Want to be a Judge in Philadelphia Courts? Get in line to buy some votes!

There are those who are jaded who will say that, “Of course, this thing happens all the time.”  And there are those who will say that Philadelphia and corruption go together like a bagel and cream cheese, but the practiced described herein is not illegal.  And now that I see some of my peers (Emily’s peers, actually) running for Judge, well, I just don’t know.  But, in the meantime, here’s some facts for you from today’s Inquirer:

“It’s ‘the process,’ ” said Ladov, among 45 candidates for 10 spots on Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court. The 10-year term comes with a $164,602 salary.

Eleven candidates are vying for one slot on Municipal Court, a job that lasts six years and pays $160,793.

“Either you fold your arms across your chest and say you don’t like the process and, therefore, ‘I am not going to be involved and not going to serve the people,’ ” Ladov said, “or you say, ‘This is the process. If I get elected, I can do good, and I can make a meaningful contribution.’ “

She chose the latter, and she is paying thousands of dollars to hire two “consultants,” including still-influential former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, jailed in 1981 in the Abscam scandal, and a 30-year ward leader, John Sabatina, who works to persuade other ward leaders to back his judicial candidates.

“I’m working 24 hours a day trying to make sure these people get covered all over, from wards to churches to wherever there can be an asset to their candidacy,” said Sabatina, who also is helping three other would-be judges this year. For his work, they pay him $20,000 to $35,000 apiece.

My opinion of civil justice and our jury system is, temporarily, quite low

I just finished a two day trial and got an horrendous result. Disappointment is part of the reality of trying cases; I know no attorney who has won every trial. Sadly, my clients were two of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, let alone working for. But it is the nature of the beast that I sometimes get very good results for less deserving clients and much worse results for folks like the couple I worked with this week.

My greatest annoyance right now is that the jury did not give the case proper consideration. They made a VERY wrong decision on one aspect of the case in order to avoid even discussing the other issues. They did themselves a favor and took a shortcut, just to wrap up their duty a little quicker. I know this because the Judge spoke with them after and then explained to me once they left. Perhaps this jury would have reached the same decision if they had given proper consideration to all aspects of the case, but that’s not the point. They were lazy and took the easy way out. It was appallingly disrespectful to my client who was injured in an automobile accident and her husband, who was by her side throughout the trial.

Even with this disappointment and outrage, I continue to feel that trying cases is the most exciting aspect of my job. I had wonderful clients to work with and all my examinations and PowerPoint presentations went smoothly. There will be more inattentive and lazy juries in the future, but I will keep fighting for my clients and finding new and better ways to prove their cases.

Trial prep has taken over my life, temporarily

Got a nice little case in front of Judge Fernandez-Vina starting tomorrow. I would much rather be telling you all about all the killer music that was added to the collection this weekend OR how we’re getting ready to pack up all our shit and move across the river.

All that will have to come later. For now, make sure you are up to date on Ms. Emily’s prodigious writing efforts. She’s carrying the blogging ball for both of us at:

See Emily Play

I don’t even know what to call this post

I guess it’s another catch-all.  The holiday weekend is pretty much here, so everything is starting to slow down, and that is perfectly fine with me.  I’ve been enjoying (NOT!) some bowel distress over the past 24 hours, so I’m glad that there’s no work tomorrow.  I prep’d my butt off for an Arbitration on Wednesday and it went south on me because the panel didn’t like my client – they actually said that to me after.  Hours and hours of prep down the tubes.

I’m just about done with Greg van Eekhout’s (like Vonnegut?) first novel – Norse Code.  Despite the title, it’s actually been quite a good piece of fantasy fiction.  If I were in another line of work, perhaps I could have read this book over a weekend, but with distractions and trials, it has taken a bit longer.  Great action, well written, and sexy cover.  What more could you ask for?  As a rumination on Ragnarok, it’s a bit more fluid and entertaining than Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.  The retelling of myth is a bit more fluid in Gaiman’s work, but the van Eekhout has been a more cohesive read.  I certainly liked them both, but in being a bit less ambitious, Norse Code is actually more fun.  Although, I don’t think Gaiman was going for fun.

