Weed falls out of attorney’s pocket in court

Marijuana.com, March 18, 2015:

“Case in point: a lawyer in New London, Connecticut let a two ounce sack of marijuana slip form his pocket to the floor while in court yesterday. The best part? The lawyer, 46-year-old Vincent J. Fazzone, was in court representing a client, claims the weed wasn’t even his.”

The article, quoting from the Hartford Courant, indicates that the attorney claimed that the pot belonged to his client.

There are a number of ethics issues. If the weed was payment from the client for advanced services, it should have been escrowed in a Bar-approved escrow silo or warehouse with appropriate warehouse receipts showing the client, date and gram weight of the drop – to protect the weed against the attorney’s own creditors, IRS levy on the client’s chronic, etc. [Kidding. Sort of.] The attorney also had a duty to keep the weed entrusted to him from harm; exposing a client’s BC Bud to the greedy hands of the Sheriff would seem to violate ethics rule 1.16. [Kidding. Sort of.]

If the weed became the property of the attorney in a value-for-value representation-for-mowiewowie swap, there needed to be a document to track the earn and a formal removal of the stankweed from trust to operating account, wherein it would be then taxed as in-kind income. Under current IRS regulation, the Treasury of the United States prefers currency or checks drawn on the same, rather than 28% of the actual ganja.

No, I do not consume marijuana.

Defense lawyer: “I would put petrol on her and set her alight”

BBC, February 27, 2015 (H/T Talking Points Memo):

Mukesh Singh, the bus driver who admitted driving the bus during the incident, but denied taking part in the attack, was one of five men convicted of Jyoti’s rape and murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

 

. . .

 

Speaking about the appalling attack, which he refers to as “an accident”, Mukesh Singh suggested the rape and beatings were to teach Jyoti and her friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night. And he criticised Jyoti for having fought back against her attackers saying: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

 

He said that executing him and the other convicted rapists/murderers will endanger future rape victims: “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”

To me, that’s not the disgusting part. It should be, but I am hardened to sociopathic violent thugs blaming others for their crimes. So I am not disgusted.

What does disgust me? This, from this Indian death row inmate’s attorney:

In a previous televised interview, lawyer AP Singh said: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” And he confirms to Udwin in the documentary that his stance remains the same: “This is my stand. I still today stand on that reply.”

I don’t know what offends me more: that an attorney would so depravedly risk his death row client’s case by endorsing his client’s capital offense, or that an attorney would so brag that he would defy Indian law and commit homicide by burning his sister to death. In Maryland, you can face attorney discipline merely for calling your client vulgar insults, but I guess in India bragging about one’s intent to burn a female relative to death during a death row appeal is not a professional responsibility concern.

Please don’t drink and drive

There are two basic approaches for discouraging a motorist from drinking and driving, and likewise two basic strategies for avoiding committing drunk driving.

The two basic approaches are

DO NOT BE A SOCIOPATH

and

THE CONSEQUENCES CAN DAMAGE YOU EVEN IF YOU ARE LUCKY.

The basic strategies for not drunk-driving are “do not drive” or “do not drink”; these strategies are perfectly effective but not perfectly popular, as active DUI attorneys like me can attest.

Driving while under the influence or while impaired by alcohol is never safe, but especially unsafe on nights where the offense is going to be more common and the other drivers are likewise impaired. A decent non-sociopathic human being will decide not to drink and drive. A sociopath can keep his eye on “what’s in it for me?” and still avoid drunk driving, due to the catastrophic consequences like jail, fines, repair bills, lost income, cab rides to/from jail, eviction (got no license, got no ride, got no job, got no cash left, got no apartment), the costs of probation.

Legal fees, too; we charge actual green money for helping out with legal work for the defendant in State v. Drunk. Deductibles and the cost of increased premiums add up too; the Gecko and Flo from Progressive are going to take it really personally if you T-Bone your Corolla into the side of some factory worker coming off the 4-12 shift and break her left tibia, fibula and six ribs – drunk. Maybe you might also kill some teenager sitting on the driver’s side, maybe someone who – responsibly – didn’t ride with her worthless drunk boyfriend and called her Mom instead.  Your keys, your booze, your dice.

