Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

When people think of lawyers, many adjectives come to mind.  Yet, "sexy" isn't usually one of them (unless they've just attended one of my CLE seminars).  However, unlike most people with 20/20 vision, the various state bars don't underestimate our attractiveness.  In fact, most states have rules that prohibit lawyers from entering into intimate relationships with their clients.  Apparently, laypeople are powerless against our good looks, wit and persuasiveness and therefore, they must be protected from our sexiness.

How else would you explain California Rule 3-120(B), which reads (and no, I'm not making this up):

A member shall not:

(1) Require or demand sexual relations with a client incident to or as a condition of any professional representation; or

(2) Employ coercion, intimidation, or undue influence in entering into sexual relations with a client; or

(3) Continue representation of a client with whom the member has sexual relations if such sexual relations cause the member to perform legal services incompetently in violation of rule 3-110.

The lawyer envisioned by the rule must be sexy beyond belief!  After all, are you good enough at your job to "require or demand" sex as a condition to hiring you?  I continually work on my craft and I haven't come close to the skill level where I can demand sex in exchange for my services as a speaker.  I just can't imagine saying to an event organizer, "Well, yes, I'm available on the date of your event.  However, in addition to paying my fee and travel costs, someone on your staff is going to have to sleep with me.  Can you make sure that she's a brunette and between 5'8 and 5'10?"  However, I guess I now have something to shoot for, don't I?

Of course, you may be thinking that this type of rule makes sense in a place where people have year-round tans.  Maybe so, but how do you explain Utah Rule 1.8, which reads:

(j) A lawyer shall not engage in sexual relations with a client that exploit the lawyer-client relationship. For the purposes of this Rule:

(j)(2) ... sexual relations between the lawyer and the client shall be presumed to be exploitive. This presumption is rebuttable.

Rebuttable how?  Perhaps, it works like this:

Lawyer: "You know, I've never felt like this about any client before."

Client: "I know, I feel the same way."

Lawyer: "I'd like to take our relationship to the next level."

Client: "Me too!"

Lawyer: "Well, before we do, I need you to sign this waiver in triplicate.  I have a notary public waiting back at the motel."

Client: "Oh, you are so romantic!  Kiss me!"

And if you think that our sex appeal is limited to clients, think again.  Apparently, client spouses are equally powerless; at least as evidenced by a peculiar case involving a Mississippi lawyer who has been ordered to pay $1.5 million for sleeping with his client's wife.  In perhaps, the quote of the century, the amorous lawyer explained that he wasn't surprised by the verdict.  "I knew I was going to get screwed," he said.

Turnabout is truly fair play, I guess.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Justice is Blind ... And Apparently, Cheap as Well

A prosecutor's $5 fine for being late to court was overturned after his boss filed a 47-page appeal.  The presiding judge failed to give the lawyer proper written notice before sanctioning him for being five minutes tardy to an April robbery case, the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month.

Yes, you read all of that correctly.  The 4th District Court of Appeals was actually asked to rule on a matter involving the whopping sum of $5.  And yes, in doing so, they were forced to wade through a 47-page appeal, which was most likely copied more than a dozen times at a cost well in excess of $50 ($50,000, if copied at your law firm).

Can you just imagine being one of these judges?  You've finally ascended to the ranks of an appellate judgeship.  Your parents are making all of their friends and family sick as they talk about their son or daughter -- the "big-time appellate judge."  And then you have to go home for Thanksgiving and explain this case to your parents.

"Have I decided any capital cases?  No, not exactly.  What about political cases?  No, not precisely.  Multi-billion dollar class actions?  No, not really.  But hey!  I did resolve a dispute over $5 last week.  Can you pass the cranberry mold?"

I can only imagine that at some point, one of the judges must have been tempted to reach into her own pocket and just pay the $5 fine herself.

Of course, I feel most sorry for the lower court judge who was reversed in this matter.  It's one thing to be reversed in a landmark decision like Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education or Ali v. Frazier.  These contests meant something (especially if you had money on Ali).  They had an impact on the history of the nation and to this day, generate heated debate and thoughtful reflection.  For some reason, I just can't fathom future historians producing a series of documentaries entitled "$5 to Life: The Case That Changed the Law as We Know It."

Perhaps, the most pitiable person in this incident is the prosecutor who felt it necessary to appeal the massive $5 fine he received as a result of being five minutes late to court.  Now, I certainly understand that prosecutors don't make as much as, say, partners in large law firms (or associates in large law firms ... or receptionists in large law firms), yet are times that tough among the prosecutorial ranks?  Will prosecutors start hanging out around freeway off-ramps holding up signs reading, "Will Plea Bargain for Food"?

And what does this story foretell about the ability of judges to assure promptness in their courts?  Without the ability to impose fines (even miniscule ones), will judges be forced to eliminate any expectation of timeliness?

"Tomorrow, court will begin at, oh, around 10 ish ... or 11 ish ... or maybe, you could all arrive at sometime tomorrow before midnight, but hey, no pressure!"

Pardon My Fat

As someone who has fought (and consistently, lost) the battle of the bulge, vindication may be just around the corner.  While thin people may enjoy the benefits of increased health, physical vitality, and clothing that doesn't make them look like they are racing in the Tour de France, those benefits may soon pale in comparison to the sole benefit of being overweight -- the ability to have your execution stayed on the grounds that you are too fat to fry.

That's right.  An Ohio inmate, Richard Cooey, is challenging his scheduled execution on the grounds that he is too fat to be put to death.  In particular, he is claiming that executioners would have trouble finding his veins and that his weight could diminish the effectiveness of one of the lethal injection drugs.

By the way, if you are wondering how fat is too fat to die, the answer is not that fat.  Cooey is only 267 pounds.  Is that really too fat to find a vein?  Who will be administering the legal injection -- Mr. Magoo?  I've been within striking distance of that weight on several occasions and, not once, has my doctor had trouble taking my blood (or ever-increasing co-payment for that matter).  In fact, my wife, who has absolutely no medical training, has assured me on several occasions that if she ever caught me with another woman, she could quickly find my jugular vein with a carving knife.  I believe her.  In fact, maybe we should get her to do the injection.

Or maybe Cooey's lawyer should stick with his most persuasive argument -- that Cooey is taking a drug for migraine headaches that may have created a resistance to the anesthetic drug given in the lethal injection process.  According to Cooey's lawyer, "All of the experts agree if the first drug doesn't work, the execution is going to be excruciating."  Of course, given that Cooey is allegedly incapable of receiving any medical treatment that requires an IV, life could become excruciating if he is allowed to live as well.

Think about it.  Let's suppose that Cooey comes down with an appendicitis.  Unable to find a vein, doctors are forced to operate on him without anesthesia.  And given that they can't find a vein under centimeters of fat on his arm, just imagine their luck at finding the inflamed appendix and removing it.  They'd have a better chance of finding a solvent sub-prime lender.

That being said, Cooey has taught me to embrace my inner fat-boy.  I will no longer abuse my body with proper diet and exercise.  What's the point?  After all, as the old saying goes, "A Twinkie a day, keeps the executioner away!"