Company’s coming to mpomy HQ to help celebrate the holiday.  We’re looking forward to Oscar and his mom and dad.  Pictures will undoubtedly be posted.  Also, we’ve arranged a trip to Morris Arboretum to hang out in nature’s beauty with my mom and our guests.  It should be just the ticket after my beleaguered week.

Over at Fretbuzz.net, the insanity continues.  we’ve got Mr. Delaruss now actively blogging, which is great news.  I’ll also try to do little more micro-music because it’s so damn fun.  Maybe Oscar can help with the next composition.

We have also found out that a cousin has breast cancer – which absolutely sucks.  She’s got a bunch of little kids and she’s almost definitely going to have to go through some of the most heinous shit.  But she’s got a great husband (Em’s 1st cousin) and they’re within shouting distance of top notch healthcare.  It’s still going to be a bumpy ride for that family, so we’ll be sending the good vibes that way as the situation and treatment regimen become clearer.

And lastly, I’ll be trying to get Em to watch Virtuality tonight.  It seems like good, low-impact fun before our guests arrive, and I need to take another look before I write up my thoughts.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

The fun continues…

Judge Perskie is treating the parties (and their attorneys!) quite well and we’re trying to return the favor.  So far, no objections, no arguments, no acting out.  The plaintiff provided decent testimony, but I don’t know if that’s enough to carry the day.  Our physician expert came across pretty well on video (they’re all on video nowadays), but the VHS (!) of the defendant’s doctor is clearer.  Still, in that proceeding, which took place a few weeks ago, I did score some cross-examination points.  The only thing left to do now is prep my closing.  Unlike in some cases, the closing here could also make that hair’s breadth of difference.

Oh, one other thing.  I’ve got a response to a very important motion in a differenc case due tomorrow.  That means I’m finishing a brief right now, when I should be working on my trial.  Oh well, it’s almost done.  whew!

Trial Season

So, I just finished that little trial in Camden last week. It was a one day affair. Tomorrow I’m on Judge Perskie’s list for another trial, this time with a jury. It’s a simple enough case, and it will probably take longer to picke the jury than it will to try the case, but hey, this is what we do. I’m ready and prep’d and, if we can’t settle, we’ll get the show on the road and shoot for the best verdict we can get.

In the meantime, it’s a lot of prep and a lot of work.  I’m done for tonight, but it will be an early morning tomorrow as I have about a 90 minute drive for this one.

‘Real Fast’ meets ‘Overdoing It’

Thursday was everything it was cracked up to be.  Arrive at work for conference call on pasta case at 8:15.  8:30 board PATCO and ride to Camden for 9AM hearing in DiOrio case.  Defendant’s motion denied:  YES!  I’m one for one.  Back on PATCO to get ready for video dep in Bensalem, PA.  Get car from Em at 10:45 and scoot up I-95 to Bensalem.  Dr. Stempler delivers the goods in summary fashion (now I’m two for two!) and I’m out the door and on my way back down to Philly.

Sal is waiting in the lobby so I can switch files and walk five blocks to City Hall to handle the Miller hearing at 1:30.  Client and adversary are both there and we wrap up the negotiations without incident.  Papers get signed and I’m out the door (three for three, but who’s counting).

Back to office for about 45 minutes and then back to City Hall for the Abrantes Case Management Conference.  We get a nice short case management schedule (four for four!) and I make chit chat with my adversary about an old case we worked on together.

And now, with tired feet, and desk piled high, I will prep a play list to go with my evening run and then I’m collecting Em and we’re out of here!

Fun day!  Nothing on the schedule tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll actually get something done.