Think about the cost of the most expensive cab ride from downtown in your city (say, Baltimore) to the most remote suburb (say, Havre de Grace out along the “Land God Gave to Cain” on Route 40 past the pawn shops, peep shows and bankrupt liquor stores.) $150, maybe, and then maybe a lift back later to fetch your car? $150 plus lunch on you at Appleby’s for your friend for taking you to fetch your car is a much cheaper deal than a tow bill and a bail deposit in the aftermath of a high-impact DUI case – let alone legal fees.

No one should have to talk about the consequences on you from drunk driving. Warning you about the consequences to others ought to be enough. But if you are the sort of self-absorbed person who is listening ONLY to “WII-FM”  – “what’s in it, for me” – then consider this. You can keep on drinking more booze into the future if you avoid catching a no-alcohol-at-all probation order for 18 months.  You can avoid that scenario entirely if you either abstain (never a mistake) or secure a place to stay, a cab ride or public transit to your destination. You can keep on drinking (if that’s important) if you dump the keys, stay in, watch a marathon of The Big Bang Theory or what’s on Netflix.  Dump the car, stay at home and knock back a cold one.

I am tired of this being the n-th year in which I don’t get to say “Happy New Year” to my best friend from law school. Admittedly, it’s a little personal. If I come off as a bit preachy, so be it; the drunk who killed Nancy Yellin, Esquire, and three members of her familly didn’t have a preachy jerk convince him to stay home.  The killer is doing life in Florida now, but that doesn’t resurrect the dead.

Call a cab. Stay home. Get a lift from a SOBER driver. Catch the bus. Get a hotel, cheap or fancy.  Stay at an all night bar drunk listening to Nickelback if you have completely lost your dignity, but that’s better than trying to drive blitzed.

Call or text me if you must at 240-687-3564 and you are in Maryland; I will respect you for it and will try HARD to help. Do it because you are a decent human being or, failing that, because you want to keep looking out for number one.

Whether you “don’t drink” or “don’t drive”, either strategy will keep you much safer. If you must drive on New Year’s Eve, please be aware of the dangerous fools who were less wise than you in their planning and executive function.  Please be safe.

My best for a healthy, prosperous and responsible 2015.

George Zimmerman’s Lawyer Reprimanding Client Publicly

Washington Times, August 25, 2013:

“We understand how George [Zimmerman] visiting the factory that produces the gun used to shoot Trayvon Martin is seen as inappropriate,” a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara told Reuters on Friday.

***

Mr. Zimmerman, 29, shot Trayvon, who was 17, in the heart with a 9 mm Kel-Tec pistol.

Recent events have encouraged me to take a less self-righteous attitude about a lot of things, including but not limited to professional ethics. Anyone can make a mistake, including either a professional or non-professional mistake.

But it is difficult to see the wisdom in a law firm sending out a messenger deliberately to criticize its client’s conduct. Why not say nothing; “nothing” is a rather clever thing to say and it seems smarter than “this is how we in confidence advise our murder suspect clients.”

Am I wrong? If so, tell me why saying something to an internet reporter was wise, professional, loyal, diligence, prudence and becoming of a confidential fiduciary. Tell me why I am wrong.

Sun Article on Breastfeeding in Maryland

Dana Silver, M.D. in the Baltimore Sun, August 20, 2013:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and breast-feeding for at least a year or longer as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. The AAP also states: “The decision to breastfeed is … a basic and critical health decision regarding infant welfare.”

Despite the tremendous progress we have seen in Maryland and across the country, some still feel that breastfeeding in public is somehow “indecent.” Maryland law states: “A mother may breastfeed her child in any public or private location in which the mother and child are authorized to be. A person may not restrict or limit the right of a mother to breastfeed her child.” All 50 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

The code section to which Dr. Silver referred is section 20-801 of the Health-General article of the Code.

