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December 3, 2012

Violence Between Intimate or Domestic Partners.

A recent Justice Department report has concluded that Domestic Violence has declined substantially from 1993 to 2010. While violence in general has been down, the rate of decline in violence between intimate partners was substantially greater.

The report did not support any theory for the substantial reduction.

February 5, 2011

Divorce Lawyer Bragging Rights? Pulling the Wool....

The economy is lousy, so I expect a little puffing by my competitors to get a bigger share of business. But sometimes the claims are really silly.

I have a permanent Google alert set to send me any news about family law in San Diego, so I get a lot of weird posts from blog sites, press releases, and other efforts by lawyers trying to get noticed: I.e., to move up their Google ratings. The more their names and and web addresses appear on the web, the higher they rate, on the mistaken assumption that a lot of people are pointing to them.

Sometimes, the stories or posts read as though they had been written by a third grader who wasn't a very good student - pure gibberish, incomplete sentences, and typos in almost every sentence. [yes, I know, I make a few]

Last week, a lawyer who runs a mill and isn't a certified specialist, issued a press release bragging about the great skill of one of his employees. The young lawyer had "managed" to increase a father's custody time share from 35% to 50%. That is almost a 50% increase, but hardly one that requires great skill in most cases.

Any lawyer who has a significant volume of cases has results like this all the time, and most of the time it has nothing to do with his or her skill - usually you get such a result when Family Court Services recommends and increase, but sometimes it's not much more than a father who decides he is able to spend more time with his children, or a mother who goes to work full-time and can't care for the children all day.

It reminds me of an older post commenting on a lawyer whose website brags he is the recipient of a "coveted award." That award, in reality, used to be given out by a retired judge at our family law bi-annual dinners to point out lawyers who show up late regularly, and always have an excuse for not quite measuring up - someone we like, but not too reliable. You need to be careful with what you read - it's not always what it seems.

November 22, 2010

Lawyers, Clients, San Diego Congressman, Guilty Pleas in General....

Former San Diego Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham has the memory of so many convicted defendants: "I didn't do anything wrong, it was my lawyers' fault. His claims are reported in the San Diego Union.

His former lawyers no longer represent him. Not hard to figure out why. After all, why would they when they explained the facts of life to a defendant who was absolutely certain to be convicted of accepting bribes. The evidence had been fully developed by Union reporters year ago, and in terms of public opinion the evidence was so crystal clear that his only hope was a plea bargain. The lawyers "couldn't be reached for comment." In fact, they probably can't comment on their discussions with their former client without violating the attorney-client privilege.

Duke accepted expensive gifts from contractors who benefitted directly from his votes. He lived on the boat of one of them, nicknamed "The Duke Stir," obviously named for the congressman. Oh, yes, he lived there free. He sold his Del Mar house so far over market that it caught the reporters' attention - he was able to use the inflated proceeds to move to prestigious Rancho Santa Fe. The buyer of his Del Mar home later sold it for a huge loss at fair market value, even though the real estate market had seen increased prices between the two transactions.

Let the poor guy rot in prison. Who cares that the government seizes his pensions to pay the unpaid back taxes on the bribes he accepted? I don't feel any more sorry for him that for Bernie Madoff - to sides of the same coin.

Duke claims he got sucked in because he couldn't say "No." The evidence shows that he solicited bribes because he deserved them. He was an arrogant bastard throughout his military and political careers, and now has gotten justice. He won't testify in accordance with his prior statements against one of the persons charged with having participated in his schemes - I assume he expects that person to rescue him financially for his newfound fidelity to his friend [more fidelity than he felt for the voters he represented.

July 16, 2010

Phishing Scams, Amazon, and Junk Mail....

I get about 300 pieces of e-mail a day, the vast majority of it junk. A high percentage of the junk is a scam of some sort [usually phishing, which is trying to get you to give up private codes], and ads for Viagra. I have spam filters, but the evil doers get better each day at making the spam look like it comes from someone with whom I regularly do business, or by coding the messages to make the computer think they come from me or my office.

I regularly do business with I order books related to divorce, custody, relationships, computers, and other areas that relate to my law practice. So, I'm often on the lookout for e-mail from Amazon to notify me of a shipment, or notify me of or resolve a problem.

The latest scam I've noticed is and "Amazon Thanks for your order" message addressed to me. They look just like a regular notice from Amazon that it has acknowledged an order, and it gives me an opportunity to "view and edit your orders online." Of course they want me to click on one of the links, go to a page that looks like Amazon, and find out what the heck I've ordered that I wasn't expecting. Each of these is different in it's content, so I must read them carefully to see if they are legitimate. They want me to try to log onto my account, enter my user name, e-mail, and password so that they can later do this themselves.

When I read the mail carefully, I start to see obvious errors. One of several that I received this morning says that the Order Grand Total is $63.99. Below that is a summary that says that the subtotal of all items is $96.99, then the total before tax is $43.99, sales tax is zero, and "Total for this Order" is $10.99. It then gives me the option to click and see the items, Price: $71.99. Must be Nigerians filling out a form letter. Usually, phishing scams aren't this obvious.

I'm glad my parents don't use the computer I gave them for e-mail. I'm sure that they would just assume it is an honest mistake and give away their life savings.

November 17, 2009

House Prices and Divorce in San Diego....

Today's San Diego Union contains an article on the front page with a headline that "S. D. County home prices inch higher." While this is certainly welcome news, it hardly serves as notice of the end of falling prices and is not enough to make settling divorce cases easier.