Feeding Frenzy


Justice will be served.  It will be rare.  It will be bloody.  But it will be served, and we will be privy to every gory detail.  This is what it means to choose a new Supreme Court Justice in this day and age.  Law and politics are not supposed to go together – that’s why this is painful.  And with the lifetime appointment, the chosen Judge will wield an enduring kind of power.  Just as with the run-up to the election in November of last year, there will be another (though different) crescendo that will be made all the louder by the echo chamber, but I’ll offer more on that another time.

I have added the Slate.com – Jurisprudence category to my links.  Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick are extremely sharp legal minds who who have the greatest jobs any lawyer could ever hope for.  (There are also other writers in that section of the Slate stable, but I don’t know anything about them, yet.)

But it’s all so left-wing.  I really need to break out of the echo chamber so I can, at least, understand the substance, scanty though it may prove to be, of the myriad smears that will undoubtedly follow Obama’s selection of the nominee.  There’s also the chance that I may not agree with every aspect of the candidate’s judicial philosophy.  Something tells me that National Review Online and Town Hall are not going to satisfy the need for a more scholarly critique.

This is, or will be, good theater.  The media (including ‘new’) relish the story, the controversy, the drama that just keeps on giving.  That’s how everyone was with the election, and I expect much of the same this summer.  Beware the pundits!  Don’t get sucked into the fake journalists who are really just talking heads starring in their own version of reality TV.  For those folks, the Court doesn’t matter.  Obama doesn’t matter.  All that matters is their brilliance and beauty as they, oh so humbly, bring you this pivotal moment in history.  Where would we be without them?!?

But I eat it up also.  It’s exciting and important.  The hearings might get rough, but there’s an excellent chance that no one will die.  All the latest technology will be employed by both those ‘for’ and those ‘against’, but in the end it will come down to the ancient process set forth in our Constitution.

And, at it’s best, the debate will be philosophical and complex.  If it is a current member of the bench, we will look at opinions and briefs and law reviews.  Hey!  That’s basically what I do for a living.  Cool!  Even if it’s not a current or former judge, we will still learn everything about this person.  Everything she did in her life up until this moment is fair game – everything she ever said.  And we will not be looking for those ‘gotcha!‘ moments.  Hopefully, the Obama people are smart enough not to select a child molester for the high bench.

No, instead, we will look at the niceties of language and thought.  At our best, we will want to learn how this person thinks and predict what this person will do within the highest ivory tower this country has.  Supreme Court Justices don’t make policy or write law.  I don’t care how far right or left anyone thinks a certain Judge may happen to be.  Whether you like them or not, their job is to decide cases.  The cases make the law, but the Judges can only decide cases.

So, in those realms where the debate is elveated above the feeding frenzy, we will learn about cases.  In other places, the only case anyone will discuss or remember will be Roe v. Wade, but that is to be expected from media that is more concerned with entertaining you than enlightening you.  But I will hear the names of vaguely remembered cases from law school, and I will run to look them up and I will discover, all over again, the wonder of our common law.  It is a living thing that changes and grows all the time.  That is not a partisan utterance, but rather a documented fact that I live with every day as a modest trial lawyer.  Customs become molded into law by case decisions over the years, and then the old rules change and new rules come along as human thought is not a static process.

Enjoy the show, but don’t forget to listen and watch carefully.  Everyone knows how important this is, but let us share a greater understanding of how it works – not just the selection process, but the actual job that must be done afterwards.

Feeling better

For some reason, I want to be a DJ. DJ software is so cool looking and I idolize Amon Tobin and Squarepusher – but it’s not happening. How many parties am I even going to, let alone providing entertainment?

My back ache is mostly gone, thank jeebus. There’s nothing on the calendar tomorrow, so it’s a good catch-up day. I have had Court appointments in Camden the past three weekdays, so it’ll be nice not to run over there again. Arb today was mediocre, but it’s non-binding. I don’t think there’s going to be an offer of settlement in that case.

Time for some more uploads!