My general inclination towards legal micromanagement of commercial life is one of skepticism. But the compelling equities of feeding an infant, the health benefits to that child and the ability of nursing mothers to travel without having to pre-express, bottle, refrigerate and schlepp the nutrition for their infants trump the “weirded-out” feelings of an immature few who never got equally weirded out at the existence of much more revealing Ocean City (or Harborplace) beachwear. In my view, it’s the equivalent of allowing a “trespass” on private property for grounds of common-law necessity. Regardless of what I think, it’s the law in this State.

Fleeing and eluding the police isn’t stupid because it’s illegal….

it’s illegal because it’s stupidly dangerous.

Baltimore Sun, January 22, 2013:

The incident occurred at about 6:25 a.m., when the sheriff’s deputy saw a Dodge Ram 1500 traveling at a high rate of speed in the Finksburg area.

The deputy tried to pull the car over, but the motorist failed to stop and continued at a high rate of speed onto Old Gamber Road, then turned right onto Old Westminster Pike, according to the sheriff’s office.

The car turned into the Jiffy Mart then continued, without yielding, onto Route 140, where it struck a Ford van that had been traveling eastbound, the sheriff’s report said.

Context. I used to live within a long walk of that Jiffy Mart and know those roads well (my parents still live in Finksburg). Route 91 is Gamber Road and Route 140 is Westminster Pike, also called Baltimore Boulevard, which dumps into I-795 a few miles southeast of the accident. Each of those roads has a roughly parallel narrow and old “Old Gamber Road” and “Old Westminster Pike” which meet in a semi-residential stop sign intersection about 1/8 mile S of the intersection of 91 and 140, which is a major thoroughfare intersection (and a somewhat dangerous one.)


View Larger Map

Where the young, and now dead, 29-year old reportedly entered 140 was at the mouth of the Jiffy Mart, which sits between high-traffic 140 and sleepy, essentially access road Old Westminster Pike. In darting from Old Westminster Pike onto Westminster Pike across the lot of the Jiffy Mart, the motorist apparently entered headlong into a very high traffic road with near-Interstate volumes headed southeast to Baltimore, Towson, Pikesville, I-795, etc. It may be the heaviest rush-hour traffic density corridor road in the Baltimore metro area not served by any public transit whatsoever, though the NW end of the Baltimore Metro is 9-10 miles down 140 and I-795.  Entering southeast onto 140 at a high rate of speed at an hour before sunrise in winter after a major federal holiday as reported to evade a law enforcement agent would be rather dangerous and, in this case, was apparently fatally so.

Thinking that you can outrace a police vehicle successfully is an extreme example of maurylogic and, if events were as reported, a fatal example.  Very sad to hear and am glad that the other motorist wasn’t injured more severely.  Please, if you get pursued by the police in Maryland, don’t play OJ or Bo and Luke Duke: pull over in a safe and orderly manner, stay calm and if necessary contact your attorney.

Driving While Drunk: A Brief How-Not-To Guide

This post is dedicated to my deceased friend and law school classmate Nancy Sara Yellin of blessed memory (1969-1997), whom a drunk driver killed with depraved indifference in South Florida, along with three of her family members in the same car.

There are a number of ways to prevent drunk driving; one can aim at the driving or at the drunkenness. Either way is entirely acceptable.

This week will be the 4th of July and it has been a hot, nasty mess in the mid-Atlantic in the midst of the recent storms. A lot of people will be getting exceptionally well-lit on the 4th to forget about the miserable experience of losing power, losing air conditioning and having everything be a sweat-drench, hideous mess. Regrettably, we will see many an avoidable tragedy and outrage in the next 48 hours, though that outrage, that tragedy, that grief that we don’t forget ever CAN be avoided.

The problem is that a lot of hot, sweaty, dehydrated drunks, rampant power outages, dead or malfunctioning traffic signals in the most densely populated parts of the state and strained emergency response services could make for a horrible, horrible 4th of July.

This Law Office handles alcohol motor vehicle charges as part of its routine practice but nothing would please me more than to see no DUI cases come to my desk from this Fourth of July. My children, family, friends and clients ride on these roads; Maryland is my home and I know no other. Please prevent tragedy in our beautiful, if currently sweaty and under-electrified, Free State. Please: sleep it off, catch a cab, get your sober friend to give you a lift. Watch a movie. Play drunk Pictionary or drunk Twister or drunk strip poker. If you must, fornicate. Just don’t drive.