The statistics cited in the article refer to median home prices in the county - for those non-math majors, that means that one-half of the houses sold are above, and one-half below that median number. The increase, if you can call it that, is .5%, year to year for October. That can easily be a statistical anomoly, and not reflect an actual increase in prices, although the article does reflect a 2% increase in the number of sales - of course that increase is from the extremely desperate days of October, 2008, just before the election, when it seemed our financial world was about to end, which is probably not a good guide post from which to measure the market.

What I notice in my family law practice is that houses at the very bottom of the market are selling as a few buyers think they can pick up a rental propery cheap [especially based on early 2005 prices].

In one case, we have two houses to value; one in the $300,000 range, and one nearer $700,000. Because of delays, we've had two appraisals of each house - the same appraiser says that the less expensive house has actually increase in value about 10% in the last year, while it is opinion that the higher priced house remains unchanged. With the median at $325,000 [according to the article], it may just be that the bottom end has firmed up as buyers think they are getting a bargain, while the number of foreclosures and repossessed houses continues to keep the overall market soft.

Those few friends who are looking at houses in the range above $700,000, are finding they can buy nearly new, custom built houses far below the cost of construction - one friend remarked that the top end is equivalent of being given a free lot, then a discounted bid on building - he's interested in moving, but is really picky because he finds so much from which to choose - he doesn't have to suffer noise problems or bad layouts, as there are other houses on the market.

Before taking a step into buying a new house, think carefully. We may not be at the bottom. And, remember, one factor in keeping the bottom firm is that interest rates on these sub-jumbo loans remain very low, and money is available to many buyers in that price range. That does not necessarily mean that people are trading up, only that houses at the bottom are becoming attractive to investors, while pricing remaining a gamble. If interest rates rise, prices will drop. As always, be sure you have the financial stability to keep the property you buy even if housing prices and rental values drop, and interest rates go up.

July 26, 2009

Police, Overreaction, Race, and Politics....

The recent story of Prof. Gates and the Cambridge cop has been blown all out of proportion by the media, trying to make it a racial issue to further divide Democrats from Republicans. I agree with the President that the cop did something stupid - it's not a racial issue, just an overreaction to a fairly minor incident, and the President didn't assert it was anything else. [Perhaps the stupidity was in the mouth of the "journalist" who asked his opinion in the first place, during a press conference on health insurance.] The professor probably acted stupidly as well, but we'll never know what really happened.

A similar problem occurred in Cardiff [coastal San Diego County] a few weeks ago where a woman about 67 was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed, after apparently refusing to tell a cop her date of birth - he'd come to her house with a helicopter and about 7 squad cars on a noise complaint about 9:00 p.m. in the evening - the noise was an amplified speech by a female candidate for Congress, speaking at a fund raiser in a residential neighborhood.

The woman was offended by the cop's attitude, and attempted to shoo him off by saying "you know where I live and my name, why do you need my date of birth." From there, the problem escalated into a stupid act by the cop - both immature participants were white. [There were some political overtones, such as the name calling by the reporting neighbor who had allegedly been yelling from the bushes.]

Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times fairly summarizes my views of the Gates situation. Although the races were different, the attitudes were about the same. This type of thing seems to happen a lot, and it's not racial, although in that case the anger came out in racial tones - we all have our hot buttons.

A few years ago, I was stopped by a CHP officer for using the shoulder to go around a truck that was stuck trying to access a freeway where all the traffic was stopped for construction. I had seen the officer in my rear view mirror as I avoided the truck and knew I was doing nothing wrong.

He was angry that I had gone around the truck, and argumentative - I tried to suggest he had discretion not to issue the ticket, rather than trying to argue the law, but that seemed to make him more determined: "I use those shoulders", he responded, as though what I had done could have endangered him had he been giving a ticket. I sucked it up, politely accepted the ticket, and set the case for trial.

At trial, the same jackbooted officer [a motorcycle cop] arrived loaded for bear. I presented the judge the statute that allowed what I had done. The officer was rabid in his defense of his action, and amateurish in his rejection of the statute - adamant that it couldn't mean what it said - perhaps a part-time night school law student. He couldn't allow me to have the last word, acting as a bad prosecutor over and over again, firmly committed to the idea that he was right. I was acquitted, and was he angry. I fear running into him again. Maybe he had a friend killed during a traffic stop on a shoulder, and that was a hot ticket item for him - from my standpoint, he merely looked foolish and wasted a fair amount of my time.

I've known a number of police officers well, and the overwhelming majority would never have acted as he did, never have wrestled a middle aged white woman to the ground in her own home, or handcuffed a middle aged professor with a limp simply because he was angry and yelling at them. Let's not make this a national issue, when we have a health insurance crisis, two major wars, and an economic catastrophe to occupy our minds. It's just two testosterone driven people who pushed one another's buttons.

July 24, 2009

KGTV, Crappy Reporting, and Family Law Experts...

Last week, I bemoaned the hit piece by a local TV station's amateur reporter, Lauren Reynolds of KGTV, the San Diego ABC-TV affiliate.

Well, one of my colleagues tried to set the record straight. Last week she sent the vice president of the station a lengthy rebuttal to the biased report, including readily available public information, copies of publications, and written statements from witnesses.

An apology? A retraction? Nope! Seems the station acknowledges there is a difference of opinion, is sticking by its report, and not telling the other side of the story. Since I now know what they claim is journalism lacks integrity, I won't be watching the news there any longer. Sorry Charley [Gibson], but you're off my list of favorites, along with your cohorts.