Still More Short Stories

Sometimes life just seems so darned depressing. Throughout the day we are bombarded with heart wrenching news stories by way of radio, television and the print media.  News stories which are difficult, if not impossible, for we human beings to process.

For weeks we have been reading about the crematory in Georgia dumping the bodies of the dearly departed out the back door for God knows what reason. And about the lives of American soldiers being lost in the struggle against terrorism in a far away land. And about the five children drowned in the bathtub by their incredibly disturbed mother.  I know that Buddha says life is pain and suffering (and then we die), but can anybody tell me where are we supposed to stick this information?

My 24 year old nephew Matt is in town for the week.  It’s been great having family around (for a few days). We were sitting on the couch the other night, exhausted from a rare day of powder skiing together. I was dazzling Matt with war stories about my kid sister, who also masquerades as his mother, and catching him up on the recent happenings of the western Cohen contingent.  When I mentioned that I was writing a column for the local paper, he asked me what uplifting  stories I had written lately.  That’s when it really struck me about life being so darned depressing sometimes.   Not that you have given it much thought, but it turns out that I’m just not in the uplifting story business.  Call me romantic, but I think of it more like the human cesspool business.

But you know that saying  –  when life deals you lemons, make lemonade?  If I can’t uplift, I can at least entertain.

Lawyer Retirement Fund

I just read a case recently which will instantly warm your heart to room temperature or better.  It’s about a lawyer in Pennsylvania.  He agreed to represent a company that was just emerging from bankruptcy.  The company thought it was a great idea to offer a non-refundable $1 million retainer to attract the best legal talent to help it with anticipated litigation.  The company and its newly hired counsel were 335 hours into their relationship when the company unceremoniously dumped him.  Adding insult to injury the company insisted that the lawyer refund the balance of the retainer. (What balance?).  And you thought Enron was heartless!  Thankfully the lawyer stood his ground, and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, comprised of nine former full-time lawyers oozing empathy and compassion, vindicated the lawyer.

How could they have come to such a ridiculous conclusion, you might be asking yourself at this moment.  Good question.  Here is the moral of the story: The next time your lawyer asks you for a $1 million retainer, be sure to question him or her as to whether the retainer is a general retainer or a specific retainer.  A general retainer is for the purpose of having your lawyer available when you need him/her, and the retainer immediately becomes the property of your lawyer the instant he or she runs to the bank and cashes your check.  A specific retainer is paid for a specific service, say to represent you in the impending divorce, and the retainer remains your property if the contemplated services are not provided.

Don’t Get Burned In The Sunbelt

My son Brady is heading off to Arizona in the fall to attend college.  I forced him to read the case of Arizona v. Dove.  Arizona apparently has more God-fearing residents than our own heathen state.  In Arizona if a couple lives together but is not married, then the man is subject to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.  Just kidding.   Both the man and the woman are subject to the jail sentence and fine, but the good news is that they have the option of serving their time together in the same jail cell for an extra $200!

Texas Is Not So Hot Either

If you are thinking about moving to Texas and killing someone, I suggest you reconsider.   Calvin Burdine sure wishes he had.  Calvin is on death row in Texas for stabbing his boyfriend to death.  During Calvin’s trial his lawyer frequently napped for 10 minutes or more at a time.  Apparently the lawyers who handled his appeal were also asleep.  It took them 11 years to figure out that even in Texas a lawyer defending a murder case is supposed to stay awake during the entire trial.   No one had bothered to point this out to the appellate courts for the 11 years Calvin was sitting on Death Row. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, ruling that since the defense lawyer only slept while the judge was talking he didn’t miss anything important, and neither did the jury, because they were asleep also.

Report From Cyberspace

For those of you who love advanced technology, as well as those of you who are not very disciplined about timely paying your bills, be sure to read the next Pro Bono column.  I just learned about a device that shuts off a car’s ignition if you are late on your car payment. I am currently investigating the new technology to see if I should incorporate it into my own practice.  I understand that for an extra few bucks a lawyer can buy a chip that disables the client’s vehicle if the client hasn’t given the lawyer a huge bonus recently.  I will keep you posted.