If you want to get drunk, get your sleep-it-off place nailed down before you pour the first cold one. If you want to drive, keep it to bottled water or Diet Coke, or give yourself a massive amount of time after drinking to sober down all the way – ALL the way (think four+ hours or more). It will be very hot and dehydration is easier when you are drunk and hot and sweaty; your judgment of your sobriety may be severely impaired by the heat and dehydration. If you are a host, keep the drunks in your house and don’t let them leave and if they leave anyway, call 911 before they kill somebody. Lawyers and bail bondsmen are expensive but less so than funeral homes.

If you or your family member or friend or child should screw up (don’t screw up, but if you do) and need a lift to avoid driving drunk, call my office at 410-561-6061 (Baltimore) or 301-531-4355 (DC) or Tweet me at @BruceGodfrey; I will get the message. I will do everything I can to arrange a free lift home for you or drive you home myself to any destination within 60 miles of Baltimore or Washington if I cannot get it arranged otherwise. Just let me know.

I miss you, old friend.

Joseph Amendola, Esquire, does NOT work in my law office

Why, oh why, does an attorney state the results of attorney-client work product and even attorney-client communications in front of a TV camera? Why tell Anderson Cooper whether a client communicated with you and what those communications were?

Who in the name of mighty Thor congratulates the prosecution for convicting his client of felonies? Criminal trials are not tennis matches; they aren’t about the lawyers. It’s professional to shake the hand of the opposing counsel at the conclusion of the proceedings, but don’t give your opponent that kind of laudatory treatment; the case is still active, sentencing awaits, the appeal period hasn’t lapsed, and even then it’s still a serious mistake.

Who chooses to broadcast to the universe that both the prosecution and the bench did exemplary jobs, grossly undercutting any future appeals on such issues?

Who hides behind the excuse of a lack of time when there’s six months to prepare and the case is the biggest case of the attorney’s career, as if he couldn’t afford an associate or two to pitch in? What, too many driving while suspended cases get in the way in March?

Even if these comments are somehow acceptable to the client, how does a client give informed consent to such injuries to the client’s legal position? How does this help a client at sentencing, motions to reconsider? Does the client have an available motion for a new trial or to set aside the verdict, or for a mistrial; if so, doesn’t this media foolishness damage or at least distract from that work?

We still have a duty to our clients not to damage their cases for our own camera-mugging benefits, even if clients give consent and even if that consent is fully (?) informed or even confirmed through an ethics consultation with an independent attorney (severely doubtful.) Even if they are charged with sexual offenses. Even if they are convicted of sexual offenses. ESPECIALLY in those cases.

How can an attorney claim to have valid appeal issues while ruining as appeal topics two of the major sources of appeal issues in a criminal cases: the conduct of the prosecution and the conduct of the bench!!! More generally, who benefits from these media events – Jerry Sandusky or perhaps Mr. Sandusky’s family, or whoever sells hot tubs and vacation packages to Joe Amendola? Joe’s taking of big Joe here, and not taking care of the client.

The media comments last night on CNN and elsewhere were clinics on how to violate one’s fiduciary duties to clients. I hope that every professional ethics professor in every US law school uses Joe Amendola as an example of what NOT to do. Every law student should see this mess. PA’s ethics rules are not identical to Maryland’s, but they are both modeled after the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct; they are about 90-95% similar or more.

But don’t believe me. Watch.

and more with Anderson Cooper (is laughing and asking “is she cute?” re: a media staffer the right comment after your client just got convicted of 45 felonies and misdemeanors?)

What I think about the George Zimmerman case – not much and a whole lot

I have both personal and legal opinions about the State v. George Zimmerman case in Florida; accordingly on the “personal” side you will see the pronoun “I” more than would appear normally here.

My legal opinion doesn’t amount to much; I am perhaps slightly competent to discuss the basics of 4th and 5th Amendment issues in the case if they appear (since those involve federal law), but felony work isn’t my forté and I have neither a law license in Florida nor experience pro hac vice in that state nor the ambition to practice there.  (Don’t get mad, Alan, I am going to come visit you in Jacksonville.) I am unashamed to admit I don’t know anything about Florida law; knowing Florida law isn’t the competence that I promise to my clients.

