Thursday, December 23, 2004

Who's Next?

I promise I'm not trying to be a vulture here. The fact of the matter is that Rehnquist's days on the Supreme Court are numbered. He's already sitting out cases, something we'd like to hope our nation's highest-ranking judge won't do. I understand that it's because he's receiving treatment for cancer, but how long can we expect him to hold on?

The fact is, his illness and absence from the Court are causing some cases to go unheard. While that's never a good thing, considering the debate over Federal sentencing guidelines that has been raging lately, it's downright horrible.

So, my question is, who's next?

There's been much foofaraw about Thomas, what with our new Senate Minority Leader assaulting his record on the Court. Later, Reid allows as how he thinks Scalia might be in line for the top spot.


Scalia? The guy the left has been crowing about for years? Very interesting, really. Actually, Rick Hasen makes a good case for why Scalia may be the best choice for the left.

Who'll it be? We wait with baited breath to find out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The TaxMan (er, or Somebody) Cometh

So, now we've got a situation in which the IRS may be allowed to contract with private debt collection firms. No, really. The same people who call you at all hours of the day or night to get your money for Citibank et. al., will be calling you to collect Uncle Sam's dime. Indeed, the IRS hopes to be able to outsource collection of up to 2.6Million tax debts to private firms.

Thing is, they'll get to keep up to 25% of what they collect.

Great. What this means is that, because of the huge amount of people who owe money to the IRS, these firms will be inundated with collection contracts. And because of the grand rate they'll be offered by the Feds, they'll be pulling out all the stops to get you, unwary citizen, to pay up.

The IRS will retain its audit authority, and the one textual bright spot in this is that these firms will only get your address, telephone number, and the amount of your debt (the same thing they'd get from a credit card company). They apparently will not have access to your tax documents. Whew!

I am here, though, to tell you all what should be done about all of this.

Let's look first at the past. If the IRS, say 5 years ago, decided that you owed them $10,000 in unpaid taxes, they could, quite literally, come after you. And they did. Because they are an arm of the Federal Government, they were immune to suits for harassment, or other forms of intimidation. In fact, to hear some people tell it, such tactics were encouraged by them.

And now today. If the IRS is allowed to contract collections out, then some power should return to the hands of the people. See, there's this obscure little piece of legislation called the "Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." It requires collection companies to play by some pretty strict rules when attempting to collect debts. Presumably, firms attempting to collect tax debts wouldn't get a free pass, but they will. Many (if not most) states have similar legislation on the state rolls as well. None of the acts, however, apply to "government debts." But they should. WRITE YOUR CONGRESSPERSON TODAY!!!!!

So, while government outsourcing may be seen by some as horrible, in this case it could end up a boon. If you are now, or at any time in the future, being harassed by a company attempting to collect a debt (any debt), contact a lawyer. If we don't show the collection agencies that we mean to hold them accountable, they'll continue to push the envelope. When you contact your Congressperson, be sure and tell them that we see what they're doing, and we don't like it.

Don't lie down.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Schools and Their Masters -- Who Should Run Them?

All I know now is that it doesn't need to be the Feds anymore. I've been having a discussion here about this. It started out as a discussion about whether or not our nation was becoming a theocracy, and evolved into a little back-and-forth between me and Diane Warth (of Karmalised, who's a much better blogger than I ever will be) regarding the school systems of today (and in history).

Eventually, we reached an agreement (I think), that the government needs to get out of the "business" of education, and that we need to return to the 3-R's. Sound good? I thought so.

It's pretty scary, really, what has been done to this country's educational system over the years in the area of history instruction alone. At the above link, Ms. Warth linked some articles that discuss the history of such instruction in our schools. Interesting reading, if you're interested.

Anyway, the sticking point seems to be parental involvement, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon, friends. As long as American parents keep shoving the responsibility off on schools to teach things they should be teaching at home, it's only going to get worse. Multiculturalism, political correctness, sensitivity and yes, even sex education are subjects better addressed by the family.

We all scream about how badly we want the government out of our lives. The question is, then, how badly do we want it?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rutan's SpaceShipOne Wins Ansari X-Prize

I realize that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the law, but...

To me, this is amazing stuff. Yes, I'm one of the millions of guys who, as a kid, wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut.

That this group of men and women could achieve this feat in so short a time is just phenomenal. It is a testament to the possible wonders of both human perseverence and private enterprise.

I don't know when I stopped believing (as I did as a child) that anything is possible. I only know that I believe it again.

Thanks, Mr. Rutan.

That's all.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

It's Over!!

I realize I reneged on my promise to make several installments regarding the BarBri Bar Exam Review Course.  But I don't care.

