 F.3d 1191 (9th. Cir.); Answered 52 Cal.4th 1116 (2011) Affirmed, 671 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir.) Such a decision cannot serve as a mandate on Georgia Courts to legalize gay marriage as well.

Yeah.

Anyway, since then, things have continued to go badly for Prenda, AF Holdings, and Mr. Nazaire. The Georgia court gave the defendant leave to take discovery into Prenda Law's operations in aid of the defendant's motion for sanctions. The court also denied Mr. Nazaire's motion seeking to limit that discovery. Now, undaunted, Mr. Nazaire has asked again for a protective order on behalf of AF Holdings, complaining that the defendants' inquiries into Prenda Law are simply too voluminous and intrusive. As part of that motion, Mr. Nazaire attaches comments to various blog posts discussing his client, including the comments to my post, and complains as follows:

9. Additionally, the Plaintiff is respectfully requesting that any future filings in this case may be filed under seal. This case has generated much unneeded attention on the internet. Please see Exhibits N-S. While the writers listed in exhibits N-S have the right to post these articles, unfortunately, these articles and blogs have created an embarrassment, misleading characterizations and perhaps an unsafe environment for plaintiff’s counsel and third parties. As such, plaintiff is respectfully requesting that all future filings be permitted to be made under seal.

10. Plaintiff 1) understands that the articles attached hereto have not been authenticated and apologizes to this Court for the same. In such a short notice of time, it is difficult to authenticate these press releases and postings; however, a search on any search engine will prove these articles and postings to be real; and 2) Plaintiff is not criticizing the authors of the press releases and postings and realizes that the attached postings were meant to be humorous and not spiteful; nevertheless, those not familiar with this case may misinterpret said postings. This may lead to anger by those not quite familiar with the case but yet familiar with the captions. As such, it may be best for the court to allow sealing further filings (which may include addresses and personal information of the parties and counsels herein).

So: Mr. Nazaire seeks to hide not only exhibits and documents (which might be a reasonable request if they contained private information), but court pleadings discussing the merits and progress of the case — to spare "embarrassment."

O Mr. Nazaire. To the extent these paragraphs refer to my post, you are correct that I did not mean to be spiteful, and correct that I try to employ humor, but you leave out that I intended to convey disgust for your client's nationwide campaign, which at least one judge has already concluded constitutes a criminal enterprise. Of course, I represent people accused of crimes all the time; everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense. However, your arguments on behalf of your client were ridiculous, and so I ridiculed them, and will continue to do so. Some of your arguments are contemptible, and I hold them in contempt, and invite others to do so.

Mr. Nazaire, you will not find many people sympathetic to your belief that vigorous coverage of this case — of all of Prenda Law's cases — is "unneeded." In fact that coverage is quite needed — it is essential to assuring that justice is done and to exposing structural flaws in our judicial system.

Truly, Mr. Nazaire, I have feelings about you or anyone associated with AF Holdings — including but not limited to Mark Lutz' hypothetical unborn children — experiencing "embarrassment." To explain those feelings, I invite you to consider Prenda Law's recent extortionate threats to contact the neighbors of the targets. Are you experiencing more or less embarrassment than your client contemplates inflicting there, Mr. Nazaire?

Oho! You may protest. That letter was sent by Paul Duffy! I work for AF Holdings, controlled by Mark Lutz, laboring for the benefit of a trust that benefits children yet ungotten and unborn!

Why yes, Mr. Nazaire, that was Mr. Duffy. May I assume that's the same Paul Duffy who — according to metadata — drafted your most recent motion for a protective order complaining about embarrassment?

I can understand how you might prefer not to answer that question, Mr. Nazaire, being sensitive to posts that "lead to anger."

My dear Mr. Nazaire. Are you quite sure you have considered all of your options?

A Brief Story Illustrating My View of Law Enforcement And The Media That Covers It

Today I convinced a judge to dismiss a criminal case against my client. I was happy. He was happy.

The end of the case made me think of the beginning.

Last year, DA Investigators executed a search warrant at my client's home.

They brought unassembled boxes — you know, those flat cardboard boxes that you have to unfold and assemble to use.

They found very little to seize at my client's home.

But the media showed up. They had cameras.

So the DA Investigators assembled the boxes they had brought into the house, including the tops, and carried them out as if they were taking away documents they were seizing, so the media could see.

It always bugs me on TV when a character is carrying around a coffee that's clearly empty. You can tell because of the way they hold it — the angle and tension in their arm and hand show it's nearly weightless. It's easy to spot.

The media didn't notice that the DA Investigators were carrying out empty boxes.

But I guess they have a lot on their minds.