Many attorneys, including myself, have expressed shock and disbelief at the media conference held by Mr. Zimmerman’s prior attorneys Sonner and Uhrig.  While Florida ethics rules are not identical to those of Maryland, both states use versions of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Rule 1.6 protects confidentiality of information obtained during the course of representing a client – not merely information from the client in a narrowly-defined attorney-client privileged communication but other information.  No interest of Mr. Zimmerman appears to have been protected or advanced by that press conference; there was no need for it.   Further, they should have anticipated that representing a homicide case involving an adult shooter and an unarmed teenage dead body would bring some media attention; if they couldn’t handle the cameras, they should have declined the case or brought in someone who can control communications (such as by not having any communications.)

At the personal level, the Zimmerman case was for me a cause of reflection as a recent survivor of a gunpoint robbery in Owings Mills near my apartment.  Three men are now locked up no bond awaiting a June 6 trial date in Circuit Court for 21 counts each, seven felony and misdemeanor counts against three victims (or “survivors” which more accurately expresses my attitude), myself and two others in a late January rolling robbery spree in Owings Mills.  In that armed robbery spree, one other victim was apparently pistol-whipped; I was not battered by the robbers.

I don’t know – and really cannot know – what George Zimmerman experienced mentally before and during his encounter with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  Among the unexpected good effects of aging, however, is the realization that things can be good despite shortcomings, but that shortcomings are real.  My eyes are not what they were; reading the screen on the iPhone that I bought to replace the one that the thugs robbed at gunpoint is not easy, even with the “retina screen.” (My retinae are probably fine; it’s the muscles controlling the shape of my eyeball and lens that plague us old folks.)  My endurance isn’t what it was; my mind might be slower though it’s hard to tell.  It’s easy for me to believe that I could, in arrogance (among my many shortcomings), decide that someone were a threat and needed killing.  The State of Maryland would probably issue me a carrying permit and I have the resources, if I really chose to, to buy a gun and walk around with it as an epistemologically flawed disaster waiting to happen with the full blessing of the law (and, of late, the federal courts) as a violent crime survivor.

George Zimmerman probably didn’t wake up that day intending to kill someone, and Trayvon Martin didn’t go to a neighborhood convenience store with the intent to purchase his last meal there and get killed en route back.  Yet one man is dead and another may die in prison.  I don’t want to let bad epistemology lead me to kill someone with a gun.  As an attorney, I am used to 10-day, 15-day, 30-day deadlines.  Not 2-second deadlines; those are for fighter pilots and folks who defuse bombs for a living.  Can I, in two seconds, tell the difference between some obnoxious Gen-Yer in a hoodie who means me no harm, and one with a gun ready to rob me?  Can I get my car keys, let along a snub-nosed .38, pulled out and aimed for their proper target in 2 seconds?  No – fallible in eyesight, fallible in reflexes, fallible in split-second judgment and perception, fallible in epistemology.

I’d rather assume the risk of living an unarmed life – and there is a risk to that, make no mistake – than to attempt to handle not only a firearm against some aggressor but the decision-making and perception in that 2-second .  Play to my strengths – negotiations, defusing situational “bombs” by manipulating the players, not by superior gunplay.  I am a potential George Zimmerman, whether admitting it makes me feel good or not.  At least I can choose to disarm (as others may, for their good reasons, choose to arm themselves.)  That, not the procedures or substance of State v. Zimmerman, matters most now.

2nd Annual “Don’t Get a St. Patrick’s Day DUI” Rant

The following rant is dedicated to the memory of a fine attorney and dear friend Nancy Yellin, Esquire (1969-1997) who was killed along with three members of her family including an infant niece by a drunk driver 15 years ago south Florida.  Nancy and I were good friends from law school.  It is offered in the hopes that those who choose to drive won’t drink and those who drink won’t drive tomorrow (or any night.)

