Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No guns for you!

This past week I have been reviewing the bills our new state legislature has proposed for the 2011 legislative session. I have seen a few bills that I would like to become law, many that I would like to see fail, and a few that are absolutely ridiculous. I'm not sure which category House Bill 1911 falls into, but it appears to subject every American soldier stationed overseas to felony criminal liability in our fair state. In fact, it appears to subject every person outside of the United States in possession of a firearm to felony criminal liability here.

My guess is that the intention of House Bill 1911 is to subject illegal immigrants to criminal liability for firearm possession. But, the plain language of the proposed bill does ALOT more than that. The text of the proposed measure is below.


An Act relating to crimes and punishments; making possession of firearms by certain persons unlawful; providing penalty; providing for codification; and providing an effective date.


SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1289.28 of Title 21, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
It shall be unlawful for any person who is not lawfully present in the United States to have in the possession of the person or under the immediate control of the person, or in any vehicle which the person is operating, or in which the person is riding as a passenger, or at the residence where the person resides, any pistol, imitation or homemade pistol, altered air or toy pistol, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or rifle, or any other dangerous or deadly firearm. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term of not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years.

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2011.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Senseless Laws

Your right to a jury trial is under fire. Senate Bill 863 made it through committee this morning and, if passed, would severely restrict the right to a jury trial in civil cases and the power each of us has as a juror in those trials.

Senate Bill 863 would limit “non-economic damages” in civil cases to $250,000.00. “Non-economic damages” are the value of a person’s pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (i.e. not being able to enjoy the “company” of your spouse). This bill would be a legal proclamation that your pain, your reputation, and your spouse’s “company” can never be worth more than $250,000.00.

Senate Bill 863 would also effectively limit awards of “punitive damages” to $500,000.00 in most cases. “Punitive damages” punish a defendant for wrongful behavior. They are difficult to prove and are rarely awarded. In fact, I don’t know an attorney who received them in 2010. Why is this important you ask? Let’s say you are a 20 year old who loves to run and loves your spouse. Let’s also say that one of Jumbocorp ‘s delivery drivers, who received no training, falls asleep at the wheel and smashes into you. For the remainder of your life, you’ll be unable to walk, run, or make love to your spouse. Would $250,000.00 be enough to compensate you for the emotional distress you would feel for the rest of your life? Would $500,000.00 be enough to punish a corporation that has over 5,000 locations across the country and whose CEO earns that much money per month? I don’t think so.

The fans of Senate Bill 863 will claim that it is necessary to save the Courts, the corporations, and the medical profession from “frivolous lawsuits.” They won’t tell you that these damages were capped at $400,000.00 in 2009. Since then my health and health insurance costs have increased and, I can tell you from experience, the courts are just as clogged now as they were then! The truth is that Senate Bill 863 won’t stop frivolous lawsuits. It won’t save the medical profession or keep insurance costs low. The only thing it will do is take the power to administer justice out of your hands and give it to interests more powerful than all of us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Settling Up

Last year in Oklahoma County 5,141 couples applied for a marriage license. 6,621 couples filed for divorce. Most of those couples settled their cases without a trial, agreeing to divide the property and debts accumulated during their marriage and, for those with children, agreeing to the custody and visitation of their little ones. Like all other lawsuits, the vast majority of divorces end with the parties agreeing to a settlement and, for the most part, these settlements are easier to stomach than any decision a judge makes.

However, many of the settlements reached in divorce cases are unworkable. Many people faced with the prospect of getting a divorce “just want it to be over with.” Those folks allow themselves to be pressured into sharing custody of a minor child with a spouse who is unwilling to share half of the burden of parenting the child. They also agree to take less property away from a marriage or forego support alimony because they “don’t want to fight anymore.”

If you are facing divorce, don’t immediately succumb to the pressure to settle the case. Take the time to examine your situation. If you have children, ask yourself whether your spouse will live up to the obligations he or she is asking for. Ask whether the property settlement your spouse presents will give you the tools you need to adjust to life after marriage. If you don’t believe that the terms of a settlement will work, don’t agree to it. If you aren't sure what to do, call an attorney.

Don’t be afraid to fight for what you want. It is a lot easier to get what you want before a divorce case ends than it is to go back later and modify an unworkable divorce agreement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I am fortunate to work with a wonderful woman who, for many years, served as a bailiff for judges here in Oklahoma County. She spent a lot of time in both juvenile court and domestic / divorce court. Today, when we were visiting, I asked her "Given what you've seen, what advice would you give a couple going through a divorce?"

Her answer was simple and true. Unfortunately, it is also the last thing many divorcing parents want to hear. She said: "If they have kids, they need to understand that what they want and feel doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what is best for their children."

All divorcing parents love their children. However, when confronted with an event as traumatic as divorce, a lot of folks lose the ability to reason and act purely on emotion. They are hurt, confused, and lost. They want validation. They want revenge. They want an opportunity to tell their kids, the judge, and the whole world how hard they worked on their marriage. They want it to be known that their spouse was sleeping around, never washed the dishes, or was generally just a jackass.

The judge making decisions about custody doesn't want to hear any of those things, though. It is not that judges don't care about parents; it's that they care more about children. Judges understand that children need two parents that can love and support their children. Those parents don't have to live together or like one another, but they have to respect the role the other plays in their child's life. In short, Judges understand what many litigants don’t: that parents who sling mud at each other end up soiling the kids standing between them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fighting the Good Fight

I’m sick. My nose has been stopped up since Saturday and the back of my throat feels like someone assaulted it with 40 grit sandpaper. Luckily, I haven’t had a fever, but my body aches like I just went 12 rounds with the heavyweight champion of the world. The folks in my office even sent me home this morning, which is where I was (in my jammies) when I got a call from my newest client.

Cleo (not her real name) was charged with harboring two “vicious animals,” in a municipal court that shall remain nameless and was waiting on the judge to call her case. I told her that I was under quarantine and that if she politely asked the prosecutor, he would continue her case. Surprisingly, however, delaying the case was not an option and within 10 minutes I was wearing a suit and flying down Interstate 40 to save two Rottweilers I had never met for a woman I had spoken to only once.

When I arrived I had enough time to talk to my client, the dog catcher, the alleged victim, and a witness who “saw the whole thing.” I even had enough time to visit with the prosecutor who wanted my client to plead guilty, pay a hefty fine, and keep her dogs in a city approved gulag for the rest of their lives.

I didn’t think that would be fair and neither did my client, so we had a hearing. When the dust settled, the only evidence that supported the city’s argument was that my client’s dogs are big and look mean, i.e. Rottweillers are always vicious. Needless to say, we won.

I got home a few hours ago. I still feel sick, but not nearly as sick as I would have been had my new client lost her dogs.