I finished taking the Bar Exam today.  After 3 horrible days, and the loss of feeling in my left (writing) hand, ...


I'm gonna go get roaring drunk and then sleep for a couple of days.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Martha & Nelson: Peas in a Pod?

Martha Stewart recently compared her plight to that of Nelson Mandela.  Is this fair to Mr. Mandela?  Does Martha deserve our sympathy?  Our moral outrage?
It seems her prison sentence was based more upon the fact that she lied to Federal investigators than the actual fraud she committed.
There is a general clamor against the prosecution of those like Martha, while more egregious harm done by actual corporate officers goes largely unpunished.  And taking the brunt of the criticism is the Bush Administration.
So why is it that no one is paying attention to the fact that 2001 set a record for investigations and prosecution of corporate fraud cases?  Does the ignoring of that fact make it more or less likely that the criticism is fueled solely by politics?  Or are we merely trying to hold one administration to a higher standard than any other administration in history?
I don't believe that criticisms of the President are necessarily unfounded.  I do believe, however, that attempting to end-run the truth in making criticisms places more emphasis on the politics of the situation, and less emphasis where it belongs.
In this case, the emphasis should be placed on the principle that criminals belong in jail.  Martha Stewart is nothing like Nelson Mandela.  She was not targeted for her political beliefs.  She was prosecuted because she committed a fraud on the people of America.  All of the others who commit these crimes are deserving of the same attention, as well; but if they do not get it, that does not in any way excuse Ms. Stewart for what she did.
That's it.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Where Do They Find These People?!!?

My BarBri diary: Day 8,564 (I think)

Well, I took the practice Multi-State Bar Exam the other day, and I suppose it was helpful enough. I'm still kicking myself over going to the lectures, though. If you, reader, are having trouble imagining what the lectures are like, just go rent a documentary on a wonderfully exciting subject (like fish-scaling, or butt-rot remedies) and play it over and over, every day for a few weeks. The lecturers have been painstakingly recruited from the University of BORING, School of Law.

It'll all be over soon, and then I can finally go be a lawyer (or learn how to say "Do you want fries with that?" in a couple of languages).

That's all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

WalMart Woes -- How Will It Go?

And so it was today that a federal judge certified the largest class ever in a civil rights class action lawsuit. Over 1.5 Million women have been included in a class suing WalMart for gender discrimination.

Six original Plaintiffs have now greatly increased their numbers, and that's the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to WalMart...

Or is it?

Because for each individual civil rights claim, they're going to have to prove that civil rights were violated. There is no presumption here. All the dirty laundry is going to come out. WalMart will trot out all of its high-placed female executives to testify, and will assassinate each and every Plaintiff who takes the stand. And they must take the stand.

So, how will it end? Should we believe WalMart is a terribly sexist company? I'm afraid that most of America will believe it's so, simply because of the class being certified. WalMart addressed this fear in a news release, asking people to realize that the certification of a class "has nothing to do with the merits of the case."

Will it be enough? Let's wait and see, shall we. It'll be interesting to see just how hard this big one would fall.

That's it.

Friday, June 18, 2004

And God Said... Let There Be Monopoly

I recently graduated from law school, and have begun studying to take the Bar Exam here in Texas. As I move along, I will be posting comments about my journey into "the dark side."

But first, I'd like to invite any comment on the effective monopoly that is BarBri.

For those of you unaware, BarBri is the "preeminent" Bar review course to take in order to prepare for the Bar Exam. Everyone takes it, if only because it's the only real game in town.

They tout their success levels at every turn. 90% of people who take BarBri (we are told) go on to pass the Bar on their first try. Well, you'd be an idiot not to take it, right?

The problem is, it costs about $2,400. Now, this ordinarily wouldn't be a big deal, considering the benefit that's undoubtedly conferred by a structured system of study. My only gripe is that, by my estimation, their overhead can't possibly be more than $100-$250 per student.

I'm not against someone turning a profit. Not even a big one. But where does it end? And what can we do to stop it?

Man, I wish I'd taken that Anti-Trust class.

That's all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Medical Malpractice Insurance

Why is it that Texas spent so much money convincing its voters to pass a resolution setting caps on medical malpractice suit damages?

We were told that the high cost of medmal insurance premiums (and, by extension, the high cost of health care itself) was due to an "epidemic" of frivolous lawsuits, and the only remedy was to keep people from filing them.


It was last year that the thing was passed, and doctors' premium rates haven't gone down one iota.

Great huh? I know, I know, those of you from other states are shaking your heads at the stupidity of the people of Texas, right? Well, let me tell ya, folks; Texas ain't the first to do it, and unless the American people wake up, it certainly won't be the last.

That's it.