1)  Despite the fact that it’s St. Patrick’s Day, there is no moral obligation to drink.  I am informed by Jewish friends that at Passover it is religiously obligatory to eat at least some matzoh; neither canon law nor general moral duties require anyone to drink on the feast of St. Patrick.  In Ireland, St. Patrick’s feast day is an actual religious holiday, a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland at which attendance at Mass is required.  It is not a holy day of obligation in the United States and it is entirely permissible for a Catholic to decline to drink at any time (particularly during Lent, a traditional period of abstinence from frivolous vice.)  If you wish to go to Mass, consult your local priest, bishop or parish newsletter, etc.

2)  Stereotypes aside, the 32 counties of Ireland have many teetotalers who, for medical, personal, 12-step recovery or parenting reasons drink not at all or quite rarely.  While the public house is a staple of Irish society, not all who go to the pub drink alcohol; they do serve food there and, in the Republic of Ireland, may also have a grocery store or even an undertaker service.  Driving while intoxicated/under the influence is a significant problem in Ireland as in the U.S. and crackdowns have grown more severe in recent years.

3)  How can you avoid getting a DUI?  Well, there are a number of strategies: the moderation strategy, the stay-home-and-make-whoopee-instead strategy, the pedestrian strategy, the passenger strategy, the sleep-it-off strategy or the sobriety strategy.  In 2012, St. Patrick’s Day will fall on a Saturday, so there’s no reason not to sleep it off at a friend’s house if you can due to Monday morning employment logistics (for most workers.)  In extreme cases, one can use one’s car (in Maryland, at least, per Atkinson v. State) as a stationary shelter to sleep off a drunk, though I’d recommend leaving the keys under the car and sleeping in the back seat or shotgun seat if at all – WITHOUT putting the key in the ignition for ANY purpose (not even the radio.) Drinking (if one must) at home or within safe walking distance home is another strategy.

4)  What does it cost to deal with a DUI?

Well, at least the following:

1)  Bail money (often waived for locals in many jurisdictions) – $0-500?
2)  Hiring a lawyer for a criminal trial and, in many states, an administrative hearing – $1500-$4000, depending
3)  Replacing your transportation while you are suspended – what do 10 busses cabs a week cost?
4)  Job damage – most jobs cannot be done by non-drivers who take the job expecting to drive to work
5)  Court fines – $100-$1000.00+, depending
6)  Consequences of jail: dog-sitters, baby-sitters, you name it
7)  Probation fees – $25/month, maybe
8) Social life – some women won’t date a DUI convict and your girlfriend may demote you to ex-boyfriend, hard to calculate
9)  Medical costs – were you aware that DUI can injure people? Co-pays or worse for your self
10) Insurance deductible – to pay out for the tree, mailbox 0r 8-year old that you killed – $250-$1000
11) Alcohol counseling – ordered or as otherwise needed, varies
12)  Psychiatric care – when you just can’t stop seeing the face of the 8-year old you recklessly killed – Co-pays or worse plus co-pays for drugs
13)  Suit by landlord – when your fired/jailed self isn’t paying rent, your landlord will evict you.  Rentx3 plus repairs and legal fees
14)  Replacing your chattels – after your stuff is curbsided?  Check with IKEA if you want a bed and a dresser
15)  New car note – because your coverage provides you fair market value, not replacement, once you wrecked the jalopy.  Call GMAC Financing.

Cheaper alternatives:

a) Sobriety: free, though not always easy socially or for those who, one day at a time, exert effort to stay sober
b) Moderation: cheaper than drunkenness and easier on the liver
c) Hotel: cheaper than almost every expense listed above
d) Sleeping off in the car: has that Ron White sort of vibe about it, but far safer than driving
e) Cab ride: 100 mile cab ride probably costs about $500.00 – sounds stupid, until you have paid a lawyer $1500
f) Make “whoopee” instead: almost free despite recent discussions of contraceptive coverage in health insurance, easier on the liver though some chiropractic risks involved.

Anyway, no need to beat this point further.  If you want to drink, awesome.  Stay home, sleep it off.  If you want to drive, it’s Diet Coke and tonic water for you.  If you cannot handle this, you either need 12-step recovery or perhaps a punch in the teeth by a Teamster or a Marine (or both.)