June 2010 Archives

June 21, 2010

Crazy Senator and Your Right to Petition Your Government....

A Pennsylvania man has been indicted for sending an e-mail to Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning as a result of his efforts to stop a vote on extending unemployment benefits last February.

His crime may have been filling out a contact form on the Senator's website, incorrectly identifying himself as "Bruce from Louisville" in an effort to appear to be one of the Senator's constituents. He claims he didn't directly identify the Senator as crazy, but allegedly said ""ARE you'all insane," even though Bunning probably qualifies personally for that term. It is impossible to determine from the indictment what the man did, since the U.S. Attorney only quoted the vague language of the statute in the indictment.

There are two problems here: One is the basic due process right to be given knowledge of the charges against you, which we can't determine from the indictment. The other is the Constitutional right to "petition the government for redress of grievances", one of the rights granted by the First Amendment. It would be nice if the public could look at the indictment and actually determine what defendant is alleged to have done.

It will be interesting to see what the e-mails actually said. As for calling "Bunning" crazy, truth should be his defense. Age age 79, with an approval rating under 30%, he decided not to run again in 2010 because he couldn't raise enough money to fund his campaign.

June 17, 2010

California's No Fault Divorce about to Be Universal:

40 years ago, California became the first state to allow people to get divorced simply because they no longer wanted to be married to their partners. In 1969, the California Legislature decided that the then-existing concept of "fault" created more problems that it solved; it felt that making the parties lie to rid themselves of a mate made little sense - no marriage was better than open hostilities, and, besides, court rooms are pretty poor places to decide which spouse was worse, or whether bad conduct had happened at all. Since then, 48 other states have followed suit, leaving only New York without a similar option. That may soon change.

This recent op-ed piece in the New York Times summarizes the arguments for and against no fault divorce now being debated in the New York Legislature. These are issues that create substantial debate, but eventually the result always seems to favor allowing people to divorce more freely; I presume that, ultimately, the majority of politicians want to keep their own options open.

Whether you agree or disagree with the concept, you or your spouse can obtain a divorce simply "because...." In California, the standard is that there be "irreconcilable difference." It is sufficient that one wants a divorce and the other doesn't - such a difference is probably "irreconcilable." California also permits divorce because of "incurable insanity," but in 35 years of practicing family law in San Diego, I've never seen anyone bring such a case. It is too easy to prove that at least one of the parties in the marriage is unhappy and wants out.

June 9, 2010

Trees and People: A quote for the day [and a photo]!

Upon returning to Manhattan in his youth from a stay in an art colony, Andrei Codrescu wrote:

"That was me then: a young poet. I needed people more than I needed trees. I'm older now. I need trees more than I need people. But it's nice to have both - only the ratios change. When I was young, I needed 10 people to one tree. Now it's 100 trees per person."

I live near a big city [4 miles from Nordstrom], but in a rural area next to a natural open space park. I travel to Manhattan on business about once a year, and love it there [at least for brief periods]. But, the best part of my trips [aside from the food] is walking through Central Park.

The older I get, the more space and wilderness I need. When I came across this quote, I realized I am not alone. I cannot imagine life in an apartment full time.

This NYC-Park-Pond-and-Skyline-3462.jpg was taken by me in May, 2010. [Double click on the image for a full view] What a lovely spot, although just beyond the tree line are huge numbers of people living and working - Central Park helps ease the pain by adding some nature to the mix].

June 9, 2010

Divorce Lawyers and the Client's File...

My office retired a copy machine a few months ago, having worn it out - more than 2 million copies ran through it. The replacement is faster but also scans and e-mails. We make a lot of copies, and buy a lot of copy paper. It has been her long enough that we became attached to it and the repair man who came more and more frequently to replace parts.

The need for a reliable machine came to mind when we received about 800 pages of photocopies, wrapped with rubber bands, no staples and no organization, from another law office. It is what they represented as being the "client's file." We inherit such files a few times a year when we take over a case for a client.

On those rare instances when we turn a file over to a successor law firm, we make copies of most everything in it. But, we make and keep the copies for ourselves, in case a question comes up somewhere along the line, which happens occasionally. We don't keep the original file in those instances - the original, under California law, belongs to the client. We must pass it along to the next lawyer or to the client upon request at the end of our representation.

Continue reading "Divorce Lawyers and the Client's File..." »

June 3, 2010

California Domestic Partners: IRS Tax Rules for "Divorces"

Until last week, it has been generally assumed by many lawyers and CPAs that Domestic Partners, duly registered as such in California, may not divide their incomes for tax purposes, although the income may be treated like community property by the state.

In a recent publication from the IRS effective last Friday, that may no longer be true for tax years beginning in 2007. Because of a change in California tax law effective 1/1/07, this state has treated partners' income the same as that of married persons.

A major concern is the effect this may have on returns for the last 3 tax years, and whether amended returns are required or recommended. It does not appear they may file joint returns, however. It would just mean that each may declare one-half of the income of the other, potentially shifting much of the income tax burden to the lower earning partner at much lower tax rates.

If you are dissolving a domestic partnership, it is important that you contact a Certified Family Law Specialist who has knowledge of these rules and keeps up to date on recent changes.