Monthly Archives: November 2011

Occupy: police brutality, unconstitutional federal policing, and the suppression of journalism (Your speech is next)

First, I apologize for the sparse postings–however, finals time is upon me.

No matter where your political beliefs lie, no matter what you think of occupy wall street as a movement, the article linked here is eye-opening and shocking.  The ramifications of the Department of Homeland Security giving advice on a conference call with 18 mayors on how to suppress the occupy movement raises constitutional questions (see article here).  I am very skeptical of Occupy, considering the movements lack of uniting goals, the way in which protestors seem akin to 1960’s hippies simply bringing forward a counter culture, the way the protestors seem to complain with no solutions all increase this skepticism.  But, no matter who these people are who what they believe in–no unarmed protestors should be beaten, no journalists should be told it is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk, and no federal agency should be inciting suppression of civil rights.  First amendment rights are at stake here. 

If we all fall asleep at the democratic wheel, it will be our free speech infringed next time, and we will only have ourselves to blame because of our silence.


Leave a comment

Filed under First Amendment, Occupy

Void Child Support Agreements (Too bad so sad)

The Facts
A mother lives in California and retains legal custody of her son, who lives in Florida with the father.  The mother and father signed an agreement that was very much similar to this:
“Mother and father retain joint legal custody of minor.  Father promises to provide health insurance for minor.  Father shall not pursue any child support for minor.”
Years pass.  Dad fails to procure health insurance for son.  When son gets sick he fraudulently used mom’s social security number to get health care for the son.  A few weeks ago, days apart, mother is served with an order to show cause for child support; then is served with a lawsuit from a Florida agency demanding payment for health care related to minor. 
Mom says, “no problem, I have a letter right here requiring dad to pay for health care and agreeing not to collect support.”  Oh, boy.
Agreements Purporting to Limit Child Support Are Void
Many parents enter into agreements attempting to limit child support.  Courts encourage settlement agreements—even those regarding child support.  However, “such agreements, to the extent that they purport to restrict the court’s jurisdiction over child support, are void as against public policy.  In re Marriage of Bereznak & Heminger, (2003) 110 Cal. App. 4th 1062, 1069. 
So does the agreement prevent the mom from having to pay child support?  Nope.  In fact, many parents out there who have valid claims to collect child support for their children falsely believe that formal and informal agreements like the one here stop them from filing an order to show cause for child support.  If a parent is not collecting child support, significant time has passed since the support started, or circumstances have significantly changed in any way—the parent should have an attorney evaluate any claim for increased child support that may exist.
Legal Custody and Healthcare Costs
Under Family Code § 3085, the court may grant joint legal custody and contemporaneously grant sole physical custody.  Generally speaking, parents with legal custody are responsible for the liabilities of their children.  
In this case, since mom has partial legal custody, she is responsible for making major decisions regarding her son—and also responsible for debts incurred by her son.  Even though the dad incurred healthcare costs and committed fraud while doing so, she is liable for the costs.  Mom will most likely have to pay the medical bills and assert a breach of contract claim against the father for the amount she already paid.
How to Avoid This Mess
This mess illustrates why it’s a good idea to get a family law attorney involved even if the parties are amicable.  Even if the parties draft agreements resolving the matter—they may not be enforceable.  In addition, parties may want to include the provision of healthcare in any court order so that it’s enforceable under contempt of court instead of simply under the principles of contract (which aren’t all that helpful).  Just ask this mother.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family Law

We Don’t Protect Our Children

Almost all 50 states have an exception to assault: “reasonable corporal punishment of children that does not cause lasting bodily harm.”  So, you can treat your child in a way that you can’t treat anyone else.

CNN and other news outlets recently covered a story about Michael Pearl.  Pearl wrote a book To Train Up a Child, which uses old testament verses to support the use of corporal punishment of children.  A number of Pearl’s readers have recently been charged with murder when their children died from abuse.  A transcript of Anderson Cooper interviewing Pearl is available here.  There is a decent article about the interview here.
Last week, the daughter of a Texas judge released a video online (taken in 2004) in which the disabled daughter is beaten by her father and mother repeatedly.  The daughter has cerebral palsy and the beating was the result of her downloading music and playing video games online against her parents’ wishes.  To make things more ironic, the Judge tried cases of child abuse in his courtroom.  Law enforcement is investigating the incident, but it is unclear whether or not he will face charges (due to statute of limitations issues and the corporal punishment of children defense).  Even if he is not charged criminally, the Texas Bar should investigate and pursue professional discipline for a judge acting improperly and reducing faith in the judiciary.  The CNN article is available here.  Another article here.
We may have outlawed slavery and advanced women’s rights (somewhat) but we don’t do enough to protect our children.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children and the Law, The Judiciary

Quentin Tarantino Thinks Birds Are a Nuisance (pterodactyl-like screams)

Last May Quentin Tarantino filed a complaint alleging his neighbor’s parrots are too loud—that their squawking keeps him up at night and disrupts him from working.  The parrots owners are Alan Ball (creator of True Blood) and his partner Peter Macdissi

Tarantino’s attorneys filed this fantastic complaint. 
Here are some of the highlights:
The Quote:
Normally when lawyers try and quote literature in complaints it comes off contrived and cheesy, but for some reason, I think this quote at the start of a nuisance complaint is brilliant.

“Another writer, Johann Wolfgang on Goethe, once said: ‘He is happiest be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.”
The Lead in (ego):
Some clients have tremendous egos that need to be stroked, even by their attorneys.  Some complaints start off describing the parties as “brilliant physicians” or “great artists.”  I’m not sure how this description of Tarantino is at all relevant to the complaint.

“Plaintiff Quentin is an Academy Award winning screenwriter and director, best known for having written and directed such films as Pulp Fiction (for which he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay); Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol. I, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Inglourious Basterds, among numerous others.”
The Description of the Birds:
All complaints are subject to a fair degree of hyperbole, but give me a break.  This is what Tarantino has to say of his neighbor’s birds:
“They emit blood-curdling screams at random intervals for seven to eight hours each day.”
“Mr. Tarantino and others in his home are subjected to the Macaws’ obnoxious pterodactyl-like screams.”
“Their birds issue blood-curdling, pre-historic sounding screams…”
“…Macaw’s daily cacophony…”
“…Macaws, a large variety of wild parrot known for its intolerably loud screech and for behaving poorly in captivity.”
 There is no record of how this case was resolved, but I think Tarantino had a pretty fair chance of winning on the merits here.  This complaint goes to show how important a well written complaint is–and how ego permeates everything in Hollywood; even the law.

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Litigation, Torts