In 20 years as a newspaper reporter, I covered a lot of court cases — mostly criminal but some civil, the latter by far the more complicated of the two — and I always appreciated finding a judge or lawyer who made civil litigation easier to follow. Well, I’ve found another one.
J. Craig Williams, a southern California attorney, writes a weblog called May It Please The Court, and he writes it so well that it should please not only the court but also his readers.
Just in case you think the details of courts and the law don’t matter to you, consider some of the subjects Williams has discussed in four years of blogging:
• Sports-related negligence: In one of his recent entries, July 16, Williams cites a case in which waivers of liability in sports or recreational programs or services were held not to be always valid. Specifically, a waiver you sign for a sports or recreational activity may not automatically deprive you of legal recourse against gross negligence. It’s a California case, but Williams expects it to “set a new benchmark in tort opinions across the country.”
• Insurance policy limitations (May 18, 2004): An auto insurance customer thought he had $250,000 in liability coverage, but when he loaned his car to someone else, he found his liability in that instance plummeted to $15,000, a fact that wasn’t listed on the declarations page of his policy by name but rather by endorsement number buried deep down in the policy — and in a single line. The customer eventually won before the California Supreme Court. But it should make the rest of us wonder what’s hidden in our insurance policies.
• Volunteer liability (Jan. 20, 2005): A materials testing company sued the volunteer fire company in Amityville, N.Y., for some cleanup costs after a fire, claiming the firefighters added to chemical contamination by the way they doused the fire and did some cleanup. The case was thrown out, but Williams concludes, “Now when fire departments rush to a fire, they’ll have to take their lawyer along.”
• Property valuations (March 20, 2006): A San Diego man purchased a property for $185,000 and got the local assessor to reduce its valuation from $300,000 to the purchase price based on the possibility of unexploded ordnance from a nearby Marine base. Then the owner discovered that the local gas-and-electric utility had an easement across the property that was recorded in 1972 but wasn’t listed on his title insurance policy. Now he sued to get his valuation down to $40,000, but he lost in court because he missed the four-year limitations period, even though he didn’t know about the easement until more recently.
• Judicial pay (July 9): The average partner in the nation’s top 100 law firms last year made more than $1 million — five times the salary of the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and seven times what most top federal and state judges get. How does that affect the quality of justice you may receive if you are hauled into court? More to the point, how does that affect the quality of legal representation you may receive if you can’t afford the top 100?
• Just plain good advice, legal and otherwise, to anyone dealing with the public (Aug. 4, 2003): “If you want to avoid getting sued, treat others fairly and solve their problems . . . If you provide more than you’re paid for, you create goodwill. Plus, it keeps you from having to hire a lawyer.”
Weblogs about the law — they’re called ‘blawgs’ in cyber-speak — abound on the Internet, but many of them are hard to follow for a layman, and some of them are, well, indecipherable. The law isn’t simple, so it’s good to find someone who writes knowledgeably and clearly about it.
Plus, Williams has a sense of humor. When he checked out his name on Avvo, a new website that ranks lawyers, he found to his surprise that he was “deceased after practicing law for some 56 years.” That would be quite a feat, he conceded, considering that he is only 50 years old.
– Sid Leavitt
Posted in Uncategorized |